One of the most horrendous lynchings that ever
took place was the lynching of Sam Holt. Holt was lynched for
the murder of Alfred Cranford. It was never proven beyond a
reasonable doubt that Holt was the murderer but he was lynched
NEWNAN, GA., Apr. 23 —Sam Holt, the murderer of
Alfred Cranford and the ravisher of the latter's wife, was
burned at the stake, near Newnan, GA., this afternoon in the
presence of 2000 people. The black man was first tortured before
being covered with oil and burned. An ex-governor of Georgia
made a personal appeal to his townspeople to let the law take
its course, but without the slightest avail.
Before the torch was applied to the pyre, the
negro was deprived of his ears, fingers and genital parts of his
body. He pleaded pitifully for his life while the mutilation was
going on, but stood the ordeal of fire with surprising
fortitude. Before the body was cool, it was cut to pieces, the
bones were crushed into small bits, and even the tree upon which
the wretch met his fate was torn up and disposed of as
"souvenirs." The negro's heart was cut into several pieces, as
was also his liver. Those unable to obtain the ghastly relics
direct paid their more fortunate possessors extravagant sums for
them. Small pieces of bones went for 25 cents, and a bit of the
liver crisply cooked sold for 10 cents. As soon as the negro was
seen to be dead there was a tremendous struggle among the crowd,
which had witnessed his tragic end, to secure the souvenirs. A
rush was made for the stake, and those near the body were forced
against it and had to fight for their freedom. Knives were
quickly produced and soon the body was dismembered.
One of the men who lifted the can of kerosene
to the negro's head is said to be a native of Pennsylvania. His
name is known to those who were with him, but they refuse to
divulge it. The mob was composed of citizens of Newnan, Giffin,
Palmetto and other little towns in the country round about
Newnan, and of all the farmers who had received word that the
burning was to take place.
W. Y. Atkinson, a former governor of Georgia,
met the mob as he was returning form church and he appealed to
them to let the law take its course. In addressing the mob, he
used these words: "Some of you are known to me and when this
affair is finally settled in the courts, you may depend upon it
that I will testify against you." A member of the mob was seen
to draw a revolver and level it at Mr. Atkinson, but his arm was
seized and the pistol taken from him. The mob was frantic with
delays and would hear to nothing but burning at the stake.
Before being put to death, the negro is said
to have confessed to killing Cranford, stating that he had been
paid $20 by "Lige" Strickland, a negro preacher at Palmetto, for
Holt was located in the little cabin of his
mother on the farm of the Jones brothers between Macon and
Columbus and brought to jail.
Word was sent to Mrs. Cranford at Palmetto
that it was believed Holt was under arrest and that her presence
was necessary in Newnan to make sure of his identification. In
some way the news of the arrest leaked out, and as the town has
been on the alert for nearly two weeks, the intelligence spread
From every house in the little city came its
occupants, and a good-sized crowd had soon gathered about the
jail. Sheriff Brown was importuned to give up the prisoner, and
finally in order to avoid an assault on the jail and possible
bloodshed, he turned the negro over to the waiting crowd.
A procession was quickly formed and the doomed
negro was marched at the head of a yelling, shouting crowd
through several streets of the town. Soon the public square was
reached. Here ex-Gov. Atkinson of Georgia, who lives in Newnan,
came hurriedly upon the scene and standing up in a buggy
importuned the crowd to let the law take its course.
Gov. Atkinson said: "My fellow citizens and
friends: I beseech you to let this affair go no further. You are
hurrying this negro on to death without an identification. Mrs.
Cranford, whom he is said to have assaulted and whose husband he
is said to have killed, is sick in bed and unable to be here to
say whether this is her assailant. Let this negro be returned to
jail. The law will take its course, and I promise you it will do
so quickly and effectually. Do not stain the honor of the state
with a crime such as you are about to perform." Judge A. D.
Freeman of Newnan spoke in a similar strain and prayed the mob
to return the prisoner to the custody of the sheriff and go
home. The assemblage heard the words of the town speakers in
silence, but the instant their voices had died away shouts of
"On to Palmetto, burn him, think of his crime," arose, and the
march was resumed.
Mrs. Cranford's mother and sister are
residents of Newnan. The mob was headed in the direction of
their house and in a short time reached the McElroy home. The
negro was marched through the gate and Mrs. McElroy was called
to the front door. She identified the African, and her verdict
was agreed to by her daughter, who had often seen Holt about the
Cranford place. "To the Stake," was again the cry and several
men wanted to burn the negro in Mrs. McElroy's yard. To this she
objected strenuously, and the mob, complying with her wish,
started for Palmetto. Just as they were leaving Newnan, news was
brought that the 1 o'clock train from Atlanta would bring 1000
people from Atlanta. This was taken to be a regiment of
soldiers, and the mob decided to burn the prisoner at the first
favorable place rather than be compelled to shoot him when the
militia put in an appearance.
Leaving the little town, whose Sunday quiet
had been so rudely disturbed, the mob, which now numbered nearly
1500 people, started on the road to Palmetto. A line of buggies
and vehicles of all kinds, their fighting for positions in line,
followed the procession, at the head of which, closely guarded,
marched the negro. One and a half miles out of Newnan, a place
believed to be favorable to the burning, was reached. A little
to the side of the road was a strong pine tree. Up to this the
negro was marched, his back placed to the tree and his face to
the crowd, which jostled closely about him.
The clothes were torn from the negro in an
instant. A heavy chain was produced and wound around his body.
He said not a word to this proceeding, but at the sight of three
or four knives slashing in the hands of several members of the
crowd about him, which seemed to forecast the terrible ordeal he
was about to be put to, he sent up a yell which could be heard
for a mile. Instantly a hand grasping a knife shot out and one
of the negro's ears dropped into a hand ready to receive it. He
pleaded pitifully for mercy and begged his tormentors let him
die. His cries went unheeded.