Testimony of John L. Chivington

[Examination of John chivington by Assistant Attorney General Sanford (2/13/1906).]

SANFORD: Your name is John L. Chivington?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you live in Chattanooga?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You are connected with the Chattanooga Times?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. In what capacity?
A. Reporter.
Q. How were you connected with the Times in the year 1906, especially in the month of March?
A. Reporter on the Times.
Q. What particular assignments did you have?  Was it an assignment that brought you in connection with the court and jail work?
A. Yes, sir; I have always handled the courts and the jail.
Q. Are you familiar with the general proceedings of the Ed Johnson matter?
A. Yes, sir; I consider myself very familiar with it.
Q. You know the night of the lynching of Ed Johnson, March 19th.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Mr. Chivington, at and prior to that time had there been any race feeling in the community here—any race excitement?
PRITCHARD: I object to that, if the Court please, on the ground that it is not a proper subject matter of inquiry in a judicial proceeding of any sort, particularly when the matter involves one of contempt of court.
COMMISSIONER: Note the objection.
Q. I wish you would state what the condition of the feeling on that subject was, and how it affected the lawless element?
A. I cannot state how general it was.  There were times when there was excitement during that period.  There was one mob that I remember prior to that night.
Q. When was that prior mob?
A. It was the night of January 24th.
Q. What was the occasion of that prior mob?
A. I believe that the mob went to the jail that night to get a nigger named Floyd Westfield, and perhaps another one that was named Ed. Smith.
Q. Was that mob repulsed?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How large was that mob?  Did you see it?
A. Yes, sir; I saw it.  I would say if everybody around the jail was a member of the mob that it was about sixteen or eighteen hundred strong.
Q. That mob had not accomplished anything, however?
A. No, sir.
Q. Were there any deputies present at the jail that night when the mob came?
A. When the mob came there were three.
Q. Inside?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. They kept the mob back?
A. Yes, sir, they kept the mob back.
Q. Who are those three deputies?
A. There was Mr. Galloway, Mr. George Brown, and Fred Frauley.  I am not sure that Mr. Galloway was there when the mob came.
Q. Was the sheriff in the city that night?
A. My recollection is that he was not.
Q. Who was the deputy in charge?  Who was the chief deputy?
A. Mr. Frauley.
Q. What was the crime for which Johnson was tried?
A. The crime of rape.
Q. On a white woman?
A. Yes, sir; white woman.
Q. Was there excitement during the trial of Johnson?  I don’t ask this for any bearing on the trial.  I ask you in reference to the question about guards—whether guards had to be maintained.
PRITCHARD: What was the question?
SANFORD: I am asking him whether there was excitement during the trial and whether or not there were guards maintained.  I am not asking him anything about the conduct of that trial or any matter of that sort.
A. I could not say as to the necessity.  There were guards maintained.
Q. Were there any extra defensive supplies obtained for the jail during that time?
A. I have no personal knowledge about that.  All I know about that is what they told me.
Q. What they told you.  Did you see any extra ammunition or supplies at the jail?
A. I saw at various times during that period a large number of guns at the jail.
Q. What kind of guns?
A. I think they were Winchester rifles.
Q. During the trial of Johnson were guards maintained around the court-house?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Then after the trial and until Johnson was taken to Knoxville in the habeas corpus proceedings were guards maintained at the jail—extra guards?
A. Yes, sir; I think the jail was guarded every night.
Q. Was he taken to Knoxville in the habeas corpus proceedings?
A. He was in Knoxville some time before the habeas corpus proceedings.
Q. When was he brought back to Chattanooga?
A. On the Sunday morning following that hearing.
Q. On the Sunday morning?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Was that the 11th of March?
A. March 11th.
Q. March 11th.  Then during that intervening week—during the succeeding week state what precautions were taken at the jail in reference to guarding Johnson?  Those you know of your own knowledge.  Were you around the jail at nights?
