Chisolm Massacre

James M. WELLS

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Item#: 116300 price:$900.00

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"UNDER A HOLLOW PRETENSE OF EXECUTING THE LAW… TO MURDER THEM IN COLD BLOOD": FIRST EDITION OF THE CHISOLM MASSACRE, PUBLISHED THE SAME YEAR AS THE KLAN-FUELED MURDER OF A JUDGE AND HIS CHILDREN

WELLS, James M. The Chisolm Massacre: A Picture of "Home Rule" in Mississippi. Chicago: Agency Chisolm Monumental Fund, 1877. Octavo, original orange cloth. $900.

First edition of Wells' contemporary account of a massacre in "Bloody Kemper," Mississippi, triggered by the KKK the same year President Hayes in effect ended Reconstruction by removing Federal troops from the Confederate South, documenting the mob murder of Judge Chisolm and his children, along with reportage on the Klan-led kidnapping and alleged torture of African American Walter Riley, later hanged, with frontispiece and eight full-page illustrations, including an early attempted lynching of Riley.

In 1877 America's newly-elected President Hayes removed all federal troops from the former Confederacy, marking the return of "home rule" for most whites and Southern democrats. In Mississippi's Kemper County, there was already explosive tension between a white Republican judge, William Chisolm, and Ku Klux Klan leader John Gully. When Gully was killed by an unknown shooter, warrants were issued for Chisolm's arrest. With the Klan "at the height of its power,… all night preceding the expected arrest armed horsemen rode into the [county seat] De Kalb. On the morning of Sunday, April 30, 1877, the sheriff served the warrants and Chisolm's family… [who] insisted on accompanying him to jail. In the meantime Gilmer, one of the other arrested Republicans, had been killed by the mob while on the way to the same jail… [and] a staunch friend of Chisolm's, Angus McLellan,… was in turn shot down as he left the prison." When the Klan-fueled mob outside the prison attacked Chisolm, his son was shot and he shot his son's killer before the family retreated into the prison. As the mob yelled, "Burn them out," Chisolm and his family tried to flee, leading to the murders of the judge and another child. "Leaders of the mob were indicted… none were ever punished… [and] local newspapers repeatedly justified the mob" (Wilkerson, Slow Travels-Mississippi).

In Wells' contemporary account he cites rumors that a black man named Walter Riley killed Gully, not Chisolm. Soon Riley was "kidnapped from Tennessee… and brought back to Kemper County, without process of a lawful requisition, or any other legal authority." With Riley in prison, Gully's relatives and Klansmen "had free access to the prisoner's cell" and were determined to "wring from Riley a confession" of his and Chisolm's part in Gully's murder. Riley confessed to Gully's death but refused to name anyone else. As he was "led to the gallows through an immense throng of 'good citizens' who had turned out to… see him dangle," a stay came down from the governor. Wells notes that as "these pages go to press" in late November, Riley's fate remained uncertain. But a December 12 issue of the Weekly Clarion separately reports that Riley was hanged, and "took the secret with him to the grave." Kemper County was well "known as Bloody Kemper because of the high homicide rate during the Reconstruction era. The most notorious example of county's postbellum hostilities was the Chisolm (alt. Chisholm) Massacre" (Mississippi Encyclopedia, 681). With frontispiece and eight plates, including an early attempted lynching of Walter Riley. With introduction by Judge Chisolm's widow. In orange (this copy), red, and green cloth, no priority established. As issued without dust jacket. Blockson 2587. Work, 376. See Moses, Lynching and Vigilantism 459.

Text quite fresh with lightest foxing mainly to preliminaries; cloth with mild rubbing, toning to spine. An extremely good copy.

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