Testimony of George A. Lea (February 15, 1884)

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In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, given on February 15, 1884, George Lea explains his role in the so-called Danville Riot of November 3, 1883, which left at least five people dead. The questioners are the committee’s chairman, John Sherman, a Republican from Ohio; Zebulon Vance, a Democrat of North Carolina; and Elbridge G. Lapham, a Republican from New York. The following transcript contains racial epithets.

Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States (1884)

George A. Lea sworn and examined.

By the Chairman:

Question. you live?—Answer. I live in Danville.

Q. Were you in Danville on the occasion of the riot?—A. I was, sir.

Q. Where did you first hear what was going on; were you in the opera house?—A. Yes, sir. I was requested by Mr. [W. R.] Taylor to assist him as doorkeeper in the gallery of the opera house on that day, or Colonel Cabell [Congressman George C. Cabell] had made the request through him, and we were up in the gallery for that purpose.

Q. What instructions did you receive there?—A. I received no instructions at all.

Q. To keep order?—A. To keep order.

Q. Was it to keep any one out?—A. Yes; to keep niggers out; that it was a private meeting.

Q. That was the order, to keep out all the negroes and not any of the white men?—A. Those were not the orders of Mr. Cabell, but Mr. Taylor said that that was what we were there for.

Q. You were acting with Mr. Taylor at his request?—A. At. Mr. Taylor’s request.

Q. Did you receive any word about Mr. [Charles D.] Noel or from Mr. Noel at that time?—A. Mr. Noel in a few moments after I took my seat in the gallery came to receive a message that I told him I wanted delivered in the country to a relative of mine that he was going to visit, and I re-remarked [sic] to him, I says, “Charley, how about your difficulty?” having heard of it. He says, “Well, I have concluded to postpone it, as there is very heated excitement in town,” he says, and “if we were to resent that injury, I am fearful it will bring on a riot and I will wait until after the election to resent the injury.” I says, “It is very hard to take such an insult;” whereupon he left me; his horse was standing at the opera house door, and was being held by my boy; he got in his buggy—

Q. Well, you cannot say what he did unless you were present; I don’t ask you for hearsay. He left you?—A. Well, there are circumstances that are connected with it.

Q. Well, he left you?—A. He left me and went down the steps of the opera house; I saw that.

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Q. Then, when again did you see or hear from him?—A. Mr. Noel in five minutes returned and remarked to me, “This scoundrel has insulted me a second time, and it is more than I can stand; please come, you and Taylor, and see that I have fair play;” whereupon we got up and went up the street.

Q. Were you at that time armed?—A. I was.

Q. Had you been previously notified of this difficulty?—A. I had not; I expected the difficulty that morning.

Q. And you were armed; how were you armed?—A. I was armed with a 38-caliber Smith & Wesson.

Q. A five-barrel pistol?—A. A five-barrel pistol.

Q. When did you get that?—A. 1 got it some mouths previous, and 1 would like right there, in justice to myself, to state where I got it.

Q. Well, it is not material.—A. I think it is material with me.

Q. At any rate that would be more proper in the cross-examination. 1 want simply to get a connected narrative of what occurred. Now, when you received word from Noel that he had been insulted the second time, what did you then do?—A. I followed my friend, as I regarded it my duty to do.

Q. You and Mr. Taylor and Noel went down together?—A. We three only, sir.

Q. How far from the opera house before you encountered Hense Lawson?A. Well, Hense Lawson and his crowd—

Q. It was Hense Lawson was the man?—A. That Noel was hunting for? Yes, sir; and we encountered his crowd four doors above the opera house, four or five probably.

Q. What do you mean by Hense Lawson’s crowd?—A. I mean that after he had insulted Noel he had collected his crowd, twenty in number, and had come down as far as Ruffin & Woolfolk’s office from the Arlington hotel to meet Mr. Noel.

Q. How do you know that he collected them or whether they collected gradually?—A. I know it, because gentlemen of integrity told me they saw him do it.

Q. Well, it is not evidence to give that, and I wish to caution you.— A. I saw these twenty niggers in company with Lawson. I saw that. I won’t be positive about twenty, but fifteen or twenty; I saw that.

Q. Then what occurred; what did Mr. Noel do?A. Noel remarked to me, “He has got his crowd and 1 don’t intend using any weapons at all. I intend to give him a good, sound fisticuff, and you and Taylor must keep the others off of me.”

Q. Was Noel at that time armed?—A. I do not know.

Q. Did not you see arms?—A. I did not see arms on his person or anywhere about him.

Q. But you were armed?—A. I was armed: I don’t know whether Taylor was or not—yes, Mr. Taylor was armed.

Q. But whether Noel was armed or not, you do not know?—A. I cannot say.

Q. But he said he would not use arms?—A. He said he would not use arms but would give him a good sound thrashing.

Q. There was great excitement prevailing there at that time, was there not?—A. No, sir; there was no great excitement at that immediate time.

Q. What did Mr. Noel do, accompanied by you two; what was done in your presence?—A. Mr. Noel met this darkey and asked, “Why did you holler at me a second time in the insulting manner you did.” He stammered and tried to deny it, whereupon Noel collared him.

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Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States (1884)

Q. What did Lawson say?—A. He tried to deny it; I have forgotten his exact words.

Q. If he tried denial you can tell whether it was by language or by nodding of the head?—A. I think he said I did not holler at you, or something of that sort.

Q. What next did Mr. Noel say?—A. They both made at each other simultaneously, and Noel got him in the collar.

Q. Which struck first?—A. They both made at each other instantly. I can’t tell which. I suppose Noel, being the best fighter of the two, got in the best lick, and the first lick.

Q. What was the result?—A. The nigger got a genteel thrashing.

Q. Was he knocked down, or did they both stand up?—A. No; Mr. Noel had him in the collar, and beat him pretty good in the face.

Q. Did you see Lawson strike any blow?—A. I saw Lawson attempt fifteen or twenty blows, but he could not reach Noel, because Noel had the advantage of two or three inches of length in the arm.

Q. And you and Taylor stood by and saw this?—A. We stood there.

Q. Were your pistols exposed at that time?—A. As soon as Noel and the nigger went together, this nigger rushed up to get to Noel, whereupon I drew my revolver and demanded fair play.

Q. You two armed men stood by and saw the controversy. Were the negroes armed?—A. I did not see any arms—yes, I saw arms on the person of Mr. Robert Adams [an African American policeman], who came up with pistol arms.

Q. But did you see any of these fifteen or twenty persons whom you mentioned, with arms?—A. I can’t say I did.

Q. Then, I understand you, Noel gave Mr. Lawson a thrashing?—A. A pretty genteel one.

Q. What size man is Noel?—A. There he stands right up there [pointing to him], a picture of manhood.

Q. Six feet tall?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you three young men were armed?—A. Yes, sir. I do not know that I could be considered very young; I am a married man.

Q. And yon saw your friend Noel give this man a thrashing? What did Lawson do?—A. Lawson put up the best fight he could.

Q. He was at a disadvantage, you say; was not able to strike his opponent? Then did you come off?—A. No, sir; we could not get off.

Q. What was the matter; the negroes, I suppose, became excited?—A. The niggers crowded in.

Q. Suppose that three negroes had attacked a crowd of white men in this way; suppose the position of the races was reversed exactly, and three armed negro men had attacked one white man surrounded by fifteen unarmed white men, would not you have been excited? As a white man, I will ask you if the negroes were not very much excited by this assault?—A. Not only they did not seem to be very much excited, but seemed to have very much ebo in them.