A. Yes, sir.  There were guards some nights.  I was not there every night.  I don’t know whether there were guards every night.  There were guards some nights.
Q. How many nights were you there during that time?
A. I could not remember that, Mr. Sanford, the nights that I was there.  It was a very common thing for me to go every night, but there were some nights I did not go.
Q. Any nights you were there during that week what did you find the condition of the jail in reference to guards, either the regular deputies or the extra guards, as the case might be?
A. The regular deputies were on duty most of the time that week.
Q. How many of them world be there at night on duty?
A. I would usually find six or seven of them awake.  If there were others there it was just hearsay.
Q. But you would see usually six or seven yourself?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How late would they stay there, if you know?  How late would you see them there?
A. Well, I cannot remember the hours I would be around there at night.  The Johnson case itself had gotten to the point where I did not go to the jail and stay all night like I had earlier in the game.  I imagine midnight was as late as I saw them....
Q. Was that the general impression produced on you, that there was danger?
A. Well, I would say that there was some.
Q. Now, Mr. Chivington, coming to the night of this occurrence.  Did you visit the jail that night?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How did you happen to go there?
A. I heard that there was a mob at the jail.  It was my business to be there and I went.
Q. You went there as a reporter for the Times?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. In that capacity?
A. Yes, sir; I went without instructions.  I just went.
Q. What time did you go, Mr. Chivington?
A. I would put it somewhere between half past eight and nine o’clock.
Q. What did you find when you got there?
A. The first thing I saw was five or six persons standing at the front gate.  I also saw, as I    turned into the jail, that there was a number of people in the lobby of the jail. It would be hard to tell how many.  Twenty, I presume.  Maybe less.
Q. Did you see those people in the lobby before you got into the jail?
A. Yes, sir; I saw them.  I was looking for them and I saw them.
Q. They were plainly perceptible—plainly visible?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Was there a light in there?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you see Sheriff Shipp?
A. I met Sheriff Shipp, or rather, he passed in front of me as I got to the jail.
Q. Passed in front of you?
A. Passes right along in front of me.
Q. Did he speak to anybody going in?
A. Yes, sir; he spoke to some men that were standing at the front gate.
Q. At the front gate?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you know what was said?
A. No, sir; I do not know what he said.  I noticed that he spoke, but did not stop.
Q. He did not stop, he went right on it?
A. Yes sir.
Q. Was there any one  with him?
A. No, sir; not that I remember of.
Q. Any deputy sheriffs with him?
A. Not that I remember of.
Q. Any policemen with him?
A. No, sir.
Q. Had the alarm bell rung at the court-house?
A. No, sir; not that night.
Q. Did it ring at all that night?
A. No, sir.
Q. Is there a telephone in the Sheriff’s residence, and was there at that time?
A. Yes, sir; I think I can say certainly that there was a telephone there.
Q. Is there a telephone in the Sheriff’s residence, and was there at that time?
A. Yes, sir; I think I can say certainly that there was a telephone there.
Q. Is there a telephone, and was there a telephone communication at that time, communicating with the police department and the Sheriff’s office.  I mean were they both on the general system of telephones?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Is there a telephone in the police headquarters?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. There were not policemen with him?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did he go on in ahead of you?
A. Yes, sir; he went in ahead of me.
Q. Did he summon any posse as he went in?
A. Not that I heard.
Q. Did he summon you in any way?
A. No, sir; I don’t know that Sheriff Shipp saw me at all.
Q. You did not see him summon any posse?  He did not stop to summon these five of six men at the gate?
A. No, sir; he rushed in where he saw some people that were masked and he rushed towards them immediately.
Q. They were the men in the lobby?
A. No, sir; I don’t think there was but one masked man outside of the jail proper.  I don’t think that Sheriff Shipp saw him.  He was in the other room.  He had of one of those Winchester guns.
