June 10, 1882 marks one of the darker days in the history of Lawrence.
Three Black men — Pete Vinegar, Isaac King and George Robertson — were hanged and thrown from the Kansas River bridge in the early morning hours after the body of David Bausman, a white man in his mid-40s, was found drowned.
The men were lynched by a town mob without a trial and buried in unmarked graves, and the racially motivated killings left an imprint on Lawrence.
Now, 139 years to the day later, members of the community have organized a memorial for Vinegar, King and Robertson. The ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Potter’s Field in the northeast corner of Oak Hill Cemetery, 1605 Oak Hill Ave.
Earlier this year, a chance find in Lawrence City Hall allowed local history buffs to know within a few feet where the men were buried when the city clerk’s office discovered a chart of cemetery plots tucked inside a book of decades-old county bond registers.
As best historians can tell, Bausman, the white man who was found drowned, was a widower who was thought to be having sex with Margaret “Sis” Vinegar, Pete Vinegar’s daughter, who was around age 14. King and Robertson are said to have discovered the two having sex, and beat Bausman before he drowned in the Kansas River.
Vinegar was never charged with a crime in Bausman’s death, and was thought to be out of town at the time of the killing. But because King and Robertson lived with Vinegar, he was arrested simply due to association.
Margaret was also arrested in connection with the murder, but the lynch mob that came for Vinegar, King and Robertson ultimately decided against hanging her as well. She would die a few years later of tuberculosis at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth.
It was 1 a.m. on June 10, 1882 when the mob showed up at the county jail (now Robinson Park) with nooses in hand and demanded the release of Vinegar, King and Robertson. The sheriff is said to have refused the request before being overtaken by the mob, which used sledgehammers to break the men out of their cells.
They were dragged to the Kansas River bridge, tied down and thrown over, their bodies left to hang until the next morning.
Those who attend Thursday’s memorial are welcome to bring chairs, and the event is rain or shine.
Note: This story has been corrected from a previous version that included information incorrectly communicated to The Lawrence Times about the sponsor of this event.