Red River Parish Louisiana




Red River Riot.

Pecuniary circumstances compelled us to suspend the publication of the "Times" two weeks since-- before the late serious trouble which has occurred to mar the peace and quietude of our Parish. Having always been a conservative Republican journal since being in our hands--ever devoted to the best interest of our white and colored citizens-- ever advocating that honesty, peace and harmony alone could ever be the means of effecting the salvation of this country and rear it to the former balmy days -- ever giving wholesome advice--and greatly deploring the consequences which have resulted, and which always must necessarily result from an intestine conflict of races--we can not refrain now from publishing a little page and give to the public the facts of this recent disturbance to the best of our knowledge. While we have many friends in the Republican party, we have also numerous ones in the White Man's Reform Association, and, such being the case, we give no preference nor shall we show any partiality in the discharge of this duty. The object of this little page cannot cause harm, but, should it effect any good in the minds of others, we shall be satisfied.

Last Thursday morning a week since, the report reached us that a difficulty had occurred at Brownsville between two white men and about that number of negroes, which resulted in the deaths of one of the former and two of the latter. It seems that this private fracus was converted into a political one by some bad, designing men, and, in a small space of time, it was reported and confirmed that the colored population were arming themselves and fast preparing to attack the whites throughout the parish. Our citizens then becoming seriously alarmed thought proper to take immediate actions to quell. if possible, any disturbance which might arise -- and more especially to protect the women and children from harm, until their condition could be made known and assistance rendered from other quarters. It so happened, and was long before circulated that the young people would assemble, that very night, (Thursday,) at the new brick storehouse of Messrs Abney & Love, for the purpose of making pleasant a few hours in the social dance -- and on this day, in order to appear firm, with such inferiority of number, the party was not postponed. As was expected, at night a large crowd had assembled and the dance had commenced, when such exciting rumors reached that policy and prudence required that the ladies should be conducted home and the young men to take up arms. And fortunate, indeed, it was that danger was whispered by some mysterious omen, for the deed, had Providence not interfered, which would have been committed that night would have darkened the pages of history of the most remote savages, let alone this advanced age of Christian civilization. But, we digress.

A caucus was held by a committee of old and reliable citizens to decide the best method of protecting the town -- the result of which deliberations was, that pickets should be placed at all public points of entrance; -- that, should they detect any person lurking around, a command to "stand" should be given, and, in case of refusal on insufficient or suspicious grounds, to fire on such person or persons;--that, no man, white nor black, if honesty was his meaning, would refuse to obey with readiness such a command.

The post which Mr. Joseph Dixon was guarding soon became a scene of action. Observing a man approaching, the order was given and heeded only so far as to make a halt. They then entreated him to come to them and make known his business -- why he was wandering around at such an hour of night--and, to quiet any fears which might be aroused in him, gave their words that no harm should befall if he would obey;--explained why they were there; -- but, admonished him that, should be attempt to run, he would certainly be fired on. This seemed to avail nothing--for, notwithstanding their warning and entreaties, he ran--and was fired on by one of the party, but was missed. Just here we will say it was proven at the examination trial that he was one of the negroes concerned in the riot. Immediately this was reported to the committee, who approved of the action, and commanded that they should return and observe closely and not to flinch in the execution of the orders given them;--that the town was in danger--not only their lives, but those of innocent women and harmless babes.

In company with another, Mr. Dixon then started to return to his vacant post. Just beyond Mr. Homer Twitchell's residence he was hailed by that gentleman in company with several others and requested to explain why so many armed men were in town -- 2nd why such a bustle and stir among them, especially the horsemen. Mr. Dixon was acceding, when suddenly the click of a gun-lock drew his companion's attention to a field on the left, and just in the fence-corner opposite, not more than twenty yards distant, was plainly visible a lot of armed blacks [two in the crowd were immediately recognized and afterwards admitted the truth of the identity.] In an instant his gun was leveled, but, noticing no further demonstration of violence, and, recognizing the danger in the superiority of number, he deemed it propitious to ride on at once. Dreading then of communicating this fact to Mr. Dixon, for fear of momentary rashness, he refrained, but urged a faster speed. About two hundred yards beyond, when they were almost in a sweeping gallop, two shots from a double-barrel gun rang out in the stillness of night--and the horsemen sped on;-- not unhurt, however, for, from the unerring aim of the negro, Mr. Dixon, being next to him, received a part of the contents of both barrels--breaking his arm into a compound fracture--several shots entering his left side--several shots entering his left side and leg;--his horse, receiving also a wound in the head, ran away. In this utterly helpless condition he managed to remain in his saddle until he grasped the reins with his right hand, and, with the assistance of his teeth, checked, at length, the career of the mad brute. Mr. Dixon bore this trouble with the most manly fortitude. Indeed, his only companion, with whom he rode, side by side, for more than three hundred yards after the firing, was entirely ignorant of his being hurt!