Q. What had become of the other Winchester guns, if you saw them?
A. Well, a few minutes later I went in to see what had become of them, as one of the details of the story, and I found the case containing the guns had been broken open and the guns had been taken out and the loads pulled and there were some of them put back in the case and some were standing against the wall.
Q. They were all empty?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Where had those Winchester guns been left, Mr. Chivington?  Where was that case?
A. That was in the chief deputy’s office.
Q. Was that in the part of the jail that is barred; in the inner part of the outer part?
A. The outer part.
Q. utside of the regular jail locks?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. In a glass case?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Now, what did Sheriff Shipp do when he went in?  Just state in your own words.
A. I heard Sheriff Shipp say to the fellows he saw at the foot of the stairway something like “what is going on here?” of something of that sort, in his ordinary tone of voice, which is a little bit gruff, and some man said back to him that they were there after that nigger, I think he said, and that they were not going to hurt him, and said it in a severe way.  At the same time I imagined I saw the Sheriff like he was going to draw a pistol, but before he could move any farther there were five or six fellows grabbed him and carried him bodily to the top of the stairs.
Q. Did he actually draw any pistol?
A. No, sir; I did not see it.
SANFORD: I desire to note an exception to the witness’ statement that he thought he was going to draw a pistol.
COMMISSIONER: Note the objection.
SANFORD: It is incompetent.
Q. Did any of those men who caught hold of him draw a pistol?
A. No, sir; I did not see but one pistol in the jail.
Q. Was that pistol in evidence at this time?
A. No, sir; one of the members of the mob exhibited it to me when I got upstairs and told me where he got it.
Q. That was later?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Was that man with the Winchester present?
A. No, sir; he was out in the chief deputy’s office, just east of the lobby.
Q. It was then the four of five men who, as far as you saw, had no arms and who took hold of the sheriff?
A. I did not see any arms drawn.
Q. I say as far as you saw?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You only saw one pistol there that whole night?
A. Inside the jail; yes sir.
Q. Inside of the jail. And one Winchester that one man had beside the empty Winchesters?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You went on inside then?
A. Yes, sir; I followed right up behind the Sheriff, up the stairway, and when we reached the top we found the crowd trying to open the door with a key.
Q. When the Sheriff was seized and taken hold of did he call on anybody as a posse to aid him?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you hear the Sheriff then call on anybody to aid him?
PITCHARD: Do you think he would call on a mob who were lynching a negro to help him?
SANFORD: Mr. Chivington was there.  We will leave that for argument.
A. He did call on me.  I think I was the only outsider.
Q. You went on upstairs, and I understand it?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What did you find up there?
A. I found about eleven or twelve men at work on the door—what they call the circle leading into the corridor where Johnson was supposed to be.
Q. Was that on the third floor?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Were there any of the deputies there that night, that you saw?
A. Yes, sir; there was Mr. Gibson.
Q. Were any of the deputies that had been there on the former night and repulsed the mob there on this night?
A. No, sir; I did not see them.
Q. Was Brown or Grauley or Galloway there?
A. None of those three were there while I was there.
Q. Were there any deputies on guard at the jail that night besides Mr. Gibson?
A. No, sir; I think not.
Q. Did any of the deputies put in an appearance at the jail that night during the presence of the mob and before Johnson was taken away?
A. Yes, sir; Frank Jones came up there.
Q. Frank Jones.  I will ask you about him later.  Don’t forget that.  Well, you might as well tell about Frank Jones now because I might forget it.
A. I had occasion to go back to the Times office, and as I went out I met Frank Jones coming up with a negro prisoner, and somebody at the front gate said something to him about he had better not go in there with that nigger, and when I met him I said, “Frank, where are you going with your nigger?” He said, “I arrested him down in South Chattanooga”; and he proceeded to give me the details as though I wanted it for an item for publication. I said, “there is a mob in there after Ed Johnson and they are liable to hang your nigger”.  He took a look inside of the jail and saw the crowd and he said, “Well, I will take my prisoner and go to the Police Station”, and I walked along near him until I got to the Times Building and he went on to the Police Station.
