The lynching of Andrew Springer was an extra-judicial hanging that occurred in Powhatan on May 21, 1887.
Incident at Jeff's Creek
Little is known about Andrew Springer before he became a criminal, though one article in the Arkansas Gazette claimed he was from Illinois. According to the record, he approached the house of a Mrs. W.B. Montgomery at Jeff's Creek, near the town of Opposition in Lawrence County. Springer asked for a drink of water, which she gave him. A short time later, he came back and threatened to kill her six-week-old baby if she didn't let him in. He then proceeded to "outrage her in a most horrible manner" and Mrs. Montgomery was "left almost dead." 1
Arrest and Relocation to Powhatan
James Haldstead, the constable of Opposition, set out with a posse of men and quickly apprehended Springer. Springer initially denied the charges, but later confessed after he was identified by Mrs. Montgomery. 2 After Mrs. Montgomery's husband and brother tried to shoot Springer, Justice F.M. Lee had him brought to his own home where Halstead and several other armed men stood guard to deter vigilantes. Around midnight, they left for Powhatan and transferred him to the jail. 3
According to two witnesses--AJ Angle and Thomas Parrott--a group of men came to the jail and demanded the keys from the jailer around 1-2 am on May 21. They threatened to use force if he didn't comply. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that a group of men awoke the jailer in the dead of night, saying they had brought a murderer to the jail. When the jailer opened the jail, the supposed murderer refused to enter and when the jailer attempted to use his force, he was met with the barrel of a revolver. The mob ordered the jailer to release Andrew Springer (3a). Springer was taken about a quarter of a mile from the jail and hanged. The men shot his body several times to ensure he was dead before making their escape. The exact location of the hanging remains unknown but was reported as being the post-oak tree in front of Col. Milton Dyer Baber's home.(3b) Justice Lee took the testimony of Angle and Parrott, along with a signed statement from twelve jurors confirming the cause of death was "by hanging and pistol shot." The perpetrators were never identified, as no investigation was made. The public celebrated these events: "The act seems to have been justified, and most persons endorse the proceedings." 4
However, there was one person willing to speak on Springer's behalf. A Mr. J.N. Bates of Franklin wrote to the Gazette, revealing that Springer had once been a mail-carrier under his employment. He described him as a widow's son, originally from Salem, who was an "...honest, obliging, and unassuming young man of rather good intellect."5
On May 21, 1887 an inquisition related to the dead body of Springer was formed by the coronor. Jurors included F.M. Wayland, F.C. Stuart, John W. Martin, Ragsdale, SLoan, Beebriek, W.L. Watson, William Matthews, J.R. Wells, Doyle, Eudaly, and John Darter. Witnesses included A.J. Angle and Thomas Parott. (NEARA, inquests, Folder 52). Angle's sworn testimony says that 20 or 25 men came to his home and forced him to open the jail and they then removed Springer, hanged him and shot him five times. He said the men were not masked but he did not know any of them. Thomas Parrott's testimony matches this statement.
Questions of Racial Identity
To this day, many people believe that Andrew Springer was black. However, this claim is under investigation.6
Some believe that Springer's ghost haunts the Powhatan courthouse, even though it had burned some years before and was not rebuilt until 1888.
1 Arkansas Gazette. May 20, 1887.
2 Sharp County Record. May 19, 1887.
3 Times Dispatch. April 26, 1951.
3a/b: Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock, Arkansas) · Mon, May 30, 1887 · Page 7 Andrew Springer story.pdf
4 Arkansas Gazette. May 22, 1887. Andrew Springer.pdf
5 Arkansas Gazette. May 29, 1887. p.3
6 There are two sources that make this claim: Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas (p.766), and Richard A. Buckelew’s 1999 paper Racial Violence in Arkansas: Lynching and Mob Rule, 1860-1930, (p.231).