Testimony of Jeremiah Gibson

[Examination of Jeremiah Gibson, night jailer and a defendant in the trial, by his attorney, Robert Cooke.]

COOKE: What floor of the jail was Ed. Johnson confined on?
GIBSON: On the fourth floor, counting from the bottom.
Q. Who was confined on the floor with him, if anybody?
A. There was not anybody on that floor with him, I don’t think.  There was a woman--
Q. Are there any other cells outside of the prison cells on each floor?
A. There was just two parties up there; a woman prisoner was there; a woman prisoner was in what we call the hospital cell and Ed Johnson was in the main hall cell.
Q. How  many of those hospital cells are there on that floor?
A. Two.
Q. Are they opposite each other?
A. Yes; they are opposite.
Q. And outside of the circle; you do not have to go through the circle which you have described to get into the hospital cells, do you?
A. No. That is just one door.
Q. What was that woman prisoner’s name?
A. I think it is – it seems to me her name was Baker.
Q. What was she confined for?
A. Why, for selling whiskey.
Q. Was she a Federal prisoner?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Was she the same woman who testified in this case or do you know?
A. Yes, she testified here.
Q. You say she was in a hospital cell on the same floor Ed. Johnson was on?
A. Yes.
Q. What was the other hospital cell being used for at that time?  Was it empty or was there anybody in it?
A. The door was standing open to that.
Q. State whether or not Ellen Baker was locked up in her cell.
A. Yes, she was.
Q. Mr. Gibson, what time did you get to the jail that evening of the lynching?
A. I don’t know the exact time.  I was a little late.  I think may be it was 6:15 or 6:20.
Q. You were a little late?
A. Yes.
Q. What time were you due there?
A. I was due there at 6 o’clock.
Q. How do you happen to know that you were a little late?
A. Well, I know that by – I drove fast to get there.  I knew I was late and that Mr. Brown was waiting to hand me the keys.
Q. He handed you the keys over the fence?
A. Yes.
Q. How long did your boy Houston, stay there at the jail with you that evening, Mr. Gibson?
A. Why, he stayed there I think until about 8.25 or 8.30—something between 8 and 9 o’clock.
Q. What became of him then?
A. He went to the opera house.
Q. Who was there with you then?
A. No one at all, when he left.
Q. Was there anybody there with you at all that evening?
A. No; I don’t recollect of a single person being there.
Q. Do you know Joe Franklin, the colored constable who testified in this case?
A. Yes.
Q. Did he bring a prisoner there at 7 o’clock that evening?
A. He did not.
Q. Did he bring a prisoner there that night at all?
A. No.
Q. Did you see Joe Franklin at the jail that night?
A. I did not.
Q. Were there any deputies there having a supper, and drinking beer?
A. Not that I—I know there was not, but I never seen anybody.
Q. You never saw anybody?
A. No, sir.
Q. State whether or not you would have seen the deputy sheriffs if they had been there that evening?
Mr. Sanford: I object to that as incompetent.
Mr. Clift: Go on and answer.
Gibson: Yes, I would have seen it.
Cooke: Where were you when this mob came?
A. I was upstairs, opposite that Baker woman’s cell.
Q. You were upstairs; that is, the fourth floor?
A. Yes.
Q. Was the front door open?
A. Her door?
Q. No; the front door of the jail?
A. No.
Q. What was the situation of that first iron door that you have to go through to get into the jail, as to whether or not it was locked?
A. It was locked.
Q. Who had locked it?
A. I locked it.  I always locked it when I went in.
Q. You locked yourself in?
A. Yes.
Q. And then you had gone upstairs?
A. Yes.
Q. What did you go upstairs for?
A. She was wanting something—I think it was water or medicine or something that way, and I had to give it to her.  There was no water in her cell, and I had to draw it in the bathroom and hand it in to her....
Q. So you had gone up there.  What was your first knowledge of the mob?
A. The first thing I heard, I heard a lot of men come, making a big noise, and I heard one of them say, “We are going to have that damn nigger.”
Q. What did you do then?
A. Well, I then stepped over into this hospital cell where there was not anybody staying, and sat down on a lounge.
Q. What was your object in going in there?
A. I knew if I went down stairs they would kill me or take the keys, and I thought I would better protect the jail by staying inside and keeping the keys.
Q. You say you heard one man say, “We are going to have that nigger”?
A. Yes.
Q. What other noises did you hear, if any?
A. Then the next thing, just in an instant, they commenced hammering the door.
Q. They commenced hammering the door?
A. Yes.
Q. State whether or not they broke down that door?
A. Yes, they broke it in.
Q. What did they do when they broke down the door?
A. When they broke down the door they came rushing up the steps, a crowd of them;  I don’t know many, because I was sitting back in the room;  and they commenced pounding on the door that led in to Ed. Johnson’s cell.
Q. They had not discovered you at that time. Had they?
A. No.
Q. Go on and tell about it.
A. Then I suppose in a very few minutes they was calling for the jailer, to know what had went with the jailer, where he was at.  They wanted the keys, and they came in this room where I was sitting on the bed, and then they stayed with me.  That is, they first got the keys.
