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The Scott County Lynching in 1898 by Dr Carl Bogardus

Written By Dr. Carl R. Bogardus -1949

With contributions from Leland Langdon

(Works re-typed by Brenda Trabue - 2011)
  

Introduction to the tract from the Austin Indiana History Website

 

In 1949 Austin, Indiana physician Dr. Carl R. Bogardus with assistance from the Austin High School Principal, Leland Langdon wrote a well-researched tract describing the 1898 lynching of a man named Marion Tyler. The original document is on file at the Scott County Public Library in Scottsburg, Indiana, the county seat of Scott County. Presented below is a verbatim version of the original account housed in the Scott County Library. Many of the facts of this case collected by Bogardus and Langdon were gathered from articles of the Scott County Chronicle, and from interviews with people who were living in Scott County at the time of the lynching in 1898. 

 Today, some 110 years after the lynching many Scott County residents believe that Marion Tyler, the man lynched in a tree on the courthouse lawn in 1898, was a black man. This author has read numerous newspaper accounts of the event written at the time describing the lynching, but there has been no mention of the man’s race. There also was no mention of Marion Tyler’s race contained in the tract written by Bogardus and Langdon. The absence of a description of the lynched man’s race is curious given the fact that it was common in late 19th Century journalism to describe a black person using the terms “Colored” or “Negro”. The Austin Indiana History Website offers no opinion on the race of the lynched man; however, it does suggest that it would have been uncommon to omit the race of the man lynched at the Scottsburg courthouse in 1898, should he have been a black man.

 In the course of investigating the circumstances of the death of Marion Tyler, two photographs were discovered. The first above right, shows Dr. Bogardus in 1957 standing on the east side of the Scott County Courthouse lawn by the tree where the lynching of Marion Tyler took place. (Tree was cut down by order of the county commissioners in 1971.) The second photograph of interest is one in which a man, presumably Marion Tyler (see caption) is laid out in his casket at J. L. Fisher & Brothers. It has been confirmed that J. L. Fisher & Brothers were undertakers that owned a funeral home on the square in Scottsburg during that time. 

 Although there remains no definitive proof of the race of the 1898 lynched man known as Marion Tyler, some evidence suggests he may not have been a black man. 

 (Warning: The reader is advised that a photo thought to be Marion Tyler, dead and laid out in his funeral casket is posted at the end of the Bogardus account.)

   The Scottsburg Lynching Case
 
By Dr. Carl R. Bogardus
 
 The decades following the close of the Civil War were turbulent, unsettled and filled with violence of all kinds. During those years there existed in Scott County a secret organization known as the “White Caps”. It is said that the leaders of this mob were remnants of the old Vigilante organization which wiped out the notorious Reno Gang in 1868 by hanging ten of its members. In this county the “White Caps” usually operated in a somewhat milder fashion. For instance if they heard of a man who beat or otherwise mistreated his wife they would call at his house, take him out and horsewhip him, or for a worse offense against humanity they would tar and feather him and ride him out of town on a fence rail.

 The worst blot on the otherwise fair escutcheon[1] of Scott County was the lynching which took place at Scottsburg on Christmas Eve, 1898. It was probably perpetrated by the “White Cap” mob, though it was never proven just who the members were. This was an occurrence of which we cannot be too proud, however no harm can be done at this late date by recounting the full details, from beginning to end, a gleaned[2] from the old files of the “Chronicle” and from personal interviews with various old-timers.

 Marion Tyler was born in July, 1870, in Lawrence County, Tennessee. From there he moved with his parents (John W. Tyler) to Martin’s Store, Hamilton County, Illinois. He left his home in 1894, with the consent of his parents, to go out into the world to work. He first worked for about two years in the car shops at Mt. Vernon, Illinois. In 1896 he came to Scott County and secured a job logging with Wilbur Christie, of Austin, with whom he boarded. He also worked for a while with Charles Calvert in Scottsburg. Laura Terrell was born in Washington County, Indiana, in January 1870. When she was quite young her parents moved to Scottsburg. In 1889 she married Francis M. Garriott, Jr. and they lived happily together until his death in 1893. 

