Vertner testimony about Haskin Smith

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JACKSON, MISS., June 23, 1876.

J. D. Vertner sworn and examined.


Q. Did he state that to you? A. Yes, sir. Our campaign opened, I think, in the month of September, about two months before the election. Just prior to the opening of the campaign, however, an incident in no way connected with politics occurred, which produced a very bad state of feeling between the whites and blacks. It was not the marriage of a negro with a white woman, so much as the incidents connected with it. There was such a marriage in the county, and while the white people took no part in it whatever, the parties being of humble origin and not in the society of the place, yet the father of the girl felt himself very much aggrieved, the boy having been reared in his family and brought up with the girl. The father was a desperate man, and he threatened to kill him. I myself overheard no such remarks on the part of the negroes, but a gentleman of respectability informed me that they had threatened to burn the town and wreak vengeance on the people if a hair of that negro’s head was harmed by Mr. Smith.

Q. Smith was the father? A. Smith was the father.

Q. State the names of the persons married. A. The boy was a negro by the name of Haskins Smith. The girl was the daughter of William Smith, who kept the public hotel of the place. The boy, while a member of the legislature, was a boot-black in the hotel and a waiter, and continued there during the time that he was in the legislature, waiting on the table during the recess, and finally he ran off with this girl. It created some impression upon us, but of course was beneath our notice; but these remarks which were said to have been made very publicly–

Q. You say the father of the girl was very much excited? A. The father of the girl was very much excited, and the mother was never recovered from the shock that she received at the time. The father in that exasperated state of feeling proposed to kill the negro whenever he returned. He was a very good negro, and held in very good esteem by the white people. The negroes here, Haskins’s friends, seeing him with a shot-gun, gathered round his hotel en masse. I saw myself the excited crowds that gathered there from day to day.

They were absent during all this time – the man and woman who were married. The negroes made a great many threats, according to hearsay, but we paid no attention to them. On Sunday, about one week after the occurrence, the negro was brought back to the place by prominent negro leaders, among them the black coroner of our town, who is now in this jail, the leader of a band which has been sent to the penitentiary for burglary. They went down with carriages to bring the negro back. The negro protested against it, saying he had outraged the feelings of the family and preferred to remain where he was; but they took him by force and brought him into the village on a quiet Sunday, with four or five young men armed, and they paraded our streets, up and down, with this negro, who had offended the feelings of this family in their midst; and then, not content with this, they followed our young ladies, and went to our grave-yard where our parents are buried, and trod all around there, and marched back.





Report on the Election of 1875, “Vertner testimony about Haskin Smith,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed September 26, 2023,

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