Sam Hose (c. 1875 – April 23, 1899) was an African American worker who was tortured and executed by a lynch mob in Coweta County, Georgia. It was one of the first spectacle lynchings in the history of the United States.1
Sam Hose, a.k.a. Sam Holt, was born with the name of Tom Wilkes in southern Georgia near Marshallville (Macon County) around 1875. He grew up on a Macon County farm owned by the Jones family.2 His mother was a long-time employee of the family. According to an 1899 newspaper, Wilkes moved to Coweta County to escape accusations of assaulting an elderly black woman in Macon County.3 He then fled his home in Macon County to take on a new identity. This is when he assumed the name of Sam Hose.
Cause of Lynching
On April 12, 1899, Hose was accused of murdering his employer, Alfred Cranford, after a heated argument. The topic of the argument is still unclear. Some sources indicate that it was the result of Hose requesting time off to visit his mother who was ill.4 Other sources reveal that Alfred Cranford was dissatisfied with the quality of Hose’s work. While others allege a disagreement over pay between Cranford and Hose was what initiated the dispute.5 Newspaper accounts from 1899 indicate the Cranfords were sitting down to a meal at their home when Hose killed Alfred Cranford, raped his wife and threw their infant son, to the floor.6 The newborn, Clifford Cranfords, suffered brain injuries and was left permanently blinded in one eye.7 Mattie Cranford, the wife of Alfred Cranford, first alerted what had just occurred to her father-in-law who was a nearby farmer.8 At the gate to the yard, she cried for help and then collapsed. When she was revived, she told Grippia Cranford, Alfred's father, a horrifying tale: "his son was dead, brained from behind by an axe-wielding black laborer known as Sam Holt or Hose."9 Mattie also claimed that she was raped by Hose on the floor next to the dying body of her husband. This was said to be in presence of her four children. 10 There is also a different story that Alfred Cranford threatened to kill Hose and pointed a gun at him. Hose was working at the time with an axe in his hands. Due to the threat, he defended himself and threw the axe, killing Cranford out of self-defense.11 Either way, there is no doubt that Hose killed Cranford and fled the scene. The search for him began almost immediately. Within hours, hounds were sent to help with the search.12 Over the next few days, the state of Georgia was captivated by the search, and was covered by local and national newspapers.
Lynching of Sam Hose
Sam Hose was found over a hundred miles away at the same Macon County farm that he lived before his move to Coweta County.13 Hose apparently hid in plain sight at his former home. The two Jones brothers, J. B. and J. L., heard of the terrible event and were very suspicious once they heard that a "strange negro" had recently arrived on his plantation.14 After investigation, the bothers recognized Sam as Tom Wilkes, who had worked for them before ran away after his assault charges on an elderly black women. J.B. Jones told the Constitution Newspaper that he and his brother kept a close watch on Wilkes until Wilkes realized he was being watched and disappeared for a few days.15 Jones located him again at the mother’s home, and then he and J. L. arranged an ambush with the help of a black man who was “intimate with Holt” to “deliver him” into their hands. 16 On April 22, around 9:00 p.m. is when the Jones brothers made their move to capture Hose.17 J.B. Jones recalled the events that took place that night, “(We) enticed him to a certain place, and, as he was passing through a dense grove of woods, my brother and myself sprang upon him and secured him before he had time to offer any resistance.”18 The brothers accompanied Hose on a train headed to Atlanta, GA where a large reward awaited. A total of $1,600 was offered: $500 from the Atlanta Constitution, $500 from Gov. Allen Candler, $250 from Coweta County, $250 from the city of Palmetto, GA and $100 from Jacob Haas of Atlanta.19 Hose's face was blackened with soot to hide as an attempt to disguise his copper skin color so that they could transport Hose secretly to Atlanta to receive their money.20 Sam Hose’s identity was blown near the town of Macon, Georgia. A couple passengers were suspicious that he was the black fugitive that the state had been looking for and alerted the train workers who then alerted the next loading station through a telegraph.20 One of the workers confronted the Jones brothers, but they denied that the person they had was Sam Hose and pointed out that his skin was too dark to be Hose.21 The worker then touched Hose’s face and came away with “burnt cork.”22 To further reveal his true identity, the worker pointed out that he was missing his front teeth, just like Sam Hose.23
Once the train stopped in Griffin, GA, a mob boarded the train and removed Hose from the train at gunpoint. The original plan was to lynch Hose back at the Cranford farm. 24 Former Governor William Yates Atkinson and Judge Alvan Freeman pleaded with the crowd to release Hose to the custody of the authorities.25 Ignoring their pleas, the crowd marched northward toward the Cranford home. The lynch mob grew, reaching an estimated 2000 individuals.26 Once news of the capture reached Atlanta, large crowds boarded trains to Newnan, GA to join the mob.27 However, the crowd feared that the trains would contain troops to stop them from lynching Hose, so they stopped just north of Newnan to complete their act.
