Archer Gang


SHOALS, Ind., Dec. 30-John B. Archer,

who is charged with the murder of John B. Bunch four years ago, was captured by a posse of 12 men at the farm of Leroy Boyd, five miles south of Vincennes, and brought to the Martin County Jail yesterday by Sheriff Podegett. David Craine, another of the gang, has been arrested here and lodged in jail. Both of these men state that Bunch was killed by the Archergang in July, 1882, because he had aided a farm band named Marley in escaping from the country. Marley, it appears, had killed one of the Archers in a row, and when Marley got away the Archers set to work to kill Farmer Bunch for aiding him to escape from their clutches. Craine has acknowledged that the Archers compelled him to go Bunch's house and decoy him out. Then, Craine says, the gang ordered him to go home, which he did, when they killed Bunch and threw his body into the river. John Archer says he was placed on watch while the others did the killing. It was the most cold-blooded murder ever committed in this county. A large crowd met Archer one the arrival of the train, and loud cries of "Hang him" were heard on all sides. Archer and Craine are very badly frightened and fear that they will be lynched.

The New York Times

Published: December 31, 1885

Archer Gang Members

Hanged at Shoals




INDIANAPOLIS, MARCH 10-A special form Shoals, Martin County, gives the details of the triple lynching there a little after midnight this morning. Precisely at 11:30 o'clock a Vigilance Committee of about 100, composed of men from Martin andOrange Counties, surrounded the jail. The lynches were very quiet and orderly, and the Sheriff was first aroused by the barking of his dog, followed by a knock on the door. He asked who was there, and the answer was a crashing in of the front door, followed by heavy blows which completely demolished it. The mob then went to the jail door and knocked off the lock and were dismayed to find another which would not yield to blows. After about 20 minutes a man in the crowd was found who understood opening the cell door. It yielded to his effort and the lynches rushed in and grabbed all three of the intended victims, Thomas, Martin, and John Archer, the latter the son of Thomas, the ringleaders of what is known as the Archer gang. The mob was provided with the necessary tools both to get in and to capture them if they made any resistance. Several of them had long iron hooks with which to grab the prisoners around the neck if they resisted without endangering their own lives.

When the Archer gang saw the lynches they offered not resistance, and when asked if they had anything to say they refused to speak. Their hands were tied behind their backs, and they were taken over to the Court House yard. They were again asked if they had any confession to make, and, still no reply being given by any of them, they were unceremoniously strung up to young maple trees. Tom Archer, the oldest one of the gang, about 60 years of age, was hanged first, Martin Archer, brother to Tom, aged about 45 years, was suspended next. John Archer, son of Tom Archer, who was about 30 years old, was hanged to a tree with hands tied behind him, about 30 feet from his father.

The crimes for which the three men were hanged comprised almost everything in the criminal calendar from murder to petty thieving. For 25 years they had been reigning terror both in Martin and Orange Counties, and had terrorized the community in which they lived until the people did now know when they went to bed at night whether they would be murdered before morning or their houses burned down. They never failed to visit vengeance for a fancied slight, and many farmer inOrange and Martin Counties has lost considerable sum of money by daring robbery, the theft of cattle, or the burning down of barns and houses. Martin Archer had a family living in Southwest Township, Orange County, who are well thought of. Two of his children are young ladies teaching school in that section of the country. Old Tom Archer, as he was called, lived inMartin County, Columbia Township, and had a large family, every on of who are under indictments for larceny, arson and murder, and bear a bad name generally. John Archer formerly lived in Columbia Township, and in the pas year had been living in adultery with a woman named Holt, seven miles east of Vincennes, where he was captured two months ago and brought to this town by Sheriff Padgett. The chief cause for their being hanged this morning was the confession of John Lynch, another member of the gang, who is in the Washington (Daviess County) Jail. He made confession and told where the bones of a man name Bunch, one of the victims, were. They were found in two different graves, the body having been cut lengthwise and each piece being buried separate. It seems that unknown parties followed the officials yesterday when they went to the place where Bunch was buried and saw them exhume the remains. Word was immediately spread over the country, and the vigilants prepared themselves accordingly.

Excitements is running high and the sudden migration of several people is looked for at once, as the confession of Lynchimplicates about 30 or 40 person in the vicinity. The vigilants were well armed and had another rope with them, as they supposed that John Lynch, the man who made the confession, was also in the jail, and they intended to make a complete job of it. Old Tom Archer has a half-inch hempen cord around his neck, while Martin and John, father and son, have a three-quarter inch cotton cord under their chins. This morning their bodies were swinging gently to and fro be the slight western wind that was blowing through the trees in the Court House yard.

