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Andrew Springer, a white man, was lynched in Powhatan (Lawrence County) on May 21, 1887. His is the only lynching recorded as happening in Lawrence County and occurred during a decade when whites and African Americans were lynched in relatively equal numbers. That would change the following decade as lynching violence became more exclusively anti-black. The lynching of Springer became the subject of the October “Ghost Walk” held at the Powhatan Historic State Park each year and is a significant component of local folklore. The event was mentioned by newspapers as far away as Perth, Australia.
The exact identity of Springer remains a mystery. Some newspapers reported that he was originally from Cook County, Illinois, but the four possible matches for Springer in the 1880 census from counties in that region provide a low probable match. An Arkansas Gazette article from more than a week following the lynching reported that he was the son of a widow in Salem (Fulton County) and that he had been employed earlier as a mail carrier in Franklin (Izard County) and “always seemed to be an honest, obliging, and unassuming young man of rather good intellect.”
On May 14, 1887, according to a report from the Memphis Avalanche, reprinted in the Arkansas Gazette, Andrew Springer called upon the house of the Montgomery family who lived near Opposition (Lawrence County) and asked for a glass of water. At the time of his visit, the male head of household was out, and Springer was alone with Mrs. Montgomery and her six-week-old child. Springer allegedly took the baby from her arms, threw it onto the floor, and raped her. When her husband returned, she informed him of the attack, and Montgomery headed off in pursuit of Springer, being joined by other men in and around Opposition.
Posse members quickly apprehended Springer and turned him over to authorities at Powhatan, then the county seat, as they knew that Montgomery would likely demand the man be lynched. At the jail, Springer reportedly confessed to his crime and was positively identified by Mrs. Montgomery.
Between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. on May 21, 1887, a mob of twenty-five people appeared at the jail in Powhatan and demanded the keys from the jailer, threatening to use force to remove Springer from the building. The mob then guided the man a quarter of a mile from town and hanged him from a tree, firing shots into his suspended body. According to the Arkansas Democrat’s account, the mob had obtained possession of Springer by subterfuge, appearing at the house of the jailer as a posse with one of their number disguised as a prisoner in need of detention. When the jailer unlocked the jail, the posse turned their guns upon him and made off with Springer, taking him to the home of one Colonel Barber, where they hanged him from a large post oak and fired five rounds into his body. No one was ever charged in the lynching.
For additional information:
Brosius, Jeanni. “Haunted History.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 22, 2009. Online at http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2009/oct/22/haunted-history-visitors-wander-through-p-20091022/?print (accessed March 2, 2018).
“A Diabolical Deed.” Arkansas Gazette, May 21, 1887, p. 2.
“An Inhuman Fiend.” Arkansas Democrat, May 20, 1887, p. 1.
“Judge Lynch.” Arkansas Democrat, May 30, 1887, p. 7.
“Judge Lynch.” Arkansas Gazette, May 22, 1887, p. 1.
“Lynch Law in Arkansas.” Western Mail (Perth, Australia), August 6, 1887, p. 36. Online at http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/32705906 (accessed March 2, 2018).
“Record of a Man Who Was Killed By a Mob—Personal Mention.” Arkansas Gazette, May 29, 1887, p. 3.
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 3/2/2018
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