West Virginia State Site

Morgan County, West Virginia

Mob Lynchings

Dr. Crawford Lynching
It was stated in the Star of yesterday that one Dr. Crawford, a notorious character, in jail at Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, had been taken from jail by masked men, early Thursday morning, and hanged. He was at the time under arrest on suspicion of having poisoned a farmer of Morgan County, name Johnson, in whose family he had become very intimate. the Cumberland (Md.) News gives the following in regard to the man and his history:  A little over four years ago Crawford came to Hancock, in this State, accompanied by a handsome young woman, and having in his possession a lot of trained mice, canary birds, st. Crawford was between thirty and thirty-five years of age, tall, and well built, a brunette with very dark hair and mustache, rather fine looking, though of a devilish cast of countenance withal. Crawford's affairs at Hancock went smoothly on for some months, until one morning a Sheriff's officer, with a letter from some point in Ohio, asking after a girl whose "descriptive list" was filled by Crawford's female companion, came nosing about, and the lady was suddenly sent away by Crawford, and does not appear on the scene again. Shortly after this Crawford emigrated to Berkeley Springs.

About two years and a half ago a number of horses were stolen in Morgan and Berkeley Counties, and Crawford was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the thefts. He was, however, not convicted, and when he became clear he announced himself as a physician, and commenced practice in different parts of Morgan County, rarely, if ever, approaching the Springs. He maintained his character of physician well. With the gentler sex he was always popular, and he became involved in more liaisons than will probably ever be known, the last, if rumor be true, leading to his hideous death. In view of this state of affairs, it is not surprising that the first lady to whom he proposed marriage said "yes,"and they were married about two years ago. They did not live happily, however, as he abused her villainously, and she finally left him. In the meantime, Crawford had an altercation with his wife's brother, ending in Crawford shooting at his brother-in-law, wounding him in the leg. For this he was arrested and tried, but by dint of labor by eminent counsel he was again freed from the clutches of the law.

By this time Dr. Crawford's reputation with many people had suffered greatly, but a few clung to him in spite of all adverse circumstances and the busy tongue of public rumor. Among these was the family of a Mr. Johnson, a well-to-do Morgan County farmer, living a few miles from Berkeley Springs. Mr. Johnson had a daughter, with whom Dr. Crawford became very intimate and was with her a great deal, spending at times days and weeks at her father's house.

Mr. Johnson fell sick some weeks ago, and placed himself in the Doctor's hands for treatment. On or about the 9th inst. Mr. Johnson died, and Dr. Crawford declared that the body should be interred at once. Mrs. Johnson objected, as she had written to her son, who was away from home, and wished him to be present at the funeral. the Doctor insisted that the funeral must proceed at once, but finally yielded to Mrs. Johnson's entreaties that it be postponed for one hour. At the end of that time, the son not appearing, the body was interred. Mrs. Johnson, however, was not quite satisfied with the proceeding, and the next day consulted with some physicians, among them Dr. Green, of Berkeley Springs, and concluded to exhume and examine the body. This was done, and the presence of poison in the stomach discovered.

A warrant, charging the Doctor with murder, was procured, and he was arrested and confined in the County Jail at Berkeley. the coolness of the oft tried Crawford did not desert him, however, and he at once took steps looking to a vigorous defense, employing skillful counsel, among them Mr. C. J. Faulkner Jr., of Martinsburg, who visited him last on Wednesday. In order to confirm his first conclusions, Dr. Green, on Tuesday, the 14th inst., took to Philadelphia the stomach of the deceased Mr. Johnson, and had its contents analyzed and its condition examined by chemical experts, who unhesitatingly affirmed that the death of Mr. Johnson had been caused by the taking into the stomach of tartar emetic. this decision of the experts became generally known in Morgan County during the latter part of last week, and caused the greatest indignation against the Doctor, and threats of lynching him was freely made.

Up to 12 o'clock on Wednesday night the streets of Berkeley Springs were as quite as usual, and nothing was observable, even by those who were bitterest against the imprisoned Doctor, and would not have interfered in an attempt to lynch him, that portended the dreadful tragedy so soon to be enacted. About 1 o'clock Thursday morning several masked men went quietly along the deserted main street and extinguished every street lamp save the one in front of the County Jail. Shortly after a party of from twenty-five to forty men, all masked except ona- a large, powerful man who acted as leader-approached the jail, and two or three entered and demanded the keys of the jail. The jailer was absent, replied one of a guard of six young men who had been placed there only that night, and there were no keys there. No time was wasted in parley, and a few of the party proceeded to a neighboring blacksmith shop, procured a twelve-pound sledge, with which the leader speedily battered down the door of the room in which Dr. Crawford was confined. It is said that Dr. Crawford was heard to encourage the party, and invite them in. "Never fear," said one of the party, "we'll be there soon enough." Afterwards some one said: "put your hands behind you;" to which the Doctor made no reply. This was all the conversation that took place, the Doctor evidently realizing his fate and accepting it with philosophic fortitude, though of course, what took place at the hanging is not known, and will not be for many years at least. The lynchers pulled that unfortunate man out of bed, and did not allow him time to dress, but dragged him away and were seen no more. No alarm was given at once, but at 3 o'clock the Court-house bell was rung and the whole town aroused, though pursuit of the lynchers was not attempted nor investigations made until daylight. Then, at a point on the creek, about three-quarters of a mile from town, was found the dead body of Dr. Crawford, hanging from a tree. Source: The Bossier banner (Bellevue, Bossier Parish, La.) October 19,1876  Transcribed by: Debbie Oberst


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