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ROSEWOOD AND THE RACIAL VIOLENCE OF JANUARY 1923
†††† Lynching had become so common in the United States, especially in the South, that in 1921 Representative L. C. Dyer of Missouri introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to make lynching a federal crime.† Dyer acted out of conscience but also at the strong behest of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.† The bill passed the House, but Southerners in the Senate organized a filibuster that prevented a vote, resulting in the measure's failure and leaving the states to deal with the lynching problem.† Although the number of lynchings had declined from sixty-four in 1921 to fifty-seven in 1922, the record† was not a source of
pride.†† In the year just ended, fifty-one of the victims were blacks and six were whites.† Texas led the nation with eighteen.† It was followed by Georgia, eleven; Mississippi, nine; Florida, five; Arkansas, five; Louisiana, three; Alabama, two; Tennessee, two; Oklahoma, one; and South Carolina, one.
†††† It is doubtful that the handful of residents in Rosewood, Florida, ever read the Tuskegee report.† Yet its citizens would be victims of racial violence in 1923 and several would be murdered.† In the first week of January, Rosewood was the center of what became known variously as a riot, a massacre, and a race war.† A small hamlet
of twenty-five or thirty families in Levy County, Rosewood was largely populated by blacks.† Elsie Collins Campbell, a white woman of Cedar Key, once lived at Rosewood, and was about three years old at the time of the disturbance.† She remembered the village as one of green forests.† This view is shared universally by blacks and whites when they describe the community's dominant features.† Population estimates of the settlement nestled along the Seaboard Air Line Railroad vary, but none of them place it as being large.†† Rosewood and nearby Sumner constituted a precinct of 307 people in 1910 (158 whites, 128 blacks, and 21 mulattoes); by 1920 the population had more than doubled to 638, except now blacks were a majority with 344 people, while white residents numbered 294.† The Rosewood voting precinct in 1920 had 355 African Americans.
†††† Rosewood is located nine miles east of Cedar Key in western Levy County which was established March 10, 1845.† What became the village of Rosewood--section 29, township 14 south: range 24 east-- was first surveyed in 1847.† By 1855 seven homesteads were strung out along a dirt trail leading to Cedar Key and the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Railroad connecting Cedar Key with Fernandina opened in 1861.† Rosewood took its name from the abundant red cedar that grew in the area.† By 1870 the market value of cedar and the commercial production of oranges, as well as vegetable farming and limited cotton cultivation, justified a railroad station and small depot at Rosewood.†† The cedar was cut in the Rosewood vicinity, shipped by rail to Cedar Key on the Seaboard Airline Railway, which had replaced
the Florida Railroad, and processed there at two large international pencil mills.† The finished timber was then sent by boats to New York factories and fashioned into lead pencils.†
†††† Prosperity meant the establishment of a post office and a voting precinct in 1870.† Black and white families moved in, and although the hamlet became a small village, Rosewood was never incorporated.† The county opened a school for whites, and soon a privately owned hotel for whites began registering guests.† Whites
established a Methodist church in 1878, and blacks followed in 1883 with their own African Methodist Episcopal church.† Pleasant Hill, a second AME church, was founded in 1886.†
†††† By 1890 the red cedar had been cut out, forcing the closing of the pencil mills at Cedar Key.† The community had a black majority by
1900, as white families moved out, leasing or selling their land to blacks.† The post office and school closed, relocating to the site of a
new cypress mill that opened in Sumner, a village three miles west of Rosewood.††
†††† But Rosewood survived.† Some of its male residents obtained work at the large saw mill in Sumner; a number of Rosewood's black women worked at Sumner as part-time domestics for white families.† Some men worked at a turpentine still located at Wylly, a small settlement one mile to the east.† Other Rosewood blacks worked for
the black-owned M. Goins & Brothers' Naval stores company in Rosewood.† The company prospered by distilling turpentine and rosin obtained from the large tracts of pine trees growing nearby.† Housing for some laborers was in Rosewood's "Goins Quarters," and at its peak the Goins brothers' operation owned or leased several thousand acres of land.† Other African Americans made their living by small scale farming and by trapping in the vast Gulf Hammock that surrounded the area.† Gulf Hammock was also the name of a village six miles south of Rosewood.† Although some whites moved away, others remained so that Rosewood was never exclusively a black settlement.† The village's largest total population was seven hundred in 1915; in 1923 blacks made up the majority.†
†††† Facing a number of law suits from competing white firms over land rights, the Goins family terminated their operations, and by 1916 had removed to Gainesville in adjoining Alachua County.† Even so, Rosewood maintained its sense of community.† A number of black owned businesses continued to operate.† There was a general store owned by a white family and another by a black family.† One black operated a sugar mill.† Blacks organized a private school and hired Mrs. Mullah Brown as the teacher.† The community baseball team, the Rosewood Stars, had their own playing field (near the depot) and played home and home games against teams in Levy and surrounding counties.
†††† In 1920 Rosewood had three churches, a train station, a large one-room black masonic hall, and a black school.† There were several unpainted plank wood two-story homes and perhaps a dozen two-room homes that often included a lean-to or a half-roofed room.† There were also a number of small one-room shanties, some of them
†††† The events that culminated in the Rosewood affair began on the morning of January 1, 1923, at Sumner, the neighboring saw mill village.
Residents would remember the winter as one of the coldest on record.†
Frances ("Fannie") Taylor, a twenty-two-year-old married woman, whose husband James Taylor (thirty) had gone to work at Cummer and Sons saw mill at Sumner, was home alone.† Fred Kirkland and Elmer Johnson, two whites who were young men in 1923, remembered seventy years later that Taylor's job at the mill required him to oil the equipment before the other workers arrived.† It was his habit, once he got the mill started, to return home for breakfast.
