January 5, 1894
Phil Evans (20) is hanged for raping a 12-year-old girl
On October 15, 1893, Evans and a man named Ed Hall got drunk together, and Evans agreed to assist Hall home. When they arrived at Hall’s house, Evans laid Hall down onto a haystack where he immediately fell asleep. Evans then went to the house and knocked upon the door. Mrs. Hall asked who it was to which Evans replied “Ed.” As she recognized the voice was not her husband’s, Mrs. Hall refused to open the door. Angered, Evans began firing at the home, frightening 12-year-old Mary Edna Hall, who ran from the house. Evans ran after the girl, dragged her to a pigpen, and sexually assaulted her.
Due to the nature of the crime coupled with racial tension (the victim was white while her attacker was black), community outrage was immediate and intense. A military guard was assigned to protect Evans. They successfully guarded him from lynch mobs on three occasions. In addition, shortly after the trial began in November 1893, the home in which Evans’ mother, wife, and children lived was destroyed with dynamite which “shook the houses for a half mile round.” It was feared at first the family had been “blown to atoms” with the house, but it was later found the group had escaped physically unharmed.
At trial, Edna testified against Evans, pointing him out in the courtroom and calling him by name. “On account of her weak mental condition,” her cross-examination was brief. When Evans took the stand, he said little aside from professing his innocence. He was convicted and sentenced to hang. While on the gallows, Evans confessed to the rape and blamed his inebriated state for the crime.
Clipping: The Roanoke Times. January 6, 1894
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2016
The Roanoke Times. January 6, 1894
“On The Gallows.” The Newark Daily Advocate. January 5, 1894.
“Blew Up The House.” Owensboro Weekly Messenger. November 16, 1893.
“The Rage Against Phil Evans.” The News Journal [Wilmington, Delaware]. November 13, 1893
“The Victim Testifies.” Owensboro Daily Messenger. November 11, 1893
“The Trial Begun.” The Courier-Journal [Louisville, Kentucky]. November 10, 1893