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Posey County Historic Marker

Research on Racial Violence in Southwest Indiana

Lynching in Posey County

image reads 1878 memorial dedicationLike many Indiana counties that bordered the Ohio Rivers and sites of trade and commerce, Posey County saw an influx of African Americans after the Civil War. For example, in Southeastern Posey County black emigrants settled in Black and Point Townships. At Half Moon Pond their community included a church, school, and a cemetery. At the Brewery Hill settlement, G.H. Wilson owned 87 acres while Benjamin Wilson owned 85 acres and Benjamin built a school and a grocery for the local community. By the 1870 census many of the households had valuable property, including Davison Parter and Peter McAllister. (Data Source)

From 1860- 1870 the black population in Indiana rose from 11,428 to 24,560 and with that came an era of racial violence and terror. As historian Brett Campney argues, “white Indianans practiced racist violence most commonly in the southernmost counties along the Ohio River where many of the state’s blacks concentrated.” Contemporary evidence includes a statement from one observer that black emigrants believed “if they come north, [that] they will find freedom, easy times, plenty of employment, and social and political equality… they will be sadly disappointed.” In the summer of 1865, a mob attacked the jail in Evansville, taking out two black men and “after beating them to death, shot them, and then hung them up to lamp posts,” which caused a panic among the remaining black population, something the rioters hoped would lead to “complete riddance” as that was all that “will satisfy those engaged in riotous demonstrations.” As the Jasper Weekly Courier reported, this lynching was “one of the fruits of letting the much loved ‘freedmen’ of the South settle in the State, and those localities which permit it may expect more of such occurrences.” In agreement, the Vincennes Sun reported that blacks should “keep their place, and keep it well, or they will be exterminated.” (Quotation Source)

In October 1878, a vigilante mob of several hundred white citizens of Posey County killed seven African American men over the span of three days. These killings are the largest recorded lynching of African Americans in Indiana history.

On October 10, the mob chased two brothers from their homes. When a portion of the mob caught Daniel Harrison Jr., they burned him to death in the firebox of a steam locomotive. On October 11, they caught his brother John, shot him, and stuffed his body into the hollow trunk of a tree. On October 12, their father, Daniel Harrison Sr., was arrested for harboring his two sons. He shot the deputy attempting to arrest him. Taken from the jail, the mob mutilated Harrison Sr. and dumped his remains in the jail house privy. The mob then took four other African American prisoners - Jim Good, William Chambers, Edward Warner, and Jeff Hopkins -from the jail and hung them on the Posey County Courthouse grounds.  They had been in jail on suspicion of raping three white prostitutes. According to the Indianapolis News, after the lynching the mob removed their masks and blended in with bystanders, reporting that, "Nobody seems to think that there is the slightest possibility of the law's vengeance reaching one of the assassins, or even that anybody will be indicted, arrested or disturbed for it.” (Quotation source.)

No one within the mob ever faced prosecution. A grand jury was called to investigate the event; however, no one was ever indicted. In 2008, following years of research, Posey County judge Jim Redwine wrote the historical novel Judge Lynch! based on the events. In more recent years, the University of Southern Indiana College of Liberal Arts began to gather research on racial violence in the history of the Tristate and partnered with an initiative for this memorial in 2021 when Sophie Kloppenburg, a senior at Mount Vernon High School began to connect with Posey County community members, Judge James M. Redwine, and the College of Liberal Arts Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Committee at USI. There will be a continued partnership with the Posey County Commissioners office, the University of Southern Indiana History Department, and the Rice Library to maintain the marker QR code and website with extensive information to assist us in learning the history and supporting this work.

This website will continually be updated as research into the legacy of racial violence in the Tristate region is ongoing within the History Department at the University of Southern Indiana.