Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

James Carroll (b. 1857 - d. 1879)
MSA SC 3520-18055
Lynched in Point of Rocks, April 17, 1879

Biography:

As accused by Richard Thomas and his wife, on the night of April 14th, 1879, 22-year-old James Carroll robbed the home of P.N. Leaply and then snuck into the Thomas' residence in Licksville, Maryland. Richard Thomas was away from home in Point of Rocks, Frederick County at the time, leaving his wife and children alone. Carroll first crept through an open window before he made his way up to the room where Mrs. Thomas and her five children were sleeping. Carroll broke down the door to the room an dthen by threat of the large knife he was brandishing, he raped and nearly choked to death 32-year-old Mrs. Thomas in addition to assaulting one of her children before escaping in the night.1

Once word broke what had happened to Mrs. Thomas, a violent fervor immediately broke across the town. Roughly fifty men sought out Carroll in the immediate area, but with no luck.2 When the news of his wife's attack reached Richard Thomas, he wrote State's Attorney John C. Motter requesting to know who he had to contact in order to "prosecute the case." Further included in his letter, which several local papers published, was a description of Carroll's appearance, a generic recollection of the man's outfit, and "a rather repulsive-looking countenance."3 This description led to the incorrect capture and holding of Adam Austin in Washington D.C. Two unidentified men form Point of Rocks managed to support Austin's claims of innocence on April 16 and he was subsequently released.4

By the 17th of April, Richard Thomas had made his way to Georgetown originally to identify Austin, but following his release, in the hopes of catching a fleeing James Carroll. Based on Carroll's previous work history as a canal boatman, Thomas thought correctly that he would find Carroll along the Chesapeake and Ohio canal. THomas immediately wished to shoot Carroll on the spot, but he restrained himself to merely following Carroll into Georgetown. Depending on the source, this self-control was either because he did not have his pistol on him or because he wished for the legal process be carried out.5

Once in Georgetown, Thomas alerted Officer H.C. Volkman. However, when both Volkman and Thomas began following Carroll, he was alerted and started running to elude them. Volkman, mounted on horseback, quickly chased Carroll and apprehended him. Carroll maintained his innocence, claimed that Mrs. Thomas would not identify him as the attacker, and agreed to go willingly back to Maryland to stand trial, but conceded that he did not expect to make it to Frederick County alive nor did he "care a [damn] if they did kill him."6 Officers Volkman and B.T. Harper decided to escort Carroll to Maryland themselves, with Thomas in tow. This was reportedly done so as to avoid THomas taking off ahead of them to rally a lynch mob. Additionally, they purposefully did not alert officials in Frederick County to similarly avoid word of Carroll's arrival reaching the incensed townsfolk.7

All of Volkman and Harper's efforts would prove to be for naught as telegrams were sent anonymously to Point of Rocks notifying the town of Carroll's arrest. First, thirty armed and masked men boarded the train carrying Carroll in the city of Tuscarora. However, they did not make a move for Carroll, choosing instead to hide in the smoking car of the train until they arrived at Washington Junction. At that juncture the original thirty were joined by three hundred more would-be lynch mob members. One hundred of those who had arrived, did so on horseback and when the train came to a stop, twenty men armed with pistols and knives subdued Officers Volkman and Harper by force. Once the mob seperated Carroll from the officers, a noose was fastened around his neck and he was dragged from the train platform "about 100 yards to the nearest tree." He was quickly hoisted into the air and hanged on the evening of April 17th, 1879. A report of the incident characterized the lynching as "cool and deliberate" while other publications decried the use of "lynch law" as an act which could "never be jsutified" and the "men's minds darkened by passion."8 The jury of inquest for Carroll's murder ruled his murder in the familiar manner of "death caused by persons unknown."9

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Footnotes

1. "Horrible Outrage Near Licksville, Frederick County, Md.," The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), April 17, 1879.; "Horrible Outrage Near Licksville, Frederick County, Md.," The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), April 23, 1879.

2. "Outrage by a Negro Upon a White Woman," Stauton Spectator and Vindicator (Stauton, Virginia), April 22, 1879.

3. "Horrible Outrage Near Licksville, Frederick County, Md.," April 17, 1879.

4. Ibid.; "The Licksville, Md., Outrage," Evening Star (Washington D.C.), April 17, 1879.

5. "Summary Vengeance," Daily National Republican (Washington D.C.), April 18, 1879.; "Horrible Outrage - Lynching of the Criminal," Spirit of Jefferson (Charlestown, West Virginia), April 22, 1879.

6. "Horrible Outrage - Lynching of the Criminal."; "Summary Vengeance."; "Beast Lynched," Princeton Union (Princeton, Minnesote), April 23, 1879.

7. "Horrible Rape and Lynching in Frederick County," Star Democrat (Easton, Maryland), April 22, 1879.

8. "Beast Lynched."; "Horrible Outrage - Lynching of the Criminal," Spirit of Jefferson.; "Lynch Law in Maryland," The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), April 18, 1879.

9. "Maryland Affairs," Democratic Advocate (Westminster, Maryland), April 26, 1879.

Written and researched by Zach Tucker 

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