Historian and Author Tom Perry's thoughts on history and anything that comes to mind.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lynch Hollow in the New York Times

Above From The New York Times September 7, 1897.
Below From Notes From The Free State of Patrick by Thomas D. Perry

In searching for information on life for African-Americans during the Civil War for my book on Patrick County, I made contact with Herman Melton of Pittsylvania County. He sent me a copy of his book “Thirty-Nine Lashes—Well Laid On:” Crime and Punishment in Southside Virginia 1750-1950, which contained the following information.

                In September 1897, a twenty-two year old white man named Henry Walls lived in Ararat, Friend’s Mission or The Hollow depending on what name the post office was using at that time. A member of the Cook family accused Walls of being in possession of a stolen saddle and a confrontation ensued resulting in Walls threatening to run off the entire Cook family even if it meant burning their home down.

The following Friday, Walls attempted to burn down the Cook home, but the only member of the family at home, Sadie, discovered him. Tracks showed that Sadie attempted to flee, but was pursued about seventy-five yards from the house and met her death due a blow to the head, a slashed throat and several gashes to her body. Sadie survived this attack long enough to be discovered. Locals questioned her and although unable to talk revealed the identity of her assailant by squeezing a Mrs. Epperson’s hand when she mentioned Walls.

The next day Constable Tom Childress arrested Walls and imprisoned him overnight hoping to transport him to Stuart the next day. Constable Childress was a relative of Robert Childress, the famous preacher in Richard C. David’s The Man Who Moved A Mountain. Emotion running high in area caused Sheriff Rufus Woolwine to venture to the area stopping for the night within a mile of the Childress home that night. A mob came, took Walls and hung him in the hollow behind Hunter’s Chapel Church just above the Ararat River between The Hollow Road and the Hunter’s Chapel Road.

Later, investigators identified Walls tracks as the possible assailant. Rumor persists that Sadie Cook was sexually assaulted. The story made it into the Lynchburg News and the New York Sun reporting, “…there was practically no evidence to convict Walls of the crime. It is now believed that he was innocent. There is much indignation in the neighborhood against the mob.”

If you want to find out about history in Ararat, want to double check your facts or if you want to have a cold drink and talk you go visit Carrie Sue Culler. Her mother, a Pedigo, descended from the family that lived next door to J. E. B. Stuart and her mind, still clear, as a bell is always willing to share much oral tradition. She let me see a book last year by Charles Seaton entitled After Conestoga Wagons and a Peruvian Odyssey that contained the following information.

                Seaton writes that the leader of the vigilante mob was thirty-five year old Charles Walter Taylor, son of Surry County Sheriff Samuel Taylor. Charles married Sara Elizabeth Pedigo at the end of 1884 and thus the connection to Carrie Sue. Taylor placed the rope around the neck of Walls. Almost immediately, Taylor realizing the trouble he was in left for California, eventually sent for his wife and children and started a new life. Charles Taylor lived until 1942

A folk tale rose from the murder and lynching and it metamorphosed into a tale used to scare children into coming home before dark called “Raw-Headed-Bloody-Bones.” The folk tale no doubt gets a local family, the Moores, who patriarch was Rodeham i.e. Raw Head and the hoe handle comes from the tradition that a hoe was used to kill Sadie Cook. The story first told me by Gray Guynn was that a monster lived in Lynch Hollow with a hoe handle for a tail and this monster got boys who played hooky from school to go fishing in the Ararat River or did not get home before dark. This monster made a sound along the lines of “Shifty-Shifty-Thumpty-Thumpty.” For all this monsters powers he could not open a gate or climb over a picket fence, which saved the boy quaking under his bed after barely escaping clutches of the monster of Lynch Hollow.

The murder of Sadie Cook and lynching of Henry Walls was one of those events I heard of from an early age. I remember mowing the grass of the cemetery at Hunter’s Chapel Church that supposedly holds the remains of both apparently buried the same day in unmarked graves gazing down into Lynch Hollow.

1 comment:

  1. Great story, Tom! I had heard bits & pieces over the years but had never read this account.