Joe Vermillion Strung Up at upper Marlboro’.


Special Dispatch to THE EVENING STAR.

                                    UPPER MARLBORO’, Dec. 3.

This morning, at half-past 2 o’clock, Judge Lynch visited our town, and although the party he was after (Jos Vermillion) was in the hands of the law, the old-time punishment was meted out without the intervention of the jury

[.]  Joe Vermillion, a white man, was arrested about ten days ago in the upper part of the county for setting fire to houses and barns, and to others of the same family were also arrested but were subsequently released.   Immediately after the arrest threats were heard that Judge Lynch intended to save the state the expense of a trial, but the talk dying out it was thought that the law would be allowed to take its course and the extra precautions taken by the Sheriff were somewhat relaxed.  This morning about 2 o’clock there was some commotion in the town when some 40 horsemen, well last, appeared in our streets and surrounded the jail.  They were very quiet and orderly and calling to the jailer, Mr. Ridgway, that they had a prisoner, Mr. Ridgway came down from his bed room and opened the gate.  The two hiding men at once grabbed the jailer and others covered him with pistols. Mr. Ridgway resisted as best he could, but the iron grip of the men holding him prevented him from getting away, and some of the party sees the keys from him.  Some of the party went to Vermillion’s cell, where they found him with his leg shackles welded to the floor.

These were cut by some while others were holding the prisoner, and some were preparing the rope which they placed on his neck, although Vermillion fought them desperately.  They then dragged him from the cell and building, but he fought hard for his life, and having secured a piece of glass some of the literatures were cut and scratched by him with it. They took him toward the railroad and reaching the iron bridge on the east of town about 500 yards from the jail threw the rope over a beam, Drew him up and tying the other end left him hanging.

Preparations are being made for an inquest this morning.

Vermillion was a desperate character was a desperate character and died cursing the mob. Justice would have taken its course, but the due man had threatened the life of many in Queen Anne district. He was one who would have kept his word and this may be assigned as the primal cause.


On the night of November 22 John Vermillion, who lived near Halls station, Baltimore and Potomac [Rail] road, and was well known to the court officials of Prince George’s county, was forcibly taken from his home and tied to a tree.  The unknown visitors then removed his furniture and set fire to his log cabin.  Fearing bodily harm the man promised to leave the vicinity immediately, whereupon he was released and left for parts unknown.  He had several sons. A number of young men living near Hall’s and Covington were arrested on November 23 and tried before Justice Ryan, who ordered them released.  On Monday, November 25, considerable excitement prevailed near Mulliken’s station, on the Baltimore and Potomac road, because of the burning of two large barns and a tenement house, which were fired by incendiaries.  These Saturday night before, almost at the same hour, buildings were seen burning in different parts of Queen Anne’s district. Thomas Black, who live near Mulliken’s station, suffered the greatest loss. In his barn were stored 10,000 pounds of tobacco, and his entire crop of hay and fodder. About 9 o’clock this building lay in ashes.  At 925 a barn on the farm of General [John W.} Horn, tenanted by Walter Ryan, the magistrate who acquitted the young men brought before him for assaulting Vermillion, which contained this year’s crop, together with farming implements, was seen to be on fire.[1] Though every assistance was rendered, it soon succumbed to the flames.  A small unoccupied house belonging to James Hamilton was also burned.


On the theory that the buildings were set on fire out of revenge for his decisions and for the treatment of John Vermillion it was determined to arrest the whole family of Vermillions. A tramp, giving his name as William Wright, was also arrested as an accomplice. When arrested he had in his possession a seven-shooter and threatened anyone approaching him.  He denied any knowledge of the burning and said he was at the residence of ex-Gov. Bowie when the affair happened. The Vermillion family have taken up their residence near Bennings station and constables have been sent there to arrest the father and a third brother.  Much indignation is expressed here, both as to the burning of the Vermillion property and the supposed incendiarism of Saturday night.

Accordingly constables from upper Marlboro’ went to the home of the Vermillion’s and arrested Edward, John, jr., George, Lloyd and Joseph Vermillion, all grown men and the fathers of large families.  Charles Bell, a brother-in-law of the Vermillion’s, was also taken into custody.  The constables took the six prisoners at the point of revolvers after they had been order to throw up their hands.  Joe Vermillion was particularly ugly in his behavior.  Before he could consent to accompany the officers he had to be roughly handled.  He was an escaped prisoner from the house of correction, who was wanted by the superintendent of that institution to serve the remaining eighteen months’ sentence.


John Vermillion, jr., told the officers that his brother Joe was the cause of the trouble.  John said that on Saturday night, November 23, about 830 o’clock, Joseph, who had been living in the woods, came to his house and threatened to get even with those who would not give his father justice in the affair of the night before (Friday) when the older Vermillion’s house was burned by a band of men, who tied him to a tree and only released them on his promise to leave the neighborhood.  Both the father, who was in John’s house, and John himself tried to persuade Joe from carrying out the threat, whereupon he left.  About 1130 Joe returned to the house and asked to be admitted, carrying in his hand a cold oil can. He told John that he had a little fire of his own . He immediately left and nothing was known of his whereabouts until he was arrested. Bell, the son-in-law, was charged with burning his own house, which he rented from James Hamilton. He denied the charge and said Joe did it after leaving the Barnes. Many thought that Joe would never reach the jail alive, as the excitement prevailing at and about Lincoln’s was so great that fears of violence were entertained. John Vermillion, sr.,aged sevebty-three years, the father of the man arrested, was not arrested.


At a preliminary hearing before Justice Harris, Mr. R. E. Bandt, states attorney, being present, John Vermillion, jr., testified as to the burning of his father’s house near Hall’s station.  Lloyd Vermillion testified that he saw his brother Joe on Saturday afternoon about 4 o’clock with a coal-oil can.  Joe stated he was going to burn out Mr. J. T. Clark that night as he had burned one of his houses some two years ago.  Mwssrs. J. T. Clark and Walter Ryan testified that they were aroused by the cry of fire and dated the amount of their lost by the burning of their barns Saturday night.  Joe Vermillion pleaded not guilty and said he was not in the county at the time.  He was sent to jail to await the action of the grand jury and immediately placed in irons after resisting the officers.

As there was no evidence to implicate anyone else the charge of arson against the other Vermillions was dismissed, but 13 citizens of Mulliken’s neighborhood swore out peace warrants against each of the other Vermillion boys, and they were placed in jail in default of [??]00 bail.[2]


[1] Col. John W. Horn, Warden, Baltimore Penitentiary.

” In 1872 Mr. Enoch Pratt, a philanthropist of Baltimore City purchased a twelve-hundred (1200) acres of land here as a place to which delinquent colored boys of Baltimore could be sent for rehabilitation. The name given the institution was “The House of Reformation for Colored Boys.” It was to be under the control of a Board of Managers and to be conducted by a Superintendent and whatever other personnel as was needed. Among the earliest superintendents was a certain Gen. John W. Horn who had been connected with the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore. The first boys, thirteen in number, were brought down in January 1873. As no buildings had yet been erected, they were housed in what had been a residence of a few preceding years. With the exception of a garden plot and an apple orchard this tract too was woodland or scrub land. Through the years more and more land was cleared and an administration and other brick buildings erected. Some of the personnel were drawn from Baltimore but much employment in the many different lines was given to people of the community both then and throughout the following years. Some of the girls of the neighborhood secured husbands too from this and the Railroad project.” website: Selby Family Tree.

[2] The Evening Star. 12-03-1889; P[1];  Washington (DC), District of Columbia.