The Lynching of William Burns

On October 3, 1907, 22-year-old William Burns and Jesse Page were drinking at multiple bars in the Canal Wharf area of Cumberland Maryland. While at Kate Preston’s bar, William Burns became disorderly and was told to leave the bar. Police Officer August Baker responded to the area and attempted to arrest William Burns. There was a struggle between Officer Baker and William Burns, during their struggle, William Burns allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Officer August Baker in the abdomen. William Burns was arrested and taken to the Cumberland jail.

Officer August Baker died from his gunshot wound on Saturday, October 5, 1907. After news of the officer’s death spread, threats against Mr. Burns’ life soon followed. Although there were reports of threats against the life of William Burns, Deputy Sherriff Adam Hendley was the only officer at the jail. In the early morning hours of October 6, 1907, a group of men demanded the keys from the Sherriff, when the crowd of men was unable to secure the keys, they used a telegraph pole to break into the jail. Once inside the jail, the telegraph pole was used again by the mob to break into the cell of William Burns. Mr. Burns was dragged by his feet down the stairs and into the street, where he was beaten and shot to death.

During the lynching, Rev. William Cleveland Hicks, of the Emanuel Episcopal Church pleaded with the mob to stop the lynching. Rev. William Cleveland Hicks referred to the lynching as a “dastardly crime”. Chief Judge Andrew Hunter Boyd of the Circuit court of Allegany County was on the scene and asked the mob to disperse. Although there were witnesses who pleaded with the mob to spare William Burns. No one was ever charged with the murder of William Burns.


Cumberland, Allegany County, MD.