14189401

Abram Seddon and William George

February 16, 1894

Chilton County, Alabama

In April of 1894, two unknown black bodies were found floating in Mulberry Creek in Autauga County with their ears cut off. We are not one hundred percent certain but through evidence found in databases like Newspaper.com and ProQuest we have concluded that these two individuals are most likely William “Bill” George and Abram Seddon. These two individuals alongside, Lewis Hendricks, were all lynched for the alleged murder of Mrs. Jesse Rucker. All three victims were lynched for the murder of Mrs. Jesse Rucker of Chilton County Alabama. Mrs. Jesse Rucker, maiden name Miss Mary Foshee, was most likely 19-years-old and a respected white woman of Chilton County. [1] She married her husband Mr. Jesse Rucker in October of 1893.[2] Mr. Jesse Rucker, as local white newspapers recorded, was an “industrious farmer” in the area and the Rucker’s lived 2 miles from Stanton, Alabama.[3] This is an image of a map of the Approximate location of the Lynching. It shows the town on stanton and its location near Mulberry Creek On Feb 15, 1894 Mrs. Jesse Rucker was found murdered and three black men were allegedly implicated in the murder and outrage of the white woman.[4] In the afternoon of Feb. 14, 1894 Mr. Jesse Rucker advised his wife to stay over at Aunt Martha’s house the next day because he will be absent due to “securing hands to work the public roads.”[5] The Rucker’s lived about a quarter of a mile down Clinton Road and Aunt Martha’s house was about a mile away.[6] Most likely Bill George worked at the Rucker home and Abram Seddon worked at the nearby residence of Mr. John Sexton; he was only hired a few days prior to the alleged incident.[7] According to one re-telling of the crime, Bill George and Abram Seddon overheard the plans for Mrs. Jessie Rucker and “arranged a hellish plot” to murder her.[8] According to The Times-Picayune, during the assault on Mary Foshee she fired one shot but was quickly overpowered.[9] The assailants took the pistol and broke her finger in the process. They proceeded to rape her, crush her head with a “lightwood knot,” shoot her and then dump her body in the nearby ravine.[10] All of this takes place on or nearby Clinton Road.[11] Her body was found on Feb. 16, 1894 by either her husband or the search party he had organized.[12] The day after the murder, the white population of the town came together and Bill George was accused of committing the murder. There are differing stories of how both George and Seddon were implicated for the murder. There are articles that say both of the accused parties confessed and there are articles that say they both denied the crime. It is most likely that Bill George was first implicated by blood on his clothes and then Abram Seddon was caught next.[9] All articles that describe the incident with only identify two individuals committing crime and many articles state that they do not know how Lewis Hendricks is tied to the murder.[10] On Feb. 16, 1894, Bill George was hung at the location of the crime (Clinton Road) and his body was “riddled with bullets.”[13] Abram Seddon tried to escape and may have been heading towards Stanton, but he was caught and “made to pay the penalty.”[14] While both men were lynched as apparent punishment for the crime multiple white newspapers claim that one of the black men were innocent. The papers claim that both men were lynched just to make sure the culprit was apprehended. A third black man, Lewis Hendricks, was implicated into the murder a few days later. Hendricks was captured but escaped towards Montgomery County before being lynched in Elmore County.[15] Click here to learn more about the lynching of Lewis Hendricks. Two months after the alleged murder of Jesse Rucker, two unidentifiable bodies were found in Mulberry Creek in Autauga County, the neighboring county to Chilton County.[16] There are multiple newspaper articles that identify these two bodies as the “the murderers of Mrs. Jessie Rucker in Chilton county several weeks ago.”[17] They were said to be unidentifiable among numerous articles and this perplexed our research because Abram Seddon and William George were not unknown victims. That is when we made the conclusion that the two men found floating in the river were Abram Seddon and William George who had been dumped in the creek two months prior.[18] It is now easy to see why EJI would identify them as unknown. Given they only needed two corroborating articles, it was easy to mark the men as unknown if the two articles had listed them as unknown, when in fact it was a select few articles that were most likely not found by EJI, links these two men as Abram Seddon and William George. The timeline of these events presented by these articles corroborates as well. The unknown victims were marked as being identified in April 1894, two months after the lynching of Abram Seddon and William George. The articles identifying the Seddon and George had also acknowledged the fact that they were linked to the Rucker murder two months prior. We must be careful however to not be set in our ways and assume this is the only possible solution to this case. Although our assumption is that these unknown victims are Abram Seddon and William George, to say we are one hundred percent certain of this would be a disservice to the unknown victims if they are in fact not. This is an image of Mulberry Creek, where the two unkown victims were found floating in the Chilton and Autauga County line. The victims of these lynchings are not just defined by how they died but also how they lived; therefore, we must first set out to tell the lives of these men before they were killed by cowards. We are not sure how these men know each other, but we are convinced that Seddon and George were somewhat acquainted with one another. Little is known about the life of these two victims. A small piece of information that can give us a small look into the life of WIlliam George is a census record from 1880, in which he was about three years old. Bill George was most likely 