Marshall McGrady

January 5, 1899 – Josie, Pike County, Alabama

During the winter of 1898-1899, the Josie community of Pike County, Alabama was rocked by a series of violent events.  In late December, 1898, robbers bludgeoned an elderly white woman and her daughter-in-law to death with an axe in their own home before setting their house on fire.  Suspicion soon fell on a local black man who, along with two white men, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to hang in March 1899.  Just days after the so-called Myers murder, however, as the trial of those suspects commenced in early January 1899, the barn and crops of a prominent local man, Justice Nathan Cader Green, burned to the ground.  Again, suspicion fell on another local black man, Marshall McGrady, who had worked for Green.  This time, however, the accused did not get a trial; a mob hanged him for the alleged arson the next day, not far from Green’s land.  Reports indicate that his body was left hanging at a crossroads near a church for the crowds of people heading to town for the Myers murder trial to view.  Days later, Daniel Green, a brother of Cader Green, committed suicide while on his way to court to attend the investigation into McGrady’s death.

This series of events likely influenced each other.  A community already horrified and distraught over the brutal murder of elderly women, and blaming a black man for the crime, was already primed for racial violence. These circumstances made the community more likely to turn to extralegal violence when faced with another crime allegedly by a black man, explaining the quick resort to lynching than legal justice. 

The victim’s family history, however, could have possibly played a role in Marshall McGrady’s lynching as well.  One article mistakenly, but perhaps tellingly, referred to Marshall McGrady as “Tobe McGrady, a son of old Tobe McGrady.”  Everyone in the area at the time would have remembered the lynching of a man who did go by the name of Tobe McGrady just over three years earlier and only a few miles away.  Available records cannot definitively link these two men, Tobe McGrady and Marshall McGrady, into the same family, but another article described Marshall as a “negro who had been laboring under a bad character made by his own deeds and those of his father and brother.” Possibly, the accusations that led to Tobe McGrady’s lynching in 1895 contributed to this “bad” family reputation that later haunted Marshall McGrady.  Whether tied by family connection or coincidence, the two McGradys did share connections of community, geography, and time period, clearly highlighting the deep impact racial violence had on communities during and long after Jim Crow.

“Short Locals,” Troy Messenger, 4 Jan 1899, p. 5.

“Negro Lynched,” Montgomery Advertiser, 6 Jan 1899, p. 3.

“Barn and Outhouses Burned- Report that a Negro was Hanged,” Montgomery Weekly Advertiser, 6 Jan 1899, p. 7.

“Negro Lynched,” Montgomery Advertiser, 6 Jan 1899, p. 3.

“Swung to a Limb,” Citizens’ Journal (Troy, AL), 7 Jan 1899, p. 3.

“Crime Crazed Him,” Fort Wayne News (IN), 9 Jan 1899, p. 1.

“A Lynching,” Union Springs Herald (AL), 11 Jan 1899, p. 1.

“Negro Swung up to a Limb,” Troy Messenger, 11 Jan 1899, p. 3.

“Daniel Green Suicides,” Troy Messenger, 11 Jan 1899, p. 5.

“Josie Beat, in Pike County, Alabama, the Scene of Several Tragedies,” Tuskaloosa Gazette (Tuscaloosa, AL), 12 Jan 1899, p. 1.

“City and County Locals,” Citizens’ Journal (Troy, AL), 28 Jan 1899, p. 3.

The Heritage of Pike County, Alabama. Heritage Publishing Consultants (2001).

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