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Troubled Ground

A Tale of Murder, Lynching, and Reckoning in the New South

Claude A. Clegg III

Publication Year: 2010

Claude A. Clegg III revisits a violent episode in his hometown's history that made national headlines in the early twentieth century but disappeared from public consciousness over the decades. Moving swiftly between memory and history, between the personal and the political, Clegg offers insights into southern history, mob violence, and the formation of American race ideology while coming to terms on a personal level with the violence of the past._x000B__x000B_Three black men were killed in front of a crowd of thousands in Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1906, following the ax murder of a local white family for whom the men had worked. One of the lynchers was prosecuted for his role in the execution, the first conviction of its kind in North Carolina and one of the earliest in the country. _x000B__x000B_Yet Clegg, an academic historian who grew up in Salisbury, had never heard of the case until 2002 and could not find anyone else familiar with the case. He mines newspaper accounts and government records and links the victims of the 1906 case to a double-lynching in 1902, suggesting a long and complex history of lynching in the area while revealing the determination of the city to rid its history of a shameful and shocking chapter.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

A number of people and places made this book possible. I am thankful to the various libraries, archives, and other institutions that facilitated the telling of this story. These places include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, the Rowan County Public Library, the Livingstone College Archives, the North Carolina...

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Prologue: Searching for a Troubled Past

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p. xi

In 2000, a book was published that pictorially represented the history of lynching in the United States. I neither recall when I first heard of this work, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, nor the date that it arrived at my home as a mail order...

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1. Bygones

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pp. 1-23

After the shooting of Deputy Sheriff H. C. Owen on February 20, 1895, rumors of an imminent lynching swirled around the town of Cleveland in northwestern Rowan County, North Carolina. During an attempt to arrest Whit Ferrand for breaking into the...

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2. Old Demons of the New South

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pp. 24-52

Lynching and other forms of extralegal group violence had a long genealogy in America by the dawn of the twentieth century. As early as the Revolutionary era, bands of “regulators” appeared in rural areas of North Carolina and other states, meting out floggings, tar-and-featherings, and occasionally lethal punishments to thieves,...

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3. The Reaping

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pp. 53-79

Cornelia Benson came of age in interesting times. Likely born in Mocksville in 1874, she and her family had migrated to Scotch Irish Township, northwest of Salisbury, by 1900. If she had been a keen observer of politics during her early adulthood, she may have noticed...

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4. Presumed Guilt

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pp. 80-115

“Judging from some letters that I have received from the colored people throughout the length and breadth of the state,” Robert Glenn joked, “I expect a great many of you came out here today, expecting to see a man with horns on.” The occasion for such self-deprecating banter was the commencement ceremony of the Agricultural and...

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5. A Blot Upon the State

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pp. 116-145

On the evening of Sunday, August 5, Sheriff David Julian, Deputies David W. Julian and Shoaf Poteet, and Police Officer Frank Cauble traveled to Charlotte to retrieve the suspects in the Lyerly murder case. The plan had been to return with the prisoners...

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6. A Reckoning

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pp. 146-176

If ever there was a stereotypical profile of a southern lyncher, George Hall was a near-perfect fit. Before finding his way to Rowan County during the first years of the twentieth century, he had made quite a name for himself in Montgomery County, located...

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pp. 177-182

In 2005, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution apologizing “to the victims of lynching for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation.” Cosponsored by North Carolina’s senatorial delegation, the largely symbolic measure acknowledged the nearly...


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pp. 183-188


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pp. 189-210


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pp. 211-220


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pp. 221-224

About the Author, Publication Information, Back Cover

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p. 225

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090097
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035883

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 768084141
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Troubled Ground

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Subject Headings

  • Lynching -- North Carolina -- Salisbury -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Violence against -- North Carolina -- Salisbury -- History -- 20th century.
  • Murder -- North Carolina -- Salisbury -- History -- 20th century.
  • Rowan County (N.C.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
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