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Slocum Massacre Website- Selected Documents
“Scores of Negroes Killed by Whites,” July 31, 1910 (Page 1) (New York Times)
Palestine, Texas, July 30.–As the result of a race war at Slocum, fourteen miles south here, eighteen negroes are known to be dead and the total will reach twenty or more, as dead bodies are scattered over a large area.
The trouble originated between a white farmer, Redin Alford, and a negro, whose note Alford had indorsed some time ago. The negro left town and Alford was obliged to pay the note at one of the local banks.
A few days ago the negro returned, when Alford called on him to account for his conduct. The negro grew insulting and trouble followed.
It was reported to-day that some two hundred negroes had armed themselves and congregated at Denison Springs, twenty miles south of here, and were ready for trouble,
The white people of the little communities in that neighborhood were without arms and were uneasy over the situation, and this morning, following the killing of the negro at Slocum, the trouble started.
Messages were went to Palestine and other places in the vicinity asking white men with arms and ammunition be sent to Slocum at once, as the negroes were advancing on that place and trouble would follow. Sheriff Black also received an urgent appeal to come to Slocum, and left early this morning with a large posse.
The news spread like wildfire over Palestine that a race war was on at Slocum and that the people of that place wanted help immediately. By noon over 200 men, armed to the teeth, had left for the scene, and all day long groups of men with arms departed for that place.
District Judge Gardner appointed Capt. Godfrey Reese Fowler, who figured recently in the Nicaraguan revolution, as a special deputy to go to the scene and appeal to the people to avoid bloodshed, and also to summon witnesses to appear, before the Grand Jury, which will reconvene Monday afternoon especially to probe the killing of the negroes.
All saloons in Palestine were closed this morning, and orders were given to dealers in firearms and ammunition not to sell or rent them. Messages were also sent to Gov. Campbell urging him to send troops and State Rangers here as soon as possible, as further trouble was feared.
Not one white man was hurt, and at a late hour this evening everything is quiet and no further trouble is feared by the officers.
Large posses of men from Elkhart, Denison Springs, Crockett, Grapeland, and other places arrived at Slocum in the afternoon, and several hundred men have returned here, but others remain at the scene of trouble, as people of that section of the country are terrorized and fear another outbreak.
The negroes of Palestine have been very quiet to-day, and this evening scarcely an can be seen on the streets, which are crowded with groups of men discussing the many killing, but no further trouble is anticipated by the officers.
Several State Rangers arrived in the city at 7 o’clock from Austin and a company of State militia arrived from Marshall at 7:30. They will patrol the city to-night.
No names of the negroes killed could be secured at this hour, owing to the intense excitement, but eighteen bodies have so far been found scattered in the woods.
“Cavalry to Quell Outbreak in Texas,” August 1, 1910 (Page 2) (New York Times)
Palestine, Texas, July 31–The situation at Slocum, the scene of yesterday’s outbreak, is still tense and more trouble is feared. A feeling of uneasiness is evident in the county, following the report this afternoon that another negro was killed to-day. The names of fourteen negroes killed yesterday have been ascertained, and as the trouble territory covers fifteen miles and many negroes fled to marshes it is believed that fully twenty-five met their death.
Adjutant Gen. Newton is at the scene of trouble. Before leaving here he ordered out a troop of cavalry from Austin, and it is being rushed to this city on a special train. It will go at once to Slocum. The State militia from Marshall will stay in Palestine.
State Rangers and local officers arrived here at 9 o’clock , bringing with them four white prisoners and six negroes. These were placed in the county jail. The Marshall militia were disposed around the jail, and, although a large crowd congregated, no one was allowed to approach the prison. It is expected that other men will be arrested and that the Grand Jury will be reconvened to-morrow afternoon by District Judge Gardner to investigate the killings. District Attornery Harris and others left at noon for Slocum in automobiles.
A different aspect was given to the character of the outbreak by Sheriff Black, who returned early this morning after twenty-four hours at the scene of the killings.