 It was while living in Scottsburg that Marion Tyler became acquainted with the widow, Laura Gariott, and paid her marked attention. However, early in 1897 Marion Tyler went to Indianapolis where he secured employment.

In April, 1897, Mrs. Garriott moved to Indianapolis where she purchased a house in West Indianapolis. There she and Tyler renewed their acquaintance and kept steady company. Then on October 14, 1897, the two were married. For some months they lived happily, then came troubles that eventually led to separation. According to her story he would not allow her to go anywhere nor to receive any company at home, nor even to speak to her neighbors. At one time he asked her to sell her property and give him the money to use in the purchasing of a store. She would not do this. She said that he threatened to kill her by torture. In order to frighten her or force her into giving her the money each night after they retired he would lay his gun beside the bed, and tell her that perhaps she should not go to sleep and that she might not live to wake up. His threats and treatment was such that finally she could live with him no longer. Fearing for her life she left him on July 18, 1898, and returned to the home of her parents in Scottsburg.

Later, in reference to the separation, Tyler said that he knew of no cause for it. He said that he treated his wife the best he knew how and that there was no jealousy on his part. He made several visits to Scottsburg to see his wife after the separation and pleaded with her to return to Indianapolis with him, but his entreaties met refusal.

Finally, on Thursday, November 3, 1898, Marion Tyler arrived in Scottsburg on the 10:30 A.M. train from Indianapolis. That afternoon he went to his wife’s home and what happened there is told by Editor W. M. Foster in the “Chronicle” under the heading, “A BAD SHOT, as follows:

“A few minutes before three o’clock on Thursday afternoon of last week this town was the scene of great excitement caused by the act of Marion Tyler, who shot his wife twice and then attempted to end his own life with two bullets from the same weapon. The revolver used was of thirty-two caliber. The first shot struck Mrs. Tyler in the left cheek and ranging backward and upward lodged near the butt of the ear. The other bullet penetrated the left shoulder and is thought to have ranged downward. The result of the wounds can not be determined at this writing, but are not thought to be fatal. Tyler’s wounds are less dangerous. One bullet struck near the center of the lower jaw ranged upward and came out near the temple. The other bullet entered the abdomen to the right, ranged down and to the left and lodged just underneath the skin at the hipbone.”

The Chronicle interviewed Mrs. Tyler and her story of the shooting is as follows:

“Two or three weeks ago he came down from Indianapolis to see me. I told him then that I would not live with him and he need not come back any more as it was no use. Thursday when he came I told him it was no use to come in. I stood at the door and he on the porch. After a few moments conversation he came into the room and sat down. My Mother was present. He told us that he didn’t want anyone to go out or to call anyone to arrest him; that he would shoot down anyone who entered the yard to arrest him, and that it was no use to have any more killed that was really necessary. He remained in the room about fifteen minutes when I proposed to go out on the porch because Mother was not feeling well. He went out on the porch. I felt uneasy and he said to me, ‘You act like you were afraid of me.’ I was afraid, but did not want him to know it and turned the matter off the best I could. We remained on the porch talking until the shooting occurred. At that moment I was leaning against the house by the side of the door with my head turned a little from him. I turned my head toward him and he pulled the revolver from his pocket and shot me in the face. I turned to the door when he struck me between the shoulders and knocked me face downward upon the floor in the house; then he shot me in the shoulder, rolled me over and snapped the revolver in my face several times – I think it was five times.  I grabbed the revolver and wrenched it from him and threw it out doors. He went after the revolver and I got up and ran. When I went out the back door I glanced back and he was coming after me. I ran over to my brother’s (Thomas Terrell) thinking he was after me.”

