Thursday, August 03, 2017

POB #1: Murder Will Out!

In the afternoon of June 3, 1882, about half past four, a man's hand was found by three boys playing along the Kansas River bank in Lawrence. They alerted a nearby fisherman who watched the body while the boys ran to inform Marshal Prentice, a reporter at the Lawrence Daily Journal, who went to inform the coroner but found he was in Emporia. Bringing Dr. A. Fuller in his stead, they went back to the river to pull the body out of the river.

The body was a fair looking man. Five ten or five eleven, light complexion, blue eyes, sandy hair, dark red chin whiskers and a mustache, drilling drawers, white socks, gray woolen shirt, and red undershirt. The man also had a silver watch and a ring on a chain. Inside the ring were the initials D.B. and the date June 28, 1874. He also had several keys, a knife, several coins and other things.

The man also had eight deep gashes upon his head and the middle finger of the left hand was slit and the thumb almost cut in two. The body was taken and washed and viewed by a large number of people in hopes of verifying his identity. No one identified the body.

A coroner's inquest was held and it was determined that the victim was murdered in or near North Lawrence within the last 48 hours and thrown into the river. His watch had stopped 9:20 PM and people near the place where the man was found did hear cries near there the previous night but no other clues could be located.

Another coroner's inquest was held Sunday afternoon at 3:10 PM. One of the witnesses, Charley Allen, a young boy near the murder site, gave his testimony.

"I live in North Lawrence; am seventeen years old. Haven't seen the body. On Wednesday night between 9 and 10 o'clock I saw him killed. I was about ten feet from where he was killed. I was by the corner of the ice house; I saw Isaac King and George Robertson running up by the bank. Then I heard the man holler. He hollered three times that he would get up when they struck him. Ike King had a hickory stick about as big around as my wrist, and a hammer. George Robertson had a crowbar. They took them back to Pete Vinegar's house. I saw Dora Vinegar and Lizzie Ferguson run up to the ice houses, and they had got back to Vinegar's when I got back. Pete Vinegar was at the house all the time. Ike struck first and I heard the man holler. They didn't say anything while they were beating him. I saw the white man and Sis Vinegar and King and Robertson go up by the ice house a short time before the killing. Dora and Lizzie ran back to the house when the man hollered. They pounded him three or four minutes. I saw the man in the water that night after he had been killed, but I was afraid to stay there for fear they would kill me. King and Robertson said if they had seen me and Grant Blackman who was with me they would have killed us. Sis Vinegar, after they had hit him said 'Come on. I've got his money.' When we came back in found Sis and Dora and Lizzie and King and Robertson all standing in the yard by the fence. They all looked scared. After killing the man King and Robertson ran back together and Sis came back alone. Sis came last. Sis asked Mame Vinegar if there was any water in the house and she said no and then started after some water. She told us not to tell about it or she would kill us. Pete Vinegar didn't say anything. We told Robertson and King that we wouldn't say anything about it. They said they would kill us sure as hell if we did tell. I stayed that night at the Millers. Ike and Robertson stayed at the Vinegars. When they came back to the house Ike said they had killed a man. Mame Vinegar asked who he was and Ike answered he didn't know."

When Charley went back out the next morning, he couldn't see the body in the river or any sign that the murder had happened but he went and told his mother. The next witness was 12-year-old Grant Blackman he confirmed what Charley had witnessed and added that the man and Sis were walking together. King and Robertson snuck up behind them and hit the man. Sis got his money and told King and Robertson not to kill him. They did anyway and disposed of the body in the river.

Other witnesses included Lizzie Ferguson, Dora Vinegar, Pete and Margaret "Sis" Vinegar, and several other people. One of the witnesses was Amos Bausman of Montgomery County, Ohio, who verified the identity of the body.

David Bausman had just recently moved to the Globe area of Douglas County. He was born June 11, 1840 in Montgomery County, Ohio to Christina and Jacob Bausman. He had eight brothers and sisters. Bausman enlisted in the 74th Ohio Regiment during the Civil War. He was wounded in the Battle of Stone River in Tennessee on December 31, 1862. He married Sophie after the war and moved to Ohio Township in Franklin County, Kansas where they lived and farmed until Sophie passed away in July of 1881 at the age of 31. She is buried in Table Rock Cemetery in El Paso County, Colorado. David moved to Marion Township in Douglas County shortly after and had told friends he was heading to Lawrence this week to visit friends. While Sis Vinegar denied in her testimony that she ever saw the man, took his money, shouted, or was even there, the coroner determined that Sis lured Bausman to the banks of the river and while he was preoccupied by her, King and Robertson snuck up behind him and struck him. Sis took the money and ran while King and Robertson continued beating Bausman before dumping his body into the river. King and Robertson remained in the city until the body was found when they then fled.

