Illinois · Newspaper clippings

Clippings: husband beats wife to death with ax; 500 women lynch a man for murder of young woman

From the Chicago Daily Tribune
Published November 12, 1909
Several people met violent ends, three of whom had their destinies intertwined.

The first article reports of a woman viciously attacked by her ax-wielding husband. Her battered body was found with her two young children crying over her, and she was able to implicate her husband shortly before she died.

The next article tells of a young woman who was allegedly killed by two men, strangled and possibly raped. Mob justice descended on the two suspects, with one of the attackers, Will James, being hanged by approximately 500 women. When the rope broke, he was shot multiple times, dragged to the location his victim was discovered, and burned. The second suspect was taken from police custody when the mob overpowered the officers.

The articles read:
Woman Accused Salzner
Salzner was a photographer, 26 years of age. Mrs. Salzner was found at her home on the night of Aug. 15 with her head crushed, and a bloody ax was found under the bed. Her two small children were creeping and crying over the body.
The woman was taken to the hospital and recovered enough to state before she died that her husband had committed the deed. It was known that Salzner had been cruel to her and had beaten and failed to provide for her and the two children, and neighbors testified that they had seen him around the house the night the murder was committed.
Salzner was arrested at the hoe of his mother and pretended to know nothing of the crime. His father was William Salzner, a hide and wool buyer.


Women Lynch Negro Slayer
The lynching of the negro, James, earlier in the evening, had been even more spectacular than that of the white man. As the victim finished his confession that he and Alexander had killed Miss Pelley the young woman’s sister pushed forward and seized the end of the rope which encircled his neck. The action was inspiring to the other women in the mob, and while the men fell back to give them room no fewer than 500 women seized the rope and pulled James from his feet into the air.
As the negro’s body swung free from the ground the rope broke and the men in the mob poured volley after volley of bullets into the murderer’s body. Finally, when the corpse had been mangled under the hail of lead, the remains were dragged on the end of the long rope nearly a mile through the streets to the scene of the murder.
Here, while the crowd danced and shrieked in glee, the body was burned on the spot where Miss Pelley’s body was found.

Mob Starts After Second Victim
Almost before the fire had begun to die down the mob forgot about its first victim and had spread out over the entire city and the surrounding country in a hunt for the other negro, Alexander.
Alexander was arrested at the same time with James, but subsequently was released.
James was lynched in the most prominent square of the city, the rope being wound over the public arch at Eighth and Commercial streets.
The negro was found with Sheriff Davis and a deputy between Karnak, Ill, and Belknap by the Cairo crowd in the afternoon. The mop overpowered the officers and took the negro from them, and after a conference it was decided to bring the negro back to the city and lynch him here.
Fully 1,000 men had cone out to help find the negro, and when they arrived in Cairo they were met by a howling mob of nearly 10,000 more. They marched direct to the arch, sweeping everything before them.

Mob Takes Charge of Sheriff
Sheriff Davis pleaded for the life of the negro, but without avail, and when Cairo was reached Davis was taken in charge by a part of the mob, while the rest rushed the negro rapidly to the scene of action.
The mob after the negro was so large that it covered the entire country from Karnak to Vienna, Ill., a distance of about sixteen miles.
When found by the mob the negro was handcuffed between the two officers and they were lying on the bank of the creek. All three were so weak from hunger and exposure that they were not able to make much resistance.
Sheriff Davis tonight said that he deplored the lynching, and made every possible resistance in his power, but that the crowd was so large that he could do absolutely nothing.

Farmers Refused to Aid Officers
He said that after leaving the train at Dongola last night he made an effort to get a rig, but found it impossible to find one, as the news had been spread over the country and that the farmers knew the crime the negro had committed and that he cound not get assistance or anything to eat. At every point where he headed to board a train he was blocked off by a mob.
When James was found the news was sent along the line to the scattered mob to board a Big Four train and meet them at Belknap. This was done and the whole party arrived at 7:45 p. m.
The negro was taken off at Tenth street and marched through the principal streets of the city to the most public location, under the city arch.
While in custody of the mob at Belknap and coming down on the train the negro would not tell about the crime, but when he stood under the arch he weakened and confessed, implicating Alexander.

