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Albert England, a white man, was lynched on the night of November 2–3, 1895, near Vilonia (Faulkner County). After being arrested and charged with burglary, he was taken from custody and murdered. Some at the time believed that the mob was composed of fellow criminals intent upon silencing England and protecting themselves from exposure.
The exact identity of Albert England is difficult to determine. There was an Albert England reported on the 1880 census as twenty-six years old and from Lonoke County; however, there is a brief line in the November 28, 1895, Arkansas Gazette noting that an Albert England who was resident at the state asylum (now the Arkansas State Hospital) had died, and his body was being shipped back to Lonoke County. A report in the Osceola Times holds that England claimed Cross County as his home and had family there.
On October 26, 1895, the store of W. R. Evans in Vilonia was burglarized. The Times reported that $25 worth of goods had been stolen and that England traveled to Beebe (White County) to purchase a trunk in which to conceal the merchandise. From there, he went to Wynne (Cross County), where he was located by officers from Vilonia. He was arrested by Constable John Ryan at Levesque (Cross County) and turned over to City Marshal W. R. Canada of Beebe, who transferred England to Vilonia. During the examining trial, England implicated Allie Mason, described in the Arkansas Gazette as “a good citizen of that neighborhood,” but Mason was soon acquitted, while England’s trial continued. According to the Times, England, during this preliminary trial, “claimed that he stole the clothing for his children, but his wife and children, who reside at the historic old town of Wittsburg, have had nothing to do with him, and have live[d] apart from him for a long time, owing to his wrongdoing.”
Over the weekend, England was placed in the custody of Constable James Edwards, Deputy Sheriff John More, and three others, who were guarding him at a location described only as “south of Vilonia.” On the night of Saturday, November 2, a group of masked men appeared at the site where England was being guarded and overpowered his captors. They took England and subsequently “shot him to pieces, and left him dead.” England was described in news reports as “a notorious thief,” and possibly a member of a larger group of thieves, who perhaps kidnapped and murdered him in order to “keep him from confessing and implicating them in the crime.”
A meeting of citizens in Vilonia condemned the murder of England and raised $350 as a reward for the apprehension of the assassins; this was in addition to a $500 reward announced by Governor James Paul Clarke for the arrest and conviction of the mob.
On November 6, 1895, former sheriff J. B. Wilson, who had served the county from 1890 to 1894 and was elected on the Populist ticket, was shot near the community of Otto (Faulkner County), located in the same township as Vilonia. Reportedly, he and a cohort, Will Dallas, were riding in a buggy and “canvassing for a tombstone agency” when they were attacked. Newspapers speculated that the same group responsible for England’s death suspected the former sheriff of using the tombstone agency as a cover for investigating the original murder. Though Wilson was originally reported dead from gunshot, he in fact survived the attack, and citizens raised a $150 reward for information leading to the arrest of his attacker. There are no reports that this effort was successful.
For additional information:
“Foully Murdered.” Arkansas Gazette, November 8, 1895, p. 1.
“Lynched for Stealing.” Osceola Times, November 9, 1895, p. 3.
“Murderous Mob.” Arkansas Gazette, November 5, 1895, p. 1.
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
Last Updated 3/1/2018
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