Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999 Page: 28
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
held at gunpoint for about forty-five minutes, then released. Good got Sheriff Leyendecker,
and Bowen's attorney, Wells Thompson, and went in search of the prisoner. The three men
found Bowen, dead, hanging from a tree just south of the city. Though the citizenry was
outraged by the lynching and a serious investigation was made, and though rumors as to
who was involved raced throughout the county, none of the perpetrators were ever posi-
Had Bowen, who was white, known the men were a lynch mob, he might have
thought that they had come looking for a man named John Thomas who was a prisoner at
the same time. Thomas, a simple-minded black man, stood accused of the May 10, 1868
rape of a local German woman named Ann Thanheiser. Because the rape occurred about an
hour before sunrise inside a house with only one small window open, Thanheiser could
only vaguely describe her assailant. Soon, a number of men had arrested a freedman named
John Phillips for the crime, and tried to induce him to confess by putting a rope around his
neck. Somehow, he convinced the mob of his innocence, and suspicions turned on Thomas.
Thomas had been employed to keep cattle from getting into a field near Thanheiser's house,
and his employer had noticed that he was absent from his post when the rape occurred.
When Thanheiser agreed that he was indeed the culprit, Thomas was arrested. He went to
trial in October, was convicted on October 12, and, on October 17, was sentenced to hang.
Although some feared that the white community would use the execution as an excuse to
riot, the sentence was carried out with little protest or ceremony on December 18, 1868.44
The fact that the mob hanged Bowen rather than Thomas is made all the more
puzzling by the certain knowledge that a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, which abhorred
black men who consorted with white women in any way, had been organized in Columbus
in early 1868. The peculiar garments of the Bowen lynch mob were certainly similar to
those traditionally worn by the Klan. Another incident, one day after the Bowen lynching,
also may have been perpetrated by the Klan. On April 14, 1868, a freedman named John J.
Ridge had had a violent altercation with a white man named Hunt Terrell. Terrell attacked
Ridge with a knife, then, with a pistol in his hand, threatened to shoot him. Terrell was
arrested by local authorities, who then released him when he agreed to leave town. The day
43 Houston Daily Times, September 12, 1868; Reports of Louis W. Stevenson, August 31, 1868,
October 31, 1868, Barry A. Crouch Collection (Ms. 41), Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus.
As we have seen, Turner was one of the men who moved to Brazil in 1868. He must have done so very shortly
after the Goode shooting; and was perhaps partly motivated to move away by what Stevenson reported as an
enduring hostility of the Harberts toward him.
44 Colorado County District Court Records, Criminal Cause File No. 732: State of Texas v. John
Thomas, Criminal Minute Book D, pp. 194, 199; Report of Louis W. Stevenson, October 31, 1868, Clippings
attached to letter of Louis W. Stevenson, November 22, 1868, Letter of J. B. McFarland, December 4, 1868, all
in Barry A. Crouch Collection (Ms. 41), Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999, periodical, January 1999; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151405/m1/28/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.