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Oscar Jefferies (Lynching of)

In 1887, a black teacher named Oscar Jefferies from Brownstown (Sevier County) was shot to death by a group of men because he eloped with Ina W. Jones, the daughter of a wealthy white farmer.

According to newspaper accounts, Oscar Jefferies, “a fine looking colored man,” arrived in Brownstown from Oswego, New York, in June 1887 to take over the “colored academy.” After his arrival, he paid considerable attention to Ina Jones, who was described as the daughter of “one of the largest plantation owners in the counties.” She welcomed his attentions, and despite her parents’ threats, in late September, she told her friends that she was going to marry Jefferies the following Sunday, October 2. When her parents heard about it, they locked her in her room on Saturday night. She escaped from her room using a ladder that Jefferies had brought, and they were married in a nearby town early on Sunday morning. Learning of this, John Jones gathered up men from his plantation and pursued the couple. When they were caught that night, Jefferies was shot, with “over thirty balls lodging in his body.” Jones then took his daughter home. Ina apparently had a change of heart, saying later that she was glad Jefferies was killed “as she was infatuated with him, and only awoke to her condition when she found she had actually married a black man.”

No information about Oscar Jefferies is available in public records in either New York or Arkansas. There is no Ina W. Jones in Sevier County census records. In 1880, however, there was a nine-year-old girl named Ida V. Jones living in Monroe Township with her parents, John H. and Martha E. Jones, and three siblings. Her father’s occupation was listed as farm worker, which does not indicate that he was wealthy. If this is the correct person, she would have been sixteen years old at the time of the elopement.

For additional information:
“An Arkansas Sensation: Ark. School Teacher Elopes with a White Girl.” Dallas Daily Herald, October 5, 1887, p. 1.

“Brownstown [Sevier County].” Arkansas Gazette, October 4, 1887, p. 3.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina

Last Updated 2/11/2017

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