Between Reconstruction and World War II, Equal Justice Initiative has documented more than 4400 racial terror lynchings of African Americans, “a widely supported campaign to enforce racial subordination and segregation.” Many counties in Maryland also were the sites of these extrajudicial killings. Prince George’s County was the site of at least four lynchings.
MSA SC 3520-13788
Lynched near Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s County, Maryland on September 1, 1878
Michael Green, an African-American worker, was lynched by a mob of men wearing masks, who broke into the jail at Upper Marlboro on September 1, 1878. Green was accused of assaulting Alice Sweeny, of Prince George’s County. The Prince George’s County sheriff protected Green in the jail for the week prior to his lynching, as there were many threats from citizens eager to punish Green for his alleged “crime of an unusually aggravated character.”
The mob of men forcefully entered the jail on the evening of September 1, and took Green about a mile outside of Upper Marlboro, to the corner of Queen Anne’s Road and Hills Lane where a cherry tree stood. It was reported that Green struggled with the men, and he confessed to the assault of Sweeny. After his alleged confession, the mob swung the rope over one of the overhanging branches, and hanged him until he was dead.
Michael Green is buried outside the Upper Marlboro jail on the west lawn, next to the body of Joseph Vermillion, also of Upper Marlboro, who was lynched in 1889; and Stephen Williams, who was lynched in 1894.
Thomas Juricks (d. 1869)
MSA SC 3520-18090
Lynched in Piscataway, Maryland, on October 12, 1869
Thomas Juricks worked as a laborer in Prince George’s County Maryland.1 In 1869 Juricks was living on Thomas Adams’s property and worked on the nearby Schoaff farm, supporting his wife and six children. Juricks’ family had recently moved from Buckeystown near Frederick to the Washington D.C. area. While working on the Schoaff farm, he injured his hand while using a scythe. There were no bandages available so he tore a piece off the leg of his trousers and fashioned a make-shift wrap for his wound. Three days later, this innocuous event proved to be Thomas Juricks’ condemnation.
A woman named Miss Dooly, a well-known Prince George’s County teacher from Fort Washington, was on her way to teach class on the morning of October 12th. Dooly allegedly arrived to a bend in the road after receiving a ride from the docks, by buggy, from a young unidentified male acquaintance of hers. Electing to travel the rest of the way on foot, she was at some point assaulted, and was beaten unconscious. Her initial screams alerted a pair of nearby hunters, and a fellow teacher, Mr. Eckert. They transported the incapacitated Dooly to the neighboring Rennoe household and then organized a posse of roughly fifty men to hunt down the assailant.
The posse, made up of local residents, first apprehended an African American man named James Jackson. Soon after, they captured Thomas Juricks, who was transporting goods further down the road on an ox-drawn cart. Juricks was chained to Jackson, despite the only evidence pointing towards either man being that they were in the area at the time of the attack. Both men were taken to Justice Brooke in Piscataway District, but without a witness or any evidence condemning them, Brooke decided to hold the two men in custody overnight in the hope that Dooly would recover enough to be able to identify her attacker. Around midnight, a group of men attempted to lynch both Juricks and Jackson, but the guards convinced the mob to disperse and allow Brooke to find evidence to identify the perpetrator.
The following morning, Dooly had still not recovered and doctors were unsure if she would survive. It was at this time that members of the community claimed to have discovered a piece of fabric near the scene of the assault that matched Juricks’ make-shift bandage from his scythe injury a few days prior. This was all that was needed to condemn Juricks and the decision was made to transport him to Marlboro, Maryland. Juricks was placed under the protection of Constables John Underwood and Anthony Anderson. As they set out for Marlboro, Juricks requested they pass by the house where his family lived so he could bid his wife farewell.
When the wagon came to a stop at the Juricks’ household, the group was approached by around twenty men clad only in shirts and underwear with the exception of one man who only wore a shirt. The entire mob wore handkerchiefs over their faces with eyeholes cut out before attacking the wagon. Constable Underwood attempted to thwart the attack by firing several gunshots but he was subdued, tied, and left on the side of the road. Anderson was forced to drive the wagon out into the woods before he was subsequently tied and left at the woods’ edge.
Pushing further into the forest, the mob stopped at an oak tree, where a noose was located. Juricks was forced into the noose and made to stand atop the wagon. When the wagon was moved, Juricks jumped and caused the rope to slip from its higher perch. His feet were now able to touch the ground saving him for a brief moment before one of the lynch mob jumped on Juricks’ shoulders while the rest of the mob swung his body back-and-forth to strangle him. Following this, the mob arranged themselves in a firing line and shot a volley of bullets into Juricks’ body.
Thomas Juricks was left to hang from the tree for two hours before a coroner’s jury was sent to cut him down and simultaneously declare him dead “from hanging by unknown persons.” His body was moved a short distance to Hatton’s Hill near a public road leading from Broad Creek to Piscataway, where he was buried to serve as a warning to nearby communities. A grand jury was called to investigate the lynching, and despite condemnation from local judges, no one was brought to trial for Juricks’ murder and the Evening Star went as far as to declare “the circumstances of this case justify, as fully as any could, the action of the community.”
