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Lynching of Marshall Clark

History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; The Western Historical Company; 1881

Friday evening, September 6, 1861, as two negroes named Marshall Clark and James Shelton, who were walking down Michigan street, turned off that street into Milwaukee, they were met by two Irishmen, Darbey Carney and John Brady, the former a noted character of the Third Ward. An altercation ensued between the parties ending in a fracas, during which Carney was terribly cut in the abdomen and Brady received a bad slash in the shoulder. The negroes then effected their escape, not, however, before they had cut a lamplighter named Ellis, whom they encountered.

About half-past ten Saturday evening Carney died from the effects of his injuries.

Rumors had been prevalent that in case of his death an attempt would be made to take the assailant from the jail, but tours through the ward made by the officers could discover no undue excitement, and even at Carney's house nothing was to be seen or heard which would warrant the belief that such an attempt was contemplated. During the evening District Attorney Stark and Jailer Kendrick visited Carney, and took his ante-mortem statement which was to the effect that the lighter coloured of the two negroes - Shelton - had done the cutting.

Shortly after the death of the wounded man, an alarm as if for fire was struck in the lower part of the city, which, it would seem, was the rallying signal for the mob, as no companies reponded to the alarm - those near by having a feeling that trouble was brewing and wishing to keep themselves clear from it.

Hardly an hour elapsed after Carney's death before the nucleus around which the mob afterwards formed, started from the lower part of the Third Ward, showing by the rapidity and regularity of its movements that the undertaking had been planned and everything prepared beforehand. As the advancing wave of rioters swept up toward the jail, which was undoubtedly from the first their objective point, it was rapidly reinforced, until upon its arrival before the building, it numbered between two and three hundred. Nearly all in the crowd were armed with some implement of aggression - pistols, knives, stones, billets of wood, hammers - in fact everything upon which their hands could be laid at a moment's notice, were included in the equipment.

Reaching the jail, no obstacle appeared to stand in the way of the furtherance of their purpose. The outer door was standing open as usual. The inner one, stoutly made of wood and iron, being locked, and the keys in the possession of Jailer Kendrick and his assistants, who were within the wicket.

Upon receiving notification that the mob was coming, word had been sent to Chief of Police Beck, who, from hearing or learning of no unusual disturbance in the "Third," had just left for his residence. Hastily dressing himself, the Chief repaired to the jail and held a short consultation with Jailer Kendrick, who he commanded to retire with his men behind the wicket. Mr. Kendrick asked if he should open on the rioters with his revolver, should they come into the jail. Beck responded that they were not coming in, except over his body, and took his station at the door as the mob came up. Policemen Smith and Thomas had managed to arrive ahead of the mob, and stood ready to support their Chief.

The leaders of the mob warned Chief Beck to get out of the way, as they did not want to hurt him; but this command he sturdily declined to obey, at the same time informing them that they should not enter the jail. Hardly had he spoken the words before he was struck on the head with a slung shot, or other weapon, and knocked down, while the two policemen were hustled from one portion of the crowd to the other until they were finally deposited in the gutter. This first taste of success emboldened the mob, and they advanced to the wicket where Jailer Kendrick stood guard. One of the leaders stuck a revolver into that officer's face, and told him to open the door. This the officer pluckily refused to do, telling him to shoot if he wanted to, but the door would not be opened by him.

Evidently not quite prepared to go to such lengths as the fulfillment of their threat would carry them, the whole party withdrew from the jail, and all was quiet for a few minutes, when they returned, bearing with them a heavy scantling, about three by eight inches thick and eighteen feet long, which they used as a battering ram. It took nineteen blows to cause the solid wood-work to give way. The jam which held the lock finally burst and the door fell open about two feet. The crowd for a second were paralyzed by their success, and Mr. Kendricks with his subordinates seized the timber and attempted to pull it through and again secure the door. The leaders of the mob seeing their object, sprang to the rescue and came surging into the corridor through the opening.

All the jail officials, on the first intimation of danger, had hid their keys, with the exception of Guild, one of the turnkeys, who unfortunately had on his person the key which opened the cell where Clark and Shelton were confined. A tussle ensued, in which Guild was handled very roughly by the maddened crowd, and his keys taken from him. Search was then made for the negroes, by some of the party, while others hastened to open the rear door of the jail and admit those of the party who had gone to that entrance to try and effect an opening.

The two unfortunates had been confined in a large room at the end of the corridor, in the rear of the jail. Out of this room opened two cells. As the mob approached the room, Shelton jumped into one of the cells and pulled the door to after him. The mob upon reaching the room espied Clark, and with a fiendish yell of delight, pounced upon him and dragged him out into the corridor and to the front of the jail. While they were thus engrossed with Clark, Shelton stole quietly out, slipped by the mob and reached the jail yard, where he in some manner managed to scale the twelve-foot fence, and, dropping down on the other side, crossed fences and gardens, and thus made his escape.

As Clark was dragged out, he was pounded and kicked and abused, as the fancy or fury of the crowd seemed to indicate; and, more dead than alive, he was taken from the confines of the jail and out into the street. On leaving the building, the mob, with their prisoner in their midst, started down Jackson street, half dragging, half carrying him, until they reached Huron street, where they tried to obtain a light from a low tavern nearby, but the occupants had heard them coming and locked the door, which no thumps or calls would induce them to open. The rioters finally passed on, until, reaching the corner of Huron and Milwaukee streets, they halted under a gas lamp, and one of the crowd climbed the lamp post to light the gas, but so excited was the fellow that he could not, for some time, hold his hand steady enough to effect his object. This gave rise to a murmur in the crowd that the gas had been turned off, followed by a suggestion that they go down and mob the Gas Company. A moment afterward, however, the light was struck, and the hint was sufferred to pass unheeded.

The halt of the crowd at this point was to satisfy themselves that they had the right man, as when first siezed Clark had insisted that his name was George Marshall. Having reassured themselves by a close scrutiny of the bloated, bruised and bleeding face, that they had made no mistake, the march was continued towards Detroit street, down which they went to the engine house of No. 6. They reached that spot about one o'clock Sunday morning, and hurried Clark up stairs, where he was given the cold mockery of a travesty on justice called a trial. The sentence had been passed beforehand - blood was what these ill-favored judges wanted and blood they must have.

During the progress of this so-called trial, Sheriff Larkin arrived and endeavored to persuade the rioters to deliver up their prisoner, but his remarks met with no further attention than an impatient invitation to visit a warmer climate, where the atmosphere is generally supposed to be strongly tinged with sulfer.

About an hour after their first entrance into the engine house, they again issued from its portals, dragging the unfortunate Clark after them, by a rope, which passed around his neck and into his mouth. In this manner he was hurried down East Water street, different members taking turns at venting their rage upon the poor wretch as they passed on. On Buffalo street, a short distance off from East Water street, a pile-driver was standing; upon reaching which the mob stopped and proceeded with the completion of their horrible work. By this time the band had dwindled down to between one and two hundred persons. Clark was placed alongside one of the posts of the pile-driver. The poor wretch slowly put his arm around it, but said nothing. Just then some one of the crowd rushed up and struck him with his fist, and he fell down between the timbers of the machine. He was picked up, while some one of the human wolves took the end of the rope, and running partly up the ladder, slipped it over a round. The final scene was quickly enacted, and the unfortunate man's body was swung off in mid-air.

It is a noteworthy coincidence that this cruel event transpired exactly one year from the time of the loss of the "Lady Elgin." The time corresponds to an hour.

The crowd slowly dispursed after the death of the negro, and the body was at last taken down by some policemen, and carried to the station house.

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