Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Troubled Ground

Troubled Ground: A Tale of Murder, Lynching, and Reckoning in the New South

CLAUDE A. CLEGG
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcg48
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Troubled Ground
    Book Description:

    In Troubled Ground, Claude A. Clegg III revisits a violent episode in his hometown's history that made national headlines in the early twentieth century but disappeared from public consciousness over the decades. Moving swiftly between memory and history, between the personal and the political, Clegg offers insights into southern history, mob violence, and the formation of American race ideology while coming to terms on a personal level with the violence of the past._x000B__x000B_Three black men were killed in front of a crowd of thousands in Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1906, following the ax murder of a local white family for whom the men had worked. One of the lynchers was prosecuted for his role in the execution, the first conviction of its kind in North Carolina and one of the earliest in the country. Yet Clegg, an academic historian who grew up in Salisbury, had never heard of the case until 2002 and could not find anyone else familiar with the case. _x000B__x000B_In this book, Clegg mines newspaper accounts and government records and links the victims of the 1906 case to a double lynching in 1902, suggesting a long and complex history of lynching in the area while revealing the determination of the city to rid its history of a shameful and shocking chapter. The result is a multilayered, deeply personal exploration of lynching and lynching prosecutions in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09009-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Prologue: Searching for a Troubled Past
    (pp. xi-xx)

    In 2000, a book was published that pictorially represented the history of lynching in the United States. I neither recall when I first heard of this work,Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America,nor the date that it arrived at my home as a mail order. Nonetheless, as a student of history, I felt compelled to peruse the book and add it to my collection. From beginning to end, the work is a grim journey through the darkness of America’s racial past. It is a graphic rendition of nearly a century’s worth of hangings, burnings, shootings, and butcherings of African...

  5. 1 Bygones
    (pp. 1-23)

    After the shooting of Deputy Sheriff H.C. Owen on February 20, 1895, rumors of an imminent lynching swirled around the town of Cleveland in northwestern Rowan County, North Carolina. During an attempt to arrest Whit Ferrand for breaking into the still house of a Mr. Hutchinson, Owen was fatally wounded. Ferrand’s accomplices surrendered without incident when confronted by deputies. However, Ferrand was not so easily subdued. He successfully eluded the lawmen who initially came for him, going so far as to trek shoeless through the snow in order to obscure his trail. Pink Webb, a local man who had joined...

  6. 2 Old Demons of the New South
    (pp. 24-52)

    Lynching and other forms of extralegal group violence had a long genealogy in America by the dawn of the twentieth century. As early as the Revolutionary era, bands of “regulators” appeared in rural areas of North Carolina and other states, meting out floggings, tar-and-featherings, and occasionally lethal punishments to thieves, charlatans, drunkards, wife abusers, and others accused of offending communal norms. “Vigilance committees” composed of selected citizens furnished similar surveillance and penalties in some locales, complementing the policing efforts of law enforcement officers during times of social upheaval and uncertainty. Throughout the antebellum period and beyond, the western frontier, with...

  7. 3 The Reaping
    (pp. 53-79)

    Cornelia Benson came of age in interesting times. Likely born in Mocksville in 1874, she and her family had migrated to Scotch Irish Township, northwest of Salisbury, by 1900. If she had been a keen observer of politics during her early adulthood, she may have noticed the political turmoil that engulfed the state during the 1890s. She might have perhaps overheard her older brother, William, talking about the election campaigns with other farmers or occasionally read theSalisbury Daily Sun,such as the November 9, 1898, edition that congratulated white men for voting “true to their color” and ushering in...

  8. 4 Presumed Guilt
    (pp. 80-115)

    “Judging from some letters that I have received from the colored people throughout the length and breadth of the state,” Robert Glenn joked, “I expect a great many of you came out here today, expecting to see a man with horns on.” The occasion for such self-deprecating banter was the commencement ceremony of the Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race, where the newly elected governor had been invited to address the graduating class on April 27, 1905. For the most part, the chief executive’s talk was unremarkable, aside from the unusual sight of a Democratic high official appearing...

  9. 5 A Blot upon the State
    (pp. 116-145)

    On the evening of Sunday, August 5, Sheriff David Julian, Deputies David W. Julian and Shoaf Poteet, and Police Officer Frank Cauble traveled to Charlotte to retrieve the suspects in the Lyerly murder case. The plan had been to return with the prisoners on the No. 8 train, which was scheduled to arrive in Salisbury at 4:50 A.M. the following morning. However, the party was apparently delayed by an unforeseen scheduling problem and returned to Rowan County by way of an alternative arrangement. Once in town, the lawmen discreetly escorted the detainees to the Harper Brothers’ stables to avoid curious...

  10. 6 A Reckoning
    (pp. 146-176)

    If ever there was a stereotypical profile of a southern lyncher, George Hall was a near-perfect fit. Before finding his way to Rowan County during the first years of the twentieth century, he had made quite a name for himself in Montgomery County, located in the south-central part of the state. In the wake of the August 6 lynching, newspaper reports would document a sordid history of criminality and moral lapses that would place the forty-one-yearold white man on the wrong side of the law on a number of occasions. In an era trending toward temperance and dry counties, Hall...

  11. Epilogue: New South, Old South
    (pp. 177-182)

    In 2005, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution apologizing “to the victims of lynching for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation.” Cosponsored by North Carolina’s senatorial delegation, the largely symbolic measure acknowledged the nearly five thousand persons known to have been lynched, and promised to remember “the history of lynching, to ensure that these tragedies will be neither forgotten nor repeated.” In the following year, a state-commissioned report was published on the 1898 Wilmington massacre and coup, challenging the white supremacist narrative that had downplayed the violence and injustices visited on the black community of New Hanover...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 183-188)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 189-210)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-220)
  15. Index
    (pp. 221-224)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-229)