The Anderson Intelligencer. (Anderson Court House, S.C.) 1860-1914, December 19, 1894, Page 1, Image 1
Murder and Lynching
Two Horrible Tragedies at Williamston, Special to Greenville News.
Williamston, S.C., Dec. 12– One of the most brutal murders ever committed in this State was the butchering of Gus Cromer, a step-son of Augustus Williams, of Williamston, last Monday afternoon by Ed Sullivan, a Negro boy about 15 years of age. Last Monday morning Mr. Williams and his step-son, aged 12 years, went to Pelzer. Williams remained there, where he worked, but started his son back to Williamston with a new axe, three yards of jeans cloth and a basket, not knowing that the boy had not returned home until yesterday afternoon when Williams came home himself. His wife informed him that Gus had never yet returned. Then the alarm was given and an immediate search was made but without effect until this morning when right inside the corporate limits of our generally quiet town the body of poor little Gus was found with his head and face split to pieces, showing the force the blows with the edge of a sharp axe had been driven. Either of the wounds would have produced death instantly. After finding the body a large crowd gathered. A jury was empaneled, and search was at once made for the demon who committed the foul deed. It was soon ascertain? ed that when last seen Gus Williams was near where he was killed, going in company with a Negro boy, who proved to be Ed Sullivan, in the direction of a piece of woods. A party suspecting Ed Sullivan of being the murderer, went at once to his mother’s house and there found the cloth Gus Williams had started from Pelzer with. They then arrested Ed Sullivan, who confessed the deed.
Later–9.30 p.m.–The constables have started for Anderson jail with the prisoner and are being pursued by five hundred armed and infuriated men who say they will lynch Sullivan or die.
Later–11.45 p.m.–Mayor G. W. Sullivan and other citizens of Williamston have been at work faithfully trying to protect the life of Ed Sullivan, the murderer, and allow the law to take its course and to this end they started the prisoner with two officers in a buggy toward Anderson, but after driving about five miles in that direction they were overtaken by a large crowd of armed men. Sullivan was taken from them by violence and brought back to Williamston, and just outside the incorporation his body was swung to a limb of a hickory tree and then riddled with bullets. This act will be greatly deplored by most of our citizens. The party consisted of about five hundred grown men.
Governor Evans hearing of the trouble telegraphed A. M. Guyton’s military company to come at once, but the telegram was not received until 12 o’clock to-night, one hour after the lynching.
Trial Justice Roberts, who held the inquest over Cromer’s body and who had official charge of the prisoner, evidently did all in his power to prevent the lynching. It was impossible for him to communicate with Anderson but he telegraphed the facts to Governor Evans.
A. B. Williams, of the Greenville News, learning the facts by telegraph from Williamston and by telephone from Pelzer, sent an urgent message to the Governor stating the facts at more length and adding that plenty of help could be secured in Greenville to prevent the lynching of the boy.
The Governor acted promptly. Just before midnight he telegraphed Capt. W. P. Conyers, of the Greenville Guards, as follows:
“Order out your company and proceed at once to Williamston. Protect the prisoner threatened to be lynched. You have full power to use every means necessary to prevent the lynching.”–John Gary Evans, Governor.
At 12.30 a. m., just thirty-five minutes after the receipt of this message in Greenville, the Greenville Guards were at their armory in uniform and under arms ready to move.
Considering that the men were all at their homes, scattered in different parts of the city, and in bed, the promptness with which they reported was astonishing.
Meanwhile, the lynching had taken place and when Captain Conyers reported to the Governor that the Guards were under arms and awaiting orders he received an answer to the effect that there was no need for his services and that he might dismiss his men.
Later last night the following came from Pelzer by telephone and was sent to Columbia on the loop in the Greenville News office:
“Pelzer, S.C., December 13. Governor John Gary Evans Columbia, S.C.: The party lynched is probably only an accessory in the murder. I expect to arrest the principal tonight. Will need protection at inquest in morning. The train leaves Greenville at 10:15 a.m. If you decide to send Greenville Guards they will need notice tonight.–L. B. Roberts, T. J.”
About 2 o’clock this morning the following was received here from Columbia:
“Columbia, S.C. December 12. Capt. W. P. Conyers, Greenville. S.C.: Proceed to Williamston with your company on the 10:15 train Thursday morning and report to L.B. Roberts, trial justice there, at inquest and protect any person arrested.–John Gary Evans, Governor.”
Unless orders are received to the contrary the Greenville Guards will, therefore, leave here this morning for Williamston and will act under the orders of Trial Justice Roberts to prevent further lynching.
The latest report from Pelzer last night was that the man to be arrested was supposed to be the principal in the crime–the actual murderer–the boy who was lynched being only an accessory after the fact. In killing this boy the mob destroyed the best evidence there was against the man who slew Gus Cromer.