Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thin Black Line

Marshall E. Price (white)
MSA SC 3520-13744
Lynched in Harmony, Caroline County on July 2, 1895


Marshall E. Price was lynched in Harmony, Maryland for the murder of Sallie Dean, a fourteen year old girl. He was twenty three years old when he was killed. Price's father was wheelwright W. Joseph Price of Dover Bridge. His wife was not named in newspaper articles regarding the murder and lynching, but she was described as less than twenty years old, with her father in Dover Bridge. Marshall Price was described as "a light haired man of medium weight. His personal appearance is good and he uses good grammatical language in his conversation... born and raised in Caroline County."1 

Sallie Dean, the daughter of Jacob Dean, was found dead on March 27, 1895. Her body was found near the road she walked to go to school. Dean had been left beneath a pile of dead cedar branches, with a bruise on her head, her clothing ripped, and her throat cut, newspapers insinuated that she had been sexually assaulted. There was evidence of a struggle. Dean's death was widely reported and said to be the most brutal muder ever committed in the county. Newspapers wrote that it was believed Sallie Dean knew her murderer. The Sun reported that when  the culprit was found, he would "be tried by Judge Lynch."2

The Dean murder led to a frenzy of activity to find the culprit. A jury of inquest was assembled to gather any clues about the crime. The county commissioners offered $500 for information leading to the murderer. Sallie Dean's remains were exhumed for an autopsy. The investigation was initially racially motivated, "the theory first advanced," the Sun reported, "was that only some brutal negro could commit such a crime," but that theory was rejected by April 1, and residents of the area began to suspect that the cultprit was a white man who was known to them.3 

However, the community did not suspect a white man until they had already questioned a number of innocent African Americans. A man on the jury named Marshall Price turned suspicion towards a tramp that he claimed he had seen walking with a bundle near the road in the afternoon. The tramp had not been seen since. Another suspect was a young mulatto boy about 20 years of age who was last spotted at the Federalsburg train station on his way to Seaford, Delaware.  He was arrested the next day but presented an alibi to the jury which proved that he was not in the area at the time of Sallie Dean's murder.  A black man named Charles Ross was arrested in Baltimore on a schooner at the request of Sheriff W.J. Dukes of Talbot County because he was walking near the road where the murder took place towards the Choptank river.  Ross explained that he boarded the ship at around 10:00 a.m. the morning of the murder.  As Ross was being questioned in Baltimore, he explained that his mother had driven him to the docks between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, and this was confirmed.4

Detectives Sebold and Gault, appointed by States Attorney Jump and Deputy Albert G. Towers to conduct the investigation, began to suspect Marshall Price, the member of the jury who had suggested the tramp theory for the murder. When Sallie Dean's body was found, Marshall Price had assisted with moving the body to the Dean home. Suspicion turned towards Marshall Price when he claimed to have dreams in which details of the murder were revealed. When police asked him to find the murder weapon, Price reportedly said "Three thousand people have searched these grounds, but it remains for me to find the knife." Whereupon he dug the knife out of the pine needles. He also found at the site a ribbon Sallie Dean had been wearing. On April 4, the investigation had enough evidence to take Marshall Price to the State's attorney, and him with the murder; Price fainted upon hearing the charge. The accused was then taken into custody by Sheriff Berry, and placed in the Denton jail.  Mrs. Price asked and was allowed to visit her husband, with a police escort.  "Mary, I am charged with the murder of Sallie Dean, and the evidence is very strong against me.  I know they will hang me, but I am an innocent man!"5 

