1866 : John Taylor Lynched in Mason

August 27, 2018 all-day

A former mulatto Civil War soldier was lynched in Mason on August 27, 1866, accused of attacking a local farmer’s female relatives with an ax in a dispute over wages.

The rest of the story:

Taylor was a former slave from Kentucky taken by Union troops as a youth. His mother was a slave, and she was owned by his father, according to a history of Delhi Township written in 1987.

Taylor was brought to Hillsdale to work as a servant for an Army chaplain. Then he enlisted in the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry from 1864 to 1865.

After the war, he worked as a farmhand in the Jackson and Lansing areas, including for John Buck, a Delhi Township farmer, who refused to pay a portion of Taylor’s $10 a month wage when he left the job part way through the month.

Later, Taylor was tracked down and arrested after being accused of attacking Buck’s wife, daughter and mother-in-law with an axe while they slept one night.

Details of his alleged crime vary from the 1866 records, ranging from a very minor injury from the side of an axe to the daughter suffering a brain injury that she wasn’t expected to survive. All three recovered, according to the township’s history.

But rumors quickly spread, and the mob was incited by stories that Taylor had murdered the three women in their home.

A judge or jury would not get the chance to hear the evidence and decide his guilt or innocence. Instead, a mob of 100 to 200 broke down a jail door after Sheriff Frederick Moody refused to hand over the keys at the county jail in Mason. The mob was likely made largely of Delhi Township farmers, according to news reports at the time.

Taylor was hung, then shot and at least one report said his body was dragged out of Mason and buried in the hogsback, a sand hill left from a glacier in Holt. A report from the editor of the Ingham County News offered additional gruesome details, including that Taylor’s head was removed from his body and taken by a local doctor.

Even though local news reports carried a few names from those in the mob, no one was ever prosecuted.

Sources :

Judy Putnam, “Holt’s ‘Deadman’s Hill’ holds memories of Ingham County’s only lynching“, Lansing State Journal, April 20, 2018.

Lynching beyond Dixie [electronic resource] : American mob violence outside the South / edited by Michael J. Pfeifer. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c2013. See pages 212-215.

The 1866 lynching of John Taylor shows Michigan’s role in America’s history of racist violence“, Michigan Radio, August 24, 2018.

Leave a Reply