Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thin Black Line

David Johnson (white)
MSA SC 3520-13790
Lynched September 14, 1886 in Westernport, Allegany County

Biography:

David Johnson was lyched on September 14, 1886 in Westernport, Allegany County, for the murder of Edward White, a well known man in the area who worked at the Baltimore and Ohio railroad shops in neary Piedmont, West Virginia.White had a wife and seven children, and according to the Baltimore Sun, "he bore an excellent reputation, and was not known to have had any trouble with Johnson."1 David Johnson was around fifty years old and was generally considered to be mentally ill, the newspaper stated that "from all accounts religious mania, combined with homicidal tendency, seemed to have been his trouble."2 Johnson had a family and had lived in Piedmont, West Virginia for many years. His son had been critically injured in a mining accident in Cumberland, and after three years bedridden-- and three months prior to the murder-- Johnson's son had died. The newspaper speculated that caring for his son had "affected his reason."3 Johnson had worked in the Baltimore and Ohio railroad boilershops with Edward White, but had been fired for attacking an Irish worker named Rooney with a hammer. At the time of the murder he was a sexton for a Piedmont church. The Sun article mentioned that Johnson had reportedly tried to kill several men and had threatened White several times.4 

Around twelve o'clock pm on September 14, David Johnson reportedly shot Edward White with a double barreled shotgun on the path to White's house on Westernport hill. A group accompanying White witnessed the event. Johnson was placed in "the lock-up" at Westernport before he was to be moved to the Cumberland jail, where he would be safer from mob violence.5

 A lynch mob broke into the jailhouse before Sheriff Houck could arrive at Westernport to move Johnson to Cumberland for safekeeping. Around eight o'clock that evening, the mob stormed the building and hanged David Johnson from a bridge over George's Creek. It was then reported that his body was thrown into the creek.6

According to a later newspaper article, a man named Michael Malone was convicted of manslaughter in connection with Johnson's lynching. The newspaper went on to claim that "this is said to have been the only instance of conviction for lynching in Maryland."7   


1. "Murder and Lynching," Baltimore Sun, September 15, 1886.

2. "Murder and Lynching."

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. "10,000 See Corpse," Baltimore Sun, October 7, 1907. 

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