Price was removed to the Baltimore City jail for fear that once word reached the people of the accusation, a mob would try to lynch him. Once in Baltimore, Price explained to Marshall Frey that he did witness the attack, and could be considered an accomplice, but he was not the man who killed Sallie Dean.  The person Price named was Mr. U.G. Corkran, whose younger brother was to have accompanied Dean to school on the morning of her death.  Mr. Corkran was a recognized teacher in Caroline County and was the last person to see Sallie walking on the road.  People who knew Mr. Corkran respected him, including the Dean family, and felt that this was Price's attempt to pin the murder on someone else. Corkran countered that he was working on a horse collar all morning, and once he finished, plowed his field until about 4:00 p.m..  "You are lying and you know it...Why do you wish to drag me into this thing?"  Corkran said that Price was not an associate of his, and would conduct no such act with him.  The two men were both members of the jury of inquest, but Price’s knowledge of the murder drew suspicion against his innocence. Mr. Corkran said that during the inquest, he had caught Price telling a number of lies, but did not share that during the questioning.  Mr. Jacob Dean, the murdered girl's father, was told about the testimony of Mr. Price, and countered that he also witnessed Corkran plowing his field the entire day his daughter was murdered. Corkran was soon released, and cleared from all connection to the rape and murder. The murder trial against Marshall Everett Price was then set for April 30 in Caroline County.6

The Denton Journal admonished other newspapers that speculated that Marshall Price would be lynched before the trial was finished or in the case he was found innocent. It ironically stated that "Whatever may be the finding of the jury or the court in this case, it will be acquiesced in by our people... whilst it is the settled purposed of law-abiding citizens here not to put this stain upo our country, it is equally their purpose to prevent its being done by any number of men from without our borders."7 

The trial date was set for May 1, and a large crowd of 300 people was expected to be present.  Price and his council chose to have their case heard by the court, presided by Judge Wickes and Judge Stumps, without a jury.  This was due to the fact Marshall Price's council could not get a change of venue to Baltimore City for the trial, hoping to avoid any pre-existing prejudices jurors might have held against the accused.  A psychologist interview by Dr. Morris stated that Price was fixed in his innocence, and without a motive, it would be easy to assume his mental instability, and hard to convict.8

Mr. George H. Russum, Price's lawyer, entered a plea of not guilty to the charges against his client.  Marshall Price listened to the testimony from 14 witnesses, with little reaction to each story.  All speculative evidence, but the witnesses all figured Price could be capable of such an act.  The most damaging testimony against Price however, was his own confession recorded when he was interviewed by police in Baltimore City.  On the second day of the trial, the crowd was not as large but just as rowdy, and the judge had to bring order to the court numerous times to hear the witnesses' testimony.  Mr. Russum and Price's defense team had only one defense, and it was that they had nothing to present.  One of Marshall Price's lawyers, Mr. Thomas, wished to have the confession thrown out because if the judge ignored the parts about Mr. Corkran's involvement, the entire statement should be void; he was overruled. The defense could do little during the trial to prevent the guilty verdict handed down on the morning of May 2.  It was peculiar that almost all the witnesses for the defense, mostly doctors used to show Price's unstable mindset, were never asked to take the stand.  Price had been composed throughout the trial, but showed worried emotion as he was found guilty of first degree murder.9  

Price was still convinced that he was not alone in the killing.  "I think it is hard...that the man (Corkran) who suggested the whole thing and who struck her and cut her throat should go free while I go to the gallows."  That night, while talking to his father at the jail, was asked by his father in honor of everything that he held sacred, not to try to drag an innocent man into the case.  Price, by his father, was asked to be a man, and if he was guilty, to say so.  But Price persisted he was not alone in the murder.  The next day, the attorneys for Marshall Price concluded that they would not request an appeal.  When asked by the judge if he wished to say anything, Price rose and continued to plead his innocence.  The judges then sentenced Price to death by hanging.  "But painful as that duty is, we know that you have committed an atrocious and brutal crime and that you deserve to suffer the extreme penalty of the law."  Governor Brown would ultimately set the execution date.10 

While Marshall Price sat chained and awaiting his execution, many people pleaded that he come clean and tell the truth about Corkran so that he might receive mercy from the powers above, but Price continued with his story.  Over the weekend, Price spent most of his time reading The Bible and a prayer book a woman sent him from Baltimore.  Finally, after days of weeping and not eating, he called the Sheriff and guards into his cell, and confessed that he alone committed the murder of Sallie Dean.  He even drew a map of the murder scene to illustrate how he committed the act.  Price was again taken to Baltimore where he was to remain until his execution.11 