Deed records do not indicate that the Taylors owned property in Sumner.† Their residence, said to have been surrounded by a picket fence, was probably owned by the Cummer Lumber Company.† The company was headquartered in Jacksonville.† Large operations were begun in Levy County in 1910 when the company purchased land for a railroad right of way.† Several hundred men, whites and blacks, were employed at the mill whose main wood product was cypress lumber.† The company's "quarters" were segregated by race.† Another large labor force worked in the surrounding woods and swamps cutting timber and transporting it to the mill.† From 1910 through the 1920s (it burned in 1927 and was never replaced), the company was engaged in a large number of real estate transactions.††
James Taylor had married Fannie Coleman on April 25, 1917, a day when they went to the courthouse at Bronson and had County Judge John R. Willis perform the ceremony.† Some accounts claim that by 1923 the Taylors had two small sons.† The census for 1920 noted that the Taylors had a one-year-old daughter named Bernice.
†††† According to Fannie Taylor's version of events, a black male came on foot to her house that morning and knocked.† When she opened the door the man proceeded to "assault" her.† From most accounts the intruder did not consummate the act of rape, although he beat her about the head and face.† Some versions of the event claimed that she was both raped and robbed.† Fannie Taylor's cries for help attracted the attention of neighbors, and her assailant fled, supposedly headed south for Gulf Hammock, a dense expanse of swamps covered with jungle-growth vines, palmettoes, and forests.† Although Fannie Taylor was not seriously injured and was able to describe what happened, the shock of the assault rendered her unconscious for several hours.† Because no one ever disputed that some kind of physical attack took
place, the incident was never referred to as an "alleged attack."
†††† The white community was practically unanimous in its belief that the man who assaulted Fannie Taylor was black.† That view was not challenged in contemporary accounts, but a number of blacks whose families were involved in the trouble disagree with the white version of events.
Lee Ruth Bradley Davis, who was a month away from her ninth birthday when the attack occurred, lived in Rosewood with her father John Wesley Bradley and her brothers and sisters in 1923.† She was the seventh of nine children: Hoyt, Kellie, Bradley, Donarie, Marion, Sylvester, Ivory Lee (herself), Wesley James, and Clift.† Virginia Bradley, her mother, was dead.† Davis based her account on stories told to her by her father (who was involved in the week's events), by her grandmother Sarah Carrier, her cousin Philomena Carrier, by other principals, and by her own memory.
According to Davis, it was a white man who visited Fannie Taylor that New Year's morning.† Never identified by name, he supposedly worked for the Sea Board Air Line railroad.† He got off the train and was seen entering the Taylor house by Sarah Carrier and her granddaughter Philomena.† Sarah Carrier was employed by Fannie Taylor on a weekly basis to do her washing and ironing.† On occasion but not that day Sarah took her youngest son and her grandson, Arnett Turner Goins, with her to stack wood for the Taylor household.
She worked for other white employers as well.† That morning the woman and the young girl had, as usual, walked from Rosewood and arrived at the same time that the white man entered the Taylor house.† (Present day family members, including Arnett Turner Goins, declare that Sarah Carrier remembered having seen the same man visit Fannie Taylor on several previous occasions).† The white visitor remained a while, reemerged, and left sometime before twelve o'clock.† It is not known if
James Taylor came home for breakfast, but about noon he returned home (perhaps for lunch) and his wife told him that a black man had assaulted her.
Some African Americans in the area contended privately at the time, even as black descendants contend publicly today, that the man who visited Fannie Taylor was her white lover.† For some reason they quarreled, and after physically abusing her, the man left.† Then the white woman protected herself by fabricating the story of being
attacked by a black man.
Fannie Taylor's version of the assault was the one accepted by the white community of Sumner, and the news spread rapidly.† Soon a posse under the direction of Levy County's Sheriff Robert Elias Walker, popularly known as Bob, was formed to search for the unidentified felon.† Walker was a longtime Levy County resident. According to the Tampa Morning Tribune, "The entire county is aroused, and virtually every able bodied man has joined in the search."†† Sheriff Walker obtained a pack of bloodhounds from Captain H. H. Henderson at Convict Camp Number 17, Fort White, near High Springs in neighboring Alachua County.†† There is some evidence that the manhunt was begun before the dogs arrived, and that the posse used a single dog initially.
Although the lawman headed a deputized posse, the search was soon joined by numerous other men who converged from several locales.† By Tuesday night a crowd estimated at between four hundred and five hundred people combed the woods.† It was logistically difficult, if not impossible, for all of them to be sworn in as deputies.
Many of the men were, in fact, independent agents who formed their own search parties and pursued their own extra-legal objectives.
Jason McElveen, a white resident of Sumner, would remember Sheriff Walker's concern.† He told McElveen, "I don't know what to do."† The lawman added, "this crowd wants blood, and they [are] going to have blood."† McElveen told the sheriff, "Bob, keep them [the posses] out of the colored quarters in the mill [at Sumner]....We knew if we could keep them niggers in the mill we could keep them straight, but we knew if we let them out of there the farmers [white posse members]
would get them."
