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Taylor Sisters (Lynching of)

Two African-American women known only as the Taylor sisters were killed on Sunday, March 17, 1907, in McKamie (Lafayette County) while they were detained on charges of murderous assault against Ella Roton and her married daughter, Nora Ogelsby. According to some counts, there were only eight women ever lynched in Arkansas, all of them African American, and so this case constitutes a quarter of all such murders in the state.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, the two sisters were aged twenty and fifteen. The likeliest pair of women in the area are sisters Suffronia and Lela Taylor, born in 1885 and 1890, respectively. They appear on the 1900 census, living in Steele Township, but not thereafter. The Roton family (the name is spelled Rhoton or Rheton in many news reports) lived in the neighboring Baker Township, and Ella Roton would have been forty-two at the time of the alleged attack. On the afternoon of March 16, Ella and her husband, Jack, were walking with their married daughter, Nora Ogelsby, and two of their other children (one of them a young boy) near the community of McKamie. At one point during the walk, Jack Roton was far ahead of the rest of the family. The Taylor sisters approached the family from the other direction and, as they passed by, reportedly pushed and kicked the Roton son, whose name was not given in the reports. When Ella Roton protested, one of the sisters rushed at her with a knife she had concealed (other sources describe it as a razor), cutting her shoulder, and then turned upon Nora Ogelsby but only succeeded in slashing her sleeve. The Grenada Sentinel of Mississippi quoted Ella Roton as saying that she had never met the sisters before that encounter.

The sisters were arrested and placed under guard in the schoolhouse at Meyer’s Hill. At some point on Sunday night, according to the Gazette, an unknown person entered the schoolhouse and fired two shots at the sisters. The elder sister died immediately of a grievous head wound, while the younger was mortally wounded with a shot in the lungs. No arrests were made in the case. The Evening Times, among other national newspapers, reported to the contrary that a mob had removed the sisters from where they were held and shot them to death. The Grenada Sentinel added another detail: “The men guarding the prisoners in the schoolhouse made very little resistance to the lynchers.”

For additional information:
“Mob Shot and Killed Two Negro Females.” Evening Times (Grand Forks, North Dakota), March 20, 1907, p. 1.

“Two Negresses Shot by Unknown.” Arkansas Gazette, March 21, 1907, p. 1.

“Two Negro Women Lynched.” Bemidji Daily Pioneer (Minnesota), March 23, 1907, p. 3.

“Two Negro Women Lynched.” Grenada Sentinel (Mississippi), March 23, 1907, p. 7.

Guy Lancaster
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 3/2/2018

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