Q. What is ebo?—A. They seemed to be mad, sir.

Q. Would nnot you have been mad?—A. I think I would.

Q. What did the negroes then demand? Didn’t they demand your arrest and punishment?—They did not.

Q. Did not the policeman come up with his pistol for the purpose of keeping them quiet, and dispersing them, &c.?—A. That policeman did nothing at all. He was ordered by me to separate these men.

Q. Then you took command and ordered the policeman to disperse those men?— Yes, sir; I took command from the simple fact that he did not know how to have them parted, and I was afraid that Noel might kill him with his fists, and I had them separated.

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Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States (1884)

Q. You thought probably that Noel might kill Lawson?—A. I thought there was a probability of his hurting him badly, and I did not want to see him beat up any more.

Q. Well, did not the policeman come in and try to separate them? Was he afraid to do it?—A. I don’t know whether we was afraid or not.

Q. Would he have been in danger of violence if he had interfered?— A. If he had commanded the peace in a proper manner he would have been allowed to separate them; but when a man commands the peace before any pistols had been—

Q. You had your pistol out?—A. He had his pistol out first.

Q. As a policeman, had he not a better right to command the peace than you had?—A. Under the laws of our State I think he had no right to draw that pistol before he commanded the peace. My understanding of it is that when I drew my pistol the first time his pistol was near the head of Mr. Noel, whereupon I leveled mine as near his face as I could get it.

Q. You say you drew your pistol not to keep off colored people but the policeman?—A. The policeman came up with the rest of the niggers; he did not come up as a policeman.

Q. Then you drew your pistol to prevent the policeman with a pistol in his hand from separating them?—A. I drew my pistol, as I thought, to prevent the policeman from killing my friend Noel.

Q. You took your pistol then to prevent the police officer from doing his duty?—A. I did not regard it as his duty to kill my friend.

Q. Had he not the right to take the direction of matters to keep order?—A. Not with a pistol at his head. I resisted his attempt to kill my friend, as I believed.

Q. Do you say upon the obligation of an oath that you believed that policeman intended to kill Mr. Noel?—A. He had his pistol out and in the proximity of Mr. Noel.

Q. Do you believe that this man intended to kill Mr. Noel?—A. It was evident that his intention pointed in that direction.

Q. I ask you now if you thought that was his purpose?—A. My dear, sir, I do not know what I thought at the time.

Q. At any rate you three men armed (two of you at least armed), and the only arms you saw there were in the hands of the policeman, and you interfered to prevent the policeman from separating these two men?—A. Did not make any attempt—excuse me—to separate them.

Q. Then you say you took command and ordered the policeman to disperse the black people?—A. No, sir; I ordered the policeman to separate Noel and Hanse Lawson. I did not order him to disperse the crowd at all.

Q. You say you ordered him to separate them?—A. I did, sir.

Q. Was he not in the process of doing that before you drew your pistol?—A. No, sir; he was in the process of pointing his pistol, as I thought, towards Noel’s head.

Q. What did you do toward aiding in the separation of these men?— A. It kept me pretty busy to protect my own person.

Q. You were defending yourself?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Against whom?—A. Against a negro; very tall; fully 6 feet; I should think he weighs 200 pounds.

Q. What was that negro doing to you?—A. He was attempting to wrest my pistol from my hand.

Q. Attempting to disarm you?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did he have a pistol in his hand?—A. I think not.

Q. But he tried to disarm you? I will ask you the question, did he

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 not have a right to disarm you with a drawn weapon, in a controversy of that kind, in your judgment, under those circumstances?—A. I do not think so.

Q. If the white men had interfered under like circumstances to disarm you, would you have thought it improper?—A. I most undoubtedly would.

Q. But you thought you had the right to have your drawn weapon under those circumstances, and that nobody had a right to disarm you, not even a policeman?—A. I would not have resisted—

Q. [Interposing.] What right had you to order a policeman to separate two contending parties?—A. I had no right. I will modify that. I do not know that it was an order; it might have been a request.

Q. Well, you spoke about an order, assuming command.—A. Well, we generally speak that way to that class of people down there. We are in the habit of ordering them.

Q. Whenever yon come in contact with a negro you think you have a right to order him. That is undoubtedly the prevailing feeling, is it not?—A. I suppose it is.

Q. Suppose he is a freeman, and has his rights, would you have the right to order him any other way than you would a white man?—A. We most always order him, sir.

Q. Is not that the real foundation of this trouble, that you considered the negro not like a freeman, but as a slave?—A. I will answer that question if you will allow me to illustrate what I mean by going off the subject a little. I think under similar circumstances it has been proven that people who did not own slaves treat them worse when they are with them than those who did.

Q. I did not speak so much about that; but take the case of a single white man. You say the natural feeling among white men there is that they must command the negro?—A. I don’t say that is always the case. I cannot speak for other people, but those are my feelings usually.

Q. That you have the right to command them, and not request them?—A. I always command them. I would not speak to them in the same way I would speak to a white man.

Q. Would you not threaten them under circumstances you would not a white man?—A. I have taken more from niggers in Danville than I ever would from a gentleman.

Q. Well, take a white man; he would do just the same; leaving out the word gentleman?—A. In my definition of the term, they could not exactly answer to that term.

Q. I mean do you call all white men gentlemen, and all negroes something else?—A. Not by any means.

Q. Then take a white man that you would not class as a gentleman, would you take from him that which you would not take from a negro?—A. I don’t know.

Q. Then you are disposed to treat all you do not call gentlemen alike?—A. I would.

Q. Would you have treated a white policeman who came there in the exercise of his lawful authority in the way you treated that colored policeman?—A. If he had drawn his pistol in the way he did, being a white man, I would undoubtedly have protected the person of my friend as I did from that nigger.

A. And would you have resisted the lawful officer of the government in the execution of his duty?—A. I can’t see how you can say it is the execution of his duty to point his pistol to my friend.

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Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States (1884)

Q. Might he not point his pistol to your friend and say, “How put an end to this affray?”

Mr. Vance. “If you don’t stop this affray, I will murder you.”

The Witness. Yes, sir.

The Chairman. That is your view of it. Let us go on now. As to these two men, you say that Noel had given Lawson a thrashing!—A. A pretty good one.

Q. And Noel was satisfied. Where did Noel go then?—A. Noel went to wash his hands.

Q. He went inside of the building!—A. I don’t know where he went. I heard that he went to wash his hands. He left us.

Q. You did not see?—A. I did not.

Q. Did you see anything more of him during that affray?—A. During the affray, I did not.

Q. Now, what occurred there after he left?—A. After he left they rushed up and demanded to see the faces (to use their exact language) of the damned white man that did that shooting.

Q Now, didn’t you think that a reasonable request?—A. To coerce a man?

Q. No; to demand to see the face of the man who committed this violence?—A. I did; and thereupon I walked out and showed them my face.

Q. Very well; what the?—A. Then they said, “We are going to have our rights, shoot them, damn them.”

Q. Shoot whom?—A. The white men that they had alluded to.

Q: Before you reached this point had not Mr. Taylor fired his pistol?— A. No, sir; he hadn’t.

Q. Had you fired your pistol?—A. I refuse to answer that question.

Q. Then you decline to answer?—A. 1 do.

Q. That is the point?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Now, 1 ask you whether, in the midst of the affray, you did not point your pistol and fire?—A. I refuse to answer.

