A widow, Ellen Gaumer, was a white Ohioan of social standing. Her husband
had been a state senator and publisher of the Zanesville Signal. When
she escalated her accusation against Charles Mitchell from robbery to
rape, racial animosities doomed the twenty-three-year-old black hotel
Gaumer identified Mitchell as the man who had assaulted her in her home.
Two days later, the prisoner waived the reading of the indictment, pled
guilty, and was sentenced to the severest punishment provided under Ohio
law, twenty years in the state penitentiary.
The militia was unable to board the prisoner on a train to Columbus because
the depot was under siege by a growing mob. It was apparent to the sheriff
that "It would be grim work to protect the wretch who was cowering in
his jail cell."
When the mob tried to break in the rear door of the jailhouse, the sheriff
ordered the militia to fire. Two men were killed instantly, two more died
later, and another was paralyzed for life. The mob retreated with their
dead to the front yard.
The exhausted militiamen abandoned the vigil at 7 a.m., expecting the
Springfield Company of the Ohio National Guard to arrive from the station.
However, the mayor of Urbana intercepted the reinforcements and sent them
back to the depot. The lynchers saw their chance and broke for the jail.
They encountered no resistance, and the sheriff handed them the keys to
Charles Mitchell's cell. Mitchell "received blows and kicks," and the
noose was applied.
In the public square, a rope was hitched over a limb. Mitchell was jerked
up and down until the executioners were confident his neck was broken.
The corpse was placed in a coffin under the lynching tree for public exhibition,
where it stayed until late in the day. Relic hunters stripped it,"even
taking his stockings and shoes." No relatives came to claim the remains.