 

Tyler’s story of the shooting as told to the Chronicle is in few words, and is as follows:

“I was talking to Laura trying to persuade her to go home with me, when she said something that so shocked and surprised me that I knew she never intended to come back to me, I started for my gun to end my own life. As I raised the gun from my pocket she grabbed it. That’s the last I remember of what occurred until I was shot in the stomach. I had no intention to shoot her. I couldn’t say whether I shot her or whether it was done by accident when she grabbed the gun. It was my intention to end my own life if she refused to return to me.”

 That Marion Tyler’s last visit to his wife was carefully planned is shown by two letters found in his picket after the shooting. One letter was to his Mother and the other to the public. The former was not made public, but the latter read as follows:

 

                                              

“Indianapolis, Indiana,

Nov. 2 – at 12:50 PM ’98.

 To the People of Scottsburgh, Indiana.

 “Today I will arrive in your town on the morning train to see my dear wife that left me on the 18th day of July, ’98. I am going to try every kind way to encourage her to live with me. If in Vain I will end my days in her presence. I have chosen death rather than to live without her – Dear Laura is a perfect lady and I love her with all my heart and will die for her. I have been the most unhapy man in the world sence she left me. When she left me she taken my life with her. I am very sorrow I entered suit against her Mother for our separation. It wasent my desire. While overcome with greaf I was persuaded in to the mater. Our separation has almost drove my dear Mother to her grave. I hate to die on her account but I am so sad and lonely in the world I cannot stand it any longer. I would like to have one wire C. M. Lyon of McLeansboro, Ill., and ask him to Inform my father at Martins Store of my death. I kindly ask the religious people of the world to pray for me. Also dear Laura.”                                        

                                                                                    Marion Tyler.

 The next mention of the affair we find in the Chronicle is a news item in the December 22nd number of the paper, which briefly states, “Marion Tyler is rapidly improving and is now able to be up. Mrs. Tyler is also able to be up.”

 This news item could have been the signal the mob was waiting for in order to act, for in two days Tyler was dead. The lynching took place early in the morning of December 24th. The full details of this mob murder were given in the Chronicle of December 29, 1898, as follows:

 “VENGEANCE OF A MASKED MOB. Scott County has been disgraced by the act of an unknown mob.

 Between one and two o’clock last Saturday morning Marion Tyler was taken from the county jail in this place by a masked mob and hanged to a tree in the court house yard. Tyler was in jail awaiting trial at the January term of Circuit Court for a murderous assault upon his wife on the third of November last. He shot her twice and himself twice. The wounds of both were thought to be dangerous, but both were recovering, and at the time of the mob’s terrible vengeance his wife was able to be visiting relatives in Washington County.

 A few minutes after one o’clock Sheriff James F. Gobin (1847-1919) heard a knock at the door of his residence, and being used to calls at all hours, went to the door in his night clothes. When the latch was thrown back three masked men with drawn revolvers thrust the door open and grabbed him, and four others with double-barrel shot-guns rushed in. A member of the mob said they wanted Tyler and demanded the keys to the jail, but the sheriff refused. By this time the bedroom was crowded with masked men and the mob’s leader leveled a revolve r at the sheriff and demanded the keys in a hurry. The sheriff said he would die first, but his frightened wife told the mob where to find them. After obtaining the keys several members of the mob went to the room of Deputy Sheriff Cal Gobin, son of the Sheriff, and with drawn revolvers compelled him to dres and come down stairs. Bothe the sheriff and his deputy were ordered to lead the way and unlock the jail and cell occupied by Tyler. Both refused, and the members of the family were placed in one room and guarded while the mob proceeded to the jail part of the building in haste. The lynchers seemed to understand just where to go. They entered the upper room of the jail, lighted a lamp in the corridor and placed guards on the outside of the cell in which Tyler and an old man were confined. The cell door was unlocked and two members of the mob entered, going direct to Tyler’s bed. They bound his feet and tied his hands behind him. Then another stood by the lighted lamp and tied a hangman’s noose at the end of a half-inch manila rope. This was placed over Tyler’s neck, and a man took hold of him on each side and he was dragged from the jail to the street below. On reaching the street Tyler was heard to say, “Oh, my God, kill me here!”

