Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"A Mob was After Him: Ephraim Bennett's Narrow Escape from Violence": The Attempted Lynching of my 2nd Great Grand Uncle

If you've been following my blog, you've probably read my last two posts about my great, great grandmother's brother, Ephraim, who killed his sister's abusive husband, Nathan L Buchanan. (The posts are "A Reason for Murder" & "Sister to Asylum; Brother to Jail.") One of the newspaper articles I shared explains that Bennett was moved to a different county's jail "to escape the vengeance of a mob which was supposed to be organized for the purpose of lynching him."

(In case you haven't read the other articles and the family story that was passed down, Nathan L Buchanan was abusing his wife and hit her so hard that she went insane and had to be locked up in an asylum. Bennett loaned Buchanan the money to cover the cost, but Bennett eventually went out into a field where Buchanan was working and shot at him five times and killed him. Bennett says that Buchanan had been threatening his life and reached into his pocket so he shot before he could be shot. The prosecutors stated that Bennett had threatened Buchanan multiple times. After killing Buchanan, Bennett turned himself in.)

I have now found two more newspaper articles that are about this lynch mob. A few things really surprise me:
  • I'm surprised that this particular murder was thought hideous enough for a lynch mob, though I know I don't have a lot of the details. There was another man imprisoned with Bennett who had been hired by his brother to kill his lover's husband for $200. But, the lynch mob was asking for Bennett. 
  • I'm surprised the men who entered the jail wore masks, though I certainly don't know much about lynch mobs. I tend to relate the wearing of masks and lynch mobs to the Ku Klux Klan. 
  • I'm surprised at the size of this mob. It was HUGH! One newspaper describes 65-75 men while the other article describes over 200! Why were they so ready to kill Bennett?
The largest mass lynching in American history involved the lynching of eleven Italianimmigrants in New Orleans in 1891.
(image from Wikipedia)
My distant cousin, Chris Powell, told me that Ephraim Bennett remarried and moved to Colorado after being released from prison. It's now pretty clear why he didn't return home. I don't think he would have been very welcome in his home town! And, I'll have to do some research to see if other family members moved away.

These two articles about the attempted lynching are fairly long so I'll share one today and one tomorrow.

A Mob Was After Him, The Springfield Democrat, Springfiled, Missouri, 09 Jun 1893, page 5, column 4;
digital image newspapers.com(http://www.newspapers.com: accessed 07 Sep 2014

Ephraim Bennett's Narrow Escape From Violence.

Webster County Citizens Try to Lynch Him.

Brough[?] to Springfield - The Atrocious Murder Committed By the Prisoner

Last Tuesday night Deputy Sheriff McElwain of Marshfield brought in Ephraim Bennett, murderer of John [should be Nathan] Buchanan, and Wesley Hargiss, charged with the murder of Columbus Yandals and lodged them in the Greene county jail for safe keeping. The local authorities endeavored to keep the matter perfectly quiet, and succeeded so well that the facts did not leak out until yesterday morning. It then developed that both Bennett and Hargiss narrowly escaped a summary infliction of the death penalty at the hands of a mob.

Bennett's preliminary trial was held Monday before Justice Park, resulting in the prisoner being held without bond to await the action of the grand jury. The Marshfield Chronicle says that after the trial it was whispered around that an attempt would be made by citizens from the neighborhood in which Buchanan lived to lynch Bennett sometime during the night. Sheriff Goss hearing this decided to foil the attempt. He accordingly handcuffed Bennett and Wesley Hargis, one of the murderers of Lum Yandle, and in company with Prosecuting Attorney James Case quietly slipped the prisoners out of the back door of the jail at about 8 o'clock and took them to the outskirts of town where a deputy met them with a hack and the prisoners were taken to the country. About midnight J. B. Smith and William Prater, who had been left in charge of the jail, were aroused by a vigorous knock on the door. When the door was opened about fourteen masked men entered the jail, while some fifty or sixty stood guard on the outside. The masked men asked for Bennett and were informed that he was not there. They then made a thorough inspection of the jail, and when they were convinced their "bird" was gone they dispersed as quietly as they had come. Sheriff Goss returned with the prisoners early Tuesday morning.

Sheriff Goss and Prosecuting Attorney Case came to the conclusion Tuesday afternoon that the best thing to do to save Bennett from being taken from the jail here and swinging from the limb of a tree, was to get him away and in a more secure jail. Bennett was taken out of jail about 4 o'clock and in charge of Special Deputy Sheriff McElwain took a round a bout way to the depot. Deputy McElwain, with the prisoner walked up to the baggage car in which the prisoner was transported, and he went into it like "greased lightning." Deputy Sheriff McElwain delivered his prisoner to the Greene county sheriff in good shape.

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at drleeds@sbcglobal.net

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