On this day in 1897, a vengeful mob broke into the Ripley County Jail and forcibly removed five robbery suspects before lynching them. The vigilantes strung up the suspects’ naked and battered bodies from an elm tree about two blocks from the jail then dispersed a little before 1 AM. It is believed that an estimated 250 people were present during the hanging. Approximately only 800 people lived in Versailles at the time.
The lynching victims were identified as:
LYLE LEVI, 57, shot through the breast then dragged to the tree and hanged
WILLIAM JENKINS, 27, skull crushed in with a stool, noose put around neck, body dragged to the tree and suspended
HENRY SCHULER, 24, skull crushed, body dragged to the tree and suspended
CLIFFORD GORDON, 22, bound, dragged to the tree and hanged
ALBERT ANDREWS, 30, bound, dragged to the tree and hanged
“Fort Wayne, February 8 —On Monday last, Rueben Stevens was arrested near here, as being one of the ringleaders of a mob who took from the Allen County, Kansas, jail a man named Dotson, charged with murder in the first degree, last June. The charge against Dotson was such an aggravated one that the citizens took the law into their own hands. Stevens being identified was arrested, but made his escape, and has been hunted through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina, and was finally arrested. He is now confined in our county jail awaiting a requisition from Kansas.”
February 5, 1881 – A man, identified only by the surname Hill, was on his way to begin serving his sentence at the Indiana State Prison South in Jeffersonville when he managed to give his police escort the slip. The train the pair was traveling on had slowed as it approached a crossing and, seeing that the Vigo County deputy sheriff accompanying him was momentarily distracted, the shackled convict took his chances. He jumped from the moving train and made good his escape.