Dispatch, March 15, 1889

White-Cap Foolishness -- Where Are the Constables?

Moral -- VigilantismMoral -- OtherAfrican-Americans -- Racial violenceFields -- crops - Sweet potatoes : AcreageFields -- Crops - White potatoes : Acreage

Onancock, March 13, 1889.

The White Cap excitement is at fever-heat in some localities. Several nights ago a young man in Sluthkill Neck dreamed that he had found a large and valuable treasure in an old Indian burying ground. On the following night he took several friends whom he let into his secret, and with them proceeded to the spot and began to dig for the buried treasure. The had hardly commenced work when they saw a band of men with long white caps on their heads emerge from a neighboring forest. The treasure hunters fled from the scene, leaving their implements on the ground, and have not yet resumed operations. The greatest excitement, however, prevails around Craddockville, in the southern part of Accomack.

F. A. Ashmead, the father of Andrew Ashmead, who imagines himself a woman, and who recently got into a shooting scrape with John Kellam because the latter would not marry him, is very much agitated over a so-called White Cap notice which he found early one morning posted on his front gate. The notice was embellished with skull and cross bones and warned the elder Ashmead to stop loafing about the village and go to work or else he would get a cow hiding. It was a formidable looking document and pretended to be "signed by order of the Grand Master of the White Caps." Ashmead tore down the notice and for some time said nothing about it, but finally he began to get mad, and the more he thought about it the madder he got. Day before yesterday he posted the following notice on the store door of the village:

"In reply to the notice nailed to my gatepost I say to the White Caps of Craddockville and neighborhood that are interested in my family affairs select one of your men and name your place, day, and hour, and I will meet him and gaze on his beautiful face, then we will both go to _____ together. F. A. Ashmead."

Mr. Ashmead's neighbors say that he has lately shown a greater fondness for work than ever before and that he now gives the White Caps but slender opportunity to catch him from home after nightfall.

One young man living in the same locality has received a notice telling him that he will be handled if he continues to have so many sweethearts, and another has been ordered not to go to see his sweetheart oftener than twice a week nor remain longer than 10 o'clock at night.

The negroes in that section are very much exercised on the subject, since James Hatton, a prominent colored politician, has been roughly handled by White Caps. He had boasted that he was not afraid of them and had threatened to shoot them if they interfered with him. He was intercepted several nights ago by a band of masked men while going through a pine forest and pretty badly used up. His injuries, however, are said to be very slight, but he was so badly scared that he did not go out of his house for several days after the occurrence.

The weather is fair and farmers are busily at work bedding seed sweet potatoes, cleaning up fields, and getting ready for spring crops. An old and experienced farmer told me yesterday that he expected to see a larger acreage planted in round and sweet potatoes here than ever before.


African-Americans -- Racial violence


Magruder Fletcher Pays the Penalty of a Most Outrageous Crime -- Quick Work.

[Special telegram to the Dispatch.]

ONANCOCK, VA., via TASLEY, VA., March 14. -- Magruder Fletcher, the negro who last Sunday night criminally assaulted Mrs. Mary E. McCready, a highly-respected lady in the northern part of Accomack county, was taken from the county jail last night and hanged by a band of masked men. Ever since the crime was committed there have been rumors of lynching in the air, but as two nights had passed since the commission of the crime without any demonstration it was believed the plan had been abandoned. Last night between 1 and 2 o'clock a band of 100 masked men filed into the village of Accomac Courthouse, and proceeding to the home of Jailer Samuel Melson demanded the keys to the jail. The demand was refused, whereupon they threatened to burn the jailer's house, tear down the wall around the jail, and break open the doors. Deputy-Sheriff Melson, hearing what was going on, proceeded to the jailer's house, where he found the men furious and determined to carry out their purpose of lynching the negro.


They were all armed and some of them were flourishing their pistols in the air. The deputy sheriff was seized, and some of the men entering the house overpowered the jailer and forced him to surrender the keys. They then proceeded to the jail, took the negro from his cell, and placing him in a cart moved rapidly out of the village in a northerly direction. When about one mile away they halted and took the negro out of the cart, emasculated him, and then suspended him from the limb of a pine tree, where he was allowed to hang until he was dead. They then fired a number of bullets into his body and rode away. The body was found hanging by the roadside early this morning with a note pinned to it bearing the following legend:

"We will protect our mothers, our wives and sisters, and our daughters."


The place where the negro was hung is in the midst of a pine forest near Taylor's branch. Hundreds of people visited the scene of the hanging to-day and many carried away branches of the tree on which the negro paid the penalty of his terrible crime. All the men were heavily masked, and none of their names are known to the officers.

Captain McCready, who was on the western shore of the Chesapeake when his wife was assaulted, returned home yesterday. The lynchers were all on foot when they came in to the village, having left their horses and vehicles in the woods near by. While he was being taken from the jail the negro did not utter a word, nor is it known that he said anything afterwards. His crime was one of the most outrageous and revolting ever committed here and public opinion sustains the lynchers. There was not a shadow of a doubt as to his guilt and his own confession would have convicted him. The verdict of the coroner's jury that viewed the body this afternoon was that Magruder Fletcher came to his death by hanging at the hands of men unknown to the jury. There will be no further legal proceedings in the case.


African-Americans -- Racial violenceMoral -- Murder

[By Associated Press.]

BALTIMORE, MD., March 14.

A Tasley, Va., special says: The negro Magruder Fletcher, who criminally assaulted Mrs. Obediah McCready several days ago, was lynched about 3 o'clock this morning by a party of about seventy-five men. Jailer Samuel Melson was aroused about 1 o'clock by a party of masked men, who demanded the keys of the jail. Melson refused to give them up. He was told that if he did not his house would be burned, but he still refused. Deputy-Sheriff Benjamin L. Melson, who had been aroused by the commotion, came to the scene and told the jailer he had better hand over the keys, which he did. The lynchers went to the cell of Fletcher and told him he was wanted. He was at once released and was carried out. He made no demur whatever. The doors of the jail were fastened by the lynchers and the keys turned over to the jailer. The negro was then hurried off and hung to the limb of a pine-tree on the edge of the road about one and a half miles from here. He was cut down at about 9 o'clock by Magistrate Higgins and a coroner's inquest was held. A verdict was rendered that Fletcher came to his death by being strangled and shot by persons unknown to the jury. Fletcher had four bullet-holes in his body. His neck was not broken. He was also shockingly mutilated. It is supposed that this was done prior to hanging. Fletcher was a stout man of about twenty-five years of age and was very black. The public approves the lynching. Mrs. McCready's husband came home yesterday. The lady is in a very precarious condition and is almost crazed.

It is reported here that great indignation is felt against G. Jefferson Adair, who shot P. B. Smith in Northampton county, and that lynching is feared. Adair refuses to talk. It is thought that he will be removed from Eastville to Accomack Courthouse and that he will be tried in the Accomack County Court.


African-Americans -- Race relations

Zion's Herald says:

In these modern days, after centuries of practice, the "nigger" steals a chicken, the white man steals a horse; the "nigger" steals a ham, the white man steals a hog; the "nigger" steals a dollar, the white man a bank; the "nigger" steals a cross-tie, the white man a railroad; the "nigger" steals a constable's office, the white man steals the presidency of the United States.

March 15, 1889