Shameful Past: Lynchings on Delmarva- Asbury Green Lynched in Ce - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Shameful Past: Lynchings on Delmarva- Asbury Green Lynched in Centreville in 1891

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February is Black History Month and throughout the month WBOC is sharing the stories of 10 men who were lynched on the Eastern Shore of Maryland during the 19th and 20th centuries. 

In our multi-part series: Shameful Past: Lynchings on Delmarva, what follows is a profile of one of those men executed by mob justice. 

In the late 19th century, Centreville, a small town in Queen Anne's County, was the site of a horrible lynching. 

It was in 1891 that an African American man named Asbury Green was lynched after being accused of raping a white woman named Mary Anne Tolson. According to the Maryland State Archives, Tolson was the wife of a farmer on Kent Island, and her husband was away on business when Green entered her home at night.

Asbury Green Headline from the Kent News

 

A Centerville Record newspaper article reported at the time, "The heinous crime was committed at 9:30 o'clock on the night of the 28th of February." The paper also noted that Tolson originally omitted information from her account to police. 

"The investigation at the preliminary hearing before the justice of the peace on Kent Island was anything but thorough and purposefully so, because the husband and father of Mrs. Tolson were not willing that the detestable and horrible facts should be given to the public. The only charge there made was 'an assault with intent to rape,'" the paper said. 

According to the Maryland State Archives, it was not until a grand jury was sworn in May that Tolson revealed she was raped. Green was arrested and taken to the Centreville Jail. His trial, held in May, was conducted by three judges: Judges Robinson and Wickes, with Judge Stump presiding, according to local historian Kevin Hemstock.

"[Green] was held there for about two months before the trial took place, it took place on May 9th. There were three judges and a jury. This was normal because the judges often worked together in Circuit Court," Hemstock said.

Green had an alibi, and several men testified for Green's whereabouts the night the incident occurred--but the jury was not convinced, according to the archives. 

Hemstock said the judge in charge of ruling over Green's sentencing was an important part in what transpired.

"He was expected to sentence Green to death; it didn't happen," Hemstock said. "One of the reasons it didn't happen is because the judge felt like the identification was iffy," he said.

Instead, the judge sentenced Green to 21 years in prison, and the white community was outraged.

Hemstock says the accusation of rape was not a rarity during this time, especially for African American men that worked with white families. 

Vintage Centerville Courthouse courtesy of CourthouseHistory.com

 

A few days after his sentencing, the sheriff heard rumblings of a potential lynching. The Maryland State Archives say he requested additional security, but it didn't work.

"He made arrangements for Asbury Green to be transferred to Baltimore the next day, but he also brought in six extra deputies," Hemstock said.

But Green would not serve time for his crime. Soon, a lynch mob formed, made up of locals and people from surrounding areas. On the morning of May 13, there was a call from outside of the jail, archives say. 

Sheriff T.B. Turner went to investigate and the mob of men rushed him and demanded the keys to Green's cell. When he refused, the mob used force and took the keys. 

They quickly found Green, put a rope around his neck and dragged him down the street to a nearby peach orchard to be lynched. Some news accounts believe Green was dead before he ever made it to the peach tree. Archives report there were nearly 200 men in the lynch mob. 

The following day, a jury of inquest was summoned, and according to the archives determined:

Certain parties, feloniously, voluntarily and of malice aforethought, dragged from the county jail the said Asbury Green did kill by strangulation and dislocation of the spinal column and by hanging to a tree, said parties being to the jury unknown, and did then and there kill and murder the said Asbury Green.

No one was charged in the murder of Green and local citizens denied responsibility. The Baltimore Sun reported that there were threats of African Americans planning to retaliate, though no retaliation was ever reported. 

 

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