At Princess Anne
A stooped and toothless crone of 71 shuffled along a country road near Kingston, Md. one morning last week. Mrs. Mary Denston was on her way to see her daughter. Suddenly, from behind, black hands were laid upon her. Cackling and kicking feebly she was dragged by a young Negro buck to a clump of bushes. There, amid a flurry of leaves dancing rustily in the autumn sunshine, she was raped.
That night near Salisbury a lieutenant of State police arrested George Armwood, a 24-year-old Negro with a good-for-nothing reputation in the neighborhood.
He was taken by way of Elkton to Baltimore, where before morning he had put his X to a written confession that he was Mrs. Denston's attacker. Over the protests of the State police, but on the orders of Judge Robert F. Duer and Prosecutor John B. Robins of Somerset County, the accused blackamoor was taken back to the county jail at Princess Anne.
Early that afternoon reports reached Governor Albert Cabell Ritchie at Annapolis that a crowd might be expected to gather at Princess Anne that evening, a crowd of far different temper from the one which gathered on the Eastern Shore three weeks ago to honor the founder of the U. S. Presbyterian Church (TIME, Oct. 16). When he heard the crowd was growing and growing ugly, Governor Ritchie ordered more troopers to the support of the 22 who were already guarding the square-faced little jail. He prepared to call out militia, requested the local American Legion commander to help protect the prisoner. The commander refused.
At dinnertime Judge Duer was suddenly called from table to try to disperse the growing mob. "How about Euel Lee!" the townsmen cried at the judge. Euel Lee, a crazed black, had killed a farmer, his wife and two children two years before in an adjoining county, was not until last week condemned to death. "We ain't gonna have no Euel Lee in Somerset County!"
The sheriff of Princess Anne had left his jail and prisoner in the hands of the troopers during the afternoon, remarking that he would return "in a short time." By the time he got back night had fallen. His jail was besieged. Under the headlights of police cars, the mob was running crazily this way & that through the smoke, kicking tear gas cans out of the way, hurling bricks and stones at the defending troopers. The mob gathered for a charge and 13 troopers went down under the impact, their captain knocked senseless. The mob battered down the first iron door with a beam taken from a lumber yard. Somebody opened a second door from the inside.
Negro Armwood was bleeding from head and chest when he was dragged out of the jail. He was stunned from the fight he had put up in his cell. He made no outcry, even when a young boy leaped on his back and cut off one of his ears. He fell often under foot as the mob dragged him along. He was dead before they strung him up to an oak tree in sight of Judge Duer's house. Some mobsters tried to set fire to what few rags remained on the corpse. There was not enough to burn, so the body was dragged back to the court house, soused with gasoline and lighted. "Here's what we do on the Eastern Shore!" the crowd chanted. Several hours later, troopers put what was left of George Armwood on a truck.
Outraged at the second lynching in two years on Maryland's picturesque but backward Eastern Shore (it was the 21st lynching this year for the nation), Governor Ritchie ordered State detectives to help bring the lynchers to justice. He announced: "The responsibility for Armwood's being at Princess Anne rests squarely on the shoulders of Judge Duer and State's Attorney Robins." Baltimore Socialists thought that the Governor shared the guilt, petitioned his impeachment.
"In this crime of a mob," said the Baltimore Sun, "is the lynching of civilization in this State. The law-abiding citizens of Maryland are entitled to demand that the Governor of the State use the power of the State to protect the laws of the State. . . . They will not tolerate dodging of responsibility."
Mrs. Denston's 82-year-old husband, a rickety old man with wens on his face, remarked: "She's all right now, I guess. . . . I guess they did a pretty good job." Near Philadelphia their son, William Denston, a motorcycle policeman of Lower Merion Township, showed reporters a piece of rope. "Yes," he said, "I was there. I'm satisfied." Said the sheriff of Somerset County: "Investigation? Oh, yes. Well, boys, I was right in the thick of that affair. . I looked right in the faces of some of that mob and I didn't recognize a single soul— not a single soul. I bet they were from down Virginia way."
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