Henry Smith was lynched on Sunday, November 16, 1890, near Hillman, a community about eight miles outside of Birmingham. He had been arrested on an assault charge of a white woman, but insisted he was innocent. Nothing is reported about Mr. Smith’s age, family, or occupation.
Marshal Anderson of Blocton arrested Mr. Smith around 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 15, 1890, saying he matched the description of a man wanted for an alleged assault of a 60-year-old white woman Mary (or Nancy) Calhoun at Woods Crossing. He was held in custody at Blocton. In order to prove his innocence, Mr. Smith asked to be taken to a house about a half mile away, located on the line between Birmingham, Bessemer, and Blocton road. He would prove his alibi. According to reports, officers handcuffed him and agreed to take him there around 10 p.m. On the way, the reports said, Mr. Smith tried to escape. Officers shot at him 10 or 12 times, with the last shot striking his right hip, causing him to fall. When he continued to try to wade into Blue Creek, he was pursued and recaptured.
Throughout the rest of the night, the mob carried the wounded Mr. Smith from place to place, making a show of obtaining alleged identifications. Once he was declared the perpetrator, a mob of over 200 white men prepared to lynch Mr. Smith.
Before he was hung, Mr. Smith confessed and begged for mercy. The lynchers, however, were unmoved, and the group of miners and Mrs. Calhoun’s neighbors dragged Mr. Smith to a nearby branch line of the Birmingham Mineral Railroad. Once there, the mob gave Mr. Smith time to pray, and then they hanged him from a tree.
His hanging body was discovered by a conductor on the Birmingham Mineral Railroad about a mile from Chinn’s trestle. He was buried on Tuesday, November 18, by the people of Adgers in a shallow grave below the tree on which he was lynched.
“A Dead Negro,” Birmingham Age-Herald, November 17, 1890, page 1.
“A Negro Hung,” The Weekly Advertiser (Montgomery, AL), November 20, 1890.
“And He Was Buried” Birmingham Age-Herald, November 18, 1890.