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Something They Don’t Talk About in Tyler

Recovered History: Installment 2
A news account of one of hundreds of lynchings that occurred in the first half of the 20th century.

“Negro Burned by Texas Mob
Tyler, Texas, May 25 [1912]–

Dan Davis, a negro, was burned to death at a stake in the streets of Tyler early today after he had confessed to assaulting Miss Carrie Johnson of this city a week ago. Two thousand persons participated in the lynching. “While the girl herself did not identify her assailant, he was identified by a man who is said to have seen him in the neighborhood a short time before the crime was committed.”

Davis had signed a statement confessing to the assault, but before the match was touched to the pile of wood on which the negro had been bound by the mob he was asked again if he were guilty.

‘I am guilty,’ he cried, and a moment later the flames were leaping high about his head. Davis was brought here early today from Athens, Texas. When members of the sheriff’s posse arrived at the jail with the negro, they were confronted by several citizens, who waited until the black had written his confession, then demanded that he turn himself over to them.

Officers and many citizens protested but finally surrendered the negro to the mob, whose numbers made protest useless, the officers say. From the jail the prisoner was lead [sic.] to the public square, where several wagon loads of wood had been piled. He was tied to a rail and after he reiterated his confession, a match was applied and the flames enveloped him. The mob stood around the fire until it had died down and little was left but charred bones and ashes.

The work of the lynchers was done quickly and quietly. The determination of the men who had the execution in charge appeared to have a sobering effect upon them.

In his written statement, Davis told how he another negro attacked Miss Johnson, who is the daughter of a farmer, as she was walking along a railroad track to Tyler, the afternoon of May 21.

The pair left her with her throat gashed, believing her dead. She was later found after an all night search. While the girl herself did not identify her assailant, he was identified by a man who is said to have seen him in the neighborhood a short time before the crime was committed. The girl’s condition is critical. Davis said his partner had been arrested at Waco.”

Source: “Negro Burned by Texas Mob.” May 25, 1912, special wire report.

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Texas Leper Colony Burns, 1931

BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS

“He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in the woolen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire.” Leviticus 13: 52

In 1931, a little-known leper colony in Bexar County, Texas caught fire. The fire was on purpose. Abandoned for several years, the county, the owner of the property, decided to demolish it by flame.

The tiny settlement, tucked away at the county’s poor farm, consisted of a five-room “box” house, a barn, and a hen house –- a self-sufficient community.

The county offered the buildings to anyone who would take them, but people were “afraid to go near them,” thinking they held, deep in their grain, the dreaded disease.

With not takers, the buildings were ripped from their foundations and dragged to a flat area where they were heaped together in a circle.

Doused with gas, a county farm worker set them ablaze, and dashed to his car for cover. Fire did its duty, burning away the flesh-eating scourge.

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Filed under disease, history, leprosy, Old Spanish Trail, Uncategorized