Friday, August 23, 2013

The Lynching of George Meadows, Part V: the Aftermath

[From the Birmingham Weekly Herald, January 16, 1889]


Notwithstanding the caution of the physicians, the matter was carried to Mrs. Kellum’s ears, and she said that since it was all over she would state that she was satisfied the right man had paid the penalty.

Letter from Mr. Kellum: He Pleads for the Law to Take Its Course.

The following letter was written Monday night, (January 14), by Mr. Kellum, husband of the stricken lady. It is an appeal for the law and does infinite credit to both the husband and wife, who were the sufferers from the awful crime of George Meadows:

Fellow Citizens of Pratt Mines and Vicinity: Please read and ponder well the words I say. I am the sorrow-stricken husband of Mrs. Kellum, and I think the tired and worn out gentlemen for the respect they have shown me and my family, and have sacrificed nights of rest in hunting down the villain. I cannot express my gratitude in words, and, my good fellow citizens, will you for the sake of helping to restore my loved one to me, by no means use the mob law. “LET THE LAW TAKE ITS COURSE,” she begged me earnestly, for her sake not to mob the man when found, but to turn him over to the authorities of the law, and as soon as she was able she wanted to see him hung. I have weighed both sides of the matter and I find this to be by far the wisest way; and therefore take this to be the Christian side of this case. I admit, my dear friends, that no man on the globe knows the sorrows of this but those who have experienced such a trial. Now, my friends, you may rest assured that she is right. The mines may stop, the reward may stop, and the world may stand on its axis, but she will not say that that is the man unless she knows he is, and she will not say that is not the man unless she is certain that he is not the man [[ If I were to allow my passions to control me in this matter, I would torture him in the most painful way; but let us remember the passage in God’s word – “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” So let us be governed by the Supreme Ruler of the universe.

[Signed.] HUSBAND


The announcement that George Meadows has been hung at Pratt Mines created very little excitement in this city. People who read the Age-Herald perceived that hanging was an almost certain result of the events of the day before. The facts and incidents of Monday very plainly suggested a neck-tie party and, when the news of the tragic affair reached the city it was not unexpected.

Public opinion differed very materially over the matter. “If there was a strong supposition and any proof at all against the negro he should be strung up,” said some. “This thing of negroes assaulting white ladies should be stopped, and a hanging or two now and then is the only way to stop them.”

Others believed, as did the Pratt Miners themselves, that the negro was fully identified by Mrs. Kellum but that influences were brought to bear on her which prejudiced her assertions.

Others thought that people were too quick; that they had taken too many chances on George’s being the right negro and that he should have been given a better showing.

Others, of course, who are opposed to mob law under any and all circumstances, very bitterly condemned the action of the people and argued that they had most probably taken the life of an innocent man.

The Pratt miners had this consolation anyway: George was a rapist, at least the evidence showed him to be leaving the Kellum case out. Patsy Hamilton swore he made a criminal assault on her child two years ago, they all said and that merits death for him.


Early yesterday morning a telegram was received from Helena by a prominent physician at Pratt Mines requesting the latter to examine the body of the accused, George Meadows, to ascertain whether he bore a scar, made by a burn, on his back. The examination was made before the lynching took place and a scar answering to the description was found. A reliable gentleman informed an Age-Herald reporter that the inquiry from Helena was prompted by the remarkable similarity of George Meadows’ published description with that of the negro who committed an outrage upon a lady at Helena about a year ago. The impression prevails that the lynched negro was concerned in a number of affairs of a like character with that for which he paid the penalty.

Meadows was also identified as the same negro who made suspicious advances toward a lady living a short distance from Pratt Mines some weeks ago. She drove him off by presenting a pistol at him.


Coroner Babbitt arrived at Pratt Mines just after the lynching and soon after his arrival relatives of the dead negro asked for the body. The coroner told them they could cut the body down and hold it until he notified them what disposition to make of it. The negroes could find no one who would cut the body down, and the coroner telephoned to the city for a coffin. About noon a party went out, cut the body down, placed it in a coffin, and brought it to the city.

After a consultation with Probate Judge Porter, Coroner Babbitt decided not to hold an inquest. The grand jury is now in session and will probably investigate the matter at once.

All Quiet In the City and at Pratt Mines Last Night

The calm which proverbially follows a storm, succeeded the excitement over the jail shooting, reigned in Birmingham and vicinity last night after the excitable times at Pratt Mines and the natural intense interest manifested in this city during the day. Seldom is the city more quiet and the surcease of petty crimes and misdemeanors more marked than it was last night. The officials had little or nothing to do, and the jail blotter did not show up a single new prisoner. The police had very little more to do, and only two or three disorderly conducts were on the city prison record.

Midnight advices from Pratt Mines said that all was quiet out there, and that no rumors of negroes congregating were coming in. The men will all go to work today with the feeling that they have executed the order of justice.

[Monday:  Dr. Φ’s long awaited commentary.]

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