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Published: March 22nd 2020
GRAYSON COUNTY COURTHOUSE IN SHERMAN, TXTHE GOOD FOLKS OF GRAYSON COUNTY
The sharecroppers and tenant farmers who cheered as the courthouse fire began to burn are not the taxpayers who were burdened with rebuilding it.
The county seat of Grayson County is in Sherman, Texas. It was a prosperous agricultural community in a cotton growing region. After WWI ended cotton prices began to falter as cotton supplies exceeded demand. Throughout the 1920s the cotton market failed to recover and the sharecroppers and tenant farmers became impoverished. In 1929 the Great Depression began and soon the banks failed too and nobody had any money. The good folks of Grayson County became desperate. In April of 1930 a half- witted black farmer named George Hughes and his common law wife drifted into the area and George found work with a fellow named Drew Farlow who lived about 4 miles from Sherman along Choctaw Creek. On the morning of May 3, George dropped by to pick up six dollars in pay that he was owed for two weeks of work. Drew was not home so George left, but he returned an hour later armed with a shotgun and raped Drew’s pretty twenty-eight year old wife, Pearl. She managed to escape to the neighbors place when Drew went to look for Pearl’s five year old son. The neighbor was a fellow named George
CONFEDERATE MONUMENT AT THE COURTHOUSE
Every courthouse in the south has a Confederate Monument. They are proud of their legacy in hatred.
Taylor and he summoned the police. After a short chase George Hughes was arrested, interrogated and a confession quickly beat out of him. The good folks of Grayson County were not happy. Soon rumors began to circulate through Sherman that Pearl had been mutilated and given a venereal disease.
The outrage was fed over the next couple of days by couple of guys named Jeff “Slim Jones, and Raymond C. Hart. Both were proud members of the Ku Klux Klan. Jeff was a bootlegger. On May 5th
Grayson County Sheriff Arthur Vaughn decided to move George down to McKinney. On May 6th
Slim and Ray had enough angry supporters to try and bust into the jail with a telephone pole and lynch George. They all angrily withdrew when Sheriff Vaughn showed them that George was not there. On May7th Judge Carter, who was presiding over the case, called Governor Moody to request support from the Texas Rangers. On May 8th
Ranger Captain Frank Hamer, arrived in Sherman by train from Austin with Sergeant Jerome Wheatley and Rangers Tod Aldrich and Jim McCoy. The Rangers, along with Sheriff Vaughn and four deputies escorted George into the courthouse for his arraignment. George entered a guilty plea and the penalty phase of hi trial was put on the docket for the next morning. It had been raining heavily for a few days and Slim and Ray had been busily scouring the country for more outraged citizens among the good folks of Grayson County. The rain was fortuitous for them because no farm work could be done on the wet ground.
When the trial began there were thousands of outraged spectators in the courthouse square. Pearl Farlow was brought in on a hospital stretcher, and the jury was empaneled by noon. The lynch mob stormed the courthouse twice that morning but was beaten back by the Rangers, who were top hands at pistol whipping. George Taylor, the neighbor, was the first witness heard but before he could testify the rioters made another assault. This one was instigated by Susie Crist and Ruth Jones who were 17 year old school girls. A high school senior named J. R. Melton tore down the American Flag wrapped it around his shoulders and led another charge into the courthouse. He received a good brisk clubbing from Ranger Aldrich but this time tear gas had to be used to drive the good folks of Grayson County back outside. The tear gas quickly spread throughout the building and the courthouse windows had to be opened to help disperse it. The next assault was led by a couple of guys named Dan Shero and Jim Brown. This time Captain Hamer had to use his shotgun to drive them back. Both Shero and Brown were shot. Hamer reported to Judge Carter that he could no longer protect George from being lynched and the Judge had George locked inside the clerk’s vault. It was a good big steel vault lined with concrete and the judge figured George would be safe there. It was thought that he might have to stay in there for a while so they gave him a bucket of water. Outside a couple of guys named J. B. “Screw” McCasland, aged 17, and Alvin Gordon, aged 15. Poured a five gallon can of gasoline into the open window of the clerk’s office and set it on fire. Judge Carter ordered a change of venue and banged his gavel down on the proceedings. When the fire department arrived to put out the fire the angry mob slashed their hoses and the whole courthouse burnt to the ground. The courthouse was evacuated through the windows, and everyone who knew the combination to the vault where George was had left the building. He perished in the fire from lack of oxygen. He was the only prisoner that Hamer ever lost. The Rangers retreated down to McKinney to make their report to Governor Moody. They could not file a confidential report to the governor from Sherman because it could not be done using the existing telephone system.
In the meantime heat from the fire had driven most of rioters out of the square. By then the Rangers had returned from McKinney and were joined by two more Rangers from Dallas, Lone Wolf Gonzaullas, and Bob Goss. The mob had focused its attention on lynching Sheriff Vaughn. All of the Rangers, Sheriff Vaugh, and his ten deputies held the county jail. The good folks of Grayson County tried to dynamite them out, but Lone Wolf and Goss shot three of them before the dynamite could be thrown close enough to do much damage. Sheriff Ted Lewis and a six man posse arrived from Denton to help, but the National Guard from Denison had gone back home. They would not fire into a crowd that contained women and children. The National Guard from Dallas went back to the courthouse to try and recover George’s body from the vault, but was driven back to the jail by rioters who had seriously injured six of them with rocks and bottles.
A drizzling rain had returned and the courthouse was finally cooled enough so that the vault could be approached by ladder. Slim Jones and a teenager named “Duck” Roach climbed the ladder and tried to blow the vault open with dynamite but the vault held. Then an ironworker named Horace Reynolds went to work on it with his welding gear. When he had exposed the inner lining of concrete a fellow named C. B. Duckworth helped him chip away the concrete with hammer and chisel. They opened a hole big enough for more dynamite and Slim Jones blew the hole open wider. A bigger charge opened the hole wide enough to enter and Duck and Reynolds crawled inside, located George’s body and tossed it two stories to the ground.
Slim, still up on the ladder, encouraged the good folks of Grayson County to attach a chain to George’s body and drag it behind a Model A Ford driven by Leo D. Luten four blocks up Travis Street to Mulberry Street. It was the commercial center of the segregated Black community. The procession stopped in front of the Smith Hotel at 219 E Mulberry and George was hung up in a cottonwood tree, where Slim graciously cut off his penis. The hotel and several nearby businesses were looted of anything that would burn and a huge fire was started beneath George’s body. As it roasted merrily away Slim ignited the hotel and it spread to other structures. The entire commercial center burnt to the ground. Terrified residents fled into the darkness to hide from the mob as best they could. To this day nothing has been rebuilt on the ground where that hotel once stood.
National Guard troops armed with machine guns finally arrived in strong enough numbers to stop the riot. For their part in it, not a single one of the good folks of Grayson County has ever been charged with a crime.
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