“Race Riot At Opp.”

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: The Standard Gauge
Place of publication: Brewton, Alabama
Date of publication: 12/12/1901 0:00

RACE RIOT AT OPP. Three Men Killed. Friends of Dorsey Swear to Avenge His Death. Military on Duty.
Andalusia, Ala., Dec. 5.—A special to the Montgomery Advertiser says: Lynching by the wholesale may occur here tomorrow, for over one hundred men of Covington county have sworn to avenge by death the murder of Marshal Fate Atkinson and J. W. Dorsey, of Opp, who were slain last night by negroes whom they were trying to arrest. If these men keep their oath, twenty-five negroes who are in jail here suspected of complicity in the murder, may be swinging from trees when the sun goes down.
The tragedy at Opp was one of the fearful affairs that occasionally break out in seemingly peaceful communities to transform men into savages and to startle commonwealths into the belief that the black and white man cannot live side by side without the perpetual danger of blood shed, and that by the wholesale.
From an insignificant incident of a stolen pistol this outrageous affair has grown into a race war, in which four men have already been killed, and some twenty-five or thirty negroes are now quaking in the shadow of a terrible death at the rope’s end, and hundreds are burning to dye their hands in human blood; while the whole county is torn with terror—women with blanched faces stay close within their homes and men look to their guns with grim determination stamped plainly upon their countenances; while the sullen negroes muttering threats to burn homes and turpentine stills, gather in groups and refuse to return to work any more.
The county authorities with dozens of deputies soon gathered there to protect the prisoners and at the same time to protect property from the threatened destruction by the negroes.
Marshal Atkinson was notified that a negro had stolen a pistol from a white man and had baricaded himself in the turpentine quarters about Opp. The marshal knowing the desperate character of this negro summoned three deputies, one of whome was J. W. Dorsey, a prominent merchant and councilman of Opp; another, Jno. D. Fitzsimmons, and went to the house where the negro was in hiding; also fifteen other negroes who had assembled in the same house to protect their fellow workman from arrest, having armed themselves with pistols and Winchester rifles, the entire crowd being under the influence of liquor.
As Atkinson and his men advanced on the house the door was thrown open and the negroes rushed out of the cabin and swore that none of their number should be arrested. When the marshal and his party were about fifty feet from the crowd, suddenly a burly negro stepped forward and leveled his rifle at the white men. There was a sharp report, a stream of fire illumined the darkness and the marshal staggered back, falling against one of the deputies, being shot through the breast. “Fire on them boys,” Mr. Atkinson gasped, “they want to kill us all,” at the same time drawing his pistole, firing as long as he could, his companions following his lead. Atkinson emptied his pistol and then sank to the ground.
The negroes soon scattered at the first fire of the officers, with the exception of two, which had been hit, and were dead when found by the posse. The fleeing negroes fired as they ran, one of their bullets hitting Mr. Dorsey, he expiring in a few seconds; another stray bullet hit Mr. Fitzsimmons in the leg and while he was falling another one pierced his hip, but he continued to shoot while down, the other deputy standing by him firing all the time, wounding two of the negroes, who were found later, by the posse with blood hounds, in a critical condition. The deputy who escaped unhurt soon spread the news of the fight and in a short time the town was wild with excitement, and men went to the scene removing the wounded officers to comfortable places, carrying Dorsey’s body to his home, after which they began to form for pursuit of the negroes, a message being sent to Andalusia and Sheriff Bradshaw with his dogs arriving at Opp at once. One by one the negroes were overtaken, by a party of over (25) white men, until about (21) negroes were captured who are supposed to be the ring leaders, carrying them to Andalusia jail.
LATER—Sheriff J. T. Bradshaw telegraphed Gov. Jelks of the situation asking for military assistance and the Greenville company was ordered out and have been on duty at Andalusia ever since Saturday. At present everything is quiet at Opp. The negroes had a trial last Monday.
Marshal Atkinson is still alive, but is very low.
At the trial Monday of the negro rioters, nine of the twenty-five were ordered to jail without bail at Andalusia, and six of them were taken to Montgomery and lodged in the county jail. There are three others in jail at Geneva. Sixteen of the negroes, after the preliminary hearing, were discharged as it was shown that they had nothing to do with the killing of Dorsey and the serious wounding of Marshal Atkinson. One of the negroes, Frank Davis, is so badly wounded that he had to be carried to Montgomery on a stretcher and it is thought he will die. He was the foremost man in attacking Marshal Atkinson, and he was riddled with bullets by the arresting posse. The military company remained there until after the trial of the negroes, returning home Monday, The negroes in the Montgomery jail will remain there until a special term of the circuit court of Covington county can be convened to give them a trial. Everything is now quiet at Opp and Andalusia.