January 24, 2015

Man Convicted of Murder Lynched by Mob, Laurel, 1905

Previously:

Click here for a list of my other Pulaski/Rockcastle/Laurel County KY articles

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[August 29, 1905] -

The killing of George Farris, a wealthy lumberman of Grays, Knox county, near the Laurel county fair grounds, is causing great excitement. Virgil Bowers, colored, of Altamont, the confessed slayer, is in the London jail. Louis Bledsoe, colored, and Jim Hale have made affidavits that Bowers shot Farris because he failed to speak to him after he had spoken to Farris, saying: "I'll make you speak." The men were strangers. The dead man was left alone till morning, and when found had been robbed, but not by his slayer. The Negro's friends say he was crazy. The jail will be well guarded to prevent lynching. Sheriff Baughman received a telegram Friday to look out for Bowers, who once lived near Maywood, and that officer made a search for him Friday night. Bowers was arrested near Pittsburg Saturday. [1]










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[September 5, 1905] -

VIRGIL BOWERS, the Negro said to have shot and killed George F. Farris, a prominent lumber merchant near the London, Laurel county fair grounds, was presented before County Judge Reams and held without bail. Bowers once lived in the Maywood section of this county. He has been taken to Richmond for safe-keeping. [2]




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[October 6, 1905] -


An indictment has been returned against the Laurel circuit court against Virgil Bowers, a Negro, charging him with the murder of George Farris, a prominent timber merchant of Knox county, and he was taken back to London for trial from Richmond, where he has been in jail for safe-keeping. [3]




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[October 13, 1905] -

The following is the list of Rockcastle citizens selected to try the negro murderer, Virgil Bower, at London, who killed George Faris there during the fair: B. S. DeVault, E. B. Newland, Robt. Taylor, I. A. Bowman, E. Ballard, G. S. Hiatt, D. B. Albright, W. M. Sowder, W. T. Schaffer, John Cummins, George Johnson, F. Francisco. The jury was out only about fifteen minutes when they returned with a verdict for life imprisonment. [4]







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[October 17, 1905] -

Virgil Bowers, colored, was given a life sentence in the Laurel county circuit court for the murder of George Farris, near the London fair grounds. At the first trial, a few days previous, Bowers had a hung jury--10 standing for hanging. The last jury was composed of Rockcastle county men. [5]



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[October 18, 1905] -

MURDERER OF GEORGE FARRIS HANGED BY MOB

Request for Time to Pray Not Granted By Executioners in Laurel

A NOTE PINNED TO BODY ATTACKED COURT

NEGRO WHO KILLED LUMBER DEALER HAD BEEN GIVEN LIFE SENTENCE-- APPLE TREE IN SUBURBS OF LONDON WAS USED FOR GALLOWS.

LONDON, Oct. 17.-- Virgil Bowers, a negro, who killed George Farris, of Knox county, was taken from the county jail and hanged to an apple tree near the roadside, a half mile out on the Barbourville road, shortly before midnight. The mob consisted of about 200 armed masked men, who came into London from the direction of Barbourville. Most of the men walked to the jail, while twelve or fifteen rode up to the jail. Four men went into the Jailer's office and found Jailer G. P. Johnson and Luke P. Blevins, the night watchman.

Prisoner Demanded.

The jailer was informed that they had come for Bowers, and to keep quiet, as no prisoner should escape and no one else would be harmed, but that they were prepared to take Bowers at any cost. By this time the corridors of the jail were filled with armed and masked men, and, at the muzzles of revolvers, Jailer Johnson was forced to unlock the door. Bowers was in an inner cage. This was unlocked, and when the mob called for him he was asleep.

No Time To Pray.

On waking, he walked out into the hall and exclaimed: "My God! I see the rope. Give me time to pray." He was told that he did not give George Farris time to pray. His hands were quickly tied and a noose put around his neck, and he was hurried away without being allowed to put on his shoes. A guard remained at the jail till the prisoner had been gone fifteen minutes.

Search was made in vain for the body last night, but shortly after daylight it was found by James Bowling, night porter for the London hotel. It was hanging to a dead apple tree, near the roadside, scarcely out of town. The hands were tied behind and the following note was pinned to the negro's clothes:

Note Left On Body.

"Since we have trusted our case in the hands of the court, though and by packed and perjured jurors and attorneys, we did not get justice. Therefore we are forced to resort to this plan. Abe Lincoln said the voice of the people must rule in all instances. We find recorded in the Holy Scriptures that whosoever sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed. Now, let us take warning. The least said is the best.  Yours truly, "THE WRITER." [6]


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[October 19, 1905] -

Virgil Bowers, a negro, was lynched at London Tuesday night for the murder of Geo. Farris a well-known lumberman last August. [7]





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[October 20, 1905] -

NEGRO LYNCHED.

Virgil Bowers Hanged to an Apple Tree One Half Mile From Jail.

