A Cowardly Southern MurderPrinted in New York Times June 1881
A poor widow robbed and her son murdered by a gang of Arkansas Regulators, Little Rock June 20.Gov. Churchill today issued the following proclamation:
Whereas, it has been made known to me that on or about the 15th day of June 1880, in the county of Polk, State of Arkansas, one Frank Perse was cruelly and barbarously murdered by unknown parties, who, up to this time, have escaped detection and are now at large;
Now, therefore, be it known that I, Thomas J. Churchill, Governor of Arkansas, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the constitution and laws of said State, do offer a reward of $500 for the arrest and conviction of the murderers or either of them.
In witness hereof I have hereunto set my hand caused the great seal of the State to be affixed at Little Rock, this 20th day of June, A.D. 1881.
T.J. Churchill, Governor.
That so large a reward is offered for the punishment of the perpetrators, or any of them, of a crime committed so long ago, is satisfactory evidence that it must have been of a most horrible nature.There seems to be a band of regulators in Polk County, especially in the rich mountain district, who do pretty much as they pleas, telling those people to stay there who they fancy, and others to leave at once or take the consequences.The consequences were horrible in the case in question, and had it not been for the bravery, patience and perseverance of the mother of the murdered boy the crime would never have become public.
About the 1st of the present month the Governor received a long letter in the shape of an appeal, signed by Rhoda Perse and written at AdaPost office, Conway County.It detailed a series of outrages and crimes culminating in the murder of a boy only 16 years of age and the only son of a widow.The letter is dated May 26, and the writer says she is 58 years of age and that her husband died about three years ago.She then proceeds with her story.Telling how, being left with her brave boy, an invalid daughter and a little granddaughter, she thought they could make a better living in a new country.She traded her property in Sebastian County for a home in the rich mountain country of Polk County.They arrived there in safety and began to make a crop.She fell ill, and their provisions became exhausted.A crowd of armed men passed her house, and in the presnce of her daughter robbed their turkey trap.On the following day, as the gang returned, the boy demanded pay for the birds.He told them his mother was dying, and they had for days been trying to catch a turkey for her.The men laughed at the boy, cuffed and kicked him, and finally took him prisoner.He related the circumstances to several people and considerable feeling existed.The band then began a systematic persecution of the family, arresting the boy for horse stealing and murdering him, when they knew he was innocent.His sister had been arrested on a charge of stealing a purse which was found near the house, and he was sent to the mountain for his mother.On his way there he was captured and killed.His mother heard the guns.Next day, having been told that her boy had been sent to her, she said he had been murdered.
In her appeal to the Governor she tells how she found the boy’s body in the following words, “I went on into the mountains, I left the road and took an old trail, and followed in the direction I had heard the guns.I saw buzzards flying around.I hardly knew where I was I was in so much trouble, but I found my darling son lying in some bushes, I sprang form my horse and took him by the hands and tried to raise him up.I then tried to pack him but my strength was gone.I bathed him with my tears.There lay all my hope and comfort in this world.God only knew my feelings as I stood by my son in that lonely place.I examined and found bruised places over his arms and hands and also his face.I took his hat off and found several cut places on his head which looked like having been done with revolvers.There was a purple streak around his neck, the skin was cut about two inches on the right side of his neck, I think it was done wit a rope.He had been shot, a glancing shot in the face with a shotgun and shot with a rifle twice in the breast.He had not changed color when I found him only where he had been beaten and mangled.He was killed on Wednesday evening, and this was Friday about noon.”
After the murder became known an inquest was held and the poor woman says the Coroner’s jury was composed principally of members of the mob. They also attended the burial, armed to the teeth.After this they drover her and her children from the county, threatening the lives of all who offered them aid.She closes her appeal as follows:It has been a shame and a disgrace the way I have been wronged by those cruel people.They have not only killed my boy, but they have robbed me of my living, run me off from my home, destroyed my property, told me if I ever told my troubles and annoyed them they would hunt me down and kill me, and if Frank had any friends they had better stay away from there or they would share the same fate.I know that we are hunted and our lives are not safe one moment.I am begging you in God’s name to listen to my prayer.I am an old lady and don’t expect to live long, but don’t want to die until I can see those cowardly murders punished.Send an investigating party down there.Everybody knows there was such a murder committed.All that is necessary is to arrest the parties.Evidence will come in on every side.They will convict themselves if they are arrested.I suppose this would have remained a secret to the world if I had not got with my sons.They advised me to lay this matter before the Governor and said they though he would not approve of such conduct.And now your honor I entreat you, in the name of God, the State and the welfare of the people to respect my prayers.Believing that your Honor will fully investigate the matter and bring the murderers of my darling boy to justice, I will subscribe myself as your humble servant. Rhoda A. Perse