Sunday, July 4, 2021

Life Choked Out -- July 4, 2021


Washington Times, 04-July-1896

125 years ago today, on 04-July-1896, a mob of whites in Rockville, Maryland celebrated Independence Day by lynching Sydney Randolph. 

Sydney Randolph Taken From
Jail and Lynched
Jailer Payton Surprised and
Keys Taken From Him.

Shortly After 1 o'clock This Morning
Half a Hundred Masked Men,
by a Ruse, Secured Entrance to the
Jail and Took Randolph In a Buggy
to a Point More Than a Mile Away,
Where He Was Lynched -- The 
Victim Refused to Confess Having 
Committed the Buxton Assault -- The
Maryland Community Is Satisfied
That He Was Guilty -- Inquest by
the Coroner -- Action of Authorities.

(From a staff correspondent.)
Rockville, Md., July 4. -- Sydney Randolph, the negro charged with the brutal assault upon the Buxton family on the 25th of May and which resulted in the death of little Sadie Buxton, was taken from the Rockville jail, where he was confined awaiting the action of the November grand jury, about 2 o'clock this morning, by a mob of half a hundred men, and hanged near Rockville.

He went to his death without saying whether he was guilty or not of the horrible crime, his only utterances being cries of murder, as he was carried away by the resolute body of men from the jail.

The lynching took place on the Frederick road, about a mile and a half east of Rockville. It was 1 o'clock this morning when jailer Charles M. Payton was aroused from his slumbers by a heavy knock at the front door of the jail. Payton slept in the small front room at the left of the hallway. Getting up he went to the door and inquired who was there.

"It is Deputy Sullivan with a prisoner from Brookville," came the answer.

The jailer opened the door slightly and looked out. He saw three men on the five stone steps that lead to the ground. One was colored apparently, and the other two were struggling with him.

It developed afterward that this was but a ruse, and that the supposed negro was a white man with his face blackened.

The rest of the incident is best told in Payton's own words.


"Before I had time to shut the door," said he "the men were joined by others and an instant later the door was pushed in.

"They demanded the keys, and I refused them. With that some of the men pushed me back into the room, and four or five of then held me there. The hall was filled with men.

"All of them were masked with handkerchiefs or rags, and some wore false beards. Again the men that held me demanded the keys to the cells, for they already had the one that opened the grating to the cell room.

"On my second refusal they threw me on the bed and took them from my pocket. There were nine keys on the ring, and I myself would have had to hunt a minute for the right one, but quicker than I can tell it I heard Randolph's cell door open.

"He must have awakened with their first entrance. All I could hear him cry was 'Murder, murder.'

"A dozen rough voices answered him 'Kill him.' Somebody said 'Hit him,' and 'Knock him down' followed, and then somebody in the yard cried 'Gag him,' and this was repeated several times.

"The next thing I knew they were dragging Randolph through the hall past my door. He made no noise, and the lynchers made very little.

"The men left me in the room. I got up and followed them to the door. Four or them were standing at the corner of the house, and every one levelled a revolver at me and told me not to come back. They waited there watching me until the rest of the party dragged Randolph back to the lane past the barn.


"They cut three wires in order to get through into an open field. Then the four guards turned and went down the lane leading toward the town, and I followed shortly to give the alarm.

"As I reached the other end of the lane I noticed a buggy near by. Before I could reach it, however, two of the lynchers, still masked, ran up and drove away. I gave the alarm over at the hotel, and a searching party was formed. I would guess there were at least forty men in the company.

"I did not know one of them. As soon as the desperate men had cut through the wires by the barn they half dragged, half carried the wretch through the high weeds of the field that stretched to the roadway leading west from the village."

The rope was already around Randolph's neck. At the edge of the field an open spring wagon formed one of a procession of wagons and buggies. The negro was thrown rather than dropped in, and with muffled voices the order was given to move on.

Up the hill to the right the procession moved in a quiet, leisurely manner. At the top of the hill another turn to the right was made, and by a circuitous route the wagons finally readied the Frederick road, but a short pace down this road brought them to the corner of Rozier's.

A little chestnut tree, not more than five inches in diameter, stood here.

Randolph was unloaded from the wagon. There were willing hands enough in the party. It could not have been but another moment until he hung high in the air, with his feet full four feet from the ground. The other end of the rope that had been drawn over a limb was tied to the trunk of a neighboring tree.

At this time, or possibly before, one of the lynchers ran up and dealt the hanging man a blow in the back of the head with a pick that was left beside the tree.

As quietly as it had assembled the mob disbanded. As soon as jailer Payton left the jail he notified the men at the village hotel. Ed Peter had seen the party dragging Randolph through the field, and he went down into the village. Payton, Peter, Samuel Riggs, Minor Anderson. John Krelner, Benjamin Riggs and Samuel Sopher formed a searching party.

By this time it was almost 3 o'clock. Payton telegraphed to Sheriff Collier, while the rest continued the search. About 4 o'clock Miner Anderson and Samuel Riggs discovered the body.

It was cold and stiff in death. The eyes were closed, but the tongue protruded far from the lips. Clots of blood covered the back of the head and shoulders and clotted blood surrounded the mouth.

