Vicksburg Herald, August 17, 1875

Vicksburg Herald, August 17, 1875

GREENVILLE.

Full Particulars of the Ross-Gray Row of Last Thursday.

How Two Characterless Negro Vagabonds Ride Rough Shod Over a Whole Community.

The Citizens of Greenville Armed, Organized and Equipped, and Determined to Have “Peace.”

Special Correspondence of the Herald.)

GREENVILLE, Aug. 15, 1875.

The career of lawless insolence, so long indulged in by the Reverend Senator Gray and the Reverend J. Allen Ross, and encouraged by the officers of the law, produced its legitimate and long-expected result on Thursday afternoon.

Gray, simply because the Brill Bros., (quiet, respectable citizens, who keep a clothing and furnishing store,) had declined, some time before, to sell him a suit of clothes on credit, accompanied by the Hon. J. D. Webster and other ruffians, made a most wanton and unprovoked attack on one of the Brills, at the time quietly sitting in front of his own store, and was arrested by the town Marshal before he had done any damage to Brill. As soon as arrested he sent a messenger for Ross, who was at the time engaged in a game of draw in a saloon not far off, to come to his assistance, as the “white men were imposing on him.” In response to this call, made by Gray, who in the meantime had given bond for his appearance, with Webster as surety, and had returned to the immediate vicinity of Brill’s store, Ross soon arrived, inquired of Gray who had insulted him, and learning that Brill was the offender, rushed into the store and up to Brill, who was standing behind his counter, and asked him how he dared to insult his friend, then struck or pushed him back, and at once drew his pistol and commenced firing at him. His first shot missed Brill, who managed to get a Derringer out of the cash drawer, with which he shot Ross in the face, the ball passing through his nose. This shot probably blinded Ross, for his second shot at Brill entered the ceiling, and the rest of his shooting was very wild. As soon as the shooting commenced two or three citizens rushed into Brill’s store. Ross turned and pointed his pistol at them, and they commenced firing at him, striking him twice, once in the neck and once in the shoulder-blade, neither shot penetrating deep enough to do much harm; and Ross made his escape to his own house, where he still remains. The community were fearfully excited; reports were freely circulated that Gray had sent out runners into the country to call in the negroes with arms. The whites quickly turned out with arms, prepared to defend themselves, and determined to submit no longer to similar outrages; and any imprudence at this time would, doubtless have led to most serious consequences. The police force was largely increased; a meeting of citizens was held, at which it was resolved to tender to the Mayor a party of twenty-five men, to act under his orders as special police in keeping peace, and as many more as he might need. This body was accepted by the Mayor, and in conjunction with the police, kept guard during the night. On the next morning, the Mayor and Council waited upon Judge Shackleford and inquired of him if he would as conservator of the peace take cognizance of the cases of parties engaged in the disturbances of the day, that might properly be brought before him, experience having taught that to bring them before any of the Magistrates here would be but a mockery and farce. Judge Shackleford having replied in the affirmative, the Mayor caused the Marshal to make the affidavits against Gray, Ross, and Webster, and himself, at the request of their counsel, made affidavit against the then white men engaged in the shooting viz: Freelay, Brill and Vaughn, who voluntarily appeared, and waving examination, gave bonds of $1000 each (the same fixed by Judge S.) for their appearance at the Circuit Court. Gray could not be found. Ross was reported too sick to be removed from his house. Webster was arrested and tried. The charge against him, of an assault with intent to kill, was not sustained, and he was discharged by Judge Shackleford, although the evidence disclosed the fact that he was clearly an aider and abettor of Gray in his attack upon the Brills, and that he urged him to resist arrest. Gray was arrested yesterday and released on his personal recognizance to appear before Judge S. to-morrow. This was done at the desire of the citizens here, who are solicitous that nothing shall be done which can be construed as an attempt on their part to interfere in any manner with the candidates for election, or as a political move. Gray had called a convention to meet on yesterday, and they did not want it said that they had prevented his attendance. So the Convention met – it was large and perfectly orderly – Gray presided, and had things all his own way, and the Convention passed resolutions denunciatory of violence, etc. Bolton and Thuslin, the other aspirants for nomination for the office of Sheriff by the Radical party, had each large numbers of adherents present, but the latter were out maneuvered by Gray, and had nothing to say. Winslow did not know how to act or what to say, and Bolton kept away – he had just an hour or so before given the Hon. J. D. Webster a sound thrashing with his umbrella as a punishment for some derogatory remarks made by him, and had the day before “gone for” Brig. Gen. Gray, who was with difficulty rescued from the infuriate Bolton by Judge Shackleford, in whose dwelling house the affair took place. Gray had spoken of Bolton as a “rebel,” and that was more than the “truly loil” can stand.

I have gone into the details of this affair of Thursday, as they will doubtless be much exaggerated – it would be difficult to exaggerate the patience with which this community has, up to this time, endured the riotous conduct of Gray and Ross. On the evening of Wednesday, Ross, with his band of followers, embracing his recent arrivals from Arkansas, one of whom is a notorious mulatto named Helm, the other a black ruffian named Rocky Bill – tried to get up a row in the postoffice, because he was not admitted behind the counter into the Postmaster’s private apartments, and then varied the monotony by going out on the street, where Rocky Bill beat a negro terribly, and then ordered him home; as he did not travel fast enough to suit Ross’ notions, the latter quietly drew his revolver and chased him. All this in the public street, and in full view of Judge Shackleford, the presiding Judge of this district, before whom, at the last term of the Circuit Court of Issaquena county a forfeiture of recognizance was taken against this same Ross and his sureties on his bond to appear and answer an indictment for manslaughter, and in plain view of the Mayor of the town, who was the surety on that bond; and yet no arrests were made. Only a few weeks since, in broad daylight, Ross drew his pistol and fired at the negro lawyer Werles, at the time running from him at full speed, simply because, in passing on the street Werles made some remark which Ross did not like. This on one of the principal streets and at an hour when much frequented by women and children, and no arrests, or if any some farcical performance only. The criminal docket of the Circuit Court of this county shows a long list of indictments against Ross, from all of which, by the aid and connivance of District Attorney C. W. Clarke, he has escaped scott free, save in one instance, when found guilty of failing to pay over the fines collected by him as Justice of the Peace, he received from Judge Shackleford the terrible sentence of “one dollar fine and costs.” Is it surprising that with such encouragement from those whose duty it was to punish, he continued in a career which was to culminate in his entering in open day, and in a populous town, the store of a quiet, respectable citizen, with whom he had not had even the pretext of a quarrel, and deliberately attempting to kill and murder him because, forsooth, he had insulted his friend Gray in refusing him credit? Rest assured you will hear of nothing more like this from Greenville. The citizens are armed, organized and resolved, first, to try the laws of the land, and if it any longer fails to protect, by reason of the incompetency or corruption of its officers, then to adopt the law of self-preservation, and to sweep away all disturbers of the peace of the community. There is nothing of politics or Color Line in this, but a firm determination to have peace. SPECTATOR.

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