Public memorial to be held for 3 Black men lynched by white Lawrence mob in 1882

photo by: Watkins Museum of History

The old bridge across the Kansas River near downtown Lawrence is pictured in 1866. The bridge was used to lynch three black men in 1882.

A public memorial will take place Thursday for the three Black men who were lynched by a white mob on June 10 nearly 140 years ago.

The memorial will be at 7 p.m. Thursday in the area of the potter’s field at Oak Hill Cemetery where the three men were buried, which is in the northeast part of the cemetery. KT Walsh, who is helping to organize the community event, said in a message to the newspaper that the memorial would include prayer and reflection and that everyone is welcome to attend.

The community memorial service will be 139 years to the day after the mob broke into the jail and lynched the three men, Pete Vinegar, Isaac King and George Robertson. Apart from Thursday’s event, the Lawrence chapter of the NAACP has been working since 2019 with the Equal Justice Initiative, which created a national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Ala., to erect a historical marker at the site of the lynching, as the Journal-World has reported.

As part of its reporting on the NAACP project, the Journal-World previously reviewed newspaper archives, letters from the time and other historical documents related to the lynching. According to those archives, in the summer of 1882, the body of David Bausman, who was white, was pulled from the Kansas River. Vinegar, King and Robertson were arrested in connection with the murder, as was Vinegar’s teenage daughter Margaret “Sis” Vinegar. Pete Vinegar was never charged with a crime. Before a trial could take place, Vinegar, King and Robertson were lynched from a bridge over the Kansas River by a mob of men who broke into the jail in the middle of the night using sledgehammers and chisels.

According to accounts from the time, Bausman, who was in his mid-40s, had been having sex with Margaret, who was only about 14 — statutory rape under current Kansas law — when King and Robertson came upon the scene and allegedly killed him. Pete Vinegar was not present. Margaret was accused of conspiring with the other two men to rob Bausman, though her attorney argued there was no evidence whatsoever for that accusation. Though Margaret was not hanged, she was convicted of murder and later died from tuberculosis in prison.


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