The greatest excitement prevailed that night. Constant fears were entertained of an attack--for very few whites were in town at this time -- Many having returned home, and a squad of eight accompanied by the sheriff and his deputy, having been sent to Brownsville for the purpose of investigating affairs, and to subdue, if possible, any riotous outbreaks.

Morning came, after a seeming long while, without anything happening worthy of note.

In the meantime, couriers were sent to all the adjacent parishes to relate the precarious condition of Red River; and, by four o'clock Friday evening, over seven hundred men had assembled in Coushatta.

Friday evening Messrs H. J. Twitchell, Bob Dewees, Frank Edgerton, Clark Holland, H. Scott, W. F. Howell, Gilbert Cone, et als, were arrested (Scott & Cone soon after being released) as instigators and leaders of the insurrection and accomplices in the shooting of Joseph Dixon. They were confined (not in jail) and a strict guard placed over them. A fair and imp rtial investigation was held all Saturday--and, no positive proof having been adduced:--and, having been requested by the white prisoners to permit them to depart in peace from the State, with an express stipulation that they would never return, the citizens, whose sympathies were now greatly aroused in their favor, willingly granted this boon. Without having been asked, those prisoners, who were office-holders, voluntarily tendered their resignations, and the whole freely gave a certificate of the kind treatment received from the citizens of Red River while under arrest.

This move having reached the ears of some of the strangers who had no sympathy--and, who cared not for the after-clap of misfortune which would certainly befall our Parish, should violence be used unjustly and unlawfully -- openly avowed that the prisoners should not be moved:--that they had come a long distance to quell the row in Red River Parish and would never leave until the lives of the men should pay the penalty. Many were the threats of these unlawful and exacting men and many were the expostulations of our citizens in behalf of the now unfortunate men;--expostulations even at the risk of their own lives! for sentiments averse from this mob could not be openly expressed without much danger accruing. The guards were doubled, yea, trippled! and were commanded that, under no consideration should they give way to this virulent mob.

Through a miracle they were saved that night. About nine o'clock next morning, with a strong and faithful guard, selected by themselves, they started to Shreveport. It being an extremely warm day, and exerting their horses to their utmost, several gave out entirely-- but, so fast would they press in more, that not much time was lost. Everything seemed safe. The prisoners had begun to cast off the gloom that mantled their faces and cheerfulness instead being reinstated. At four o'clock they had reached the distance of forty-five miles, when, Heaven help them! they were suddenly surrounded and over fifty men, supposed to be Texans, had presented as many double-barrel shot-guns in their faces--demanding of the guards the instant surrender of themselves and prisoners. Nothing favorable could be done. So, suddenly finding themselves overpowered, they had to yield to prudence and withdraw. These supposed Texans instantly killed Homer Twitchell, Bob Dewees and Frank Edgerton on the spot. They then carried Clark Holland, W. F. Howell and M. C. Willis into a thicket near by, and they, too, soon shared the same fate. From the most reliable information that could be obtained, and from our trust reposed in some of the guards that we have the honor to know, everything in their power was done to avert the doom of these unfortunate and erring men.

