THEY HANGED MARY! (The townsfolk did)
I'll tell you about it - but ...
The facts will turn readers against her. I mean, after all, she did kill a man.
Sympathy instantly dries up; making her agonizing death--as awful as it was--much less empathetic.
Her story grabbed my heart and a cold chill went down my spine.
I felt move to tell others about her death.
______Who was she?
Mary was not slim, beautiful, or even very graceful -but- she was beloved (by many people.)
She arrived in America at the age of 4, standing 4 feet tall.
She ended up working in a Circus. She was unable to speak English and had no family to help her.
Having traveled from Asia (against her will), she was always surrounded by men who could not be troubled to communicate with her (other than through enticement or brute force.
If she complied with men's demands, her life went easier.
If she resisted?
Well, that never worked out.
In her own unique way, she had a kind of fame and renown, like a big fish in a small pond.
A Circus job? It was lower rung 'show business' if truth be told.
Yet--for what it is worth--Mary was a star of the show.
What she did and how she did it entertained and delighted folks.
(How many of us bring smiles and laughter so easily without degrading ourselves or belittling others?)
On the positive side of things --In Circus Showbiz, you don't have to look perfect. Nope - quite the opposite.
You can be unusual and get away with it. Even so-called freaks of nature could find employment in this venue.
Mary was 20 years old the day they hanged her.
Hers was a simple life; a life of routine and habit.
She enjoyed the company of others and went about her job with dignity and professionalism
right up until the day she slowly died without mercy.
Let's get this over with and let's facts and move on--shall we?
The man Mary would kill was named Eldridge.
He had a shock of red hair and got the job working with Mary even though he was a hobo and a drifter with no skills.
That is unless you call working on the cheap a skill. He was placed next in charge of Mary's act now.
Big man. Big Job. No training.
Everything started to go wrong the day the Circus came to town.
She was one of the big attractions as a performer.
Mary walked slowly, theatrically down Main Street that day as crowds cheered, celebrating the arrival of "show people" in their town. The banners said: SPARKS' WORLD FAMOUS SHOWS.
She had been with them 16 years.
It was small time stuff.
The fresh air and sunshine combined with exercise and a long trek all morning had worked up an appetite.
After the parade, Mary was famished. She was ready for a favorite refreshment: watermelon.
That's when Eldridge showed up.
(Folks called him "Red.")
Red didn't care if Mary was eating.
He meant to bully her into a rehearsal so he could look competent when the show began later.
Red was just clueless how to treat a lady.
The fact he was hired as a last-minute fill-in for a seasoned professional is a crime in itself.
Finesse, technique, know-how were completely foreign to his temperament.
There was no coaxing or friendly demeanor at all. He'd use violence to get his way as most bullies are known to do.
So impatient and ignorant was his rage he'd snatched a nearby hooked stick with a sharp point and began threatening her menacingly.
That bastard jabbed poor Mary behind her ear, close to her jaw and the flash of excruciating pain sent a bolt of electric rage through her body.
She reacted without a moment's thought.
It was raw instinct.
An eye-witness later accounted for the incident:
A man named W.H. Coleman was a witness to the sudden death of Red Eldridge.
He admitted the hobo hireling jabbed Mary.
But then, he spared no details of her retaliation either.
Red's corpse lay plain enough there on the ground with skull crushed.
Mary's only weapon was her size. She was a bulky lady.
Mary had used her full body weight to crush him!
A local blacksmith arrived and aimed his pistol at Mary and fired--wounding --yet not killing her.
The rush of panic and adrenaline seemed somehow to keep her standing and defiant.
The blind injustice of her situation kept her on her feet.
And then crowds arrived and word spread like a grass fire in drought.
Kingsport was such a tiny, unimportant town with so little excitement--this was chaos and panic beyond all reckoning.
Somebody shouted : We Need to Hang Her!
Lynch mob mentality carried the deed to its bitter ending.
Nearby, Charlie Sparks, fearing for the reputation of his "World Famous Show," suddenly suggested they use a large crane attached to a rail car he had seen outside, near the adjacent town of Erwin.
If the crowd turned against his Circus people, he'd be ruined financially.
So--why not give them a spectacle to distract them from the over spill of vengeance?
And just like that, the blood lust of small town mentality, so-called "Southern Justice" was at hand!
A chain was placed around Mary's neck and another chain around her ankle. As she was suddenly jerked aloft by the awkward crane mechanism the chain snapped and she plummeted heavily onto her side breaking her hip.
In awful agony, again she was jerked aloft, brutally hoisted above the ground as a wail of alarm arose on the outside of the wide-eyed throng of onlookers.
Nobody cared enough to do anything - to end the suffering.
Reports say 2,500 onlookers and most of that town's children beheld the atrocity as it unfolded to their everlasting shame.
There in the Clinchfield Railroad yard, slowly twisted the body of Mary, as merely nothing more than fiendish amusement for narrow-minds to gawk and gape at.
Fog rolled in and a steady drizzle fell. Mary's last twitches of life ebbed away.
The shackle on her leg had not been removed and the crane's upward lift strained until a loud cracking of Mary's bones straightaway ended her death struggle.
Just like that--the spectacle was over.
The laughter and cheers as Mary's legs had thrashed and trembled now faded into silence--save for splashing of steady rain as heaven itself wept quietly.
The pitiful body of Mary hung inert for the better part of an hour before she was finally pronounced officially dead.
(A veterinarian who examined Mary after death found she had an infected tooth in precisely the spot where Red Eldridge had prodded her.)
Yes, this wretched town had hanged an elephant for murder on
September 13, 1916.
A True Story