Q. On what ground do you refuse to answer!—A. Because I have a right—it is stated that I have a right to refuse.

Q. Because you have been advised by those in whom you confide that you have the right to refuse on the ground that it may criminate you. Is that the purpose!—A. I refuse because I have been instructed that 1 have a right to do so.

Q. Have you been so instructed here?—A. I heard the instructions here given out by Senator Vance yesterday morning during the course of this examination.

Mr. Vance. And assented to by the chairman.

The Chairman. All I desire is that the witness should claim his own right. He can only refuse it on one ground—that the answer would tend to criminate him; and I assume from the answer of the witness that that is the ground upon which he bases it. However, let us go on. After this affray, and after what occurred at that time, which has been testified to by other witnesses, you say the colored people showed a great deal of feeling. Were they mad?—A. A great deal, sir; so much so that I was so much in the fear of being shot into smithereens that I turned and told a friend of mine for God’s sake to run to the opera house and bring my brother, or I would be killed before he got there.

Q.. Did you not know at that time that you had six hundred men in the opera house within a short distance, all of whom were on your side?—A. I didn’t think about them coming to my side; I thought

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 there was an equal number of niggers outside. I think there were six hundred there.

Q. Very well; did you not know that you had six hundred men in the opera house!—A. Of course 1 know we had the lower floor of the opera house filled, because I had previously been up there.

Q. And they were within easy reach?—A. They were within easy reach.

Q. And you were fearful that these negroes were going to attack you!—A. I was fearful—as they walked up and said that they were going to do it—that they would kill me, Noel, and Taylor.

Q. Let me ask you if the positions had been reversed—if a black man had made this assault, would you not have been mad, and, if armed, would you not have killed the three colored men?—A. You would not have found a great crowd of white men in the South to be so cowardly as to overpower three men.

Q. And yet you felt at liberty to go armed to attack the one unarmed negro who was abusive. You felt justified in doing that. You say you felt justified, you three armed men, in going into this crowd to resent what you call an insolence; but you would not justify them in resenting the firing upon one of the number, the beating of another of them, by an attack upon you, and your arrest and imprisonment, and possibly your death—you would not justify that. If they were black men, would not you, standing by with fifteen or twenty associates, have felt that they ought to be punished, ought to be arrested, and ought to be imprisoned and punished according to law?—A. 1 guess I would have felt so.

Q. Then you do not blame the colored people for being angry, do you?—A. I do.

Q. You blame the colored people for being angry when they saw one of their number beat, and another shot?—A. I blame them for trying to overpower three men, as I thought.

Q. But that is upon the point that you had too few in number?—A. Exactly.

Q. But did not you know that you had six hundred within easy call?—A. What would they have done? We would have been killed in the instant before they could have gotten there.

Q. Then you think the colored people ought not to have got mad until you were an equal number? They ought to have kept quiet until the white people came in sufficient number?—A. I don’t think they ought to try to overpower three men. I think they ought to have staid [sic] back and let us have fair play.

Q. How soon before yon were reinforced by a number of white men, you three?—A. Well, sir, immediately the fight between Noel and the nigger had been concluded, Mr. Hatcher, Mr. Corbin, Mr. Peter Booth, all came up. Mr. Hatcher tried his uttermost to disperse them, promising them if they would disperse we white people would. Mr. Peter Booth walked out among them and said, “For God’s sake disperse; don’t you bring on a row;” and he also promised them if they would disperse that the white people would.

Q. How many joined you?—A. That was three.

Q. Did any one of those white people who tried to disperse the colored people suggest the propriety of the colored policeman arresting you and Mr. Taylor and Mr. Noel?—A. Did any of these white gentlemen suggest it?

Q. Yes.—A. I did not hear them suggest it. It was no time for arresting then. It was time to keep down a riot.

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Q. They did not propose then to arrest you, who had violated the law?—A. Who did not?

Q. These other gentlemen who came to your rescue. They did not propose to arrest you?—A. They had no authority to arrest me. They were not officers.

Q. Why did they not advise the negro policeman to arrest you?—A. I don’t know.

Q. In other words, they took sides at once with you, did they not?— A. I don’t say that; but they walked out in the crowd, and Mr. Corbin insisted—had a conversation with them—to please go; every man to leave.

Q. Who did these gentlemen expect would fire in this crowd of negroes; the white men?—A. They expected it would bring in other white men, of course, and have a fight.

Q. Did any one of them advise the arrest of those who had violated the law—you and Taylor and Noel?—A. I don’t think any such advice was given. I did not hear it.

Q. But the great object was to disperse the crowd of negroes who got mad, as you say?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. You were reinforced by how many before the firing commenced?— A. I think fifteen is all, to the best of’ my judgment. I do not think it exceeded twenty; certainly not over twenty.

Q. How many of these were armed?—A. I cannot say as to that.

Q. When did the firing commence?—A. The firing commenced soon after the fifteen got up there.

Q. Who fired first, so far as you know?—A. I cannot say.

Q. Well, do you know?—Q. I think it was simultaneous. I think there was firing on both sides at the same time.

Q. On both sides?—A. I do.

Q. How many shots were fired by the white people, do you suppose ?— A. I suppose fifty or seventy-five, may be.

Q. Did you see pistols in the hands of the colored people?—A. I did.

Q, How many of them?—A. I cannot say; I saw several.

Q. Can you name one of them?—A. I do not know but two or three negroes that were in the crowd.

Q. You cannot name them?—A. I cannot.

Q. You say you saw weapons in their hands?—A. 1 did; and I saw them pointed right at me, too.

Q. What business are you engaged in?—A. Tobacco.

Q. Then you were brought in contact frequently with the negroes ?— A. I was; but the best negroes in town at that moment were employed in the factories, and these were, the most of them, the rabble of the town.

Q. You think they had some weapons, but you cannot say you saw one?—A. I know that I saw some.

Q. You saw weapons?—A. I did.

Q. You cannot name the men?—A. I cannot.

Q. Can you name the white men that carried weapons besides yourself?— A. I cannot name but one man in the world that carried weapons; that was Mr. Taylor, who accompanied me.

Q. Did you not see the others fire?—A. I heard the firing, but I was not looking at the others.

Q. Why did you and Taylor carry your arms there?—A. I had been carrying arms for three weeks, and I would like to tell you why I was carrying them; because of threats—

Q. Well, I do not care about that now. You had carried arms for some weeks?—A. About three weeks.

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Q. Do you know why Mr. Taylor was armed?—A. I do not.

Q. Did you expect when you went there that the arms would be useful to you?—A. I did not, honestly. I thought as fifteen or twenty colored men ran up and complimented my action very much I would like to know them and I would like to call them by name. They complimented me on the manner in which I acted. They said, “You have acted the gentleman.”

Q. Who said that?—A. The negroes.

Q. What negroes?—A. I do not know their names. I have told you I did not know but three or four in the crowd.

Q. Was that the whole crowd?—A. There were at least eight or ten rushed up and said that.

Q. There was not more than eight or ten of them; how is it you fired then right into the arms of these men who had been so kind to you; why is it that the white men fired into these people?—A. Some of these people were allowed to break through our little squad and pass through the office of Woolfolk & Blair, and pass through the back way.

Q. The good darkies were allowed to escape then through your crowd?—A. Yes, sir; those who did not come with hostile intention.

Q. Then you did not fire into the blacks until you had picked out the good ones?—A. We did not take any pains to pick them out.

Q. When, in the general firing which you decline to speak about, they fired upon the men that you describe, when, in the general firing, did you begin to shoot?—A. When I considered that they were shooting at me.

