The Lynching of George Briscoe

George Briscoe was an African American resident of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Briscoe, described as approximately 40 years of age, was accused of a series of robberies in the Stoney Creek area and believed to be the sole perpetrator. Suspected in the robbery of $700 dollars from a Dr. Samuel Lynch, Briscoe was arrested in February of 1884. The case was postponed due to the absence of state witnesses, including Lynch, and Briscoe was held in jail. A week later Briscoe filed a writ of Habeas Corpus, which was refused by the presiding judge, and he was placed back in jail under $1,000 bail. Briscoe was eventually released as, “suspicion pointed to Briscoe, but nothing came of it”.

Briscoe was accused once more of stealing $20 from the home of George Schievenent of Anne Arundel County on November 18th, 1884. That same evening, around 2 am, Briscoe’s home was accosted by a “vigilance committee”, who demanded that he leave the county. Briscoe fought back, and in turn, a shotgun was fired into the side of his house by someone located in the mob. The next day, a warrant for his arrest was released by Justice Thomas Jacobs, and he was arrested on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 26th, 1884. During his preliminary hearing that evening, Briscoe responded to his accusers openly asking, “What right they had committing him to jail?”, an act which garnered anger from all those who were present, inciting mumblings of lynching him on the spot. The judge himself quoted, “The man was full of bravado at times.”

Briscoe was taken under the charge of Constable Grafton Boone and Deputy Tip Wells to be transported to Annapolis for his trial on November 27th, 1884. Just after crossing the Magothy River Bridge, more than 20 masked men holding weapons surrounded their vehicle and demanded that both men leave Briscoe to them. As they were fleeing the scene, Boone heard one of the men say, “You’re an innocent looking son of a gun ain’t you?” to which Briscoe replied, “I don’t know whether I am or not.” George Briscoe was taken and hung in the branches of a nearby tree, just 15 miles south of Annapolis. He remained there for 18 hours, until finally his body was taken down, and buried in a crudely made coffin at the foot of the same tree. Not one of his masked attackers were ever brought to justice.