The assault on Fannie Taylor and the search for the black man whom she accused of committing the crime were the initial incidents in the story of the Rosewood tragedy.† What happened in the week of January 1-8, was reported across the state and nation by the Associated Press.† The AP correspondent or correspondents who
supplied the Rosewood stories to black and white newspapers were never identified with by-lines.† Because AP reports were often filed the same day from different locales, it is probable that there were several "stringers" (part-time reporters who were paid by the story).† The accounts went out by telegram and telephone to various towns and cities where they were picked up and edited further to fit space and local interest needs.† Most newspapers--from the New York Times to the Gainesville Daily Sun in Florida--credited the AP as their source.† A few journals gave no source, even though their accounts were obviously supplied by the AP.† Some newspapers printed their own stories when there was a local angle germane to the event.† Beyond the AP dispatches, a number of newspapers reacted editorially.† This was more true of the black journals than of their white counterparts.† Besides the AP's coverage, the black newspaper, the Chicago Defender, ran an account authored by Eugene Brown, and another unsigned story was used by a black newspaper, the St. Louis Argus.† Presumably both reporters were black.† Their versions of
events were at odds with those of the AP.††
In Levy County suspicion soon fell on Jesse Hunter, a black man serving time on a convict road gang for having carried concealed weapons.† Hunter had just escaped from a crew working on what is now State Road 24 (other reports had it that he was laboring in a turpentine camp, under Florida's notorious convict lease system).††† Hunter was reported as having been in the vicinity of Rosewood.† Sometime before the assault, he was allegedly seen in the company of Sam Carter, a forty-five-year-old black man who resided mid-way between Rosewood and Sumner.† Carter, a blacksmith, had previously had a brush with the law in 1920.† He was accused of
attempting a felony by assaulting a Levy County deputy sheriff with a shotgun.† The grand jury declined to find a true bill against him, and Carter was set free.
Apparently that same day (Monday, January 1) Sheriff Walker arrested two blacks who were suspects and put them in jail at Bronson, the county seat.† The AP story did not identify the two men, but, as will be seen, one of them was Aaron Carrier, member of the close knit Carrier family in Rosewood, a community bonded by families
related to each other by marriage and by long time associations.† Walker's real suspect was Jesse Hunter, and the search now included Carter, wanted for whatever information he might have and to determine the extent of his implication.
As reported in the newspapers, that same New Year's day the bloodhounds led a posse to Sam Carter's home.† The occupant of the house admitted that he hid one of the men wanted (newspaper accounts never said that the man hidden at Carter's house was Hunter).† Carter further admitted to hitching up his horse and wagon and driving the fugitive away (presumably back toward Rosewood).† Carter then led the posse to a spot where he and the fugitive parted ways.† The bloodhounds were unable to pick up a scent.† Angry and thinking they had been duped, the group abandoned whatever pretext they possessed as a legal posse and became little more than a lynch mob.
When Carter did not answer all questions satisfactorily, he was tortured and his body was riddled with bullets and then hanged from a tree.† According to the Associated Press, his corpse was left lying in the road where it was discovered the next morning (Tuesday, January 2).†
Fred Kirkland, a seventeen-year-old white boy, and his father happened to be in Sumner on the day of the assault.† In 1993 Fred recalled that his father and uncle,† O. B. and Garret Kirkland, were members of the posse that captured Carter.† Kirkland's memory of the assault and its aftermath conforms basically with the accounts of contemporary newspapers.† The murder of Sam Carter marked the initial death in the unfolding drama.† With so many men scouring the area, Sheriff Walker must have considered the tracking dogs of no further value, and, in any event, he returned the bloodhounds to the Fort White convict camp the next day (Tuesday, January 2).† The
county commissioners later voted a payment of $50 for their use.† It should be noted that while many posse members were outsiders, a number of them were whites who worked at the sawmill in Sumner.† They continued working at their regular daytime shifts and early in the week, some of them joined the search at night.† No contemporary accounts mentioned that black mill laborers were members of the posse.† Their absence was deliberate.
The contemporary newspaper reports are at variance with accounts given later by black survivors and their descendants.† According to Lee Ruth Davis, who got the story from her father, John Bradley, the white lover of Fannie Taylor realized that he was in trouble and went to the home of Sam Carter.† He told Carter that he was a mason and needed help.† Carter, a tall man with Indian features, was a member of the black Masonic Lodge # 148 in Rosewood.† The masonic ties of fraternity and brotherhood reached beyond the barrier of race, and Carter agreed to help him.† Carter hitched his horse to a wagon or cart and carried the fugitive to the house of Aaron Carrier, twenty-six, also a mason, who lived in Rosewood. Carrier agreed to help, and gave the white man a meal.† Then the three men left in Carter's wagon and took a road into Gulf Hammock, proceeding until they reached water (probably the Waccasassa River).† There the fugitive escaped in a boat, and Carter and Carrier returned to their homes.
Arnett Doctor, the son of Philomena Carrier, the young girl who witnessed with her grandmother the white man enter and later leave Fannie Taylor's house, recounted in 1993 a slightly different account from that of Lee Ruth Davis.† Doctor is the leader in the Carrier and related families' current efforts to research and make public the
events at Rosewood.† Doctor's version was based, in part, on conversations that he later had with family members, including Aaron Carrier. Supposedly, the white fugitive, aware that no train would be running soon, sought to leave the area.† As an employee of the Seaboard Air Line railroad he knew Aaron Carrier, a World War I
veteran, and many other people in Rosewood and Sumner.† Aware that Carrier was a mason, he went first to Carrier's house seeking aid.† The two men went in Carrier's wagon to the home of fellow mason Sam Carter, and from there the three men carried out the successful escape described by Lee Ruth Davis.† Arnett Turner Goins, eight- years-old in 1923, gave a deposition seventy years later that paralleled Arnett Doctor's version.
