The Lynching of L.Q. Ivy
Seventy-five years ago, a 17-year-old was lynched in Union County. If L.Q. Ivy had lived, today he would be 94 years old - the same age as his sister-in-law, Mattie Ivy Bruce, who clearly remembers his murder.
In the Mississippi Delta of the 1940s, it was customary for black drivers to pull over, surrendering rural, unpaved roads to vehicles driven by whites because, "The black man might stir up dust that would get on the white folks."
This according to an African-American resident quoted in the book Dark Journey, who survived the muddy and bloody era. But dust rises on the convoluted gravel road just past the green Lafayette County marker on the way to Mattie Ivy Bruce's home, and when it settles, what has been left behind is visible.
On Sept. 18, Bruce turned 94 years old. The date not only signifies another year of her life; it marks the beginning of the brutal death of her friend and brother-in-law, L.Q. Ivy, a teenage timber cutter, abducted by a Union County mob Sept. 18, 1925, tortured, and murdered two days later 200 yards east of the old Etta Post office in a tiny community called Rocky Ford.
"My husband was his brother," said Bruce, sitting in the den in front of an antique stovepipe heater. "I don't think it will ever be forgotten with time," she said, her hand clutching her side through an open button of her denim dress and head covered by a satin scarf. Two days ago, she was released from the hospital.
"I'm sure, as long as I live, I will remember the tragedy. It was a sad situation. It was a sad, sad situation, and it was not a true situation."
The truth of the lynching of L.Q. Ivy cannot be found in the Union County Library with books of Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner, the town's most famous son, or newspaper clippings of mysterious millionaire Paul Rainey, another legendary local. It can scarcely be found in the city of New Albany, Rocky Ford, or the neighboring community of Etta, where almost all residents who witnessed the murder lived on and died out, leaving no record of the occurrence.
Part of the truth has been printed on frayed pages of the 1925 newspapers of Lafayette, Pontotoc and Prentiss counties; stored in dusty courthouse attics, and tossed upon metal shelves of infrequently used back rooms of official buildings. Some can be copied from defunct Memphis publications, obscure paragraphs in lynching literature, files from Southern universities, old course papers written by native graduate students; Internet sites, where Ivy's name has been listed among the murdered; recorded narratives and oral histories, where the story, distant but clear, has been retold in words of the first and second generation.
Bruce, the only remaining member of the first generation, corrects her language when she speaks of Ivy in the past tense, assuring herself and those listening that L.Q. lives, despite fatal brutality.
"He was my brother-in-law," she said, with shut eyes. "He is my brother-in-law. He was 17 years old. He would have been 18 on October 18 if he had lived."
Rocky Ford is located one-fourth of a mile off Highway 30 West. It's actually a part of the Etta community, where the recently constructed, red-bricked, Etta post office, seen from Highway 30 just before crossing the Union/Lafayette County line, sits less than a mile away. But local residents still refer to it as Rocky Ford, even though time has passed and the meaning of the name has likely been forgotten.
The two words are a simple, honest description coined by the original settlers who once forded the Tallahatchie River, traveling across large rocks at the perpendicular crossing. Like many North Mississippi settlements, the community relied on the timber and logging industry for survival, but the survival of Bessie Gaines was questioned Sept. 18, 1925, when the 21-year-old unwed daughter of Bob and Amanda Woodard Gaines left her child inside her Etta home and went to the cornfield to pick peas.
She was assaulted and raped there, according to four newspaper reports, but bloody and bruised, she managed to crawl back through the field to her home, where she told her family she'd been attacked by a black male.
When Union County Sheriff John Roberts learned of the attack, he organized a posse who took bloodhounds to the scene, then followed the dogs two miles to a field where L.Q. Ivy and a group of black workers were found cutting timber. Four crew members, identified as Cleveland Jones, Sherill Kilpatrick, Spencer Ivy and L.Q. Ivy, were taken into custody, but circumstances unknown pointed toward L.Q., the 17-year-old son of Jim and Allie Pegues Ivy, who had been hired to cut timber on a farm owned by Lawrence Goolsby in the Tallahatchie bottom, equipped with a well where Ivy and other workers retrieved water for themselves and their mules daily.
L.Q. was taken to the Union County jail, then immediately transported to Aberdeen by authorities who predicted a riot might occur. Gaines was taken to Mayes Hospital in New Albany.