London, Ky., Oct. 17.-- The only lynching in Laurel county in thirty-eight years took place here last night. Virgil Bowers colored, was taken out of the county jail about midnight, carried about half a mile out the road leading to Barboursville, and hanged to an apple tree by the roadside. The body was not located until daylight this morning, when James Bowling, porter for a hotel here, found it. The hands were tied securely, and the body was hanging to a limb with the feet almost touching the ground. A regular hangman's noose encircled the neck, and a note was pinned to the clothes, which read as follows:

Since we have trusted our case in the hands of the court, through and by packed and perjured jurors and attorneys, we did not get justice. Therefore we are forced to resort to this plan. Abe Lincoln said the voice of the people must rule in all instances. We find recorded in the Holy Scriptures that whosoever sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed. Now, let us take warning. The least said is the best. Yours truly, THE WRITER. [8]




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[October, 20, 1905] -


STRUNG UP

Virgil Bowers, Negro Murderer of George Farris, Lynched by Laurel County Mob.

At an early hour Tuesday morning a masked and armed mob of Laurel county men, at the point of guns, overcame the guards at the Laurel county jail at London and took Virgil Bowers, the self-confessed murderers of George Farris. Proceeded a short distance out of London on the Barbourville road the negro was strung to an apple tree. So quietly was the work done that few knew of the deed outside the members of the mob until daylight, when the dead body of Bowers was discovered by a hotel porter.

The lynching, the first that has occurred in that county for over forty years, has created great excitement. Last Monday large crowds from the surrounding country flocked into London. Monday evening a mass meeting was held, participated in by a large number of representative citizens, condemning the summary proceedings of the mob.

Efforts will be made to apprehend the members of the lynching party, it is said.

The murder of Farris, who was a wealthy lumberman of Grays, this  [Knox] county, occurred at the London fair, and for a time there was talk of mobbing Bowers. He received two trials, the last time receiving a life sentence. It said that arrangements had been made for taking an appeal. [9]



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[October 20, 1905] -

At a largely attended meeting of citizens at London, the hanging of the Negro, Virgil Bowers, by a mob, was denounced as an infamous outrage and the grand jury was called upon to make a rigid investigation. [10]




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[October 20, 1905] -

HUNG BY A MOB.-- Virgil Bowers, the Negro murderer of George Farris, a merchant of Knox county, was taken from the jail at London and hanged to an apple tree. Bowers shot Farris to death during the last Laurel county fair because the latter did not speak to him as he passed. He had just been given a life sentence in the penitentiary. Bowers formerly lived in the Hall's Gap section of this [Lincoln] county. [11]





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[October 25, 1905] -


Lynched.

At London, Ky., Virgil Bowers, colored, under a life sentence for the murder of a white man, Geo. Faris, was taken from jail by a mob and hanged. If there were 10 or 40 or 200 men in the mob as participants, there was by that act an increase int he number of murderers by 10 or 40 or 200. The criminality of such an act is not destroyed by the fact that a multitude surrendered themselves or volunteered to assist in the hanging. Is conscience dead? Or did the participants regard themselves as the guardians of the peace, the avengers of wrong, the "powers that be?" Their crime will be required of them on that day when all men must stand before the judgment seat to give an account for the deeds done in the body. That day will come. [12]






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[October 25, 1905] -


THE MOB HANGED HIM.
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Jury Gave Virgil Bowers, Convicted of Murder, a Life Sentence.
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London, Ky., Oct. 18.--Virgil Bowers, a negro who killed George Farris, a lumber dealer, last August, was taken from the jail and hung to an apple tree scarcely out of town, by armed men and a masked mob of some 200 men supposed to have come from Knox county. Bowers shot and killed Farris without one word being spoken by either. There was one white man with Farris and a negro with Bowers. Both testified that the killing was without provocation. The negro's body was found at daylight swung to a tree two feet from the ground. Bowers had been given a life sentence by a jury. [13]




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[October 25, 1905] -


The Lynchers Denounced.

London, Ky., Oct. 21.-- Circuit Judge H. C. Faulkner, in his charge to the Laurel county grand jury on the lynching of Virgil Bowers, denounced the mob as a gang of murderers, and said they were infinitely worse than the man they hanged. [14]



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[November 16, 1905] -

Rewards Offered for Lynchers.

