Victim Name: Thomas Hodges
Method of Death: Hanged
Accusation: Killing four men and being a horse thief
Mob Composition: Undisguised
Summary: Thomas Hodges, a white man, was lynched on April 11th, 1871 in Augusta County, Virginia. Hodges was reported as a notorious horse thief and murder.
Thomas Hodges was sharing a jail cell with Mr. George Smiley on April 11th, 1871 when several men rode up to the front of the city jail. The men were not disguised or identified despite being seen by the jailor, Mr. Harlan, Sheriff Mr. McCutchen, and Dr. McChesney, owner of the American Hotel. The group called for the jailor, Mr. Harlan, and demanded entrance. Mr. Harlan asked who the men were. The party replied “kale,” and that the prisoner they were looking for was “Fitzerald.” Mr. Harlan, understanding their objective, denied them entrance. The party again stated that they wanted to get in and had the intention of going in. Mr. Harlan continued to deny their request. The men left the area but returned on foot and demanded entrance. Mr. Harlan refused. The leader of the men ordered the groups to get in and the men broke the lock, after two or three strokes of a crowbar. The men demanded that Mr. Harlan hand over the keys of the cell, but he refused stating, “gentlemen, you are here in violation of law and order, and I am an officer of the county, and you cannot get the keys.” One of the men replied, “your wife can give them to use—that will not be your delivering them.” Again, Mr. Harlan refused and said “No, neither myself or my wife will give them to you.” The men then threatened to break open the cell stating that they had come “for and intend to have that man [Hodges].” The men broke the cell’s outer-door hinges before removing the large iron lock that secured the inner-door. Some of men then entered the cell shared by Hodges and Smiley. The party picked up Hodges by his feet and head and placed him into a wagon. Hodges was later found “hanging to a tree about a mile distant, by the side of the road on the old plank turnpike” (Petersburg Index).
A $1,000 rewards was offered by the Mayor of Staunton for the arrest of the offenders. Although citizens felt the victim deserved his fate, they criticized the unlawful manner that it was imposed – the party did a good service to society by ridding one of its enemy, who was “hostis humani heneris—an enemy of the human race” (Staunton Spectator).
News Coverage: Alexandria Gazette; Daily Dispatch; Petersburg Index; Staunton SpectatorArticle Link (from Staunton Spectator published on 1871-04-18)
Article Link (from Petersburg Index published on 1871-04-15)
Article Link (from Petersburg Index published on 1871-04-20)
Article Link (from The Daily Dispatch published on 1871-04-14)
Article Link (from Alexandria Gazette published on 1871-04-12)
Article Link (from The Daily Dispatch published on 1871-04-13)