Price's council would continue to try to have the case dropped.  The defense contended that Price did not have a trial by jury (the defense wished to have the case heard by the court), the confession was made without council present (Price was warned not to talk without his lawyer present, but told anyway), the defense argued they wished to have a change of venue (they asked for this without completing the necessary affidavit, so no change of venue was granted), and finally that the confession presented in court was not the original confession made by Price in the Marshall's office.  The doctors that interviewed Price petitioned to Governor Brown to consider the material, and if he be found mentally insane, to reduce his sentence to life in prison.  This prolonged the time Price would face the gallows, for it was not until June 29 that the appeal came back with the same concluding remarks, and Marshall Price was scheduled to be executed by the state on July 5. 12

On the night of July 2, a mob of masked men approached the Denton jail house.  Once Marshall Price was informed by other inmates about the crowd and their intentions, Price screamed for help.  "For God's sake let me out.  I will hide.  I will not run away!"  But the Sheriff was convinced that all the entries were well guarded, and did not wish to remove Price.  The mob found no struggles entering the jail as it was made of wood, quite old and not very secure.  At 11:00pm, a messenger handed a note to Sheriff Berry that his wife was ill, and as he headed towards home, he heard the back door being slammed.  As Sheriff Berry tried to get in between the mob and Price, he was hit as the door burst open, and held at gunpoint until the deed was done.  The mob was able to find Price quickly on the ground floor, and dragged him out of his cell, led him to a tree 50 feet from the jail, and hanged him.  The crowd felt that the reprieve to the Governor was a kind of pardon, or at least would delay the hearing and execution until fall.  They felt that the postponement was unfair given that the prisoner and his defense council had, in their view received a fair and impartial trial.  Apparently, M.F. Taylor feared for his client's life and suspected a lynching would occur, but since he did not sign the note, Sheriff Berry ignored the warning. Of the lynching, Sheriff Berry stated, "I regret exceedingly that the thing has happened, but it was no more than I expected."13

As the corpse was examined, it was found that Price was not beaten, tied or tortured, and by the shape of his throat, he may have been unconscious when he was hanged. Sheriff Berry was only able to reach Marshall Price after the lynching occurred and people were collecting pieces of the rope as mementos. Like many lynching victims, burying the deceaed was also a problem. Even though Mr. Price had paid for a plot in the local cemetery, he was not allowed to bury his son there. Marshall Price was finally laid to rest on July 5, 1895, in the back plot of the cemetery. Rev. Z.H. Webster presided over the ceremony in front of the victim's parents.14

1. "The Caroline Tragedy," Sun, April 5, 1895.

2. "A Mysterious Crime," Sun, March 28, 1895.

3. "Caroline Tragedy: Detectives and Others Busy Investigating the Dean Murder," Sun, April 1, 1895.

4. "The Dean Murder: Two Colored Men Arrested and Held on Suspicion," Sun, March 30, 1895.

5. "The Caroline Tragedy." 

6. "Price's Trial Begun. He is Charged with the Murder of Miss Sallie Dean," Sun, May 1, 1895. 

7. "No Danger of Mob Violence," Denton Journal, April 20, 1895.

8. "Murder of Miss Dean. Price, Who is Charged with the Crime Conveyed to Denton," Sun, April 30, 1895.

9 ."Price's Trial Begun."

10. "Price Found Guilty. Murder in the First Degree for Killing Sallie Dean," Sun, May 3, 1895.

11. "Price Makes a Full Confession," Denton Journal, May 11, 1895.

12. "Efforts to Save Price's Neck," Denton Journal, June 22, 1895.

13. "The Price Lynching," Sun, July 4, 1895.

14. "The Remains of Marshall E. Price Placed in the Grave," Sun, July 5, 1895.

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