When news spread, 200-300 locals left their farming equipment and crops and congregated in front of the hospital, where they spent Friday and Saturday night demanding that authorities bring Ivy back to the city for identification.
By Saturday afternoon, a crowd as large as 4,000 had traveled to the scene on foot, horses, and in automobiles. The Oxford Eagle reported that several handguns were confiscated, piled on the ground and guarded by deputies.
Judge Thos E. Pegram, of Ripley, ordered the crowd to meet him at the courthouse to further discuss the situation, and promised swift justice. Members of the crowd were also addressed by New Albany Mayor J. E. Tate and United States Senator H. D. Stephens.
Following a plea from Stephens, the crowd disbanded late Saturday afternoon, and things remained relatively quiet until dawn Sunday morning, when the town became full of cars and men again. A group of Etta residents had by then procured a writ in justice court ordering the sheriff to bring Ivy back to the county for identification. They alleged that Gaines was in critical condition and might die before she could identify her assailant, or that if an innocent person were being held, the guilty party could make a complete getaway.
At noon, when the crowd learned Ivy had been secretly brought to the hospital, they filled the streets and returned to the hospital grounds, where some became frustrated, according to one report, and "tore up bushes and everything in their path."
Later that day, the four suspects were taken into Gaines' room one by one, and she identified L.Q. Ivy as the man who assaulted her in the presence of Judge Pegram and attorney L. K. Carlton.
Newspapers reported that Gaines, while still in a state of shock, said she thought she was sure Ivy was her assailant, and when pressed by Carlton to say for certain if she would swear in court that he was her attacker, again said she "thought" she would.
Her father, however, "expressed himself as being uncertain of the identification and said that 'no hasty action would be taken by friends and neighbors.'"
Normal procedure at this point would have been the identification and selection of a jury, followed by a trial, but the mob grew, and eventually its members became uncontrollable. When the identification process was over, Ivy was taken from the hospital and put into an automobile intended to transport him to the county jail, but Sheriff Roberts, accompanied by the Lee County sheriff, left New Albany headed toward Tupelo, then turned around and took Highway 78 with the said intention of driving Ivy to Holly Springs 40 miles away from the mob.
Two deputies were dropped off at a bridge just outside New Albany and ordered to stop following mob members, but the roadblock attempt failed, and a crowd of more than 1,000 people from Union and Lee Counties made their way past the two stationed officers, ordering them to clear the road quickly, and threatening to shoot their way through if they did not comply. Several pistols were drawn, but none was fired, and the deputies opened the road.
At this time, a man who worked near the bridge telephoned Myrtle residents, informing them that the two sheriffs were headed their way with Ivy, and soon a Buick Touring car and roadster met them and set up their own barricade, blocking the police cars from the rear, and forcing authorities to surrender their prisoner just outside the Myrtle city limits.
The Oxford Eagle reported that Sheriff Roberts "begged the leader (of the mob) to wait until complete proof of guilt could be had, but they listened to nothing," and abducted Ivy from the vehicle.
Another account, collected by Mississippi State University student Jerry Harmon, a former principal of W. P. Daniel High School who revisited the case in 1964 for a college paper, said the mob stopped in a country store and bought Ivy a last meal of cheese, crackers and milk.
Another written by a University of Mississippi graduate student in 1975, who interviewed several eyewitnesses, said following the abduction, the mob chained Ivy to the back of a flatbed truck and formed a vengeful procession over the backroads leading to the death site at Rocky Ford. The former UM graduate student asked that his name be omitted from this report because he received several death threats following the publication of the course paper, which appeared in the 1977 Forward Together issue of The New Albany Gazette. Other eyewitnesses he interviewed two years prior to the publication said Ivy was dragged some distance by the truck, and at one point, was made to run alongside it with his hands chained to the bed.
The caravan of cars eventually pulled into a deserted Rocky Ford barn, where mob members initially asked Ivy to confess. When he refused, he was beaten, suspended from a rafter by the neck, and mutilated with knives, eyewitness J. L. Roulhac, a Memphis News-Scimitar reporter, said. But others at the scene provided a more detailed account, telling the UM student that Ivy was "stripped of his clothes and a rope placed around his neck. He was threatened repeatedly and his body hair was singed as a form of torture. Someone sent for a lemon squeezer and Ivy's testicles were placed therein and mashed to a bloody pulp. His screams of mercy could be heard outside clearly by those present."
