Murder of Chicken Stephens New York Times Article
Complete transcription of article below.
"Life in North Carolina: The Murder of Senator John W. Stephens -- A Terrible Scene -- Shall His Assassins Be Amnestied?" New York Times, February 26, 1873.
[Courtesy of the Newspaper Archive, https://access.newspaperarchive.com/us/new-york/new-york/new-york-times/1873/02-26]
LIFE IN NORTH CAROLINA.
The Murder of Senator John W. Stephens -- A Terrible Scene -- Shall His Assassins Be Amnestied?
Special Dispatch to the New York Times.
RALEIGH, N.C., Feb 25 The Amnesty bill came up in the House today, and was discussed to adjournment. Mssrs Watson and Morrison, Democrats, spoke in favor of the bill. Mssrs. Marler and Bryan, of Alleghany, Democrats, opposed the bill upon the ground that it would encourage crime, retard immigration and capital, and provoke bad blood throughout the State. Mr. Bowman, Republican, made an earnest, dispassionate appeal to the House not to pass the bill. He read from the Amnesty act, passed in 1795 by the Legislature, at Hillsboro, which contained a provision that persons guilty of willful and deliberate murder should not receive amnesty and pardon. He also refereed to the hanging of Wyatt, an outlaw, on the Courthouse green in the town of Graham, he then related from the sworn evidence of one of the parties present the particulars of the murder of Senator John W. Stephens, of Caswell, which occured in June, 1870, and that warrants had been issued for the guilty parties. He stated that a public Democratic meeting was in progress in the courthouse at Yanceyville, the county seat of Caswell; that Stephens was in attendance on that meeting; that a prominent Democrat of Caswell approached Stephens with a smile, and asked him to go down stairs with him. Stephens accepted, and they went into a room formerly occupied by the Clerk of the Court of Equity, that as soon as they entered the room the door was locked, that there were in the room eight white men and one negro. Stephens was surprised to find the room full of men and was struck with horror when a rope, fixed as a lasso, was thrown over his neck from behind and he was told by the spokesman of the Kuklux crowd that he must renounce his Republican principles; that he believed they were right, and that the Republic would prosper if they were carried out, that he could not leave the country and State, because his all was there, that the colored people looked upon him as a leader, that they depended on him, and that he could not desert them. Stephens was then told that he must die. He then asked to be allowed to take a last look from the window of the office, at his home and any of his family that might be in view. The request was granted, and when Stephens stepped to the window he beheld his little home and his two little children playing in front of his house. He was then thrown down on a table, two of the Kuklux holding his arms. The rope was ordered to be drawn tighter, and the negro was ordered to get a bucket to catch the blood. This done, one of the crowd severed the jugular vein, the negro caught the blood in the bucket, and Stephens was dead. His body was laid on a pile of wood in the room, and the murderers went upstairs, took part in the meeting, and stamped and applauded Democratic speeches.
Mr. Bowman was asked if he made this statement of his own knowledge. He replied [illegible] he was in possession of the sworn evidence of one of the parties who was present and [illegible] at the murder, that the statement was made and sworn to before an officer authorized to administer oaths and to issue warrants of arrest.
This information fell like a bombshell from a batter in ambush. The Democrats were astounded; a death-like stillness pervaded the House, and at the conclusion of Mr. Bowman's speech the House adjourned.
Since the Amnesty bill passed the Senate, the Kuklux of Alamance County have been raiding and committing outrages again. About two weeks ago a number of these midnight assassins went in the night time to the house of Alexander Russell, a peacable, honest citizen of Alamance County, and assaulted and stabbed him severely. On Sunday night, the 16th last, a party of disguised men went to the house of a negro woman living on the land of J W Stockard in Alamance County, and with their pistols and threats to kill, drove the [inmates?] of the house from the premises. The screams of the woman aroused Stockard, who went to the source of the outrage, and upon remonstrating with the crowd, he was told he would be killed if he interfered with them.
Other outrages of a similar character to these have been committed in Alamance County during the last month. To prove that these outrages actually took place, I have only to say that I have seen the Superior Court Clerk of Alamance County, who informs me that the Superior Court was in session in that county, and that true bills of indictment were found by the Grand Jury against the parties who stabbed Russell and outraged the colored woman on Stockard's land. Such is the effect of the passage of the bill through the Senate.
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