The Lynching of
            John Davidson


Cannelton Times-Telephone
Thursday, April 6, 1893

Tell City Journal
Wednesday, August 23, 1893

Cannelton Enquirer & Reporter
Saturday, 3 September 1887

Cannelton Enquirer & Reporter
2 July, 1887

They Hanged The Wrong Man
by Don Sturgeon

Dragged Out of Bed to Be Lynched!
Farmer Recalls Event 47 Years Later, 13 October 1934

Old Town Pump
Cannelton News
22 February, 1977

Perry County Circuit Court Records

Davidson Genealogy


Cannelton Times-Telephone
Thursday, April 6, 1893

L. J. Early and Conrad Schuetz

Some Perry County History

John Flanagan, Sr., Jno. Sigler and Jacob L. Esary, prominent farmers and heads of families, living in the vicinity of Doolittle Mills, this county, were placed behind the bars of the county jail last Friday afternoon.

This recalls a sensational tragedy which occurred about the last of May and the first of June, 1887, nearly six years ago. It was the brutal assault upon an innocent young woman, followed by the lynching of a brother of the man who committed the dastardly crime. In the outset, it may as well be stated, that the region to which we are about to allude is the hot-bed of crime in all its forms and has been for years. It is the home of highwaymen, white-cappers and red-handed murderers, who would think nothing of way-laying a peaceable citizen for a few paltry grains of filthy lucre.

At the time above mentioned, a family by the name of Enlow lived in the neighborhood. In the family were step-children who inherited meanness from both sides of the house. Two of these step sons were named John and Clay Davidson. They were into all kinds of meanness and were the constant terror of the neighborhood. They had each, early in life served their terms in the pen and were ripe for other crimes in order that they might be returned.

Clay, accompanied by a half-brother named Enlow, went one Sunday to the house of old man John Flanagan, while the family were at church, and while he remained at a safe distance outside, sent his half-brother to see who was at home. It was ascertained that a twenty year old daughter, Annie, and two little brothers were there. It seemed that the Enlow boy then disappeared after having falsely told them that there was a lot of stock in their corn field and being sure that they left in their false errand. This of course paved the way for Clay, who as full of brutality and general cussedness as it was possible for mortal to be; so he entered the house and found Annie preparing dinner. He drew his revolver, gagged her, and dragged her across a field to the woods where he kept her concealed from 9 a.m. Sunday until seven o'clock the next morning. While he had criminal intercourse with her to his own hellish satisfaction, and had the law given him his just due, he would be in hell today.

The Flanagans returned from church and found no one at home, except the two little children. Search was at once begun and in a few house the surrounding neighborhood was on the look out for the daughter. The brute kept her hid in the woods all night and under penalty of death, she never said a word although her rescuers were often within a hundred yards of her. As soon as they would move he would drag her through the brush to where they had passed, in the hope that they would be thrown off the trail. Rain began to fall and the night winds sighed through the wild waste of woods, but still no relief came to the gagged, poorly clad and suffering young woman. She was cold and almost exhausted in the hands of the demon who was called a man. The sun rose and the search was continued. Davidson by this time had tied his victim hand and foot to a tree and refused to leave her. Worn out and exhausted, her nostrils filled with cold, she begged him in the name of high Heaven to take the gag out of her mouth or she would suffocate. Relaxing a little, he did it; but with the revolver in hand he swore to kill her if she opened her mouth to scream for assistance. The party in search, or rather a small squad of them was heard in the brush nearby. He had left her side for a while to go, as he said, to get something for them to eat, when she uttered a shrill scream which was heard by the searchers. With the swiftness of the wind he returned to kill her, but the crowd reached her first and he turned tail and fled, the coward and brute that he was. He then made good his escape and was seen no more in the neighborhood. He fled to Daviess County, Ky., and spent the summer somewhere near Owensboro. In October, he got tired of being kept away from home and went to Rockport and gave himself up to Juede Reinhard who turned him over to the sheriff of this county and he was placed in jail in this city to await the November term of court when he was tried. Hon. James Hemenway prosecuted him and being unable to employ an attorney, Wm. A. Land was appointed to defend him. He was sentenced to serve twenty-one years in the State prison and was taken to Jeffersonville where he now is.