Q. Do you say that they shot at you first?—A. I say that I know they shot at me and I recollect looking right near the mouths of some pistols and they looked right large, looked much like cannon to me then.

Q. And you think they were firing at you?—A. I know that.

Q. Did you shoot then at the person you thought was going to fire at you?—A. I did not; I conscientiously avoided singling out any one individual.

Q. How many times did you shoot—I mean at this time?—A. I do not want to answer that question; I refuse to answer that.

Q. Did you give the command to fire?—A. I did not.

Q. You did not?—A. No, sir. 

Q. Did you see any one else fire?—A. I cannot say positively that I did; during the excitement I couldn’t call anybody to mind.

Q. Well, the negroes dispersed; they all scattered?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. How soon; as soon as the firing commenced?—A. As soon as the firing commenced.

Q. And disappeared?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. I will ask you after they disappeared were you appointed a special policeman?—A. I was appointed by a Readjuster mayor on the Monday following, and sworn in as his private guard.

Q. A special policeman?—A. As his private guard.

Q. Was your testimony taken before the committee of forty [the investigative committee appointed by city officials]?—A. It was not.

Q. Were you there at the time?—A. I sent my wife away some time previous to the riot; I was afraid for her to stay in town, and I went up to see her during the time.

Q. You were away at the time of the election, were you?—A. I was.

Q. You were there when the testimony was taken?—A. I think I was there probably during the sitting of the committee. They thought my 

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evidence not necessary, as Mr. Dance testified in substance to exactly what I would and others.

Q. I do not want to ask you about your private affairs, because I have to treat you courteously, but I will ask you if your wife went out because of the condition of affairs in Danville?—A. She went out from threats she heard from negroes; I sent her myself.

Q. You sent her outside of Danville?—A. I did.

Q. How far away from Danville?—A. I sent her to her home in Halifax County; twenty-five miles.

Q. How long was this before the riot?—A. A week or ten days.

Q. Yon then expected trouble, did you?—A. I did from the threats I was hearing from the negroes.

By Mr. Vance:

Q. You were asked two or three times if you carried a pistol, but were not permitted to say why?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Now, you can state why you bought a pistol and carried it.—A. Squire Taliaferro, a leading brindle-tailed Coalitionist-Republican, stated that a few citizens from North Carolina had come there and were trying to run the government of the people there, and he would have North Carolinans to know that they could not control them; and I had heard of a great many threats that they had been making about me and my brother, and we were advised of this by our friends. I never previous to that time owned a pistol in my life; 1 never owned one.

Q. You bought and carried it, then, in contemplation of your personal safety?—A. Yes, sir. My brother had been attacked upon the street by the negro Lewellen, who was in company with Hense Lawson, and had been threatened variously, and he insisted that I should carry a pistol also as well as himself to protect himself, and that is the first time I have owned a pistol in my life.

Q. You are a native of North Carolina, are you?—A. Yes, sir; I am proud to say so.

Q. You moved to Danville and settled there?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Engaged in the tobacco business?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Now, Mr. [R. W.] Glass, a colored man, states that you and Covington and Oliver and one other man came up armed, and that you gave the order to fire, and that you four first fired?—A. That is false; I did not give any such order.

Q. Did not give the order?—A. No, sir; I did not, positively. At the time the firing commenced (I forgot to state it here), directly the firing commenced, 1 was in conversation with my brother in regard to myself. He had heard at the opera house that I had been shot and he was questioning me in regard to where I had been shot, and when I looked up the firing had commenced.

Q. That was after the fist fight?—A. Oh, yes; after the fist fight.

Q. Well, do you know whether the first volley that was fired from the pistols of any of the white people was shot in the air or not?—A. The first volley, I think, was fired right into the crowd, but afterwards there was a great many pistols fired into the air after they commenced to run, 1 mean.

Q. After they commenced to run you know a good many pistols were fired into the air?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. To accelerate their speed; to disperse the crowd?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Not with a view of injuring anybody unnecessarily?—A. No, sir.

Q. Did you see [Walter] Holland shot!—A. Yes, sir. If you will allow me to illustrate that I will be glad. This desk [illustrating] represents Wool-

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folk’s office door. I was standing at the upper edge of that door in this position, in the gutter, right near the sidewalk. Holland was behind me, going up Main street, on the sidewalk. I being in the gutter, Holland, on the sidewalk, was raised up a littler taller than I. The shot that was fired at Holland was aimed directly at my head, I am confident, and hit Holland in the back of the head. It is absurd to say it was shot by white men.

Q. What direction did the shot come from?—A. The shot came from [illustrating.] This faces Main street. This is down Main street. This shot came from out in the line of the negroes down beginning to the front of Voss’ hardware store near the middle of Main street.

Q. Well, Glass also told us who shot him; he gives the name.—A. Who shot Holland?

Q. Yes. That either Hatcher, or you, or Oliver, or Covington, shot him?—A. I do not think Mr. Hatcher had a pistol at all, and Covington I know to an absolute certainty did not have a pistol, because during the firing he stood with my brother right by my side and said, “For God’s sake give me a weapon,” and reached down right between us and picked up rocks and commenced throwing them.

Q. Was that after Holland was shot?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you any doubt about his being shot by the darkies?—A. None whatever.

Q. How many pistols did you see in the hands of colored men that day?—A. I saw some eight or ten, fully that many, pointing directly at us and daring Taylor and myself to show our faces; daring us to come out and show our faces, saying “This thing might as well be settled right here, right now,” emphasizing that point.

Q. Now, Mr. Lea, I take it you are a man of reasonable firmness in danger; do you consider it was necessary for the safety of the white men on that sidewalk there to fire upon that crowd?—A. We would have been shot into smithereens if we had not. Not only we, but our women and children would have been murdered in their houses if we had given away one inch. If we had given away one inch our wives and sisters and our mothers would have been murdered at home, because the leaders of them had threatened it just a day or two previous to that.

By the Chairman:

Q. Did you hear that?—A. I did not hear it, but a man told me who I look on as reliable.

By Mr. Vance:

Q. Well, Mr. Lea, I only asked for your opinion at that time, and now as to the necessity of firing upon that crowd?—A. I showed the fear that I had by sending to my brother to come and help me; that I was being overpowered.

Q. Mr. Sherman [the committee chairman] asked you if you did not know that five or six hundred of your friends were in that opera house?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. If there had been any attack made upon you and your associates there on the sidewalk by the negroes could you not all have been killed before the opera house men could have got out ?—A. It usually takes at the opera, which has small doorways, I reckon from a half to three quarters of an hour for all of them to get out of the house.

Q. You think it would take at least thirty minutes to empty the house when it was full?—A. Fully, sir.

Q. Was there not time for aid from them?—A. There was no time for aid, nor the fact of their being there did not make me any more bold.

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Q. Well, you feel then, did at the time and do now, that the firing there was necessary?—A. For the preservation of our lives, I do, sir.

Q. And that if you had retreated or given way it would have been disastrous in more respects than one?—A. Not only to ourselves, but to our wives and sisters.

Q. That was your honest opinion about it?—A. That was my honest opinion about it.

Q. And you say that after the colored people broke and run you knew that many pistols were fired in the air. Do you know that anybody did shoot any after they began to run?—A. I can say, sir, that I cannot imagine how an excited crowd of people could under any circumstances show as much mercy as they did; and even while they were on the retreat I heard two or three remark, “I am sorry that these poor negroes are killed; it ought to have been the leaders who put them up to it.”

