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Bart Frederick (Lynchings Related to the Murder of)

On January 7, 1898, in Little Bay (Calhoun County), African-American men Charley Wheelright (or Wheelwright) and A. A. Martin were lynched for the alleged murder of Bart Frederick, a white man. Jim Cone, another suspect in the case, was probably lynched around the same time. Six months later, Goode Gray (a.k.a. Tobe Gray) was lynched at Rison (Cleveland County) for the same crime.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, Bart Frederick was murdered in the first week of January while he was operating a handcart on the Cotton Belt Railroad near Kingsland (Cleveland County), where he was a waterman (a worker who supplied water to the railroad tanks). A letter written by Dr. William Buerhive to Bart Frederick’s brother in Michigan, L. Frederick, gives additional details of the crime. In answer to inquiries from L. Frederick, Buerhive responded that Bart Frederick was shot on Tuesday afternoon, January 4, about one and a half miles south of Kingsland. He was going from the town tank to the station tank building, where he also lived, and was shot from behind at close range. The bullet entered Frederick’s brain, and he died instantly. His murderers dragged him down into a clump of bushes and robbed him. His body was discovered the following morning. Buerhive indicated the possibility that a white man may have instigated the crime supposedly perpetrated by two black men.

The murderers stole Bart Frederick’s watch, which was, according to differing accounts, either pawned at Bearden (Ouachita County) or found at Rison “where it had been left by a negro.” Officers followed this clue to capture the suspects. At first, it was said that the prisoners had escaped, but, by January 8, the Gazette had more information to report. Both Wheelright and Martin had been captured near Little Bay. Wheelright, who was also wanted for the murder of a child in Kingsland, was being taken to the jail in Rison. Martin was also arrested at Little Bay on January 7, and the Gazette reported that Cleveland County sheriff Dykes would arrive on the morning of January 8 to take charge of him.

Wheelright and Martin apparently never made it to the jail. Although reports indicated that they had escaped, newspapers across the country reported that they had been lynched near Little Bay on January 7. The New York Times reported that a mob gathered in Rison and pursued the alleged perpetrators. They eventually captured three African Americans, two of whom were hanged. The third, wanted in Kingsland for another crime, was put in the custody of the Cleveland County sheriff. There were no other details given about the presumed lynching.

The third black man captured at Little Bay, later identified as Goode Gray (sometimes called Tobe Gray), was sent to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for safekeeping. He was brought back to Rison on July 3 so that he could face the grand jury. Early on the morning of July 4, a mob removed him from the jail—which was apparently flimsily built and not adequately guarded—took him to the nearby railroad crossing over the Saline River, and lynched him.

According to a report in the Arkansas Gazette on July 5, there was yet another lynching associated with this case. A short time after Frederick was killed, a black man named Jim Cone reportedly tried to sell a watch that had belonged to Frederick. Authorities in Rison were informed and tried to arrest him, but he escaped. He was then discovered near Fordyce (Dallas County), where several posse groups tried to arrest him. He disappeared and was reportedly lynched.

For additional information:
“Five Western Lynchings.” New York Times, January 9, 1898, p. 10.

“Goode Gray Taken from Cleveland County Jail.” Arkansas Gazette, July 5, 1898, p. 5.

“Mob's Work.” Arkansas Gazette, January 8, 1898, p. 1.

“More on the Death of Barton Frederick.” Alcona County (Michigan) Review, January 27, 1898; online at http://www.alcona.org/?q=node/245404 (accessed March 27, 2015).

“The Murderers Were Captured.” Arkansas Gazette, January 8, 1898, p. 1.

“A Negro Lynched.” Los Angeles Herald, July 5, 1898, p. 3.

“Two Negroes are Lynched.” Atlanta Constitution, January 8, 1898, p. 2.

Nancy Snell Griffith
Clinton, South Carolina

Last Updated 10/5/2017

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