Sherman, TX Grayson County Courthouse Burned by Mob, May 1930
Trial Never Completed.
The jury was sworn in at noon and the incident was read by County Attorney Joe P. Cox at 12:10 o’clock. Hughes plead guilty. About fifty people were in the courtroom at this time, including six or seven women.
G.M. Taylor was the first witness sworn. He lives four miles south of Sherman, near the Choctaw gin, he said. He was at the Taylor home when he saw the woman, whom he afterward found out to be the victim of the attack by the negro. At this point the jury was sent out of the room on account of the disturbance.
Doors of the corridors were forced. Hughes was locked up in the District Clerk’s vault. The mob was calm. Three shots were fired. This was about 12:20 o’clock and the mob was clamoring for the negro and the rangers with their rifles cleared the hallway, using tear gas.
Firemen Rescue Witnesses.
Firemen were called with their ladders to enable persons inside the courtroom and the District Clerk’s room to escape from the building.
The gas spread all over the building and into the courtroom and the District Clerk’s vault room with deadly effect. Other women, witnesses to the courthouse [illegible] to get breath of fresh air.
At 12:58 o’clock the mob formed a second time and started into the building and again the tear bombs were used. Then the firemen took women and children from the building by use of [illegible].
Talked Venue Change.
At 1 o’clock Judge Carter went into conference with the declaration that likely a change of venue would be ordered. The woman who was the subject of the attack by the negro was brought to the courthouse in the morning in an ambulance and was removed by ambulance when she was overcome by gas. Ranger Capt. Frank Hamer told Judge R.M. Cater that the trial could not be held here without bloodshed, in his opinion.
The mob continued to mill around the building and occasionally a shot trial or two was fired by the rangers to show they were in earnest. At this juncture Captain Hamer received a message from Gov. Dam Moody, said to have told him to protect the negro if possible, but not to shoot anyone.
Turning to Judge Carter, Captain Hamer said, “This means the mob will get the negro,” when it became known in the crowd around the courthouse that a change of venue was being considered, the cry went up, “We will get the negro.” At this juncture, two boys apparently 17 years old, appeared at the east window of the Tax Collector’s office, on the east side of the courthouse. A woman threw a rock through the glass window and the boys dashed five gallons of gasoline into the office. A flash of fire followed and in a minute the lower floors of the courthouse were burning. The fire department answered with every piece of equipment, but as fast as a water line was started the hose was cut.
All of Fire Hose Cut.
One large man, whom no one seemed to know, walked around with a long-bladed knife in his hand a cut hose after hose. First he would tell those playing the water on the blaze to “cut her off” and if this was not done immediately, he stooped down and cut the hose. One fireman said every hose in the city had been cut.
Buildings on the north side of the square caught fire from flying embers, and once a hose was throwing water on this blaze was cut. The second hose, however, was not cut, but the firemen were told not to turn the water toward the courthouse.
Sheriff Arthur Vaughan, Deputy Sheriffs Shipp and Neathery were not in the building at the time the flames started, having gone down to talk to the mob in an effort to disperse them.