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Fri, 10.11.1878

The Posey County Lynching occurs

*On this date in 1878, the Posey County lynching occurred. This racial terror lynching is the largest reported lynching in Indiana's history.

Black men Jim Good, Jeff Hopkins, Ed Warner, William Chambers, and Dan Harris, Sr. were lynched near Mount Vernon. These men, allegedly connected to a brothel robbery, were killed by a white mob. In connection with the alleged offense, two other men, Dan Harris, Jr. and John Harris, were also lynched in the days leading up to October 11. Background of the lynching On October 7, 1878, Mount Vernon newspapers reported that a group of Black men had robbed a group of white women working as sex workers at a brothel near Mount Vernon, Indiana, in Posey County.

Law enforcement officers listed Jim Good, Jeff Hopkins, Ed Warner, William Chambers, John Harris, and Dan Harris, Jr. as suspects and began to search for them. Officers arrested Good, Hopkins, Warner, and Chambers and brought them to jail to await trial. White mobs lynched two men, Dan Harris, Jr., and John Harris before officers could locate them. Officers were unaware of this when they went to the Mount Vernon home of Harris, Jr.'s father, Dan Harris, Sr. When they arrived, intending to arrest Dan Harris, Jr., Harris, Sr. informed them that his son had already been lynched the day before.

The officers accused Harris, Sr. of harboring his son within the home. When officers attempted to enter, Harris shot Deputy Sheriff Cyrus Thomas. The city marshal shot back, wounding Harris, Sr. before taking him into custody at the same jail as Good, Hopkins, Warner, and Chambers. Deputy Sheriff Thomas died at the scene. As news of the arrests spread, a mob gathered at the jail where the five men were being held. Even as the crowd grew violent, officers refused to let them in the jail. Rumors later spread that the Governor had called in the militia, causing 200 armed white men to gather at the nearby train station and prevent the militiamen from departing their train cars once they arrived, even hauling a cannon from the courthouse lawn to the train depot.

The militia never showed up, and by 2 p.m. on October 11, the crowd at the depot and the jail had dispersed. The mob reunited at 8 p.m., and about 100 masked men came to the jail. They raided the jail, overpowering the officers, and broke through where four men, Good, Hopkins, Warner, and Chambers, were being held. During this time, Harris, Sr., who was in a separate cell and in poor condition due to his untreated gunshot wounds from earlier that day, was dismembered by the mob, with body parts taken as souvenirs. After killing Harris, Sr., the mob forced the other four men out of jail with their hands bound and ropes around their necks.

The men tried to claim their innocence and explain their whereabouts on the night of October 7 but to no avail. Good, Hopkins, Warner, and Chambers were lynched outside the jail on the nearby courthouse lawn. The bodies remained hanging for most of the following day, with thousands of people from nearby counties traveling to view them. In October 2022, Posey County dedicated a historical marker and a granite bench (above image) outside the Posey County Courthouse.

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