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S.A. Bierfield, Considered First Jew Lynches by KKK, was killed,

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: August 15th, 1868


#onthisday S.A. Bierfield was lynched in Franklin, Tennessee by the Ku Klux Klan on August 15th 1868. Although his lynching is not known by many, he was allegedly, the first Jew to be lynched by the KKK.


Bierfield was originally from Latvia before he moved to Toronto to live with his uncle. It is unknown why but at some point in his early 20’s Bierfield moved to Tennessee.


Down south, he worked as a peddler and then in a grocery store before he earned and saved enough money to open his own store. He was known as a Republican and a supporter of Reconstruction, the exact opposite of local popular opinion.


He did business with both whites and blacks and employed a black man during a post Civil War south that was not particularly accepting of that.


On the night of August 15 he was in the back of his store with his clerk and another man, when five masked men began banging on the back door to his store. He asked who was there and they responded “Friends” to which he replied “if you are my friends then why don’t you come in through the front door.”

They refused and instead broke down the back door.


When Bierfield tried to escape he was met with a mob of people outside. The five men caught him and dragged him down the block while he struggled to be freed from their grasp. They then shot him five times at point blank range and murdered him.


His clerk, Lawrence Bowman, was also killed while the friend Henry Morton was able to escape. It is through Morton that the story has been retold and written down in history.


One possibility was that the KKK targeted him because of his political stance as a Republican or because he treated his black clerk too well. Another option is that he was killed by a mob because there were those who believed he was guilty of murder.

Jeremiah Ezell was killed on July 18 and the man, Israel Brown, who was found guilty of the murder claimed that Brierfield paid him to kill Ezell. A letter supposedly written by Bierfield to Brown was used to black up that claim but it was later proved to be a forged letter. Another possibility for his lynchning was that a business competitor was responsible due to jealousy.


In September, John Pogue Jr. was arrested for the lynching of Bierfield but seven witnesses testified providing him with an alibi and he was released. The case is unsolved to this day.

Text Source: https://forward.com/news/210334/untold-story-of-the-first-jewish-lynching-in-ameri/

Image Source: https://forward.com/news/210334/untold-story-of-the-first-jewish-lynching-in-ameri/

✍: @rebeccaroth01



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