 He was told to keep quiet, and, if he said anything else during the whole performance, the other inmates of the jail or members of the sheriff’s family failed to hear it. The mob took Tyler to the court-house yard, two hundred yards away. The men were drilled and answered to numbers instead of by name. On the way someone in the mob yelled, “Can the son-of-bitch walk?”, and another answered, “Pull on the rope and he will walk!” On reaching the court-yard (East of the courthouse), the mob selected a convenient limb on a shade tree, and over this the end of the rope was thrown. The doomed and fainting man was placed on an old door, from the public privy, and held up while the end of the rope was tightly fastened. Then the door was allowed to fall, and Tyler dropped to death by strangulation with his feet about eighteen inches from the ground. One of the mob was heard to say at this point, “I’ll bet the Devil thinks he’s getting a fine Christmas present tonight!”

 Their work being completed the mob marched out of the court-yard and disappeared. All this was done so quietly and so quickly that the town was not aroused, and many people were not aware that the tragedy had been enacted until after daylight. When the guards were out of sight Sheriff Gobin came from his residence, but he could see no trace of the lynchers. From whence they came or where they went he could not tell. He at once aroused a few citizens and with them went to the court-yard where the lifeless body of Marion Tyler was found hanging to the limb of a shade tree a few feet away from the court-house privy.

 It is thought that the mob was composed of between seventy-five and one hundred persons who were well-drilled in the parts they were to take in the lynching. This is proven by the quiet manner and quickness in which their deed was executed. That the citizens were not aroused before the work was completed seems strange and next to impossible, yet it was so. That such premeditated and carefully planned outrage upon the law and community could be carried out so successfully without the officers and law-abiding citizens having an intimation of what was going to occur seems more strange. But it was so. Had Sheriff Gobin the least warning that such a thing was to be attempted he could have hastily summoned enough men to have successfully guarded his prisoner and frustrated the designs of the mob.

 County Coroner, Andrew Blackall ( -1920) was at once notified, and shortly before three o’clock the lifeless body was cut down and taken to J. L. Fisher & Bro.’s undertaking establishment, where hundreds of people viewed it during the day. Tyler’s parents, who reside near Martin’s Store, Hamilton Coutny, Illinois, were notified of the sad work and the body was shipped to Enfield, Illinois, Sunday.

 Besides the sheriff’s family, and an old man who occupied a cot in the same cell with Tyler, only one person is known to have seen the lynchers. This was John Carlile, of Finley Township. He had been out in the country sparking[3] and on his return went to A. M. (Allen Mack) peeler’s (1842-1914) livery stable and put his horse away. On coming from the stable to go to a hotel he was halted by three men with drawn revolvers. They ordered him to go back into his office, but on his replying that it was not his stable he was ordered to stand still and keep quiet. He asked permission to step a few feet and sit down upon a stile block. This little request was granted him, and then he sat quietly while the three men stood on the opposite side of the street. He says those who went to the jail wore long dark masks, but those who guarded him wore no masks that he could discern. After the mob had marched from the jail to the courtyard and then again to the street Carlile was ordered to go into the stable and to remain there half an hour under penalty of being shot if he disobeyed. He went into the stable as bid, but came out as Sheriff Gobin was passing. No other persons were in sight at that time.

 Saturday morning the following telegram was sent to Governor Mount: “A mob overpowered me and my deputy and took from jail here Marion Tyler and hung him. James F. Gobin.” Governor Mount wired the sheriff concerning the matter, asking him to take all steps proper to ascertain, if possible, who were the perpetrators of this deed and to cause their arrest.

