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In August of this year occurred a most horrible affair in this county, long remembered and not yet entirely forgotten. A Mr. John Morrow lived five or six miles south of Springfield with his wife, a most estimable lady, and one or two children. Mrs. Morrow was a sister of the Hunt brothers, well known in the county.

At the time in question, Mr. Morrow had been absent from home on business, and his wife was left alone in the house, which was in an isolated quarter, remote from other houses. A negro man named Martin, belonging to the Danforth estate, had been engaged in hauling past the residence of Mrs. Morrow and knew that she was alone. Taking advantage of her condition the black villain came to the house, fought his way in, despite the frantic efforts to repulse him on the part of the poor Woman, who threw hot water on him and resisted him as best as she could until her strength gave out, and at last succeeded in perpetrating that nameless crime for which there is no adequate earthly punishment.

As soon as possible Mrs. Morrow gave the alarm, and soon a dozen or more negroes upon whom the least suspicion fell were apprehended and brought before her for identification. It seems that she was unacquainted with the brute who had dealt so cruelly and outrageously with her. At last "Mart." Danforth was brought to her and she at once recognized him. There were other circumstances tending to connect him with the offense, and he was at once arrested and taken to Springfield, and placed under guard in a room on the east side of the square. Here he confessed his guilt in the presence of the officers and others, and exhibited the wounds on his breast made by the scalding water thrown by Mrs. Morrow. There was not the slightest doubt of his guilt, without any mitigating circumstances whatever.

Court was in session at the time, and "Mart." alias "Martin," was promptly indicted. Before he could be tried, however, or even arraigned for trial, a mob of men made their way up to the room where the negro was confined, on the east side of the square, took him away from his guards, hurried him down the stairs and through the streets to a tree which stood on the north side of Jordan, west of where the cotton factory now stands, and strung him up. In a few minutes he was dead. The body was cut down and given hasty burial. Afterwards It was "resurrected," and dissected by a Springfield physician. No attempt was ever made to punish those composing the vigilance committee, and, August 19, the circuit attorney dismissed the case against Martin, without stating the reason why, and so the matter ended.

In view of all the circumstances, without justifying mob violence in general, it is proper to state that there was excuse for this one act of lawlessness on the part of those who hung Mart Danforth. Negro men were prone to commit offenses of the most terrible character upon unprotected and defenseless white women, and it is said that many a crime of this description was perpetrated in this quarter of Missouri that went unpunished, because of the unwillingness of the poor victim to make public her horrible misfortune. Women were afraid to be left alone or to travel unprotected, and this was a state of affairs not to be borne with complacency. The law then provided no punishment, save a mutilation that rendered the commission of a second offense of the kind impossible, and this was not considered a penalty at all adequate to the gravity of the offense.

This same year in Saline county, three negroes were hung for outrages upon white women, and one was burned for murder. A few years before, in Jasper county, two negroes had murdered a physician, outraged his wife, then murdered her and burned her body, and that of her children in the house where she lived. The perpetrators were caught and burned to death in the Diamond Grove. Greene county people were not alone in taking the law into their own hands In extreme cases. Nine years thereafter it was deemed necessary to apply the same remedy for the perpetration of rape -- in the case of "Bud" Isbells taking off.

(History of Greene County, Westerm Historical Company, 1883)


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