Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Jones
MSA SC 3520-18342
Lynched in Cecil County, Maryland, 1872


On the evening of July 29, 1872, John Jones was lynched by a group of ten to twenty disguised men just south of Point Bridge in Cecil County, MD.1 The bridge, while no longer standing, was located a few miles east of Chesapeake City and spanned across the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal near the border with Delaware.2

John Jones is thought to be originally from Talbot County and had been working for Walter J. Griffith near Sassafras in Kent County.3 On Saturday the 27th, Griffith discharged Jones after having a "difficulty" with him. Jones made a few threats and then left. On Sunday night, near midnight, Griffith's home and surrounding buildings were burned, with Griffith and his family narrowly escaping. Jones was suspected of setting the fire.

On Monday the 29th, three men were apprehended in Warwick, Cecil County: John Jones (alias John Johnson), Robert Handy, and Thomas, who was described in different accounts as either Jones' son, step-son, or son-in-law.4 Some sources identify the third man by the name of George Simpson or by the name of Green.5 In a hearing before Justice Bell, Thomas testified that Jones was responsible for the fire, placing straw and kindling near the house and threatening Thomas at gunpoint if he left or told anyone what happened. That evening, the three men were handed over to Special Constable Merritt for transportation to the Cecil County Jail in Elkton.

On their way to Elkton, the men were halted by a group of disguised men and Constable Merritt fired ineffectually at them with his pistol, then rode on to Elkton by himself to report to the Sheriff. On Tuesday morning, Jones was found hanging from a tree about 200 feet into the woods. No trace of the other two men was found other than one of Handy's pant legs. 6It is unclear whether they were also killed by the group of disguised men or were able to escape. Jones' remains were buried near the spot he was hanged.

Jones was described as having a "light mulatto complexion," about 45 years old, and 5 feet 11 inches tall with a tattoo on his arm that read, "Hester Ann Jones." 7 While some sources claim Jones was originally from Talbot County, he was also reported to have potentially been from Queen Anne’s County, as he was tried there a few years prior for stealing.8

Jones and his family can be found in the 1870 United States Federal Census as living in Kent County, Maryland near Sassafras. 9 He is listed as a 40-year-old laborer with his wife Hester (age 32) and their children: Josephine (age 4), William (age 3), and Alexander (age 4 months). Richard Kemp (age 13) is also listed in their household.

Biography written by 2022 summer intern Zoe Smith.

Footnotes - 

1. "Fire - A Case of Lynching," The Kent News, 3 August 1872 (MSA SC 2901, SCM 1622)

2.  Dixon, Mike. (2010, March 28). "Lost Cecil County Village: Bethel or Pivot Bridge," Window on Cecil County's Past.

3. "Arson and Lynch Law," The Cecil Democrat, 3 August 1872. (MSA SC 3387, SCM 7293)

4. Ibid

5. "Lynch Law Cecil County," The Cecil Whig, 3 August 1872. (MSA SC 3341, SCM 7443)

6. Ibid

7. "Arson and Lynch Law," The Cecil Democrat, 3 August 1872. (MSA SC 3387, SCM 7293)

8. "The Recent Lynching in Cecil County," The Sun, 2 August 1872. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Baltimore Sun.

7. "Maryland Affairs - Queen Anne's County," The Sun, 8 August 1872. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Baltimore Sun.

9., 1870 United States Federal Census, Kent County, Maryland, p. 42.


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