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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 27, 1898, Image 19

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Race Riots and Shotgun Law in the Carolinas
Bk:ks a-d Whites Arrayed Against Each Other in Murderous Fury. The Governor of One State Barely Escapes Death From the Mob. Men and Incidents in the Frightful Outbreak of Race Hatred That Has Deluged Two States in Blood
and Shocked the Nation.
Special Correspondence of the Sunday Call
WILMINGTON, N. C. Nov. 19.
—The Governor of South
Carolina, he says to the
Governor of North Caro
lina, "It's a long time be
tween lynchings": and the Governor of
North Carolina, he says to the Gover
nor of Sou h Carolina, "Sh-h! Don't
talk to me about lynchings. Golly!
Don't you know they came near lynch
ing me the other night?"
Thus in allegory they are telling
through this Southern country of an in
cident in the race war of last week
which somehow did not get into the
papers, but came very near furnishing j
a.s big a sensation as North Carolina j
ever had in its history. So far as re
called no Governor of a State in this
..country has ever lost his life at the
hands of indignant citizens of his com
But Governor Daniel L. Russell of
North Carolina came very near suffer
ing it from mob rule when the excite
ment was at its luight and while the
streets o' Wilmington were literally
running with blood.
Governor Russell began his political
career as a leader in this section of the
He organized the colored Re
publicans in Wilmington, and more
than any other one man is responsible
for the ascendency of the African over
the white man in the Cape Fear region.
So when the negi >es were shooting at
the white citizens and the white citi
zens were actually potting the negroes
by dozens with Winchesters, Spring
fields and shotguns, the Governor, who
was in this section of North Carolina,
hearing of the trouble, started for
He first intended going by way of
Goldsboro. Learning that there was a
mob of several hundred men at Go'.ds
boro waiting to give him a reception,
and knowing that at that period of
excitement he was a marked man, he
changed his route and went via Max
ton. Word got to Maxton ahead of the
Governor that he was going that way,
and when the train arrived a swearing,
howling mob of "red shirts," heavily
armed and ready for almost anything,
was awaiting him.
They invaded the car, threatened the
Governor and actually offered him vio
lence. The crowd was increasing and
there were cries of "Lynch him:" when
the Governor and one of his friends
hustled out of the car into a box car,
which was locked behind him, and the
conductor and his friends stood guard
until the train pulled out.
Governor Russell reached his home, in
Raleigh, over the Seaboard Air Line,
very badly frightened, and the Govern
or's friend did not have a button on
his coat and his raiment was in tat
ters. The Governor weighs more than
300 pounds and his frustrated enemies
at Maxton are still speculating as to
the figure he would have cut at the
end of a rope.
This is only one incident of the many
• exciting events that have stirred the
two Carolinas during the last ten days.
There has been a great political riot
and a wholesale massacre of negroes in
Wilmington, N. C. There has been a
great political riot and a wholesale
sacre of negroes in Greenwood, S.
:C. Th»- story of Wilmington and the
story of Greenwood both furnish food
for thought, but on 'tr different lines.
At Wilmington at least fifteen ne
groes were killed,- but no white man
lost his life. At Greenwood at least
€-ight negroes were killed and one white
man lost his !if<'.
I will first teil the story of Wilming
ton and then of Greenwood, and lot the
"impartial reader draw his own conclu
sions and make his own comparisons.
The Wilmington riot was due entirely
■to th<- negro attaining supremacy in lo
cal politics. North Carolina Is about
Th>- "nly Southern State in which the
negro has practically without restric
tion exercised the right of .-tuffrage. The
negroes have b< en permitted to do this
..because they were in the minority.
• : There are 210,000 white voters in the
State and about 100,000 colored voters.
Only in recent years did the danger of
;' the negro securing supremacy become
threatening. Tri 1898, whf-n a combina
tion Of the black and white Republi
. cans and th< Populists mad" Russell
„;nvnrnor by an enormous majority, the
white voters, and especially the Demo
cratic white voters, began to have their
Governor Russell hails from the sec
tion of the State in which Wilmington
ils situated. Here the ratio of colored
men to. white is almost two to one. The
Governor and his Republican allies got
: hold of the government of the city of
Wilmington, and in order to keep the
'..negroes solid permitted them to share
in the offices. The colored men here
quickly felt their power. They realized
that it was through their votes that
the Republicans had triumphed. While
the Republican leaders held the more
• important offices the white men in
: Wilmington soon found that they had
• over them a colored police force, while
•the fire department largely consisted of
colored men and the postoffice was
. manned with colored letter-carriers.