17-years old at the time of his lynching. His birthday is around the year 1877 and he was most likely born in Raymond, Hinds, Mississippi. He was probably the son of Mr. Zack George and May George. Bill George would have been the middle child with May George as his elder sister, who holds the same name as her mother, and an unidentified George as his younger sibling. His elder sister was named Mary who was four years older than he, but we do not know where she was at the time of his lynching or while he was alive in Stanton. We do not know how he came from Hines County, Mississippi, to Stanton, Alabama, but we believe he either worked for the Ruckers or for someone near them. Other than the obvious, that of the systematic cover up of lynching victims, these men were forgotten and were quick to be forgotten for such a heinous crime. With a clean confession, more evidence than most lynching victims had, it was easy for the community to rally together in a murderous rage in order to exact retribution for the late Mrs. Rucker. These men were described very animalistic. Some of the newspaper descriptions include depicting Lewis Hendricks as a “black devil” and Seddon and George as “black brutes”.[19] They were also described as lying in wait for the white woman to pass by before they would jump on her. These descriptions removed the humanity of these men. Descriptions of men like this allowed for these white communities to come to terms with these inhuman killings by portraying these men as monstrous as possible. The lynchings were also described as avenging the white woman. The specific choice of words by these white newspapers illustrates these men as nothing more than animals. Although written almost exclusively for and by white people, newspaper clippings were the most helpful of all the sources to retell the stories of these men. To be sure, the newspapers typically painted the picture of hardened, dangerous, full-grown “burley black brutes” who “waylaid” the supposed victim when they described George, Seddon, and Hendricks. In actuality, they were young, probably teenage, boys. Hendricks was even described as being 150 pounds in one article, proving that his small frame was very different from the angry, animalistic picture being painted by most local and national news outlets. While the way the stories were framed and the language used was certainly slanted, the clippings were a huge help in getting a general story and timeline together for the lynching victims and the story around them. In some cases, like Seddon’s, newspaper clippings on the lynching were the only records that could be found on the victim. From there, Ancestry.com played an important role in finding out backstory and genealogy for George and Hendricks. There were no genealogical records found on Seddon. This assisted in framing the story in a way that showed the true age and family background of the lynching victims, giving them an element of basic humanity that is missing from white newspapers. After this realization, we were able to find a plethora of sources in which we could research for Abram Seddon and William George. Through marriage records and censuses from 1880, 1910, and 1930 and other genealogical research, we discovered that the white woman killed was named either Mary Foshee or Ann Foshee. We also used church records from local Baptist and Methodist churches, and while we were able to find family most likely connected to the wife and husband, there was no information on the two of them. We were fortunate to be able to find genealogical information on two of the three black lynching victims, but they did not seem to have a wife or family of their own. These victims’ young age also makes it difficult to tell much information about these men because they did not have the ability to live a full life. Next, we also went to Elmore County as well as Montgomery County where one of the victims was from. We went to these counties because these were the counties that Lewis Hendrick is believed to have been murdered. In Elmore County we combed through their records database in search of any trace of Lewis Hendricks or the men from the mob that lynched him. We found one article that described the hunting abilities and sobriety of one of the men in the mob. In Montgomery County, we found no new information, but had a productive conversation on the history of racial terror lynchings and our specific victims with Head Archivist, Dallas Hanbury. Because of all of this, we were able to place a physical location with the described locations of the lynching of Hendricks. Finally, we located the local newspaper from Chilton County, The Union-Banner, but the year of the lynchings, 1894, was missing within the microfilm records.  This missing piece of our research is symptomatic of a larger problem of this research. We can find certain pieces of information, but often one piece of evidence brings to light two missing pieces or conflicts with another piece of evidence. The brunt of research done on these lynching victims was performed by extensively combing databases such as Newspapers.com for articles related to the murder of Mrs. Rucker, the names of Bill George, Abe Seddon, and Lewis Hendricks, the dates surrounding the lynchings, and the geographic areas around the lynchings. We also researched Ancestry.com, ProQuest newspaper database, the Tuscaloosa Public Library, the Hoole Special Collections Library at The University of Alabama, the local records and archives offices in Elmore County and Montgomery County, and the actual site of the Hendricks lynching. We also requested microfilm of local newspapers from the area, however, papers from 1894 were missing from the State of Alabama’s Archives and Records. The biggest challenge in our research was separating the three lynching victims in order to properly convey an individual story for each of them. Almost all of our sources from newspapers included all three men in each article, rarely giving a narrative that was singular to George, Seddon, or Hendricks. While the story of Lewis Hendricks was separated