From the barn, Ivy was taken to a sawmill in a pasture, a spot approximately 200 yards behind the old Etta Post office, only a short distance from the new one. Automobiles, horses, and a crowd composed almost entirely of white men consistently moved through Rocky Ford, while Ivy was taken to the top of a sawdust pile, a spot chosen because it afforded the best view.
He stood there with his head bent and prayed, and was asked again if he committed the crime, The Oxford Eagle reported. The newspaper said Ivy eventually confessed and implicated three others, two of whom were later captured and taken to the lynching site late Sunday afternoon.
They were freed after convincing mob members of their innocence, but Ivy was unable to do the same.
"Onlookers report that the crowd of 400 men was orderly and did not strike or taint the Negro, but went through it like men who had made up their minds to take the law into their own hands," said the Eagle. Photos later printed exclusively in the Memphis News-Scimitar were taken as Ivy stood atop the sawdust pile surrounded by mob members, while others hammered a steel buggy axle into the ground.
Aaccording to the UM student's report: "In the crowd was at least one Negro man who had come against his will. Most Negroes were like Lawyer Davis and Charles Norris of Myrtle. They had gone home and barred their doors. Davis was working for a man at the time who warned all of his workers, and even his sons, that if they went, they were not to return to his place."
Another African-American abducted and taken to the site was reported to be Will Talley, a young Afridan-American man who had been raised by a white family near Hickory Flat, and who many mob members felt wrongly considered himself "equal." Talley was forced to attend the lynching, "as a scare tactic to put Will in his place. . . After this, Talley would not venture out at night alone for several months."
Soon Ivy was led to the stake, and as he walked toward it, the UM student reported that he held a set of car keys and asked an Etta man to return them to his parents. Some mob members gathered strips of planing wood, while others chained Ivy to a steel stake and piled wood around him
"By this time, on this hot September day, most of the mob had become thirsty and found relief at a well," wrote the UM student. "They had used the well continuously throughout the day, and by late afternoon, it had become muddy." The report also states that a well located directly across the road, appealed to the hot, thirsty crowd, but the owner refused to relinquish control of it, and instead, stood beside it and pumped each man a drink.
More wood was piled around Ivy, and cans of gasoline and kerosene were used to soak it. A narrative written by an eyewitnesses on file at the University of Southern Mississippi alleges that the owner of an Etta store furnished the gas that was poured on Ivy, and names the man who allegedly struck the first match. It also says that a woman pleaded for someone to stop, and attempted to get water to douse the flames, but was restrained.
The UM student said another bystander, who held no active part in the proceedings, asked that someone "throw coal oil on the man and put him out of his misery." But perhaps the most accurate and graphic eyewitness account of the murder is that of News-Scimitar reporter Roulhac, who attended the lynching and published what he saw in the Sept. 21 edition of the newspaper, along with three photographs of Ivy and the mob.
"I watched a Negro burned at the stake at Rocky Ford, Miss., Sunday afternoon," he wrote. "I watched an angry mob chain him to the iron stake. I watched them pile wood around his helpless body. I watched them pour gasoline on this wood. And I watched three men set this wood on fire.
"I stood in a crowd of 600 people as the flames gradually crept nearer and nearer to the helpless Negro. I watched the blaze climb higher and higher encircling him without mercy. I heard his cry of agony as the flames reached him and set his clothing on fire. ‘Oh God, Oh God,’ He shouted. ‘I didn't do it. Have mercy.’”
As the blaze leaped higher, Ivy struggled.
"He kicked the chain loose from his ankles," Roulhac wrote, "but it still held his waist and neck against the iron post that was becoming red with the intense heat. 'Have mercy, I didn't do it. I didn't do it,' he shouted again. 'You should have thought of that before,' someone shouted from the crowd. There was an instant of silence. Then several voices rose in agreement.
"Nowhere was there a sign of mercy among the members of the mob, nor did they seem to regret the horrible thing they had done. The Negro had supposedly sinned against their race, and he died a death of torture."