Another part of the story surrounding the death of Carter that was not described in the newspapers comes from the deposition of Minnie Lee Mitchell Langley given on June 2, 1992.† Ten at the time of the Rosewood affair, she and her brother, Reuben, were the children of Theodore and Daisy Mitchell.† Minnie Lee Langley's mother died when she was a baby, and she and her brother were raised by her grandparents James and Emma Carrier.† According to her, the grandparents, like many other blacks in Rosewood, owned their land.† Emma Carrier also raised her own children: Lorna, Carol, Rita Carrier Williams (her married name), Beulah, Wade, Eddie, J. C. and perhaps more.† Aaron was also her son.† James Carrier had suffered two strokes.† Incapacitated for mill work, he earned his living trapping and selling hides.† Emma Carrier milked cows and performed other chores for whites and occasionally sold eggs and vegetables at the Rosewood railroad station.† The family owned its own cow and had a garden that was planted in, among other vegetables, sweet potatoes and peas.† The young girl and her brother referred to James and Emma Carrier as mama and papa and to their uncles and aunts as their brothers and sisters.
Minnie Lee Langley went to school in a large one-room frame building located next to the masonic lodge.† The all black student body was taught by the previously mentioned Mullah Brown.† On New Year's Day 1923, Minnie Lee Langley remembered that at dark "Mama and we all was standing out in the yard and...here come a gang of crackers, coming down the railroad."† A black man leading a dog was with them.† How many men were there?† As Minnie Lee Langley put it, "There's so many...all† inds, horseback, some...riding them little buggy cars down the dirt roads, some of them was in the railroad, just as far as you can see them."† She estimated there were† between 100-150 in the crowd.† Some of the men wore "them big ole' tall hats," and neither she nor her grandmother had ever seen or knew any of the people.† When
asked if she had witnessed anybody pass, Emma Carrier replied negatively, and the posse went down the road to Aaron Carrier's house.† The man with the dog went into the black man's house and came out by the back door.
One member of the posse came back to Emma Carrier's house, where Aaron was, and she identified him as her son.† According to the story, Aaron was sick in bed.† The probable reason was that Aaron Carrier needed an alibi if he was accused of helping Fannie Taylor's attacker escape.† At any event, the posse dragged Carrier from his
bed and took him to a stand of pine trees, and there was much talk about getting a rope and hanging him.† At that point, a man named Edward Pillsbury, the son of W. H. Pillsbury, who ran the Cummer saw mill and for whom Sarah Carrier worked from time to time, got Carrier away from his captors.† Some stories also credit Sheriff Walker with helping Carrier escape.† Carrier was placed in the back seat of Pillsbury's car, laid down, and taken to the safety of the jail in Bronson [Minnie Lee Langley said he was driven to Gainesville, but more likely it was Bronson].
The posse also confronted a man named Sylvester Carrier, thirty-two, and ordered him out of town.† Carrier told them that he lived in Rosewood and planned to remain there.† With the death of Sam Carter, the near lynching of Aaron Carrier, and threats against Sylvester Carrier, the tension mounted.† Sylvester Carrier took the
lead in suggesting that various family members go to the home of his mother, Sarah Carrier, where he could protect them better.† Sarah Carrier had a comfortable two-story home in Rosewood.† Besides washing and ironing for Fannie Taylor, she worked sometimes for D. P. "Poly" Wilkerson, an official at the mill in Sumner.† Sarah was well known and highly respected in the area.†† She was married to Hayward J. Carrier.† While it is unknown when the couple moved to the Rosewood area, they bought an acre of land there on February 23, 1901.† The Carriers paid S. C. and J. J. Cason $60 for the property that was located close to the railroad right of way.† According to Minnie Lee Langley, the posse took Carter in a wagon to a place near the railroad station in Rosewood.† The depot was close to a baseball field and near the home of the previously mentioned Sylvester Carrier--a black hunter, marksman, and music teacherówho would become a central figure over the next few days.† Sylvester
Carrier, proud and independent, had married Mattie Mitilda Smith, a strikingly attractive woman with long hair, in November 1912.† Highly regarded in the community, Sylvester was active in Rosewood's AME church, even though he and his father had served prison time in 1910 for changing brands on livestock.† Minnie Lee Langley said that the white men took Carter into some woods behind Sylvester Carrier's house where they hanged and shot him.† No blacks witnessed the lynching of Carter, but news spread rapidly, and the black community expected more trouble to follow.†††††
Gary Moore, a free lance journalist who has studied the Rosewood events for twelve years, wrote in the Miami Herald's Tropic magazine March 7, 1993, that the men who captured Carter overpowered Sheriff Walker and took his weapon.† Moore, who has contributed to this report with a synopsis of his research, has concluded that a World War I veteran named Bryant Kirkland, shot Carter first.† It is certain that during the episode several men fired shots into Carter's body.† Young Ernest Parham, a white boy, followed the tracking party, saw the capture of Carter, and witnessed his death by shooting.† According to Parham a non-resident of the area shot Carter first.
If, as the newspapers reported, Carter's body was found on the road or if he was hanged and shot in Rosewood, as the black families contend, a coroner's jury was called on Tuesday to review his death.† The six-man jury issued its report the same day: "We the Jury after the examination of the said Sam Carter who being found lying dead,
find that the said Sam Carter came to his death by being shot by unknown party [or parties] so say we all."† The report was signed by L. L. Johnson, a justice of the peace, in the absence of a coroner.
