16 April 2016

N is for the Negro Lynched Near Columbus (A to Z Challenge)

Today's letter brings a story of a man whose southern grave is very likely the Chattahoochee River.

nypldigitalcollections-south
From the New York Public Library
Some time ago, I'd say about nine years, I decided to document (or at least make note of) every instance of lynching I come across while researching.  I never made a solid attempt to seek out lynchings, specifically, but would make note when one was found.  I even started a database of sorts.  I haven't really kept the page up as far as housekeeping goes – there might be some broken links and such – but I still add to it from time to time with more than 170 entries thus far.  I've also written on the subject a couple of times in this space before (here and here).

Since this blog is taking part in the A to Z Challenge, there are some people visiting that might never have otherwise (I'm having a blast, btw).  So I feel a little like I should try to explain why I would give the horrible acts – those committed by the criminal, as well as those committed on the criminal – voice on this blog.  There are no (at least to my knowledge) statistics showing the accuracy of the lynchers.  How many times was an innocent person hung, riddled with bullets, and mutilated in the name of "justice?" I mean, we probably agree there are innocent people sitting in jail right now – with supposed checks and balances in place.  Imagine when there were none.  Shouldn't those innocent people be remembered?

Now, make no mistake, sometimes the lynching party "punished" the right person.  As in, sometimes the true perpetrator was indeed apprehended – and then disposed of, often in a barbaric fashion.  Even if you take the literal "eye for an eye" death penalty approach, I would not be surprised if that would have been an applicable punishment in only an infinitesimal number of cases.  People were lynched for stealing, people were lynched for "insubordination," people were lynched for literally being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And let us not be cowards and leave out the racism debacle that lingers to this day.  So another reason for giving voice to these past atrocities is in the same vein of "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

On to Simon Adams.

The first article to catch my attention was this one from the 14 June 1900 Vienna Progress (Georgia, pg. 1, col. 2):
LYNCHING OF SIMON ADAMS

Was Thrown Into the River and Told to Swim.
COLUMBUS, Ga.  June 13. – It is learned that Simon Adams, the negro lynched near here, was thrown into the river and ordered to swim for his life.

Before throwing him into the river, the mob put a heavy chain around his neck, but notwithstanding this handicap and the swift current, the negro made a heroic struggle for life, and thinking he would escape, the crowd opened fire on him from the bank, severely wounding him.  He continued to struggle, however, diving as he went.  His last dive is said to have been some 10 feet, and as he came up a Winchester bullet lodged in his head, killing him.
Disgusted, yet? I actually think this version of events is a bit sensationalized, as if the truth wasn't horrific enough.  Another article relays that the father of the two girls who awoke not long after midnight to find Simon Adams in their room is the one who bound him with a chain and sent him to Columbus.  I think the following blurb from the 10 June 1900 Springfield Republican of Massachusetts is probably pretty accurate.

simonadamsblurb
Via GenealogyBank

Based only on the news articles I read, it appears Simon Adams never touched either one of the girls.  I'm not saying Simon Adams did not have a nefarious reason for being in the room.  I'm just saying it appears he never touched either one of the girls.  Yet it was stated in some news articles that he assaulted the girls.  One article called him a "would-be rapist."

I also want to note:  articles were found in newspapers nationwide.  In addition to the two cities and states represented above, there was Birmingham, AL; Denver, CO; Philadelphia, PA; Cleveland, OH; Omaha, NE; San Francisco, CA; Boise, ID; Riverside, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Kansas City, KS; Charleston, SC – take a breath – Grand Forks, ND; Baltimore, MD; and Prescott, AZ.  And here are a few headlines:
RETRIBUTION CAME QUICKLY: Simon Adams Climbed Into the Sleeping Room of Judge Almond's Daughters.  SCREAMS BROUGHT FATHER.

LYNCHING IN MUSCOGEE: WOULD-BE RAPIST IS SUMMARILY DEALT WITH.

NEGRO LYNCHED AT COLUMBUS, GA: Heavy Trace Chain Used Instead of Regulation Rope.
Chattahoochee
Chattahoochee
By Mike Gonzalez via Wikimedia
Commons
So what (else) happened to the body of Simon Adams?  What does his gravesite look like? I'll let the final news article from the 22 June 1900 Macon Telegraph (Georgia, pg. 1) speak to that.  And please don't miss that last sentence.
BODY TORN BY SHOT

Corpse of Simon Adams Found in the Chattahoochee River.
COLUMBUS, Ga., June 21. – The body of a negro man, supposed to be that of Simon Adams, lynched north of the city a few days ago, was found in the river just below the North Highlands dam this morning by Mr. Charles Allen.

There was not a stitch of clothing on the body, the head was gone, the tongue adhering to the esophagus, the right arm practically fleshless and the bone broken, the skin slipping.  The body was practically shot to pieces.  A piece of paper six inches square could not have been laid on his body anywhere without covering a shot wound…The jury's verdict was that the deceased was an unknown negro man who came to his death by unknown causes…  [Emphasis mine.]

[If you're wondering what's up with all the "letter" posts:  I am attempting to follow the Blogging from A to Z Challenge(links to official page). This challenge lasts through the month of April, with Sundays off. Click here to see all my letter posts on one page. They will be in reverse order. Oh, and wish me luck!]



5 comments:

Darla M Sands said...

How chilling! Thank you for giving these people a voice, as it were. Atrocities do need to be remembered.
Awakening Dreams and Conquering Nightmares with a Pen
Be well.

J Lenni Dorner said...

J here, of the #atozchallenge Arlee Bird's A to Z Ambassador Team.
How has the challenge been going for you so far? Are you meeting your goals of posting and hopping to other blogs? M marked the halfway point!
My blog's giveaway is still going! I'm encouraging everyone to visit more stops. There's a post about how to better use the image alt code -- featured on the main A to Z blog as well as my own.
http://jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com
Great stuff! Thanks so much for sharing this history.

Stephanie Lincecum said...

Thanks for stopping by, J. I'm having a blast with posting and hopping. I strive to visit more and different blogs each day. Off to visit yours, now.

Jill Ball said...

These stories need to be told. Thank you for sharing Simon's story and educating this ignorant Australian.

Stephanie Lincecum said...

Thanks for the comment, Jill. Sometimes history is nasty, but we've got to remember it. If just so we don't allow those nasty things to happen ever again.

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