You are viewing an obsolete version of the DU website which is no longer supported by the Administrators. Visit The New DU.
Democratic Underground Latest Greatest Lobby Journals Search Options Help Login

The Lynching of Horace Duncan, Fred Coker, and Will Allen [View All]

Printer-friendly format Printer-friendly format
Printer-friendly format Email this thread to a friend
Printer-friendly format Bookmark this thread
Home » Discuss » Places » Missouri Donate to DU
usregimechange Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-13-11 07:09 PM
Original message
The Lynching of Horace Duncan, Fred Coker, and Will Allen
Advertisements [?]
By Rex T. Jackson (The Ozarks Reader Regional Magazine)

ONLY 41 YEARS after the American Civil War had ended, the "Queen City of the Ozarks" (Springfield, Missouri), a staunch supporter of the Union during the war, ironically, hosted a vigilante-style hanging of three helpless African Americans. The unspeakable horror of that unforgettable night of mob violence has forever tainted American and Ozarks history with this hideous outbreak of injustice and racial hatred. Even though that event can never be erased from the pages of history, its lessons can continue to inspire future generations--that such things could never happen again.

At the turn-of-the-century (1900), Springfield boasted about 25,000 citizens with about 2,000 or more being African American. During this time, schools, churches, businesses and social gathering was still, for the most part, segregated--equality in America was still a work in progress. The "Jim Crow" law (a minstrel show that stereo typed African Americans as inferior and ignorant) required railroads, theaters and other places to have separate facilities marked "Whites Only" and so on. Whites championed many riots, burning and hangings, while blacks protested their second-class citizen status by boycotting such things as streetcar segregation in towns like Atlanta, Augusta, Mobile, Houston and New Orleans--but the separation continued.

Racial problems in nearby Monett, Joplin, Peirce (Pierce) City, and Rogers, Arkansas prompted a number of African Americans to migrate to Springfield. In the Joplin Daily Globe, April 15, 1906, it writes: "It is feared that they may be run out of here the same as in other cities, so bitter has become the feeling."

Anti-black sentiment had also been growing in Springfield, due in large part to crime. The Springfield Leader, April 15, 1906, reported that "Two dastardly murders--that of Rouark and T.M. Kinney, were attributed to them, and it is possibly a fact that this sentiment was increased by the production of Thomas Dixon's play 'The Clansman,' which was here only recently. Consequently the smoldering embers of hatred were into something akin to a conflagration...when the news that Mable Edwards , a young girl, had been criminally assaualted by two negroes...."

Apparently, Mable and Charles Cooper were in a buggy in a secluded area of the city when they were held up by two masked men. Cooper was knocked-out and Mable was reported to have been "dragged from the buggy and ravished."

Even though the perpetrators of the crime wore masks, Cooper identified Horace Duncan and Fred Coker, who were African Americans, and they were arrested by authorities. After their white employer at Pickwick Livery gave Duncan and Coker an alibi, they were released; however, Charles Cooper filed robbery charges against Duncan and the two suspects were again arrested and incarcerated at the county jail.

Regardless of the number of crimes that whites had also committed in Springfield over the years, these crimes associated and attributed to blacks had spawned outrage and racial opportunity to act on hatred and prejudice.

Concerning the assault on Edwards and Cooper, according to the Daily Globe, Mable Edwards "stated postively that they were not her assailants." It mattered little to the growing sentiments blossoming in Springfield, which had to be appeased.

In the county jail, besides Duncan and Coker, there were other African Americans being held for various crimes. The Leader reported that a large mob was forming and was on its way to the county jail which was under Sheriff E.V. Horner and his deputies, and that the "leaders of the mob were...from Polk county in the vicinity of Bolivar . It was said that eight hundred men from that vicinity arrived in Springfield at nightfall, and soon got in touch with those of this city who had been talking of mobbing the negroes the day previous."

The ever increasing mob traveled down South Campbell Street, up Walnut Street and to Springfield's Public Square--and finally, down Boonville Street to the county jailhouse where Sheriff Horner was standing between them and their prize--Duncan and Coker. The crowd demanded that he "give up" the two men, however, "Sheriff Horner refused and told the mob to be careful not to get the wrong man...where upon the leaders flourished their ropes, and in the vilest of language informed the sheriff that they would not be refused."