“I found the greatest excitement prevailing throughout the section,” he said. “Men were going about killing negroes as fast as they could find them, and so far as I was able to ascertain, without any real cause. These negroes have done no wrong that I could discover. There was just a hot-headed gang hunting them down and killing them. I don’t know how many there were in the mob, but I think there must have been 200 or 300. Some of them cut the telephone wires. They hunted the negroes down like sheep.
“We found eleven bodies, but from what I have heard the dead must number fifteen or twenty. We came across four bodies in one house on a marsh between Denison Springs and Slocum. One negro had been killed the night before. Three negroes were sitting up with the remains, one of them being an old, white-haired man. These three were killed where they sat.
“So far as I can learn the negroes were not armed. I sent two deputies out through the vicinity to collect all the arms they could find in the house of the negroes. They made a thorough search, but found only nine single-barreled shotguns, none of which seemed to have been fired lately, and about thirty shells, all loaded with small shot.”
Palestine is the home of Gov. Campbell, and the news from Austin to-night is to the effect that he is particularly shocked by such an outbreak in his home county.
“The Dead Buried,” August 1, 1910 (Pages 1&2) (The Houston Post) (University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, Originally from Abilene Library Consortium)
Elkhart, Texas, July 31–James Spurger, a resident of Slocum was arrested at his home late Sunday evening by Rangers and at once turned over to Deputy Sheriff Reeves for transfer to the jail at Palestine. Spurger is being held, according to Sheriff Black of Anderson county, on a charge of murder incidental to the trouble Friday and Saturday in which eighteen negroes lost their lives. It is also reported that Mr. Bishop and Mr. Ferguson have been arrested. With the arrests of today and probable arrests of several other white men tonight, for whom warrants have been procured, Sheriff Black and Godfrey Reese Fowler declare that they have the situation well in hand and that the residents of Anderson, Houston and Cherokee counties need anticipate no further trouble. All deputy sheriffs have returned to their homes and seven Rangers, three from Anderson county, one from Houston county and three from Trinity county, under command of Godfrey Reese Fowler, are in charge of the work of burying the dead and affording absolute protection to the people who have called on them. Headquarters have been established at a farm house two miles southeast of the village of Slocum, and the fact that the Rangers will remain on the ground until all traces of an uprising have vanished was evidenced this afternoon when a quantity of provisions was dispatched to them.
Following a call issued Sunday morning to citizens who reside between Slocum and Denson Springs, a dozen farmers gathered at noon at Dick Willet’s farm, three miles southeast of Slocum, for the purpose of burying the bodies of those negroes who could be found. Willet’s farm was chosen on account of its central location and because of the fact that four negroes were killed there. Scouting parties were dispatched through the woods, and return bringing to the common cemetery the body of a dead negro. Inquests were held by Justice of the Peace Byron Singletary of Alder Branch. Many of the bodies were in a state of decomposition, and the action was taken as a measure to insure the public health. A trench twelve feet in depth had been dug during the early hours of the day and in this ditch the bodies were placed and covered. In many cases relatives of the negroes discovered the whereabouts of a body and dragged it to a secluded spot during the hours of the night. On account of the fact that several bodies have been disposed of, the exact number of negroes killed will never be known. A conservative estimate places the number killed at eighteen, while many men of standing in community declare that no less than forty were killed. No white man was injured during the trouble.
On the way from Palestine to the scene of the reported battle Sheriff Black was thrown from the buggy in which he was riding. He sustained numerous bruises about the face and body, but was able to continue his journey to Slocum. It was necessary that he be relieved later, however.
