Skip to main content

V is for the Vigilance Committee Hanging at Versailles, Indiana

1897 in Ripley County, Indiana saw a community fed up.  It seems there was a gang going 'round committing acts of marauding and thievery.  And this had been going on, day and night, for years.  It ended, for at least some gang members, September 15th.

Headlines were ablaze in newspapers across the country:

Judge Lynch Settles Five: Mob at Versailles, Ind., Deal Out Justice to Robbers.  [Duluth, MN]

Outraged Citizens Take Quick Vengeance: Five Men Strung Up by the Neck at Versailles, Indiana.  [Wheeling, WV]

Indiana Robbers Lynched.  Five Disposed of at Versailles at Once.  [Emporia, KS]

Five Men Lynched Because They Stole: Mob at Versailles, Ind, Strings Up a Quintette of Burglars.  [Boise, ID]

And here's the story as told by Georgia's Vienna Progress (23 September 1897):




Taken By Force From the Authorities and Death Meted Out To Them By the "Hempen Route."

A special of Wednesday from Osgood, Ind., says:  "Incensed by numerous depredations, repeated burglaries and daylight robberies, the people of Ripley county, Indiana, have taken the law into their hands and meted out to the perpetrators a punishment greater than provided for by the law.  A mob took from the authorities and lynched Lyle Levi, Bert Andrews, Clifford Gordon, William Jenkins and Hiney Schuler.

Stout ropes, not over six feet in length, had served to send each to his eternity and their feet were but a few inches from the ground.

The mob was composed of citizens from Milam, Sunman and other towns.

The mob on horseback entered the town an hour after midnight and called out Jailer Kenan, who, upon refusal to give up the keys, was overpowered.

The mob soon pushed its way into the cell rooms and in their impatience fired on the five prisoners and then dragged them to a tree a square from the jail door and hung them up.

Andrews and Gordon had already been wounded, having been shot several times while attempting to rob a store at Correct several days ago.  Schuler was in school for attempting burglary and Levi and Jenkins had been indicted by the grand jury for robbery.  They had failed to give bond and were put in jail.

It was thought that Levi and Schuler were both dead from the shots fired by the mob when they were taken from jail.

The bandages on the wounded men were found later in the day on the streets through which them men were dragged along.

Lyle Levi was an old soldier and bore on his face wounds received during the civil war while fighting for the Union.

None of the lynchers are known.  They all came from a distance.

Versailles is a town of 800 people.  It is one of the oldest in the state, and although it is five miles from a railroad station and has no telegraphic communication with the outside world, it is still the county seat.

For four or five years, and even longer, the farmers of the county have been the victims of a lawless gang.  Farmers would come into town with a bunch of cattle, or load of farming products, and next morning they would be found along the roadside suffering from a wound and minus the proceeds of their sale.

I really was surprised to find a couple of gravestone images for the alleged criminals / victims online.  The "old soldier's" FindAGrave memorial is here.  Bert Andrews' stone from Otter Village Cemetery in Ripley County is pictured below.  [Photo by Barbara Hill via FindAGrave.  Used with permission.]


Notice this part? "In The Vigilance Committee Hanging At Versailles." This appears to be a relatively new stone, and I don't know if it is a replacement or if Bert's gravesite was ever marked before.  It does seem that the community rallied around the vigilante mob, though.  This from the 16 September 1897 Columbus Enquirer (Georgia, pg. 6):

Versailles, Ind., Sept. 15. – Governor Mount sent the deputy attorney general here tonight to secure the names of the members of the mob, but public sentiment is wholly with the lynchers, and the deputy attorney general is unable to make any headway.  No jury could be found in this county that would convict any member of the mob, and it is thought the coroner's jury action this afternoon, declaring the five men were hanged by "persons unknown" will end the matter.  Governor Mount's telegram to the sheriff only creates derision.

[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 (in reverse order). Oh, and wish me luck!]


Darla M Sands said…
Wow. Just wow. I don't know what else to say. Except thank you for sharing. I'm getting an education.
Awakening Dreams and Conquering Nightmares with a Pen
In case I have not already informed you, I’m intermittently without Internet access right now. Thus I am trying to read and comment on as many blogs as possible whenever opportunity arises. Be well! And best wishes on completing the challenge.
Anonymous said…
Wow! I am visiting from the A-Z challenge. I love old cemeteries. The history and (untold, especially) stories of the people fascinate me. ~McGuffy's Reader~

Popular posts from this blog

Rocks, Rocks, and More Rocks

Why do people put rocks on grave stones? Some time ago, I learned that the rocks signified a visitor. That is true enough, but I decided to learn a little more about the custom and share my findings with you. Putting rocks on tombstones is most often described as a Jewish custom. There are many "Ask a Rabbi" columns out there, but I did not find one that knew for sure where the custom originated. They all agreed, however, that a rock symbolized a visitor and when put on a tombstone said, "I remember you." I also read that some people pick up a rock wherever they are when they think of a person that has passed. Then, the next time they visit the grave, they place the rock to say, "I wish you were here." Rabbi Shraga Simmons offers a deeper meaning: "We are taught that it is an act of ultimate kindness and respect to bury someone and place a marker at the site. After a person is buried, of course, we can no longer participate in burying them. H

Southern Cross of Honor

I'm late to this discussion, but it's one I'd like to join. :-) Terry Thornton at The Graveyard Rabbit of the Hill Country started with Grave Marker Symbols: The Southern Cross of Honor and UCV (link no longer available). Judith Shubert at The Graveyard Rabbit of the Covered Bridges continued with Hood County Texas: C.S.A. Veterans & Southern Cross of Honor Symbol . [UPDATE, 1 June 2009: Judith has moved this post to the blog, Cemeteries with Texas Ties . The link has been corrected to reflect this move. You may also link to her article via her nice comment on this post.] Wikipedia states: The Southern Cross of Honor was a military decoration meant to honor the officers, noncommissioned officers, and privates for their valor in the armed forces of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. It was formally approved by the Congress of the Confederate States on October 13, 1862, and was originally intended to be on par with the Union Arm

Thursday Link Love: EyeWitness To History

Yesterday, a link was added to the Genealogy Research Resources Group at Diigo. The link was to the website titled EyeWitness to History through the eyes of those who lived it . It's a great site, and I encourage all to visit it. Here are several items I found while snooping around. - Inside a Nazi Death Camp, 1944 : "Hitler established the first concentration camp soon after he came to power in 1933. The system grew to include about 100 camps divided into two types: concentration camps for slave labor in nearby factories and death camps for the systematic extermination of "undesirables" including Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally retarded and others." - Crash of the Hindenburg, 1937 : "Radio reporter Herbert Morrison, sent to cover the airship's arrival, watched in horror. His eye witness description of the disaster was the first coast-to-coast radio broadcast and has become a classic piece of audio history." [You ca

The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

So I answered, "O Lord God, You know."

Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!' Thus says the Lord God to these bones: 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live...'" (Ezekiel 37:1-5, NKJV)