Note. The following article was copied from the 1901
Dallas Daily Times Herald. It depicts a very graphic account of vigilante
justice which occurred in Corsicana, but was not uncommon anywhere in the US
during the turn of the century. This article is posted with some reservations
but I feel it is important to understand the issues, events, and emotions of the
times as part of seeing the whole picture of our past. John's
Valley Younger's Obituary were posted in the Athens
Review and was submitted Feb 2003 by Janet Cook. See also the
account from the Decatur Illinois paper.
THE CORSICANA NEGRO BURNED AT THE STAKE
John Henderson, after being taken from the officers and carried across the
country a distance of forty-five miles, made a full confession to the murder of
Mrs. Younger, narrating all the horrible details, and was burned to death by
citizens of the community where the the outrage occurred.
Special to the Times Herald:
Corsicana, Tex., March 13. - John Henderson, the negro who murdered Mrs.
Conway Younger, near this city last morning at 7 o'clock and landed in jail for
safe-keeping. Six of the leading citizens of this county effected the
capture, acting in behalf of the citizens of Navarro County.
Henderson had been confined in the Belton jail and the officers were
taking him to Fort Worth, Sheriff Baker, of Waco, refusing to receive him.
The telegraph wires had been tapped at Hillsboro, and the citizens' posse was
constantly informed of the movements of the officers with Henderson. the
train was boarded at Hillsboro and no attempt wa made to capture Henderson until
near Itasca. When the party started to enter the car the conductor tried
to prevent them and tried to run to Fort Worth without a stop. He was
treated roughly and the men entered the car and secured the prisoner and the
officers in charge. A Johnson county officer pulled a revolver on the
committee, but was disarmed before he could shoot. After a lively fight
the committee compelled the officers in charge of Henderson to accompany them
across the country, a distance of forty-five miles, to
horses and teams at Frost.
Henderson made no protest when captured and, although he knew that a
probable death awaited him, gave no sign of fear. The negro made a full
confession after arriving here, telling how he went to the Younger home and of
the attempt at assault; how Mrs. Younger fought for her honor; how, finally
angered at her resistance, he attacked her with his knife; how the two children
screamed in affright when they saw their mother's life blood crimsoning the
walls and floors of the room, and how Mrs. Younger fell across the door step.
He then fled, but, looking back saw his victim staggering down the road
aimlessly, falteringly, and she fell and lay still, then he turned and ran.
The first train this morning on the Cotton Belt from Hillsboro was
so crowded it could carry no more. Runners were sent over the county
announcing the arrival of Henderson here and all the morning people have been
swarming into the city to take part or witness the execution of the
penalty to be inflicted on the negro.
After his confession it was decided to burn him at the stake at 2 o'clock,
but news was received of the rangers and troops en route from Dallas due here at
12 o'clock and hurried preparations were made to anticipate interference.
A railroad rail was driven into the ground at the corner of the court
house lot and boxes and wood piled around it and saturated with oil.
The crowd had increased to about two thousand; at 11 o'clock about forty
made a rush from the jail across the street to the court house. In their
midst was the negro, handcuffed. The men formed a circle, holding on to a
chain which completely surrounded Henderson, to prevent any attempt of the
enraged people to get him and tear him to pieces. They rushed to the pile
of wood prepared for the fire and fastened the negro to the iron rail with wire
and chains. Cans of oil were dashed over his clothes and dozens of lighted
matches touched to the inflammable material. At that time the fire bell
was rung and the stores of the city were deserted and the streets were full of
men rushing to the courthouse to witness the burning.
Just before the pile was fired Conway Younger, husband of the murdered
woman, jumped at Henderson and slashed him across the face with a knife.
As the flames encircled the negro and ran over his clothing, the crowd yelled
and Younger again attempted to cut the murderer with his knife.
At no time during the burning did Henderson give any indication of pain or
suffering. He rolled his eyes so as to get a glimpse of the sea of angry
faces which surrounded him and his hands moved slightly.