Q. What do you think was the cause of the unusual excitement there, more than attends other elections ?—A. I think it was Mr. [W. E.] Sims’s speech [denouncing the Danville Circular] directly that caused that and the Coalition rule of the town. The most starting of this whole thing was the cold blooded murder of one of our best citizens by the mayor of the town, who is a brindle-tailed Coalition Republican Readjuster.

Q. That was the first starting of the bad blood. Well, there was a good deal of misrule beside that, was there not!—A. Oh, indeed, there was.

Q. And outrages upon the feelings of the better class of the community?—A. I have seen negroes on the most prominent corner, where people generally assemble in our town, which is known as Wiseman’s corner—I have seen negroes form a line there. I have seen this; did not hear it; seen it, and forced ladies to walk from the sidewalk out into the street, and after they passed turned and said, “Go, you poor white trash.”

Q. All that got up bad blood?—A. Why certainly.

Q. Mr. Sherman asked you a great many questions tending to show that there is a feeling there not to regard the colored people there as entitled to the same protection of the law, and all that kind of thing. Is there such a feeling there that the colored man is not the equal of the white man in law, before the law, or is it a feeling that he is a social inferior?—A. Entirely the feeling that he is a social inferior.

Q. Is there any disposition in that community, or was there at the time, to refuse the colored man all his rights before the law?—A. No, sir; not that I have ever heard.

Q. It was not the rule of the colored men you objected to because they were colored men, was it?—A. It was on account of their ignorance and incapability; they did not know how, if they were disposed in the right direction, to administer the law right; they did not know how to do it.

Q Were they not in the hands frequently of bad white men?—A. Indeed they were. In fact, the town government was run by the United States officials in the Government office. The president of our council was the revenue collector at Danville.

Q. Were there any members of the council who were also clerks and employe[e]s in the custom-house or revenue office ?—A. I think a negro by the name of Payne was in the council also.

Q. Was he likewise employed at the revenue office ?—A. Yes, sir. Betz held a position there, too.

Q. Was he likewise a member of the council ?—A. Yes, sir.

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Q. Do you know of anything, directly or indirectly, tending to prove that there was a conspiracy or a combination to bring on this riot for the purpose of intimidating the negroes on the day of the election?— A. I certainly do not.

Q. Did you ever hear of such a thing? Did you ever hear of such an attempt made in the council of your party or anywhere?—A. We were frequently exhorted to keep cool all the time and under all circumstances; keep cool.

The Chairman. Will you please repeat the question and answer?

Mr. Vance. The question was whether he knew anything directly or indirectly to prove a conspiracy or concerted design for the purpose of bringing about this row?

The Witness. And my answer was that we were exhorted frequently to keep cool; not to have a fuss; to take any insult that might be given rather than to have a fuss.

By Mr. Vance:

Q. Do you know whether the people assembled at the opera house was armed that day or not?—A. I do not.

Q. Don’t you know that in fact after the row began and the opera house people had come out in the midst of the excitement that they dispersed everywhere in search of arms?—A. I do, sir; I saw that.

Q. You saw them going to get arms?—A. I did, and I heard Colonel Cabell speak on the corner and heard what he said, and his words were these, “Men of Danville, you have always listened to me in times of peace, I exhort you now not to have anything more to do with these negroes, but to stop it.” I cannot say that is verbatim, but that is as near as I can recollect it. 

Q. And you were standing, when this firing began, as you have explained, near the door of Woolfolk & Blair’s office.—A. I was at the right of the door.

Q. You could see into the door, could you not?—A. I was kept too busy to look in there.

Q. Well you could see in there?—A. Oh, yes.

Q. Did you see anybody going in and out to get arms?—A. I don’t recollect seeing anything of that sort; except young Dance with a double-barrel shot gun, and but for him, I believe I would have been killed before any firing was begun. Whenever he saw a negro raise a pistol he would bring the gun down, but I am positive he never fired that gun.

Q. You think his threatening attitude protected you?—A. Yes, sir. (The committee here took a recess and reassembled at 2 o’clock.)

By Mr. Vance:

Q. Mr. Lea, when we took a recess I was asking you about the situation of Mr. Woolfolk’s office, and where you were at the time with reference to the door of his office, which you answered. Now, I want to ask you if there were any arms, pistols, or cartridges in that office that day?—A. I spent the better part of the morning there, being a very intimate friend of the firm, and I saw no arms in the whole building. There is not a room in it that I don’t have access to, and I very frequently go all over it.

Q. What kind of a place is it; is it a store or a place to keep goods or anything of that sort?—A. No, it is a real estate agency and insurance office.

Q. And there were no arms in there for sale or deposit or anything else that you saw?—A. I saw no arms whatever.

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Q. Did you see people going in during the row and coming out, and arming themselves?—A. That is positively untrue, because Mr. Dance stood there in the door, aid there was only one person I think went into the door at all, and that was Walter Withers.

Q. That is a colored man?—A. That is Walter Withers, a policeman, who was trying to flee through that way. I did not see anybody go there.

Q. During that row did you see any colored men between the wall and Woolfolk’s house?—A. I think Withers was.

Q. Did you see Glass?—A. I would not have known him at that time; I do not know whether I saw him or not; cannot answer that question.

Q. Did you see any other colored men besides Withers?—A. I do not think I did. I think probably there might have been some who went through that office, and escaped out of the back door, and I think they did. I think some of them did escape through that back way, but I am positive that there were no arms in there except the gun which Dance held in his hands at the door; there might have been some concealed on # persons of parties, clerks of the establishment; I don’t know about at.

By the Chairman:

Q. You have some words and political phrases down there that I would like to understand. What do you mean by a “brindle-tail Coalitionist?”—A. I mean by that that in the absence of knowing what to call a certain political party—in other words, they sail under so many colors, I thought I would give them all of them, so that I would not miss it.

Q. That would include the Republicans and Coalitionists?—A. Yes, sir; I do not mean a straight-out Republican. They had at one time Democratic Readjusters, but of late Republicans, I think, have changed their colors; that is my understanding about it.

Q. Your party was the debt-paying party, was it?—A. The Funders, sir, I believe.

Q. Well, did you hear Squire Taliaferro say what you quote as having been said by him; did you hear him say that?—A. I think not; I did not state that I did; I think not.

Q. You stated simply that he said so; then you say that you heard he said so?—A. I heard he said so, and was advised by my friends that myself and brother were singled out, and had better go armed.

Q. You say he threatened you?—A. Threatened North Carolinians.

Q. And you were from what part of North Carolina?—A. Caswell County.

Q. What town?—A. I was not raised in any town; I was half way between Milton and Yancey.

Q. You got the impression that there was a prejudice against people from North Carolina in Danville from this reported declaration?—A. Well, sir, excuse the egotism in it; there was a prejudice in it because some of the best citizens in the town were from there. There was a prejudice against some of the best citizens.

Q. But you heard that Squire Taliaferro denied saying that?—A. I do not think I ever did.

Q. Did any one threaten your brother?—A. We were constantly told, myself and my brother, that they had singled us out; had to be careful; and I was frequently advised to send my wife to the country.

Q. What position does Squire Taliaferro have in the party?—A. He was one of those brindle-tailed sort that run about there.

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Q. You speak about the Republican party, &c, and the United States officials being an improper set of men; what United States officials were there that were improper men to be leaders?—A. They are improper because they had, in my opinion, no right to hold United States offices and bring the United States authority to govern municipal affairs.