In fact to all intents and purposes, it
was a colored city government. The
colored city government levied the
city taxes, collected them and spent]
them The whites were paying 96Mi
per cent of the taxes, the colored were
paving 3Va per cent of the taxes.
Following the induction into office of
this new regime came a repetition or
the old story of profligacy and an abuse
erf power. Nearly every Southern city
in the days of reconstruction had been
through it, and now it was Wilming
ton's turn. The colored men did not
make good policemen. They neglected
their posts and robberies multiplied.
Women were insulted on the street and
there was no redress. White women
would be jostled from the sidewalks
into the muddy streets by ™lored
women and negro men would laugh at
them. Little white girls would have
their hats snatched and thrown into
the roadway and assaults of negroes
upon whites were of constant occur
rence. Property was insecure and in
surance rates advanced. „«!«,,,
Even Mr. Chadbourn, the Republican
Postmaster, wrote and published a let
ter in which he declared that the ne
groes were in charge of the municipal
government of Wilmington; that the
whites would not longer ar *ith thib
condition of affairs, and that they
would carry the next election either
with votes or with arms.
Long before the canvass in the cam
paign just closed began the white citi
zens of Wilmington, almost without re
gard to party, prepared for the great
Ist emergency. Six months ago they
be?an to arm themselves quietly. Each
white citizen not affiliated with the Re
publican reign, if he did not already
have a serviceable firearm, purchased
a Winchester or a Springfield rifle and
lots of ammunition. They determined
to carry the fall election by force and
intimidation if they could not carry it
any other way.
They made no concealment of thi£;
determination before the election; they
make no concealment of it now. They
were firmly convinced that the African
was not born to rule the white man.
and no amount of argument can change |
tl \ e ; lovernolr°Russell1 overno l r°Russell became alarmed at
the threatening condition of affairs that
his management had brought about.
He was notified that something dread
ful would happen in Wilmington if the
negroes attempted to outvote the
whites on election clay, and through his
influence the Republican leader 8 were
forced lust before the election, to take
down their ticket and give the Demo
crats no opposition in the- county ex
cept one Representative in Congress and
State Senator, these districts including
other counties than New Hanover, in
which Wilmington is situated.
Election day passed off quietly in
Wilmmgton, although in three or four
other counties in the State the negroes
were SSKildated and hindered from
voting by the presence of armed men at
th The°ei e ction 'eing over the whites de
termined to put out of office the entire
o?t™ government, by force if necessary.
The Governor tried to induce the city
officials to resign, but without avail.
Then an orderly meeting of the white
citizens was called, and resolutions
were passed taking possession of the
city government in the interest of the
white population, calling on Alexander
Manly the colored editor of the Repub
lican paper, to leave town, and appoint
ing a committee to wait on the more
objectionable white officeholders and
colored leaders and invite them to leave
the county.
The story of the exciting events that
full-, wed this revolution have already
been told. Manly, the colored editor,
who had been an object of loathing for
month? because of the editorial attack
ing white women, had already taken his
departure. The Record office was
burned, because the proprietors of the
paper were believed by the committee
appointed at the mass meeting to be ig
noring its demand.
An outbreak on the part of the ne
ernes hnd been expected that day, and
nearly every white man in the city of
Wilmington was under arms. This
number has been estimated at 2000. The
white citizens f >f each block had a dis
tinct organization undrr a separate
leader. TCach man had his orders, and
no matter where disorder broke out the
white citizens were prepared to quell
it quickly or add to It materially.
There is no question ihnt the first
shooting was done by th° black men.
A negro in Brooklyn, a suburb, phot a
white man through the tight arm. The
wounded man with his left hnnd shot
the npgm dead. The negroes began to
rally in force with guns, and four of
them were shot dead in their tracks
then and there. The blacks were over
awed but not before at least fifteen
had been killed and probably twice as
many wounded. One negro was found
badly wounded hiding beneath a porcn
and was taken to the hospital.
It was a rei^n of terror simply for
the blacks and their white associates.
A committee moved quickly around
and notified the more prominent and
objectionable white Republicans that
they must leave town. Silas P. Wright,
the Mayor, had already gone. Justice
of the "Peace Bunting, who was also
United States Commissioner, was told
to go' So were Chief of Police Melton
and Charles Gilbert, the superintendent
of city carts. Notice was also served
on G. Z. French. Mr. French is th*
acting, sheriff. He allowed the actual
Sheriff $1200 salary, and performed all
the duties of the office himself and took
all the emoluments.
