The lynching of Ras Brown

Larry Wood

Larry Wood


When twenty-two-year-old Erastus “Ras” Brown left his home near St. Clair, Missouri, on or about Friday, July 2, 1897, he told his young wife, Julia, he would bring back medicine for their sick baby. The next thing Julia heard about her husband was that he was accused of assaulting a young white woman, and rumors of lynching the “black fiend” were running rampant. A teenage mother of two, Julia was worried sick about her deathly ill child, and now her husband of less than two years was in deep trouble.

After leaving St. Clair, Ras tramped toward Gray Summit where he’d grown up. Whether he made it to Gray Summit is uncertain, but what’s known is that he didn’t made it back home. Instead, he got sidetracked late on the morning of the 2nd when he saw twenty-one-year-old Annie Foerving walking along a lane near Villa Ridge, between St. Clair and Gray Summit.

Annie, a “pretty country girl,” had been to Villa Ridge to shop and was on her way home when she left the main road and started down a wooded path about a mile southeast of the village. According to her later story, someone sprang out of the brush and hit her head with a rock, knocking her to the ground. Stunned but conscious, she sat up and saw a black man hovering over her. She screamed and struggled as he pounced on her, but he quickly choked her into insensibility. When she regained consciousness, her attacker was gone.

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