Saturday, June 22, 2013

An 1871 Lynching in Baxter County, Arkansas

I grew up hearing about a certain incident that happened nearby where I grew up in Ozark County, Missouri.  As many may know, I grew up in a small community of Mammoth, Missouri. At Mammoth there is an old county road called ‘Possum Walk Road which runs along the side of ‘Possum Walk Creek.  This road & creek treks across the Missouri/Arkansas State-line from a point about 3miles north of Three Brothers in Baxter County, Arkansas.  It originates from a few miles in Arkansas, flows north, and empties into Lick Creek at Mammoth.  Years ago I remember family and friends, every so often, would bring up the topic of a certain “knob” south on the ‘Possum Walk Road.  Today, this tragic incident is over 142 years old, but I think it needs to be told.

Last year I had a friend supply a clipping from The Ozark County Times, 1936, with the details of this incident I was looking for.  It is transcribed, except for a double g.  Please read on and you will understand.

An 1871 Lynching in Baxter County.

We clip the following article from the Baxter Country Citizen, Mtn. Home, Ark., it will interest our readers in the south part of the county, we believe:
The following article was sent to us by Dr. J. F. Normann, 1309 N. Jefferson street, Springfield, Mo., which explains itself.

Owing to many erroneous and conflicting reports concerning this event, I am prompted to write the true story, as I was quite conversant with the circumstances and probably the only man now living who saw the colored gentleman in aerial suspension.

There was a man by the name of Galvin who resided in the White river region south of Mountain Home.  He had a young negro man hired to work on his farm.  About the middle of March, 1871, this negro made a criminal assault on Galvin’s infant daughter, and made his escape during the night, passing near Mountain Home.  He made his get away by the way of the Old Salt Road.  Mr. Galvin got on the trail of the negro after a few days search.  I met him in the road while he was hunting the negro; he was on horseback, with a long rope ties to his saddle, cowboy style.  He inquired for the negro, made no explanation, and proceeded on his journey.  He met up with Jim Calhoun, who knew the country.  Galvin and Calhoun trailed the negro into Missouri and found him working for Jack Coffey on Lick Creek.  They took charge of him, marched him back, and took him on top a knob just east of the old ‘Possum Walk Road, south of where Jake Foster lived at the time, in the edge of Arkansas, and it was alleged that they hung him at a stooping tree till he was dead, and they left him hanging and proceeded on their journey.  After the fleshed had all decayed, the skeleton fell to the ground, and when the bones had dried and bleached, I became the owner of the skull, as I was reading medicine at that time.

Among all the comments I heard, no one seemed to censure Mr. Galvin for the course he took.  No arrests were ever made, and the circumstances were never published in any paper.  The knob upon which the negro was hanged has been called the ‘Ni- - er Knob’ to this day.

End of Article

Click to enlarge 1966 USGS Topographic Map showing "Negro Knob."

To bring some validation to this story, I researched the participants of this 1936 news article.

Dr. J. F. Normann
Doctor Jason Fritz Norman, was born the 23rd of December, 1854, in Fulton County, Arkansas.   He died the 2nd of March, 1950, in Springfield, Missouri.  He married Sarah Catherine “Sallie” Barnett Norman.  Mrs. Norman was born the 13th of August, 1851, in Hardin County, Tennessee, and she died the 11th of October, 1946.  They both are buried at the Eastlawn Cemetery , in Springfield, Missouri.

Mr. Jack Coffey
Andrew Jackson “Jack” Coffey lived on Lick Creek, and he is an easily identifiable character in Ozark County history.  His wife at the time was Louisa Jane Hutcheson Coffey.  They were married in Grainger County, Tennessee, the 1st of September, 1831. 

Names listed on the Marriage License of Andrew Jackson Coffey to Louisa Hutcheson.

Mr. Coffey & Louisa had 7 children by 1870.
  1. Mary A. Coffee – Age: 24
  2. Susan Ann Coffee – Age: 13
  3. Thomas J. Coffee – Age: 11
  4. William G. Coffee – Age: 15
  5. James F. Coffee – Age: 8
  6. Andrew J. Coffee – Age: 5
  7. Cleveland P. Coffee – Age: 2
Mr. Coffey is also referenced as living in this area by Silas Turnbo in two stories posted online.  They are entitled:

Louisa died the same year as the lynching, 1871. 

A. J. Jack” Coffey & his wife Louisa are both buried in the Sanders Cemetery on Lick Creek in Ozark County.   

A picture of Andrew Jackson “Jack’ Coffey can be found here: Coffey/Coffee Call.

The Perpetrator, Mr. Galvin
Since Mr. Galvin’s first name was not given, I have not been able to identify Mr. Galvin for certain.  The nearest person for the limited description given is a John G. Galvan who lived in the White River area at Batesville, Arkansas.  This makes partial sense in which he would need the assistance of John Calhoun who knew the local area well.  Mr. Galvin is the right age; he was born the 3rd of October, 1834, and died the 14th of June, 1903, which would make him 37 years old in 1871. 

