MSA SC 3520-17891
Lynched in Gaithersburg, Maryland, July 4, 1896
Sidney Randolph is the last known person to be lynched in Montgomery County.1 Randolph was a black laborer from Georgia, who arrived in Maryland in May of 1896 looking for work in the Gaithersburg area.2 According to contemporary sources, he had a muscular build and was around six feet tall.3 Randolph was accused of assaulting members of the Buxton family and of murdering Sadie Buxton, in Gaithersburg on May 25, 1896. Within minutes of the assault, which occurred around 4:20 am, townspeople had gathered at the scene. Rev. L. L. Lloyd discovered two sets of tracks leading away from the Buxton house. This led investigators to believe that the murder and assault were committed by two individuals. The tracks led the investigators several hundred yards away to the home of George Neale.4 Neale was another prominent suspect, and was well known to the Buxton family. Some years earlier, Neale had been a defendant in court when Mr. Buxton testified against him. Neale had threatened to kill Mr. Buxton when he was released from prison.5 Neale was subsequently brought in by local investigators as a suspect in the Buxton case.
The assault and murder made front page headlines in Washington. However, the initial reports regarding Randolph's involvement were not definitive. From the beginning, the evidence against Randolph was weak and circumstantial. An article in the May 26, issue of The Morning Times’ titled ”Gaithersburg Tragedy and it’s Motive Still a Mystery,” it states “two suspects in jail brought to Baltimore but evidence against them is slight...the evidence against the two men now jailed at Baltimore is not conclusive, and the detectives and officials are puzzled.”6 The community began to suspect Randolph was the perpetrator when he was spotted and caught fleeing across a field by local investigators. He was shot and apprehended. Randolph claimed that he ran because he was trespassing in a barn and thought he was being chased by the owner.7
Randolph’s guilt was determined, in the eyes of the townspeople, by a few pieces of evidence. A woodcutter testified that he had seen Sidney Randolph hanging around on the day an axe (which was the murder weapon) was stolen. A shoemaker claimed that “he had performed a test by having Randolph stand in a box of sand and then later measured the footprints along the path of escape.”8 A jacket, believed to have been worn by the murderer, was identified as Randolph’s, after he had been lynched.9 Despite the evidence that pointed to Randolph's guilt, investigators never could identify a motive. It seemed odd that Randolph would commit such a crime when he had no previous dealings with the Buxtons and had only arrived in town a few days earlier.10 Contemporary sources claim that Randolph had been in Washington on the Friday afternoon before the Monday when the murder occurred. From there, he was given a ride to Tenleytown by Dr. G.R. Hollingsworth.11
Randolph and Neale were transported to Baltimore the evening of May 25, after talk of a lynching began to circulate. Sadie Buxton died on June 5, enhancing the vengeance of the local people. On June 12, George Neale and Sidney Randolph were brought back to Rockville in preparation for a preliminary hearing and to allow residents to make identifications.12 Neale was declared innocent by the coroner’s jury and was released. Initially, Mr. and Mrs. Buxton could not positively identify Sidney Randolph as the murderer. However, when Randolph stood before the coroner's jury, Mr. Buxton testified that it was in fact Randolph whom he had seen assaulting his family.13 As the coroner’s jury deliberated for the next month, Randolph lingered inside the Rockville jail awaiting further action. The grand jury was set to meet in November.14
For his safety, Randolph was removed from his cell every night and brought to an undisclosed location.15 However, at midnight on the night of July 3, Sidney Randolph was still in his cell, when a group of twenty to thirty armed and masked men appeared at the entrance to the jail. At gunpoint, the group ordered the jailer, Charles Peyton, to hand over the keys to Randolph’s cell. Peyton initially slammed the door shut when he realized what was happening, but he was soon overpowered. Randolph was dragged out from the jailhouse with a rope around his neck, and placed in a wagon. He was then transported under the cover of darkness about a mile and a half north of Rockville on a path through the woods. The mob reached their destination, a place off Frederick Road (currently Maryland Route 355).16 There, Sidney Randolph was lynched in the early morning hours of July 4. He maintained his innocence until his final moments. There were a number of witnesses to the violent scene which unfolded in and around the jail house, including the jailer Charles Peyton, along with Ed Peter, Samuel Riggs, Minor Anderson, and others, according to the contemporary accounts. They formed a search party around 3 am and gathered at the Village Hotel in Gaithersburg. By 4 am. the body of Sidney Randolph was discovered by Anderson and Riggs.17 Governor Lloyd Lowndes Jr. offered a $1,000 reward for anyone who could identify and apprehend members of the lynch mob, however, no one was ever charged for the lynching. The coroner's jury declared that he was murdered by “persons unknown”.18
1 ."A Shameful Affair: The Last Man Lynched in Montgomery County, Md," The Washington Post, August 22, 2018, page 3.
2. ibid, 1.
3. "No Good Clew Yet," The Morning Times, May 26, 1896.
5. "The Lynching of Sidney Randolph." The Monocacy Monocle, June 30, 2006, page 6.
6 . "No Good Clew Yet,"
7. "The Lynching of Sidney Randolph."
8. ibid, 19.
9. "The Buxton Murder: Finding of the Coat Supposed to Have Been Worn by Sydney Randolph," The Baltimore Sun, October 17, 1896, page 7.
10. "The Lynching of Sidney Randolph." page 19.
11. "Mystery Grows Clearer," The Morning Times, June 3, 1896.
12. "The Lynching of Sidney Randolph. "page 6.
14. "A Shameful Affair" page 2.
17."Life Choked Out," The Evening Times, July 4, 1896.
18. "The Lynching of Sidney Randolph." page 25.
Researched and written by Matthew Prevo, 2018.
Return to Introductory Page