“The Opp Riot”

Source Type: Newspaper
Publisher: The Elba Clipper
Place of publication: Elba, Alabama
Date of publication: 12/12/1901 0:00
Source URL: View Source

THE OPP RIOT. Condensed Story of Thrilling Happenings at Opp as Told By Sheriff Bradshaw to Montgomery Advertiser Reporter. Tuesday’s Advertiser. Nine of the twenty-five negroes arrested for killing J. W. Dorsey and seriously wounding Town Marshal Fate Atkinson of Opp, last Wednesday, were ordered to jail without bail at Andalusia yesterday after a preliminary hearing and six of them were brought to Montgomery last night and lodged in the county jail. Three others in jail at Geneva. Sixteen of the negroes were discharged. Sheriff J. T. Bradshaw of Covington county, who brought the negroes to Montgomery, reports that the situation at Andalusia and Opp is quiet and that Marshal Atkinson is still alive. The negroes were brought to Montgomery by Sheriff Bradshaw, W. S. Prestwood and G. W. Dun-son, Deputy Sheriffs. One of the negroes, Frank Davis, is so badly wounded that he had to be brought to Montgomery on a stretcher and it is expected that he will die. He is said to have been one of the leaders of the party of negroes which attacked Marshal Atkinson – and he was riddled with bullets by the arresting posse. The military company sent to Andalusia from Greenville remained there until the trial of the negroes yesterday morning and returned to Greenville on the same train which transported Sheriff Bradshaw, his deputies and their prisoners to Montgomery. The Sheriff reached Montgomery with the prisoners about 6 o’clock. The negroes in the Montgomery jail are Dick Davis, Edwin Powell, Tom English, Jeff Taylor, Emanuel Casty and Frank Davis. The negroes in the Geneva county jail are Bud McIntosh, Will Chatman and an unknown negro. These negroes will remain in jail until a special term of the circuit court of Covington county can be convened to give them a trial. In an interview with a representative of the Advertiser Sheriff Bradshaw gave a complete history of the Covington county trouble. “Wednesday evening five negroes, Dick Davis, Frank Davis, Sam Carter, Will Chatman and Dave Morrison, went to Opp,” said Sheriff Bradshaw: “The negroes had been drinking whiskey. They were employed at the turpentine still of Rozier and Williams about a half mile from Opp and they went up to the little town to make trouble. Remarking that they had come up there to ‘do the town up,’ they got into a difficulty with Joe Stanley, a young white man. The negroes presented pistols and raised a general disturbance, after which they returned to their shanties at the turpentine still. “Stanley reported the matter to Fate Atkinson, the town marshal, who deputized Joe Stanley, J. W. Dorsey, John Fitzsimmons and Marcus Snow, prominent citizens of the town, to go with him to arrest the negroes. “When the arresting party, led by Marshal Atkinson, got near the shanty they discovered there was a big crowd of negroes there. About the time the marshal’s posse got within fifteen- or twenty feet of the shanty the negroes opened fire. Then the shooting began from both sides. Wilson Dorsey fell. He was killed almost instantly. Marshal Atkinson was the next to receive a fatal wound, but he was game and called to his men to go after the negroes. Fitzsimmons was badly wounded in two places in the right leg. Two negroes, Jim Hippens and an unknown were killed. It was in this fight that Frank Davis, the negro whom we brought to Montgomery, was dangerously wounded. He may die. About 8 o’clock Wednesday night I received a telegram from Earl Boyett, a young merchant at Opp, which is about fifteen miles south of Andalusia, advising me of the shooting and asking me to go there with deputies and bring my blood hounds. There was no train and I took my men and my dogs and went through the country reaching Opp about midnight. At daylight the next morning we went to the negro shanty and captured several of the negroes. A number of them had left for the woods and I put my dogs and men on their trail. It was nip and tuck all day between the deputies and men who wanted to lynch the negroes. We ran three of the negroes sixteen miles through swamps and pine forests and captured them within three miles of Elba in Coffee county. Another negro, Dick Davis, believed to have been one of the leaders of the party which assaulted the town marshal, was chased by the dogs several miles into the swamp. They lost his trail and he made a complete circuit of more than a mile, hiding within a few hundred feet of the shanty, where his brother, Frank Davis, was lying seriously wounded. The dogs got so close on his trail that he raised up out of a big bunch of grass and surrendered to the deputies. The dogs and deputies chased Bud McIntosh, Will Chatman and another negro southward in the direction of Geneva and captured them. The mob was between them and Opp and had them cut off from the rest of my party and the deputies exercised excellent discretion by taking the three negroes to the Geneva jail, where they are now confined. Geneva is thirty-five miles south of Opp. We put the negroes in the calaboose at Opp as fast as we rounded them up and kept them heavily guarded to prevent an outbreak or other trouble. When we had caught twenty-two of the negroes we took them to the jail in Andalusia. Only two of those who had been active in the assault upon the marshal escaped. They are Sam Carter and Dave Morrison. They