John Henry Scott (African American)
MSA SC 3520-13730
Lynched in Prince George’s County, Maryland on March 23, 1875
In 1875, John Henry Scott was a twenty-three-year old worker on the Notley Hall estate, situated near George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Edgar A. Nelson had acquired the property around the year 1870. Nelson was an elected official representing the Spalding District as a Republican, and respected in the community. Scott had been employed by, and living with, the Nelson family for about a year. The relationship between Scott and the Nelsons was reportedly friendly, and the contemporary sources notes that Scott had previously stayed in the Nelson home with Mrs. Nelson when Edgar Nelson was away in New York for three weeks.
According to the newspaper account of the lynching, Scott was accused of raping Edgar Nelson’s wife at gunpoint. Edgar Nelson had spent that night in Washington. The article states that Scott threatened Mrs. Nelson and her child, telling her that “he was tired of living, as his sister had become the mother of an illegitimate child, and that he was disgraced thereby.” The Baltimore Sun reported that Scott “said he knew he would be killed for his acts, and that he would save her husband that trouble by shooting himself.” After the alleged rape, Scott shot himself. Mrs. Nelson went for the assistance of a neighbor, an African American man named Morris, amd “Mrs. Nelson was unable to say anything, except that ‘John shot himself.'” Morris went to wake the closest physician, Doctor Bayne, as well as Justice R. Walter Brooke.
By the next morning, Justice Brooke had taken Mrs. Nelson’s affidavit, and by then she had “regained her senses and told what occurred.” Presumably the Baltimore Sun article, (the only known account of the lynching) was based, at least in part, on Nelson’s statement. Scott was sent to the Marlboro jail, but Justice Brooke did not take him there personally. Brooke deputized a man named Curtis Smith to transport Scott, and the new deputy left with the wounded prisoner at around eight o’clock. By the time they reached the jail, a crowd had formed. The Baltimore Sun claims that there were at least one hundred people. Smith handed Scott over to the mob. Scott was forced onto a horse and taken to a hollow, where he was hanged from a black walnut tree until dead, and his body was left.
The article includes the unlikely and obfuscating detail that “the colored people in the crowd [made] arrangements to roast his body, having gone so far as to collect a quantity of wood and brush for that purpose. This, however, was not allowed, and the body was left hanging to the tree.”
Scott’s body was cut down from the tree that afternoon and a coroner’s jury was summoned. They returned the verdict that “the deceased was hung by persons unknown to the jury.”
The Baltimore Sun stated that “a similar incident”– presumably a similar lynching– had been perpetrated two years before the lynching of John Henry Scott.
MSA SC 3520-13742
Lynched in Upper Marlboro, Maryland On October 20, 1894
In contemporary newspaper accounts, Stephen Williams is accused of planning an attack on Katie Hardesty on Wednesday, October 17, 1894. These accounts describe that Hardesty’s husband, Albert, was away and she was ill in bed when Williams entered the house. Mr. Hardesty operated a store in Upper Marlboro, and was working there on the evening when the incident occured. The family dog intervened during the struggle that occurred between Mrs. Hardesty and her assailant, lunging at the perpetrator. The Hardesty’s daughter was also in the home and the commotion caused her to yell for help, at which point it is described that Williams fled the scene. Katie Hardesty then left home to tell her husband what had happened.
Stephen Williams was found and arrested. During the preliminary hearing, it is reported that he confessed to the crime of the assault on Katie Hardesty. At 11:30 p.m., on Friday, October 19, a group of men on horseback approached the home of Warden W.J. Spicer, saying they had a prisoner that needed to be jailed, and wished to have the keys. Warden Spicer explained that his key was in a deposit box located at Dr. Latmer’s drug store in town, and that a second key was needed to get into the jail, held by Deputy Warden Dumbhard who was at the jail, and would receive the prisoner. A short time later, the men returned to Warden Spicer’s home, this time with their revolvers drawn, and demanded the keys a second time. Spicer responded by pulling his gun and saying “You can get the keys out of this (his gun).” At that moment, a gunshot was heard at the jailhouse two blocks away, and the men ran off. Fearing that the mob had gotten into the jail, Warden Spicer got dressed and ran to the jailhouse.
By this time a mob had gathered at the back door of the jail. Seeing that it was a double iron door with iron locks, it took one hour with a sledgehammer to break the bricks around the foundation of the door in order to enter the building. A crowd had gathered to witness the mob breaking into the jail. Williams pleaded with the deputy to protect him, all to no avail. The men who entered the jail found Williams hiding under his mattress. Placing a rope around his neck, they dragged Williams down the stairs of the jail, and out onto the lawn.
The crowd led Williams to an iron bridge in between the town and the railroad station. With the other end of the noose tied to the bridge, the mob threw Williams over, breaking his neck instantly. A few minutes later, Warden Spicer approached the bridge, and dispersed the crowd, leaving Williams body hanging. It was removed the next morning and placed under a sycamore tree where fellow lynching victim Joseph Vermillion’s body was buried five years earlier.
This was the third lynching in Prince George’s County, and just like the previous two, the jury came back with the verdict that “Williams came to his death by hanging and being shot by parties unknown.”