Samuel S. Lewis: A Dade City Barber goes Berserk

On July 27, 1895 handsome Saloon keeper and Barber Samuel (Sam) S. Lewis was arrested for the double murder of two bar patrons after a heated pool fight. On August 9th Deputy Rhett Mcgregor attempted to capture and kill Lewis but only managed to land a single shot. Wounded Lewis took out his gun which he called “Nancy” and killed Deputy Mcgregor. A mob broke into the jail and hanged Lewis from a telegraph pole. In the madness the mob also shot and killed deputy Gustav Kaiser accidently mistaken him for the black worker at the prison. Kaiser and Mcgregor soon became recognized as the 1st and 2nd law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in Dade County.

Overtime the story behind the lynching and murder of the 5 individuals began to take on a life of its own. It was quickly titled “Dade’s bloodiest period” and sent the southern tip of Florida into a panic. Being one of the only lynchings in South Florida, and the first of its kind in Florida, the story picked up a lot of popularity and gained noticeable attention. As generations pass, the story of the lynching of Handsome Sam becomes more and more elaborate as discussed here by Thelma Peters author Lemon City, a book that elaborates more on the 1895 deaths of the five men.

The day after the murder, this article was posted in The Daily Argus News, accounting for the 5 men who died. In order to justify the lynching of Samuel Lewis, the paper reports that Lewis had to be stopped and in the very last sentence mentions that Lewis had killed 5 men before. The news quickly circulated around the country as seen in this article published in the local San Francisco publication.

In 1946 The Palm Beach Post writer Fenwick P. Cole wrote an article titled “It Was 51 Years Ago Next Saturday That County’s Temper Changed And Enraged Mob Lynched A Man” What makes this article especially compelling is for the first time they give a name to the African American man that the mob tried to kill just because of his race. George Perkins was the innocent black deputy sheriff that the mob “figured to put out of the way along with the white man Lewis” While the mob said they were sorry about accidently killing fellow policeman Gustave Kaiser they offered no apology to Perkins or to the family of Lewis.

Forgotten Heroes: Police Officers Killed in Early Florida, 1840-1925 is a book written by William Wilbanks in 1995 does a marvelous job of describing the two policemen Mcgregor and Kaiser and their lives before and during the shot out. Wilbanks also contributes to South Florida History Magazine and wrote an outstanding article detailing events that took place during the massacre.

 

 

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