The 1871 Lynching of Three Black Men in Clark County

At Charlestown Cemetery in Clark County the mutilated bodies of three lynched men are buried.

On a Saturday in November of 1871, the family of Cyrus Park, a white farmer who lived near Henryville, Indiana, was murdered. Using the Parks' own axe, the unknown assailants struck family members as they slept in their beds.

Puzzled when none of the members of the family undertook their customary duty of unlocking a nearby church the next morning, a congregation member rode to their house. There, he found the Parks' two daughters clinging to life despite severe head wounds. Park, his wife, and their ten-year-old son lay dead in their blood-soaked beds. One daughter recovered, but the other perished soon after the attack.

That same night, neighbor John Kirke reported that he was awakened by attackers in his yard, and with the help of a farm hand, kept them from entering his home. Mr. Kirke, according to the Sacramento Daily Union, believed his attackers were white. (November 25, 1871) Kirke, a white man whose land bordered Park's, also told reporters that he and Park shared a common enemy.

No white man or men was ever arrested for the murder of the Park family. Instead, as the Cincinnati Enquirer (December 2, 1871), reported a Black man, George Johnson, was tortured until he confessed to the murders. The paper concluded that this confession was therefore without merit.

Nevertheless, with a noose around his neck, he confessed and implicated two other Black men: Squire Taylor, a Baptist preacher and Charles Davis. The pamphlet, "Murder and Mob Law in Indiana: The Slaughter of the Park Family" by James M. Hiatt, described Davis and Taylor as past sixty years old.

After arresting the three Black men, authorities transported them to Charlestown, Indiana. Both the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Sacramento Daily Union described a large mob of white men descending upon the jail with the intention of lynching the prisoners. Once the mob had control of the Black men, leaders of the mob hung Davis and Johnson, but tortured Taylor before hanging him as well. According to Hiatt, the mob had originally planned to burn Taylor to death, but abandoned that plan when the sheriff's attempts to protect his prisoners resulted in delays. Hiatt argued that the lynched men were innocent. The author devastatingly also claimed that a Clark County judge knew of 16 previous lynchings in Clark County.

The New Albany Daily Standard reported that after the lynchings, "the rude boys of the town" stayed around "like vultures over their lifeless remains" and "indulged in remarks unbecoming barbarians." (November 17, 1871)



38.4476662, -85.6631775