Q. How did they get the keys?  What did they do?  What did they say when they came in there?
A. They wanted to know what I was hiding for.  They said I was trying to protect the nigger.
Q. Did they treat you gently; did they handle you with kid gloves, or how did they handle you?  Tell about it.
A. They pulled me around considerably.
Q. How long was it before they got the keys away from you?
A. Oh, I suppose they got them in probably five or ten minutes.  They just run their hands into my pockets.
Q. They took the keys from you by force, did they?
A. Yes.
Q. Did they disarm you?  State whether or not you were armed.
A. Yes, I had a pistol.
Q. What happened to your pistol?
A. They had everything I had in my pockets, I think, then.
Q. They surrounded you and disarmed you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What happened then?  What did they do with you?
A. Then they had a group of three men that stayed with me.  They stayed in that cell, or in that room, and they stood guard with me and kept me that way until the jail was broke open and Ed. Johnson was taken.
Q. Were they armed?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What did they have?
A. Pistols.
Q. Did any of them have rifles?
A. I don’t recollect seeing a rifle up there.
Q. You say three of them stayed in there with you?
A. Yes.
Q. Did they take you down stairs after awhile?
A. Yes, they just taken me anywhere they wanted me to go.
Q. Where did they take you?
A. They took me downstairs.  They took me over, first, and they said I could unlock that lock.
Q. Tell us about it.
A. I said “I can’t do it.  You have done broke this lock, and I couldn’t unlock it if you were going to kill me in a minute.  I couldn’t unlock this lock.”  I tried to explain it to them that way, and they taken the keys and tried it theirselves.
Q. Did they unlock it?
A. No.
Q. They had mashed the lock before they took the keys away from you, had they?
A. That is the way.
Q. And the key would not unlock the lock when they had gotten it from you?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you know any of those men that handled you that night?
A. No, sir; I did not.  They seemed to be—they were strangers to me, and the same men stayed with me.  Sometimes they would not let me go anywhere at all, unless they went, you know.
Q. Did they say anything to you much?  Did they talk to you?
A. Well, they talked to me about not unlocking the door, and said I could do it.  They said I was lying and said they wasn’t the keys.  They said I knowed they wasn’t the keys.  They said, “There is another set of keys there somewhere.”
Q. Was there any other set of keys?
A. There was not.
Q. They accused you of giving them the wrong keys?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Now, Jerry, about what time did they bring you down stairs, if you know?  How long was it after they came in?
A. I would suppose may be a quarter or half after 9 they brought me down stairs.
Q. Did they keep guard over you all the time?
A. All the time.
Q. Did you see any reporter come in and try to go to the telephone?
A.  No, I don't recollect noticing him.
Q. I will ask you to state whether or not you were much excited.
A. I was.
Q. And frightened?
A. Yes, I was frightened.
Q. Had they threatened you with violence?
A.  They said if I didn't produce them keys and open that door that they would? I think they threatened to shoot me.
Q. You think they threatened to shoot you?
A.  Yes.
Q. State whether or not you ever did produce the keys until they took them from you?
A. Never. I kept the keys secured in one place.
Q. State whether or not you were able to get any where to give an alarm?
A. No, sir.  I will explain how that was.  I could, if they hadn't kept guard over me. I could have went down to the office, but they guarded me.
Q. They would not let you go?
A. No, Sir.
Q. You say that Ellen Baker was locked in her cell?
A. Yes.
Q. Did she ever come down stairs that night at all, after you got there?
A. No, Sir.
Q. She was locked in her cell when you got there?
A. She was.
Q. You found her locked in her cell?
A. Yes.
Q. And she remained locked in her cell?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you make any such remark to her as to tell her to go back upstairs, that there was going to be a mob come there?
A. No; she was not down stairs.
Q. Did you talk to her, anything about any mob, and tell her anything about any mob?
A. I was standing just right opposite her cell.  I think I had just locked the door after putting water in, and I might have said, and probably did say right then and there, “I believe that is a mob.”
 Q. Oh, that was when they hit the door?
 A. Yes; never before that.
Q. Did she talk to you, anything about a man who had been put in jail there for murder, and who had formerly been in the other hospital cell, about getting in to write letters for her?
A. I had no conversation with her that night, just only what I was doing when I handed the water; but I didn't' to say have a conversation with her.
Q. You say, when you heard them hit the door, you may have said "That is a mob”?
A. Yes; I think probably I did. Anybody could tell it was a mob that heard them strike the door and come in. That was just as they struck the door.
Q. And you heard a man say, “We are going to get that damn nigger?"
Mr. Sanford: I object to leading questions....
Mr. Cooke: I am not leading him, because he stated that.

