A Mob's Bold Deliberate Work

Article from the Monroe City News of 29 May 1902. 

Abe Witherup Hung at Paris for the Murder of William Grow. With No Desire to Conceal Their Identity Armed Men Break Down the Doors of the Jail and Get Their Men. Father of the Murdered Man Leads the Mob – Dies Bravely. 
“An armed body of men, about seventy-five in number, battered down the doors of the county jail at Paris last Saturday night and took Abraham Witherup, who was charged with the murder of William Grow on April 17, 1902, and hung him from Salt River bridge at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Ever since the murder of Grow there have been continuous threats of, mobbing the accused, and it was talked on the streets of Monroe City last Saturday that a mob would visit Paris for the purposed of avenging the murder of young Grow.

Saturday morning Witherup was arraigned before Judge Eby and his trial set for June 30. It had been rumored that a mob would be ready to take him from the officers as he was being taken from the jail to the Courthouse, but the officers eluded it by having him arraigned at the early hour of 8 a.m., before the arrival of the men in town. This, together with the postponement of the trial, until such a late date, so incensed Grow’s friends that they decided to lynch the man.

Justice has so often been delayed or never meted out that the friends and relatives of the murdered man decided to administer what they deemed justice. Sheriff Clark and deputies Clark and Masterson were apprised of the coming of the mob and stationed themselves at the jail at an early hour Saturday night. By 11 o’clock the streets were thronged with people from the surrounding country and it was plain to be seen that they meant to get Witherup, even if they had to tear down the jail to do so.

Stephen Grow, father of the murdered boy, went to the Sheriff and demanded the keys, saying that the crowd did not desire trouble nor to hurt anyone, but that they intended to have Witherup at any cost. The Sheriff refused to deliver the keys and pleaded with them to let the law take its course. For several hours the Sheriff with his assistants stood at the door of the jail with drawn revolvers and succeeded in keeping back the crowd, and it seemed that the mob would have t give up.

Cooler heads tried to reason with Mr. Grow, the murdered man’s father, who seemed to be the leader, but to no avail. They secured sledge hammers and iron bars from a blacksmith shop and marched boldly to the jail. Not one of the number was masked nor tried in any way to conceal his identity. The officers who stood guard at the jail were overpowered and divested of their fire arms. The mob failed to secure the keys as the Sheriff had previously hid them. The locks and hinges soon yielded to the heavy blows of the sledge hammers and within a few minutes the mob was within the jail and at work upon the door of the cell in which was confined the man who was so soon to meet his fate.

Before breaking into the cell Witherup coolly told the sheriff to give up the keys, as they would break in anyhow. It did not take long to force an entrance to Witherup’s cell. A large rope was immediately place around the murderer’s neck. Jas. H. Whitecotton made an earnest plea, imploring the men for the sake of the fair name of Monroe county, themselves, their families and justice to let the law be carried out. The mob was deaf to his appeal, was powerful and determined, and the officers and Whitecotton were powerless to check it. It swept by Whitecotton and out into the street with Witherup, a rope dangling around his neck.

The angry crowd proceeded down Main street about a quarter of a mile to the Palmyra Ford, where a large iron bridge spans Salt river. One end of the rope was tied to a large iron railing and Witherup was given the privilege of saying anything or making any confession he desired and of praying. He stated that he had nothing to say and no further confession to make, and that he had been trying to pray during his confinement in jail.

In reply to questions asked him by Grow, he said that he and Will Grow were fighting when he killed him; that they had had trouble the day of the murder and that on the night of the killing he (Grow) got mad because Witherup would not accompany him to the home of Wm. Gray. Witherup said that he killed Grow in self-defense and did not know how many times he struck him, but was positive that he did not kill him the first time. Witherup said he did not know what became of Grow’s watch and money, and denied that he had killed a boy in Kansas.

Witherup was the most composed man in the crowd, and talked as quietly and rationally as though he was speaking in private conversation. He was not nervous or excited in the least, did not beg or plead for anything whatever, but met death bravely and without evidence of fear. After he was done speaking, his hands and arms were tied behind him and he was ordered to get upon the railing and jump off. He replied very calmly that he could not do so with his feet tied. He was lifted up and placed on the top railing, where he sat for a moment.

At exactly 2 a.m. Stephen Grow, the dead boy’s father, gave Witherup a push which sent him far out into the air and into eternity. He died a painless death and did not make a struggle as his neck was broken in the fall. For some time his body swung to and fro like a pendulum, and he hung in the air between the bridge and the river until 8 o’clock in the morning, when the Coroner, Doctor Johnson, of Madison, arrived. He immediately summoned a jury, and went at once to the scene and then ordered the body cut down and removed to the Court house, where the corpse was embalmed and dressed.”