The Alachua County Historical Commission on Tuesday presented research that suggested lynching was far more frequent in Alachua County than previously known.
County leaders had asked the commission in September for a deeper look at the number of men and women hung here during the 18th and 19th centuries. They hope to memorialize those who were lynched in the county during that period. With this week’s report, the number of known lynchings went from 21 to 43.
“Even that understates the actual number,” county commissioner Robert Hutchinson said. The record of an additional 19 lynchings between 1867 and 1871 emerged from testimony given to Congress that year.
Then, there’s a 20-year gap from 1871 to 1891 with no news of congressional records of lynching in Alachua County.
“We can’t explain that,” Kathleen Pagan, a county employee, told county commissioners.
Three more people were lynched in 1916 in Alachua County, according to a 1992 oral history that researchers found. Their names are unknown, though they’re buried along railroad tracks between Newberry and Gainesville.
After news reports of the possible lynching memorial in September, Keith Bollum of Historic Melrose Inc. found the Congressional records that included the additional 19 persons. Historical Commission member Kirkman hasn’t been able to find records of those 19 in news accounts from the time.
“The interpretation of lynchings that were done shows incredible complicity among public servants,” Hutchinson said. “Police, judges — nobody was ever punished for any of it.”
County commissioners moved forward with the idea of creating a memorial, but it would require money that’s not in the county budget. Instead, they voted unanimously to contact the Community Foundation of the North Central Florida to ask it to set up a fund that would take in donations for creating the lynching memorial.