Pictures of Bunting and his colored |
housekeeper still hang on a tree in
front of his house, where they were
hung by the mob. Thomas Miller, a
noted colored leader, who, when he
heard the Record building had been
burned, declared that he would wash
his hands in white men's blood that
night, was lodged in jail, and a picket
was thrown around to prevent the
more irresponsible whites from drag
ging him forth and killing him.
Colonel Waddell, one of the most
prjminent citizens, who had been chair
man of the mass meeting, was elected
Mayor, and all the old officials resigned
under pressure. Waddell has a fighter's
jaw. His ancestors have fought in three
\> ars.
Dr. Silas P. Wright offered his resig
nation as Mayor of the city, and it was
accepted. Colonel A. M. Waddell was
elected Mayor of the city and sworn in
by M. Newman, J. P., 'whereupon Mr.
Wad Jell took his seat as Mayor.
Nearly all of the old city officials aro
now in Washington seeking to have a
Congressional investigation or aro wan
dering northward seeking new places
of abode.
The statement telegraphed North that
ministers of the Gospel, with rifles on
their shoulders, paraded the streets on
Thursday and Friday nights to pre
serve order is no fiction. This actually
took place. It is also a fact that the
race question in Wilmington rose above
politics, and that many white men
heretofore Republicans joined in over
turning the city government.
The fury of the mob at Wilmington
when it finally burst forth was added to
by race prejudice, long kept in restraint
in North Carolina. The deepest blot on
the city is that the poor whites wan
tonly shot any negroes they met. Most
of the murdered victims were unarmed
and molesting no one.
So high did the feeling in Wilming
ton run during the political campaign
that it is a marvel that there was not
a murderous outbreak long before
Thursday, November 10.
Early in the campaign Governor Rus
sell became a target far the orators
of the white men's party. The Gov
ernor owns a large plantation on the
other side of Cape Fear River, just op
posite Wilmington. For years he has
supplied the city with milk. Some one
printed a communication in the Mes
senger one day inquiring why white
men bought Governor Russell's milk,
since he was responsible for negro rule
in the city.
Instantly the Governor's dairy was
boycotted and his milk is not now sold
in the city.
So much for the story of the riot in
Wilmington. Now for the story of
Greenwood County in South Carolina
is a omparatively new county, having
been erected from the county of Edge
field on one side and Abbeville on the
other. Edgefield County was the scene
of some of the most disastrous political
riots" during the period of reconstruc
tion. Within its borders occurred the
famous "Ned" Tennant riot, so called
for the negro leader, who was killed.
The colored population in that sec
tion is very large, outnumbering the
whites, but the race question there is
merely a social problem, not a political
In Greenwood County the qualified
white voters outnumber the qualified
negro voters about ten to one. The au
thority for this statement is Senator |
Tillman. The Tolberts are a very influ
ential white family in Greenwood
County. The most conspicuous member
of it is Major John R. Tolbert. He is
really the Republican leader in South
Major Tolbert is a man of middle
age, who graduated from the South
Carolina University, which at the time
of his graduation was the educational
institution of the highest standing
in the South Major Tolbert served
during the war as a member of
Butler's Confederate Cavalry Divis
ion, and came out with a fine repu
tation for courage and the rank of a
lieutenant. He is to-day a slender,
erect, dressy man, with an iron gray
beard and fine presence. He has two
brothers, one of whom, Thomas Tol
bert, lives near Phoenix.
Major Tolbert has a number of sons,
among whom are Robert and Rhett
Tolbert, Thomas Tolbert Jr., Joseph
Tolbert and James W.^ Tolbert. Major
Tolbert became a Republican leader in
South Carolina. He turned Republican
during reconstruction days, in the hope
of getting office. He is at present the
Collector of the Port at Charleston, S.C.,
having secured that post by virtue of
his efforts for McKinley at St. Louis in
1896. His son, Robert Rhett Tolbert, is
chairman of the Republican State
Committee. Robert Rhett Tolbert's
name has been invariably printed
Robert "Red" Tolbert. "Red" is a
nickname. His other sons are all ac
tive Republicans. The Tolberts are all
planters in that section of the State.
There are all very well educated and
very well-to-do, too, and their com
bined holdings in land exceed 10,000
The wife of James W. Tolbert was
appointed postmistress of McCor
mick, a small country town. James W.