The mob left all their tools and mask behind them and Sheriff Padgett has them under lock and key for future remembrances. The Coroner was called and went over to the place but did not cut the bodies down. Word has already been sent in from the country not to cut them down but to let them hang, as the country people wanted to see them hanging and great crowds of people are crowding into the Court House yard, which is in West Shoals, across White River, one-half mile from the main part of the town.

The New York Times

Published: March 11, 1886

another article about the lynching.........




INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., July 9 - With the hanging of Sam Archer to-day at Shoals, Martin County, ended the career of as lawless a gang of ruffians as ever inflicted any community or county. The story of their breaking up is a romance. The gang proper consisted of Mart Archer, the Captain, age 40; his brother, Thomas, aged 60; John Archer, son of Thomas, all of whom were hanged at Shoals; Sam and Thomas Archer, also sons of old Thomas, the latter a mere boy, and Mart Archer, a nephew of Thomas. There were associated with them John Lynch, Sam Morley, John Johnson, Mack Holt, Nathan Holt, Wild Tom Archer, son of James Archer, a reputable resident of Martin County; Webb Lynch, William Ross, and Off Minton.
The Archers were ostensibly small farmer, whetstone makers and millers, but they lived mainly by plunder and cowardly murder. It was not long after Mart revisited the scenes of his birth before a reign of terror was on in Orange and Martin counties. Horse and stock of all kinds were driven away and never heard of again. Strangers and peddlers were missed, as well as several citizens, and no trace of their bodies were ever discovered. “Little Mart” Archer, the nephew of Thomas and Sam Morley, stole a log raft and quarreled over the division of the money they received for it. Mart was not satisfied over the division and swore he would “blow” on Morley. Morley shot him to death and was helped to escape from the county by one Sam Bunch. A few days afterward Bunch was captured by the gang and taken to a cave two and half miles from French Lick Springs. He pleaded hard for his life, but the scoundrels were obdurate and poared 16 bullets into his body, leaving it in the cave, where the body was afterward found.
Shortly afterward Stanford Freeman, 60 years old a cousin of Bunch was called to his door at midnight and murdered in cold blood. A man named McCormack, a Bunch sympathizer, was also shot from ambush and killed, and thus matters went on from bad to worse. The whole county was terrorized. About four months ago the blacksmith’s shop of old Joe Wells, situated a short distance fro the French Lick store, was broken open and robbed of a lot of drills, drill bits, saws, squares, and four guns. They were worth $50, and belonged to a very old man with a large family, who worked for old Joe. The village blacksmith was wroth when he saw how matters were, and he declared to himself that he would bring the marauders to terms. He accordingly went to Paoli, and secured to the authority to make arrests. He then took two neighbors, and called at Mart Archer’s house in the hills, about a mile distant. Mart was not at home. The same night, about 12 o’clock, old Joe heard a tapping on his window, and on going out found Mart Archer, who said he had come to see what the old man’s visit meant. The blacksmith dressed himself, and the two walked around the hills talking. Joe explained that he needed help in capturing the men who had robbed his shop, and that he would give the right sort of man $300 to aid him. Finally a bargain was truck with Mart, the agreement being that he was to show old Joe where the gang was. They met again the next night at 10 o’clock and proceeded to a hut in the hill a mile west of the Licks. The plan was for Mart to go ahead and mingle with his friends. When Joe entered he was to surrender and be afterward paroled. The plan worked like a charm, and a few minutes after midnight with John Johnson, Mack Holt, Nathan Holt, Granville Lynch, and young Tom Archer all marching at the muzzle of a Winchester rifle. They were taken to the hotel at French Lick and guarded until morning, when they were jailed at Paoli. They were tried a week later, and all except young Tom were sentenced to three years each in the penitentiary. Young Tom was sent to the House of Refuge until he should reach his majority.
After this the Archers became divided against themselves and began peaching on each other, and I a short time John Lynch, old Tom Archer, and John and Mart were all in jail together. Lynch at once turned State’s evidence and divulged so much about the gang that the lives of the men were threatened. They were removed from Paoli to the jail at Shoals for safe keeping. The citizens were not to be cheated, however, and a few nights after the scoundrels had been taken to Shoals the jail was broken open, the three principals were taken out, and strung up without mercy. It was only a week afterward when Sam Archer was arrested in the Fountain County for the murder of Sam Bunch. He was quickly tried and sentenced to be hanged at Paoli on July 9.
With four of the principals hanged, five in the penitentiary, Wild Tom Archer on trial for burglary, Webb and John Lynch, William Ross, and Off Minton out on bail, charged with various offenses, the Archer gang is about subdued. Old Joe Wells, the hero of Orange County, is 64 years old, and was born near where he now lives. He is a rugged specimen of the Hoosier rustic, with a wrinkled, beardless face, slender, wiry body, and about 5 feet 11 inches in height.

The New York Times
Published: July 10, 1886

Submitted by: Cathy Beard

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