Q. Who were the United States officers that you complain of?—A. Colonel Ealston, president of the council.

Q. Is not Colonel Ralston a respectable citizen?—A. So far as I know, he is.

Q. And a white man?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. And he is a brindle tail. Well, why is that word applied, I want to get what it means. What do you mean by brindle tail?—A. I do not know sir, what I mean exactly, by it. In the absence of any other term that would suit them as well, I used that.

Q. It was a term of reproach applied by all Democrats to their opponents?—A. I do not know that I ever used it before in my life.

Q. Then it was not used?—A. No, sir.

Q. I understood you to say that it was?—A. I think you are mistaken; I do not think I said it was used.

Q. If you say you did not, I will take your word for it, you are the one who is under oath?—A. I do not think I did, sir.

Q. I thought you applied this as a party term?—A. It was my own manufacture except I saw it used in California once, by old Father Evans, in his paper.

Q. Did not the application of such phrases to a large party that was for a long time in the majority in the State of Virginia tend to show that you yourself were very extreme in your opinions?—A. I think not. I simply applied that name because the party sails under so many colors that 1 really did not know what name to call them, and I therefore called them that in my vocabulary.

Q- Would you think it polite to apply these harsh words to the Democratic party because they change their opinions occasionally, and that they have done this and that; do you think that is exactly right?—A. They would have the same right to it. I do not think it would be wrong. We have been called some very hard names; I was called a worse name than that.

Q- If you hear a term applied to the Democratic party intended to reproach them you would think the person who applied it was a very bitter partisan.—A. 1 do not know that I would always think so, because in politics now they generally use a great many harsh things; accuse a man of stealing, even.

Q. I will ask you, as to Mr. Ralston, is he not a respectable gentleman?—A. I know nothing against his character.

Q. And Mr. Woltz.—A. I think he is a gentleman.

Q. Who are these leaders you wanted to have in the front line in case of firing?—A. I cannot especially say; Mr. Sims, perhaps.

Q. Well, don’t you know that what Mr. Sims said was in reply to an extraordinary tract?—A. I did, of which I was one of the signers.

Q. Don’t you regard that tract as a violent political document; an arraignment of a whole class of people?—A. I do not; I regard every word uttered in there as true from beginning to end.

Q. Who wrote that pamphlet?—A. I really do not know; the Democratic party is responsible for it.

Q. Does not that pamphlet itself tend to excite and array white men against black men and to draw the color line, and was not that the

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purpose of the pamphlet to draw the color line?—A. Probably it might have been.

Q. Then you think that is all right. It is all right to draw the color line as was done in that pamphlet, to array the white men on one side and the black men on the other?—A. I do not regret that such is the case very much. It would be more fortunate for the colored race if they would divide, but as long as they vote solid the whites are compelled to do so.

Q. How would you prevent them from doing otherwise?—A. From voting solid?

Q. What efforts do you make to induce the negroes to vote the Democratic tick[e]t?—A. By argument and any other fair means.

Q. Do you allow the negro an opportunity to make arguments on the other side?—A. Indeed we do; I have heard many a one speak.

Q. Do you think free discussion prevails or ever did prevail in Danville?—A. I know it.

Q. And yet when Mr. Sims, a candidate for senator, makes a speech denying the allegations contained in a manifesto of the other party you think that is a gross abuse of the liberty of free speech?—A. He did not go on to deny the allegations set forth in that circular, but he got up there

Q. Did you hear him?—A. I did not.

Q. Then you cannot say?—A. It has been testified by others.

Q. If he had attacked the authoritativeness of that manifesto that you allude to, and not brought in individualities and personalities he would have had a right to do it, but he took them collectively and individually and said that they signed what was not true?—A. That it was a lie, and they were perjurers. I think that was decidedly wrong. I have heard Mr. Sims make a speech on the other side, and he was equally abusive when he was on the other side.

Q. That was much more pleasant, was it not?—A. I rather liked it better, I must confess.

Q. On the whole, then, it was because Mr. Sims had changed his views and was running on the other ticket?—A. It showed that he was an extremest [sic] on the other side; I simply brought that out.

Q. Then would you have punished Mr. Sims for his extravagance if he was in the Democratic party?—A. No doubt.

Q. Were you disposed to punish the party on this account?—A. No; but if Mr. Sims had been regarded as the equal of the gentlemen assailed he would most assuredly have been held personally responsible.

Q. Did not you say the origin of this excitement in Danville was Mr. Sims’s speech?—A. I said that was the origin; it had a great deal to do with exciting the negroes.

Q. Who prepared this circular to which Mr. Sims was replying?—A. I could not answer that. The circular was brought to me and I read it and signed it. I think it was prepared by the Democratic party.

Q. Who was it addressed to?—A. To the people of Southwest Virginia, I think.

Q. Why did you address it to the people of the Southwest Valley of Virginia?—A. Because we wanted to acquaint them with what a taste we had of negro rule and Coalition rule.

Q. Are there more white people than black people in the Valley?— A. I never visited that section, and I don’t really know.

Q. Don’t you know, as a citizen, that the great number of the population of the Valley are white people?—A. I am under the impression that probably the majority of them are whites.

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Q. Then was not this an appeal to race prejudice, to arraign the races against each other?—A. It was warning them against the most corrupt rule that any people were ever cursed with.

Q. And to arouse the prejudices of race against the party that you were resisting; I suppose that was the purpose?—A. I do not know what the purpose of the originators was exactly; I cannot speak for them.

Q. You stated that you expected that if you had not resisted the colored people there and fired upon them that your wives and sisters would be in danger?—A. I did, sir.

Q. On what ground did you base that opinion?—A. Upon the frequent reports that came to us that on the day of election while the white people and the darkies were fighting down town the negroes would kill the women and children on the outskirts of the town.

Q. And you believed those stories, did you?—A. I thought under the circumstances from the manner in which people had been murdered about there on the streets that probably there was danger of it. 1 sent my wife to the country in consequence of that.

Q. Yon were in the Confederate service, were you not?—A. No, sir.

Q. Well, don’t you know the fact that the white people of Virginia left their wives, their sisters, their grandmothers, and their children in the custody of these negroes and went to that war, when they were slaves?—A. Then they did not have a lot of people to come down there and incite them to deeds of violence.

Q. Don’t you suppose that these negroes at that time knew that one of the issues of the war involved their freedom or slavery?—A. I suppose they did.

Q. Did you ever hear of any killing or murdering of women and children while these negroes had the power to kill them?—A. There were a few instances of that kind, but very few. They behaved well I will admit.

Q. Is it not a fact that the negro race is the most docile of the races of men?—A. But for the fact of bad leaders your assertion would be true.

Q. Who were the leaders that were bad?—A. These brindle-tails I allude to.

Q. Mr. Sims, it seems?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Who were the ohter [sic] leaders that were going to carry this whole race into barbarism?—A. Mayor Johnson was one.

Q. He is the worst man. When was he elected mayor; is he a native Virginian?—A. He is a North Carolinian I am sorry to say.

Q. He was reared in the South then?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Was he not a Democrat?—A. He is one of those fellows like those I have just described. You cannot tell what they are.

Q. He was a Democrat, then?—A. No, sir; he did not run on the Democratic ticket.

Q. Didn’t he vote the Democratic ticket at the last election?—A. I have no knowledge whatever about that. I do not think he did.

Q. You say he was charged with murder, with a gross murder?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Was he not tried and acquitted?—A. He was tried by a jury of eight colored men and four white people.