Q. I want to ask you a question, in fairness to Mr. Jones.  Did his conduct there indicate surprise at finding a mob there?
PITCHARD: I object to that.
SANFORD: All right.  The answer would have been in favor of Mr. Jones.
PITCHARD: I want to state the grounds of the objection.  I object on the ground that the record ought not to be encumbered with such statements?
SANFORD: Well, I will withdraw the question.  It was as a matter of justice to Mr. Jones that I asked the question.
Q. Now, proceed with the occurrences inside the jail.
A. The mob, when we arrived there, was trying to get in with a key.  The proceedings relative to that key I know not except by hearsay.
Q. Did any of the mob tell you then?
A. Yes, sir; they told me where they got the key.
Q. Where did they tell you they got it?
CLIFT: We object to that on the ground that it is what the mob told him, and unless some of these officers, the defendants, were present the conversation between him and some of the mob would not be evidence.
COMMISSIONER: Note the objection.
SANFORD: Now, proceed, please Mr. Chivington.
A. They told me that they took the key forcibly from Mr. Gibson.
Q. What aged man is Mr. Gibson?
A. I do not know. I do not like to speak of a man’s age.  They are sensitive about it when they get as old as Mr. Gibson.
Q. You think he is old enough to be a sensitive gentleman.  Is that your idea?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You need not say anything further then.  Is he a man of vigorous body who could, single handed, protect a prisoner from a mob?
A. No, sir; he could not protect a prisoner from a mob like that.
Q. Did you see Mr. Gibson there that night?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Where was he?
A.  He was inside of the –I think they call it the hospital cell.
Q. Now, Mr. Chivington, how was the mob trying to get through this circle door?  Just tell us what they were doing.
A. After I got there there was one lick hit on the lock with some kind of a hammer, and then they went to work and tried to open it with that key.  It was on a bunch of keys and they were trying one particular day, but it would not go in the key-hole.  They began to complain that Mr. Gibson had misinformed them as to the key, and seemed to get discouraged that they would ever get in with the key, and some fellow said something about dynamite, and some other fellow said something about a cold chisel, and they proceeded to get in with a cold chisel, which happened to be an ax this time.
Q. How did they use that ax?
A. One man would hold the ax and the other fellow would hit with a sledge on it.
Q. A sledge hammer?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Were these men masked?
A. Yes, sir; they were masked.
Q. In what way?
A. They had handkerchiefs of various color tied over their faces, the handkerchiefs catching across the nose and tied over the ears.
Q. Did any particular man seem to wield this sledge hammer any more that the others?
A. I saw one man that could hit very vigorous blows with that sledge hammer.
Q. Did you recognize him?
A. No, sir.
Q. Do you know who he was?
A. No, sir.
Q. Describe his appearance.
A. He was a big man.  That is about all I could say.  I don’t know how he looked like in the face.  He was a large heavy man.
Q. Did he wield the sledge hammer as one accustomed to wielding heavy implements.
A. Yes, sir; he hit the licks at arm’s length.
Q. In a skilful way?
A. Yes, sir; very accurately.
Q. How long did it take to break down these locks?
A. I think it took fully an hour to cut those steel bolts.
Q. Fully an hour?
A. Yes, sir; fully an hour.
Q. Where was Sheriff Shipp in the meantime?
A. When the Sheriff was first taken up he was forced into a little room---I think it was a bathroom, perhaps—at the head of the stairway, and afterwards the crowd relazed on the door and he came out,  but two and three and four men would stand around there and they him in captivity back in the corner while the thing went on.