are still at large. Citizens of Opp are looking for them and I fear there will be trouble if they are caught. It will require good work on our part to keep them from being lynched. When I got the prisoners in the jail at Andalusia I put on extra deputies and took extraordinary precautions to protect the negroes. The jail is secure, but there is no jail yard and the building is easy of approach. There was no semblance of trouble Thursday night, although we carefully guarded the jail throughout the night. Friday morning I telegraphed the Governor that everything was quiet. Soon after sending this telegram I received information through one of the most reliable citizens of Opp that a mob of one hundred determined men was organized; that they would be heavily armed and that they would attack the Andalusia jail Friday night. I felt that we should not take chances and as the information was so direct and reliable I wired the Governor asking for soldiers. I believe now that their arrival alone saved Covington county from a great tragedy. Solicitor R. H. Parks, of Troy, reached Andalusia Friday night, coming there upon my request through the Governor, and we decided to have the preliminary trials of the negroes Monday morning. This was agreeable to the Solicitor and the trials took place this morning before L. J. Salter and J. M. Snead, Justices of the Peace. In his speech Solicitor Parks said that he would ask the Governor to call a special term of the circuit court so that the negroes might have a speedy trial. Sixteen or the negroes were released and were taken in charge by their employers, Rozier and Williams.” “Do you fear any further trouble on account of these negroes being released?” Sheriff Bradshaw was asked. “Candidly, I do,” the sheriff replied. “Feeling is running high at Opp and if they return there tonight there is no telling what may happen. I arranged for deputies to go there in a hurry before I left home today.” Sheriff Bradshaw is a big man of intelligence. He has keen piercing eyes and a direct and convincing manner of speech. He does not hesitate when he tells that he meant to protect his prisoners at all hazards and the Covington county mob probably knew that he was a man of his word when the question of storming the jail was under consideration. . “The Governor expressed himself as well satisfied with the manner in which you handled the case,” the sheriff was told. “I’m glad to hear that,” replied Sheriff Bradshaw. “We had to exercise considerable skill and activity to escape trouble before leaving Opp but after we got the negroes in jail I meant to keep them there, and I did.” An Earlier Account of the Opp Affair. Andalusia, Dec. 6.—Three negroes killed at Opp is the day’s development in the race riot following the shooting by the negro desperadoes of Marshal Fayette Atkinson’s party Wednesday night. They were killed by a party of men who had been hunting for them with dogs. The blacks resisted arrest and were shot down. The military company from Greenville came in tonight and immediately surrounded the jail, where the twenty-five negroes are confined. Sheriff Bradshaw declared the town under martial law, and turned the place over to the troops, with Captain Arthur Gamble in charge. The company reported to the Sheriff on orders from Governor Jelks, who had been informed by the sheriff that a mob was forming at Opp to march to Andalusia and slaughter the prisoners. So far the mob has not put in an appearance, but it is expected before morning. Captain Gamble and Sheriff Bradshaw are determined to protect the prisoners, even if extreme measures are required. A dramatic incident is being related by those who participated in the chase of the negroes last night. It is said that blood hounds ran down four of the negroes who had fled to the woods. One of the number, after running several miles with dogs and armed men close at his heels, suddenly stopped when the pursuers had nearly reached him. Turning his face toward his would-be-captors, he pulled a pistol from his pocket and blew out his own brain, falling dead in his tracks just as the foaming dogs sprang at him. The negroes have become terrified at the killing of six of their number. They have pulled out from the township of Opp. Messengers who arrived tonight from the new town report that not a negro is to be seen within a radius of ten miles of the place. The messengers also say that Marshal Atkinson, who was reported dead last night, is still alive, though there are but slight hopes of his recovery. John Fitzsimmons, who was shot in the legs at the time Marshal Atkinson was shot, is resting easy, and will recover. The body of J. W. Dorsey, who was killed by the negroes, was buried today. There is much sincere grief at the death of this prominent citizen. The entire county is up in arms against the negroes and there is a general feeling that the trouble is not yet over, in spite of the fact that the military is on the scene. If the men from Opp, who have sworn to kill the twenty-five negro prisoners, arrive in town, there is serious trouble ahead, for they are determined men, just as determined, perhaps, as the authorities who are gathered here to protect the prisoners. The sum total of the riot’s results so far is as follows : One white man killed, J. W. Dorsey. Two whites desperately wounded, Marshal Atkinson and John Fitzsimmons. Six negroes killed. Several negroes desperately wounded. Entire negro population driven out of Opp.