Cowardly Was the Crime of a Band of Whitecaps

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: The Birmingham News
Place of publication: Birmingham, Alabama
Date of publication: 4/4/1895

Cowardly Was the Crime of a Band of Whitecaps In Elmore County. An Innocent Nigro Cruelly Murdered at His Own Home by Night. Six Men are Jailed. Three of Them Confessed All. Todays Montgomery Advertiser says: Six white cappers with blood of an innovent negro resting upon htem are now lying in hte jail in this city for safe keeping, awaiting justice to be met out to them when the Elmore Circut Court meets. They were arrested by a posse at their homes near Central Institute twelve miles from Wetumpka in Elmore County Wednesday afternoon and brought to the county prison that night. They were brought down here last night. Last Saturday night a week ago a band of whitecappers went to Rufus Swindler’s house, near Central Institute, dragged him out of bed into his yard and when he attempted to escape on of them men shot him dead. They then assaulted the victim;s wife wiht a bullet and threatened her to keep silent. The brutal murderer by the band of midnight marauders created intensee excitment in the community. A mass metting of the law-abiding citizens was held and it determined to hunt down the murderers at any cost and bring them to justice. Sheriff Sdberry of Elmore County on hearing of the murder set about with ever assistance to locate and arrest the murderers. No clue was found on which to start until Wednesday when one of the band made a clean breast to the crime. This led to the arrest of Josephus and Will Jowers, John Edwards, Jr., Luther Ingram, Alonzo Edwards, and John Morgan by a posse yesterday Luther Ingram and Will Jowers made a full confession in jail of the crime and those involved. Last night Sheriff Sedberry accompanied by Mr. A. E. Williams and others and the prisoners came down from Wetumpka or the purpose of placing the prisoners in jail here for safe-keeping since it was feared their friends would attempt to rescue them from custody in Elmore County. A reporter saw Sheriff Sedberry and asked him about the murder and arrests. He said that immediately after he had been notified of the murder, he set about to hunt down hte perpetrators. Wednesday he was in an extreme part of the county serving papers in a view of the coming term of court. He recieved at Deatville Wednesday a telegram from Mr. Williams to come to Wetumpka. This he did reaching there that day. Learning that Alonzo Edwards had come to Wetumpka that morning and have conessed everything about hte crim and that Mr. Williams had made up a posse and had gone to Central Institute to arrest the whtie capperes who committed the deed. Sheriff Sedberry set off immediately to Central Institute to join the posse. He met the posse and their five prisoners returning four miled away. All reached Wetumpka late that evening. The reporter then saw Mr. A. E Williams who together with Dr. O. S. Justive, of Central Institure and Tax Assesor J. T. Plott was active working up the case adn asked him of the affair. Mr Williamswas the special Coroner of the jury that held the inquest over the dead mans body. To him and the other two gentelemen directly due that credit of hte arrest of the white cappers. He relared the following story of hte murder: Wednesday morning about 4 o’clocl Alonzo Edwards, who is a boy 19 years old came to my room in Wetumpka, woke me up, and said he wanted to unboson himself to me. Alonzo said that at the solicitation of the captian, Josephus Jowers the band numbered sic, met in hte woods near Central Institute Saturday night a week ago and made up a fire so as to smut their faces. After having disguised themselves by blackening their faces, the captain required them all to sign a compact which provided the parties in the band were to ober the command of the captain and a failure to do which subjected any punsihment the captain might infict and the man who revealed any part of the proceedings of the plan should suffer death. Each man signed the law resenting himself by a number and allas. The captain was called the “Texas Jack” and antoher was “J.W. Black Jack” and others “Bum Frizzle,” “Blue Grass,” “Romsoses Red Bull,” etc. After signing the compact two of hte band– Will Jowers and Luther Ingram– tried to back out, but hte captain told them if they did death would be their lot. Theis the did not do; so all then proceeded to the hosue of Rufus Swindler near Central Institute arriving there about 10 o’clock two were ordered to break in the hosue. This done all rushed into the mans hosue one holding a bull’s eye lantern. They discovered Swindler and his wife in bed. They dragged hte poor negro from his bed and wife striking him two severe blows on the head. The victim then attempted to esxapre bu in vain for when he started to flee the captain ordered him to be fired upon. John Edwards immediately shot him through the heart causing instant death. The wife of the dead man was brough out and asked if she knew any of the crowd to which she answered in the negative. During the excitemtn she was strick on the head with a bullet to prevenet her cries from faint and distress. Being taken into the hosue she was enjoined to remain therein and told that the hosue would be gaureded. The band of whitecappers then left the place returning to their respective homes. After the band left the woman sipped from her hosue and when to Mr. Henry Stacey summoned several citizens and they remained there for the blance of the night. Next day the inquest was held by Special Coroner WIlliams over the dead mans body. The verdict being death at the hands of the unknown murderous band. The greatest excitment prvailed as the news spread. On Wedneaday following a mass meeting of the good citizens in the community was held and the perpetrators denounced in hte bitterest terms. Resolutions were passed to hunt dwoin the murderers and punish them. Mr Williams said further that when he learned the news he immediatly proceeded to organize and arm a posse. This done the posse set out from Wetumpka for Central Institute. Reaching there the men mentioned above were arrested. They offered no resistance. This created great excitement in and about that village. The prisoners were brought to Wetumpka and there placed in jail for safe keeping to await trial. Yesterday Will Jowers and Luther Ingram confessed. The others strongly deny the charges. Yesterday morning J. P. Edwards father Alonzo and C. M. Kitchen came down to Wetumpka to employ lawyers to defend the priosners at the coming rerm of the court there. They werealso arrested and placed in jaul here with the others. It is believed that they two knew something about the conspiracy. The bull’s eye lamp used to night the murder blonged to Kitchen. Luther Ingram, Will Jowers and Alonzo Edwards are just 20 years old. The captain of the band Josephus Jowers is Wills brother and a relative to the others. He is considered a dangerous man. He was arrested some time ago for whtiecapping but was acquitted on trial by the evidence of his friends. It is believed that there are about fifty of this band of whtie caps in Elmore County and that Josephus Joweres is captin of it. The United States officers have been after him from illicit distilling. In fact United States Deputy marshal B. W. Taylor was on of the posse which made the arrests Wednesday. Mr. Williams said the reason that Jowers and his band killed Swindler was that the latter had seen Jowers and thers of the anf at work in an illicit distillery and they wre afraig he would inform upon them and caise them ot be arrested. Another reason is found in a fdifficulty which Jowers vainly sought without provocation with Swindler. Alonzo Edwards in his confession to Mr. Williams said that Josephus Jowers told the band that night of the murder that they were just going to whip and scare Swindler not to kill him. The facts show that he gave the other to shoot the negro. Information is that the feeling aaisnt white capper priosner in Elmore is very bitter.


“Cowardly Was the Crime of a Band of Whitecaps.” The Birmingham News, (Birmingham, Alabama), April 4, 1895.