Barbourville, K., Nov. 11.-- Rewards of $250 for the arrest and conviction of each member of the mob which lynched the negro Virgil Bowers, at London, a month ago, have been offered by the commonwealth. [15]




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[January 19, 1906] -

Officers from Barbourville served papers on 30 men in the vicinity of Grays. They are summoned to appear at London during the next few days in connection with the lynching of the Negro, Virgil Bowers, at that place about three months ago. Although about the same number of witnesses were examined several weeks ago at London, evidence sufficient to indict was not obtained. A reward of $500 for the mob is outstanding. [16]






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[February 6, 1906] -

Warrants have been issued for five alleged members of the mob which hanged Virgil Bowers in Laurel county last October. He was convicted of the murder of George Farris, a wealthy lumberman of Knox county. [17]



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[February 9, 1906] -


ALLEGED LYNCHERS.
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Joseph Farris and Bill Queen Lodged in Jail at Jackson.
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London, Ky., Feb. 3.-- Joseph Farris and Bill Queen were Thursday lodged in the county jail on warrants charging willful murder in participating in the lynching of Virgil Bowers, a negro, taken from the London jail October 16 by 75 masked men and hanged to an apple tree. Bowers was awaiting an order to be taken to Frankfort for life imprisonment for the murder of George Farris, of Grays, Knox county. Farris was arrested by Deputy Sheriff Pigg at his home, near Lynn Camp, about 13 miles from London. Queen was arrested by Deputy Sheriff Scoville at his home, near Keavey. Warrants have been sent to Sheriff D. H. Williams, of Knox county, for Brit Farris, father of the negro's victim; William Keck and James Trosper. All live in Knox county. An investigation is still going on before County Judge Pennington, conducted by the Commonwealth's Attorney Lewis and County Attorney Johnson. [18]




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[February 14, 1906] -


Alleged Lynchers in Jail.

London, Ky., Feb. 8-- Jas. Trosper, last of the five men for whom warrants have been issued for the lynching of Virgil Bowers, the negro, here last October, was arrested by Sheriff Swanner at Pittsburg. The five are in the London jail. [19]



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[February 19, 1906] -

After being in session for two weeks, the grand jury at London, Ky., was adjourned after returning over 200 bills. No indictments were found against the lynchers of the negro Virgil Bowers, who shot and killed George Farris, a white man. [20]




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[February 20, 1906] -

Laurel's grand jury finally adjourned after returning over 100 indictments and being in session most of the time for two weeks. A lengthy report was made to the effect that all the efforts to get evidence sufficient to indict any of the alleged lynchers of Virgil Bowers the negro murderer of Georeg Farris, had failed, and Bill Queen, Bill Keck, James Trooper, Brit Harris and Joe Farris, who were held, were released. [21]







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[1] Excerpt from "Locals." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 29, 1905. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1905-08-29/ed-1/seq-3/

[2] Excerpt from "Locals." Semi-Weekly Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. September 5, 1905. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1905-09-05/ed-1/seq-3/

[3] Excerpt from "In Neighboring Counties." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 6, 1905. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1905-10-06/ed-1/seq-2/

[4] Excerpt from "Local." Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. October 13, 1905. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1905-10-13/ed-1/seq-3/

[5] Excerpt from "Here and There." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 17, 1905. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1905-10-17/ed-1/seq-2/

[6] "Murderer of George Farris Hanged by Mob." Lexington Herald, Lexington, KY. October 18, 1905. Page 1. Genealogybank.com.

[7] 5th column. The Clay City Times, Clay City, KY. October 19, 1905. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069657/1905-10-19/ed-1/seq-1/

[8] "Negro Lynched." The Hartford Republican, Hartford, KY. October 20, 1905. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069313/1905-10-20/ed-1/seq-1/

[9] "Strung Up." Mountain Advocate, Barbourville, KY. October, 20, 1905. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87060032/1905-10-20/ed-1/seq-1/

[10] Excerpt from "In Neighboring Counties." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 20, 1905. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1905-10-20/ed-1/seq-1/

[11] "Hung By A Mob." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. October 20, 1905. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1905-10-20/ed-1/seq-3/

[12] "Lynched." The Mt. Sterling Advocate, Mt. Sterling, KY. October 25, 1905. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069675/1905-10-25/ed-1/seq-3/

[13] "The Mob Hanged Him." The Adair County News, Columbia, KY. October 25, 1905. Page 6. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069496/1905-10-25/ed-1/seq-6/

[14] "The Lynchers Denounced." The Adair County News, Columbia, KY. October 25, 1905. Page 7. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069496/1905-10-25/ed-1/seq-7/

[15] "Rewards Offered for Lynchers." The Citizen, Berea, KY. November 16, 1905. Page 5. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052076/1905-11-16/ed-1/seq-5/

[16] Excerpt from "News Notes." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 19, 1906. Page 2. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1906-01-19/ed-1/seq-2/

[17] Excerpt from "News Notes." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 6, 1906. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1906-02-06/ed-1/seq-1/

[18] "Alleged Lynchers." Mount Vernon Signal, Mt. Vernon, KY. February 9, 1906. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069561/1906-02-09/ed-1/seq-1/

[19] "Alleged Lynchers in Jail." The Richmond Climax, Richmond, KY. February 14, 1906. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069162/1906-02-14/ed-1/seq-1/

[20] Excerpt from "Briefly Noticed." The Paducah Sun, Paducah, KY. February 19, 1906. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052116/1906-02-19/ed-1/seq-3/

[21] Excerpt from "In Neighboring Counties." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 20, 1906. Page 1. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052021/1906-02-20/ed-1/seq-1/

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