Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Jim Wilson
MSA SC 3520-13797
Lynched in Caroline County, near Oakland,1862 

Biography:

Jim Wilson was taken by a mob from the Caroline County jail and lynched in 1862. Several years after the event, in 1895, the Baltimore Sun reported that prior to the series of events leading up to his killing, Wilson "had always been regarded as one of the best negroes in the county."1  On October 30, 1862, an eight year old girl, the daughter of Edgar Plummer, was found dead in the woods of Caroline County. Edgar Plummer was a delegate representing Caroline County and in the Maryland State House of Representatives. A letter written to editors of a Denton newspaper and published in the Baltimore Sun stated that "it is impossible to describe the effect of this dark and unnatural deed upon the popular mind." 2 Jim Wilson was "arrested on suspicion" and taken to the body, where he reportedly confessed to the crime.3 The Denton letter to the editor, signed by "Gallatin", stated that Wilson "anticipated that he would be hung without a trial." The letter writer also claims-- almost certainly fraudulently-- that Wilson had told "one or two gentlemen" that "there was a good deal of talk among some of the colored people in his neighborhood respecting the present and prospective position of his race growing out of the present condition of national affairs and hinted that the appropriation of white women for the wives of black men was a subject entering into their vague calculations."4

The day after the girl's funeral-- her name may have been Emma or Edith, newspaper accounts differ-- a mob formed outside the county jail. "Gallatin" asserted that there were 300 people in the crowd that night. The sheriff offered little to no resistance and the mob swarmed the jail, breaking into Wilson's cell with an axe. Jim Wilson was hanged near the jail and shot by the crowd. The violence stretched into the night as the mob took Wilson's body to an African American church, where his corpse was again hanged. The Denton letter states that some in the crowd proposed to place Wilson's body in the church and burn the church, this was ultimately rejected by the majority. In the end, Wilson's body was burned on a river bank.5 No trial or jury of inquest was assembled to find members of the lynch mob.

The lynching of Jim Wilson was mentioned in newspapers over thirty years later in 1895 as a "Parallel Case" when a girl named Sallie Dean was murdered in Caroline County. Marshall Price, a man who was most likely white, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death, but a mob of masked men stormed the jail and hanged Price three days before his date of execution.6


1. "The Caroline Tragedy: Marshall Price Charged with Miss Dean's Murder," The Baltimore Sun, April 5, 1895.

2. "Letter from Denton, MD," The Baltimore Sun, November 4, 1862.

3. "A Little Girl Murdered by a Negro," Easton Gazette, November 1, 1862.

4. "Letter from Denton, MD."

5. Ibid.

6. "The Caroline Tragedy."  

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