It was about ten minutes before he was dead, during which time the
movements of his hands were becoming feebler.
At no time did he make any outcry, other than a groan.
At 11:30 Lee French, husband of the victim of the negro, Anderson Norris,
who beat her to death with a piece of Iron pipe last November, and who was taken
from the jail here last week by the officers and carried to a place of safety,
climbed a tree and made an impassioned speech to the crowd asking them to help
him get the murderer and deal with him as they had just dealt with
Henderson. The crowd yelled back that they would assist.
The northbound Central train, arriving here at 12 o'clock, was crowded
with people from the southern part of the county, who expressed disappointment
at being too late. No militia were on the train.
CORSICANA IS QUIET AFTER THE BURNING
Intense Excitement has Given Way to a Peaceful Calm
WAITING GOVERNORS ACTION
All Interested in What Major Sayers May Do - Some Additional Details of
the Awful Event
Special to the Times Herald:
Corsicana, Tex., March 14, - As fiendish a crime as ever civilization knew has
been avenged in the most awful way the ingenuity of Navarro County people could
suggest and the determination of resolute men could execute A negro murderer and
attempted rapist has been sent to meet his God after a week of excitement that
has tried the people of this county as they were probably never tried
before. Despite the anti-lynching statute, despite long dissertations
against mob rule, despite the tireless vigilance of the civil authorities,
despite the watchfulness of the State's chief executive, that unwritten law,
one of the priceless heritages of the Anglo-Saxon race and which commands that
none shall lay forceful hands on the body of woman, has been swiftly, awfully
enforced. Led and spurred on by as good men, and as prominent as there are
in this community, 2,500 citizens yesterday ended the life of John (or Jonas)
Henderson, murderer of Mrs. Conway Younger, by burning him at the stake.
It was an orderly crowd. Excitement showed itself on the faces of
the younger element, but the men who did the work exhibited no trace of fear or
nervousness. When their terrible task had been finished, the big crowd
dispersed and only the relic hunters remained. These were almost ghoulish
in their search for mementoes. Pieces of the negro's bones, fragments of
charred flesh, chains, and other reminders of the mob's work were eagerly
scrambled for. A minister of the gospel carried away a part of Henderson's
liver. A Mexican, void of all feeling, attempted to take a bite of the
remnant of the brute's heart, and only desisted when commanded to leave the
No effort whatever was made toward concealment. The burning was done
in the court-house yard, the most public spit in Navarro county, just before
noon. All those who engaged in the violation of the anti-lynching law
seemed proud of their connection. Fears as to what Gov. Sayers ma do were
laughed to scorn and the expression was often used that "Every white man in
Navarro county pleads guilty." This was the inscription, too, written
on a piece of paper and attached to a fragment of Henderson's remains that was
expressed to Gov. Sayers last night.
This was not done, however, by any of those in authority, and is
characterized as an insult by all who have heard of it.
An interesting feature of the burning was the manner of the ignition of
the inflammable material that had been piled around the negro. When
Henderson's funeral pyre had been made ready for the torch, all those close
tried to set fire to the oil-soaked kindling wood. A score of matches were
applied at once. It would be difficult indeed to find the principal of
this part of the programme. Another thing that attracted attention away
from the burning negro even was the actions of the women who lived in the
neighborhood of Mrs. Younger. They threw wood on the flames and aimed
several chunks at Henderson's head. The frantic behavior of the murdered
woman's husband, who was crazed with grief and anger, was described in these
Corsicana never knew such a day as yesterday was and the event that
startled the country has had only two parallels in the state's history.
To-day all that remains to tell the story is the recollection of a terrible deed
terribly avenged and the heavy irons on which John Henderson was roasted to
HENDERSON' S CONFESSION
Corsicana, Tex., March 14. - Following is the confession of John Henderson
just as he made it:
"County Jail, Corsicana, Tex., Navarro County, March 13, 1901. - I
John Henderson, a negro, aged about 22 years, went to the house of a white lady
unknown to me, who lived about three miles north of Corsicana, on the Houston
and Texas Central, west of a station-house, about one-fourth of a mile, on
the afternoon of March 6, 1901, and killed her. There was no one present
when I committed the crime except the lady, two children and myself. I
killed the lady in the house and when I left she was lying in the door. I
used a new knife with two small blades and one large blade. The knife has
an iron handle. I want to be hung. I hereby give my body to C. M.
