|Place of publication:||Florence, AL|
|Date of publication:||3/29/1907|
Negro assailant shot by citizens. Unwritten the executed with fearful effect after two days unrelenting search for desperate criminal. With his wrists encircled by handcuffs and his body drawn taut with a rope to the limb of a pine Tree, Cleveland Hardin, a Negro, paid the penalty of his life on Sunday afternoon last for a crime perpetrated on a white lady on the Friday before a crime that shot our community and aroused it to a pitch of excitement seldom if ever experienced in the history of our county. The crime for which harden forfeited his life was committed upon the person of Mrs. Ida Rice, wife of Mr. Ben F. Rice, one of our most widely known and popular citizens. It occurred at 1 o’clock on Friday and from that time until Sunday night practically every able bodied man for miles around the place where the tragedy was enacted was in the field manhunting or were present at the execution of the unwritten law That the man who assaults a woman should pay the extreme penalty with his life. The scene of the tragedy. And it’s tragic close was at a near the home of Mr. Rice 7 miles west of Florence and 3 miles south of Oakland. Hardin had been employed by Mr. Rice since last October, where at the solicitation of the Negro’s family he had paid his fine of $20 which had been adjudged against him for fighting at a Negro picnic near Oakland. He had made a good hand and no exception had been made against his conduct up to the advance here recorded. On Friday, Hardin came in from his work at the dinner hour. He appeared before Mrs. Rice, he was in the hall, and asked her the time of day. She replied that it was about 1 o’clock. The Negro then with desperate ferocity jumped at her and threw her down. struggling ensued, Mrs. Rice succeeding and getting up several times. In the angry struggle that seem to Mrs. Rice interminably long time, Hardin threatened a number of times to kill her to stop her screaming. Her heavy fall however dazed her and in this condition she was dragged from the hall into one of the rooms adjoining. Here the struggle was again resumed, in which nearly all of the ladies clothing was torn from her body. At this stage the unfortunate lady thought of the shepherd dog and called him. The animal responded to the call, and this diverted the attention of the man, when she escaped and fled to the road a distance of probably 100 yards, the Negro followed her here Mrs. Rice started for her nearest neighbors. Mr. R. T. Kimbrough’s; And the man fled in another direction through the fields after calling out to ask her where she was going. Mrs. Rogers proceeded to the home of Mr. Kimbrough, who’s two sons met her and immediately started to give the alarm when going after the culprit and the other to inform the neighbors and notify Mr. Rice, he was in Florence at the time, acting as one of the Bailiffs of the court. Mr. Rice was informed of the outrages he was returning home. Hundreds of men quickly responded to the call for assistance and soon the country was being scoured for the Negro. In the meantime bloodhounds were sent for on arrived from Lawrenceburg Tennessee on the night train. Showing however to the indisposition of the man in charge the trail could not be taken up at once and their work was delayed until Saturday morning. Much valuable time was lost and the hunt preceded all through Saturday and Saturday night. It was discovered that Harden had spent the night (Friday) at the home of his uncle Phil Kirkman within 2 1/2 miles of the scene of a crime but his whereabouts all day Saturday or unknown. On Sunday morning early the Negro appeared at the wharf at the Florence Bridge and helped to tie up the steamer American which hadjust arrived. Finding that the boat was to remain here and that he was recognized (by Mr. Tom Mitchem) he quickly retired across the McFarland bottoms into the Hillcountry beyond. The officers uptown were immediately notified by telephone and a hot pursuit followed the hills and valleys between the city and Cypress Creek soon being covered with armed and determined men and the dogs were brought into play and follow the trail of the fugitive he had a crossed Gunwale Ford Road skirted along the fairgrounds we cross the road again under the piers of the bridge, went down the creek a short distance, and then turned his steps towards Florence. At about 2 o’clock the fremost followers sighted the man on top of the second hill south of the road squatted down behind a small clump of bushes. He was ordered to throw up his hands which he probably did, with no show of resistance whatever. He was the pitiable object of terror with his clothing in bad shape from his fight through the brush of the woods. The signal for the discovery was the firing of guns in many shots right now on the steel air of the otherwise