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December 21, 2015 / Joanne Yeck

The Buckingham Outlaws: PART IX


Jeff Johnson (colored)

The outlaws, via their “anonymous” letters, had threatened the lynching of all citizens of Arvonia – White and Black.

African-American Jeff Johnson admitted he was frightened but came forward to help the posse. The Times-Dispatch identified Johnson as colored and quoted him saying, “I am scared to speak [?] among my own color. I ain’t afraid to talk to you, gentlemen; but they will shoot me on sight if they knew I was talking to you to-night, and I am willing to lead you to their headquarters.”

According to The Times-Dispatch, Johnson was accompanied by another African American, Robert Banks. Both men were armed with shotguns. Johnson was a known victim of the outlaws’ violence. His tobacco fields had been destroyed, his barn and stable burned, and other property damaged.

In 1900, Jeff Johnson (b. March 1857) was enumerated in Slate River District, living with his wife, Josephine, and their granddaughter, Hannah. Jeff and Josephine had been married for twenty-five years. They owned their farm; however, neither could read or write. Why had the outlaws previously singled out Jeff Johnson for violent attacks? Whatever their motives, he certainly was at a higher risk than other men to once again become a target.

In 1900, Robert Banks (b. February 1847) was enumerated in Marshall District, where he lived with his wife of twenty-seven years. A day laborer, he, too, owned his place and was illiterate. Responsible for a wife, six children, and two grandchildren, what made Robert Banks willing to risk his life to fight against the Zimmerman-Thomas Gang?

Coming Next: The Black Hand Gang

Need to catch up? Click here: The Buckingham Outlaws: Part I

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