Tuesday (January 2) and Wednesday (January 3) were uneventful and were spent in a fruitless search for Hunter and another black said to have been implicated.† Then on Thursday, January 4, violence broke out on a large scale.† Early that evening reports were received in Sumner that a group of blacks had taken refuge in Rosewood.† No one believed that Jesse Hunter was among them, but the situation led to an investigation by a "party of citizens" who went to Rosewood to investigate.† They were particularly interested in locating Sylvester Carrier.† Ernest Parham, the white youth, explained in his interview that Carrier "was a little bit different than the rest of the people."† He considered himself the protector of his family and kin.† Carrier, already unpopular with certain whites because of his spirit and manner, had supposedly remarked that the assault on Fannie Taylor was "an example of what [Negroes] could do without interference."† The whites planned to warn Carrier against further incendiary talk and to discover what he or the others knew about Hunter.† Jason McElveen, a white participant, recalled that the news of Sylvester Carrier's alleged statement "was just about like throwing gasoline on a fire when you tell a bunch of white people that."† He added, "a bunch of [whites] gathered up and went up there to see them.† I didn't have anything but a twelve-gauge shotgun--a pumpgun--with plenty of buckshot."
There were white men who declined to participate in the manhunt.† One was the town barber of Cedar Key.† Another resident of the town refused even to loan his gun to anyone.† He did not want to "have his hands wet with blood," which seemed to be the clear intention of these white residents. On arriving at Rosewood the posse found a group of African Americans, estimates would vary later but the usual figures ranged between fifteen and twenty-five, barricaded in Sarah Carrier's house.† The white posse apparently had six men initially, a figure which, if accurate, was quickly swelled to many times that number.† The whites deliberated about how to accomplish their mission, and particularly how to discover Hunter's whereabouts.
Finally, two men, Henry Andrews, forty-two, Superintendent of the Cummer Lumber Company's saw mill, and C. P. "Poly" Wilkerson, forty-five, a Sumner merchant and mill official, boldly approached the house.† Wilkerson, a large man who weighed well over two hundred pounds, and Andrews, short but stocky and powerful, mounted the
porch steps and attempted to enter.† According to newspaper descriptions, the blacks inside opened fire (those who were armed had shotguns mainly), and the two white men fell dead.† Some accounts had the whites firing the first shots.† Andrews and Wilkerson were the second and third persons to be killed since Monday.† The whites
rapidly cordoned off the house and surrounded the building.† As described by the Jacksonville Times-Union, they began "to pour a hail of lead into it."† From inside their fire was returned.† It remains unknown whether any blacks other than Sylvester Carrier answered the whites' fire.† Four more white men were wounded, including† M. T.
(Cecil?) "Sephis" Studstill of Sumner, shot in the arm; Bryan Kirkland of Sumner (also reported as Warner Kirkland of Rosewood); Mannie Hudson of Sumner, scalp wound; and Henry Odum of Jacksonville who worked at Otter Creek, a settlement on the railroad a few miles north of Rosewood, shot through the neck.† Other unnamed whites were also wounded.† The fusillade continued.†††
Even by modern standards, the news story was swiftly reported.† As buckshot impacted and rifle bullets whined and the outcome remained undecided, an AP reporter telephoned the details from Cedar Key to the Gainesville Daily Sun.† Acting on requests from unnamed people (most likely Sheriff Walker and town officials), the reporter
asked the Sun to contact Alachua County's Sheriff P. G. Ramsey and have him start immediately for Rosewood with as many men as he could assemble.† That was done, and by one o'clock on Friday morning Sheriff Ramsey, Chief Deputy Dunning, and several car loads of deputies and armed citizens were preparing to leave for Levy County.†† In Florida, sheriffs and deputies of one county rarely entered another county on an official mission unless requested by the local sheriff.† Such an appeal to Alachua County officials was a statement of how grave the situation was perceived by Levy County whites.
It appears that among those coming from Gainesville were several members of the Ku Klux Klan, who had held a major rally in Gainesville on January 1, that was announced in the Gainesville Sun.† A large crowd, including some Northern tourists, watched as an estimated one hundred Klansmen in full regalia paraded through
downtown Gainesville.† The white-clad figures carried banners proclaiming their opposition to bootleggers, gamblers, and cheating lawyers.† One placard declared, "First And AlwaysóProtect Womanhood."† The KKK motorcade disappeared into Gainesville's black section only to emerge at the square an hour later.† Then the hooded
principals dispersed into the night.††
It is possible, even probable, that Klansmen did in fact come to Rosewood, but they did not wear their regalia.† The Klan, as an organization, was never specifically accused of participating in the riot.† Beyond that, neither Ruth Lee Davis, Minnie Lee Langley, nor their various family members and kin claimed that any of the posse
members wore hoods.
At Rosewood the battle was still in progress at 2:30 in the morning of Friday, January 5.† One newspaper reported white authorities as believing that unless the blacks surrendered "they will be smoked out."†† At some point one of the attackers, armed with a flashlight, worked his way across the open space between the crowd and the house.† He climbed through a darkened window, switched on his flashlight, cast its beam on the crouching blacks, and shouted to his white comrades to fire.† One of the blacks quickly shot him.† The bullet struck the intruder's head, inflicting a serious wound.† The injured man fell through the window to the ground and was rescued.††† The next day an unnamed official of the Cummer Lumber Company stated that an unidentified white man had been shot in the head and was dying.† This may have been the person who managed to get into the Carrier house, but he remained unidentified and was never listed among the dead or wounded.†
There were no other attempts to enter the house.† The blacks seemed well supplied with arms and ammunition, and the bright moonlight made the attackers such easy targets that they contented themselves with a siege.† Desultory firing from a safe distance ceased around 4 a. m. when the whites' ammunition ran low.† More shells
and bullets were ordered from Gainesville, as they waited for daylight before making another move.