 Immediately after the shooting, when it was believed that his wife’s wounds would prove fatal, public sentiment was very bitter against Tyler and there was whispered talk of mob vengeance. But his own critical condition from self-inflicted wounds and by advice of cooler heads the talk was silenced. Tyler’s condition was such that for several days after the shooting he was kept at the house were the shooting occurred, under guard of nurses, before being removed to the county jail. When he began to improve mob violence was intimated and Sheriff Gobin armed the guards one night and the next day removed him to the county jail. After being placed in jail Tyler’s condition grew worse and for several days it was thought that he would die. It was necessary to keep an attendant with him day and night. This was kept up until about three weeks ago when his condition was so improved that constant attention was not considered necessary. He was attended by Dr. Fred Sarver (1873-1902)

 After he was placed behind the bars of a modern jail where escape was next to impossible public sentiment appeared to be stilled and all thoughts of mob violence were apparently dismissed from the minds of the people of Scottsburg and vicinity. There was no reason to believe but what he would suffer the penalty of the law for his deeds. The courts of Scott County have for years had the reputation of letting no guilty one escape. There was nothing to indicate that the dignity of the law would not be upheld in this case. Tyler was comparatively a stranger here; he was without money and without influential and wealthy friends or relatives to assist him in escaping the penalty of the law.

 What new developments were made to kindle up the fury of a mob and goad it on to commit such a crime against the law of the state and the law of God, can only be conjectured. Many are the rumors, but no one dares to tell which, if any, influenced the action of the mob. It is a dark and dangerous secret, guarded by an oath that, no doubt, one’s life would pay the forfeit for its divulgence. It is horrible to think about. How glad would we be if the matter could be dismissed from our mind, never to return.

 From the rumors some are led to believe that the expense to be entailed upon the county by a long and tedious trial had much to do with influencing the mob’s action. God forbid that a human life be taken as a sacrifice for a few paltry dollars. Others are inclined to believe that Tyler’s few warm friends talked too much in his behalf, hinting that when the evidence was brought out in court a sensation would be created and that public sentiment would be somewhat changed; others, that an attempt was to be made to have him released on bond; others, that a trial might have brought out very damaging evidence against other parties. Be that as it may – taking all these rumors into consideration, they do not form a reason to justify the mob’s act.

 The punishment meted out to Marion Tyler was the act of a lawless mob banded together for no other purpose than to violate the law and to prevent its enforcement by the court. In this particular case there were no mitigating circumstances; there had been no trial, and under the laws of the state there had been no crime committed that demanded the taking of a human life. That an attempt to take a human life does not justify the taking of another’s life is plain.

 The good people of Scott County greatly deplore and feel deeply the disgrace that has been brought upon them by this act. All people who favor law and order should condemn the act and do all in their power to bring the perpetrators to justice and thereby prevent the reoccurrence of such a disgraceful affair.

 So far as now known there is absolutely no clue to the identity of the members of the mob, nor is there anything definite to establish from where it came. Every person has an opinion of his own as to the origin of the mob, but are not publicly expressing that opinion except in a general way. The majority of the people of Scottsburg appear to firmly believe the mob originated outside the borders of Scott County and that its members were mostly all strangers in this community. (Note – it was later proved that the rope used in the hanging had been purchased at a store in Crothersville.) Our citizens now fully realize the enormity of the crime that has been committed in our midst and feel that the guilty persons should be hunted down, arrested and dealt with to the fullest extent of the law, in order that the good name of our town and county may be maintained, and to show the whole world that our community and our citizens have been unjustly condemned for an act for which they were not in the least responsible.

 But without a clue to work on the officers of the law are at sea. Rumors of suspicious actions seen both before and after the terrible deed was done, are many, but it is said that, at least some of these have been cleared away and shown to have had no connection whatever with the mob. There may be yet other rumors to investigate which might put the officers on the track of the lawbreakers. County Coroner Blackall was to have begun his official investigation Monday, but postponed the inquest in order that certain witnesses he wanted could be present. What light the testimony to be taken will reveal is only to be guessed at.

