You are standing at the entrance of the Charlestown Cemetery, where the mutilated bodies of 3 lynched men rest. One dark Saturday in November of 1871, interlopers murdered the family of Cyrus Park, a white farmer situated near Henryville, Indiana. Using the Parks’ own axe, the unknown assailants struck family members as they slept in their beds. Puzzled when none of the members of the family undertook their customary duty of unlocking a nearby church the next morning, a congregation member rode to their house. There, he found Park’s two daughters clinging to life despite severe head wounds. Park, his wife, and his ten-year-old son lay dead in their blood soaked beds. One daughter recovered, but the other perished soon after the attack.
The same night, neighbor John Kirke reported that he was awakened by attackers in his yard, and with the help of a farm hand, he kept them from entering his home. Mr. Kirke, according to the Sacramento Daily Union, believed his attackers were white (25 Nov 1871). Kirke, a white man whose land bordered Park's, also told reporters that he and Park had a common enemy. However, a Black man named Johnson confessed to the crime.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer (2 Dec. 1871, page 1) , George Johnson's confession had been obtained under torture and was, thus, without merit. With a noose around his neck, he confessed and implicated two other Black men: Squire Taylor, a Baptist preacher; and Charles Davis. The pamphlet "Murder and Mob Law in Indiana: The Slaughter of the Park Family" by James M. Hiatt describes Davis and Taylor as past sixty.
After arresting the three Black men, authorities transported them to Charlestown, Indiana. Both the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Sacramento Daily Union describe a large mob of white men descending upon the jail with the intention of lynching the prisoners. Once the mob had control of the Black men, leaders of the mob hung Davis and Johnson, but tortured Taylor before hanging him as well. According to Hiatt, the mob had originally planned to burn Taylor to death, but abandoned that plan when the sheriff's attempts to protect his prisoners resulted in delays. Hiatt argues that the lynched men were innocent. Most disturbingly, the author claims that a Clark County judge knew of 16 previous lynchings in Clark County.