Q. Did they have their hands on him?
A. No, sir; no pistols in sight.
Q. Did he make any effort to get away?
A. No, sir; he at various times tried to persuade the mob to leave, telling them that they must not get in there.
Q. Did he do anything besides persuasion?
A. No, sir.
Q. And soft words had no effect?
A. Soft words did not have any more effect, I imagine that one man’s force would have had.
Q. If he had that pistol in his hip pocket, did he draw that pistol on them---attempt that persuasive influence?
A. No, sir; I didn’t see him draw any pistol.
Q. Did you see him attempt to escape and to get out and call of help in any way?
A. No, sir.
Q. And it took about an hour?
A. I judge it took an hour to cut those bolts.  They worked there for some little time before they began that process.  I think it took just about an hour to cut the bolts.
Q. They finally broke the door?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you remember whether there were any chains of that circle door?  When the lock was broken did the door open, or were there any chains that had to be then broken?
A. I don’t know anything about any chains there.  I think the circle turned in the ordinary way.
Q. You do not know anything about any chains?
A. No, sir; I didn’t see not hear of any.
Q. What did they then do?
A. They opened the door.  The circle swung around and two men went in.
Q. Did they seem to know where to go?  What was said when that door was broken?
A. I think there was something said by either the Sheriff or Mr. Gibson protesting against any further destruction of the county property, telling them that if they were determined to get the nigger, he was the only prisoner on that floor and that he was in a certain cell, and that they must not be breaking up all the county property in order to find that nigger.
Q. And designating his cell?
A. Yes, sir; I think so.
Q. Can you remember which that was, Mr. Gibson of the Sheriff?
A. No, sir; I don’t remember which it was, but I think it was the Sheriff who said that.  He was protesting against the destruction of the property.
Q. And so they went to Johnson’s cell?
A. They went to Johnson’s cell.
Q. And got him?
A. That is, I presume they did.
Q. Was that locked?
A. I don’t know whether it was or not.  I was not inside.
Q. Did you follow them in?
A. No, sir.
Q. Who went in Johnson’s cell?  Who went in that way?
A. There were two men went in.  One of them was masked, and one of them was not a member of the mob at all.  One of them was not masked.
Q. A man who was there but not a member of the mob?
A. Not a member of the mob.
Q. Did he go in with them?
A. Yes, sir; he went inside.
Q. Who was that?
A. That was Dr. Sutton.
Q. Of this city?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. He went in with these masked men?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And then did they bring out Johnson?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. The masked men brought him out?
A. Yes, sir; the masked man had him tied around the arms with a rope.
Q. Do you know who tied him?
A. No, sir; I do not.
Q. Did he have hold of him by himself?
A. Yes, sir; he had him by the coat and by that rope when he came out through the door, and the whole crowd grabbed him.
Q. About what time was that, to your best judgement?
A. I would say that was ten or fifteen minutes after ten o’clock.
Q. Then what did they do?
A. They took the nigger and left the jail and went to the country bridge.
Q. Did you follow them?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What became of the sheriff?
A. I don’t know.  That is the last time I saw Captain Shipp that night.
Q. Where did you see him last?  Where was he?
A. I don’t know.  I got interested in watching them take that nigger away, and I don’t know where I did see him last.  The last time I saw him he was standing there on the upper platform about where the mob was first.
Q. You did not see him locked up again?
A. No, sir; if he was locked up again, I didn’t know it.
Q. When the mob left did the Sheriff then gather a posse and go after the mob to release the negro?
A. No, sir; not that I know of.  I never heard of it.
Q. Was there any interference made with the mob on their way to the place of the lynching?
A. No, sir.
Q. How far was it from the jail to the place where he was lynched?
A. About six blocks.
Q.How long did it take to go?
A. About ten minutes I expect.
Q. Now, Mr. Chivington, were there any by-standers around on the outside of the jail when you went out?
A. A few—very few.
Q. Did any of them follow along?
A. I think they all went, and others joined as they went along.
Q. Did you see any attempt made by the Sheriff to gather a posse from that following lot of by-standers to release the prisoner?