Hornbeck and Dr. Hedge. I did not attempt such violence upon Mrs. Younger
as would deprive her of her virtue. JOHN HENDERSON
The aboe was read to the crowd just before the burning. The
following letter was written for Henderson and forwarded to his father at
Hearne: "Corsicana, Tex., March 13, 1901 - Frank Henderson, Hearne, Tex.:
Dear Father - I am in jail on a charge of the murder of Mrs. Conway Younger, a
white lady. I am guilty of the charge. I can't tell why I did
this. I am to die for the crime. I have sent for a preacher to pray
for me. I never killed a woman before, but you know I killed Mr. Ward in
Marlin, and served five years for this. Tell my brother Charlie to be a
better boy than I have been. I went astray, but say to him I will die for
my awful crime. Good-bye, father. JOHN HENDERSON
THE CORONER'S VERDICT
The following verdict of Corner Roberts on the Henderson burining is
considered rather unique even in Corsicana:
"I find that the deceased came to his death at the hands of the
incensed and outraged citizens and the best people in the United States, the
citizens of Navarro and adjoining counties. The evidence as well as
confession of guilt by deceased show that his punishment was fully merited and
commendable. Given under my hand and seal of office at Corsicana, Tex.,
this the 13th day of March, A.D. 1901. H. G. ROBERTS.
"Justice of the Peace, President No. 1, Navarro Cunty and Acting
QUITE CAME QUICKLY
Corsicana, Tex., March 14 - in two hours after the fire about Henderson's
body had burned up all the material in its way, the frenzy that had filled
Corsicana for a week entirely disappeared. Of course people talked of the
incidents of the day, but there was no excitement. All was peace and law
and order. Tired men sought their homes and the great crowd that filled
the streets at noon rapidly melted away. Last night Corsicana looked at
though there has been nothing unusual during the day. Services were held
in many of the churches and the opera house was filled with people who looked at
though they had never heard of a negro-burning. The absence of excitement
was remarkable. This condition was a welcome change to those who have been
under an abnormal mental stress for a week.
Henderson's crime was committed one week before it was avenged.
According to his own confession he murdered Mrs. Younger on the afternoon of
March 6. It was the last of a series of similar crimes that harrowed the
nerves of the people of Navarro county till they could stand no more. If
the mob could have gotten hold of the negro who was in jail at Dallas, it would
have required more than a sheriff and his deputies to have saved him. It
is told even now that quiet efforts will be made to get Norris.
Had state troops been ordered to Corsicana yesterday, much bloodshed would
undoubtedly have been caused. The report that troops were on the way
hastened Henderson's end. It is the opinion of all that it would have
required 500 seasoned troops under competent officers to have saved the negro's
EYES ON GOVERNOR
Course of State's Chief Executive Awaited With Interest
Special to the Times Herald:
Corsicana, Tex., March 14. - Under the provisions of the anti-lynching law enacted during the administration of Gov. Culberson, the governor of the state
may order the arrest of those he supposes to have been connected with the death
of a man at the hands of a mob. he may go further than this. He may
order their removal to and trial, in any county in the state. To enforce
these orders he may enlist the assistance of the state troops, the rangers and
every peace officer in Texas. The people of Corsicana have informed
themselves as to this law - that's why they are so eagerly awaiting new from
So far as is known, Governor Sayers has made no sign as to his
intentions. That he has been in communication by wire with District
Attorney Kirven and other authorities here is well known. Major
Kirven wired the governor yesterday afternoon that the peace officers of Navarro
county were "both blameless and helpless." It is admitted that
the state's chief executive can cause a would of trouble if he chooses to.