Returning to the woman. She was found tied hand and foot as before related and was promptly released and taken home. The neighborhood was all in a turmoil for the peace and quietness of things before that were aroused to the utmost tension. The hills and hollows were scoured in a fruitless endeavor to find Davidson. Knowing that his brother John was the past, present and future grand master of all the meanness that could be conceived by the brain of mortal man, and suspicioning that he had a hand in the girl's ruin, a mob fell on him and his half-brother, Henry Enlow, tied them together with a rope and took them to the home of Mr. John Flanagan, Sr., who is the father of the outraged young woman. This mob was not really a mob in the strictest sense of the term from the outset, because it was their intention to take them over to the Squire's near by where the law would have its course. As a matter of fact, however, Jno Davidson and Henry Enlow had nothing to do with the brutal assault. After guarding these two boys and Mrs. Enlow, their mother, and her daughter, for a few hours, it was decided to hitch up a team and carry them to the Squire's house. But before that could be accomplished, another crowd entered the house, between nine and one o'clock and marched two and two around them with faces blacked and demanded the prisoners. They were given up without any noise or resistance and were taken out into the yard and across the field. Soon after they were on the outside Henry Enlow, then about 13, got out his knife and cut the rope which tied his hand to that of his half-brother and ran as hard as he could go and escaped. Davidson was carried right on to the woods and when they reached there, he was swung to a beech tree or sapling, and left there.

That is about the history of the crime so far as the hearsay goes. Time wore on. The matter had been settled. John Davidson was buried and Clay Davidson in the penitentiary. No one attempted to find out who hung John Davidson or indict those who had a hand in it until along about March 1 of this year. Then it was whispered about that the guilty parties would soon be brought to justice. Now as to the way in which this was to be brought about, the following statement of John Sigler to a representative of the Times-Telephone will show. Here it is:

"I had heard it intimated several weeks before Henry Enlow filed the affidavits against us that he would do so and as an evidence of this, I was told so by one James Sanders, a druggist, physician and a saloonist at Doolittle Mills. He told me that he had a contract with a lawyer at Leavenworth and had had for five years, to the effect that he (Sanders) was to get ten percent of all the business that he solicited for him. Further evidence of this: on or about March 1, James Sanders, Jerry Suddarth and Jno. H. Weathers came to my house on horseback about eleven o'clock at night and called me out. Sanders and I had a talk and the attorneys came up. Before that, I did not know they were there. I said, boys, I have been expecting this for some time and it does not come to me in the nature of a surprise at all. They made no proposition to me, but I understood that they desired to be employed on the defense. I went with them over to my son's, Geo. Sigler's about a half mile away. There we had a talk again. We took him and Jeff Anderson with us and about twelve o'clock we got to Jake Esary's. There we had a heated discussion and departed, each going home fully aware of the spirit of such proceedings. I understand that there was a warrant for Joe Jones, who is a brother-in-law of Sanders, held by the officer in Crawford county, and that it was held up in order that the defense be ready and that Sanders felt for him in the matter and didn't want it pushed. This was a lie woven to suit those who told it.

Leavenworth is 22 miles from my places near Doolittle Mills and the latter is 35 miles from Cannelton. I was anxious for a trial and none of the twelve men were afraid but what they could establish their innocence. Philip Teverbaugh was in Tennessee and when he was written to about it he came home. Littleton Faulkenburg is not evading arrest at all. Along about March 9-11 Henry Enlow aged about 19, a half-brother of the Davidson boys, went to Cannelton and filed the affidavits against me, Jno Flanagan, Sr., Jno Flanagan, Jr., Jacob L. Esary, Otto & Littleton Faulkenburg, Robt. and Wm. Donnelly, Joe Jones, Wilfred King, Geo. Sigler, my son and Phil Teverbaugh. My understanding is that Sanders went by rail while Enlow went by land to Cannelton where they met at Jos. Heubi's. Sanders then took a boat for Leavenworth and Enlow returned home. I understand that Andy Lemon claims he knows all the persons who were in the mob. He is a bad character and is constantly dodging the officers of the law. The Enlows are set with a bad reputation. I could tell you more if I had time."

Here ends the story as told by Mr. Sigler, a straight-forward honest farmer who happens to live near a gang of hoodlums and desperados.

Andrew Enlow, a half-brother of the Davidson boys and a full brother to Henry Enlow, a mere stripling as it were, in the fall of 1891 shot two fellows by the name of Snyder, killing one and would have killed the other had it not been that the bullet struck a silver dollar in the fellow's pocket. For this he was brought to this city last year and tried and sentenced to serve two years in the Plainsfield Reform School. Last winter he escaped from that place and came to his father's home in this county. A reward was offered by the state for his arrest. Sheriff Conway caught him on Wednesday night of last week and brought him here and landed him in jail where he now is.