The Accomplice, John Calhoun
John Duaval Calhoun was born the 29th of December on the Calhoun Prairie in Richland County, Illinois. The Illinois prairie took its name from John’s grandfather & grandmother, Hugh Calhoun Jr. & Mary Ann Hull Calhoun, the original settlers of what was known as Calhoun Prairie.

By 1860 John was living with his father & mother, Andrew Jackson Calhoun & Julia Cynthia Bickford Calhoun, in Whiteville, Marion County, Arkansas, which is currently in Baxter County, Arkansas.

John enlisted for confederate service in Marion County, Arkansas in the Arkansas 27th Infantry on March 11, 1862.  John was discharged July 30, 1862,  after a little over 1 year & 3 months of service. It was discovered John was using the name of a brother, James D. Calhoun, and he was only 17, being under age for service. Later he served in the first part of 1865 in the 33rd Texas Cavalry, Company D. 

After the Civil War, John married Martha "Elizabeth" Morgan Calhoun. She was born the 17th of September, 1850, in Montgomery County, Alabama, and she was also living in Whiteville, Arkansas, by 1860 at age 9.

John & Elizabeth Calhoun also lived in Whiteville and had 8 children:
  1. Hank Howard Calhoun: Born 1866 in Whiteville, Marion County, Arkansas (Now in Baxter County)
  2. "Allie” Alice Calhoun Gardner : Born October, 1873, in Baxter County, Arkansas
  3. "Sally" Calhoun: Born the 12th of May, 1876, in Hot Springs County, Arkansas
  4. "John" Hugh Calhoun: Born the 22nd of May, 1878, in New Mexico
  5. "Lucy" Calhoun: Born the 4th of September, 1880, in Baxter County, Arkansas
  6. "Mary" Elizabeth Calhoun Harrison: Born the 29th of January, 1883, in Baxter County, Arkansas
  7. "Henry" Blair Calhoun: Born the 10th of August, 1885, in Baxter County, Arkansas
  8. "Zeke" Ezekiel Orlando Calhoun: Born the 28th of November, 1891, in Sumpter, Baker County, Oregon
 In 1870, Mr. Calhoun lived near Independence/Whiteville area which is less than a mile south of the Old Salt Road. This would place him in close proximity in giving assistance to Mr. Galvin. [Actually, I also live in the Whiteville area.]

The Calhoun family left Baxter County sometime after 1888 and was living in Baker County, Oregon by 1891.  John passed away on the 21st of April, 1924, and is buried in Phoenix, Jackson County, Oregon.  Elizabeth passed away the 20th of December, 1907, and is buried in Sumptur, Baker County, Oregon.
Grave of John Duaval Calhoun. Notice the American flag. I wonder if his family knew he fought for the Confederacy.
The main reason I felt compelled to write this article, is to give voice to the gentleman that was hung.  This execution can be chronicled as sad, due to either dying in destitute isolation or in the presence of the accuser & executioner.  He had no redress to the law or access for representation.  By tradition his name was “Black Tom,” but that was a common racial epithet or slur. If anyone happens to know his name, please let me know.

With shedding light on this incident, it brings so many questions to mind.
What was his real name?  Where was his family?  Was he innocent or guilty?
What was his prayer walking up to the knob? What were his last words?

Personal Reflection
In my youth I rode my motorcycle on the same dirt road, climbed the same knob, and searched for the bent tree.  Though no evidence was found, it held a haunting presence that eerily draws the traveler up the knob. 

I realize I may get more controversial responses from this article than some of my previous work.  For those who feel compelled to gather stones or a fashion a noose, let me help you. If you feel the need to verbally stone or lynch me, let me supply you with gear that you think you may need.    
  1. I am white. (WASP: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.)
  2. I was born in the Ozarks. 
  3. I never knew people of other ethnic backgrounds until I was in 18 years old and in the Air Force. 
  4. I had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy in the War of Northern Aggression.  (Yet, I wonder if it matters about the ancestors who fought for the Union and who were abolitionist.)
These are a couple of choice stones that can be thrown and ropes that can bind me with the accusation that I am prejudice.  But…this is far from the truth. 

Honestly, I have done hours of research on stories because I have felt a connection to this story, and it has always bothered me.  Nevertheless, and I have done nothing with the research because it could be viewed today as politically incorrect.  Frankly, I refuse to do this anymore.  Since prejudice did occur in the Ozarks’ past, it almost seems taboo sometimes to bring it up.  

Did prejudice occur in the Ozarks?   Absolutely.  

To the degree it may be portrayed in the media or movies?  Not every time.

