Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thin Black Line

Asbury Green
MSA SC 3520-13739
Lynched in Centreville, May 13, 1891

Biography1:

Asbury Green, an African American man, was lynched in Centreville, May 13, 1891, accussed of the assault on Mrs. Howard Tolsen. Mrs. Tolsen was the wife of a farmer residing on Kent Island, Queen Anne's County, Maryland.  Her husband was away on business when she claimed Green entered her home around 9:30 p.m. on February 28, 1891.  Green was arrested the following day and placed in the county jail to await trial.  An investigation was conducted, and at the preliminary hearing, Green was only charged with assault with intent to rape.  Mrs. Tolsen did not want to disclose the fact that she had actually been raped by her attacker.  It was not until a grand jury was sworn in May that all events surrounding the attack were known.
    Asbury Green's trial was held with Judges Robinson, Wickes and Stump presiding.  On the behalf of Green's defense, several men testified that they could account for Green's whereabouts during the time of the alleged assault.  However, the jury was not convinced.  The trial only lasted one day and Green was found guilty on the charge of rape.  He was sentenced to 21-years of confinement and hard labor in the state penitentiary.  Many citizens in the town were outraged that Green was not sentenced to death.  The court did not sentence Green to death because they claimed there was some doubt of whether Green was the true attacker.2  At the end of the court proceedings, there were several rumors that Green would soon be lynched.
    Sheriff T. B. Turner increased the number of guards at the jailhouse in case there was an attempt to lynch Green.  The Sheriff added seven more guards to the night shift.  However, this measure did not protect Green from harm.  Around 1:00 a.m. the morning of May 13, there was a call from the outside gate of the jail.  When Deputy Sheriff Seward went out to investigate, a mob of men rushed at him and demanded the keys to the jail.  When Seward refused, the mob threw him down and forcibly took the keys.  The mob entered the jail armed with guns, pistols, rifles, and axes, commanding the guards to keep quiet.  The men unlocked the cell and placed a rope around Green's neck and dragged him outside.
    Green was dragged away from the jail to a nearby orchard. The mob then hung him by the neck with a rope from a peach tree.  Witnesses believed Green was half dead when the mob reached the orchard.  The crowd of 150 to 250 men quickly and quietly dispersed.  On Tuesday, a jury of inquest was summoned and their verdict follows:

    "Certain parties, feloniously, voluntarily and of malice aforethought, dragged from the county jail the said Asbury Green did kill by strangulation and dislocation of the spinal column and by hanging to a tree, said parties being to the jury unknown, and did then and there kill and murder the said Asbury Green"

The body of Asbury Green was buried the following Wednesday by the local authorities.  The 200 African Americans residents in Centreville were understandably outraged by the lynching.  It was reported that there was talk of vengence circulating around, and the town of 1,400 was freightened and on guard that night.3  The citizens of Centreville claimed they were not responsible for the lynching, believing that the mob came from out of town.  The Good Will Fire Company patrolled the town to ensure peace.  Regardless of the threats, no retaliation was reported after the lynching.

 

Footnotes

1. Most of the information in this narrative is found in the article "The Lynching of Green." Centerville Record, 16 May 1891. 

2. "The Lynching of Asbury Green." Centerville Record, 16 May 1891.

3. "Centreville Alarmed. Colored Men Talk of Avenging the Lynching of Asbury Green" The Sun, 13 May 1891.


 

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