Stephen William was a African American male that was accused of attacking a middle age white woman in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

The Incident

On a Wednesday of October 17, 1894 Katie Hardesty was at home with her youngest daughter, while her husband Albert Hardesty held business down at the local store. Reports claimed that William made sure the Mr. Hardesty was at the local store before going to the Hardesty home, and that William had planned his attack the day before. Reports also claimed that William knew how to enter the Hardesty’s house. On the night of October 17, 1834 William enter the Hardesty’s home loudly just as Mr. Hardesty would. Mrs. Hardesty thought it was her husband until she raised her head from her bed and saw that it was not her husband but was William. Before Katie could ask William what he wanted, she was attacked by William. Katie began fighting him as she was dragged out of the house and through her lawn, getting caught in a wire fence in the process. Stephen William did not plan for the family dog to intervene during the attack. The family dog lunged at William and bit the foot of William, protecting Katie the best he could, reports claimed. During this distraction Katie youngest daughter ran out the house and down the street screaming for help. It was only until William heard the crying child that he stopped the assault, and fled.

Katie Hardesty in her battered state, and wearing nothing but her torn nightgown, ran to her husband and not the police and told him what happened. Albert Hardesty went to the police and reported the incident. Stephen Williams was found, arrested and claims during the preliminary hearing confessed to the crime committed on Katie Hardesty.

The Lynching of Stephen

A all white mob gathered at the back door of the jail.  Seeing that it was a double iron door with iron locks, it took one hour with a sledgehammer to break the bricks around the foundation of the door in order to enter the building.  Deputy Warden Dumbhard thought that prisoners were attempting to get out; not that a group of angry white men were trying to get in!  During this time, a crowd had gathered to witness the mob breaking into the jail and wished to prevent them from getting to Stephen Williams, but armed men keeping watch advise them not to interfere.  Williams was unaware of what the intentions of the mob were until fellow inmate Benjamin Lawson explained that the mob intended to get him.  Screaming, Stephen Williams pleaded with the deputy to protect him, all to no avail.  Williams then looked out of his cell window to see what the commotion was, only to be staring down the barrel of a shotgun with orders to get dressed.  The men who entered the jail found Williams hiding under his mattress.  Placing a rope around his neck, they dragged Williams down the jailhouse stairs, and out onto the lawn.  Being pushed along, Williams was advised to say his prayers, but the only words that were heard were “Oh Lord!  Oh Lord!”

The crowd led Williams to an iron bridge in between the town and the railroad station.  With the other end of the noose being tied to the bridge, the mob threw Stephen Williams over, breaking his neck instantly.  A few minutes later, Warden Spicer approached the bridge, and with one gunshot in the air, the crowd dispersed, leaving nothing but the Stephen Williams’ corpse hanging in the autumn night.  By daybreak, the body of Williams was still hanging until he was removed from the bridge and placed under a sycamore tree where fellow lynching victim Joseph Vermillion’s body was buried five years earlier.

This was the third lynching in Prince George’s County, and just like the previous two, the jury came back with the verdict that “Williams came to his death by hanging and being shot by parties unknown.” Stephen Williams was given to Undertaker Hough and buried in the jail lawn.




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