Henry Smith (lynching victim)

Posted: July 11, 2014 in Shorts

Henry Smith (born 1876) was an African-American who was tortured and murdered at a public, heavily attended and promoted lynchingon February 1, 1893 at the Paris Fairgrounds in Paris, Texas.

Smith was accused of the brutal murder of three-year-old Myrtle Vance, the daughter of a policeman known for mistreating prisoners. Smith was among those who had previously been beaten by Myrtle’s father, after he had been arrested for drunkenness. He was a neighborhood handyman and known alcoholic. According to a New York Times article from Feb. 1, 1893, Smith allegedly: “picked up little Myrtle Vance … near her father’s residence, and … carried her through the central portion of the city… En route through the city he was asked by several persons what he was doing with the child.”[1] When the police found no clues to the child’s death[citation needed], people in the area decided Smith must have committed the crime. After Myrtle’s body was found, Smith continued life as usual[citation needed], but upon hearing a mob was after him, he fled to Hope, Arkansas.

There he was captured and brought back to Paris by train, where a mob of an estimated 10,000 whites placed him on a carnival float and carried him through town and out into a prairie. There, he was placed upon a scaffold and tortured for fifty minutes by members of the girl’s family, who thrust hot iron brands into his flesh, starting with his feet and legs and working upward to his head. The family members involved included Myrtle’s father, uncles, and twelve-year-old brother. A February 2, 1893 article in the New York Sunstated that, “Every groan from the fiend, every contortion of his body was cheered by the thickly packed crowd.” Eventually, the hot irons were thrust into his eye sockets and down his throat. Afterwards, finding he was still breathing, the crowd poured oil on him and set him on fire. According to some newspaper accounts, Smith remained alive during the burning. He is said to have torn himself away from the post and fallen off the scaffolding, where he perished. The crowd then fought over the hot ashes to collect his bones and teeth as souvenirs.[2]

On February 7, Henry Smith’s stepson, William Butler, was lynched outside Paris. Though Butler was known as an upstanding citizen, he was hanged only on suspicion that he had known, and not divulged, the whereabouts of Henry Smith after he had fled.[citation needed]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s