A Warning to House Burners; Summary Justice Dealt Out to Sylvan Incendiaries;Their Crime Expiated at the end of a Rope

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: Tuscaloosa Times
Place of publication: Tuscaloosa, AL
Date of publication: 1892

“A Warning to House Burners.”


Summary Justice Dealt Out to the Sylvan Incendiaries.


Their Crime Expiated at the End of a Rope


From Friday’s Daily.

A quletus has probably been given to robbery and arson in the Sylvan neighborhood, for some time to come, at least.

It has been but a few weeks since the store of Mr. Guy Foster, in that neighborhood, was plundered and burned to the ground.

On last Monday night the store of Mr. D. S. Robertson met with a like fate. Circumstances pointed to the fact that the same parties engineered both robberies.

They will participate in no more affairs of like character.

Here are the details:

On Monday night thieves forced entrance into the Robertson store at Sylvan, by first cutting a hole through the window large enough to admit a hand, and then reaching in and withdrawing the key to the bar that held the shitter fast. Once inside the store the robbers first removed to the outside as many articles of various kinds as they could carry, and returning to the store saturated the floor with kerosene and applying a match to it, departed with their plunder.

They had gone but a short distance when the[y] discovered that the fire had gone out, and they returned and made a second attempt to kindle a blaze, and this time they were successful; and in a short time the store and its uninsured contents were converted into ash.

Early the next morning the thieves were traced to the river by a [group] of citizens. The boat being on the opposite side of the river the white men fear if they signaled for it the negroes on the other side would take flight, so they had a negro was in the passing party step to the bank and signal for the boat. In response to the call, John Johnson, one of the negroes suspected, entered the boat and pulled towards the pursuers. When about midway of the [stream] he suddenly turned the boat, and [disregarding] the order to come back pulled for the shore he started from. A loud shot fire at him struck him in the wrist, when he jumped into the river and swam ashore.

The trailers soon succeeded in crossing the river, where they captured Johnson and another negro named Charles McKelton, and recovered the stolen goods.

The men confessed their guilt.

They were being guarded by two men, when, as night came on a number of persons, heavily masked appeared upon the scene and after overpowering the guards, [they] appeared towards the swamp with the prisoners. The next morning the lifeless bodies of the negroes were found dangling from a limb. A placard was pinned to the back of each, one bearing the inscription “Protection to our home!” the other “Warning to house burners!”

Esq. A.J. Townsend empaneled a jury and held an inquest yesterday, developing the facts substantially as we have given them. The jury found that the men came to their death at the hands of parties unknown.



1892, Feb. 12. A Warning to House Burners. Tuscaloosa Times, pp. 968. Vol 62.