Tuesday History: The murder of Will Harris, part III

THE FIRST TO GO: Officer Charles Robert Blackstock was the first victim of the 1906, Will Harris murders.
THE FIRST TO GO: Officer Charles Robert Blackstock was the first victim of the 1906, Will Harris murders. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina

We continue this week our examination of the murder of Will Harris, as reported on Nov. 15, 1906 in The Asheville Gazette News. This post builds on our previous two posts depicting the events leading up to and ensuing from Harris’ actions. For last week’s post, click here.

The material for this article was made available through the courtesy of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

We would like to note that our intention in presenting these articles is not to demonize, but rather to present in an unfiltered manner the way the story was reported at the time, and possibly elicit constructive conversation among readers about our city’s past.

On Thursday, Nov. 15, 1906, The Asheville Gazette News reported:

The desperate negro alleged to be the noted Will Harris, who, Tuesday night on the streets of Asheville, slew Policemen Bailey and Blackstock and three negroes, has been taken — dead.

The wild rumors of negro suspects located in various sections surrounding Asheville simmered down to a tangible basis this morning when it was announced that a negro carrying a gun and answering to the description of the desperado had been seen near the Biltmore [E]state. It was stated that the negro was seen leaving a barn in the Limestone township section of Buncombe [C]ounty early this morning, and a posse was immediately formed in Asheville and started in pursuit.

Some time after 10 o’clock the negro was sighted and the chase started. Near Fletcher’s, some 10 or 12 miles from Asheville, the posse was so hot on the desperado’s trail that the negro turned and prepared for a fight with the posse. Shortly before 11 o’clock the fight began and in 15 minutes the negro was dead, riddled by more than 100 shots. Two of the possemen were struck by the bullets from the negro’s gun. The posse has not returned here with the negro and it cannot be learned who were hurt nor how badly.

The negro carried the same gun he had used with such deadly effect in Asheville Tuesday night. Realizing that he could not escape the posse, he turned and used the Savage rifle freely. He put up a stubborn fight and more than 200 shots were fired at him by the posse.

It is certain that the right negro has been killed. A telephone message at 12 o’clock said the body had been placed in a wagon and would be brought to Asheville. The posse gave vent to their feeling after slaying the negro by long and continuous cheering.

Next week, we complete our look at the contemporary news coverage of the 1906 murders by taking up the Saturday, Nov. 17, 1906, The Asheville Gazette News article, headlined, “Desperado’s Body Unclaimed And Identity Still In Doubt.”

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

2 thoughts on “Tuesday History: The murder of Will Harris, part III

  1. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    “The negro ”

    Are any other snowflakes triggering like I am?

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