Only St. Mary’s County Lynching Victim from 1887 to be Memorialized with Historic Marker

February 11, 2020

The St. Mary’s County Museum Division is once again partnering with the Big Conversation Partnership on Dismantling Racism in Southern Maryland and the Equal Justice Initiative on the Community Remembrance Project about Benjamin Hance, the only recorded lynching victim in St. Mary’s County in 1887. In November 2019, the Division and partners held a Soil Collection Ceremony at the location where Hance was said to have died at the hands of a local mob.

Mr. Hance, a young African American, was arrested May 27, 1887 in Leonardtown and taken to the Old Jail. A mob broke in on the night of June 17th, held the jailkeeper at gunpoint, and removed Mr. Hance from his cell. They carried him to a site just out of town (now occupied by the Port of Leonardtown Winery) and proceeded to hang him from a witch hazel tree. This was the only documented lynching in St. Mary’s County.

The Equal Justice Initiative believes that the Community Remembrance Projects like the Soil Collection Ceremony are more than opportunities to erect just another “historical marker”. Rather, their hope is that this process emphasizes the tremendous responsibility of collective remembrance and will serve to facilitate conversations and interactions that will help to heal deep-seeded and long-standing wounds within families and communities.

Following the Soil Collection Ceremony in November, the partner groups sent one jar of soil to the National Memorial for Peace & Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. A second jar will soon go on display this spring, along with a traveling exhibit, at local community gathering places and organizations around St. Mary’s County to educate local citizens, visitors and students about a little-known, and little talked about, period in local history.


The next step in the remembrance of Mr. Hance is to establish a historic marker about his story, which will be erected on the grounds of the Old Jail in Leonardtown, where he spent his final days. The Equal Justice Initiative produce the marker, which will subsequently be erected and unveiled to the public at a commemoration ceremony. The marker will be two-sided and traditional silver with black letters. One side will tell Mr. Hance’s story; the other will be a statement about racial justice.

Working with the partnership is Stephen Masson, an intern from George Washington University, who has been involved with the project since the beginning.

Karen Stone, Manager of the St. Mary’s County Museum Division, explains the importance of the day: “Mr. Hance’s story was not an easy one to hear. But we do these things to remember, to respect and to remember a man who should not have lost his life in the way he did. Mr. Hance deserved justice; he deserved a trial; he deserved what he never got. By bringing light to this hard story to hear, we honor Mr. Hance and all those who suffered similar fates with hope for a better future.”

For more information regarding the progress of this project, please visit Facebook.com/DraydenSchoolhouse or contact Ms. Stone at 301-769-3235. For more information about the Equal Justice Initiative, visit https://eji.org.


19 Responses to Only St. Mary’s County Lynching Victim from 1887 to be Memorialized with Historic Marker

  1. Anonymous on February 11, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    What was he accused of doing? Just curious, everyone deserves due process.

    • Googled on February 12, 2020 at 5:45 am

      This is what is posted on the web:

      Hance had been jailed for allegedly trying to assault Alice Bailey, the daughter of the local sheriff, as she walked along a road toward Stone’s Wharf. Two weeks later, a mob entered the jail by claiming they had a prisoner to hand over, then removed Hance from his cell, took him to the outskirts of town, and hanged him. When a jury of inquest was held to investigate, several witnesses testified they had heard the voice of Sheriff Bailey, Alice’s father, among the lynchers. No record of an outcome to the inquest has been found, but one newspaper reported that “many citizens of Maryland” believed Bailey’s participation had been covered up.

    • Anonymous on February 13, 2020 at 7:01 am

      A white woman claimed he shoved her, as I recall.

    • Sanders2020 on February 13, 2020 at 12:55 pm

      Notice they said the “only” documented one. I’m sure there have been lots over the years. What they should do is find his descendants the county should provide some form of payment to his relatives.

  2. Jerome Butler on February 11, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    I feel we should have a county holiday in his honor and if you don’t work for the county you should receive a payment for the average employee amount. Thank you

  3. StrugglesReal on February 11, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Better late than never.

  4. Anonymous on February 12, 2020 at 5:42 am

    Some people should goggle his name and read the story of how he attempted to rape a young lady in leonardtown. If you ask me he got what was coming to him and now we are Memorializeing a rapist way to go st.marys county

  5. More democrat race baiting to maintain control on February 12, 2020 at 6:26 am

    So someone seriously thinks that scratching open a scab over a hundred years old is going to help race relations?

    How F’n stupid.

    How about listening to a few Candace Owens videos on Youtube.

    THAT is REAL POWER – TRUTH!

  6. teacher on February 12, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Yes, what was the crime? This is part of the story too. Maybe he would have been hung eventually anyway for the crime, but the mob did not want to wait for due process. There also is a huge assumption that this happened 100% because the man was black. Depending on the crime, a mob could have done the same to a white man. I personally don’t think these things help at all to end racism. It just brings up awful things from the past, and stirs up fresh anger of blacks towards whites. Suppose I found out tomorrow that a black man murdered my white great-great-grandfather, and the man was never punished. There would be nothing positive coming out of that knowledge. It would just be frustrating and generate anger. Would I demand a monument be built to honor my great-great grandfather’s unjust murder? The only way for true healing is to forgive and forget, not keep remembering and reminding people of their ancestors past wrongs. Remembering and reminding just keeps opening up old wounds so they never heal. God created one man, Adam. We all descended from Adam, so we are all family. With family, we need to forgive and forget and pursue to do better.

  7. Joe on February 12, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Way to pick that scab open…..

    • Nate B. Forrest on February 12, 2020 at 12:53 pm

      Right! The professional “victims” are back at it again. Let it go, you’ve already got affirmative action and the media on your side, even when you are wrong.

  8. Mary on February 12, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Only documented one. I wonder how many went undocumented. Few hundred?

  9. Mike Simpson on February 12, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Please stop wasting money on this nonsense and junking up the area with these ridiculous “memorials”. Put that crap in DC at the AA Museum, next to the crack rock display. Thanks!

    • Tea Bag King on February 13, 2020 at 8:04 am

      Yo Mike, usually the racists on here go by “anonymous”

      • Smoothie King on February 13, 2020 at 7:45 pm

        Mike wasn’t being racist, he was just being brutally honest. It’s unusual to see that in this era of so called political “correctness”. It’s refreshing.

  10. Anonymous on February 12, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Why don’t you goggle his name and read the St.Mary’s archives and you can read about how he assaulted a young lady in the town of Leonardtown which happened to be the sheriffs daughter at the time. And now we’re doing a memorial wow I guess my tax dollars are paying for this

  11. Tracy on February 13, 2020 at 3:54 am

    Wow, not surprised but very interesting effort. Would love more background information.

  12. Dick on February 13, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Who cares. This guy was a criminal and in the early years of our country that’s what happened. Get over it. He wasn’t very smart for messing with the Sheriffs daughter, now he is memorized. Should of picked a better person to memorialize, not a criminal with no significant relevance. Let’s put a memorial up at the Leonardtown CVS now, how many people died on that property?

    • Trevor Williams on February 14, 2020 at 3:58 pm

      Or, why not a memorial to the woman that died from the tainted stuffed ham at the church dinner in Chaptico? Stop putting up silly memorials to criminals because it makes liberals feel good.