The Ku-Klux Visited Me
December 1871 — South Carolina Court Proceedings, Columbia SC
Harriet Postle: I live in the eastern part of York County [South Carolina] . . . . on Mr. James Smith’s plantation; I am about thirty years old; my husband is a preacher; I have a family of six children; the oldest is about fourteen; the Ku-Klux visited me last spring . . . I was asleep when they came; they made a great noise and waked me up, and called out for Postle; my husband heard them and jumped up, and I thought he was putting on his clothes, but when I got up I found he was gone; they kept on hallooing for Postle and knocking at the door; I was trying to get on my clothes, but I was so frightened I did not get on my clothes at all; it looked like they were going to knock the door down; then the rest of them began to come into the house, and my oldest child got out and ran under the bed; one of them saw him and said, “There he is; I see him;” and with that three of them pointed their pistols under the bed; I then cried out, “It is my child;” they told him to come out; when my child came out from under the bed, one of them said, “Put it on his neck;” and the child commenced hallooing and crying, and I begged them not to hurt my child; they did not hurt it, but one of them ran the child back against the wall, and ground a piece of skin off as big as my hand. I then took a chair and sat it back upon a loose plank, and sat down upon it; one of the men stepped up; seeing the plank loose, he just jerked the chair and threw me over, while my babe was in my arms, and I fell with my babe to the floor, when one of them clapped his foot upon the child, and another had his foot upon me; I begged him, for the Lord’s sake, to save my child; I went and picked up my babe, and when I opened the door and looked I saw they had formed a line; they asked me if Postle was there; I said no; they told me to make up a light, but I was so frightened I could not do it well, and I asked my child to make it up for me; they they asked me where my husband was; I told them he was gone for some meal; they said he was there somewhere, and they called me a damned liar; one of them said: “He is under the house;” then one of them comes to me and says: I am going to have the truth tonight; you are a damned, lying bitch, and you are telling a lie;” and he had a line, and commenced putting it over my neck; said he: “you are telling a lie; I know it; he is here;” I told them again he was gone; when he had the rope round my head he said, “I want you to tell me where your husband is;” and, said he, “The truth I’ve got to have.’” I commenced hallooing, and says he, “We are men of peace, but you are telling a damned lie, and you are not to tell me any lies to-night;” and the one who had his foot on my body mashed me badly, but not so badly as he might have done, for I was seven or eight months gone in travail; then I got outside of the house and sat down with my back against the house, and I called the little ones to me, after they were all dreadfully frightened; they said my husband was there, and that they would shoot into every crack; and they did shoot all over the place, and there are bullet-holes there and bullet-mars on the hearth yet; at this time there were some in the house and some outside, and says they to me: “We’re going to have the truth out of you, you damned lying bitch; he is somewhere about here;” said I, “He is gone;” with that he clapped his hands on my neck and with one hand put the line over my neck. . . and with that he beat my head against the side of the house till I had no sense hardly left; but I still had hold of my babe.
Mr. Corbin: Did you recognize anybody?
A: Yes, sir; I did: I recognized the first man that came into the house it was Dr. Avery. I recognized him by his performance, and when he was entangling the line round my neck; as I lifted my hand to keep the rope off my neck, I caught his lame hand; it was his left hand that I caught, his crippled hand; I felt it in my hand, and I said to myself right then, I know you;” And I knew Joe Castle and James Matthews — the old man’s son; I didn’t know anyone else: I suppose there was about a dozen altogether there; Dr. Avery had on a red gown with a blue face, with red about his mouth, and he had two horns on his cap about a foot long; the line that he tried to put over my neck was a buggy-line, not quite so wide as three fingers, but wider than two; they said to me that they rode thirty-eight miles that night to see Old Abe Broomfield and preacher Postle; they said that they had heard that preacher Postle had been preaching up fire and corruption; they afterward found my husband under the house, but I had gone to the big house with my children to take them out of the cold, and I did not see them pull him out from the house.
Source: KKK Hearings, Vol. 5, South Carolina Court Proceedings, December 19 and 30, 1871; and Vol. 9, Testimony Before the Joint Committee of Mississippi Legislature to Investigate the Meridian Riot, March 21, 1871.