It is supposed that a special grand jury at the next term of the Circuit Court will attempt to ferret out the guilty parties.

The CHRONICLE of January 5, 1899, under the headline “The Tyler Inquest” had this to say:

“On Thursday afternoon of last week County Coroner Andrew L. Blackall began his official inquest to determine when, how and by whom Marion Tyler came to his death. Attorney General
William L. Taylor was present and took the lead in examining the witnesses. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sam B. Wells and Attorney John H. J. Sierp also assisted in the examination of witnesses. Rowland Evans, of Indianapolis, served as official stenographer.

Thursday afternoon and Friday over twenty witnesses were examined as to what they knew about the affair. From the testimony given it was plain that Tyler came to his death between one and two o’clock on the morning of December 24th, and that his death was caused by strangulation at the end of a rope which had been placed around his neck and then passed over a limb and tied. The testimony as to when and how he came to his death seems conclusive, but the important part – by whom – is yet a serious question. A few witnesses were examined in secret and it is surmised that their testimony was merely explaining away expressions that had been made previous to the lynching.

At a later session of the inquest the Coroner was urged to keep the matter open and with-hold his decision until after the grand jury had completed its investigation and made its report. This was urged on the ground that the Coroner had powers which the grand jury did not possess. Coroner Blackall finally agreed to keep the matter open indefinitely and the session was adjourned.

At the January term of the Circuit Court, which began on Monday, the 9th, a special grand jury was impaneled for the purpose of investigating the lynching. In his charge to the jury, Judge Willard S. New said in part: “It is your duty as grand jurors to investigate this matter, to honestly, faithfully and conscientiously endeavor to ascertain the truth and return indictments against the guilty parties. No matter how much time or labor may be required you should leave nothing undone and not be satisfied until you have either returned indictments or exhausted all honorable means to do so. You should not fail to indict any person on account of fear, favor or affection, but you should be guided by an honest desire and a firm determination to conscientiously discharge your duties.”

The special jury worked in secret session and summoned over forty people for examination. The CHRONICLE for January 12th said: “The looks on the faces of some who have ‘told their stores” indicates that something of a sensational nature is likely to develop at any moment. Indeed, there is a general belief that the grand jury is working upon important clews and that it already has almost sufficient evidence to warrant the return of indictments against some persons charging them with being members of the mob that hanged Marion Tyler.”

In the CHRONICLE of January 19th, under the headline ‘NO INDICTMENT RETURNED AGAINST THE LYNCHERS”, we find the following report of the grand jury:

“To the Hon. Judge of the Scott County Circuit Court: -

We the Grand Jury in special session, January term, 1899, do hereby supplement our report to that part of our work for which we were especially charged by your Honor, viz: The lynching of Marion Tyler on the night of December 23, 1898.”

“We desire to say that we entered upon the investigation of the above work on the 9th day of January, 1899, being the first day of ther term of said court, and have without any intermission – earnestly, faithfully and conscientiously labored in our endeavors to find out the perpetrators of the crime of the lynching, or some evidence that would lead to the knowledge of the names of one or more who were in possession of the facts.”

“We have called and have had before us, and questioned under oath 109 witnesses. The greater part of these witnesses were citizens of Scott County – some from Washington and some from Jackson County, Indiana – and thoroughly questioned all of them as to their knowledge of who the guilty parties might have been. We have gone in our investigations of this particular matter far beyond what our better judgement would have led us in ordinary sessions of the grand jury, towit: By following every suspicion regardless of its remoteness to actual facts, with the hope in view that some light might come to us that would possibly lead to the indictment of one or all of the persons who took park in committing the horrible crime of murder in the above case.”