Eight of these twelve men were summoned to appear before Esq. Heck on last Friday to answer to the charge of murder. Papers were out for all of them but the other three were not seen. The other, Otto Faulkenburgh, is in the pen at Jeffersonville, having been sentenced at the February term for a term of five years for white-capping. He will be brought here in May and tried for murder along with the rest of these men who were held over. The trial was held in the Circuit Court room and the house was crowded with people. Prosecutor Hal DeWeese handled the prosecution and Wm. A. Land represented the defense. The trial lasted from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

About thirty witnesses where introduced, five for the prosecution and twenty-five for the defense. Those for the prosecution swore that they were at Jno Flanagan's when the mob came to take Jno. Davidson. that prior to that Henry Enlow and Davidson had been arrested and brought there tied together. Witnesses recognized in the mob, viz.: Jno Sigler, Sr., Jacob Esary, Jno. Flanagan and Otto Faulkenburgh. Mrs. Enlow swore that Esary had a switch in one hand and a revolver in the other. That they left with her boys. She was guarded. She remained at Flanagan's all night. Before day Jno. Flanagan, Sr. and Otto Faulkenburgh returned and witnesses overhead the former say to his wife, "We put one in the bush, and it would be a good thing if the rest was there." Otto said, "I helped hang one and b--g-- I'll help hang more if they want me to." Witness sat up all night.

Those for the defense swore in substance that they took no part in the hanging and knew nothing of it until after it was done. Jno. Flanagan swore that he was in bed the last half of the night. Not seen by other witnesses after that. Jno. Sigler swore he was along with the crowd when the boys were arrested. Jacob Esary swore that he was at home the latter part of the night. Jno. Flanagan, Jr., saw Davidson no more after he went to hitch up team until he saw him dead. Mike Kelly in barn with Flanagan when mob took him away. Thos. Lyons saw Jno. Flanagan, Sr., after mob left, was in crowd that arrested Enlow and Davidson. Wilford King was in crowd that arrested the boys. Didn't help hang Davidson. Thos. Cunningham was in barn yard when mob left with boys. John Flanagan, Sr., went to bed, I stayed there all night. Ike Kellems, in barn yard, didn't see much, caught up with crowd that arrested boys. Geo Carmickle, with Esary about 11 o'clock, separated and went home. Sam Doolittle, spent latter part of night at home and early part in search of Clay Davidson. Out until nearly daylight. Tine Gobble, with Jon. Sigler a while before day near Jno. Davidson's looking for Clay. Frank Carl, with Jno. Sigler, was not at Flanagans. Denny Cook, with Sigler. Alfred Sigler with Jno. Sigler, at and around Davidsons. Frank Carl, reputation of Enlows bad. Peter King not acquainted with them or reputation. Geo. Comstock same. Wm. Donnelly, knew nothing of hanging and not in crowd that arrested boys. Sam Hill, with Donnelly at Sam Enlow's until 4 a.m. Not at Flanagans. Sam Enlow, Jr., new nothing. Barney Lyons, at Flanagans from 10 a.m. (?) until day. Missed Jno. Flanagan about 3 o'clock. Jno. King with Donnelley at Enlow's watching Clay Davidson. Left about daylight. Lem Foster at Flanagan's all night. Jo Kelly at Flanagan's an hour or so, Davidson not then taken away. Jim Farley, at Flanagan's all night, rope across lap, lantern on knee, guarding boys. Gave boys up to mob without resistance. Thought it no use. Mrs. Kimberlin knew nothing. The prosecution then introduced a few witnesses. Francis Enlow swore that Jake Esary told him that if Ike Falkenburgh was working it up the coroner would get a case before sundown. Sam Esary at Ingles early part of night. Mrs. Abbie Klee saw Farley holding rope. Mrs. Enlow swore same, also that Farley held rope when mob took boys out.

The case was then closed and the attorneys made short speeches summing up evidence. DeWeese showed that Jno. Sigler, Jno, Flanagan, Sr., Otto Faulkenbourgh and Jacob Esary had established no proof of their whereabouts in the latter part of the night. That four witnesses testified to having recognized several men in the mob those named above being some of them and closed with a strong appeal that they be held without bail and that Jno. Flanagan, Jr., Wm. Donnelly, Geo. Sigler, Wilfore King and Phil Teverbaugh be set free.

