CW: Lynching, Murder, Kidnapping
It was brought to my attention there may be factual errors in this post. Thus, this post is under review and I will inform you of updates in the near future.
Amer Green was the first and only man lynched in Carroll County, Indiana on October 21, 1887. While in custody as a suspect for the alleged abduction and murder of Luella Mabbitt, Green was dragged from the jail by an angry mob and lynched seven miles away. This sensationalized case did not end when Luella’s sister identified a body in the Wabash River as Luella. Many sightings of Luella made headlines, causing some to question whether or not they killed an innocent man.
This is a story about a missing woman, a community’s demand for justice, and a haunted school.
On August 6, 1886, Luella Mabbitt’s parents watched as she got into a buggy with Amer Green, and his friend William Walker, at their home in Wildcat, Indiana. This was not unusual as Luella (age 23) was dating Amer Green (age 34), but Luella’s father Peter Mabbitt knew something was wrong when she never returned home. He accused the men of kidnapping his daughter.
Both Amer and William denied having any part in her disappearance to authorities. Amer Green fled town. William was tried and found not guilty as his whereabouts were corroborated by Luella’s own sister Cynthia, whom he married the following year (Murder by Gaslight). Rumors began to fly that Luella was alive and well, and possibly married to Amer in Texas. Some believed she was dead.
When a decomposed body was found in the Wabash River on February 6th of 1887, the family had differing opinions on whether or not it was Luella. Dental records led investigators to believe it was Luella (Kriebel). Amer Green was obtained by authorities in Fort Worth, Texas on July 15, 1887. He was arrested along with his brother William Green, who was wanted for another murder.
Amer was set to stand trial, but community members could not wait for law and order.
On October 21, 1887, a mob broke into the jail where Amer was held in Delphi, Indiana. Although he screamed his innocence, the mob dragged him to an area known as Walnut Grove and lynched him. Amer Green would never sit trial.
His obituary in The Tribune (October 27, 1887) briefly touched on his last moments.
He said that Luella Mabbitt was in Fort Worth, Texas, living with a friend named Samuel Paine, and would return at the proper time. The story was disbelieved. The sudden determination to lynch Green was brought through fear that justice would not be done him, as the first indictment had been found defective. Green held throughout that he would have the girl at the trial when all would be explained.
According to a short article in The Indianapolis News (November 1887), the planned lynching was public knowledge:
Governor Gray has received a personal letter from a republican of Carroll county, in which he says that nearly everybody there, including Sheriff Van Gundy, knew that a mob was being organized to lynch Amer Green, and that many citizens, who otherwise would have been down town that night, purposely stayed at their homes, so that they could not be suspected of complicity in the outrage.
Sheriff Van Gundy was publicly reprimanded in a letter in the Indianapolis Journal by Governor Issac P. Gray on the morning of October 24, 1887. He believed the sheriff exhibited a lack of precaution. Along with the issue of not using lawful means to sentence and persecute Amer, there was another issue entirely.
The newspapers of the time gave differing opinions on whether or not Amer Green had committed a crime and whether or not Luella Mabbitt was even dead. Reports circulated of a heavily-veiled woman who arrived by train to Delphi, Indiana from Forth Worth, Texas the night following the lynching. She inquired about a trunk, but left empty handed. When the trunk finally arrived, the community waited patiently for the woman, believed to be Luella Mabbit, to collect her trunk. She never returned.
In 1898, Reverend Daniel Parker of Flora, Indiana (near Delphi) reported seeing Luella Mabbitt in Mexico. The reverend was familiar with the family and had visited their home often. He claimed to see Luella Mabbitt in Mexico, alive, married to wealth, and living quite well. Several locals believed Reverend Parker and that an innocent man was lynched (Logansport Pharos-Tribune).
While the story remains a mystery, the sensationalism of the story has left the names Luella Mabbitt and Amer Green all over the newspaper archives.
“The walnut tree, before then a large and thrifty one, never bore foliage after the lynching, and stood a bleak and lonesome reminder of the tragedy.” – The Chronicle, Scottsburg, IN
Trustee Jesse Martin of Jackson township put Amer Green back in the press in 1901 when he began taking bids for the erection of a new school in Walnut Grove. The reason for this new school? The current school was in close proximity to Amer Green’s lynching tree…and his ghost.
At the time, the tree was most likely in bad shape. According to a newspaper clipping I came across from 1898, the tree was blown over in a windstorm. It seems the school was next to fall.
Teachers and students reported seeing the ghost of Amer Green and hearing odd sounds on school grounds. The ghost attached to the tree would become a nuisance to school trustees, who eventually had to deal with scared children (and parents). The Daily Notes of Pennsylvania provided substantial details of the children’s experiences. Two quotes stood out:
- “When little Johnny Jones and his sister Sue, for instance, came screaming home to their mother and told her of seeing a man swinging by the neck to a tree […] and that the hanging man amused himself by making ugly faces at them.”
- “Sometimes the ghost varied his appearance, and instead of hanging from the tree, would be seen strolling along the road, his head very much on one side, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, and an expression of indescribable agony on his face.”
The fate of the school would eventually be decided when attendance became slim and when distinguished and trusted Dr. Budford Karns saw a man hanging in that very tree on his way home. He was reliable and the trustees took notice. A new school was eventually built.
Why does Amer Green’s ghost still haunt Walnut Grove? Is it some divine punishment for a murder? Or, on the other hand, will he not rest until he is proven innocent? We may never know what happened to Luella Mabbitt, and Indiana will always be haunted by the lynching of Amer Green.
“Amer Green.” Indiana GenWeb Project.
“Amer Green’s Crime.” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, 5 Jan 1898, p.19.
“Green’s Uneasy Ghost.” The Daily Notes, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, 21 Aug 1901, p. 3.
“Indiana Idea of ‘Historic’.” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, 14 Nov 1898, Mon, p. 2.
“Is Luella Mabbitt Alive?” The Indianapolis Journal, Indianapolis, Indiana, 25 Oct 1887, p. 1.
“It Run Them Out: Reputed Ghost of ‘Amer Green Receive Official Recognition.” The Columbus Republican. Columbus, Indiana, 27 Jun 1901, Thu, p. 1.
Kriebel, Bob. “Counterfeiter Eluded Justice.” Journal and Courier, Lafayette, Indiana, 16 Apr 2000, Sun, p. 13.
Marshall County Independent, Plymouth, Indiana, 14 Jan 1898, Fri, p. 5.
“The Amer Green Lynching.” The Indianapolis Journal, Indianapolis, Indiana, 24 Oct 1887, Mon, p. 5.
“The Amer Green Lynching.” The Indianapolis News, Indianapolis, Indiana, 22 Nov 1887, Tue, p.1.
The Chronicle, Scottsburg, Indiana, 4 Jul 1901, Thu, p. 2.
“The Mabbitt Mystery.” Murder by Gaslight, 12 May 2018.
Rocchio, Pasquale. “Amer Green Achieved ‘Dubious’ Distinction in Carroll County.” The Kokomo Tribune, Kokomo, Indiana, 29 Aug 1974, Thu, p. 10.
“School Abandoned.” The Richmond Item, Richmond, Indiana, 26 Jun 1901, Wed, p. 7.