“After eight days of continuous labor, we very much regret that the evidence that we have taken in this matter does not warrant us in returning an indictment against any of the guilty parties.

            This January 17th, 1899.

            Respectfully,

            John W. Montgomery, Foreman           Asbury Thompson            Jas. M. C. Richey            I.A. Bridgewater

            S. R. Smith            Wm. P. Shea.”
 
This sort of report had been anticipated for several days. When the grand jury first began its task it was thought that it had clews to work on that would bring out sufficient evidence to warrant the return of indictments, but when the witnesses were placed on oath they either knew nothing or would tell nothing. The many stories that were expected to develop, clews for the grand jury were explained away. Some witnesses appeared to be willing to tell all they knew and what they had heard, but when all this was known it amounted to nothing. The knowing ones, or the ones who were supposed to know something, were the ones who knew the least when they faced the grand jury. After a few witnesses had been examined it was plain that all were not willing to testify and that it would doubtless be impossible to secure evidence to justify indictments. But the grand jury continued its investigation as long as there was a shadow of hope.

When the grand jury made its report Judge New thanked the members of their efforts. He explained that he was fully aware of the great disadvantages under which they had labored in their attempt to find indictments against those who had disgraced the county. He gave them to understand that he was sincere in his belief that they had done their duty.

This article went on to say that “The failure of the grand jury to return indictments may cause the coroner to resume his investigation in the hope of securing at least enough evidence to cause the arrest of some member of the mob.”   In an editorial in the following weeks’ CHRONICLE Editor Foster stated in part “Of course, if any citizen of the county assisted in the deed, he would not be expected to assist in redeeming the county’s good name – but would be expected to discouraged attempts to that end.”

County Coroner Andrew L. Blackall’s report was published in the CHRONICLE of February 2nd under the headline “HANGED BY PERSONS UNKNOWN”, as follows: “After viewing the body and hearing the evidence of 31 witnesses, all duly sown, I find that the name of the deceased was Marion Tyler; that he, said Tyler, was forcibly taken from the jail of Scott County about 1 o’clock a.m., on the 24th day of December, 1898, and hanged by the neck to a tree in the Court House yard of Scott County, Indiana, and came to his death by being hanged by persons whose identity is unknown to me.”

The foregoing reports of the grand jury and the coroner seemed to settle the case as far as the county and state were concerned, but the affair was not yet finished for in the CHRONICLE of February 22nd under the headline “SUED FOR DAMAGES IS SHERIFF JAMES GOBIN” we find the following: On February 15th a $5,000 damage suit was brought in the United States Court against Sheriff James Gobin of Scott County, the plaintiff being John W. Tyler, the father of Marion Tyler who was hanged by a mob in Scott County on the night of December 24. He brings the suit as administrator of his son’s estate. Marion Tyler was taken from the jail where he was being held on the charge of shooting his wife. It is averred in the complaint that it was Sheriff Gobin’s duty to protect the prisoner and that he failed to do this, but instead aided the mob by handing over the keys to the cells. It is further charged that the sheriff furnished the mob with a lamp that they might more readily make their way about the jail. The complaint contains another allegation that the sheriff was guilty of negligence in failing to cut down the body of Tyler at once after the mob left.

The bondsmen of Sheriff Gobin are Elijah A. Gladden, William Rice, C. T. Redman, I. A. Bridgewater and A. Tull.”

Following this lynching the lawmakers at Indianapolis got busy and on February 24, 1899, passed an Act authorizing Boards of County Commissioners to offer and pay rewards in certain cases. This Act reads as follows:

Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana. That whenever any Board of County Commissioners shall be satisfied that there has been a murder or lynching of a human being committed in their county, and that the perpetrator or perpetrators, of either such crimes is unknown, or, if know, then, in either such case, such County Commissioners shall have the right, power and authority to offer and pay a reward in any sum not exceeding $500 for the discovery, arrest and conviction of the perpetrator, or perpetrators of either of said crimes, or, for the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator, or perpetrators of either of such crimes, if know, but who has, or have escaped to parts unknown, Provided, That the Prosecuting Attorney of the county in which the offense was committed shall not receive or accept any reward.