Tolbert professes to be his wife's as
sistant in the office. Collins, a brother
in-law of R. R. Tolbert, claims to be
the postmaster of Ninety-Six, a station
on the Southern Railway, near Green
wood. This is denied by the Demo
crats, who say that Collins is an ap
plicant for the poHtoffice at Abbleville
Courthouse, and James Tolbert is an
applicant for the postoffice at Green
Although the Tolberts are one of the
best families in the State, there being
nothing against either their personal or
business habits, the great mass of
white people have regarded them with
enmity because they are Republicans.
When Robert Rhett Tolbert became a
candidate for Congress this fall the
white Democrats declared that he
should not have any votes, and the feel
ing in the community was very bitter.
The negroes were bolder than they
have been for many years. I do not
think the Tolberts have anything to do
with this. The only reasonable explan
ation I have got is that furnished by
Colonel N. G. Gonzales, who says that
since the colored troops behaved so fine
ly at Santiago and El Caney the ne
groes through the South believe that
they are a race of warriors and can
whip the white men, and this impres
sion has made them very hard to get
along with. ; _ .^
They were encouraged by the orators
both in North and South Carolina to go
to the polls on election day, and were
reminded of the great exploits of their
race in Cuba. The colored orators were
prone to allude to Maceo as one of the
greatest warriors of modern times.
Election day came and all the negroes
of Greenwood County who were quali
fied to vote through coming up to the
requirement of the South Carolina con
stitution were told by the Tolberts to
go to the polls and vote for Robert
Rhett Tolhert for Congress. Phoenix,
which was one of the polling places,
consists of a cross roads country store.
It was here that the race war in South
Carolina began.
The polling place was on the second
floor. Every time a negro applied to
vote for Robert Rhc't Tolbert his vote
was refused, whether he owned $300 and
could read and write or not.
Thomas Tolbert Jr. was in charge of
the negroes at this polling place. He
asked permission to take the affidavits
of the negroes that they were qualified
voters and were not allowed to vote. In
the room where the ballot boxes were
this was refused, so he went down
stairs, had blanks filled out in regular
form, signed and acknowledged by a
notary public. As each affidavit was
made It was folded and put into a bal
lot box which the Republicans had pro
This went on for some time until J.
I. Etheridge, a prominent white man in
the community, tried to stop the pro
ceedings. As a matter of fact Mr.
Etheridge had no more rieht to inter
fere than if he lived in another State.
There was no danger of negro supre
macy; there was no danger of the Dem
ocratic candidate for Congress being
unseated, because the contest could not
possibly amount to anything, and in ad
dition to this, Phoenix was not in Mr.
Etheridge's voting place.
Mr. Etheridge's interference resulted
in a fight, and during this fight Mr.
Etheridge was shot and died almost in
Then the whites flew to arms. A
Tolbert and negro hunt began, which
lasted for three days. Most of the ne
groes took to the woods and were hard
to find.
At the close of the second day's riot
ing some negroes fired upon a party of
whites from ambush at Plney Grove
Church, wounding two of them. Armed
white men scoured the country in every
The fury of the mob was directed
more especially toward the Tolberts.
Thomas Tolbert had been shot and
mortally wounded in the fight at the
polling place. Major John R. Tolbert
was driving along the road with his
15-year-old nephew when the whites
fired on him. He was shot in the back
with buckshot and in the head with
bird shot. His nephew was also wound
ed with buckshot. Some of the promi
nent Democrats assisted the elder Tol
bert to a place of safety, but later,
when the rioters learned his where
abouts, they went to the house deter
mined to kill him.
He made his escape, however, and
reached Columbia, three days after he
had been shot, with none of the forty
six leaden pellets that had entered his
flesh yet removed. The other Tolberts
and the whites who had been connected
with them In the movement got out of
the county as best they could.
The only Tolberts who remained were
Thomas, senior, and Elias L., the
brothers of John R. Tolbert. Thomas,
senior, had remained in Abbeville and
was not molested. The mob pursued
Ellas L. Tolbert to the house of a
prominent Democrat, but was finally
persuaded to disperse. Since that time
Ellas L. Tolbert has printed a most ab
ject letter, in which he alludes to his
! brave war record in the Confederate
' army, states that he never joined in
' the movement to have the negroes vote
i and pledges all his efforts in the fu
j ture for the sustaining of white su
| premacy in South Carolina.
In the meantime the negro hunt went
on, the Tolbert hunt having been aban-
I doned. Wherever a negro was found
I he was shot down.
It is doubtful if any of the men who
' had a hand in the shooting; of Etheridge
have been killed. Nearly all of those
who were slain were not only inno-
I cent of participating in the earlier trou
ble and of firing on the whites at Piney
; Grove Church, but were unarmed.
