Who was lynched in Alamance County?
These are the documented victims of racial terror that the coalition aims to educate and memorialize on their journey of healing the Alamance County community.
Wyatt Outlaw was a political leader of African and European ancestry in his native Alamance County from 1866 until his murder February 26, 1870. As an organizer of the Union League and town commissioner for Graham, the county seat, he worked closely with fellow Republicans to encourage freedmen to vote, and his cabinet shop was a gathering place for white and black workers. He spoke against violence and was not accused of any. A member of the White Brotherhood/ Invisible Empire familiar with Outlaw’s killers testified that Outlaw was hanged because he was a politician, with no other crime alleged. The limb for the hanging pointed to the Republican-staffed courthouse.
William Puryear was living in Alamance County’s Albright Township with his wife, Matilda, and young children at the time of Wyatt Outlaw’s murder, but he was visiting an adult son living next to Outlaw’s home and shop when assailants forced Outlaw from his home. Puryear followed them on the street and later told Mrs. Puryear that he recognized some of the men who had hanged Outlaw. He then reported two young neighbors to a Graham magistrate and afterwards feared for his life. Night raiders took Puryear from his home two weeks after the Outlaw murder, and a month thereafter Puryear’s body was found in a millpond, with a 20-pound stone tied to a foot.
John Jeffress was a native of Granville County, North Carolina, and was a section worker for the Southern Railroad. The surname, variously spelled, dates from 18th century settlement of the northern piedmont and occurs in families of African, European, Occaneechi, and mixed ancestry. His last location before being captured in the woods of western Alamance County in August 1920 is the town of Elon College, where he got off the train at one of its regular stops, possibly to visit relatives. Newspaper accounts relate a young white girl saying they encountered each other and he raped her. The president of Elon College led a posse to capture Jeffress and was prepared to give testimony. The trial did not take place, however; a mob took Jeffress from the sheriff’s custody in Graham and shot him.