Soon Ivy became quiet, Roulhac said, and "there was no doubt that he was dead. The flames jumped and leaped about his head. An odor of burning flesh reached my nostrils. I felt suddenly sickened. Through the blaze, I could see the Negro struggling and supported."
The crowd stood on the huge pile of sawdust overlooking Ivy, who lay in a small gully beside it. There was silence until "the first odor of baking flesh reached the mob (and) there was a slight stir. Several men (acted) nervously. Let's finish it up," someone said.
Roulhac said approximately 12 men instantly stepped in the crowd and began piling more wood on the fire already blazing high. The Oxford Eagle reported that witnesses declared Ivy dead a few minutes after the fire was started underneath him.
"After his first few screams, he seemed to become calm," the reporter wrote. Roulhac stayed until no part of Ivy could be seen except for the ax "which encircled everything."
"The crowd began to walk away," he wrote. "In the vanguard of the mob, I noticed a woman. She seemed to be rather young, yet it is hard to tell about women of her type; strong and healthy, apparently a woman of the country. She walked with a firm stride. She was beautiful in a way."
As the crowd disbanded, Roulhac overheard members complaining they were hungry. "'Let's get something to eat.' 'I'm hungry too,' said another. 'We'll have to go to New Albany,' someone said. 'We've bought out all the food in the Rocky Ford stores.' 'We might go to Myrtle,' said another.'" Then the witnesses returned to their vehicles and horses, leaving Ivy's remains on the "white hot stake with red-blue flames leaping."
The UM student reported that an African-American named Shep Boone returned to the site to collect Ivy's remains when the stake and chains were cold. But the Southern Miss narrative, in which Mattie Ivy Bruce was also interviewed in the 1980s, said "word was sent to Jim Ivy on Monday, telling him he could come and collect the ashes of his son."
His oldest son, J.D. Ivy, and Sherrill Kilpatrick, one of the original suspects, were given an apple box and sent to retrieve L.Q.'s remains. This account, like the UM student's, states that all that remained was his heart.
The two men put Ivy's ashes in the apple box and buried it in the Baker's Chapel Baptist Church cemetery, located just off Highway 30 and only a few miles from the lynching site.
In the same edition of the Memphis News-Scimitar, in the article "Mob member laughs at probe: Officers won't act, he says, declaring Negro positively identified," William N. Bradshaw, an admitted member of the mob, told reporters that the Governor of Mississippi would never find out which men were responsible for the lynching, and therefore would never be able to prosecute anyone for the vigilante crime.
"Gov. Whitfield won't have a lick of luck with any investigation of the burning of Jim Ivy," he said, incorrectly identifying Ivy by his father's name as several other newspapers had. "And furthermore," continued Bradshaw, "not an officer in Union County or any of the neighboring counties will point out any member of the crowd. Why, if he did, the best thing for him to do would be to jump into an airplane headed for Germany - quick."
Bradshaw told the Scimitar authorities knew who the mob leaders were, but would never tell.
"Sure the officers know who were there," he said. "Everybody down there knows everybody else. We're all neighbors and neighbor's neighbors. I've known Sheriff Johnny Roberts since he was knee high to a duck, and I was one of the delegation that called him on Friday night and told him we were tired of him dilly-dallying and that he'd have to produce that Negro or take the consequences."
Bradshaw, who said he was not present at the burning of Ivy, "but would have been if I could have gotten there," also added more details to the story of Gaines' suspect identification.
"When Sheriff Roberts went and got him, he confessed to the sheriff," said Bradshaw, "and when he was taken before the girl at the hospital, she identified him after one glance, and then turned her head away. He confessed, too, to the crowd of 600 people five minutes before he was burned."
Bradshaw also provided additional details of the abduction story, saying Sheriff Roberts tried to "double cross" the mob to save Ivy, and that during the car chase, gunplay was used for the only time during the two days.
"Saturday night, there were at least 10,000 men with pistols on their hips in New Albany, the county seat," he said. "But it was a perfectly orderly crowd. Everybody was in their shirt sleeves, and no one tried to conceal his identity. Then United States Senator Hubert D. Stephens got up and tried to talk to the crowd into dispersing and going home, and he was booed down. The boys didn't like for him to butt in. 'Go on home yourself. When we want your advice we'll ask for it,' they told him."
Following the senator's speech, Bradshaw said he and a group told the sheriff to produce Ivy or face the consequences.