Q. He was tried and acquitted?—A. Yes; not by an impartial jury.

Q. Now don’t you think the judgment of even a jury of that kind, of twelve men uniting in a verdict of acquittal, is as good as your judg-

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ment?—A. I do not think it is just to have eight of one party and four of another.

Q. Have you not seen hundreds of juries with all white men and no black men?—A. I do not think I have seen a jury since the war that has not had colored men on it.

Q. You have seen plenty that had eight white men on them, have you not?—A. No, sir; this is about the first jury, I think, I have ever saw that was not about equally divided; though I don’t know much about court affairs, and don’t attend courts.

Q. You think the eight negroes were too strong in their persuasive powers and carried over the four white men?—A. I think probably so.

Q. Don’t you think, after all, that the verdict of such a jury is better than your opinion, when you did not hear the evidence? I will ask you if you think these white men were corrupt?—A. The majority of the people who serve—I do not know whether they were bad and corrupt or not.

Q. Well, they came to a conclusion different from what you thought, who never heard the discussion?—A. Yes, sir; they did.

Q. Is that the worst thing you can say of Mr. Johnson?—A. That murder?

Q. Yes, that he killed a man?—A. I do not think I can say anything which is worse.

Q. Now, did he do any worse than was done by the white men who fired upon the negroes upon the day of the massacre?—A. What we did was entirely in self-defense, and Johnson was not.

Q. But a jury said in that particular case that it was in self-defense, and the men who fired at the massacre never got a verdict of a jury in their favor.—A. Mr. Johnson was not tried to be overpowered as we were—two hundred to fifteen.

Q. Was he not attacked by knife and pistol, and was it not man to man?—A. I never heard he was attacked at all.

Q. Well, I do not want to go into the merits of that. You were not present at the trial were you?—A. Mayor Johnson’s?

Q. Yes, sir.—A. I heard a portion of the evidence.

Q. And you think because a jury acquitted him it was a very bad jury and he was not properly acquitted?—A. I think it was rather unfair that they should have eight of one party and four of another.

Q. Then he is the leader?—A. He would be the leader if he was only intellectually qualified.

Q. Who are the leaders who lead these people so much astray?—A. I think the revenue officer is one of them.

Q. You are rather opposed to all officers of the United States interfering in elections at all, are you not?—A. I am not. I am opposed for Federal patronage to be used to carry municipal affairs; I do not think that is right.

Q. But this was a State election, as I understand, and you were all upon the same footing?—A. I am speaking of the rule, lie was president of the city council.

Q. Was not Mr. Blair, a Democrat, chairman of the council?—A. he was at one time, but he resigned and Mr. Ralston was elected in his place.

Q. When was that?—A. I do not know the exact date.

Q. Now I want to know what these leaders did, because I would like to know what these leaders have done to lead these poor negroes astray; please answer that question?—A. Answer what?

Q. In what respect did these leaders lead the colored people astray? 

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You have only been able to give us the names of two you complain of.— A. They were trying to array them against the best friends they had.

Q. That is the white Democrats. Well, did you not seek to array the white man against the black by your circular letter [i.e., the Danville Circular]? Was it right for you to do that ?—A. I do not think that circular could be construed in the forcible manner in which you put it. That circular is not against race or color alone; it is against Coalition [i.e., Readjuster] rule.

Q. Now is not the substance of the whole controversy that you white people in Virginia—Danville, confine it to Danville—are determined that the negroes shall not enjoy their right to their vote and their right to the equal protection of the law?—A. Please put that question again; I did not get the first part of it. .

Q. I will ask you if at the bottom of it all is not the strong prejudice of the white Democrats of Danville against the negro exercising his right to vote?—A. I do not think any such sentiment prevails, whatever.

Q. You are perfectly willing to let a negro vote just as he pleases and to talk as he pleases?—A. I am.

Q. And to discuss public questions?—A. I am.

Q. And has he done anything more than that?—A. He has threatened the lives of the women and children of our city, sir.

Q. That is, some loafers have threatened the lives of women and children, but did you ever hear any one do it? Are there not good decent people there, among the colored people?—A. Some splendid ones.

Q. Well, you hold them responsible for what every blackguard says?—A. We do not hold them responsible; we feel sorry for their ignorance and attribute it all to their bad leaders. We do not hold them responsible. We feel their leaders are responsible.

Q. Bad leaders, and yet you are only able to name two bad leaders in Danville?—A. I could name several.

Q. I would like to know who they are and what they have done. Name some others, if you please.—A. Well, I might be excused from that on the same ground as Mr. Glass was. 1 might be in danger if I did name them.

Q. If you are in danger I will not ask you to risk your life, if you say you are in danger.—A. I say I might be in danger.

Q. But are you in danger?—A. I do not think I am very much in danger, yet a great many of my friends have warned me to be careful and not expose myself at night.

Q. Is not the danger that they feared for you growing out of the incidents of the 3d of November?—A. I told you this morning in my testimony that they had made threats prior to that occurrence.

Q. Well, let us go back to the question again. Suppose three negroes had attacked a party of white men in the same circumstances would not the negroes have been in danger, and would not they have reasonable grounds to fear danger?—A. They never would have feared danger. They could not fear white men attacking them at night, they would do it face to face.

Q. Don’t you suppose a mob would have arrested three black men under these circumstances and hung them to a lamp-post within half an hour?—A. Well, sir; I will ask you a question: Judge Blackwell was within 15 feet, judge of the corporation, why did not he cause an arrest to be made?

Q. That I cannot say!—A. Neither can I.

Q. If any peace officer was there and did not do that—A. He was

— page 104 —
Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States (1884)

a peace officer, and within a few steps of the affair and could have stopped it if he had come out.

Q. I will ask you whether in a somewhat similar case where three black men assailed and perhaps killed a white man a movement was not made to kill them, hang them, and whether the governor was not compelled to call out to companies of militia to prevent it?—A. I know nothing of that affair of my own personal knowledge; I was absent in Western North Carolina at the time of the occurrence.

By Mr. Lapham:

Q. You knew nothing of the insult to Noel, did you, personally?—A. At what time?

Q. At any time?—A. I did not hear the insult at all.

Q. You say you knew nothing of it?—A. Not of my own actual knowledge I did not hear it or see it.

Q. All you knew about it was what Noel told you?—A. Exactly.

Q. Now, did you think it necessary for you and Taylor to carry revolvers there to see fair play between these two men?—A. I had my revolver in my pocket at the time.

Q. Yes; did you think it was right to go there to protect Noel in the fight with a colored man?—A. I thought and in fact knew that if he was not protected he would be overpowered.

Q. Did you think it was right for you and Taylor to go there for the purpose of seeing that fight and to protect Noel if necessary? —A. I did think it was right.

Q. That is your opinion of the condition of affairs there that two friends have a right to go with revolvers for the purpose of seeing a fair fight between any other friend and a colored man?—A. At that time that was the condition of affairs there.

Q. And well knowing that you went there with the design of doing whatever was necessary to protect Noel?—A. From mob violence, I did.

Q. You apprehended mob violence, did you?—A. I had nothing to apprehend; but, then, they had been making threats for some time previously, and Mr. Sims’ speech was calculated to excite them to that end.

Q. It was not this insult to Noel, then; it was the speech that Sims hail made you went there to revenge; is that it?—A. No, I did not; I did not say that.

Q. Were you excited any when you went there?—A. I guess I was.

Q. You know you were, don’t you?—A. Excited?

Q. Yes; you know you went there in a state of excitement?—A. I guess I did, sir.

Q. You left your post of duty up in the hall, and went out at Noel’s request for the purpose of witnessing this affray between him and Lawson?—A. Yes; that is what I went with him for.

