The Gruesome Lynching of William Andrews

Biographical information about William Andrews is limited. However, it is known that he was an African American laborer who was reportedly seventeen years old when he pleaded guilty to the charge of assault of Mrs. Benjamin T. Kelly. The assault had taken place in the afternoon of May 5th,1897, in Marion, Somerset County. Initially Andrews was transported to a jail in Baltimore City. He was taken to this specific jail to avoid any attacks prior to the court date. However, for his trial Andrews was brought back to Somerset County.

The trial took place June 9th,1897, on Main Street in Princess Anne, Somerset County. Andrews was present when Kelly gave her “tearful” testimony. After the testimony, Andrews pleaded guilty. Judge Henry Page declared Andrews guilty and ordered that Andrews, with the request of the state, be executed by hanging. The crowd cheered at the Judge’s verdict, and it was mentioned that local police saw a large number of people begin to gather in the back of the courthouse. Judge Page grew fearful of their intentions and in attempt to prevent violence towards Andrews, decided to address the “infuriated” mob.

Judge Page attempted to reason with the mob, explaining that Andrews faced a speedy trial, and that the verdict was “satisfactory.” He also told them “It was their duty to respect the law” and urged them to return to their homes as “law abiding citizens of Somerset County.” The mob screamed in retaliation that they would disperse if the judge promised not to return William to the jail in Baltimore city but keep him in jail in Somerset on Church Street. Once the Judge promised and gave the signal, Sheriff Nelson along with his deputies, handcuffed Andrews and took him outside of the courthouse.

However, upon entering the courtyard, the officers were met by the mob. Immediately the mob attacked the officers. Despite the attack, the officers still attempted to get Andrews to the Main Street jail. However, the mob ripped him away from the sheriff. Andrews was handcuffed, but he was punched, kicked, beaten with clubs and bats, and even cut with razors until he was on the brink of death. Once the mob believed that Andrews was dead, they began to disperse. However, when the sheriff confirmed that Andrews was alive, the mob dragged Andrews to a nearby walnut tree and hanged him until his death was confirmed. Later that same day, his body was brought down by unspecified people and placed in a plain coffin. He was buried in the Almshouse burial grounds.

Quickly a jury of inquest was formed, and it took an hour for them to declare that William Andrews was strangled by a mob of unknown strangers not belonging to Somerset County.