"He said, 'Well, boys, I'll bring the Negro to the hospital at 9 o'clock in the morning for the girl to identify him, and then I'll put him in the county jail here. If you let me get him in jail and locked up, and then overpower me and get him, I can't help it."
Bradshaw said he and the group, agreed and the next morning, Ivy was brought to the hospital, but following Gaines' identification, the sheriffs put Ivy into an automobile and started through the mob to the jail.
"They didn't stop though," said Bradshaw, "but went on through Main Street as far as they could."
Deputies attempting to prevent the lynching claimed they were unable to get through the crowd to stop the murder, and if they were helpless before the lynching, they were also helpless afterward.
"There won't be any (investigation)," said Bradshaw, "or if there is, it won't amount to anything. No officer down there is going to dare try to identify anyone, because nobody's mad about it. Even one of the judges down there said he didn't believe in mob law except in a few cases, and this was one of them, and that he would have gone to the burning, if it hadn't been bad policy. They'd be plenty mad if anybody was arrested and there'd be a million dollars ready in five minutes to go his bond.
"The Scimitar reported that a coroner's jury investigated the lynching and decided that Ivy came to his death "at the hands of a mob, the members of which are unknown." Judge T. B. Pegram, of the third judicial district, announced he would order a rigid grand jury investigation when court convened, but the article stated, "according to Bradshaw, Union County isn't worrying."
The same article is referred to in Walter White's book "Rope and Faggot, the American Negro, His History and Literature." " She was not sure, but thought he looked like the one who had attacked her," White wrote, quoting the Scimitar. "That slender connection was sufficient for a mob of Mississippians who on Sunday, Sept. 20, thus disported themselves."Had the governor of Mississippi or any other officials wanted really to take action against the perpetrators of this horrible affair, they need not have depended upon the officers of whom Bradshaw spoke.
"The News-Scimitar published three exclusive photographs of the lynching, in which the faces of at least a hundred members of the mob are easily distinguishable. Yet the coroner's jury returned the expected verdict that Ivy had come to his death at the hands of a mob, the members of which are unknown."
The New Albany Gazette, edited by Jo Owen, covered the story in a September 24, 1925 article titled "Woman Outraged by Negro Brute: L.Q. Ivy, the accused, is burned to death at stake by angry mob."
In the same paper there was an advertisement for the local theater reading "You Live in the most progressive town, so trade with the most progressive merchants." There was an announcement that Dakota Max, friend of Buffalo Bill, was scheduled to appear in town; and news of the Tri State Fair opening.
The Gazette writer expressed sympathy for Gaines and her parents and said that neither Gaines’ father, nor her uncles decided to witness the lynching. Sheriff Roberts also issued a statement."To my fellow officers of the county and district, and especially to those officers, namely Hon. L. A. Iteane, and his able deputy, Elton Carr, who so signally assisted me in trying to stop the tragedy of Sunday last, I offer my sincerest thanks. You will always have my strongest friendship and regard.
"To those who unfortunately frustrated justice, and by word and action, were against law and order, I simply say that I am sorry for your actions, and while I have no (bad) feeling toward you, I cannot sympathize in your attitude. Again, I want to thank all who responded to my call for aid in Sunday's tragedy. J. W. Roberts, Sheriff."
The Pontotoc County newspaper, The Sentinel, chose to ignore the story, and only commented on it in an editorial that appeared in publication the same day the Gazette article was printed. Newspaper editor E. T. Winston and owner W. S. Winston published a column titled "Moralizing To No Purpose."
"That was a shocking occurrence at Etta, just beyond the northwestern border of our county, the past week," said the editorial writer. "We mean the entire occurrence was shocking, without reference to any feature of it.
"It is nothing to moralize over or preach about, because the crime is the only one not mentioned in the Holy Writ to which a penalty is not prescribed. If Almighty God failed to define an infraction of His law and to fix the punishment, it is useless for man to attempt it. He only makes himself ridiculous in the sight of God and man."
Winston compared Ivy to a reptile, and the incident to an unexpected strike, saying, "when a rattlesnake rises up in your path, instinct teaches you to kill him with the first thing you can lay your hands on.