Q. There were three of you, wasn’t there?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. Well, that constitutes a mob, doesn’t it?—A. I do not know.

Q. If three men go armed, with violent intentions, that is a mob, isn’t it?—A. What would you consider the crowd that was coming down the street to meet us?

Q. I am not on the stand, and you are. Don’t you know that three men going with purposes of violence, armed for that purpose, constitutes a mob in the State of Virginia?—A. I did not know it at the time, and don’t know it now, except from what you say. If you say that is true I suppose it is. I am sorry to say I know very little of the law in the State of Virginia; have not been there very long.

— page 105 —
Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States (1884)

By Mr. Vance.

Q. Mr. Sherman put several supposititious cases to you; among others he said that no jury had passed upon your conduct whilst a jury had passed upon Mayor Johnson’s killing. Has there not a jury passed upon it?—A. Most assuredly, sir, and complimented the action.

Q. The grand jury?—A. The grand jury, and complimented the action of the parties that were present, and on that jury was a negro who had run at one time for the senate against Major Hurt; an intelligent negro, the most intelligent, I reckon, in the town, and certainly the wealthiest negro in the place; he was on that jury.

Q. Mr. Sherman asked you if you did not think that the opinion of the jury in the Johnson case, who heard the evidence, was better than yours, who did not hear it; do not you think that the grand jury of the city of Danville, who heard the evidence and passed upon it, were better judges than Mr. Sherman, who did not?—A. I do.

Q. Well, that much is a set-off; now in relation to the dangers that the community feared there from the people about which you have been asked, was not there apprehension of secret burnings of houses, &c.?— A. Apprehensions?

Q. Yes.—A. There were indeed strong apprehensions.

Q. Is not it the sentiment of the people of Danville and of the South generally, as far as you know, that if not excited to these things the colored people will do no harm and they are tractable and kind?—A. That is our opinion.

Q. But that under the influence of white men who keep hid they can be made to be very dangerous?—A. That is the true condition of affairs; we have no animosity toward the negroes.

Q. Now in old times, when these men did not meet the colored men of Danville, had there been any trouble there?—A. No, sir.

Q. Is not the town a flourishing town, where all classes work together iu making money and building up the town?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. There is a good feeling or has been until recently, hasn’t there?— A. Yes, sir.

Q. Such has been my information; you say that is so?—A. Yes, sir.

Q. And you are obliged to attribute the changed conduct of the negroes to the leaders of the party?—A. To bad leaders, yes, sir; in fact, in managing our servants at home, we find it very difficult, and one of them went so far as to tell us that things had undergone quite a change of late.

Q. You mean your domestics inside of the house?—A. Which went to prove that there was a change in them.

Q. The object of this circular, as you understood, was an appeal to the people of Virginia, especially the white people, for help against this rule?—A. Yes, sir; against the worst rule any people were ever cursed with.

Q. If that was designed and calculated to array the white people against the colored people it was nothing more than had already been done, was it?—A. By the other side; yes, sir.

Q. I will ask you if it is safe for a colored man to be a Democrat?—A. Senator Vance, certainly I, having even as much nerve as Mr. Sherman seems to think I have got, I, as a colored man, could not be induced to be a Democrat under any circumstances.

Q. Why?—A. I would be afraid of being killed. In fact, I know that colored men in Danville are in danger when they are Democrats.

Q. Don’t they ostracize each other?—A. Ostracize; their wives threaten

— page 106 —
Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States (1884)

to leave them if they vote with the white people. They have got political organizations for every woman, called by the women the lodge, and they tend to keep the men straight, and a Democratic negro is no more safe in Danville than I would be among the Indians.

Q. You say, then, it is not safe for a colored man to be a Democrat in the town of Danville?—A. I do positively assert that fact.

Q. I ask you if white leaders of the party do not inculcate that sentiment, that they must not permit their own men to turn against their race?—A. Why certainly they do. In regard to its being safe for a Republican in our place, there is a Republican on my street, Mr. Wood, who seems to be as safe and socially liked on our street as any one. He is a Republican, though not a brindle-tail; they like him very much.

Q. Now I will ask you if the same ostracism or dislike is exerted by the Democrats toward the white people who turned against their race?— A. Not to the extent it is by the negro race.

Q. Don’t cut him off; threaten him with violence, and array his wife against him so he cannot get lodging at home?—A. No, sir.

Q. Don’t do that?—A. No, sir; I never heard of their being refused lodgings on that account.

By the Chairman:

Q. How many persons compose a grand jury in Virginia?—A. Twelve, I think.

Q. I will ask you whether this grand jury you refer to was not composed of but seven?—A. What grand jury do yon refer to?

Q. The one that found there was no offense committed. I ask yon if it was not composed of but seven persons?—A. I really do not know.

Q. I ask you if the following persons were not on the grand jury and also signed the report of the committee of forty: John G. Friend, J. L. Tyack, and George C. Ayres. I will ask you if they were not on the grand jury?—A. I recollect Mr. Ayres’ name, foreman of the grand jury.

Q. Look at these names [handing witness a report] and probably you will recollect them; they are citizens. I will ask you if they are the names of the persons on the grand jury and to designate the colored man?—A. Preston Watkins is an influential colored man and a strong republican.

Q. Do you find the names of Friend, Tyack, and Ayres among those?— A. [Examining report.] Yes, sir; they are here.

Q. These three then were members of the committee of forty and had previously acted upon that subject?—A. They were.

Q. So that the grand jury was composed of seven, and three of these, among them the chairman, were members of the committee of forty that had already reported on this subject, and the other was a colored man whom you spoke of?A. I do not know who this grand jury was drawn by; I don’t know anything about the laws of Virginia.

Q. There is another matter I wish to call attention to. I see in an advertisement shown me that immediately after the riot there was advertised by Tyack, this same Tyack, shot-guns, pistols, &c, powder, Hazard powder, &c., for sale; is that the same Mr. Tyack, J. L. Tyack ?—A. I never saw any such advertisement.

Q. Tyack, Doe & Co., is that the firm 1—A. His advertisement, I guess, was previous to the riot, and I do not know that I ever saw this advertisement before.

Q. Did you ever see that published in the paper there? Just read that if you please. [Handing paper to witness.]—A. I will.

— page 107 —
Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States (1884)

The Witness read as follows:

[The Daily Register, Saturday, November 24, 1883.]

Notice—Individuals and firms borrowed Guns and Pistols of us during the evening of the riot. Some of them have failed to return them, and it was impossible in the rush for fire-arms to take a memorandum of the names of all the parties. We call upon our friends to refresh their memories and examine their premises, and if they should find any property of the kind here advertised not returned or properly accounted for to attend to the matter at once.


Nov. 23–3t.

Q. This appeared in the paper after the riot?—A. I think I saw that at the time.

Q. Was that after the riot or before?—A. Those arms were borrowed; Mr. Johnson, mayor of the town, deputized my brother to take charge of two hundred men.

Q. Was that after the riot?—A. After the riot; he did it himself in my presence; I heard him tell him to get two hundred men to protect the town to the best of his ability, and I suppose this has reference to that; they borrowed arms.

Q. Each man got arms for himself?—A. A man would not go out without arms to protect himself, and they borrowed them of Mr. Tyack.

APA Citation:
U.S. Senate. Testimony of George A. Lea (February 15, 1884). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
U.S. Senate. "Testimony of George A. Lea (February 15, 1884)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 16 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2021, January 28
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