CAUSE OF THE TROUBLE
The exact cause of the trouble has not as yet been determined, but the Anderson county grand jury has been ordered to probe the matter to its depths and subpoena servers will summon every white man and many blacks before that body during the coming week. Rexford Alford, who lives near Slocum, indorsed a note at a Palestine bank for $70 to accommodate Abe Wilson, a negro prominent in the affairs of the Sandy Buleah colony. The two men had trouble over the matter, which led to lining up of the men of each race in the community behind the men of his own color. Abe Wilson–known as Old Abe–is heavily armed and has fled to the swamps in the Neches bottoms. He has declared time and again since inception of the trouble that he would never be taken alive and when he did go a white man would go with him.
Under the leadership of four negroes, three of whom are reported to have been killed, secret meetings have been held almost nightly in different parts of the community since the trouble started. It was reported to the white men that the results of these meetings was to effect that on Saturday night, July 30, negroes would advance in a body and kill every man, woman and child in the community.
Then it is reported a white man accused his negro renter of having assisted in formulating such a plan. In answer to which the negro renter cursed his landlord. It is also alleged that bad blood has existed for some time between James Spurger, now under arrest, and a neighbor and that when a negro was sent to take a message of warning from one mean to the other he was ill-treated. The negro is then alleged to have rounded up his friends and to have started serious trouble.
GRAVE MISTAKE MADE
While it is the consensus of opinion both in the surrounding towns and about the scene that there were a few negroes in the community who deserved punishment for recent minor misdeeds. It is also the opinion that a very grave mistake has been made and that innocent people have been made to suffer thereby. While it was reported that negroes were heavily armed and were shooting at the white whenever opportunity presented itself, it is a fact that no deadly weapon of any kind has been found on or about the person or clothing of any of the negroes found dead. Near the bodies of several were found grips, suitcases and handbags, indicating that the owner was about to quit the country.
In a little strip of land in Anderson county about ten miles in area, bounded on one side by the Neches river and Cherokee county and on the other by Houston county, occurred all of the trouble of the past two days and nights. This strip of land, triangular in shape and densely wooded, contains two negro colonies known as Sandy Buleah colony and St. James colony. All of the fighting occurred in the southern colony, the Sandy Buleah, and from there a majority of the negroes have fled to the north colony.
At noon Sunday thirty negro women and children applied to the Rangers for assistance and were assured that they would be given it. They are encamped in one house some four miles from Slocum, in destitute circumstances, may of them having lost husbands and brothers. Other families who live further back in the woods have stayed indoors since last Friday morning without food and these people are being cared for by the farmers of the community. A particularly pathetic scene was found by one party of searchers during the late afternoon. Advancing upon a negro cabin situated some three miles from the road, they were startled when two grown negroes darted out a back door and into the nearby woods. Going on into the house the searchers discovered an old negro and his wife, upwards of 75 years of age, about their feet were five small children while on the bed–the only one in the room–lay a negro man about 25 years of age dead of a buckshot wound in his side. They had found him on the hillside the night before and dragged him in. Not a member of the family had touched food for two days and nights and had no idea of the nature or extent of the trouble about them.
NEGRO DIED OF FRIGHT
Another peculiar case was that of Will McDonald. He was chased by a crowd of officers who wished to secure information from him. He ran for miles and when found later was dead without a mark or scratch on him–literally scared to death.
Quietude again reigns and the planters and their families will not speak of the matter except to their friends. When asked who, in their opinion, killed the negroes, they invariably answered that it was officers. Wives and daughters, even the babies of the family, have been carefully instructed not to talk. Friday, Saturday and even Sunday night were exciting times for this little neighborhood. At the first sign of alarm women and children were rushed to the school houses and residences of Slocum and Denson Springs. Armed guards were put over them while a majority of the men went to the front to help quell the uprising. Some of the braver families will use their own homes as sleeping quarters again tonight, but many will congregate in little school houses where they may be adequately guarded. Tomorrow is expected to see the last vestige of the trouble–one of the bloodiest in the history of Texas–wiped completely away. Wild rumors concerning the affair still are flying, as they have since the first news was given to the world. Confirmed facts are hard to obtain owing to the isolated situation and to the fact that different parties of officers are handling the matter from different points and on account of the fact that telephone wires leading into Denson Springs were cut during the early stages of the shooting.