I When a negro was found no questions
j were asked. He had merely to run and
i the mob riddled his back with buck
; shot and bullets. At one place by the
I roads there was a pile of five dead ne
| groes as late as Thursday afternoon.
While the excitement was at its
; height a movement was started to burn
the houses of the Tolberts. Wiser coun
! sel prevailed and this was not done.
Both Governor Ellerbe and Senator
I Tillman are in favor of shooting colored
i men in order to keep them in subjee
1 tion. Tillman himself participated in
the great Hamburg riot in 1886. In
- speaking of the Governor's conduct a
i Greenville paper said that the Governor
i on Tuesday, when there was rioting at
I the polls, remained calm, and that on
i Wednesday, when white men were
i hunting the colored men all over Green
THE following is. says the British
Central Africa Gazette of Septem
ber 10, perhaps one of the most
extraordinary adventures that has
ever fallen to the lot of a European
even in Central Africa, where adven
tures with wild beasts are pretty fre
Mr. D. C. Robertson, Gala Estate,
Namazi, about midway between Blan
tyre and Zobra, sends the following
"I rode out on my bicycle from Blan
tyre on Monday afternoon, the 2?a of
August, and reached Mr. Stoud's before
the sun went down, and after waiting
for a few minutes, started again. Just
after sunset. By the time I got to the
Namazi crossing it had got quite dark,
except for a little ljght the new moon
was giving. The road leading to the
Gala Estate from the main road has
only just recently been made, and is
quite soft and lumpy, besides being
very steep for at least half its length.
The rest of it is fairly level, but none
of it is in a condition for cycling yet,
except the portion which extends from
my first plantation to my house, which
was made some time ago, and is now
nice and hard.
"When I left the main road I dis
mounted, and started pushing my bi
cycle up the hill, but before I had gone
far I heard a heavy body pushing its
way through the bush on my left. I
thought it was some big game, possibly
an eland or buffalo, but as I felt a cer
tain amount of uneasiness I went to the
other side of the road and pushed away
as quickly as I could. When I had gone
a short distance up the slope I looked
wood County, he became calmer still,
On Wednesday, when the rioting
reached its climax, the Governor was
as serene as a summer morning, and on
Saturday, when the trouble was all
over and most of the white men had put
away their guns, the Governor sent an
impassioned dispatch to Greenwood de
manding that the rioting stop.
Major Tolbert has returned to his
post as Collector of the Port at Charles
ton. All the other Tolberts except those
badly wounded, together ' with their
relatives and associates, have gone to
Washington to get satisfaction through
Federal interference.
The burning question of the hour is
what will become of the Tolberts. The
white men's party around Greenwood
declare that if they return to their
homes they will be killed and their
houses will be burned over their dead
This is evidently no joke. It has hap
pened again and again to white Repub
licans all over the South. It has hap
pened as frequently in South Carolina
as in any other State. What a South
Carolina mob can do when aroused was
shown at Lake City, where the colored
Postmaster and his entire family were
either murdered or burned to death.
Apparently the average country white
in South Carolina has made up his
mind to use the shotgun and the torch
as long as the negroes are appointed to
office or are encouraged to be active in
round and almost had a fit when I saw
a full-grown lion standing across the
road, broadside on, with his head turn,
ed toward me,* and, as I looked, he
started in pursuit.
"T attempted to mount my machine,
but owing to the slope and ray excite
ment I failed twice. The third time I
succeeded in getting away, and I did
pedal for all I was worth, but the ma
chine kept wobbling across the road,
and I saw that the lion had lessened
the distance between us by about half,
though I was still fifty yards from the
top of the slope. He kept up a low
growling all the time, and I could hear
him more and more distinctly every
time as he still lessened the distance
between us.
"I think I could easily have outstrip
ped him if it had been level, but the
machine kept up a rattle, rattle over
the inequalities in the road, and once
or twice I was almost thrown off. I
did not dare to look back; indeed, there
was no need, as the growl plainly told
me that he was almost on me, but at
last I reached the crest and flew down,
the opposite slope. I then suddenly re
membered that there was an open cul
vert across the road some 200 yards
ahead, but there was no time to dis
mount, so I rode into it, and the shock
flung me high out of the saddle, but I
fell back on it without being knocked
off. Fortunately the side of the drain
next the hill was high and the opposite
side low, so that the machine was not
stuck in the culvert, and though the
front fork was twisted and the front
wheel grated against it it was not quite
jammed and I was able to ride on.
When I reached the smooth part of the
road near my first plantation I was able
to get up a good rate of speed, but I no
longer heard the growl in the rear.

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