Victim Name: Jesse Edwards
Method of Death: Hanged
Accusation: Outraged and murdered an 18 year-old unnamed white woman
Mob Composition: 20-30 men
Summary: A mob of about 20 to 30 men lynched Jesse Edwards, a 18 year old black man, on the night of Friday, June 12th, 1869 in Lexington, Rockbridge County. Edwards had been accused of assaulting and murdering a young white girl.
On Monday, June 8th, 1869 Jesse Edwards allegedly seized, outraged, and murdered a young white girl named Susan Hite. Hite had been walking from the residence of Mr. Wm. A Campbell, her brother-in-law with whom she was living, to attend preaching at a school house in the neighborhood. According to the Daily Dispatch, Edwards attacked Susan Hite, as “he nearly tore off her upper lip in stifling her cries while accomplishing his fiendish purpose, and then bear her to death with a rock […] fracturing her skull, beating in her nose and face, and hacking her in the most cruel manner.” Afterwards, Edwards concealed her body in a bush, wrapped the corpse in a blanket, and carried it between one and two miles with a horse to throw in the river. Hite’s body was later found in shallow water. Edwards confessed these facts after his arrest. On the night of Friday, June 12th, four men called upon Thomas L. Perry, the jailer, telling him they had a prisoner to hand over. When Perry opened the jail door, the masked men seized him, took his keys, and threatened him into silence, while a mob of 20-30 men took Edwards from his cell. The mob carried Edwards some five or six miles in the direction where Susan Hite had been presumably murdered, before they hung him by a tree. The Staunton Spectator reported the results of the Coroner’s inquest, stating that Edwards had been shot by a pistol four times in the front of the chest. One bullet entered the right nipple, one the left, one about the median of the chest, and one about the left sixth rib. All the bullets penetrated the lungs. Edwards most likely died by strangulation, as there was very little internal and no external hemorrhage. Edwards body was found hung upon a chestnut tree near where the alleged crime occurred.
A week later, the Daily Dispatch reported that someone had told detectives “that no such person existed as Miss Susan Hite; that no rape and no murder had been committed, but that Jesse Edwards had been a very active politician and was mobbed to prevent negroes from registering.” The newspaper, however, strenuously rejected these accusations and stated that “the miscreant who attempted to make political capital out of this affair deserves the to be hung on the same tree on which the brutal murderer and ravisher met the reward of his crime.”
News Coverage: Daily Dispatch; Native Virginian; Staunton Spectator
Article Link (from Richmond Dispatch published on 1869-06-18)
Article Link (from Staunton Spectator published on 1869-06-15)
Article Link (from The Native Virginian published on 1869-07-02)