Over a dozen negroes were arrested at the same time on the charge of participating and being cognizant of the intended massacre. All Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was occupied in trying to ferret out the full programme and the would-be assassin or assassins of Mr. Dixon. And, from the free confessions of these poor, deluded negroes, was discovered a plot that makes us shudder to think of. A deed, damnable in design, and--darker than hell! A plot, that, had it not been crushed in the bud, must have caused our blood and the blood of innocent women to mingle together. Babes, in their innocency, would have been slain to satiate and satisfy the dire thirst of these incarnate demons--led on by these bad leaders. At this pleasure party the work was to have commenced! The negro who boldly confessed the shooting of Mr. Dixon, conjointly with the balance, also confessed:--that, over forty well armed negroes were concealed under and around Mr. Twitchell's house and in the field adjoining:-- that, they were led and instructed by that notorious villain, Henry Smith -- a negro well known for his antagonism and hatred to the white population:--that, while stationed under the house ammunition passed around; also that Mr. Dewees, coming direct from the dance, said the men in town were too strong:--that from this information, they had dispersed in squads in returning home -- and together Paul Williams and Lewis Johnson had gotten as far as the point where the shooting occurred. Paul Williams further deposed:--that, the gun in his hands did the work, but, that Lewis Johnson first bursted a cap and urged him to shoot. The remainder of the prisoners, after a timely warning that they should ever bear in mind their present condition, how near they had been led to pollute themselves with a horrible crime with the blood of their fellow-men and best friends, their near approach to a just punishment--death--and never again allow themselves to become so foolish as to be induced to join in with a set of heartless men that would be sure to lead them to destruction -- were released. Not so with the two guilty ones. Although they deserved the severest punishment for such a palpable crime, the committee did not feel disposed to take upon themselves the responsibility of adjudging, and, consequently, they were ordered back to prison, to be tried in due process of law. But, on the way, they were taken by a strong body of armed men--who carried them to the woods and there punished by hanging.

We acknowledge that the Republican party has favored us when most needed;--we acknowledge that these identical men were once counted our friends, and some of them have lent us helping hands on different occasions; -- but, while our gratitude is struggling for ascendancy, horror and mortification at the attempted crime overstrides everything. And, while we feel sorry for the effects of their delusion--(for, to err is human--and the grave buries the sins of the mind) which must have darkened their souls through all eternity, yet, something tells us that they have met a fearful retribution from a just and righteous God. We are sorry for such a blow to befall their families. Nothing has ever hurt us so much as to write this truth according to conviction. Ours is a peculiar and trying task. Some of these very men in 1872 rendered us a life-time favor--assisted in a most exemplary manner in the burial of our aged grand parent;--and we, of all others, would have been the last to condemn, had not the awful reality come from more than a dozen souls. We would have been the last to raise our voice, had we not a heart for a suffering and down-trodden people. To see our sisters and other innocent and defenseless women in danger displaces friendship--obliterates all gratitude -- and inserts in our heart instead--ACTION!! The cry of suffering humanity and injured innocence will fill the hearts of all true men with -- ACTION!! To defend our lives is the first law of nature; but, to defend the lives and chastity of our women -- which, even in the crude laws of old Rome was held inviolate and sacred -- to think of their being snatched from our arms and in the hands of black demons -- whose atrocity, when in power, knows no bounds, will make the blood of the most pusillanimous coward boil with indignation and join with the bravest in crying: down with such hellish intents and on to slaughter!

We hope we have uttered nothing unjust. We pray that we shall never do so. We have tried to give, as we said in the outset, a fair and impartial statement--and have, so far as the facts are known to us.

We have tried to write with a feeling of pity in the mentioning of our former friends. But, truth is mighty, and the awful reality -- especially when it is connected with crime, makes a metamorphosis in ones feelings.

It is the great moral duty of every good man, and should be impressed in the minds of all, to shield none--not even our dearest relations in -- CRIME--and, in this, we have tried to be guided by the injunction But, we should always bear in mind, to give every human individual in distress, that privilege accorded by the laws of humanity and reason--a privilege which we all would wish given should a sorrowful calamity ever befall us--that noble privilege--JUSTICE! If they are guilty (which it is proven they are) then they have met with a just reward for the evil contemplated. If they are innocent, then may God pity the souls of their murderers.

One thing we know -- our citizens have done their duty as humanity has dictated. They regret and condemn this mode of execution as much as any law-abiding citizens could. The blame cannot be laid at their doors. And we know that all who are acquainted with their proceedings and gentlemanly bearing in this matter will give them, as we do, justice-- which is all they ask...........M. L. PICKENS,

Late Local Editor of the "times."


Contributed by Ann Allen Geoghegan

From the National Archives American Memory Project

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2002 - present by Ann Allen Geoghegan
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