How the Jewish Press Reported Leo Frank’s Execution in 1915
Accuracy wasn’t much better then than now; these are translations from the Yiddish “Forverts” coverage of this day 100 years ago.
ATLANTA, August 17, 1915 — A telephone dispatch was received today at 55 minutes past 8 in the morning reporting that Leo Frank was lynched in Marietta (Marietta is the town where the murdered Mary Phagan was from and was buried there.)
No details are known yet.
Atlanta, August 17
Via a telephone report from Lynchburg, Putnam County there is news that Frank’s body was found in the ‘Little River.’
Per the telephone dispatch several bullets were found in Frank’s body. The body was already several hours dead when it was found. The body was found several miles away from the location where Little River meet Further [sic] River.
Another report from Atlanta gives a different account of Frank’s death.
The outlaws hung the victim Frank from a tree. The body was found hanging from the tree in a location found two miles from Marietta.
The site was not far from the house where Mary Phagan was born. His hands were bound.
The rope around his neck re-opened his previous wound made when the convict Green cut him there with a knife, July 17th.
Mrs. Frank, Leo Frank’s mother, upon hearing the sad news about her son exclaimed practically automatically: ‘Thank god my son is dead already for death frees him forever from all his suffering. In any case his life would have been a torment for him. Those who thirsted for his blood might have killed him in an even crueler manner.
Macon, Georgia, August 17
Leo Frank yesterday, at 20 minutes after 12 at night was taken from the state prison in Milledgeville where he had been placed since Governor Slayton [sic] had commuted his death sentence to life imprisonment.
Twenty-five masked men broke into the prison, got the warden and found Frank’s location, quickly removed him from there, seated him in one of the waiting cars which swiftly disappeared.
The cars headed in the direction of Easonton [sic] which is 25 miles from Milledgeville to the north.
As the kidnappers had cut telegraph and telephone wires earlier, which connected the prison and Milledgeville with the outside world, it took a critically long amount of time before the prison board could get word out to the surrounding villages about what had occurred.
From Macon, which is 25 miles east of Milledgeville, two cars full of prison board members were immediately sent to Atlanta.
The sheriff of Milledgeville immediately sent deputies out in all directions to the surrounding counties.
There was no sign of the kidnappers. They left no trace and the board got no descriptions of them from the prison guards either. Poor Frank! He had a bitter struggle for his life. He knocked on several courtroom doors seeking justice, preparing a second trial in which to prove his innocence.
But the courts were deaf and so were the judges. They rejected his request for technical reasons. And it appeared nothing would save him from the hanging execution that was his sentence for being accused of the murder of Mary Phagan.
But suddenly it seemed fate was smiling at him. Governor Slayton claimed that not enough evidence was found to convict him and that if not for the crowd’s anger the jury might not have found him guilty. And he changed the sentence from a death sentence to life imprisonment. But soon it would be clear that his life was not secured yet. July 17th, one week after Frank was brought to the state prison farm, another life term convict, W. Green, made an attempt on his life and nearly decapitated him with a knife. For several weeks Frank lay between life and death. It was only recently, a few days ago that he was released from the prison hospital.
And now he’s been kidnapped.
By whom? We don’t yet know. In the first moments, many thought his friends kidnapped him in order to rescue him from a probably second attempt on his life.
But this notion didn’t make sense. There is evidence to show this isn’t the work of friends but enemies. A prisoner reportedly heard one of the masked men yell: “Tomorrow (meaning, today-Tuesday) Frank’s body will lie on Mary Phagan’s grave.”
Also it appears those who kidnapped him were the same ones thirsting for his blood and there is a fear that they lynched him.
How Frank Was Kidnapped
It was half past midnight and the prison had been asleep since 8 pm. It was quiet throughout.
The stillness was broken by the 7 cars arriving and stealing into the prison farm surrounding area.
Quietly, without making a sound from out of the cars, 25 armed men emerged like shadows. Their tasks had already been decided earlier. Five of them moved off together towards the office of Warden Smith. The warden turned around to find five revolver barrels aimed at him.
A few other masked men did the same thing to the superintendent of the prison. The rest of them tore into the prison sector where Frank was held. There they found two guards they easily overcame. Then, they grabbed Frank quickly and disappeared with him into the night.
Rumors That Frank Is No Longer Alive
Atlanta, August 17th — There are reports that indicate that Frank is no longer among the living.
One report says that the lynchers hanged Frank on a tree five miles from Milledgeville. Another report says they shot him in Little Creek, which is midway between Milledgeville and Atlanta.
These reports have not yet been confirmed.
Mrs. Frank Fainted When She Heard The Sad News.
When Mrs. Frank was told her husband had been kidnapped she fainted. She was revived but there is a fear that the tragic news affected her so deeply she will not recover.
100 Bullets Shot Into Frank
Atlanta Aug. 17 — A farmer in the county where the prison is located claims he heard revolver shots at night. He says it wasn’t less than 100 shots that were fired. That is an indirect confirmation of the report that the outlaws shot Frank.
Milledgeville., Aug.17 — According to prison guards, about 25-100 masked men leaped out of the cars.
A black man incarcerated and kept in the area where Frank was also held claims that right after the outlaws dragged the deathly pale Frank from his cell he ran into the office of the superintendant whose hands had been bound and also to the office of Warden Smith whose hands had also been bound. Warden Smith immediately ran over to the phone but realized immediately that the wires had been cut. He tried to phone from additional locations but the wires had been cut everywhere.
A local farmer let him use the phone and from there he called police in all the surrounding areas. Shortly thereafter the chase began after the outlaws but three quarters of an hour had already gone by during which they could have gotten far from Milledgeville..
Atlanta, Aug. 17 — Governor Harris orders all means be used to catch the outlaws who kidnapped Frank. Masses of police, detectives and various agents are seeking evidence of the outlaws.
Governor Harris has demanded Warden Smith present him with a full report on how Frank was kidnapped.
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Source: Jewish Daily Forward