more by the four day period between deaths, it was impossible to tell his story without providing a context and legacy that included George and Seddon. This meant we had to take on the challenge of telling their stories as one, but memorializing them in a way that honored them individually for the racial terror violence that ended their lives. Another challenge presented to our group was finding out who the unknown persons found in Mulberry Creek in early April were. Because of multiple articles we discovered, we have concluded that the bodies found were most likely those of George and Seddon. While it is never a sure thing, especially with the whitewashed newspapers of the late nineteenth century, the evidence overwhelmingly points to the unnamed victims being the two men accused of the murder of Ms. Rucker. This presented a difficulty in deciding whether to document these unnamed victims as being George and Seddon, as we did not want to take the memorialization away from two racial terror lynching victims. With this in mind, we decided to state that it is likely that the unnamed men are George and Seddon, but wanted to ensure we touched on the sensitivity of this area of our research and leave the door open for further investigation by future historians. Throughout all the articles we read, the main theme from the aftermath of this crime and lynching was, how could something like this happen in the small town of Stanton. Not only the lynching but the ideology and absolute cultural power behind it. Jesse Rucker and his posse of neighbors and friends acted as judge, jury, and executioner and killed with full impunity. William, Abram, and Lewis were young Alabamians who had their lives ripped away from them. These men felt as if they were standing in defiance of the lawless and uncivilized blacks like Seddon, George, and Hendricks. In actuality, these men were perpetuating a larger system of racial prejudice and violence against these men without due process. We may never know what the true impact the legacies these violent acts left on the families of the victims, but we can catch a small glimpse of the impact it had on the community through select news articles that attempt to describe the aftermath of this crime. Two months after the crime, when the bodies of Seddon and George were found floating in Mulberry Creek, the Kellog’s Wichita Record remarked that after the incident, no unemployed negro may stop in that portion of the County without a letter of recommendation. The white reactions to the murders are frozen in the newspaper clippings from the period. Our work is meant to supersede the writings of the white editors of the late 19th century. Our work is meant to stand in true defiance of these erroneous claims made in these newspapers. Prior to our work, the only thing recorded about these men was their gruesome murder of a young white woman. But now our research stands in opposition to this viewpoint by showing how these young men were unjustly murdered without due process and their murders were used to justify further racial prejudice in the town long after they died. This research is in defiance of effort by white men in power in areas like Alabama during the 19th century and we hope that one day, more information on men like this is discovered to tell the truth about their lives. This is an image of EJI's soil sample jar for Abram Seddon and William George. This is an image of the EJI Soil Sample Jar of the two unknown victims presumed to Abram Seddon and William George   [1] “”The Shelby Sentinel (Calera, Alabama) Feb 22, 1894.; [2] “Both Were Lynched,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, MO), Feb. 18, 1894.; “Enraged Mob Still Shooting Negroes for the Rucker Murder.” Estherville Daily News (Esterville, IA), Mar 1, 1894.; “Two lives for one taken by mob” The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La) Feb. 18, 1894; “The Third Negro Lynched.” The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, AL), Feb. 21, 1894; [3] “Two lives for one taken by mob” The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La) Feb. 18, 1894. [4] “Two lives for one taken by mob” The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La) Feb. 18, 1894. [5] Ibid. [6]  “Both Were Lynched,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, MO), Feb. 18, 1894. [7]  “Both Were Lynched,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, MO), Feb. 18, 1894. [8] “Two lives for one taken by mob” The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La) Feb. 18, 1894. [9] Ibid. [10] “Both Were Lynched,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, MO), Feb. 18, 1894. [11] Ibid. [12] Ibid. [13] “Both Were Lynched,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat (St. Louis, MO), Feb. 18, 1894.; “Another Negro Lynched-Foreigner Buneoed- A Suspect Arrested” The Times Picayune (Piedmont, AL), Feb. 20, 1894.; “One Alone Was Guilty” Weekly Oregon Statesman (Salem, Oregon) Feb 23, 1894; “At Least One Innocent Man Lynched” Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pa) Feb. 19, 1894; “Double Lynching.” The Daily Item. (Sunbury, PA). Feb 20, 1894.; “Mrs. Rucker’s Murder Avenged” The Kearney Daily Hub (Kearney, Ne) Feb. 19, 1894; “Brutal Murder Avenged” The Daily Democrat (Huntington, In) Feb. 19,1894. [14] “Strung Up! Two Black Brutes Lynched” The Standard Gauge (Brewton, Al) Feb. 22, 1894. [15] “The Third Negro Lynched” Chattanooga Daily Times (Chattanooga, Tn) Feb. 21, 1894. [16] “Two Negros Lynched” Kellogg’s Wichita Record (Wichita, Ks) Apr. 7, 1894.; “Of Course They Were Lynched” Buffalo Evening News (Buffalo, New York) April 06, 1894.; “” Tuskaloosa Gazette (Tuscaloosa, AL), March. 01, 1892. [17] “Of Course, They Were Lynched” Buffalo Evening News (Buffalo, New York) April 06, 1894. [18] “Of Course, They Were Lynched” Buffalo Evening News (Buffalo, New York) April 06, 1894.; “Another Negro Lynched-Foreigner Buneoed- A Suspect Arrested” The Times Picayune (Piedmont, AL), Feb. 20, 1894. [19] “Strung Up! Two Black Brutes Lynched” The Standard Gauge (Brewton, Al) Feb. 22, 1894.