A knowledge of his intentions would be welcome information to the people of this
city. Any resident of Navarro county can give the names of the members of
the committee who presided at Henderson's death.
Athens Weekly Review
March 15, 1901; page 30
BURNED AT STAKE
The negro, JOHN HENDERSON, who was brought back to Corsicana for
examination Tuesday confessed to the crime of the murder of Mrs. Younger, and
the enraged citizens fastened him to an iron stake and burned him. It was
revolting crime, the most so in the catalogue of crimes, and he paid the penalty
with a horrible death, but a death justly deserved.
- Submitted by Janet Cook, Feb 2003
Athens Weekly Review - March 8, 1901; page 18 (full
The Wife of a Farmer FOULLY Murdered in Navarro County.
Corsicana, Tex., March 7 --Every officer in this portion of Navarro County and a
large part of the population are scouring Chambers Creek Bottom, three miles
north of town, for a negro who has committed a crime revolting in its atrocity.
MRS. VALLEY YOUNGER, the wife of a farmer and the daughter of
Capt. DALE, well known in Navarro county, was butchered after an attempt had
been made to assault her.
Her father found her body about 4 o'clock Wednesday afternoon
about about fifty yards from her home, which is three miles north of Corsicana,
near the Houston and Texas Central track. There were perhaps a dozen knife
wounds on her body. Her jugular vein had been severed and toward the back of her
neck there was a big gaping wound. On the right of the neck she had been
stabbed, while the left cheek was laid open with a slash of the knife. The right
hand was cut as if she had caught at the knife. Hastening to the house, Capt.
Dale found both the woman's children, a girl of 3 years and a boy only a year
old, locked in the kitchen. The girl was still almost paralyzed with fright, and
for a time could only cry, but finally succeeded in saying "A nigger hit mama."
Every room in the house was bloody, and in one of them the
furniture was so disturbed as to indicate a terrific struggle. The assault was
made in the house, it is believed, that afterward the body was dragged to where
it was found. There was nothing from which a clew (sic) could be deduced, unless
it was a piece of a suspender found in one of the rooms.
The crime, it is thought, was committed about 3 o'clock. This
supposition is based on the circumstance that a negro carrying a knife was seen
to pass a house about a mile away a short time after that hour. He stopped some
children in front of a farmer's house and asked them if their mother was at
home. Simultaneously their father stepped out of the house and the negro hastily
continued his journey, going toward Chambers creek.
CHASE A NEGRO WITH DOGS
Texans on the Trail of a Black Who Murdered a White Woman.
CORSICANA, Texas, March 7. - Mrs. Conway Younger, a farmers wife, was
murdered last night by a negro. A posse of 200 men, headed by Younger,
are, by the aid of bloodhounds, following the trail of the murderer, who
doubtless will meet a terrible death at the hands of the pursuers. Younger
returned from the fields last evening to find his wife missing. His
three-year-old child was playing about the house, and after searching the house,
Younger asked the child where it mother had gone.
negro knocked mamma down and dragged her away." lisped the little one.
Younger gathered some of his neighbors and after a short search, Mrs.
Younger's body was found in the brush path not far from the house. There
were signs of a terrible struggle between the woman and her murderer. A
gash in her throat extending from ear to ear had ended her life. Aroused
to an extraordinary pitch of fury over the crime, men gathered from the
surrounding country, bloodhounds wre procured, and the party mounted for the
chase of the murderer. Up to a late hour this evening he has succeeded in
eluding his pursuers.
NEGRO BURNED AT THE STAKE
Corsicana (Texas) Mob Punished the Murderer of a White Woman, After He Had
CORSICANA, Texas, March 13. - John Henderson,
colored, who several days ago brutally murdered Mrs. Younger, a farmer's wife,
living just outside this city, was burned to death in the Court House Square
here at noon today. A written confession of the crime, attested by Justice
Roberts, was secured from the prisoner. Five thousand people witnessed the
burning and business was practically suspended for a time.