Blacks were able to use the cease fire to make good their escape.† They fled into the nearby woods and swamps and were joined by the other blacks in Rosewood who feared that they would also be attacked.† Early on Friday morning the whites approached the house.† They retrieved the bodies of Andrews and Wilkerson and took them to their homes where preparations were made for their burials.† Both men were well known in Levy County.† On entering the house whites discovered the bodies of Sylvester Carrier and his mother Sarah Carrier, who had been shot to death.† The death toll had now risen to five.† Bloodstains were seen, and it was apparent that a number of blacks had been wounded.† Thwarted by the escape and angered by the deaths of two whites and the wounding of several others, the "infuriated" whites quickly "tore down pictures, smashed furniture, and completely ransacked the black dwelling."†† Descendants of the Carriers and of other black families of Rosewood do not believe that Sylvester Carrier was killed.† They contend that he escaped and died several years later in Texas.
The white mob now acted without restraint.† It is unknown what attempts Sheriff Walker made to stop the angry whites or what assistance Sheriff Ramsey was able to render.† In any case, the mob burned the Carrier home so that "nothing but ashes was [sic] left to tell the tale of the gun fight."†† They next burned five more houses and a church in the black section.† Lexie Gordon, about fifty, a black woman with a light complexion who had hidden under her house, fled when it was set on fire.† She sought escape by running toward a clump of bushes in the rear of the blazing building, but was shot to death.† Lexie Gordon became the sixth victim.
Rosewood was depopulated as the terrorized African Americans left.† Margie Hall, fifteen at the time, remembered later that her family's reaction was typical.† Yet her parents, Charles B. and Mary Hall, who had four daughters and five sons, were not a typical black Rosewood family.† Hall owned several farms, was a Baptist preacher,
and was the village's only black store owner.† The family lived in a two-story building, and, as Margie remembered the night of January 4, "all of us children were in bed and my mother was gone to bed.† She came into our room and woke us up and said, 'Y'all getup, they're shooting.'"† Once awake, Margie continued, "we didn't have time to put any clothes on.† We just jumped up and ran out of the house and took off into the woods going toward Wylly."
Years after the incident, Mae McDonald's mother, Ruth Bradley, told her she fled with her parents George and Mary Bradley and other family members.† They did not have time to dress properly for the cold weather before entering the nearby protective woods and swamps. †The frightened young Ruth believed the white men were searching for any blacks they could find.† According to Mae McDonald, her mother "said anything that was black or looked black was killed."
At Sumner a group of armed men surrounded the black district, and no one was permitted to go on the streets.† As the forceful, stocky, dark complexioned W. H. Hillsbury explained, "I want to keep everything quiet here at Sumner.† The important thing for us is to keep our own negroes busy at work, and prevent any spreading of the trouble.† We all hope that the negro sought will be captured at once and put an end to this rioting.† Every effort is being made to prevent any spread of the race trouble to Sumner."†† After the first reaction to the assault on Fannie Taylor, Pillsbury persuaded his white workers to remain in Sumner and not join the posses.† He also
got the whites to keep order in Sumner.† Pillsbury was aided by another white man named Johnson who was the mill foreman.††† A similar precaution was taken at Bronson.† That same Friday morning three hundred blacks went to work as usual in Sumner at the Cummer Lumber Company.† Several blacks who attempted to leave town were turned back by Sheriff† Walker.† Guards were stationed around the village to keep blacks who had fled into the woods from returning.
State newspapers reported the events at Rosewood in bold headlines and some took large liberties in describing what was happening.† According to the Miami Daily Metropolis, which headlined its story, MANY DIE IN FLORIDA RACE WAR, "Deputized posses and citizens said to be numbering in the thousands were pouring into this village early this morning [Thursday].† Automobile after automobile heavily laden with armed men have arrived, some coming from a distance of about 75 miles."††† A few out-of-state journals were equally guilty of distorting the news.† The Chicago Defender, a black newspaper, ran a story by Eugene Brown, who filed his account from
Tallahassee.† Brown based his exaggerated report on what he was told from an on-the-scene informant.† Supposedly, Ted Cole, an ex-soldier from Chicago had just come to Rosewood, and it was he who rallied the blacks to resist the attack on the Carrier house.† According to Brown, the veteran used combat skills acquired in World War I to good effect, managing the stand-off exchange between blacks and whites.† The reporter also claimed that nineteen people were killed.† The Defender's account seems to have been largely fictional.
On Friday afternoon a seventh death occurred.† Mingo Williams, a black turpentine worker about fifty, whose nickname was Lord God, was killed when he was shot through the jaw (or through the head). †His body was found on the road near Bronson, some twenty miles from Rosewood.† Williams had no known connection with the trouble at Rosewood and apparently encountered part of the white mob, many of whom had been drinking and were indiscriminately seeking black
victims.† The posse still fluctuated between two hundred and three hundred men and continued its macabre mission.† By nightfall Sheriff Walker told the AP that more trouble was imminent because relatives of the slain blacks were believed to be armed and were expected to cause trouble, although most were hiding in the woods fearful of their lives.†† Sheriff Ramsey and his deputies returned to Gainesville on Friday afternoon because they believed local officers had matters under "fairly good control."
