Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Was Henry Howard Innocent?

We'll never know if Henry Howard was guilty or innocent; his due process disrupted by an angry lynch mob.

The Coshocton Daily Age which fanned the anger flames began backpedaling once Henry Howard died. They wrote, "Can the people of community afford to throw aside law and rule by violence? Can the people of Coshocton afford to say to all the world that under certain circumstances they will allow passion--the savagery that is inherent in all humanity--to so far govern them, that law shall be declared void, and turbulent, impetuous, promiscuous humanity rule?"

Yet, within the same story, they offered, "The crime of Howard is one that should be place in the front of the category. It is brutal, without reason, and if capital punishment be correct, then such a crime is deserving of punishment by death...in the abstract, therefore, the taking of the life of Howard was correct. No sympathy can be extended him, no tears shed over his fate, no thought given his future."

As you can see, the Age convicted and justified the execution of a man who had not yet faced a jury. I guess this would be a prime example of talking out of both sides of your press.

Deeper into the story, the Age goes on to call mob members "good, influential citizens of the West Lafayette vicinity, men who were terribly incensed at the outrage committed..." The paper goes on to blame the sheriff for the lynching, "If, then, it had been known, that the jail was guarded by the local Militia company (as it should have been) these peaceable farmers would not have made the attempt and the lynching would not have taken place; because the loud mouthed whiskey soaks around Coshocton, who now want it to appear they were participators, would still have been discussing the magnitude of the crime and bleeding sympathetic gullibels for the drinks. These fellows now stand around and pat their abdomens, that self praised evidence of dignity and beer, and blow of what they have done, but if it had been left to their bravery, nothing would have ever been done."

So, "good, influential citizens" needed a modicum of bravery to lynch a man? How does murder equate bravery?

When I started writing about the lynching of Henry Howard, I received an interesting anonymous comment. I've chosen not to publish the entire comment and you can take it as you will. I can neither prove nor disprove the comment's authenticity or claims:

"I am a resident of Coshocton, Ohio. And the story you tell on your blog is true. My great grandfather helped in that lynching, and he like the rest of them stormed in and hung this man. It is said that he and others who were lynched hung on the court house square back then for an example that this type of act would not be tolerated. Also they ended up lynching quite a few of them that were not guilty...and writing about a lynching leaves me to tell you that as they referred to them back then being negro, this man (Henry Howard-ed) was not guilty, it ended up being a white man who should have been lynched..."

Often, as with many of the historical series I write, I find additional information which later appears on CTCN. I suspect the Henry Howard story is far from being finished.


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