The skin from his face was removed and his body was doused with kerosene. He was chained to a tree and was burned alive. Some members of the mob cut off pieces of his dead body as souvenirs. Hose was tortured for almost a half hour. The Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican recounted the scene of Hose’s dismemberment in the following manner: “Before the torch was applied to the pyre, the negro was deprived of his ears, fingers and genital parts of his body. He pleaded pitifully for his life while the mutilation was going on, but stood the ordeal of fire with surprising fortitude. Before the body was cool, it was cut to pieces, the bones were crushed into small bits, and even the tree upon which the wretch met his fate was torn up and disposed of as “souvenirs.” The negro’s heart was cut into several pieces, as was also his liver. Those unable to obtain ghastly relics direct paid their more fortunate possessors extravagant sums for them. Small pieces of bones went for 25 cents, and a bit of liver crisply cooked sold for 10 cents.” 28
Response to Lynching
The mainstream press of 1899 referred to Hose as “the black beast” and “the monster.” 28 Those who advocated his cause often cast Mattie Cranford as “a very cunning figure.29 Many believed that one felt sympathy towards Hose, they would be disrespecting the Cranford family.
There were also articles that were published that were outraged by the lynching event. According to Philip Dray's At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, the noted civil rights leader and scholar W. E. B. Du Bois, who lived in Atlanta at the time, was on his way to a scheduled meeting with Atlanta Constitution editor Joel Chandler Harris to discuss the lynching, when he was informed that Hose's knuckles were for sale in a grocery store on the road on which he was walking. He sadly turned around and did not meet with Harris after learning this.30
1Arnold Edwin, What Virtue There Is in Fire : Cultural Memory and the Lynching of Sam Hose (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009), 2. 2Winston Skinner, “Hose Lynching Infamous Chapter In Local History,” Times Herald.com, April 26, 2012, http://www.timesherald.com/local/20120419gathering-sam-hose-MOS. 3Ibid. 4Ibid. 5Edwin, Lynching of Sam Hose, 1. 6Ibid. 7Ibid, 2. 8Skinner, “Hose Lynching Infamous Chapter”. 9Edwin, Lynching of Sam Hose, 31. 10Ibid. 11Ibid., 88. 12Ibid. 13Leon Litwack. Trouble In Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow(New York, NY: Knopf, 1998), 2-3. 14Ibid., 89. 15Ibid., 90. 16Ibid. 17Lawren Goldstone, interview by Mitch Jererich, Letters and Politics Show, 90.7 KPFK FM, July 20, 2011. 18 Ibid. 19Edwin, Lynching of Sam Hose, 90 20Ibid. 21Ibid., 91. 22Ibid. 23Darren Grem, “Sam Jones, Sam Hose, and the Theology of Racial Violence," Georgia Historical Quarterly 90, no 4(2006): 35-61, accessed April 15, 2014, http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid. 24Skinner, “Hose Lynching Infamous Chapter”. 25Ibid. 26Edwin, Lynching of Sam Hose, 93. 27Ibib. 28Skinner, “Hose Lynching Infamous Chapter”. 29Ibid. 30Harvey Young, “The Black Body as Souvenir in American Lynching,” Theatre Journal 57, no. 4 (2005): 639-657, Accessed February 18. http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.dunnlib.simpson.edu/ehost/detail?vid.
Edwin, Arnold. What Virtue There Is in Fire : Cultural Memory and the Lynching of Sam Hose. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009.
Grem, Darren E. "Sam Jones, Sam Hose, and the Theology of Racial Violence." Georgia Historical Quarterly 90, no. 1 (2006): 35-61. Accessed February 18. http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=d836f279-7367-46ba-9978-68b74956b654%40sessionmgr113&vid=1&hid=128&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=afh&AN=20096157.
Lawren Goldstone, interview by Mitch Jererich, Letters and Politics Show, 90.7 KPFK FM, July 20, 2011.
Litwack, Leon. Trouble In Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow. New York: Knopf, 1998.
Skinner, Winston. “Hose Lynching Infamous Chapter In Local History.” Times Herald.com. http://www.times-herald.com/local/20120419gathering-sam-hose-MOS.
Young, Harvey. “The Black Body as Souvenir in American Lynching.” Theatre Journal 57, no. 4 (2005): 639-657. Accessed February 18. http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.dunnlib.simpson.edu/ehost/detail?vid=4&sidd26bde93-f6f7-4a8a-8d9f- b62fe42505b2%40sessionmgr4002&hid=4107&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLHVybCx1aWQsY29va2llJnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=aph&AN=20215295.