Sheriff Walker's statement that "more trouble was imminent" was inconsistent with his communication to Governor Cary Hardee in Tallahassee.† Learning about the turbulent conditions at Rosewood from the AP dispatches, the governor sent a telegram early Friday morning to Sheriff Walker.† He asked for a situation report.† As
commander-in-chief of the Florida National Guard, Governor Hardee wanted advice on whether to call out the troops.† There were various national guard units in several Florida cities (Jacksonville had seven), including Company E 154th Infantry at Live Oak, and Company H at Lake City.† Throughout the day the governor waited for a reply.† He and his staff closely followed all press bulletins, but Hardee refused to commit himself to action based on unofficial reports.
That afternoon the governor felt comfortable enough to go hunting despite the many verified deaths in Rosewood.† Standing by was his secretary, Professor L. B. Edwards.† Late in the afternoon a telegram arrived from Sheriff Walker.† No copy of the telegram exists in the governor's papers, but various newspaper stories noted that
the message did not go into details.† The sheriff briefly told Hardee that local authorities had the situation under control.† There was no need to activate the national guard †according to Walker.†† As events turned out, the situation was not under control, but the governor accepted the opinion of the Levy County sheriff and never sent in the national guard.
The Oklahoma City Black Dispatch described developments in Tallahassee differently.† The journal reported on the riot in close detail but was dependent upon AP stories.† It reported: "Although Governor Hardee, when informed on the outbreak, announced that he would send troops to dispel the mob, it was still intact Friday night, numbering between two and three hundred armed men, and was scouring the surrounding country in search for Jesse Hunter...."† A respected and influential national publication, the Nation, was critical of the governor: "There has been no indication that the authorities of Levy County or of the State of Florida were even interested in the fate of the Negroes."
That same day (Friday, January 5) a black man answering the physical description of Hunter was arrested in Lakeland, about 130 miles south of Rosewood.† Two deputies and two citizens of Rosewood who knew Hunter went to Lakeland.† They arrived and concluded that, although the prisoner closely resembled the fugitive, he was not Hunter.† The chief of police at Lakeland, noting that the Rosewood people "didn't look as if they would stand much foolishness," held the man over on other charges.†† The search continued.
James Carrier, brother of Sylvester and son of Sarah who were killed in the Thursday night ambuscade, was one of the besieged occupants who escaped.† On Saturday morning he left his hideout in a nearby swamp and returned to Rosewood.† There he asked W. H. Pillsbury, the white superintendent of the Cummer mill, for
protection.† Pillsbury obliged and locked Carrier in one of the remaining houses in Rosewood's black section.† Later in the day, as the Jacksonville Times-Union put it, "when a new clash became imminent, the negro was turned over to...twenty-five or thirty men."
Carrier was taken to the black graveyard.† There beside the fresh graves of his mother and brother (and perhaps other black victims who may have been buried there), Carrier was interrogated. †He probably was questioned and tortured before being taken to the graves, and it is certain that the grilling continued there.† His inquisitors demanded the names of the people in the house who had participated in the shooting.† They especially wanted to know if Jesse Hunter was one of them.† Carrier admitted that he had been in the house and escaped.† Yet he refused to name the other blacks.† His captors then shot him several times and left his body stretched across one of the graves.† The body count now numbered eight.† †
Later in the day Sheriff Walker oversaw Carrier's burial beside his family members.† Walker and other officers reported on Saturday night that the entire vicinity was quiet.††† Whether the story was true or not, it was reported that several of the blacks who were in the Carrier house had been arrested and spirited away for safekeeping.† The captured men allegedly reported that there had been eighteen people in the house.
The Baltimore Afro-American, like other black papers, picked up the AP stories and was incensed by events in Levy County.† The black paper, particularly angered by the killing of James Carrier, published a blistering editorial.† It noted that Carrier had spurned offers of immunity if he revealed the names of his compatriots and had ignored
threats to "shoot him to hell" if he did not.† The admiring Afro- American declared, "The 'Uncle Toms,' the South loved are gone forever, and in their place have grown up heroes like Uncle Jim Carrier who died true to his friends and true to his home."
Yet another black Maryland newspaper, the Baltimore Herald, made a similar argument.† "Negroes throughout the country," the Herald declared, "are in the fullest †sympathy and cherish the highest admiration for the men of the race in Florida who fired into the mob and killed two of their number.† We regard the twenty, or whatever the number killed as martyrs.† They died defending their own lives and in defence of law and order.† Every shot fired into a mob and every member of a mob killed is in defence of law and order."
In the meantime, the African Americans residents of Rosewood remained in hiding and blacks in Sumner and other villages did not venture from their quarters.† At Lenin [probably Lucans], another hamlet located between Rosewood and Cedar Key, nine-year-old Lillie Burns and various family members watched the proceedings.† "We could see the white people in their trucks with their guns sticking up on the trucks and cars right behind them.† This went on all day and all night," Lillie said.† "We could see where they were burning the houses....We could see the balls of black smoke."† The Burns, who were kin to the Carriers, gave temporary refuge to five or six Rosewood refugees.†
At Sumner all blacks who were not at work in the lumber mill were kept in the quarters, and a "dead line" was established between the black and white sections.† W. H. Pillsbury, the mill superintendent at Sumner, was given credit and praise by whites for keeping his black employees working, for restricting them to certain sections, and for making the curfew effective--all measures that helped prevent additional difficulties.††† No further trouble was expected, but some came on Sunday, January 7.
