Hung at Sylvan : Chris McAlpine and John Jackson Two Negro Desperados Strung Up : Masked Men Overpowered the Guards and did the Work : A Complete Report from the Scene of the Tragedy

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: Tuskaloosa Gazette
Place of publication: Tuskaloosa, AL
Date of publication: 1892-02-12

HUNG AT SYLVAN; Chris McAlpine and John Jackson Two Negro Desperados Strung Up; MASKED MEN OVERPOWERED THE GUARDS AND DID THE WORK. A Complete Report from the Scene of the Tragedy.

SYLVAN, ALA, Feb. 12—[Special to the Gazette]— Thinking that you might be grateful for a news item, and not wishing the people of Foster’s best to be mispresented in the smallest particular by and casual information, we send you the following:

On Monday night last, while everyone was buried in the deep response of the midnight hour the citizens of Sylvan were startled by a terrific explosion. Springing from their beds, and alarmed at they know not what, they rushed from their houses to discover the store house of Mr. David S. Robertson in flames. On arriving at the spot, it was found that all efforts to wave any thing would be unavailing (achieving little or nothing). That the store had been set on fire was a self evident fact; as there had been no fire in it for several days, and not even a light had been in the store that night. As this was the second incendiary fire here in less than two months, the people of our usually quiet beat were aroused and it was determined it possible to discover the authors of this dastardly (wicked and cruel) deed.

Early Tuesday morning, bolts of goods were discovered by a negro boy at the foot of a tree not far from the store and upon examination tracks were found which led off towards the Warrior Swamp. There were followed by Morris, T.C. Willingham, D. Robertson, and J.W. Dubois, while other messengers were sent in all directions to give the alarm. With the [?] of old hounds, they followed the trail, till it ended at the river opposite the notorious Gary quarters. A boat was called for and after getting one third or the way across the river, its occupant, doubtless smelling a mouse, quickly backed water and made with all haste for the opposite bank.

The pursuing party thinking to stop the boat sent a load of squirre shot after its occupant, who proved to be the notorious desperate and thief Jno Jackson, colored who leaped into the water, and king his way up the slippery bluff, made off with the fleetness of a deer. Obtaining another boat this party gut across and soon began a vigorous search . Proceeding first to Jacksons house, their efforts rewarded by finding a large quantity of goods which Mr. R, immediately recognized as his property. Convinced that Jackson had not been alone, they continued their search and were amply repaid for their trouble, for they found another large batch of goods in the house of Charles McAlpine, Alias Skelton, Here the party divided, and while a a portion of the men who had their homes and children in pursuit of the friends in human shape, continued their pursuit of Jackson, two of the party returned to Sylvan, having  Charles McAlipine in charge. Al night the weary men continued and about 8 o’clock Wednesday morning they captured Jackson at Stewarts Station. Both prisoners protested their innocence at first, but after finding that the proof was positive against them (as Jacksons wife had previously given away the whole thing) Charles wavered and made a clean breast of the whole plot. Jackson was the leader, and after robbing the store poured kerosene oil over the floor and remaining goods and set fire to them. The prisoners had a preliminary trial before Esquire Townsend, when both entered a plea of guilty, and were held over to away the action of the next grand jury.

Thursday morning any person vending his way down to where the upper and lower Eutaw roads for, half a mile from Sylvan would have beheld a sight calculated to appall the stoutest heart; swinging from a stout oak limb were the lifeless bodies of John Jackson and Charles McAlpine. Upon the back of each was pinned a place card and as their ghastly bodies swayed in the morning sun light the beholder read the following: “Warning to all house burners”: and “Protection to our Property”.

A corners jury was quickly empaneled by Esq. Townsend and the following information was elicited The guards of the prisoners, Mr C. L Hulsey, bonded constable and Mr. Jno T. witnessed testified that sometime during Wednesday night they were visited by a hand of armed men, all in masks who overpowered them and took the prisoners away. Under the excitement of the moment they could only form a faint idea of their number, but they estimated them at fifty at the least. Who they were or where they come from is a matter of mystery; but they certainly must have been a very quiet and orderly band, for no one heard anything unusual during the night to disturb the slumbers. Verily it seems that the way of the house burner proved to be a “hard road to travel”.

While we ? have sympathized with mob law, except in extreme circumstances, yet talking cool dispassionate view of this case we think the “end justified the means”.

Mr. Robertson’s house and stock will be a total loss and amounts to thousands, certainly a severe blow to a hard working man to these times. Our people have been in a state of [?] ever since Mr. Guy Fosters store was burned Xmas night. At their trial, the prisoner confessed that about a year ago they had robbed Messere Philer and Smiths store at HuHs. We can but repeat, let this be a warning to house burners and midnight torch bearers.


1892. Feb 12. Store Burned. Tuskaloosa Gazette. Vol XX 74.