The Lynching of
            John Davidson


They Hanged The Wrong Man
by Don Sturgeon
(compiled from oral tradition, 1980)

Although this sounds like an old move cliché, it is a true fact, the scene took place around a small area called Kitterman Corner, about 5 miles from Bristow.

You may, someday, quite by accident, come across a small cemetery by the name of Kellems Cemetery in Fox Ridge. And, if you look hard enough you will find a tombstone, somewhat blackish-gray in color, with a hangman's noose deeply engraved, also on the tombstone is an inscription which reads, "Vengance is mine, saith the Lord."

Under that tombstone lies the body of John J. Davidson, a young man 29 years of age, who lost his life in a bizarre hanging on August 12, 1887.

The story goes as told by Bert Fenn, a resident of Tell City, that John was laid to rest by the angry mob that hung him that dreadful night. The worst thing about it was, he was just an innocent bystander.

The story starts out as a love story but ends up in a tragic hanging.

John's brother, Clay, a boy of the Protestant faith, fell madly in love with a young Catholic girl by the name of Ann, who had the same feelings for him. Ann's father and mother did not approve of their seeing each other.

Ann's father, a very stern man, told her that if he ever saw that no-account Protestant scoundrel around their house, he would have him severely beaten, and she would receive the same. Reluctantly, she agreed to her father's wishes, but then sneaked off into the woods to meet her forbidden lover.

Eventually, they ran off together, trying to find someplace where the difference in their religion wouldn't interfere.

Ann's father, finding his daughter gone, searched for several days through the surrounding countryside of Perry County, but to no avail. The neighbors hearing his calling across the hills, felt sorry for him, and joined in the search for Ann, but also to no avail.

After a long discussion and a lot of tipping the bottle, the girl's father and his friends became properly lubricated and figured that, if they didn't know where Clay and Ann were, John, Clay's brother should.

They gathered in front of John's house that very same night, and called him about his crops and how they were doing, then they got serious and to the point. They told John that they were looking for Clay and Ann and he was going to tell them where they went.

John said that he couldn't either, because he didn't know where they were, since his brother hadn't told him of his plans.

There were words passed between John and the group of men. Then one of them, playing with a length of rope on his saddle, said, "Well, maybe this will improve your memory. It's just a suggestion."

John still replied that he didn't know where they were.

Around that time the group turned into a drunken, angry mob. Things got a little out of hand, and tempers flared up.

John was hung that night, his body left swaying in the wind from a tree by his house. He was put to rest in Kellems Cemetery, and it wasn't until recent years that his tombstone was erected. A black tombstone is his marker, to signify the black deed that took place that dreadful night.

Clay and Ann returned eventually, and Clay was tried and convicted, apparently for kidnapping, and was sent to prison.

It was in prison that he caught tuberculosis. Shortly after he was paroled, and while still a young may, Clay died. Clay's body lies in the Enlow Cemetery, near Kellems Cemetery, with a field stone marker at the head of his grave.


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

'Whitecapping' Flourished in Old Day, He Says: Tells of 'Bad Men'

Perry County Man Tells How Companion Was Hanged by Mob in 1887

Few men have had experiences as harrowing as that of being dragged out of bed by a mob intent on "stringing up" someone, yet that very thing happened to Henry Enlow, 63, who lives between Uniontown and St. Croix in Perry county.

He lives today, yet the mob fulfilled its evil purpose of that night many years ago when it hanged Enlow's companion.

On May 30, 1887, when Enlow was 15 yeas old, he worked all day cutting ties for John Davidson, a neighbor, and spent the night at the Davidson home. During the night masked men rushed into the home and seized Davidson and Enlow for the purpose of forcing them to reveal the whereabouts of Clay Davidson, John's brother, who had been accused of kidnapping a girl.

The mob dragged them out and after hurriedly searching in them for weapons, tied them together with rope, beat them and dragged them through the woods, all the time trying to force them to tell where Clay Davidson was. It was impossible, because they didn't know, Enlow says.

Boy Frees Himself

Enlow was trying frantically to get out his pearl handled knife which had been overlooked in the search. Finally he succeeded and cut himself loose and ran into the woods. The men did not try to recapture him so intent were they with Davidson.

Enlow said that Davidson pleaded with them to free him or at least free one hand that he might "get at" one man who was mistreating him more than the rest. But his pleas were in vain and it is said that Davidson's back was broken before the rope was tied around his neck and he was hanged to a beech tree near the home of John Flanagan, where the Shady Curve tourist cabins are today.

According to the coroner's inquest, which was filed in the circuit clerk's office on May 31, 1887, Americus Parr, justice of the peace, stated that the "dead body of John Davidson who was supposed to have come to his death by violence or casualty was hanging to a tree near the residence of John Flanagan in Oil township, Perry county, Indiana, and at the same time it being represented to me that because of the condition of the body it was impractical to notify the coroner of said county the distance being so far, I issued a subpoena and delivered it to John King, deputy constable of Oil township and commanded him to summon A. J. Lamar, Patrick Powers, Isaac Kelles, Wilford King and Katie Lyon to appear before me forthwith and testify at the inquest of John Davidson."

