The 1907 Lynching of Dock Posey

In performing research locally, I came across the following story which I have adapted from newspaper articles from the day:

On July 1, 1907, the citizens of Dalton awoke to find a dead man hanging from a downtown bridge. Around 6 oclock A.M., the body of Dock Posey was taken down and, being refused by his wife, shipped by train down to Atlanta. There, it was taken by the Atlanta Medical College, now Emory, for further destruction.

Posey was a middle aged white man, who had recently moved near Dalton from Walker County, the county immediately to the west. Posey married a woman with two daughters, the youngest nine-years old. Posey was a no-count rapist. Upon the little girl, Posey committed the most horrible affair that has ever occurred in this county. In the euphemism of the time, he outraged her. Realizing that his stepdaughter was near death due to his crime, he took her into Dalton to the office of Dr. J.C. Rollins. Dr. Rollins called in two other doctors thinking that the girls injuries so severe she might not recover.

Posey denied he had anything to do with the rape, and fixed the blame on someone else. Even in the girls severe condition, he had taken the time to scare her into telling the same story. However, when the girl was able to speak freely, she told exactly what happened. Posey still denied but he realized he was a goner.

The Reverend W. H. Bird, also the president of the local Farmers Union, took a personal interest in the matter and did his own investigation. He went and spoke to Poseys wife. The wife told him that Posey had attempted an outrage of her older daughter recently. With this and perhaps some other persuasion, Rev. Bird was able to get a confession out of Posey. In fact, Posey identified the place, time and physical evidence of the crime.

Word spread of the confession. As some of the locals called for Poseys neck, the authorities attempted to squelch the towns passions by calling for an immediate term of court so that justice could be meted out promptly, but judicially. Many of the town folks realized, however, that the little girl was the key witness. She may not even survive, but at least it could be weeks before she was able to testify at a trial and even that would be more than she should have to bear.

All these difficulties worked themselves out on the night of July 1.

Rev. Bird stayed with a jailer to watch Posey that night. Voices were heard around one oclock A.M. which woke Rev. Bird. He arose from his make shift bed, out into the hall and was held at gun point by a group of 25 or so men. The group included two police officers who had been passed on the way over, disarmed and forced to come along. Except for these officers, all the men had guns. Each of the men wore long black robes, and white pointed hoods, only their eyes, feet and hands were visible.

The leader of the group made himself known and demanded the keys or else he would blow the jail to hell. The keys were found, Posey cell was unlocked, and out he was dragged out, limp, begging for his life.

The mob was extremely well disciplined, placing guards around the jail, who fell in line as they left the jail with the prisoner. The group marched double file. It was said no oaths were sworn, few words were said and all the orders of the leader were followed with precision.

The leader, being a gentleman, said he did not want to hang an innocent man asked Posey for the truth. Posey confessed again, but begged for his life. Satisfied with this due process, the leader and the mob toted Posey out of the jail, into a car and down the street to the bridge running over the railroad. Posey was put on top of the buggy and tied up to a wooden beam under the bridge.

From that position, Posey was given 15 minutes to pray, which he did. He also asked the crowd to pray for him. He again said he didnt intend to harm the girl. The crowd shouted die with a lie in your mouth. As his pitiful last words were uttered, the buggy then drove out from under him triggering the mechanism of his death. He strangled to death from that point.

The mob left, but demanded that the jailer and Rev. Bird stayed. They were not to take the body down until 6 oclock A.M. at the earliest and also to make sure the spectacle did not spook a horse passing over the bridge. The leader said he would be sorry to see anyone injured by a runaway horse frightened by the dangling body.

For whatever reason, the jailer and Rev. Bird remained until the morning, leaving the body hanging as instructed.

The local paper  suggested none of the mob could be identified and were not thought to be Dalton citizens. The town was not sorry to see Posey go, and went about its business.

There is a photo of the hanging that can be seen here. It's graphic.