December 4, 2016

Mob Raids Garrard County Jail, Hangs One Prisoner, Garrard, 1876


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


[January 28, 1876] -

A difficulty occurred in the Barber shop of Chas. Prince, colored, of Lancaster, one night last week, between a white man, named Yeakey, and a negro, named Floyd Pierce. The negro was knocked down and shot at twice. The white man was severely cut with a razor, on the side of the neck. [1]


[February 4, 1876] -

The white man, Yeakey, whose neck and face were cut by a negro man in Lancaster, some days ago, is still in bed, but is some better. The negro who cut him, was tried for the offense and acquitted, after which, he left for parts unknown. Although he got off clear from the charge of guilt, he is said to be of a mean and dangerous disposition. [2]


[February 5, 1876] -

The Lancaster Killing.

Henry Yeakey, of Lancaster, Ky., died two days ago from the effects of a wound in the throat inflicted on the 22d ult by Floyd Pierce, a negro. At the time mentioned Yeakey took a razor from Pierce and, after cutting him with it, fired a pistol at him. Pierce succeeded in regaining the razor and with it cut the throat of Yeakey. The latter remained alive and, for some time, it was thought he would recover. He finally died, but whether Pierce, who was arrested, tried and released on the charge of maliciously wounding him, will now be tried for manslaughter, remains to be seen. [3]


[July 1, 1876] -


A Negro Accused of Murder Taken from Jail by a Mob and Hanged.

[Special Dispatch to the Courier-Journal.]

DANVILLE, KY., June 30. -- At Lancaster last night a mob forced an entrance to the jail and took out the negro Floyd Pierce, confined for the murder of Henry Yeakey, and hanged him. Samuel Williams, confined on a charge of murder, either escaped in the confusion or was liberated by the mob.


[Special Dispatch to the Courier-Journal.]

LEBANON, June 30. -- From parties direct from Lancaster I learn the following particulars of a mob in that town this morning about three o'clock:

They entered the town, and proceeded directly to the jail, and forced an entrance, and took therefrom Sam Williams, charged with the murder of Thos. Burns, at Liberty, Casey county, Ky., a short time ago, and also a negro by the name of Floyd Pierce, charged with the murder of Henry Yeakey. They took the negro a short distance from town and hanged him on a tree. It is supposed that Williams is set at liberty. Great indignation is manifested by the people here and elsewhere at this outrage. [4]


[July 7, 1876] -

A BLOODY DEED. -- Last Thursday night, or rather about 2 o'clock, Friday morning, a mob, numbering nearly or quite fifty persons, went to jail, at Lancaster, and by force, broke in and took from his cell a colored man named Floyd Pearce, and carried him out of town and hung him. They set at liberty the young man, Samuel Williams, who had been sent to that jail for safe keeping, to await his trial at the next Circuit Court in Casey county, on a charge of murder, committed in Liberty some weeks since, by shooting a man named Burns. Our readers will remember the circumstances of the killing, which we published recently. Floyd Pearce is the negro man who cut the white man named Yeakey, at Lancaster, some months ago, with a razor, from the effects of which wound Yeakey died. Pearce had an examining trial at the time, before the death of Yeakey and was acquitted, as the proof showed him to have acted in self defense. After Yeakey's death the Garrard Grand Jury indicted Pearce for murder, notwithstanding the former acquittal, and he having left the State, was arrested in Indiana and lodged in jail in Lancaster, to await a trial of the charge. The foregoing are the facts briefly. The cowardly act of the mob finds no outspoken defender here or elsewhere. The man had once been acquitted and was then in a cell safe under the key of a jailer. Guilty or innocent, he was there to answer the charge. Powerless and friendless, with a jury to try him in a few weeks, every instinct of humanity and reason dictated that the law should have been permitted to take its course, and those who took it in their hands to murder him are guilty of the same charge preferred against him. The man who was set free was confined for t[r]ial on one of the gravest offenses known to the law.
The blood of his victim scarecely dry upon the ground where he fell, was even then crying out for vindication at the hands of an outraged law and insulted commonwealth. But this availed nothing. Guilty or innocent, no hand should have been uplifted for his succor or injury. The majesty of the law should have prevailed over mob violence. How long are these things to continue? With the people alone it rests to vindicate justice and punish to the last extremity every one who can be proven to have taken part in the shameless outrage. Bad as it was, we take occasion to denounce the assertion of some scribbler in the Louisville Commercial and the editor of that sheet too, which stated that it was the Democrats who did it because the negro was a Republican. The names of the participants, when found out--and we trust and believe they will be learned--will show that the mob engaged in this cowardly and wicked deed belonged to different political parties, and that politics had nothing to do with it. Every good citizen should do what he can to have those engaged in the mob brought to speedy and sure punishment. [5]


[July 7, 1876] -

Several of our [Lincoln] county-men were summoned to Lancaster this week, to give evidence as to what they know of the mob which hung the negro, and turned loose the man Williams last week. [6]


[July 14, 1876] -

The Lancaster Letter says that nine men have left Boyle county, recently, who were accused of being implicated in the mob at Lancaster, and one man left Garrard county for the same reason. The Letter also says, that an officer in Madison county, in trying to arrest a man named Kikendall, was resisted, whereupon the latter was shot and killed by the officer. [7]


[July 14, 1876] -

We doubt if there is a paper published in the Union more vindictive towards Southern people and more unfair in its accounts of Southern transactions than the Cincinnati Gazette. As an instance, we note that it has an account of the late lynching in Lancaster, prefaced with large headlines, -- "From the Confederate Cross-Roads,"--"Ratification of Tilden and Hendricks," &c., and in the body of the article makes this statement:

"Beyond the investigation before the Coroner's jury alluded to, it is doubtful whether there will be any further effort to ferret out and bring to justice these violators of law, simply from the fact that the murdered man was black, and voted the Republican ticket, while his executioners were white, and vote the Democratic ticket."