B.H. Gardner to Governor Campbell, August 4, 1910 (Records, Texas Governor Mitchell Campbell, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission)
Dear Governor: I see that Mr. Mobley is out as Asst Atty General- and I write at the instance of the Dist Atty and on my own behalf to urge you to employ Mobley to aid the Dist Atty in the prosecution of the case for the murder of the negroes at Slocum and near there– including the killings in both Counties. This is very important as there seems to be no sort of excuse for the crimes but on account of the number included the state will need all the help that can be had. Hoping for your prompt action I remain
Jury Foreman’s Letter to Governor Campbell, August 25, 1910 (Records, Texas Governor Mitchell Campbell, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission)
Dear Sir and Governor
Allow me to say a word concerning the prosecutions which are to take place in Anderson and Houston Counties growing out of the killing of the eight negroes on or about July 29th and 30th.
I happened to be foreman of the Grand Jury which returned the indictments for this County and I will say that the examination of some 200 witnesses was unanimously found a condition that would seem to call for vigorous prosecutions.
It seems unfortunate that the term of our present District Attorney may expire before these cases may be forced to trial. We were glad that you sent Mr. Mobley to Palestine to assist in the investigation and assist in preparing the States’ cases. Mr. Mobley was not with us all the time but I feel sure that he got fully into the merits of the case and I hope that a way may be provided to have him continue in the prosecutions.
This was my first real acquaintance with Mr. Mobley furthermore I wish to say that he made no statement to me indicating nay decision on his part to be employed by the state as special prosecutor, but I am sure that the other members of the Grand Jury were favorably impressed with his ability to forcibly and fearlessly push the prosecution of the actually guilty parties in this inexcusable crime
The defendants in question will be represented by Able Councils. King + Morris have already been employed– the incoming district Attorney while an excellent young man is a Lawyer of limited experience and he is of rather timid appearance. These facts would seem to justify special council by the State and as Mr. Mobley seems to possess the ability and courage to vigorously prosecute I hope that you may see your way clear to secure his services for the state in the prosecution of these cases. I am most obediently your Friend W.H. Nance
John A. Siddon to Cecil A. Lyon, August 1, 1910 (United States Department of Justice, file no.152961, R.G. 60, 1910)
For Humanities Sake if you have any influence With the Federal government Prevail on the Propper Authorities to investergate the Conditions that, Prevail in this Country as regard the negro Some sluys ergo 20 or 30 Collored people Were Murdered at Slocum in Anderson County, Texas for no other Cause that the Lord had made them Black. The State of Texas Will have a Farce of a Trial for u. Show to the World But no on Will ever be Punished for these Monstrous Crimse Most every Plantation that Works any Considerable Number of Nefroes Carry on a Kind of Peonage for Instance they Will Pay a negro a Dallas per day charge him unheard of prices for the necesities of life as for instance 40 cts per gallon for Kerosene 10 cts per Box for Seareh light matches With a Studied effort to keep the negro in debt. For the merest infractin of Platnation Ruels they are Floged unmercifully and should they try to incite one of these Plantation Bosses Why they would give him a Pass to the Happy Hunting ground I am Not a lawyer. But there Should be a few on the Statute Books of the nation to Punish Such Practices as these when a State will not: there have been a number of Negroes murdered in this County by Whites and no arrests have ever been made: in Conclusion I will Say I am a White Man am a Republican on National Issues although I Vote in the Democratic Primaries if the united States Can abolish Such Practices as these later I will Tell you Where to find some guilty Parties Will Kindly ask you Not to make my Name Public in Connection With this as I would fear assassination But Please inform me in the inclosed envelopes what Constitutes Peonage
John A. Siddon
P.S. Please keep my name in all Secrecy in conncetion with this
John A Siddon Volga Texas