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Glenco Bays (Lynching of)

On February 18, 1904, Glenco Bays was burned at the stake near Crossett (Ashley County) for the murder of J. D. Stephens, a prominent local farmer. The lynch mob was made up of both whites and African Americans.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, Bays was employed by Stephens, who found him to be “a quarrelsome negro.” Bays and Stephens apparently had an argument, and Bays allegedly went to Stephens’s house and shot him. According to the Orangeburg Times and Democrat, after he killed Stephens, Bays beat his body with the butt of the shotgun. Stephens was one of the most prosperous and admired farmers in the county. The Arkansas Gazette reported that black residents of the area “showed their esteem of the victim” by offering a reward for the alleged perpetrator’s capture. Some sources, however, speculate that this was an attempt to avoid a lynching. The authorities brought in bloodhounds from Lake Village (Chicot County) on a special train, and they soon traced Bays, who was hiding in a well on his father’s property about three miles from Stephens’s home.

After he was captured, Bays allegedly confessed to premeditated murder, describing his planned escape to Luna (Chicot County), where he would catch a boat to Memphis, Tennessee, or Cairo, Illinois. According to the Gazette, “He laughed when asked how he wanted to die, saying it made no difference, as he knew full well his hour had arrived.” The sheriff was powerless to stop the lynching, as he was out with a posse guarding the Louisiana state line. According to the Gazette, the spectacle of Bays being burned to death “was sickening, yet not one of the witnesses appeared to doubt that the terrible punishment meted out was merited….While the more conservative deplore the method of disposing of the murderer, indignation ran so high among both the white and black races that conservatism received no consideration.”

For additional information:
“Burned at the Stake.” Times and Democrat (Orangeburg, South Carolina), February 24, 1904, p. 7.

“Negro Burned at the Stake.” New York Times, February 20, 1904, p. 7.

“Negro Murderer Burned at Stake.” Arkansas Gazette, February 20, 1904, p. 1.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Clinton, South Carolina

Last Updated 12/29/2014

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