Following the burning on Friday morning, only twelve black houses were left in Rosewood.† On Sunday afternoon a crowd of whites, estimated at 100-150, gathered and watched as the remaining houses were torched, one by one.† The AP report declared, "The burning of the houses was carried out deliberately, and, although the
crowd was present all the time, no one could be found who would say he saw the houses fired."†† As a result of the burning on Friday and again on Sunday, "Masses of twisted steel were all that remained of furniture formerly in the negro homes, [and] several charred bodies of dogs, and firearms left in the hasty retreat, bore evidence
to the mob's fury which set fire to the negro section of [Rosewood]...."†† In Virginia a black newspaper, the Norfolk Journal and Guide, sardonically appraised events since Friday when Sheriff Walker informed Governor Hardee that no troops were needed: "[Walker] told the truth.† He proved he could handle the situation without outside assistance."
Although Hunter remained at large, officers believed they finally had the situation under control.† Even so, the Jacksonville Times-Union commented ominously, "The section however, is still much aroused by the disturbances."†† That newspaper, like others, published little follow up information.† On Monday, January 9, the Times-Union had relegated the story to page seven, giving it a few lines under the heading "Rosewood Is Quiet After Disturbance." †††††The black Norfolk Journal and Guide reported the week's volatile events but not in much detail.† The reason, the paper explained, was that "news from the seat of the trouble, after the second day, was suddenly suppressed, so nothing has leaked out as to how the trouble terminated."† Reporting was not that bad, but the journal had a point.† It had a stronger point in stating that the nation's "undercurrent of hate and lawlessness" could only be dealt with effectively by court action and due process of law.††† Except for a few homes owned by whites, there was little left to disturb. †Most blacks were still hiding in the woods and swamps.† No documented record has been found that Jesse Hunter was ever captured.† The Rosewood community as African American residents knew it had been obliterated from the map of Florida.†
The Baltimore Afro American of January 12, 1923, ran what appeared to be two pictures supplied by an "International News Reel." †One photograph was of a burning black residence in Rosewood and the other portrayed a group of white men, women, and children standing by three graves of blacks who had been killed. The picture of the †burning house was run in the New York Literary Digest on January 20, 1923, as well as an uncredited picture of whites inspecting the charred remains of black houses in Rosewood.† The latter picture was also published by the Chicago Defender, January 20, 1923, which further included a photograph of M. L. Studstill, one of the white men who was wounded at the Thursday night battle.† Still another photograph was of a burning house with three whites wielding shotguns and crouched in the bushes a few feet away.† The Literary Digest was the only white publication to run any pictures.
Today there is a small green highway marker with white lettering that reads Rosewood.† What once was the village is now overgrown with trees and vines, and scattered about are a few bricks and parts of buildings.† Little other physical evidence remains.
The question of how many people died remains, however, and it may never be solved.† Nor is it certain how many people were in Hayward and Sarah Carrier's house on the night of January 4, although most of them were apparently children.† Arnett Turner Goins's deposition states that Sylvester's wife left Rosewood before Thursday night.† Based on contemporary evidence and accounts, there were eight deaths, six blacks and two whites.† The blacks included were Sam Carter, Sylvester Carrier, Sarah Carrier, Lexie Gordon, Mingo Williams, and James Carrier.† The white men were Henry Andrews and C. P. "Poly" Wilkerson.† A story that ran in the Baltimore Afro
American of January 12, 1923, was supplied by a news agency called "Crusader Service."† The article was datelined Rosewood, January 9, and stated, "Eighteen white and colored men and women are known to be dead."† The account did not supply the names and seems to be inaccurate.† It is possible that some of the whites and blacks who were wounded died later as a result of their injuries, but there is no documentation to support this thesis.
Jason McElveen, the white man who participated in the affair, had a memory extremely at variance with contemporary reports.† He claimed that after the Thursday battle, "they went up there and buried seventeen niggers out of the house.† And I don't know how many more that they picked out of the woods and the fields about the area."† McElveen's version had it that "they just took 'em and laid out in the road [and] plowed the furrows, with a big field-plow, extra big field-plow, fire plow.† [They] plowed two big furrows there and put them niggers in there in the trench and plowed it over."† As for identification, "there is no markings or anything; don't know who they was, why they was, and they said there was twenty-six of them there." †As a final grisly note, McElveen remembered, "and after that for the next four or five years they picked up skulls and things all over Gulf Hammock--all around Gulf Hammock."†
Moore's article in Tropic quotes the statement of James Turner, a white man who served later as sheriff of Levy County.† A fourteen- year-old boy at the time, Turner witnessed the aftermath of the burning and said that he saw an open mass grave in a pine grove. †Unable to count the bodies he saw there, Turner was told there were
seventeen of them.† Some of the black descendants, among them Arnett Turner Goins, deny that there was an open grave, and to date no such site has been found.† The descendants vary in their estimates of how many people were killed.† As of now, eight deaths can be documented.
The black residents of Rosewood left the area, never to return. †Those who owned homes and land lost them.† In his "Synopsis of Research: The Destruction of Rosewood, Florida," (28-29), the journalist Gary Moore puts the number of destroyed homes at eighteen.† They belonged to John Wesley Bradley, George Bradley, Mary
Ann Hall, Laura Jones, James Carrier, Sarah Carrier, Aaron Carrier, Hardee Davis, John Coleman, Virginia Smith, James Hall, Lizzie Screen, Sam Carter, Cornelia Carter, Ransom Edwards, May Ann Hayward, John McCoy, Ed Bradley, Perry Goins, Sam king, and Lexie Gordon.† Moore's evidence indicates that the homes were substantial dwellings and well furnished for the time and place.