The victims of lynching in Chatham County


These are the names and pertinent information of the victims of lynchings in Chatham County’s history. All information is courtesy of “A Red Record: Lynchings in the Former Confederacy,” a project by Dr. Seth Kotch, a professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of American Studies. While most histories of lynchings in Chatham County record six victims, Kotch’s project adds a seventh, Henry Jones.

Eugene Daniel

Date: Sept. 18, 1921

Alleged offense: Trespassing, attemped rape (unlikely)

Age: 16

Gender: Male

Legal intervention (in alleged offense): No

Legal intervention (following lynching): Unrecorded

Newspapers report that on Friday, Sept. 16, 1921, Gertrude Stone awoke to a man standing in the corner of her bedroom. Sixteen-year-old Eugene Daniel, sometimes called Ernest Daniels in newspaper accounts, was suspected of the crime.

Early Saturday morning, police gathered bloodhounds from Raeford (60 miles away from Pittsboro), which tracked down Eugene Daniel’s scent that afternoon. Upon locating Daniel, the police extracted a confession and took him to the Pittsboro Jail. A mob of around 50 men from New Hope Township formed around the jail Saturday night and took the keys from jailer H.W. Taylor.

Daniel was taken five miles east onto an area near Moore’s bridge, where he was hanged with a chain and shot to death. At least 1,000 people visited the scene the next day to view Daniel’s body, until noon, when the coroner took his body down from the tree.

Henry Jones

Date: Jan. 12, 1899

Alleged offense: Rape and murder

Age: 35

Gender: Male

Legal intervention (in alleged offense): No

Legal intervention (following lynching): Unrecorded

An African American man, Henry Jones, was accused of raping and murdering Nancy Welch/Welsh, a white widow in Chatham County in January 1899. The day following the discovery of Welsh’s body, Jones was taken from his home by a mob of 50 “unknown persons.” According to newspaper reports, finding what they regarded as definitive evidence of Welch’s murder as well as an apparent confession from Jones, the mob took Jones to the site of the murder, probably near Bear Creek, where Nancy Welsh lived. Once there, the mob hanged Henry Jones.

Harriet Finch, Jerry Finch, Lee Tyson, John Pattishall

Date: Sept. 28, 1885

Alleged offense: Murder

Age: 46 (J. Finch), 30 (H. Finch), unrecorded (Tyson and Pattishall)

Legal intervention (in alleged offense): Yes

Legal intervention (following lynching): Yes

In 1883, unrecorded assailants used an axe to murder Mr. Gunter, an elderly white farmer, as well as his wife and his wife’s sister in their home near Pittsboro.

No one could identify the killers at the time of the crime, but in 1885, a similar murder was committed in the same area. In the second case, Mr. Finch, a 79-year-old white farmer, his 81-year-old sister, and a 16-old male black servant were found dead on July 5, 1885, with their throats cut and signs of injuries from an axe.

Law enforcement arrested a series of African American suspects, beginning with Jerry Finch and his wife, Harriet Finch, followed by Lee Tyson and finally John Pattishall (also recorded as Pattisall). During the time that the men were held in custody, members of local law enforcement worked to protect the prisoners from lynching attempts. The coroner’s jury issued a report condemning the men and the majority of the community is reported to have believed the men were guilty of both sets of murders. Newspapers speculated for months that a lynching was imminent, and in late August, a mob briefly abducted Harriet Lynch and her sister-in-law and tortured them by hanging with the intention of obtaining more information, only to release them shortly thereafter.

On September 28, Jerry Finch, his wife, Lee Tyson and John Pattishall were taken from the jail and lynched a mile from Pittsboro. Their bodies were found the next morning hanging from the trees near the public road. Newspapers did not condemn the lynching of the Finches, Tyson, and Pattishall, as their guilt was believed to have been established through the coroner’s jury.

Richard Cotton

Date: Aug. 8, 1865

Alleged offense: Unknown

Age: Unknown

Gender: Male

Legal intervention (in alleged offense): No

Legal intervention (following lynching): Unrecorded

An African American man named Richard Cotton was held for an unrecorded offense in Pittsboro jail and received a severe punishment by order of the state. While newspaper accounts are unclear about whether or not Cotton was killed, they agree that an “outrage” occurred at the hands of local authorities.

According to these reports, Cotton’s jailor, John Mallory, had been ordered to give Cotton “10 lashes at 10 o’clock, 20 at 12 o’clock & 9 lashes at 2 o’clock well laid on” as well as put a barrel over Cotton’s head and afterwards tie him up “by the thumbs.”

This punishment, reportedly from “Gov. Holden’s Justice of the Peace” in Chatham County, resulted in the arrest of those who gave the orders for and administered Cotton’s punishment.