Columbia's African American Community is Terrorized by White Mobs
The following articles were published in Samuel Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania, during August through October 1834.
The Columbia (Lancaster county) Spy, gives the following account of riots in that borough--
On Saturday, Sunday and Monday evening last, the first outbreakings of a riotous disposition were exhibited, and the windows of the houses of several of the coloured people were broken, partly on account of their own imprudence, and partly through the prevalent spirity of jealousy and animosity which pervades the country respecting that class of the population.--
On Tuesday night, however, the disorder broke out more violently, the passions of the persons who took part in the mob, and who generally consisted of minors with some older but not more reflecting heads among them, having been fired by a disturbance in the early part of the evening, represented by some as an attack, by the blacks, ona white man going to watch a lot on the outskirts of town, and by others as a defence of their property when assailed by violence. A band of persons, consisting in all of not more than fifty, then collected, and marched to that part of the borough generally occupied by the coloured population, attacked and injured a number of the houses with stones, disturbed the quiet of the place by shouting, and fired off guns occasionally though without any serious result.
The mob dispersed early, and the citizens, on Wednesday, assembled in town meeting, and made some additons to the police; and pledged themselves to sustain the peace of the city.
Editor's Notes: The dates of the weekend disturbances were August 16, 17, and 18, 1834 (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday). The date of Tuesday's violent disorder of was August 19, 1834. The African American neighborhood attacked on Tuesday was Tow Hill, located in the northeastern portion of the town. Many of the African American residents fled town for safety in the hills east of town, and in a location identified by historian William Frederic Worner as "Bethel's Woods."
Columbia's white employers, upset that many of their African American workers had been forced from town, sent notice to Lancaster County High Sheriff David "Dare Devil Dave" Miller for help. Miller responded with deputies, who helped round up the trouble-makers, but at a subsequent trial, none were convicted.
Riot at Columbia
Pa. Sept 16, 1834.
These riots continued about an hour, and amidst great noise and shouting, and the sound of missiles coming in contact with the buildings, disturbed the rest of the citizens adjacent to the scene of action. The exciting cause of this exhibition of illegal tumult and devastation, was the reported recent marriage of a black man to a white woman, which rekindled the smouldering ashes of former popular madness, and afforded an opportunity to evil-disposed individuals to re-act past occurences of disorder and destruction. They however did not stop when they had punished the object of their wrath, but spent the residue of it upon others who had committed no fresh acts which called for punishment.--Spy.
Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania 14, no. 9 (30 August 1834): 143; no. 11 (13 September 1834): 175; no. 15 (11 October 1834): 240.
William Frederic. "The Columbia Race Riots." Journal
of the Lancaster County Historical Society 26 (1922): 175-187.
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