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The 162 Year Old Fight For Justice In Parker County Continues On
The families of the victims haven't given up and have vowed to fight for decades, if that's what it takes.
During the summer of 1861, an enslaved man named Dick was allegedly found under a woman’s bed in his enslaver’s house. When he was found, he was taken outside and whipped. During that time, a large knife was found hidden on his person. After the beating, Dick promised never to hide under a bed in Monroe Upton’s house again and was let go.
The next day, some men re-captured Dick and whipped him again. This time, they beat him so severely that he confessed that he and three others were planning to kill all the white men and children in town and take the white women as captives. Knowing what we know now about the human condition, it is doubtful that Dick had a plan like that. He likely falsely confessed to this to make the people beating him stop. But the damage was done.
The names he gave of his co-conspirators were Steve Young, Austin Young, and an unnamed slave belonging to John A. Fain.
The three men were also apprehended, and all four of the men were lynched the very next morning. They were lynched on the frame over the well in the courthouse square. Almost every white person in the county came out to watch the hanging.
In an 1895 account, they wrote of the quelling of a slave insurrection in the summer of 1861 and how the three leaders were hung on the public square. (Although four Black men were hung, not three.) It also spoke of the lynching of James Luckey, who was white. He was just one of the many suspected Union sympathizers killed in Weatherford in 1861.
This story gets worse.
After the four men were lynched over the well, the mob cut the ropes they hung by, dropping them one by one into the town’s water supply. According to Mayor Holland, the account of events was reported to him by W. R. Turner, a long-time prominent citizen of Weatherford.
After the dead bodies of these lynched slaves were dropped in the well, the town folk continued to get water from there. They didn’t know anything about diseases in 1861.
After some time, the well was obstructed, and people couldn’t get water from there. Knowing there were four dead bodies down there, the Weatherford people decided to fill that well in and dig a new one rather than remove the bodies.
They buried those poor souls at the bottom of the well. There are no records of any bodies being removed from the Parker County Courthouse lawn in the last 163 years.
Here is the location of that second well from an 1885 map:
What’s the red X, you ask? Well, that’s where they built the Confederate statue in 1915. This map shows that the well was on the northwest corner. The lynchings took place in 1861. In Mayor Holland’s book, he said the first well was filled in, and the second well was built nearby a short time later, but he didn’t say when or where.
The first well, which had the four dead bodies buried in it, could be under the lawn, the street, or the courthouse itself. According to the Parker County Historical Commission, the courthouse we all see standing today is the fourth one built for Parker County. They were all built in the same location. The first three had burned down, likely by arson.
The descendants of the lynched men, Steve and Austin Young, have been fighting for justice for three years.
The Crawford family, led by Tony Crawford, began protesting the presence of the Confederate statue in Weatherford in July 2020. At the first protests, they were met by hundreds of neo-Confederates and militia members belonging to the Oath Keepers and 3%ers. All of the protesters were violently assaulted and had countless weapons pointed at them.
Many protesters have since told me how this incident changed them forever. They realize how close some came to losing their lives that day, but it hasn’t broken them. Instead, they’ve become strong advocates against white supremacy in Parker County and now spend much of their time working for racial justice.
And they haven’t given up the fight against the statue.
For many months after that, Progressives of Parker County did show up to protest every week, sometimes multiple times a week, and the angry white people full of hate and violence mostly stopped showing.
In 2023, they are still fighting for the four young souls whose lives were cut short as their bodies have spent over 100 years under an ode to white supremacy.
It’s long past time for the statue to go.
Parker County is red, even without the gerrymandering. That may not change soon, but retrieving murdered bodies underneath the Confederate statue shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
Black people in Parker County will never have equal treatment under the law if the shadow of injustice hovers above the courthouse. White supremacist symbology has no place where justice is supposed to be blind. Because of that, Progressives of Parker County will continue to fight, not for the statue’s destruction, but its removal. A Confederate cemetery nearby is much better suited for the statue’s final resting place.
A local Weatherford activist told me that if they have to change one mind at a time, they’ll be out there for decades to come, standing for what’s right.
You can stand with the Crawford family and the lynched victims from so many years ago.
On Saturday, August 26, the Crawford family and Progressives in Parker County will be in front of that awful stone of oppression at 8:30 a.m. They will be out there for a few hours with signs and ready to answer questions for anyone with them. If you’re in the area, swing by to show your support.
The Confederacy is dead. White supremacy has no place in the halls of justice. Black Weatherford residents deserve equal treatment under the law. Until then, the Crawford family and their allies will continue to stand for a better, more equal society.