Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bearden Brothers
Deaths by Mob Violence

The horror of the brothers' deaths first came to my attention from this blog post, A Brookhaven, Mississippi, Lynching, where the author shares his father's memories of the lynching. I had not heard of the lynching but was curious to learn more about the two brothers.

They were the sons of John Bearden and Doshia/Dosie/Docie McGowan. Both brothers were born and raised in Lincoln County, Mississippi. The family roots were also in Lawrence and Pike counties, MS.

A detailed newspaper article of the brothers' death will follow this post.

James Bearden

James was born, 10 Feb 1903. He is not seen in the census records with his parents under the name James. I suspect he may be known as Pearlie by family. He could not read or write, worked on the farm his father owned and for Samuel Abrams who owned a grocery store. In 1910, he was 8 years of age; 1920, 18 years. He married Eliza Robins, daughter of Will Robins, in 1923. She died, 18 Jun 1928, a few days prior to her husband's death of tuberculosis of the lungs. The couple had one child.

James owed Caby Byrnes a $6 bill, which is what sparked that day's event. James died, in front of his brother Stanley, from gun shots wounds, supposedly by parties unknown.

Stanley Bearden

Stanley was born 03 Dec 1903. Like his brother, he could not read or write and worked on his father's farm and for Samuel Abrams who owned a grocery store. Per the 1910 census records, he was listed as 7 years of age; in the 1920, 16 years. He married Jinnie Mae Banks in 1924. The couple had at least 2 children. Stanley, Jr., was born premature, died the same day he was born in 1926. The couple's daughter Willa Mae was born in 1925, she reached adulthood, died in 1992.

James and Stanley returned to discuss the debt with Byrnes. James was "extremely imprudent" to Byrnes who then hit James in the face with his fist. Fights between the Bearden and Byrnes brothers resulted in Stanley being dragged on the ground at the rear end of a car to his death, again supposedly by parties unknown.

What happen to the family after the brothers' deaths.

The family left Lincoln County after the deaths. Per the 1930 census records, the brothers' father John Bearden was deceased. Their mother Docia was living in LaSalle Parish, Louisiana, with her sons Ogey and Estus. Docia was living with son Estus, in 1940, Hattiesburg, Forrest County, Mississippi. Docie was alive in 1954, living in Hattiesburg.

Marriages of John and Docia Bearden's Children

Ogey J Bearden married Josie May Smith - 20 Mar 1920
Essie Bearden married N Z Robinson - 03 Apr 1922
Minnie Bearden married C F Adams - 24 Feb 1923
James Bearden married Eliza Robins - 07 Mar 1923
Stanley Bearden married Jiinnie Banks - 10 Jul 1924
Estus Bearden married Anna Banks - 14 Nov 1925
Lentille Bearden married Henry Gearing - 26 Aug 1926

How do the brothers connect to my family tree?
The brothers are not related to me but their family does connect to my family tree.
N Z Robinson's first wife was Essie Bearden, a sister to the brothers.
N Z Robinson's second wife was Ada Elnora Markham.
Ada's father was John Markham, a brother to my grandmother, Alice Markham Marshall.


  1. Words are just not enough. Such violence, unpunished, unrepentent violence.

    1. The brothers died violently over a $6 debt. No trial, no protection, no justice.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, mama was the informant. She likely wanted to see their bodies, to be sure those were her babies, hoping they were not her sons.

  3. Heartbreaking! I went to school with a fella by the name of George Bearden. He moved from AZ in the late 60's and now i am wondering if he were a link to these Beardens.*sigh*

    1. Bearden is not a common surname, so, there might be a connection.

  4. It was my father who first told me of the lynching (he would have been 19 at the time), but the oral account that I posted was by a man named Jones whom I didn't know. You're not the first to be confused by this, so I must have made myself clear than I wanted.

  5. This is an interesting account of this story. My grandmother, Jennie Mae Beardon's version was slightly different. Also, they had a total of 4 children by the time my grandfather, Stanley; was murdered It was true a son died as an infant but she told a different story even about that event.

    1. Hey your Grandfather was my granduncle. My Grandmothers Brother!!! I've heard about this all my life but didn't know about them unti I went to the Lynching Memorial in Montgomery and saw them there. Please call we are related 615-578-5641