The Elevator clipping

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Attempted Assassination of Rev. James Lynch.

A most desperate attempt was made to assassinate me at Lexington, Holmes County, Miss., Saturday, March 13th. I visited that place in company with Rev. E. Scarborough, Messrs. Frederic Stewart, Jordan, Weatherby and Archey Hartley, arriving at two o'clock, P.M., for the purpose of holding quarterly meeting. By permission of Col. Weston, Sheriff of the County, the use of the Court House was obtained. I appointed Rev. E. Scarborough to preach Saturday night. Services commenced at eight o'clock. The Court-house was filled with colored persons mainly; about thirteen whites occupied seats near the door, some of whom indulged in very loud whispering and laughing. One man asked the question "which is Lynch?" Another answered, with an oath, "they are all Lynches." This was done in a ton of voice audible all over the room. About the time Rev. Scarborough commenced to preach, five or six men passed from the main Court-room into the jury-room, where they remained about fourteen minutes; they came out hurriedly and went down stairs. One minute afterwards the report of a gun or pistol was heard - evidently proceeding from the rear of the Court-house, and a ball entered the window against which I was sitting, about two inches above my head, and in a perpendicular line with my position. Two pistol shots were fired after this, by some person or persons in the main hall, in front of the Court-room. Intense excitement prevailed, and I hastily left the Court-house with my friends, Messrs. Wetherby and Stewart. There were strong indications that the firing was deliberately planned, and a part of a pre-determined measure to destroy me. I then called on the colored people for protection, and seventeen, strong, valiant men were immediately armed, ready to die in my defence. I sent for the Sheriff, and so critical did he adjudge the situation, that at my earnest solicitation he remained with me until day-break. The scenes of the entire night proved the wisdom of the precaution taken; for about twelve or fifteen men were continually in motion around and about my lodgings, and from thence to a drinking saloon which was kept open until day-light; they also kept a light burning in the Court-house during the entire night. Their imprecations on me were heard by the Sheriff and by the men guarding me. Several stood and counted the number of men picketing outside, and the chances of making a successful attack were duly canvassed.

Three of the citizens called on me immediately after the firing, and sought to make me believe that it was simply some torpedoes thrown in by rude boys; but what man does not know the sound of a gun or pistol? They stated that there were no bullet marks; but day-light showed the bullet-hole in the glass. Certainly if torpedoes had been fired, some fragments of them would have been seen; but there was not the slightest sign of anything of the kind. The Constable of the town declared that two shots were fired in the Court-house yard, and then stated that they were fired into the lower steps.

Sunday morning I left this delectable locality, though hundreds of colored people had gathered for meeting. As I was about to leave, lawyer Gwin pledged protection. It is a significant fact that when this protection was needed - when the firing at the Court-house was heard all over town - heard by the Sheriff who was at the time in his bed - when a gang paraded the streets until day-break with apparent hostile intent - it was not offered.

I went to Lexington to perform ministerial duty, and neither by word or look, directly or indirectly, did I manifest anything but the most kindly and considerate feeling for the citizens. My only offense was that I was a Radical, and a representative of "The Northern Church."

Free speech and religious toleration does not exist in Mississippi. A man is not secure in his person, on a highway and back from the railroads, if he is known to be an active preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States, or a Radical of public influence. Of this the above facts are the proof.

Every one knows that the civil authorities are powerless or indisposed in all cases to afford the necessary protection.

I propose to test the matter; whether free speech is to be allowed or not. Whether the colored man shall enjoy the right of attaching himself to any church organization he may choose. I am prepared to prove that a prominent individual of large influence (whose name I have), in Carroll County, has said I should not officiate in that county. And I expect to be attacked when I go there to preach.

This opposition is insane and wicked. I am seeking the elevation of my race. Preaching, instructing and organizing schools for them, I go to localities where there is no school or church; where men take special pains to teach the black man to degrade himself by encouraging him to drink and spend the nights in dancing that should be spent in the school-room. Every man that is not a fool knows that the moral, intellectual and religious elevation of the race is my aim, and they who oppose me do so because they are opposed to the work.

Thank God! we have got a good President who says there must be free speech and religious toleration, irrespective of the prejudice of locality, and also a Provisional Governor who will put the entire military force of the State on the war path to restrain those who would rob an American citizen of his dearest rights.



The Elevator; Lynch, James, 1839-1872, “The Elevator clipping,” Mississippi State University Libraries, accessed March 3, 2024,

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