Mt. Vernon historical marker honors lynching victims 144 years later

Mt. Vernon historical marker honors lynching victims 144 years later
Published: Oct. 23, 2022 at 11:56 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 24, 2022 at 12:20 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MT. VERNON, Ind. (WFIE) - A new historical marker and bench were dedicated outside the Posey County Courthouse on Sunday to commemorate seven African-American men who were killed 144 years ago.

In October 1878, an unthinkable crime occurred when seven Posey County men were killed: Daniel Harrison Sr., his sons John and Daniel Jr., Jim Good, William Chambers, Ed Warner and Jeff Hopkins.

While these men were accused of various crimes, they never received a proper court trial, and no one responsible for their deaths ever faced prosecution.

“I’d lived here all my life, and didn’t know something so atrocious happened,” said Sophie Kloppenburg, a senior at Mount Vernon High School who coordinated Sunday’s project. “I really thought that if I didn’t know about it, other people didn’t know about it and I really wanted to make sure that these men weren’t forgotten.”

Kloppenburg learned of the incidents during a simple driving test, and has helped bring it all to light.

My driving instructor Dr. Tom Gugenheim told me about the events that happened, and I read the book ‘Judge Lynch!’ and the rest is history,” Kloppenburg said.

The story goes that three White women alleged that they were raped by several Black men. Chambers, Warner, Good and Hopkins were all taken to jail, and as word spread around town, an unruly mob formed that went to the jail to get them and lynched them on a tree outside the Posey County Courthouse. Daniel Harrison Sr. was later killed by the mob, and his two sons were also murdered.

“It’s frustrating and horrible and sad and I don’t even know how to describe it,” Kloppenburg said. “It was common at that time at least for people to bypass the laws and especially white men, to take it upon themselves to administer the law to black communities because they felt like they had power over them.”

“We’re honored to be here today to talk about our past, the wrongs, and today we are committed to making sure that never happens again,” said Rev. Gerald Arnold, president of the NAACP Evansville Branch. “And then we move forward in brotherly love.”

Out of this tragedy though is some good news. After learning of this story, Kloppenburg pushed for two historical markers to remember the seven men who were killed. They were unveiled Sunday in a ceremony beside the courthouse.

“I’m happy everyone’s here because this is everyone’s history – Black and White and everything in between,” Kloppenburg said. “This isn’t just Black people’s history or White people’s history – it’s Posey County’s history.”

The process of getting the markers wasn’t easy as Kloppenburg met with the Posey County Commissioners three separate times, informing them of the history and determining the proper wording for the marker.