"Solemn statutes might be enacted declaring how, when, where and why a rattlesnake should be dealt with, and yet they would be exterminated in the same old way. Some bone-headed legislator might have inserted, in the revised statutes of 1866, a section relating to the propagation and preservation of snakes. It may be enlarged upon and amended until the snake will have the same devoted attention at law making and protective restraints as our friend the bootlegger. And as fruitless in effect. The laws will be as little regarded, as ridiculous in their operation and as deplorable in their violation.
"The Bible predicated a law on snakes by explaining why they came under condemnation and penalized them with the statement that 'the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head,' which might warrant legislation on the subject. Some inspired idiot invested with authority to legislate might argue that meant literally to 'bruise' and not to 'break' the snake's head. But it is the height of folly to speculate on subjects for fool legislation and disgusting laws."
Winston concluded: "All we meant to say is that there is no law, human or divine, to meet the emergency that demanded summary vengeance, swift and sure, from the people of the Etta neighborhood. They were equal to the emergency, and that's that. Shut up. Forget it."
The Southern Sentinel chose not to forget it, but convicted Ivy in the headline of the story that also appeared in the Sept. 24 edition. Reading "Negro Burnt at Stake. Union County Brute Pays Penalty For Committing Horrible Crime on White Girl," it was published on the same page with news of the Sept. 19 opening of Mississippi State University, and an editorial that clearly showed the contempt some whites had for progressive blacks living in progressive cities.
"Well, we guess Bro. Davidson judged them right," said the writer. "A Negro that has lived very long in St. Louis or Chicago and learned to wear silk hats, red ties, and kid gloves would be a poor field hand in Mississippi. We wouldn't give one real genuine, unsophisticated, unwashed, uneducated Mississippi nigger for a whole battalion of the St. Louis type of negrows with paint and powders on their lips, stay comb on their wool, and the native odor decorated with store bought plugmuckum."
Mr. and Mrs. C., (whose names have been concealed), are both in their 90s. They grew up in Union County and were married in 1926. Their first date was Sept. 20, 1925, the day L. Q. Ivy was lynched.
"I remember the first date," said Mr. C. "The first date I ever had with her was an enjoyable evening. But it was a lonesome day, very lonesome knowing what was happening. It was the day they burnt (Ivy)."
Raised only a short distance from Rocky Ford, Mr. C. picked up Mrs. C. on a mule that Sunday, and the two rode back to his uncle's house. Later that night, he sat by her at church, while others in the community attended the lynching.
"My daddy said he went to see them burn him," said Mrs. C. "Papa couldn't stand it. He left there before he was completely burned. He heard (him) scream for the last time. They said the police was called up for a while, but people stopped them. Papa said (he) screamed and hollered and told them all along that he wasn't guilty. Papa said it was a white man who did it."
Dr. Peter R. Wolfe, of Beverly Hills, Calif., learned about the lynching while spending time several years ago at a cabin on Darden Lake not far from where Ivy was burned and buried. He discovered he was staying only a few miles from the lynching site after reading the book "Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow," written by University of Southern Mississippi Professor Neil R. McMillen.
He also met an Oxford historian, who had been given a narrative of the lynching written in 1989 by a white woman from the Etta community. After finishing McMillen's book, Wolfe sent the narrative to McMillen, and it's now on file at the university.
Wolfe traveled to Ashland, Oxford, Holly Springs and New Albany searching newspaper archives for information about the lynching, and found it had been prominently reported in most local newspapers and the Scimitar and Memphis Commercial Appeal. He also visited the Rocky Ford site behind the old post office where the lynching occurred.
"The names mentioned as the ring leaders of the lynching are the same names as some prominent citizens of New Albany today - their children or grandchildren," he said. "I suspect that there are still a few people alive today who remember that day in 1925.
"The fiction of William Faulkner makes repeated references to the people who lived in the northeast beat of this thinly disguised Lafayette County as being especially virulent and ignorant racists, and this is the part of Lafayette County that is, of course, just a stone's throw away from Rocky Ford. Faulkner was in Europe during 1925, but returned home in December, and doubtless, heard the story of the lynching then."
Wolfe said his impression of the book was that the African-American community was still unwilling to talk about the event. "Such was the strength of the white power structure there," he said, "that it seems that the black families were afraid to talk about the lynching even at the remove of 50 years."