Were there incidences in the Ozarks’ past where race relations were good? Absolutely.  Try this link: The Bleaching of History’s Tapestry

History is not always pretty; yet, it weaves an intricate tapestry.  As beautiful or ugly as it may seem, it is our entire story.  Sometimes, many people rewrite history or neglect it… hoping the messy or embarrassing parts would be ignored or fade away. 

I believe when we look back at our history, it may be a part of the cure of repeating past mistakes.  The other factor is having the wisdom to discern the truth and having the courage to change.  Some people may revel in our mistakes in order that they may have something to gossip about or publish again.  

Here is a scripture that caught my attention as a child:
Acts 17:25b-27 KJV   He [God] is giving life and breath and all things to all, and He made every nation of men of one blood, to live on all the face of the earth, ordaining fore-appointed seasons and boundaries of their dwelling, to seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after Him and might find Him, though indeed He not being far from each one of us.

Since we originated from the same blood, shouldn’t we attempt to create a better for future generations?   It seems there are those who would use our past to divide us.  By manipulating this power over us, they divide and rule us.  These are the same tactics once used in Germany, and its tyrant was subtle.  The two tools he used were “Divide & Conquer” and “Hegelian Dialectic .”  Hegelian Dialectic comes from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who was a utopian & collectivist; he despised individual freedoms.  His concept to control society was "Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis" also known as "Problem-Reaction-SolutionUnfortunately, the etchings of these tools are evident on our society today.  If we progress any further under these rules, we will cease for being the nation once conceived.  These tools have altered our nation’s DNA.  If our leadership divides us and accentuates our differences with contempt & distain…and we allow them, we can no longer claim being the progeny of America.

I have discovered...
Historians have the opportunity to momentarily guide the pen of history.
Politicians momentarily wield the power to manipulate or lead the cadence of history.
Statesmen momentarily possess the meekness and tenacity to encapsulate the essence of history.
Yet at the end of every Era, the Lord judges and reigns over history.

So my Dear Reader, the tools of division or peace are the same.

We can chronicle a path for our family that will stand as a memorial. 
Or, we can strangle a life that is so easily influenced.
Let us not fall into the wrong grasp. 
Should we remain silent for the next 142 years? 
If we do, we too will be led to a Lonely Knob of History and Lynched by those who claim superiority over us.  

“An 1871 Lynching in Baxter County.” Ozark County Times [Gainesville, MO.] 25 June, 1936. Tennessee State Marriages, Grainger County, 1780-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.

"Arkansas, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 Jun 2013), James G. Calhoun, 1862.

"Arkansas, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 Jun 2013), Jas G. Calhoon, 1863.

Coffee, Jack. “Andrew Jackson Coffey.”,  Retrieved: May 10, 2010.
"United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 16 Jun 2013), John Calhoun in entry for John Calhoun, 1880.

Year: 1860; Census Place: Whiteville, Marion, Arkansas; Roll: M653_46; Page: 598; Image: 71; Family History Library Film: 803046.


pens and needles said...

Very interesting story -- thanks for taking the time to research ad write this, Vince. You are right about telling the stories, whether we "like" them or not.

Unknown said...

Wow! I have a blog all about my life on the Finley River in Ozark, MO. I have been looking for other Ozarks bloggers to connect with and I stumbled upon yours. Probably the most informative blog I've read about the Ozarks! I followed you on google friends connect so I can keep up with your posts. If you feel like checking out a much less informative blog I am I am looking forward to reading more from you. ~ Leanne

Anonymous said...

Hi Vincent. Thank you very much for sharing your research. These Calhouns are part of my own extended family via the Boyds, McElhanys and Bunches. I thought for the sake of justice, and not maligning the dead, that I should point to the fact that I think it was JAMES GRIFFIN CALHOUN, a brother of JOHN DUVALL CALHOUN, who was probably the man implicated in this lynching.

RB Swafford

Sublime Cargo said...

Hello Vincent, Thanks for sharing this story, which I have shared with my family on our group genealogy site. Louisa Jane Hutchison Coffey is my 4th great-aunt. Andrew Coffey married my 3rd great-aunt, Rachel Imes (1851-1892) in 1872 after Lousia Jane Hutchison's death in 1871. He then married yet another woman, Nancy Tannehill, and had a family with her after Rachel's death in 1892. Best regards, Conan E. Peisen (

Cherry2199 said...

I believe John Duvall Calhoun was the son of Hugh Calhoun and Ann, not the grandson. There is a John and James listed on the 1860 census with Hugh's son, Andrew Jackson Calhoun, as father, but these are different from the John D. Calhoun and his older brother, James. Andrew Jackson Calhoun's son James was younger than his son John. I've spent many hours untangling this family via census', marriage docs, and land docs. It is confusing because of the 5 generations of 'Hughs' and the fact that each generation likes to eecycle the names of the previous.

Jearline said...

I think the article is great, I love reading about history and this one really got my attention. Its about my home state of Arkansas and a lot of the libraries only have so much histories on the states in certain categories.