peaceful Sunday the man was hardly taken over the Gunwale Ford and Reserve roads near the scene of his crime. The crowds accumulating with marvelous rapidity as he was borne along. Arrived at Mr. Rice‘s home a period of waiting ensued until that gentleman could arrive, he having gone in another direction. At this time the crowd had swelled to between 600 and 1,000 nearly every man of prominence in all that section of country being present. The crowd was cool but determined. There was not a drunken man in the big assembly and there was no wild boisterous demonstration. It had its leaders: they were allowed to lead and direct, and there was no interference with them. It was determined that the man should be shot, that it should be done in an orderly manner, and that aside from that there should be no mutilation the body and that it should be turned over to his kinsman and friends. The man was tied as described in the first paragraph of this article with his feet on the ground. He was asked if he had anything to say and he made the request that his body be given to his family. He confessed that he was the guilty man both when first captured and again when on the ground of his execution. He was given an opportunity to pray, and dropped into a praying position for several minutes. He had little to say at anytime after his capture. The crowd was then cleared for a space of 30 or 40 yards, and two shots rang out. These were followed quickly by 10 or 15 more and then a fusillade followed of rifles pistols and shotguns. Many shots went wild, but enough hit the mark to completely riddle the body it is said that from 1000 to 1500 shots were fired the body. Sheriff Young and Deputy Dowdy, who were active in the search for Hardin, were not present when he was captured. They follow the crowd, when they learned of the event and overtaking at 6 miles from the city they hastily rode up and started to dismount before they were safely on the ground, they were seized and disarmed, the fixed determination of the crowd told them plainly that the rescue of the prisoner was impossible. They went with the crowd, but we’re not permitted to offer any assistance to the negro. After the shooting Deputy Dowdy cut the body down. No violence was offered hard from the time of his capture until he was shot. After the lenders left it it said it was mutilated by the amputation of certain portions of the body. The night before an incident that occurred on the night previous to this assault on Mrs. Roche of the preconcerted intention of the man. After she had retired, with a lady who was teaching school in the neighborhood, a tugging at the bed clothing was noticed and the ladies were frightened. “Cleveland” was called and promptly appeared. They suspicioned him at the time and discussed sending for Mr. Rice, but decided it must have been the dog that was in the room. The negro. Cleveland Hardin, the song of Peter Hardin, a well-behaved colored man, who lived near oakland was about 24 years of age, and was a rather small negro. He had a large bump on his back, caused from an incident to him when a young man. Then years ago he was in jail fro six months for breaking into the store of Mr. R. C. Smith. Last Fall he was arrested for fighting at a Negro picnic near Oakland and fined $20 and the costs. He was a man of average intelligence among his race. His Victim. Mrs. Rice is a daughter of the late Edmond Winborn of Gravelly Springs and is Mr Rice’s second wife. She is about 32 years of age and is of medium strength and weight. She is one of the best ladies in our county, a faithful wife and thoughtful and kind neighbor, and held in the highest esteem. Her condition since the attempt on her life has been distressing in the extreme. THe shock to her was fearful and from it she still suffers, though her life is in no danger from it. Her husband brought her to Florence Monday where she has been since with kinsmen–Mr. C. W. Young and Mr. W. P. Rice. Mr. Rice. Mr. Rice is profoundly grateful to his friends for their assistance and for their sympathy in the great trial that fell upon him. He and his good wife stand deservedly high among our people; and there have been universal expressions of sorrow and sympathy for them. From the beginning to the end he and his faithful brother, Winston P. Rice, one of our county commissioners, and one of our leading citizens, were together in the strenuous search and in the finale. The Moral of it All. The moral of this fearful story is one that all may head with purity, it relates to the irresistible power of that unwritten law which throws around our good women a protection stronger than the law itself. A power at once a protection to our homes and the conservation of the Christian social Fabric.
“Negro Assailant Shot By Citizens.” March 29, 1907. https://shoalsblackhistory.omeka.net/items/show/312.