Now the truth of the matter is: The law-abiding people of this entire section of the State denounce this transaction, and have been doing all in their power to have the guilty parties exposed and brought to justice, and are likely to succeed. Why does the Gazette make the positive statement that the negro's executioners "vote the Democratic ticket?" the Gazette did not know the politics of the men who were engaged in the unlawful affair, and therefore we charge it with being guilty of a reckless assertion for the purpose of manufacturing political capital for party purposes. Now, the county of Garrard, in which this lynching occurred, is a Republican county, and the presumption is reasonable, to say the least of it, that there were Republicans engaged in the affair as well as Democrats. Moreover, we know full well that Judge Lynch does not hold his Courts in Kentucky exclusively. It was only a few days ago that the Gazette printed a long account of an affair that occurred in New Richmond, in its own State, where the infuriated people took the wretch from the hands of the law and hung him in broad day light. This was a violation of the law like the one that occurred in our State, only much bolder. The Gazette not only fails to denounce this outbreak, but rather excuses it. These outbreaks will occur, and it is impossible to prevent them, and it is only base malice on the part of the papers like the Gazette that seek to give them a political coloring in the Southern States and excuse them in their own States. But it is necessary to keep the Southern outrage mill grinding and to wave the "bloody shirt" if HAYES and WHEELER are elected, and the Cincinnati Gazette can be depended upon to do its full share of the dirty work in this campaign. [8]


[July 14, 1876] -

There are rumors afloat in our town, connecting the names of several young men of this place with the recent lynching at Lancaster. We hope the parties implicated may be able to establish their innocence, but they should understand that the people of this community have no sympathy with the unlawful transaction in which it is alleged they were engaged. Some of them, if guilty, may have been drawn into the trouble without thinking of the serious consequences to themselves and the community entrusted with the safe keeping of the prisoners. For such we have sympathy, but the supremacy of the law must be maintained, no matter who suffers. [9]


[July 21, 1876] - 

The investigation into the Lancaster mob, still drags along slowly and tediously. Several ladies have been examined, but they knew little or nothing of the parties engaged in the mob. [10]


[July 28, 1876] -

The Governor of Kentucky has offered a reward for the arrest of Sam Williams, who was released by the mob at Lancaster, and also a reward for the guilty mobbers. [11]


[April 25, 1879] -

SAMUEL WILLIAMS CAPTURED. -- A telegram was received by the Sheriff of Garrard, this week, announcing the capture at Dallas, Oregon, of Samuel Williams, who, on the 25th of May, 1876, killed Thomas Burns, at Liberty, in Casey county, in a quarrel over a chew of tobacco. Immediately after the deed was committed, Williams was arrested, and Circuit Court being in session, was indicted for murder, and held without bail. The jail of Casey being insecure, the officials ordered him to the Lancaster jail, where he was confined until released by a mob on the night of June 29th, following. The mob that released him took from the same jail a negro barber, named Floyd Pierce, and hung him for killing of a man named Yeakey, for which the examining Court had acquitted him. Williams then left the country and was heard of no more till a telegram from the far West, told of his voluntary surrender. The surrender, it was afterwards learned, was while he was in a repentant mood after a long debauch, when he confessed the crime and would have been brought back here for trial, but a sober thought convincing him that this was not the best plan for him, he dodged the officers and again escaped. Afterwards he became a sailor on the Pacific Ocean, and it was while he was in port that he was arrested. There is a reward of $350 for him, but it is doubtful whether the officers there will bring him here for that amount. In case the Sheriff of Garrard goes for him, he will be allowed, we understand, mileage and expenses for the trip. [12]


[August 8, 1879] -

Tuesday's train brought Sam'l Williams from the West, whither the Governor's requisition found him. He was in the custody of a Mr. Jones, and made the long journey entirely unfettered. He effected his escape from the Lancaster jail, it will be remembered, several years ago on the night when the mulatto, Floyd Pierce, was lynched, and the well-known circumstances of his case are unusually painful. His high social position, youth and physical condition at the time he took the life of a fellow-creature, contribute to invest him with more than passing interest. [13]


[August 15, 1879] -

DIDN'T SAY SO. -- Samuel W. Williams, now confined in jail at Lancaster, for the murder of Thomas Burns, in May, 1876, publishes a card in this week's Visitor, denying that he told a Courier-Journal reporter that he recognized Grove Kennedy in the mob that hung Floyd Pierce on the night he escaped from jail. He says that the only mention he made of Kennedy, was, that he was a brother-in-law of the man whose throat Pierce had cut. [14]


[1] Excerpt from "Home Jottings." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. January 28, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[2] Excerpt from "Home Jottings." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. February 4, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[3] "The Lancaster Killing." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. February 5, 1876. Page 4.

[4] "Lancaster." The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY. July 1, 1876. Page 1.

[5] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 7, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[6] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 7, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[7] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 14, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[8] Excerpt from Column 2. The Kentucky Advocate, Danville, KY. July 14, 1876. Page 2.

[9] Excerpt from "Local and Personal." The Kentucky Advocate, Danville, KY. July 14, 1876. Page 3.

[10] Excerpt from "Local News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 21, 1876. Page 3. LOC.

[11] Excerpt from "State News." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. July 28, 1876. Page 2. LOC.

[12] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. April 25, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[13] Excerpt from "Garrard County." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 8, 1879. Page 3. LOC.

[14] Excerpt from "Local Matters." The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY. August 15, 1879. Page 3. LOC. http://chroniclingamerica


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