Murder and Lynching Done Roane County Style
by Robert Bailey and Jere Hall
The headline in the Knoxville Chronicle on Oct. 3, 1879 reads: "Dick Woods Has His Head Mashed To A Jelly And Is Robbed."
Descriptive headlines were common in newspapers 100 plus years ago, but this one of the most vivid. According to the article that accompanies the headline, Mr. Richard Woods, proprietor of a saloon on White's Creek, Roane County, was attacked as he went to the cellar to draw some beer. The weapon was a 'car coupling pin' (a railroad tool), one blow from which would have been sufficient to kill him, however, in this savage attack, more than one blow rained down evidently destroying his head.
He was robbed of approximately $300, personal items, a quantity of whiskey and the murderers left the faucets open on the beer keg before leaving.
Two men, Tom Jones and Bill Rearson, both employed by the Cincinnati Railroad, were soon arrested in Rockwood with property to Woods on their persons.
They were taken to White's Creek where they were arraigned before a justice in Robbsville. Both men confessed to the murder and told officers where they had hidden several other items belonging to Woods.
After these items had been secured, they were bound over to be tried in Kingston. They were placed under heavy guard and started toward Kingston. Soon, a large body of masked men overpowered the officers and rode away with the prisoners.
The two men were found the following morning hanging from the White's Creek bridge.
This information was found in the Knoxville Chronicle and the Chattanooga Daily Times and should not be taken as absolute fact in every detail, due to the fact that mistakes were common in newspapers of that time and the 'flowery' language was often misinterpreted.
Vigilante justice, however, was common in Roane County in those days, as well as throughout the country as the above and the following account testify.
James Thompson Lynched For Murder of Glen Alice Merchant
On Oct. 24, 1885, the body of prominent merchant, J.C. White, was found shot to death between his store and his home in Glen Alice, Roane County. He was robbed of about $75 and the keys to his store. The Knoxville Daily Journal states "Suspicion points strongly to John Thompson . . . (who) will be lynched if caught."
This statement was proven true two days later, shortly after Thompson was arrested, when a large mob of about one hundred and 50 men broke into the jail at Kingston, conveyed Thompson to the scene of White's murder and hanged him.
The body was found the next morning. So much for "due process" in Roane County in the 19th century.