Woman Found Body

Katie Lyon testified that she saw Davidson when taken by masked men and that she was the first to find his body. Wilford King testified that he was acting in capacity of deputy sheriff on May 30, 1887, and arrested John Davidson and that masked men forcibly took Davidson from him and the next morning King found Davidson's body hanging from a tree with a rope around his neck. Patrick Powers testified the same thing and A. J. Lamar testified that 15 masked men took John Davidson and the next day he saw Davidson's body hanging from a tree.

Parr, the justice acting in capacity of corner, found that "John Davidson came to his death by being hanged and by violence -- parties unknown to me." Davidson was dressed in a dark cloth coat, light jeans pantaloons and striped shirt, one pocket of which had $1.30 in it, the report said.

Enlow admits today that he was afraid the men would come back and get him again. "They sent word that they would get me," he said, "but I hid out for about three weeks, spending some time in Kentucky. Finally I came back and testified against them.

All Lynchers Now Dead

"I rekon they never got around to making their threat good," he added. Enlow said he knew the men guilty of the lynching and said they all now are dead.

A trial of some sort was held before Squire William Heck in Cannelton but not one of the accused men served a day for the deed. "If there is a hereafter -- and I think there is -- they will be punished," Enlow said.

Enlow and his son, Jason, live in this beautiful hill country that in its peace and quiet suggest Sleepy Hollow and it is hard to believe that this story of Enlow's is not a terrible nightmare. But no, there are the records.

"Whitecapping" flourished in this neighborhood from 1885 to 1895, according to court records and "old timers." The word "whitecapping" originated from the fact that the men wore white hoods over their heads when they rode out at night to punish those who, in their eyes, were miscreants.

Period of Violence

That period was filled with violence, records reveal.

Henry Knight killed Sam Lampkins in a political brawl about the year 1890, Enlow said, by slashing him with a knife in the abdomen. Knight also cut Lampkins' son, Filmore, leaving horrible scars.

"I was sorry to hear that Knight had killed Lampkins because Knight was my friend and I hated to see him get into trouble," Enlow said. He added that Knight had saved his life one time when Otto Faulkenburg, another "bad man" who died recently, leveled a gun at him.

Records reveal that Faulkenburg killed Henry Knight in 1907 by shooting him through the heart. For 10 years Faulkenburg was a fugitive from justice and no officers were able to arrest him.

Officers Seize Him

In 1917 Marshal Edward Hemphill (now circuit clerk) and his deputy, Victor Gelarden (now marshal), went to Faulkenburg's home one night and hid in the barn. At 4 o'clock in the morning when Faulkenburg came out to milk the officers seized him.

Faulkenburg's home was equipped with trap doors, secret hiding places and sliding panels and was guarded by vicious dogs. It also was almost inaccessible and even today one has to walk for a mile through woods to get to it. While hiding from the "law" Faulkenburg, if cornered, would drop through a trapdoor into a secret passage which led into a cornfield.

When Hemphill went out to arrest Faulkenburg and attorney said, "Ed, I'll take Faulkenburg's case for half of what you find on him." The officers found $2,200 on his person.

Faulkenburg was acquitted in his trial because of the fact that the man he had killed was of equal ill repute.

Henry Knight's brother, Robert, was a militant socialist. In fact there was many socialist in Oil township and those who were not were republicans. Many were the brawls over politics. Because of this most of the men carried guns and trusted no one. It was said of Robert Knight that he was a crack shot with a pistol and could "bury nails" with ease. Robert Knight was socialist candidate for governor of Colorado in 1916, residents of that section of the county say.

Old Town Pump
Cannelton News
22 February, 1977

Although lynching -- murdering by mob action without a lawful trial -- has long been a part of the folklore of this country; few in Perry County realized how real it once was here.

Lord James Bryce, whose book the American Commonwealth, was a classic of American law and politics almost from the time it was written in 1894, had several pages devoted to mountain justice.

One page mentioned White Capping.

Bryce said, "And within the last few years there has been, in several states, and not ably in parts of southern Indiana -- a high, rough wooded country, with a backward and scattered population -- a strange recrudescense of lynching in the rise of the...White Caps, people who seize by night men or women who have given offense by their immoral life...drag them to the woods, flog them severely and warn them to quit the neighborhood."

The White Caps were often compared to the Ku Klux Klan, perhaps differing only in that their victims were not solely or largely black. They were active in Hancock county, KY, in the 1880s and 1890 where the lynching of a black man was cheered by a thousand people and was tacitly approved by the entire community. White Caps were also active in Perry County. We are reprinting the following article from the Cannelton Telephone, July 2, 1937 about whitecapping and violence in this county during the turn of the century.

