Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

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


James Carroll, a twenty-two year old African American, was accused of breaking into the homes of P. N. Leaply and Richard Thomas, on the night of April 14, 1879. Thomas was away from his home, located in Licksville, having traveled to Point of Rocks in Frederick County. Carroll is alleged to have crawled into an open window and made his way up to the room where Mrs. Thomas and her five children were sleeping. Carroll is further alleged to have broken down the door to the room, threatening the occupants with a knife, before proceeding to rape Mrs. Thomas, and assault one of her children, prior to his escape.1

When word of the attack circulated, the local community became enraged. Roughly fifty men sought out Carroll in the immediate area, but did not locate him.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 Thomas's letter, which was published in several local papers, was a description of Carroll's appearance, and a generic recollection of the man's outfit.3 This description led to the capture and holding of a man named Adam Austin in Washington D.C. Two unidentified men from Point of Rocks managed to vouch for Austin's claims of innocence, and he was released on April 16.4

By April 17, Thomas had made his way to Georgetown, originally to identify Austin, but following the latter’s release, he set upon searching again for Carroll. Based on Carroll's previous work history as a canal boatman, Thomas thought that he would find Carroll along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Thomas intended to shoot Carroll immediately, but he himself instead followed Carroll who was making his way into Georgetown. 5

In Georgetown, Thomas alerted Officer Henry C. Volkman. Volkman and Thomas continued following Carroll, who became aware of the men and tried to get away. Volkman, mounted on horseback, quickly apprehended him. Carroll maintained his innocence, claiming that Mrs. Thomas could not identify him as the attacker, and agreed to go willingly back to Maryland.6 Officers Volkman and B.T. Harper escorted Carroll to Maryland, 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 in order to avoid the assembly of a crowd.7

Despite these alleged efforts, telegrams were sent anonymously to Point of Rocks notifying the town of Carroll's arrest. 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 men. One hundred of those arrived on horseback and when the train came to a stop, twenty men armed with pistols and knives subdued Volkman and Harper. Once the mob separated 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 lynched on the evening of April 17th.

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 justified" with "men's minds darkened by passion."8 The jury of inquest for Carroll's lynching ruled his murder "death caused by persons unknown."9



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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