Oklahoma · Racially Motivated

Mother and teenaged son lynched before their trial

May 25, 1911
Okema, Oklahoma
Laura Nelson and her 16-year-old son are lynched, their bodies left hanging from a bridge

The Nelsons were charged with the May 2 killing of a deputy sheriff who had visited their farm looking for a stolen cow. According to the report, Laura was the first to grab the gun which killed Deputy Loney, but her son had killed the officer. Because of this, both Laura and her son were arrested. Laura’s husband Austin pleaded guilty to larceny in the same case and was sent to a separate prison.

During the evening of May 24 into the morning of May 25, while both Nelsons were awaiting trial, a group of men broke into the jail holding Laura’s son. The teen’s name has only been recorded as L. W. The group bound the jailer at gunpoint and stealthily removed L. W. from his cell. Only two of the other prisoners were awakened. One asked who was there, only to be told to shut up and go back to sleep. He obeyed. After retrieving L. W., the group went to the area in which female prisoners were held and abducted Laura in the same manner.
The mother and son were taken to a bridge, a noose tied around each neck, and swung over the side to hang. According to The Okema Ledger (May 25, 1911), neither body showed any bruising aside from rope marks. The article states:

The woman’s arms were swinging by her side, untied, while about twenty feet away swung the boy with his clothes partly torn off and his hands tided with a saddle string. The only marks on either body were that made by the ropes upon the necks. Gently swaying in the wind, the ghastly spectacle was discovered this morning by a negro boy taking his cow to water. Hundreds of people from Okemah and the western part of the county went to view the scene.

No suspects were questioned and no arrests were made. The photographs of Laura Nelson’s lynching are the only known surviving photographs of a female lynching victim.

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