Fifty years ago when whitecapping flourished in Oil Township, two men were dragged out of the bed one night to be lynched. The mob fulfilled their evil purpose with one of them but the other escaped and is living today in the same neighborhood.

Henry Enlow, who lives at Uniontown, said when he was only a lad his father hired him out to John Davidson to cut timber. After they had retired on the night of May 30, 1887 a crowd of masked men rushed into the house and seized Davidson hoping to force him to tell the whereabouts of his brother, Clay Davidson. They said Clay Davidson had committed an offense against a girl in the neighborhood.

Davidson told them that he did not know where clay was but they would not believe him. They said that he was under arrest and would be made to tell. They threatened him if he refused. The lynchers tied Davidson and, employee Enlow, together and dragged them into the woods for about a mile, beating and cursing them.

Davidson and Enlow were taken to the home of John Flanagan where a trial was held. Enlow said, he saw women in the kitchen mixing gun powder for the men to smear over their faces before they put the white caps on.

Declared guilty, the men were again taken into the woods, dragged, jerked, beaten, and kicked. Davidson recognized one of the men, the ringleader, and he begged hi to free just one hand that he might have some chance. The man refused.

Enlow said while this was going on he was trying to get a knife out of his pocket. Finally he managed to cut himself loose and ran into the woods. The mobsters made no attempt to recapture him; so intent were they with Davidson. Davidson knew Enlow had a knife and made several attempts to get it. "I reckon I was too worried about myself to think about John but I have always regretted it," Enlow said. Unable to free himself, Davidson was hanged to a beech tree across the highway from where the Shady Curve Tourist Cabins are today. The trees are still there and the place is pointed out to visitors. "The White Caps broke his back before they hanged him," Enlow said.

"I told you once all the lynchers are dead -- well they are not. I could name three or four right now who live in this township," Enlow said.

According to the coroner's inquest filed May 31, 1887, "the dead body of John Davidson, who was supposed to have come to his death by violence or casualty, was hanging to a tree near the residence of John Flanagan in Oil Township."

The document continued "it being represented to me that, because of the condition of the body, it was impractical to notify the coroner of said county, the distance being so far, I issued a subpoena and delivered it to John King, deputy constable, of Oil Township and commanded him to summon A. J. Lamar, Patrick Powers, Isaac Kelly, Wilford King and Katie Lyon to testify at the inquest."

Katie Lyon testified she saw Davidson when taken by masked men.

She was the first to find his body. Wilford King testified that he had arrested Davidson on May 30, 1887 and that masked men forcibly took him and the next morning he found Davidson's body hanging from a tree.

A. J. Lamar testified 15 masked men took John Davidson and the next morning his body was hanging from a tree.

Parr, the Justice acting in capacity of coroner ruled "John Davidson came to his death by hanging and by violence from parties unknown to me."

Davidson, according to the coroner's report, wore a dark cloth coat, light jeans, pantaloons and a striped shirt, one pocket of which had $1.30 in it.

A trial of sorts was held before Squire Will Heck at Cannelton, a time later, but not one of the lynchers served a day. Enlow, hidden in Kentucky, came back and prosecuted 13 of them.

The period was filled with violence anyway. Henry Knight killed Sam Lampkins in a political brawl, slashing him with a knife in the belly. Harry Nulton killed Lige King about the same time over a real or fancied insult. Enlow said when Nulton went to King's home to kill him, King was not home; Nulton calmly sat on King's porch until his victim arrived and shot him through the heart.

Otto Faulkenburg killed Henry Knight in 1907 and for ten years no officers were able to arrest him. In 1917 Edward Hemphill, then marshall of Cannelton, and Victor Gelarden went to Faulkenburg's home and hid in the barn until the next morning. When Faulkenburg came out to milk, the officers seized him. Faulkenburg was acquitted at his trial.

Enlow's brother, Andrew had also killed a man.

Enlow had beaten the time of Tom Snyder with a certain pretty girl. one day as he and his brother were passing the village store at Doolittle Mills, Tom Snyder said, "I hear that you are going to whip me," and a fight began. Andrew, thirteen years old, whipped out his pistol and fired at Snyder, killing him.

Later, Andrew shot Dave Snyder but a folded two dollar bill and a dime in Snyder's pocket saved his life.

Andrew was sentenced to a year in the Reformatory by a jury in circuit court and after a short time was made a trusty at prison. He escaped and was returned. He was finally released because he was suffering tuberculosis, and is now buried at the Enlow farm.

This reporter finally got up enough courage to ask Henry if he had ever killed a man. He laughed and said "No."

"This countryside is beautiful and so peaceful that I can hardly believe all of this is anything but a terrible nightmare."