Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Were my Inlaws outlaws?

I've known the story about Hubby's family for many years. The Weaver brothers, featured in the following articles, were the brothers to Hubby's Great-grandmother. Elizabeth, the mother of the three brothers, was Hubby's Great-Great-Grandmother.

Published in the New York Times:
April 20, 1886

Three Brothers Lynched
Anthony, Kansas.
April 19.

This morning the city of Anthony was the scene of a tragic affair. About two months ago a fight occurred in the village of Danville, near this palce, between three brothers named Weaver and a man named Adel Sheard. The latter was fatally wounded, and the Weaver boys were arrested and hurried away to avoid mob violence. Last week they were returned for trial, but their cases were continued for the term, with bail fixed at $10,000 each. At 1 o'clock this morning a mob of 40 armed men surrounded the residence of the Sheriff. where the pisoners were under guard. The guard, hearing them, rushed the prisoners out of the back door and into the basement of the new school building. The Sheriff was taken prisoner by the mob and guarded. The Deputies finding it useless to resist, surrendered. The Weaver brothers defended themselves, in their struggle for life, with a revolver which they had taken from one of the Deputies. They were finally overpowered by the mob and disarmed. Ropes were placed about their necks, and preparations were made to hang them to the rafters but the tramp of approaching feet frightened the mob, so they fired 15 or 20 shots into each of the brothrs, literally shooting them to pieces, and mounting their horses rode rapidly away. The mother of the boys, and the wife of one of them, witnessed the tragedy.

Recently more detailed information came to light:
Published in the
High Plains Observer
written by Virginia Scott

As the items mentioned above prove, Our ancestors took many routes to travel to their final destination of Lipscomb County. Each document helps us understand their journey better. Some of these journeys are kept secret until many years and generations later. For the next two columns, I will tell you the story of the Weaver Family how they came to homestead in Lipscomb County. If you have one of our History Books (the big white one) read about the Jacob Weaver Family on page 559. Jacob was the son of Phillip and Nancy Weaver born in 1850 in Indiana and married Elizabeth in 1873 and settled in Harper County, Kansas. They arrived in Texas in 1887. Our book does not state why they left Kansas and the Family did not ever consider anything unusual with their migration until they found an article in TRUE WEST, March-April, 1969 entitled "School house Lynching : This Time the Three R's stood for Roughhouse,Rafter, and Regret" by Ivan L. Pfalser.

This article outlines the troubled history of Harper County, Kansas. On the night of April 19, 1886, Harper County disgraced itself by the only recorded mob action ever taken by its citizen by lynching three brothers. It started when a Weaver family settled on a farm near the town of Danville. Considered well-to-do, the Weavers took possession of several quarter sections of land under mysterious circumstances since no money transaction was ever recorded.

The three sons- Phillip, Henry, and Oliver- ran roughshod over the other settlers and became the terror of the community and since their parents backed them they soon became lawless in their actions and was intimidating neighbors and running them off their land and taking possessions of the abandoned acres. Hatred for the Weaver Boys soon spread through out the County. In February of 1886, the Boys had a fight with Dell Shearer who had earlier given Henry a severe beating. This time, the three boys shot Shearer and left him for dead.

Sheriff I.P. Couch arrested the three boys and took them to the county seat, Anthony, for a preliminary hearing. Tempers and rumors were circulating about a lynch mob so as a precaution the officials took the prisoners to Wellington, the nearest jail. They were kept there for several weeks and word was received that Shearer was not dead. They were returned to Anthony on April 18 to stand trial. When the citizens of Danville heard that bail was set and that the boys might be freed, tempers and rumors began but this time, talk was not as vocal and The sheriff was not prepared for the fifty men who appeared at his house where the prisoners were being held since there was not a jail in the pre dawn hours of April 19th.

 II- Schoolhouse Lynching.

I have received a copy of the newspaper clipping found in the family bible after the death of Leora Turner in 1966. This article has more information about the Lynching than the True West article, so I have to back up a little before describing the unfortunate ending to this story. First Phillip was a Jr. and he, Oliver, and Henry were three of five sons to Phillip and Nancy Weaver. The other two sons were Jake(Jacob) and John.

The trouble between Shearer and the Weavers was over the failure of Shearer to show up at a dance held by the Weavers to provide the fiddle music. This feud between them lasted many months ending in the shooting and beating of Shearer.

The True West article states the lynching occurred on the 19th of April but the newspaper clipping reports that it occurred on the evening of Friday, April 23. A mob of between 40 and 80 men approached the Sheriff's house armed and masked. The Sheriff had seen them coming and sent the Weavers with his deputy our the back to the nearby schoolhouse.
 Unfortunately the mob saw them and followed them to the schoolhouse and demanded the group to surrender. The deputy came out of the basement, but the Weavers had the deputy's gun and began shooting. The mob responded by getting hay and setting fire to the building. The Weavers came out without shooting since they had run out of bullets.

"They met a volley of shots, Henry fell and was left for dead. The other two were dragged up in the partly constructed building. Ropes were fastened around their necks and then passed over the rafters. They were repeatedly drawn up for the mob to shoot at Henry, left lying in the basement and probably dead, was pulled up to be hoisted up and shot at like his brothers. "

The sheriff appeared and tried to stop the mob but was overpowered and forced to watch. Their aged mother arrived and begged for their lives, but it was too late. She was soon joined by the young wives of Phil and Oliver and their crying and screaming added to the general horror of the scene. The father with sons John and Jake came in from the farm after the massacre to find the mother and wives crying over the dead bodies. "By this time most of the mob had dispersed and the family was allowed to take the bodies away in peace. Phil was riddled with 20 shots, Henry had six, and Oliver had eight. More than 300 bullets holes were later counted in the walls and rafters of the building."

No attempt to punish the mob was made. Feelings against the Weavers were still strong and the county still seem bloodthirsty against the Weavers. The Sheriff and his deputies had to provide continuous police protection to the family. The Harper Sentinal of May 1 carried the prayer: "Oh, we wish this cruel war was over." The same paper advertised the sale of the Weaver land.

Dee Shearer recovered from his wounds and he and the Weavers left the county. The Schoolhouse was completed but seems to have been jinxed. After graduating its first class of three girls and one boy in the spring of 1888, it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

This lynching is considered the most brutal and luried lynching that ever took place in south-central Kansas all because a fiddler failed to show up for a dance.

Our thanks to Jim Bussard and LaVaun Kraft for sharing this family history. We are very glad that Lipscomb County was here for the Weavers to provide them a home.

In the 1969 True West Magazine article Pfalser states, "The boys were interred in the Spring Grove Cemetery west of Anthony and a shame faced public erected a monument   over the grave."


Sarah said...

I remember you telling me about this--neat to be able to read the articles!!

C. Wilson said...

This blog is very interesting to come across. Henry Weaver was the first husband of my great-great grandfather's older sister, Lucretia McCutchan. I have a photo of Henry, Lucretia and Adelbert (their son that was named after who is being called Adel and Dell in a lot of the articals). That photo was taken probably just a few months before the vigilante attack took place, and I have a picture of just Henry Weaver as well. Henry had a daughter that was born not long before he was killed - her name was Henrietta. Let me know if you'd like to see the photos. :)

PS- They'll eventually be posted in my genealogy and history blog. The family photo is already in a story I posted, but it is mixed in with other McCutchan photos - it's the one with the man and wife with a baby sitting in the man's lap.

Lucinda said...

yep, and the Stone is still there. - Well,and it should be there. I remember asking my father whose it was, and he told me the story.

Just came across this on the internet when I was trying to figure out the differences of the stories.