Texas

The Lynching of Methodist Minister Anthony Bewley in Civil War Era Texas

The following post was submitted to Renegade South by Tim Sumrall. Particularly noteworthy is that Rev. Anthony Bewley was lynched for his pro-Union views in 1860, well before secession from the Union had been achieved by the Texas legislature. This was the time of “Texas Trouble,” during which vigilantes targeted citizens who sympathized with the plight of slaves or opposed the mounting cries for disunion that would soon bring the American Civil War. 

Abolitionist Minister Lynched in Fort Worth

On this day in 1860 (September 13 1860 ), abolitionist Methodist minister Anthony Bewley was lynched in Fort Worth. Bewley, born in Tennessee in 1804, had established a mission sixteen miles south of Fort Worth by 1858. When vigilance committees alleged in the summer of 1860 that there was a widespread abolitionist plot to burn Texas towns and murder their citizens, suspicion immediately fell upon Bewley and other outspoken critics of slavery.

Special attention was focused on Bewley because of an incendiary letter, dated July 3, 1860, addressed to a Rev. Bewley and supposedly written by a fellow abolitionist. Many argued that the letter, which urged Bewley to continue with his work in helping to free Texas from slavery, was a forgery. The letter was widely published, however, and taken by others as evidence of Bewley’s involvement with the John Brownites in Texas.

Recognizing the danger, Bewley left for Kansas in mid-July with part of his family. A Texas posse caught up with him near Cassville, Missouri, and returned him to Fort Worth on September 13. Late that night vigilantes seized Bewley and delivered him into the hands of a waiting lynch mob. His body was allowed to hang until the next day, when he was buried in a shallow grave. Three weeks later his bones were unearthed, stripped of their remaining flesh, and placed on top of Ephraim Daggett’s storehouse, where children made a habit of playing with them.

http://www.tshaonline.org/day-by-day/30999

Letter From Anthony Bewley
http://www.nytimes.com/1861/01/23/news/a-methodist-minister-lynched-letter-from-rev-anthony-bewley.html

http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbe71

2 replies »

  1. You can read the ENTIRE letter here: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83035143/1861-01-18/ed-1/seq-3/#date1=1836&index=11&date2=1922&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&lccn=sn83035143&words=Methodist+Methodists&proxdistance=5&state=Ohio&rows=20&ortext=methodist&proxtext=&phrasetext=&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=2

    Found this article in an old newspaper and thought you might like it.

    The Cleveland Morning Leader, 18 Jan 1861, page 3

    Letter from Rev. Abraham [sic] Bewley, the Murdered Methodist Clergymen.

    The following letter, written by the Rev. A. Bewley previous to his being hung by a gang of slaveholding hounds in Texas, merely for being a member of the Methodist church North, which is tantamount to being an Abolitionist in the estimation of his murderers, we would most respectfully submit to those dought-faces who are eternally whining about the imaginary grievances of the South. We would particularly recommend it to a class of Republicans — and we are glad to say they are few and far between — who are growing unsteady in the knee-joints, and weak in the spinal column, and who are prating about the enormous guilt of those States which have passed personal liberty laws, to protect free colored people from being kidnapped by two-legged brutes, called man thieves.

    We would also submit to the dough-face Democracy and weak-kneed Republicans, whether it would not be a good idea to settle the Southern difficulty, by sending down a cargo of Northern Methodist Clergymen, Republican Editors, Anti-slavery Merchants, Free Soil Orators, including Joshua R. Giddings, Charles Sumner, B.F. Wade, Henry Ward Beecher, and Horace Greeley, to be offered as a peace-offering to the fiendish spirit of Slavery. What a grand “Auto da fe” those Southern traitors would have over the hanging, burning, and tarring and feathering of the crowd! Really the more we think of the plan, the more feasible it appears. An offer of this kind would show such a magnanimous spirit on the part of the North, that we will stake our reputation that the South will accept it, and agree to keep quiet till they commence another disunion howl, and cry out for more concessions from the North.

    Mr. Bewley’s widow now resides at Humboldt, Kansas. She is very poor, having been deprived of him who was her faithful supporter. The following affecting farewell letter to his family was written by Mr. Bewley, just one week previous to his execution. We copy it from the St. Louis Central Christian Advocate.

    Fayetteville, Arkansas,
    Sept. 6, 1860

    DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN

    I never took up my pen under such circumstances before. After I left there that day I was hurried on, and the next day about 9 o’clock we got to Fayetteville. I am here yet. They have not put me in jail, but keep me under guard. At night I am chained fast to some person, and in the day I have liberty to walk about with the guard. I have been, in the general, tolerable, although my company in general has not been as desirable as some. They are now after Tom Willet. So soon as they succeed in getting him, I suppose they will set out with us to Texas on the overland stage, and if so, hand us over to the Fort Worth Committee and receive the reward. Then we will, I suppose, be under their supervision, to do with us as seemeth them good. And if that takes place, “dear” and “much beloved wife and loving” children, I shall never, in this life, expect to see you; but I shall look to meet you all, with our little babe that has already gone to that blessed haven of repose. The reason why I so speak, in these times of heated political excitement, mole-hills are raised mountain high, and where there is none, it is frequently imagined they see something. That being the case, it is enough to know that we are “North Methodists”, as they are called; and from what we learned in Texas about that Fort Worth Committee, they had sworn vengeance against all such folks. I expect when they get to us we will go the trip. But, dear wife and children, who are big enough to know about these things, know that, so far as I am concerned, all these things are false. You have been with me, and you know as well as I do that none of these things have ever been countenanced about our house, but that we have repudiated such to the last. So you see that I am innocent, and you, my love, will have the lasting satisfaction to know that your husband was innocent, for you have been with me for some twenty-six years, and your constitution is emaciated and gone down to feebleness. You will have to spend the remaining part of your life as a bereaved widow, with your orphan children, with one blind daughter. Now, my feelings I cannot describe, but I know there is a God that doeth right. As I was taken away, and was not even permitted to see you, that I might bid you and the children farewell, I have to do it in this way, and would say to all to try to continue your way onward to Heaven. Tell George and baby, when they get old enough, they must seek religion and be good boys, and meet Pa in Heaven. I want William and John, as they are the oldest, to be good to their mother and blind sister.

    Do with your scant means are you think best. I have feelings — I cannot tell you how I feel for you. There on the road, in your wagons, we thought ourselves at home. But I can only leave you in the hands of Him in whom I put my trust. I know you will not forget me in your prayers; you have mine — shall have while I have breath. I believe much in prayer. I feel no guilt, from the fact that I have done nothing to cause that feeling. Dear Jane, I cannot tell what is the best course for you to pursue, but I want you to get somewhere that the children can have a chance at school. Keep as clear of these one-horse towns as you can. Frequently at such places boys are early led estray. I do hope that the good Lord will comfort you and guide you to the best conclusions.

    I would be glad if you would tell Henry McCary to write to Capt. Daget at Fort Worth, my standing since he was first acquainted with me, and when you write to your friends tell them to do so too, or as they choose. I now close by subscribing myself your affectionate husband and father,

    ANTHONY BEWLEY

    You will doubless preserve this imperfect scroll. A.B.

    This is September 6th, 1859.
    City of Fayetteville, Ark.

    I, with a portion of the Vigilance committee; will leave Fayetteville to-night some time. The Committee has returned without Willet, and have given up hunting him any more.
    A. BEWLEY

  2. Thank you so much for posting this letter in its entirety. Reverend Bewley is my great-great-great grandfather. This letter is so touching and poignant.

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