The narrative on file at the University of Southern Mississippi quoted nine sources who provided additional information about the lynching. Those interviewed said Rush Scott, one of the members of the posse that the sheriff deputized to search for Gaines' assailant, told police that from the time the black suspects were dropped off at the logging field, and the time Gaines said the rape occurred, it would have been impossible for anyone to travel on foot the two and a half miles to the cornfield where she was attacked. He also reportedly remarked that he saw the white driver of a gas truck from New Albany, moving across the cornfield.
One of the nine sources in the narrative is Bruce, who was married 48 years to J.D. Ivy. J.D. is L.Q.'s brother, and one of the men who was sent to collect his ashes.
The report also identifies five alleged mob leaders, information agreeable to that collected by the UM student - but the names have been omitted because no arrests were made.
According to the two reports, one broke his leg and hip several months later in a freak accident. The bones failed to mend correctly and he limped the rest of his life.
Another was killed in a one-car accident in the 1960s along with other family members.
Two were father and son. According to the narrative, the son was reported missing in the 1970s, and was found dead more than a week later near a bridge on Highway 78 just outside of Myrtle. The Southern Miss narrative characterizes the father as a "bad influence," who encouraged his son to be part of the mob, and said both were later implicated in the murder of another black man.
The last alleged mob member, noted in both reports, was a Hickory Flat man who died of cancer.
"(The) informant structures her narrative as a type of morality play," said Dr. Wolfe, "with various family members each meeting their deserved bad end, as if the informant wished to settle the score on behalf of poor Mr. Ivy, knowing that the official story reported in the newspapers was a travesty."
The UM student chose to construct his report in the same fashion.
"Possibly, these later events were all just simple coincidences," he wrote, "but the people of Union County do not accept that possibility. Most of them believe that these men owed a debt, and that they were forced to pay with their lives, and lost something very dear to them."
In an age when television and media are often blamed for widespread violence and copycat crimes, it is difficult to understand how lynchings in the South, and Mississippi in particular, could so commonly occur when television was absent and other forms of media were not readily available to those of the rural South in the early 1900s.
Between 1900 and 1940, at least 15 African-Americans died in public burnings in Mississippi, according to McMillen's book Dark Journey. This method was described by one newspaper of the past as "Negro Barbecues," and, according to the book, was generally reserved for black males accused of sexual crimes or improprieties against white women.
Until late in the century, hanging and shooting were the customary forms of lynching, but in the 20th century, as the number of victims gradually declined, mobs grew more barbarous.
"In some instances," wrote McMillen, "the agony of the victim was reported in graphic detail by local white journalists apparently eager to satisfy the public appetite for gore, what Jacquelyn Down Hall has called 'the late-Victorian relish in the details of death.'"
McMillen also said Mississippi blacks generally believed that the mystique of white feminine "purity" was an excuse for lynching, but not a description of social reality.
"Even when the circumstances were clearly consensual," he wrote, "even when the woman was a prostitute - interracial couples known to have violated the region's sex taboo nearly always received the worst: death or at least castration and banishment for the black man; ostracism for his white partner."
Following World War I, the book said Mississippi Congressman John Rankin, the original owner of the Rankin House in Tupelo, opposed a federal anti-lynching proposal, calling it "a bill to encourage rape."
McMillan wrote that based on data from 1889 to 1935, the NAACP estimated that 19 percent of all African-Americans lynched in the U.S. and 12.7 percent of those lynched in Mississippi were accused of rape. But many researchers agreed that sexual violence against white women was more often imagined than real.
Mississippi was by no means the only state that lynched. Mob murders occurred from California to Florida, but the word and idea of lynching is often associated with Mississippi more than other states because, statistically speaking, the state led the nation in the number of lynchings.
Although antebellum Mississippi had a well-established reputation for mob violence, McMillen wrote that lynching was not distinctly interracial until the Civil War. Before 1860, he said vigilantism was rare and mob violence victims were more likely to be white than black. But by war's end, black lynchings were commonplace in Mississippi, which had established itself as a lynching state.
Mississippi accounted for nearly 13 percent of the nation's 3,786 recorded lynchings, according to McMillen, who said if the beginning date was pushed back to include the 1880s, the toll would exceed 600.
"Twenty-three of the victims after 1888 were white men and one was a white woman," he wrote. "Fourteen were black women, at least two of whom were well-advanced in pregnancy."
