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Lynchings on Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore: Henry Taylor and Arthur Courtney, 1893


Henry Taylor and Arthur Courtney (d. 1893)
Executed on December 15, 1893 in Princess Anne, Maryland.

Henry Taylor and Arthur Courtney were executed in Somerset County on December 15, 1893 in Princess Anne, Maryland. The two were convicted of the murder of the captain of the schooner on which they were employed. Taylor was nineteen years old, while Courtney was twenty four. Both hailed from Lancaster County, VA. 

On June 15, 1893, the body of Captain Frank Cooper was discovered floating off the shores of Deal Island, Somerset County. Cooper's body had been stripped of clothing and had suffered a series of head wounds. Cooper was captain of the schooner James V. Daigher, which had stopped at Deal Island after a delivery in Oxford, Talbot County. After identifying the body, the local authorities boarded the boat to find the crew absent, as well as blood-soaked decks and a bloody axe. Efforts had clearly been made by the murderers to clean up the blood with a broom. Evidence suggested that Cooper had been murdered days prior on June 11, as a bloody mattress had been earlier discovered floating in the water but disregarded. After further investigation, it was discovered two of the crewmen had conversed with a shopkeeper in town complaining of a lack of pay from Cooper, and booked passage to Virginia. Virginia authorities were notified to arrest the two suspects, being Henry Taylor and Arthur Courtney.

Taylor and Courtney were apprehended in their native Lancaster County, VA on June 16. The two were discovered to be in the possession of several of Cooper's belongings. On June 19, Sheriff Tull of Somerset County traveled to collect the prisoners, and was followed by a mob as he returned with the two in his custody. While boarding the boat he would take to transport the prisoners to Somerset County, Tull was overtaken by the mob, who had boarded the ship with the intention of lynching Courtney, the suspected mastermind of the murder. Cooper's widow encouraged the mob to act. Meanwhile, efforts were made by the crowd to liberate Taylor, who they believed had played little to no role in the murder. With the help of some cooler-headed townspeople, Tull was able to clear the mob from the ship.

On the boat ride home to Somerset County, both Courtney and Taylor confessed their crime and provided a detailed recollection of the murder. Taylor had previously written a confession while jailed in Virginia. The two had intended to rob Captain Cooper of his money. It also was gradually revealed that Taylor had struck the first blow. The prisoners arrived in Somerset County on June 20 and were taken to the jail in Princess Anne in order to avoid the lynching risks of Deal Island.

Courtney and Taylor were given a hearing on June 27 and remanded to jail to await a grand jury. The two prisoners were swarmed by the mob of attendees after the hearing concluded and threatened with lynching. However, the two were swiftly returned to their cells under deputy security. The duo was later sentenced to death in late October. Over the course of their jail-time, Courtney and Taylor made two unsuccessful escape attempts in July and November. 

The execution of Henry Taylor and Arthur Courtney was scheduled for December 15, 1893. While the hanging was scheduled to be in a fenced off location to avoid public attendance, a riotous mob tore down the fence to allow public viewing. Both Taylor and Courtney reiterated their confession on the gallows, and were executed at 11:43, being pronounced dead eleven minutes later.




Newspaper Clippings

"State of Maryland," Baltimore Sun, June 16, 1893.


"Murdered a Schooner Captain," Washington Post, June 16, 1893.

"Murdered at Deal's Island," Salisbury Advertiser, June 17, 1893.

"Deal's Island Tragedy," Baltimore Sun, June 17, 1893.

"The Schooner at Crisfield," and "Two Colored Men Arrested,"  Baltimore Sun, June 17, 1893.

"Maryland," Baltimore Sun, June 17, 1893.

"Cooper's Murderers Captured," Washington Post, June 18, 1893.

"Prisoners Identified," Baltimore Sun, June 19, 1893.

"State of Maryland," Baltimore Sun, June 20, 1893.

"How they Killed Cooper," Washington Post, June 20, 1893.

"Maryland," Baltimore Sun, June 21, 1893.

"In Princess Anne Jail," Salisbury Advertiser, June 24, 1893.

"A Horrible Murder," Democratic Messenger, June 24, 1893.

"Maryland Affairs," Democratic Advocate, June 24, 1893.

"Maryland and Delaware," Baltimore Sun, June 24, 1893.

"Evidences of a Crime," Baltimore Sun, June 24, 1893.

"Captain Cooper's Pocket-Book," Baltimore Sun, June 27, 1893.

"State of Maryland," Baltimore Sun, June 28, 1893.

"Maryland," Baltimore Sun, June 28, 1893.

"Untitled," Saint Mary's Beacon, June 29, 1893.

"The Law Vindicated," Baltimore Sun, July 1, 1893.

"News in Brief," Democratic Advocate, July 6, 1893.

"Our Neighbors," Salisbury Advertiser, July 22, 1893.

"Maryland," Baltimore Sun, July 18, 1893.

"They Will Hang in December," Washington Post, October 28, 1893.

"Preparations for Execution," Baltimore Sun, October 12, 1893.

"Sentence of Courtney and Taylor," Salisbury Advertiser, October 21, 1893.

"Untitled," Maryland Independent, October 28, 1893.

"Day of Execution," Salisbury Advertiser, November 4, 1893.

"News in Brief," Saint Mary's Beacon, November 30, 1893.

"Maryland," Baltimore Sun, December 12, 1893.

"State of Maryland," Baltimore Sun, December 15, 1893.

"Maryland," Baltimore Sun, December 15, 1893.

"State of Maryland," Baltimore Sun, December 16, 1893.

"Maryland," Baltimore Sun, December 16, 1893.

"Two Colored Men Hanged for Murder," New York Times, December 16, 1893.

"News in Brief," Saint Mary's Beacon, December 21, 1893.

"Untitled," Aegis and Intelligencer, December 22, 1893.

"Hung at Princess Anne," Democratic Messenger, December 23, 1893.

"Maryland Affairs," Democratic Advocate, December 23, 1893.