Henderson was captured yesterday after a long chase. He was trailed by
bloodhounds from the Younger homestead, many miles back and forth across the
country, and was finally captured near Hillsborough. The officers took him
to the latter place, and where impelled through fear of mobs, to start for Fort
Worth. When the train reached Itasca, a party of Younger's friends
overpowered the guards and hustled Henderson from the train. He was
conveyed across the prairie, a distance of forty-five miles, to Corsicana, where
he was placed in jail to prevent the Infuriated citizens from tearing him to
A committee was appointed to see him and pass finally
on his guilt or innocence. He made a written confession that he had
murdered an "unknown white lady three miles north of Corsicana, March 6."
There was no one present, he said, but himself and the woman's two little
children. He said he did not know why he did it.
it became public that Henderson had confessed, people swarmed around the jail.
It was decided to burn the prisoner at the stake at 2 o'clock P.M., but news was
received that troops had been started from Dallas, and the execution was
hurried. A railroad rail was driven into the ground in the corner of the
Court House square. Boxes and dry timber were piled around it and
saturated with oil.
Just before noon about forth men rushed
from the jail across the square to the place where the rail had been planted.
Among them was henderson, handcuffed. The negro was fastened to the rail
with wire and chains. Cans of oil were emptied over his clothing and
dozens of lighted matches touched the inflammable material. The fire
alarms were rung and the stores of the city were deserted as their occupants
rushed to the square to witness the burning.
Just as the pile
was fired, Conway Younger, husband of the murdered woman jumped at Henderson and
slashed him across the face with a knife. Henderson gave no indication of
pain or suffering. he rolled his eyes to get a glimpse of the angry faces
which surrounded him, and there wa a slight movement of the hands. In ten
minutes Hendersonwas dead. At no time did he make any outcry other than an
Justice H. G. Roberts held an inquest on
the body of Henderson and gave the following verdict:
that the deceased came to his just death at the hands of the incensed and
outraged feelings of the best people in the United States, the citizens of
Navarro and adjoining counties. The evidence, as well as the confession of
guilt by deceased, shows that his punishment was fully merited and commendable.
TEXAS LYNCHERS DEFIANT
Effort to Punish Men Who Burned the Negro Henderson, Although Governor Has Full
DALLAS, Texas, March 14. So far as is known,
Gov. Sayers has made no sign as to his intentions in connection with the burning
yesterday of John Henderson. That he has been in communication by wire
with District Attorney Kirven and other authorities of the Corsicana Judicial
District is well known.
Major Kirven wired the Governor
yesterday afternoon that the peace officers of Navarro County were "both
blameless and helpless," but any resident of Navarro County can give the names
of the members of the committee who presided at Henderson's death, since no
effort was made toward concealment. The burning was done in the Court
House yard, the most public spot in Navarro County. All those who engaged
in the violation of the anit-lynching law seemed proud of their connection.
Fears as to what Gov. Sayers might do were laughed to scorn and the expression
was often used that "every white man in Navarro County pleads guilty."
This was the inscription, too, written on a piece of paper and attached to a
fragment of Henderson's remains, that was expressed to Gov. Sayers last night.
Under provisions of the anti-lynching law, enacted during the administration
of Gov. Culberson, the Governor of Texas may order the arrest of those he
believes to have been connected with the deaths of a man at the hands of a mob.
He may go further than this; he may order their removal to and the trial in any
county in the State. To enforce these orders he may enlisted the
assistance of the State troops, the Rangers, and every peace officer in Texas.
NEGRO SCHOOLHOUSE BURNED
Blacks Fear a Race War as a Sequel to a Corsicana Burning.
CHICAGO, March 16. - A special from Corsicana, Texas, says: "A negro schoolhouse
at Corbet, eight miles west of Corsicana, has been burned by incendiaries.
The negroes in the neighborhood were warned to leave in forty-eight hours.
"Several shots were fired into a negro's house, but none of the occupants
were injured. The negroes fear a race war as a sequel to the recent
burning of John Henderson.