David Bausman was remembered by the people of Franklin County as an honest and upstanding man who owned ample property and had money in the bank. It was never determined why he was lured to the river by Sis Vinegar but the empty whisky flask might have been part of the reason. The murder of Bausman made the people of Lawrence take stock in how much they took their peaceful town for granted especially since it was clear that they had "Benders in their midst."

On Sunday afternoon, Sheriff Asher went to Independence, Missouri where it was believed that Robertson had went. After spending several hours in town, he spotted Robertson and talked with him. Robertson turned to walk away but the sheriff drew his gun. Marshal Silvers, of Independence, grabbed Robertson and Sheriff Asher, with Robertson, returned to Lawrence around 11 P.M. Almost immediately, Robertson implicated King in the crime saying that he did it all. He also implicated a man named Draper who was already in jail. King, however, had ran away to the Kansas River bottoms east of Eudora. A posse went to Eudora and searched. Feeling them getting too close, King surrendered and he was also brought to the jail.

At about one o'clock Saturday morning, about fifty or so men went to the jail and demanded King, Robertson, and Pete Vinegar. The Sheriff initially refused but the citizens began chiseling at the wall and trying to pry the locks off the doors. After a few minutes, the men were in and dragged the murderers from their cells. They were marched to the Kansas River bridge, halted at the middle, said short prayers and then the three were then swung over the Kansas River. Most of the mob wore masks but some just had their faces blacked. As they came back down Massachusetts Street, a crowd cheered for them. It was asserted that most of the men in the lynching party were black.

The ropes were put around the men's neck in the jail. Vinegar kept proclaiming his innocence, Robertson begged for mercy, and King said nothing. Robertson went over the bridge first, then Vinegar, and finally King. Robertson and Vinegar died immediately while King was apparently strangled. The Sheriff and coroner viewed the bodies at two in the morning and ordered them cut down and brought back to the jail. A coroner's inquest was held with numerous witnesses describing the scene and what happened.

The lynching quickly made the rounds in the newspapers all across Kansas. Many were shocked that "mob rule" would be something that happened in Lawrence. Most papers felt despair and embarrassment that this happened at all in the state of Kansas, let alone in Lawrence. Rev. H.R. Pinckney called a meeting of African Americans in Lawrence and denounced what the murderers did but also the result citing that it is up to the citizens to keep 'law and order'. Rev. Dr. Cordley expressed the same sentiment that justice was not done and that Lawrence and Kansas should be embarrassed by the lynchings and the lack of true justice. Margaret "Sis" Vinegar, who was also in the jail at the time, was spared her life. For now.

Sis Vinegar plead not guilty to the murder of David Bausman and her trial began Wednesday, October 4, 1882. It was difficult finding jurors, the public mind prejudiced by the awfulness of the crime and the hangings of King, Robertson, and Sis' father. The same witnesses from Bausman's coroner's inquest were called to testify as well as new people. A large bulk of the trial focused on Vinegar's past crimes of thievery and larceny along with her carousing with other unscrupulous citizens. She was convicted of first degree murder but was granted a new trial.

The new trial of Sis Vinegar began April 9, 1883 and she was, again, convicted of first degree murder on April 12. According to the law, she would spend the rest of her life in jail. While Sis did not act directly with the murder, she had conspired with King and Robertson. She was the last player in the murder of David Bausman. She was sent to the women's state penitentiary in Lansing for the rest of her life. Her life, as it would turn out, would end on February 1, 1889 of tuberculosis. She is buried in Mount Muncie Cemetery in Lansing.

King, Robertson, and the elder Vinegar, it's reported, are all buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence. None of them have stones and were probably buried in the potter's field in a mass grave.

These were not the first lynchings in Douglas County. The first occurred back in the 1850s. A group of six horse thieves were brought back to Lecompton from Rising Sun in Jefferson County and hung for their crimes. While most lynchings in Kansas were related to horse theft, a common crime in the West and one where you were immediately hanged for, there were at least 38 hangings of Negroes between the 1850s and 1930s--typically for murder or rape. And this isn't even a complete list. Dozens of rumored lynchings were reported but the time and place were vague at best. In Kansas, lynchings were always considered beyond the law. "Judge Lynch" was considered an irregular punishment and in direct defiance of the law. In fact, according to Kansas statutes, cities could be held legally responsible if a lynching happened within the city limits. Kansas law dictates that three or more people constitutes unlawful assembly and that five or more people is legally a mob. In the case of a lynching, the number of people is not specified and any group of people wanting to cause violence to a person with disregard of the law is a mob.

When the Ku Klux Klan used its influence in Kansas in the 1920s, lynchings were still non-existent. The KKK would tar-and-feather and, once, kidnapped and flogged the Catholic mayor of Liberty. Wanting to tamp down, Kansas Governor Allen issued a proclamation banning the wearing of masks on public streets and ordered them to register as a business, which would never be granted. The KKK lasted in Kansas from 1922 until 1927 before it was finally ousted.

For an incomplete list of all lynchings in Kansas plus a brief history, the book History of Lynchings in Kansas is available at the Kansas State Historical Society website.