Officers Outwit Mob Once
That “The Frog,” as James was known, did not hang from the Hustlers’ arch at Eighth and Commercial streets Wednesday night instead of last night was due to the cleverness of Chief of Police Egan and Sheriff Davis in getting him out of the city. The departure of the northbound Illinois Central train at 7:15 was well timed to the carrying out of their plans. At that hour scarcely a score of men were about the station.
James was hustled into the patrol wagon and the wagon was dashing up Twelfth street before the watchers realized what had happened. They started a run after it.
Sheriff Davis and Deputy Fuller had arranged to have the train stopped at Fourteenth street. The wagon and the train reached Fourteenth street at the same time. The sheriff and his deputy and the trainmen were on the steps ready to assist Chief Egan and his men, but the wagon had distanced the pursuers.

Warning Sent by Telephone
James was hurried on board, and the train pulled out as the first pursuers arrived. Before the rear lights of the train were out of sight a dozen men had hurried up to the telephones on the second floor of the freight house nearby and were calling Mounds and Anna. One of the mob called a friend at Mounds and urged him to notify the people at Anna that the negro was on the train.
When connection with Anna was obtained a man there was told to organize a mob to take James from the train.
Chief Egan and his men left the train at Cairo Junction. The destination of Sheriff Davis and his prisoner was supposed to be Murphysboro or Carbondale, but a telegram from Anna informed him that a mob was gathering at Anna and he left the train at Dongola and drove in the direction of Mill Creek, on the Mobile and Ohio railroad. A crowd of several hundered was at the depot at Anna, the former home of Miss Pelley, when the train reached there, but no attempt was made to search the train for the negro.

Box Car Trains Seized by Mob
A mob of 200 men seized a freight train here yesterday afternoon on the Big Four railroad and, drawn by a switch engine, started for Karnak, twenty-seven miles away, near which place Sheriff Davis, Deputy Fuller, and the negro, Will James, were hiding in the woods.
The sheriff was seen at Karnak by Phillip Prectorious, a Cairo lumberman. The sheriff bought food and went down the Big Four track. A train passed through Karnak a little later and the conductor telegraphed back from the next station briefly that he had seen the deputy and the handcuffed negro beside the railroad track a mile beyond Karnak.
When a telegram was received by the brothers of Miss Pelley that the trio were in the woods there, a second boxcar train was quickly made up and departed for Karnak, filled with men. These men brought the girl’s slayer back to Cairo.

Girl Attacked Near Home
Miss Pelley was an orphan girl, 22 years old. Her home formerly was at Anna, Ill., but for two years she had lived with her sister, Mrs. John Coffman of Cairo. She was employed as a salesgirl in a department store.
On Monday evening she left the store at 8 o’clock and walked with her chum, Ella Dolan, as far as Miss Dolan’s home, 1203 Commercial street. She took a Holbrock car at Fourteenth and Washington streets. It was raining, an, to avoid a muddy stretch of sidewalk, she left the car at Twenty-eighth and Elm streets instead of at Sycamore street, as was her custom.
The finding of a handle of her umbrella in the front yard of the residence of Harry Lipe at 424 Twenty-sixth street, three doors from the Coffman home, indicates that this was where she was attacked first. It is supposed that when she was confronted she struck James with her umbrella and the handle flew into the yard.

Body Dragged on Ground
It is believed James thrust the gag into the girl’s mouth and carried her back to Elm street and half a block to the alley, with the assistance of Alexander. Marks on the ground showed she was dragged seventy-five feet to the spot where she was strangled to death. Her fearfully bruised and lacerated throat and face show that she had fought desperately.
Miss Pelley’s clothing was almost completely torn from her body. Beside her was her hat and her broken umbrella. Not far away was found her book of street car tickets. Some postcards she had been carrying in her hand were torn in two. Her handbag and a dress pattern she had purchased were gone.
Bloodhounds took up a hot trail in the morning and followed it to the home of a negress named Green, where Alexander and James were arrested with another negro and the Green woman.

This photograph was taken shortly after Will James’ rope snapped, just before being shot. Credit:


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