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Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Lynching of Calvin Beatty 1860-1878

On today's date - August 11, 1877, 18-year-old Calvin Beatty died of the result of wounds received in a lynchng. His death was just one in a sad string of extrajudicial killings in which justice was taken into the hands of a mob. Over the 25 year period from 1868 through the early 1890s at least 11 men were murdered in Williamson County by lynching:
  • July and August 1868: six men died in a series of retaliatory murders:
    • July 18, 1868 William Guthrie was lynched by the KKK, by shooting near the Douglass church (the site of today's Henpeck Market on Lewisburg Pike
    • July 19, 1868 Jeremiah Ezell was shot in an ambush in retaliation for the killing of William Guthrie
    • Soon after, two men were murdered by hanging in retaliation for the murder of Jeremiah Ezell (one was hung from a locust tree at Widow Bostick's Everbright home on Carter's Creek Pike and the other was hung in "Maney's front lawn" - the home known today as Jasmine Grove in the Myles Manor neighborhood.)
    • August 17, 1868, Samuel A. Bierfield was shot on Main Street in downtown Franklin in retaliation for the death of Jeremiah Ezell
    • August 17, 1868 Lawrence Bowman was shot on Main Street in downtown Franklin apparently in retaliation for the death of Jeremiah Ezell
  • March 1877, Jim Walker was taken from the courthouse by “masked men” and hung “about a mile from town”.
  • August 1878 Calvin Beatty was lynched by hanging from a hickory tree
  • October 1878 John Thomas was lynched by hanging
  • August 10, 1888 Amos Miller was lynched by hanging by the KKK from the courthouse railing
  • April 30, 1891 Jim Taylor lynched from the Murfreesboro Bridge by today's Pinkerton Park in Franklin
This ugly period in America's history, in Franklin and Williamson County's history and in our collective history must not be forgotten. To learn more, visit The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

In this case, Calvin Beatty was accused of attempting to rape the six-year old daughter of "prominent citizen" Daniel Crisman on Friday, August 3, 1877. He was arrested the next day and taken to Franklin were he was jailed. The jailer was concerned that he might be lynched, so for several nights he keep the jail guarded. However, according to newspaper accounts, when all was quiet for several days, "his suspicions were lulled", and the guards were dismissed at eleven o’clock on the night of Monday, August 6th. Evidently, the two dismissed guards promised to send two guards in their place. An hour afterward - at midnight (which seems to be the favored hour for the KKK) a mob appeared.  According to a newspaper account:
"The "tramp of one hundred and fifty horses were heard, and then came a knock upon the jailer’s door.
“Whose there?” Asked the jailer. 
“Friend.” Was softly responded. 
“What do you want,” asked the jailer. 
“We have come for Calvin Beatty, and we intend to have him. We don’t want to frighten you nor harm you; we are aware of your position and respect it. Just quietly give us the keys and stay in your room. “ 
“You can’t get any keys, I will die before I give them up,” said the jailer. 
“Knock down the door,” said the man in an undertone, and it was done. 
Three men rushed into the hall through the breach, when the jailer and his wife met them, she exclaiming, “Oh gentlemen, just consider what a terrible thing you are doing before going any further. 
Said they: “Madame, we took the whole matter into consideration before leaving home and our minds are made up now.” They then passed into the jail, knocked off the lock to Beatty’s cell, told Beatty he was wanted, and pushed him along out the door and took him away.
Beatty described what happened next: “Where they rushed me outside of the jail they put me on a horse behind a man and rode rapidly away."

According to reports, "They asked him if he raped the child, and he replied that he saw her, but never touched her. The mob sneeringly cried that he was a damned liar, and laughed and joked."

