On the night of May 28, 1882, a mob removed a young African American named Jim Sanders from the custody of authorities and killed him, using “enough buckshot to kill a score of men,” according to one account. The previous day, he had allegedly attacked Nancie (sometimes referred to as Nannie) Carr as she was cleaning the schoolhouse in the Parker community of Union Township in Pulaski County.
There is very little information about Jim Sanders, whom the Arkansas Gazette refers to as a “youth.” There were two African Americans named James Sanders in Pulaski County in 1880; the most likely match is James Sanders, born around 1872, who was living in Badgett Township with his parents, Charlie and Julia Sanders. Based on census information, he would have been ten years old in 1882, but his birth year was estimated, so it may have been incorrect. In 1880, nineteen-year-old Nancy C. Carr was living in Union Township with her aunt and uncle, Robert S. Parker and Mary E. Parker. Her sisters Sonora and Mary were also living there, and all three were working as domestics.
According to newspaper accounts, Sanders, armed with a shotgun, “indecently attacked” Nancie Carr as she was sweeping out the schoolhouse in the Parker settlement just outside of Little Rock (Pulaski County). She screamed, and her cries drew the attention of William Pinson, who ran into the school, grabbed the gun, and shot at Sanders as he escaped. Authorities arrested Sanders the following day and took him back to the crime scene, where they placed him in a house until they could examine him. That night, a mob of masked men broke into the house and shot Sanders, “literally riddling him with bullets,” according to one report.
The Ottawa Free Trader reported that the area had a large African-American population whose members were enraged about the shooting. The Gazette reported rumors that black residents were arming themselves and would slaughter whites. Some people allegedly hid their wives and children in the woods. A rumor swept through the black community that their church, filled with worshippers, had been fired on, and two members killed. Pulaski County sheriff W. S. Oliver sent the “cool-headed” Little Rock police chief Frank Botsford to investigate, and he reported that the rumors were false, some “fool of a knave” having “said just enough to create a scare, and that is all.” There were apparently further rumors that Sheriff Oliver had Sanders in custody when he was seized. The Little Rock Republican, in an editorial reprinted in the June 20 Arkansas Gazette, declared that these were false, calling Oliver “one of the best Sheriffs in the state.”
For additional information:
“Bad and Baseless Rumors.” Arkansas Gazette, June 6, 1882, p. 4.
“Local Paragraphs.” Arkansas Gazette, May 30, 1882, p. 4.
“Sheriff Oliver.” Arkansas Gazette, June 20, 1882, p. 4.
“Summary Vengeance.” Ottawa Free Trader (Ottawa, Illinois), June 3, 1882, p. 2.
Nancy Snell Griffith
Davidson, North Carolina