Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lynching of Abraham W. Smith

Abraham W. Smith was convicted of murder in Madison County, Missouri, sometime around the early part of 1844. (I have yet to learn the details of his alleged crime.) He was sentenced to hang at the end of June, but the sentence was stayed until September 1. Apparently upset by the slow-turning wheels of justice, a mob tried to execute Smith around the first of June (probably near the time the stay was announced), but they were deterred by another group of citizens.
However, on August 5, a drunken mob broke into the county jail at Fredericktown with axes, crowbars, and other tools. One of the gang went down into the dungeon-like cell, where the prisoner was held in irons, and placed a rope around Smith's neck. The rest of the mob hauled him up by the rope and then dragged him down some stairs and outside to a walnut tree located about fifty yards from the jail. Notwithstanding the fact that he was apparently already dead by the time they reached the tree, the mob strung him up to the tree and let him hang for several minutes. They then let him down, but one of the gang, suspecting Smith might still be alive, insisted that they hang him again. The body was accordingly strung back up until the bloodthirsty mob was sufficiently convinced that life was extinct.
That very night, an inquest was held over Smith's body, and the jury returned a verdict that he had come to his death at the hands of a mob that included men named Jones, Sinclair, Mayse, Pollis, Cox, Blackburn, and Shetley, as well as five other men. Pollis, Cox, Blackburn, Shetley and one other man suspected in the vigilante execution were promptly arrested. Several days later Mayse was spotted at St. Mary's Landing, a small community on the Mississippi River in Ste. Genevieve County. It was presumed he was trying to catch a boat to make his escape. Around the first of October, John Sinclair was recognized on the streets of St. Louis and arrested. Accused of being the man who had placed the rope around Smith's neck, he was taken back to Madison County, where he and several of the other men involved in the lynching of Smith were indicted on charges of murder. However, I have so far been unable to determine the outcome of their cases.

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