The remainder were black males, most relatively young, and a great many, still minors - like Ivy.
Although Georgia and Texas weren't far behind, McMillen said Mississippi was the state most embarrassing to congressional opponents of federal anti-lynching legislation.
"It ranked first in virtually every category," he wrote, "the most total lynchings, the most multiple lynchings, the most per capita, the most female victims, the most victims taken from police custody, the most lynchings without arrest or conviction of mob leaders, the most public support for vigilantism." The Chicago Defender described the state as "the most brutal community in history."
Jim Allen, a historian who purchases lynching photos for a historical collection, said it has been his experience that an extreme effort has been made to hide incidents that embarrass Southerners.
"I have a professor friend who gave a talk at Oxford, and students came up afterwards surprised to have learned that there were white and colored drinking fountains," he said. "It seems clear to me that when people are kept ignorant they will not know how to react when a crisis arises in the future."
In 1968, more than four decades after the Rocky Ford incident, an effort to record the tragedy was frustrated. The reporter was MSU student Jerry Harmon, who wrote a course paper about the lynching titled "Death By Fire." Excerpts from it are included in Dark Journey.
"There has been a hush in Union County for forty-three years," he wrote, after attempting to interview members of the black community, many of whom still would say nothing about the incident.
But the Ivy "incident" has been recorded, and not just in local newspapers. A black and white photograph of the lynching from the International Newsreel, New York City, NAACP Collection is on file at the Library of Congress. Titled "Lynching, Rocky Ford, Miss," the notes say "(L.Q.) Ivy, Negro timber cutter, burned to death Sept. 25 by a mob of Union and Lee Counties. Ivy denied having anything to do with the assault on a white girl."
The photographs, which were originally published in the Memphis News-Scimitar, were also printed in the New York Journal, the New York Daily Mirror, the New York Evening Graphic, and the book "Mississippi and the Mob."
Ivy's name is also listed on a website called "The National Lists," which displays the names of African-Americans who died in racial violence.
Some Union County whites took no active part in the violence at Rocky Ford. According to the UM student's report, Jeff Prather, a Myrtle farm owner, was shocked to discover that Ivy was the accused because he had met him a week before the incident when his new Ford had problems. Ivy, he reportedly said, helped alleviate them and refused to take money for his good deed.
James Ivy, a Lafayette County resident, was told about Ivy's death by his grandmother, Bruce. "She said he was accused of raping a white girl," he said. "(Grandmother) said he wasn't even around."
And 75 years later, Bruce still maintains that her brother-in-law's murder was unjust. "It was a false report, and most of the white people who were there at the time are dead," she said. "This happened before he reached his 18th birthday. I remember because my birthday and his birthday was in the same year. Mine was September 18, 1906 and his was October 18, 1906."
Bruce grew up with Ivy. "We knew each other most of our lives," she said. "Not all our lives, but most of our lives. We picked cotton together. We lived very close together. He was a very smart, intelligent young man. He was a very, very religious young man. He attended church. He attended Sunday School, and he didn't interfere with nobody's business."
Bruce remembers that many Union County citizens were greatly disturbed by the incident.
"The white people knew about the situation," she said. "The blacks knew about it too, and the county was very, very upset about what was done. There was not a thing in the world we could have done. Not nothing."
She said she is sure police arrested the wrong man.
"From all the evidence," she said, "he was not even in the neighborhood when it happened. He was at one place, and they said he was at another place. It was awful. It was awful. It was an awful tragedy. We don't have any photographs of him."
According to the narrative, Bessie Gaines never married and spent the last years of her life in the care of a relative.
L.Q. Ivy is buried in a cemetery that no one can visit. Baker's Chapel is now part of residential property just across from Darden Road. All the weathered headstones are gone, and cemetery records do not list his name among the buried.
Rocky Ford is quiet now. There are trailers parked behind the old post office. But many residents of the surrounding communities remember the lynching of L.Q. Ivy, where hundreds gathered on September 20, most silent.
"We should have more regard and love in our hearts for each other," said Bruce. "The Bible says what's in every man's soul, so should he be judged. What you sew, you will reap.
"What was done was the result of prejudice, disobedience and dissatisfaction. The senior citizens of Union County - what they did - that is between them and God."
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