Section 2. An emergency existing, therefore this Act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

The Tyler-Gobin case was finally called in the United States Court at Indianapolis on November 13, 1899. The defendants made a motion for dismissal of the case on the ground that the court had no jurisdiction. This was overruled by Judge Baker and the trial was to begin on the 15th. About 50 persons went to Indianapolis to appear as witnesses in the case. Testimony in the case was concluded on the 21st when both sides formally announced that they had no further testimony to offer. Judge Baker gave the attorneys six hours in which to complete their arguments to the jury, and the case reach the jury.

The case was watched with deep interest, not only by the citizens of Scott County but by the whole state. It was a civil suit against Sheriff Gobin and his bondsmen for damages, yet in the examination of witnesses it appeared that the real object was to discover who were in the mob that hanged Marion Tyler. From the evidence given it did not seem that much was learned in that direction, yet it was believed that enough was brought out to warrant some arrests.

However, the jury eventually returned a verdict for the plaintiff, assessing his damages at five dollars. It was said that there was no disagreement from the start on the part of the members of the jury on the question of negligence on the part of the sheriff, but that only six of the jurors were willing to award the plaintiff material damages, and that some of the others favored only a few cents, thus in the matter of damages the verdict was a compromise between the extremes.

Regarding the costs in the case the INDIANAPOLIS SUN said, “By a federal law, the costs in the Tyler lynching damage suit will be divided between the parties, each paying the costs accrued in its behalf. This is because the judgement did not reach $500. The total costs of the case were about $920, including the cost of witnesses.”

The people of Scott County appeared to receive the verdict in a very quiet manner, although there was some surprise at the small amount of damages awarded. Many thought that if Sheriff Gobin was sufficiently at fault to warrant a judgment against him, the value of a human life should have been greater. The prevailing opinion was that the matter was settled once and for all and that nothing further would be done to discover the lynchers, unless a sufficient reward was offered to justify expert detectives to work upon the case.

 Finally, in line with this thought, on December 9, 1899, the Board of Commissioners of Scott County made the following order and had it recorded in their official record: “Ordered by the Board that a reward of five hundred dollars be and is hereby offered by Scott County to be paid out of the County Revenues of Scott County, Indiana, to the person or persons furnishing information to the prosecuting attorney or his deputies that will lead to the arrest of the person or persons composing the mob, or any of said mob, who on the 24th day of December, 1898, unlawfully took Marion Tyler from the Scott County jail and hanged him. Said reward to be due and payable after such person or persons have been arrested and convicted of the crime.”

 However, nothing ever came of the matter and thus ended the celebrated Scottsburg Lynching Case, which even to this day has not been completely forgotten by Scott Countians.

 Now, with one final note, we will close our story. It was on January 3, 1905, that Laura Terrell Garriott Tyler died at the age of thirty-five, and was buried in the Estill Cemetery by the side of her first husband, Francis M. Garriott, Jr.

 Sources

Bogardus, Dr. Carl R., Langdon, Leland. (1949). The Scottsburg Lynching Case Essay. Scott County Public Library, Scottsburg Indiana. Bogardus File Retrieved 2011.

 

[1] Escutcheon: A stain on one’s reputation, disgrace;

[2] Gleaned: To gather slowly and laboriously

[3] Sparking: Out having a good time

Tombstone of Marion Tyler's Wife - Estill Cemetery Scottsburg Indiana

(Scottsburg Lynching)
On January 3, 1905, Tyler's wife, Laura Terrell Garriott Tyler died at the age of thirty-five, and chose to be buried in the Estill Cemetery by the side of her first husband, Francis M. Garriott, Jr. (2011 Photo by Mike Barrett)

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