Primary Resource

"Lynch Law, Again," Richmond Dispatch (February 19, 1880)

In "Lynch Law, Again," published on February 19, 1880, the Richmond Dispatch reports on the lynching of Page Wallace, an African American who escaped from jail in Leesburg and then allegedly raped a white woman.

Transcription from Original

LYNCH LAW, AGAIN.

Page Wallace Swung Up to the Limb of a Sycamore Tree

just across the potomac river, on the virginia shore—details of the outrage and the lynching—the first shot.

[Special to the Baltimore American.]

Point of Rocks, February 17.—This neighborhood, already noted for its lynchings, added another to the list this evening by the summary hanging of Page Wallace, the negro who outraged a woman near here a short time ago. The lynching happened on the Virginia side of the river, where the crime was committed; but the lynchers, though Virginians, tracked their victim on Maryland soil, and only waited till her crossed the river before visiting upon him summary vengeance for his crime. This is the third lynching that has happened within a radius of ten miles within a year, and yet popular feeling in this locality seems very slow to condemn the lynchers, and condones the crimes. The first of these three was the lynching of the negro James Carroll, on April 17, 1879, for an outrage upon the person of the wife of Captain Richard Thomas, at Lickville. Carroll, it will be remembered, had fled to Washington, where he was captured. When he reached this place [i.e., Point of Rocks, Maryland], on the way to Frederick jail, he was taken from the car by a gang of masked men and strung up to the nearest tree. The second, which occurred but a trifle over a month ago, was the lynching of the negro George Peck at Pollesville, Montgomery county, on January 10th, for an outrage on the person of Ida Hays, a girl twelve years old, in a stable, where she was at work milking the cows. In this last case it can be truly said that the lynching had been expected, and few believed that Wallace, no matter how strongly guarded, would ever pass through this neighborhood alive.

page wallace's crime.

The crime for which Wallace was lynched was an outrage committed upon the person of Miss Mary Morman, January 29th, about half a mile from the river, in Loudoun county. He had been confined in the county jail at Leesburg since last fall on the charge of a similar crime upon a married woman. On the night of Tuesday, January 27th, he escaped from the jail and hastened toward the river. Miss Morman had left the ferry after dark on her way home, and when she had proceeded about a quarter of a mile was caught round the arms from behind by some one, and, thinking it was John Ambrose, one of the ferryman, whom she had left at the ferry, exclaimed: "Why, John, what do you mean!" The unknown person told her to keep quiet or he would kill her. Turning her head, she discovered it was a negro. She screamed out, "John, come here quick; someone has got hold of me!" The negro then struck her several severe blows in the face, threw her down, and threatened to kill her and throw her into the river if she made any further noise. Under this threat she desisted, and continued to struggle, until her strength failed, and sank back exhausted. He then accomplished his purpose, and left her lying in the road. She was very badly bruised and beaten, and has never recovered from the effects of the outrage.

the negro's capture.

As soon as Miss Morman reported the crime pursuit was made for the negro, who, it was known, had fled to the Maryland side. A reward of $50 was offered for his arrest, and bands of armed men scoured the country in all directions. After four days of hot search he was caught, just by accident, in a saloon at Sharpsburg, Md., on February 2d. A brother of Miss MOrman had seen him in the morning walking on the river bank near Harper's Ferry, and had fired several shots at him, but he made his escape. About 3 o'clock the same afternoon, while a number of men were congregated in a saloon, Wallace entered and proceeded to drink heavily. He was soon in a state of intoxication, and in the midst of a burst of drunken hilarity boasted of his terrible crime. He was at once seized by the bystanders, to whom he admitted his guilt, and removed to jail. Later in the evening, when news of his capture became known, the greatest indignation against him was manifested, and threats of lynching were freely made. Finally the authorities, fearing that violence would be resorted to, sent him under a strong guard to Hagerstown, where he was lodged in jail.

details of the lynching.

Since February 2d Wallace has been in Hagerstown jail, closely guarded, for fear that an attempt might be there made to wreak summary vengeance upon him. A requisition from Governor [Frederick W. M.] Holliday for his transfer to Virginia was given a few days after his capture, but it was not sent to Governor [William T.] Hamilton until a day or so ago. This morning Sheriff Caruthers and Deputy-Sheriff Nixon, of Loudoun county, went to Hagerstown to take the negro to Leesburg. Wallace was immediately turned over to them by the Hagerstown authorities, and, securely handcuffed, was taken to the depot. They started from Hagerstown on the 3:10 P. M. train, and arrived at Point of Rocks at 5:46 P. M. Along the route there was no demonstration; but as soon as Point of Rocks was reached it was found that a crowd of about one hundred men had gathered, and by their actions they showed what their object was. Before the train had stopped several boarded it, and passed through the cars to make sure that the man they wanted was there. When the sheriff and his deputy stepped from the car with their prisoner a cry went up, "There he is!" but it was hushed by those who seemed to be superintending the affair, which had been preärranged with great nicety of detail. Quietly the crowd followed the three to the river, the negro being handcuffed to the deputy. The three took a boat across the ferry, and the crowd followed as fast as they could secure boats. On the Virginia side were about one hundred and fifty masked men, who waited the sheriff's coming in quiet, but as soon as his boat touched the shore they made a rush for it. The sheriff drew his revolver and attempted to the best of his ability to drive them back, but all his resistance was useless. He was speedily overpowered, searched, and the keys of the handcuffs taken from him. The deputy was also overpowered, the handcuffs unlocked, and Wallace was in the hands of the lynchers. All this was the work of a very few minutes, and they dragged their prisoner in haste three hundred yards up the Leesburg road, to the very spot where he committed the crime upon Miss Morman. There they strung him up with a rope to the limb of a sycamore tree.

the first shot.

Mary Morman, upon whom the outrage was committed, was present at the landing of the officers, identified Wallace, pointed out the spot where the outrage had been committed, and, after the negro had been hung to the tree, to her was accorded the privilege of firing the first shot at his swinging and almost lifeless body. This she did with a good aim, and after her, fifteen or twenty shots were fired, riddling the body from head to foot. The body was left hanging, and was viewed by hundreds of people before night set in. The excitement over the affair has now quelled down considerably, and the people dispersed to their homes, though the body still swings from its tree by the road.

Wallace was a copper-colored negro, about twenty-four years old, about five feet eight inches tall, and thick-set.