A. So far as I know the Sheriff was not near them.  I didn’t see him.
Q. He made no efforts, so far as you know?
A. I didn’t see him at all.
Q. When they got to the bridge, tell about the lynching.
A. On the way to the bridge they stopped twice.  I was walking all the time back of the crowd with Dr. Sutton and we would step up and hear what the nigger would say.  He talked two or three times, and part of the time the crowd went pretty fast.  When we reached the bridge they went about fifty or sixty feet past an arc light and came to a place that seemed to suit them, and they took the rope away from around the nigger’s body and tied one end of it around his neck and threw the other end up over the top beam.  Then some member of the mob told him that the thing was all over, and he might just as well tell the truth, because—
Q. I do not ask for his statements.  The question of his guilt or innocence is not a matter I am investigating.
A. They swung him up.  The first time it was unsuccessful and the second time it was successful.  That is, the second time he hung long enough to get shot while he was in the air.
Q. He was killed by shooting, was he, rather than be hanging?
A. I—
Q. You cannot tell?
A. I can’t tell.
Q. He was killed, anyhow?
A. Yes, sir; he was killed.
Q. Did you recognize then any of the mob at that place or on the way?
A. No members of the mob; no, sir.
Q. Can you describe the men.  Was there anything about the appearance of the men who had him in hand on their way out to the bridge so that they could be identified, to your recollection?
A. No, sir; I couldn’t identify a single man by anything I saw or heard.  I heard one member called by his first name by Ed. Johnson, but I didn’t even remember what that first name was.
Q. What did the man say?
A. He just remarked back to Ed.—he was surprised that he seemed to know him.  That is all.
Q. Do you remember what Ed. Johnson said to him?
A. He merely called him by his first name.
Q. Do you remember what that name was?
A. No, sir; I don’t remember the name.
Q. Do you remember the description of the man who had him and swung him up finally, what sort of a looking man he was, his size, the color of his hair, etc.?
A. No, sir; I don’t which man—I think they all took a hand in that swinging up.
Q. Did this big fellow keep on?  Was he active all the way through or not?
A. Yes, sir; I think he stayed right with them....
Q. Do you know how many were in jail at that time?
A. No, sir; I do not know the number that was in jail, but there is always a lot of prisoners in jail.
Q. Always a good many?
A. Very seldom less than fifty.
Q. Were there other negroes in jail at that time?
A. Yes, sir; usually four out of every five are negroes.
Q. Do you remember the names of the negroes that were in jail at that time?  Was this man Westfield in jail?
A. I don’t know whether he was here or not.  He was in jail some place.
Q. Do you remember any that were?
A. This negro Ed. Smith was in jail somewhere, but whether he was here or not I don’t know.  As far as the minor prisoners were concerned I don’t remember.
Q. Do you remember whether they were on the third floor the night or not.
A. I do not know.
Q. Did you see any of them on the third floor?
A. I did not see any prisoner on any floor that night.
Q. I will ask you this: When the telegram of the court’s order came on the afternoon of March 19th, the action of the Supreme Court, was anything done about it at the Times office in a public way?
A. Yes, sir; we posted a bulletin.
Q. You posted a bulletin.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. To the effect that the Supreme Court had entertained the appeal and had ordered a stay of execution.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Where was that posted?
A. That was posted at the usual place at the Georgia Avenue window of the counting room
on the first floor.
Q. Is that a prominent place in the city?
A. Yes, sir; it usually attracts quite a crowd.
Q. Do you remember how it was that afternoon?
A. No, sir; I wasn’t there.  I telephoned it from the court-house, and the bulletin was put up.

[Cross-examination by Mr. Pritchard:]

Q. How far is the Times office from the jail?
A. Two blocks nearly.
Q. And the posting of the bulletin, if it attracted any attention at all, did not attract your
attention or notice?
A. No sir; I did not see any crowd around the bulletin.
Q. You saw no crowd around the bulletin?
A. No, sir.

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