John Steele, Sept. 27, 1889, Pratt Mines

John Steele was an African American married man with four children who worked in Ensley City. No other records could be found on his life or family. 

On the morning of September 27, 1889, Deputy Sheriff E. King Vann took the Ensley City train to Walker Station to execute a warrant for John Steele, placed on a complaint made the day before by Mr. Steele’s brother-in-law. While on the train, he asked people who knew Mr. Steele to tell him who Mr. Steele was. As he was riding, the Engineer Rigsby saw Mr. Steele and pointed him out. Deputy Vann exited the train and began chasing and shooting at Mr. Steele. According to a newspaper account, Mr. Steele fired back and killed the deputy. 

Upon hearing of the shooting, several people returned to the area to look for Mr. Steele. The men used bloodhounds from Pratt Mines to help find him. They caught Mr. Steele four miles south of Ensley in the woods and a chase ensued. They shot and killed Mr. Steele. The men then riddled his dead body with bullets. 

The court brought a case against Mr. Steele’s murder. On October 1, 1889, The Montgomery Advertiser reported that the jury returned a verdict that “the deceased came to his death from the effects of bullets fired by unknown parties.” 

Jamilria Bryant 

Lawson State Community College 


Selected Sources 

“Steel Shot Dead”, The Montgomery Advertiser, September 28, 1889, page 1. 

“Untitled,” Birmingham Evening News, September 27, 1889. 

“Untitled,” The Montgomery Advertiser, October 1, 1889, page 1.