The angry mob then secured sledge hammers, telephone poles and other tools of demolition to gain entry into the jail cells. The fate of Duncan and Coker was now sealed.

The Globe reported that "Sheriff Horner tried to argue with the mob, but it was determined, and hooted and insulted him. Jailer King was assaulted when he refused to give up the keys. He finally gave the mob some keys which were not for the cells and the mob was forced to smash in the bars.

"Besides the damage at the jail the mob all but wrecked the residence of Sheriff Horner. Doors were broken down, windows were smashed, furniture was demolished, pictures were torn from the walls and the sheriff's wife was rendered unconscious by fright and violence."
By this time the mob had swelled to thousands, who fired shots and roared a "constant howl." Eventually, a fire was started under the jail but failed to do much damage. All the while the sounds of "hammers and picks" were at work inside the jailhouse to reach the shocked, frightened men trapped within.

Finally, the work paid-off and the cells were opened to their mass hatred and madness. They quickly secured their ropes "around the necks of the negroes and they were brought out of the jail through the windows...and the negroes were soon on the outside.

" 'To the square,' some leader of the mob shouted, and the great crowd started in that direction...By the time the negroes reached the square every available nook and window was filled with people...."

The Globe's headline read: "SPRINGFIELD MOB LYNCHES NEGROES." It went on to say that: "Finally two negro suspects were dragged from the jail and taken to the center of the public square and hanged. It is fully a mile from the jail to the square, and the mob marched down one of the principle streets of the town, shouting and firing pistols."

Someone in the crowd shouted "Shoot them full of holes," but because of the danger of hitting their vigilante comrades they decided to douse the condemned men, now dangling from the town square electric light tower, with coal oil and set them on fire--which they did without any signs of mercy. To make sure their morbid pleasure was fully realized, "Goods boxes were brought from all the stores around the square where they could be secured, and soon a great fire was rageing which burned the negroes completely up, while the mob still howled its satisfaction." Torture became tolerated and acceptable.

The hideous attraction didn't stop there; they returned to the jailhouse and snatched up William Allen, a young African American. The Springfield Republican revealed how the mob was "overcome with their orgy and filled with exultant frenzy over their success," as they again rejoined the activities at the center of the city square. Allen was hung like Duncan and Coker, coated in coal oil and set on fire. Before long, however, the rope had burned through and broke and his body fell into the corpse-filled ashes below.

The Daily Globe had this to say about the event: "When daylight broke upon the scene there remained only blackened trunks and charred remains of three negroes.

"Five thousand persons saw the trio hanged and burned. Among the crowd of spectators were hundreds of women and children, girls and boys."

It was also reported that the onlookers even took souvenirs of bits of rope, clothes and bone from the ghastly rubble. On the very next day, Easter Sunday, thousands returned to the scene-of-the-crime dressed in their finest--men, women and children, to reminisce, gape and converse about the race-filled horror that had graced the heart of their city.

The National Guard was eventually brought in to restore order and Springfield was placed under martial law while the town's mayor delivered a lengthy proclaimation for peace. A grand jury was called and many witneses were questioned. It was concluded that Horace Duncan and Fred Coker were not guilty of assaulting Mable Edwards and Charles Cooper. In the end, all charges concerning the mob hangings were dropped.

The front page news of this shocking atrocity did not linger long--a few days later San Francisco, California was shaken by a massive earthquake which stole the headlines all over the country. History, though, does not soon forget such outrage; it has a way of resurfacing again into the spotlight. And while in the light, it can seize the opportunity to showcase the need for equality. RTJ

Posted in its entirety with the permission of the Ozarks Reader. More information about the publication can be found here:

Refresh | 0 Recommendations Printer Friendly | Permalink | Reply | Top

Home » Discuss » Places » Missouri Donate to DU

Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators

Important Notices: By participating on this discussion board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.

Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals |  Store  |  Donate

About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy

Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.

© 2001 - 2011 Democratic Underground, LLC