Cross-examination of Jeremiah Gibson by Assistant Attorney General Sanford.

Q. What time of night did you get there?
A. I think I got to the jail about 6:15 or 6:20.
Q. Are you not a rather feeble man? Do you call yourself am able-bodied man?
A. Yes, I call myself an able-bodied man.
Q. You do?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You do not consider yourself feeble?
A. No, sir; I do not.
Q. You got there about what time?
A. I think about 6:15 or 6:20. I am not just positive as to the minute, but it was after 6 o'clock.
Q. Did you not have a conversation with Captain Brown when you got there?
A. No, sir.
Q. You did not?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you not have a conversation with Captain Brown before he left that night?
Q. No, I did not.  He went right on to the car when he handed me the keys.
Q. Did not Captain Brown state to you that they were expecting a mob that night?
A. He did not.
Q. He did not?
A. No, sir.
Q. Have you not stated that Captain Brown stated to you that he was expecting a mob that night?
A. No, I think I know what I stated about that. Do you want me to repeat it?
Q. No, I ask if you stated that fact? Have you stated that?
A.  No.
Q. You got there about half-past 6 and you were upstairs, you say, when you heard the noise downstairs?
A. Yes.
Q. How long had there been in between those times?
A. You mean--
Q. I mean between the time you got there and the time you first heard this noise downstairs.
A. I think the mob came--do you want me to answer it that way?
Q. That is what I asked you.
A. I think they came about 8.30, or about 9 o'clock.
Q. How long after you first got there?
A. Well, two hours or over.
Q. How do you fix the time when they first got there?
A. I fix the time by knowing that I go around and turn the lights out at 9 o’clock, and they came when I was inside the jail.  I had not turned the lights out.
Q. They came before you turned the lights out?
A. Yes, air.
Q. And you were up on the fourth floor?
A.  Yes, sir.
Q. On Ed. Johnson's floor?
A.  Yes, sir.
Q. And you were inside of the jail part of the jail as separated from the office?
A.  Yes, Sir….
Q. You knew when you heard that noise down stairs that they had come for Ed Johnson, did you not?
A.  I thought so.
Q. You did not have any doubt about it?
A. They said so, and I thought they meant it.
Q. You did not make any effort to get out that back door and go and arouse the neighborhood, did you?
A  I didn't go downstairs. I would have had to pass the door where they was at.
Q. You had a pistol?
A. Yes.
Q. And you made no effort to get out, and to go out the back way at all?
A. No.
Q. How long did they hammer there, at what I call the front door?  I mean by that the door between the jail and the office.  How long did they hammer there before they got in?
A. A very short time.
Q. What do you mean by a very short time?
A.  I would say not ten minutes.
Q. What were you doing all that time?
A. I was upstairs, looking for relief, someway.
Q. How did you expect relief? Did you give a warning to anybody?
A. I couldn't get to them to give a warning.
Q. Did you make any effort to get out?
A. No, sir.
Q. You just stayed upstairs?
A. I would have had to pass the mob to went down and get to this door.
Q. You did not want to pass the mob? You were an able bodied man and had a pistol, and it was your sworn duty to protect those prisoners?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. That is what you were there for?
A. Yes.
Q. And you had a passageway out back where you could get out and give a warning?
A. The mob would have killed me if I passed there, in my estimation.
Q. You mean that you got scared and did not try it?
A. I didn’t go back down there.
Q. You did not take any chances.  You just stayed upstairs?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you get in bed?
A.  No, sir.
Q. You did not go to bed?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you take your pistol out? Did you pull your pistol? Did you go down there and try to pull your pistol on them, or do anything?
A. I didn't go down there.
Q. Did you pull your pistol?
A. No.
Q. Or make any effort to get out?
A. No.
Q. You just stayed there and waited?
A. Yes.
Q. In your sworn capacity to defend that prisoner, that is what you did?
A. Yes.
Q. It took them about ten minutes to get up to where you were.  Did you do anything then, to try to stop that mob?  Did you pull your pistol, and threaten anybody with it?
A. Three men came and grabbed me and took the keys, and all I had, out of my pockets.
Q. You said a little while ago that it took ten minutes, or five minutes, for them to get your keys.  What were you doing?  Were you fighting?  Were you using your strength?  Did you pull your pistol?
A. No.
Q. You did not do a thing, did you;  you just gave up?
(A pause). You just gave up?
A. I just stayed right there until they came and captured me.
Q. You just gave up; that is so, is it not?
A. Yes, Sir.
Q. And you let them have your keys?
A. Yes
Q. And you an able-bodied man?
A. Yes.
Q. You let them have your pistol. You did not hurt anybody?
A. No, Sir.
Q. You did not make a scratch on any living man that came there?
A. I don't think I did.
Q. How long were they there after you let them have what you did, the keys, the pistol? How long were they there?
A. I suppose they wore there an hour.
Q. Who were those three men that had you?
A. I didn't know them…

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