Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thin Black Line

George Briscoe
MSA SC 3520-13731
Lynched at the Magothy River, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, November 26, 1884


George Briscoe was lynched by a party of masked men at what was referred to as the "New Bridge" along the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County on Wednesday, November 26, 1884. He was born around 1844, since he was cited to be "about forty years old" at the time of his murder. He was married, and the newspaper account at the time described him as "a bright mulatto." Briscoe was suspected of being the perpetrator of a rash of robberies in the Stoney Creek area, which is in northeast Anne Arundel County. The series of robberies were all executed in the same manner, by lifting a shutter with a chisel and lifting it off its hinges.1

Prior to his arrest a "vigilance committee" had gone to Briscoe's house at two o'clock in the morning to demand that he leave the county. The group was reportedly surprised to find that Briscoe answered the door fully dressed. Briscoe responded angrily to their threats, and someone in the crowd fired a shotgun into Briscoe's home.2

Justice Thomas Jacobs released a warrant against George Briscoe, and he was arrested Wednesday afternoon by detectives identified as "Droste and Siebold" and taken to Jacobsville.3 Briscoe reportedly responded boldly at the preliminary hearing, and the judge would later tell the Baltimore Sun that Briscoe's "manner and language were insulting to himself and all who were present. The man was full of bravado at all times."4 

Briscoe was bound with leather "hame-strings" and transported to the Annapolis jail at around 7:30 pm.5 Briscoe had objected to his escorts, Deputy Sheriffs Grafton Boone and Tip Wells. Deputy Boone later told the Baltimore Sun that during Briscoe's transport, he and Wells had been driving "leisurely along toward Annapolis, not dreaming that any persons desired to take the prisoner from them."6  This statement by Boone is unusual, since violence had already been threatened and perpetrated against Briscoe. When Briscoe challenged Justice Jacobs' authority at the preliminary hearing the Baltimore Sun reported that his words "angered the people to such a pitch that there were mutterings of lynching him on the spot."7 When the deputies and Briscoe had passed over New Bridge, spanning the Magothy river, a band of men descended from the woods along the road. Boone claimed that the men were heavily armed and had dragged Deputy Sheriff Wells from the carriage. The two fled, leaving Briscoe with the lynchers.8

According to Boone, before he ran from the scene he heard one of the lynchers say to Briscoe, "You're an innocent-looking son of a gun, ain't you?" To which Briscoe reportedly replied, "I don't know whether I am or not."9 

Briscoe was hanged from a tree near the spot where the lynchers had intercepted the carriage. The coroner would later find that his neck had not been broken by the hanging, and he had instead died of strangulation. Briscoe had also been shot several times. According to the coroner, the gunshot wounds "looked as if they were a week old."10 The Baltimore Sun suggested that Briscoe had been shot in a failed robbery the week before.

Deputy Sheriff Boone found the body an hour later, when he returned to the road in search of his horses and carriage. However, he did not cut the body down, and Briscoe's body remained there until the following afternoon. William D. Parsons was travelling on the road to Jacobsville and came upon Briscoe's body and sent word to Justice Jacobs. Doctor George H. Crow cut Briscoe's body down at two o'clock. Justice Jacobs requested that a "Justice Thomas Boone" summon a jury of inquest-- any relation to Deputy Sheriff Grafton Boone is not mentioned in any article. The inquest heard the testimony of Parsons, who had found the body the following morning, and Deputy Sheriff Boone. They determined that the perpetrators were "person or persons unknown."11 

George Briscoe's father-in-law, William Booz, was informed of his death. Briscoe was buried by the state in a hastily built pine coffin, his grave was dug at the foot of a dogwood tree, with a pine stake to mark it.12

1. "Briscoe Reported Lynched: Taken fron an Anne Arundel Constable and Hanged to a Tree," The Baltimore Sun, November 28, 1884.

2. "Briscoe Reported Lynched."

3. Ibid.

4. "Lynching of Briscoe," The Baltimore Sun, November 29, 1884.

5. "The Lynching of Briscoe," The Evening Capital, November 29, 1884. 

6. "Lynching of Briscoe."

7. "Briscoe Reported Lynched."

8. "Lynching of Briscoe."

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

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