He had died of strangulation. The rope was only a quarter-inch rope, such as is used in the country as a plowline. It was new. The legs were bound together by a piece of tarred twine. The body was permitted to hang until 9 o'clock. Meanwhile, Acting Coroner Justice Charles M, Jones. (sic - JT) After they had looked at the body it was cut down and removed to the undertaking shop of W. R. Pumphrey. Here a throng of people gathered the whole morning through to look at the remains.

No one has been found who heard Randolph utter a word other than the cries of "murder" reported by the jailer. His cell was an 8-by-10-foot room at the northwest corner of the jail.

There were a few signs of a struggle in the room, for the mattresses on the floor were slightly torn and the blanket had been cast into one corner.

The wretch must have had a scratch as he came through the door, for two small spots of blood were found on the floor in the hallway running in front of the cells.

Perry Elcorn was confined in a cell near the one occupied by Randolph. He heard nothing, other than the wretch's cries of murder, and was too badly frightened to come to the door of his cell and see what was going on. There was a new lock on Randolph's cell, and jailer Payton had taken every precaution possible for the preservation of the prisoner.

Randolph was feeling unusually bright yesterday and was out in the jail yard. He received a new pair of shoes and a new brown shirt during the day. The collar of this shirt was found in the jail yard this morning and the rest of his apparel, including the shoes, was on the body when it was discovered hanging from the tree.

It is believed he slept in his clothes.

A coroners jury was summoned this morning. The inquest will be held at the courthouse at 3 o'clock. The jurors will be Benjamin C. Riggs, foreman; Samuel Sopher, George Einerlick, Thomas McCulIough, Thomas W. Stonestreet, Joseph O. Moulden, F. Cushman Braddock, Wallace E. Ricketts, William R. Pumphrey. Lawrence Flack, Samuel A. Matlock, Charles Ogden and (rest of list omitted - JT)

It is generally believed that not one of the lynchers came from this vicinity. The Buxton family were in town yesterday. Mrs. Buxton and Miss Maud remained over night. It was said that Mr. Buxton returned to Gaithersburg, but several persons allege that they saw him on the streets with John Hilton, his brother-in- law, at 11 o clock in the evening.

There is a possibility of some startling developments at the coroner's inquest. Mr. Jones said he could not tell what the witnesses will swear to on the stand, but he knows some that feel sure they identified some of the lynchers.

There will be twelve or fifteen witnesses, he said, but he refused to give the names of the most important ones.

The claim was made that the entire party came from the neighborhood of Gaithersburg and the little village of Darnestown. Why they should be drawn from the latter place is only explainable by the fact that there was a similar crime to the one of which Randolph was accused committed there a few years ago.

An even more startling statement than any yet published was one made to a Times reporter late this afternoon. Randolph is said to have made a confession the other day, in which he said he did not commit the crime, but he knew who did. This was believed by many of the citizens of Rockville, though evidently not by the lynchers.

It is claimed that the latter were told yesterday that Randolph was making an attempt to assault Miss Maude Buxton when the other members of the family were awakened on the fatal May morning.

Like Murderer Ford, It was claimed, he sought to shield his fiendish crime by murder. The instant this became known, the spark of revenge that lay smouldering In the bosoms of the sturdy countrymen was rekindled, and they hastily banded together to take the law into their own hands. Everything connected with the lynching showed that it was well planDed and carried out.


The lynching this morning seems to have caused little excitement as yet. Everybody believed him guilty or the horrible crime, which guilty, or not guilty, he has paid the penalty of.

It is being discussed in a quiet way, as though beyond a doubt the right man had been hanged and in a manner suitable to the crime.

It is stated that when Randolph was asked if he had anything to say not a word could be drawn from him. Many efforts were made to make him confess, but to no avail.

Knowing their victim had breathed his last, and apparently satisfied that the right man had been hung, the lynching party, which, it is understood, was composed of the best citizens of the community, who were perfectly sober and orderly, then quietly dispersed, believing they had executed the perpetrator of the most atrocious crime ever committed in this county.

The leaders are not known and the affair was kept so secret that none save the participants knew of it until after it was all over.


The Buxton family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Button and their two daughters. Sadie and Maude, were awakened early in the morning of May 25 by an intruder, who first struck the children, sleeping in a room adjoining that of Mr. and Mrs. Buxton. The groans of the injured girls awoke Mr. Buxton. He started to get up but was struck down. Mrs. Buxton screamed, called to her husband, and was herself felled by an ax.

Little Sadie, one of the victims, died at the Garfield Hospital here, never having recovered consciousness. Mr. and Miss Buxton and their elder daughter recovered, after staying at the hospital several weeks. The elder daughter was taken to her home only yesterday.

Suspicion of the crime was directed to Randolph, who was found, the day of the tragedy, near Gaithersburg, unable properly to account for himself. He had been a companion of a negro named Neale, just released from a term in the penitentiary.

Neale's conviction was secured chiefly through the testimony of Mr. Buxton. At the time of his conviction Neale threatened to kill Buxton after serving his term. Randolph was supposed to have served Neale in the execution of that threat.

Randolph was not caught in any conflicting statements, nor did he once appear to bear any ill-will toward the Buxtons in his statements.

The night, when the verdict was rendered there were strong threats of lynching, but the crowd was dissuaded from its evident purpose by appeals from the mayor of Gaithersburg.

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