When they came to a tree Beatty reported that one member of the mob said, 

“Here’s a good place; let us hang him here.” 
But they all said, “It is too bushy here; let’s go further.” 
So they rode on until the man who had me said: “Here, fellows, let’s hang this d—-d n*****; I don’t want him to ride behind me all night; I am getting d—d tired of him.” 
So they stopped at a hickory tree, when one of them climbed it and threw a rope over the limb and placed the noose around my neck; the man in the tree then fetched it a jerk and it choked me mighty bad; 
the moon was down and it was very dark; between fifty and sixty were around me; 
got my right hand out of the rope to which my left was tied behind me, and slipped it easy-like up to the rope on my neck, and worked it, unbeknownst to them, until I got it around my ears and off my neck; 
then the man in the tree says: “When you stand away off dar for, you d—-d fool; come close;” get close to the tree, when the man in the tree there an end of the rope down, and says, “Ketch hold, dar.” 
They ketched the rope, and I looked ‘round to see where to jump; so when the man rode off to let me swing, I fetched a big lunge and lit right among the horses, the man up the tree say: “The d—-n n***** is gone; look out dar,” 
I got down long the horses, and they were afraid they would shoot one another; and, at last, I saw an opening andI darted through; 
one man says, “there he goes,” and then they began to shoot, and that blinded me; 
they shot in my face and all around me; I never heard the like; while they were shooting I ran against an old stump and fell just as a head of them shot; at last one man shot me in the hand, and just before I got to the fence another man shot me in the side; he galloped up close to me and fired, and I fell; and he says, “I’se got him.” 
But that made me jump again, and then I come to a rail fence, and I saw dar was a rock fence by it, and I jumped over that, and I got mighty weak and didn’t go but a few steps before I fell in a clover patch; lay still and heard them hunting and shooting all around, but they didn’t find me; 
I lay dar till ten o’clock yesterday morning and I got so bad off for some water, I walked and crawled through some beech woods, and got to a black man’s house and told him not to tell where I was; but he got scared, and said if I died there the white folks would get after him.”

After Beatty's harrowing escape from his hanging and despite being shot, he managed to make his way to the home of another black man, Jeff Walker.  Walker cared for Beatty but was afraid of being turned on by the KKK and so turned Beatty over to the authorities. Newspaper accounts describe that, 
Wednesday night about dusk a negro went to Judge Cook at Franklin and said that Beatty was out in the country badly wounded.  . . . Dr. House kindly visited the patient. He found him at a cabin on the road-side on the farm of Mr. Jeff Walker, near two miles from the place of the attempted hanging, and near four miles from Franklin. He placed him in an express and lodged him in the calaboose where crowds soon collected to get a view of him. . . .
Beatty was transferred to the Nashville jail for "safe keeping" by order of Judge William S. McLemore. When the train arrived he was conveyed by express wagon to the jail, where "a good many colored people were waiting to see him.
. . . his wounds were . . .  dressed by Drs. House and Hughes. He lay on his back with his body bare, and all over the right side of the chest and abdomen were small punctures about the size of No. 3 shot. There were a great many, possibly a hundred or more. The side was puffed up and hard. He had been vomiting blood and also passing it by the bladder. He was evidently in a bad fix. 
Being asked if he recognized any of the mob, Beatty said he did, and named two. His escape was almost miraculous, . . .
Judge William S. McLemore was in charge of the case and publicly stated his anger over the attack on Beatty.  

He ordered Beatty's removal to Nashville as a desperate step required for his safekeeping, and the papers reported that "Nothing by the extreme peril of his situation would justify his removal, . . . . the satisfaction fo safety counteracting any ill effects from the journey. It is a shame that the proud county of Williamson should be under the necessity of resorting to a retreat, and, says Judge Mclemore it shall never occur again." Unfortunately, however, within months it did happen again.  In October 1878, John Thomas was lynched by hanging in Franklin. 

Regarding the Beatty case, Judge McLemore stated, "I mean business, and the parties who infringe the law shall feel the weight of its arm. Of that I am determined."  The paper described Judge McLemore's remarks as being accompanied  "with a flash of the eye that looked "ugly" for mobbers." Judge McLemore also issued an order to the Sheriff of Williamson County ordering Beatty's removal to Nashville. 

It is telling that despite such tough language regarding the intent to prosecute Beatty's attackers, in an interview with the local press, Beatty stated that he knew two of the men who lynched him but was cautioned not to state their names. And the paper implied that Beatty had already given their names. However, no one was ever prosecuted for his attack.

Beatty arrived in Nashville on the 5:25 pm train from Franklin on Wednesday, August 8th in custody of Charles Q. Beech, J. H. Dunn and Dr. S. J. House. According to accounts, "as they took Beatty from the cars at the Chattanooga depot a large crowd gathered around him, all seeming bent on seeing one who had so miraculously escaped from the clutches of a mob bent on his destruction. he was placed in an express wagon and conveyed to the jail where a good many colored people were waiting to see him. He was carried to the second story of the jail, where it was thought he would get more air, and where too, it is quieter. He was very much exhausted and had very little to say to anyone."

Beatty died in Nashville from his injuries on Saturday night, August 11, 1878. I have not been able to locate a burial location for his body.

Calvin Beatty death record in Nashville City Death Register

Nashville Daily American_Fri__Aug_9__1878

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