Mr. Land admitted partial proof by the prosecution and urged that the case be made a bailable one, on the ground that the evidence to commit them without bail was insufficient. The Squire sent the three men to jail much to the humiliation of themselves and to the surprise of those present. Old and representative farmers as they are and as well know in that part of the county for truth and veracity, it came upon most everyone in the nature of a surprise. Everyone who knew Jno Davidson said he ought to have been hung years before but in this case no direct evidence was produced that these men who are in jail did the work. The evidence is all circumstantial. Nearly all the evidence of the prosecution was by the Enlow family. Oil township is considerably set back that their best citizens and farmers are in jail on the serious charge of murder.

Sheriff Conway has treated the prisoners very genteelly. Two of them were allowed to attend church Saturday and they have almost had their freedom since their incarceration. Being among the best farmers in the county and men of their word, no one feared that they would try to get away. As soon as (they) were sent to jail, their attorney, Wm. A. Land, wrote to Judge Gough asking an order to admit them to bail. The order was received Tuesday and the bail of each placed at $5,000.

The three prisoners were turned loose Tuesday afternoon in order that they might go home to get their bond filled. The writ of habeas corpus was secured by the persistent work of Wm. A. Land the defendant of the men, and they will always remember him for it. He is one of the shrewdest attorneys in Southern Indiana and since he entered the practice last fall has done an excellent business. He was out of practice all last spring and summer but is located here permanently now.

13 April 1893 -- John Flanagan, Sr., John Sigler and Jacob I. Esary have each furnished the necessary $5,000 bail and are free.

31 August 1893 -- Clay Davidson and Otto Faulkenbourgh were brought from Jeffersonville for testimony in trial and Perry Co.

7 September 1893 -- The crowd at the Esary trial was too much for the old Court House as the weight of the crowd caused the floor to lower a little, breaking the plastering off in the Clerk's office.

Tell City Journal
Wednesday, August 23, 1893

On the thirty-first day of May, 1887, John Davidson was hanged by "white caps." His wife and two little children went to William M. Kellums living at Siberia for protection. Mrs. Davidson being sick at the time. She died some eight months afterward, Mr. Kellums defraying the entire expense. The two little girls Mr. Kellums has kept ever since, feeding and clothing them, though he is a poor man, having to work hard for a living. Seven years of struggling to keep two little orphan children from suffering! Think of it! During theses long years of bearing others burdens Mr. Kellums has tried to enlist the sympathies of his township trustee enough in his behalf to secure some recompense, but in vain. Now let our county commissioners do an act of justice -- so long procrastinated -- and vote Mr. Kellums a neat little sum for his noble and disinterested charity. A man who fights the battles of bread in behalf of poor orphan children is of far more value than a hundred soldiers who fight on the fields of carnage.

Cannelton Enquirer & Reporter
Saturday, 3 September 1887

Clay Davis (sic), the Oil township rapist is now languishing in jail in this city, awaiting the November term of the Perry Circuit court, when he will be tried for a crime the punishment for which under the law of this state is imprisonment in the state's prison not more than twenty one years nor less than five. The father of the girl who was brutally outraged seems not to be taking any very important steps toward bringing this villain to justice, but the good citizens of Oil township, and some over in the edge of Crawford county, raised a reward for Davis' capture. Davis knowing he could not escape the officers of justice very long, contrived to slip back to the old neighborhood and hold a secret consultation with his step-brother (sic), one Enlow, and he agreed with Enlow to give himself and receive one half of the reward. They both left that neighborhood together and went to Rockport, and Davis was placed in jail, where he remained until the Sheriff of this county brought him here and placed him in jail where he now is. John Flanagan, the girl's father, is a man in good circumstances financially, and it is on account of his inactivity to the prosecution of Davis that the people are to a certain extent losing the sympathy they had when the crime was first committed, but on account of the interest they have for the community at large, and to protect their own wives and daughters they are anxious for an example to be made of this brute which will be a warning to all men of like character in the future, which will surely be done if he is vigorously and properly prosecuted.

Cannelton Enquirer & Reporter
2 July, 1887

It is reported by a man living in the neighborhood of Riceville on the Air Line RR that Nathan Seals brutally whipped his child from the effects of which it died the next day, and that the White Caps visited said Seals and hung him up to dry. He was taken down and placed away in the ground. Seals had always born(e) a very bad reputation in that part of the country but there are so many conflicting stories about the matter that it is hard to tell whether it is true or not.