John R. Manning
As recorded by History
Researched by Detective Henry S. Edwards
Bessemer Police Department
Officer Rick Thiot
Cullman Police Department
Special thanks to Dominga Toner
Bessemer Hall of History
Mr. Mike Manning
Great Nephew of John R. Manning
Bessemer Police Force
A Dastardly Murder
As published in “The Bessemer”
Saturday April 6, 1889
On yesterday (Friday) a warrant was issued for the arrest of a Negro, Sandy Jones living in Prince Addition South Bessemer. Jones had made threats to kill another Negro and was carrying a Winchester rifle intentionally to put his threats into execution during the day he works at Sloss mines.
Officers John Manning, Fulton and Woods went over about eleven o’clock last night to arrest him. He was at home, he and his wife living in a small board dwelling near Crawford & Folshee’s store. Officer Manning stationed Woods at the rear door while he and Fulton went to the front. Manning knocked and on hearing a noise within, called out to Jones to open the door, that he had a warrant for his arrest. Jones replied, “ All right, that he was hunting a match to strike a light”. Finally Jones opened the door and asked manning for a match, which on receiving he closed the door again. After some little time Manning again called to him to come on or open the door. Jones then opened the door and said, “ Come in Mr. Manning”. As Manning stepped upon the threshold Jones put the Winchester almost at his breast and fired, the ball passing through the heart, and of course killing him instantly. Manning’s body fell out onto the ground, but Jones kept on firing some four or five shots.
In the meantime Fulton went to a side window and broke out a pane of glass and fired four or five shots from his revolver at him. A lamp was burning and the distance was not over twelve to fifteen feet and he ought to have been hit. After firing, Jones passed out of doors into the darkness and escaped.
John Manning was about twenty-eight years of age. He is from Cullman, where his mother now lives and came to Bessemer even before it was started, being engaged in the construction of the mineral line. For over a year past he was connected with the police force of this city.
Manning was courteous and pleasant in his manner, very gentlemanly in his behavior, well liked by everybody and was considered one of the bravest officers on the force. He was a fine looking man, black hair and eyes and a heavy, long flowing black mustache.
His dastardly and totally unprovoked murder has aroused a strong feeling of resentment, and if the Negro could be captured today the majesty of the law might whistle for its dignity.
Sandy Jones belongs to that class of Negroes known as “Hard Cases”, the only safe course for citizen’s to pursue with reference to this class is upon the first premonitions of breaking out or defying the law, to string them up or drive them from the country to some other section where the people will string them up.
Efforts are being made to trace the murderer, but so far without any clue. Later the Citizen’s are raising funds to offer a reward for Jones arrest, and the following telegram has been forwarded to the Chief of Police at Birmingham, Decatur, Anniston, Calera, Tuscaloosa, and Blocton. “ A large reward is offered for the capture of one Sandy Jones, Who murdered a policeman in Bessemer last night. Said Jones is a Negro about five feet seven inches high, ginger cake color, very thin mustache, small eyes, thick set weight about 150 pounds, about 25 years of age. Had a Winchester rifle 38 caliber”.
Thursday, April 12, 1889
The Crime That Is Now Exciting Bessemer
Circumstances Attending The Killing—
The Excitement Now Is A Maner Subsided.
Birmingham, Ala. April 7th—
A Most cold blooded murder was committed at Bessemer Friday Night at 12 o’clock.
Policeman John manning, one of oldest and most valuable men on the force, was the victim, and Sandy Jones, a Negro, was the murderer.
An Age-Herald reporter went down to Bessemer yesterday afternoon, and although there had been rumor of wild excitement and threats of lynching, the town was very quiet and the public pulse was not above the normal beat. There had been considerable talk, and some excitement when the killing was first known yesterday morning, but that soon died away and everybody went quietly about their business and left the officers of the law to catch and deal with the criminal.
There are many and various accounts of the circumstances attending the killing, but the following were obtained by the police authorities of the place, and can be relied on.
About 8 o’clock Friday night complaints were made to the police that some Negroes living in south Bessemer had threatened to kill another Negro living in the vicinity, and warrants were sworn out for Sandy Jones and three others, said to be in the plot.
Several members of the force took the warrants and began searching for the Negroes, but not one of them could be found. This was about 9 o’clock.
About 11 o’clock Officers John Manning, m. Woods and James Potter started out again to try and catch the Negroes.
On their way out they stopped at the residence of Officer Fulton and he accompanied them. The first arrest was quietly and quickly made. The Negro wanted was taken completely by surprise and the officers entered his house and pulled him out of bed almost before he was fully aware of what was going on. He had a shot gun loaded with buck shot lying under his head. But was yanked out to quickly for an opportunity to use it. The second Negro wanted did not resist and was arrested without trouble.
Officer Fulton then pulled then piloted the party around to the house of Sandy Jones, about thirty yards from the Louisville and Nashville railroad, and a quarter of a mile from Sloss mines. Jones responded to repeated knocks on the door and invited Manning in; the rest remaining at the gate. At the door he asked Manning for a match, and got one. After his lamp was lit Manning said: Well, Sandy, I want you.”
“No you don’t responded the Negro, and he grabbed a Winchester lying near and fired twice at the officer in a second’s time. The first shot missed the mark, but the second struck manning in the heart. He staggered out towards the door and fired twice. He then fell down, saying:
“Boys, I’m dead.” And died.
The Negro then stuck the muzzle of his rifle about six inches out of the door and fired four times at the three officers standing outside. The officers returned the fire and ran around the back way to shoot the Negro from that side. While they were going around the house the Negro dashed out of the front door rifle in hand and escaped almost before they knew it.
Searching parties were organized and searched the mountain fastnesses but no trace of the fugitive could be found.
The body of the murdered man was carried to the city jail. He was 30 years old, unmarried and came from Cullman. He had been on the force about eighteen months.
The Negro had been employed at Sloss mines for several years, and has frequently been in trouble before. He was five feet, six inches high, a ginger cake color and weighed about 160 pounds.
The Marshal received information yesterday morning that the Negro had been seen going in the direction of Sloss mines, but the authority is not reliable.
(Transcribed from a photograph of an article clipping from a Cullman newspaper found in the Manning family bible.)
John R. Manning
The news of the death of John R. Manning at Bessemer, last Friday night at the hands of Sandy Jones, a negro desperado, Carried sorrow to the hearts of a large circle of friends in this county where he was born and raised to manhood.
He was the son of the late Andrew J. manning, and his aged mother and several devoted brothers and sisters live to mourn his untimely death.
His remains were brought to Hanceville last Sunday and carried to his mothers place, some four miles distant, and on Monday were conveyed to Hopewell church for burial.
There were over three hundred persons at his funeral, which was conducted in a most impressive manner by the pastor Elder C. A. Owen.
Tears flowed from stout hearted men and sympathetic women as the narative was told of his taking off by the eloquent and feeling pastor, who was closely allied to the deceased by personalities.
John R. Manning was about 26 years of age, a man of generous impulses and greatly beloved by his companions and neighbors, who turned out en masse to pay respect to his memory.
As a friend he was true and confiding, as an officer in the discharge of his duty he was bold and fearless, In his dealings he was truthful and honest his family have the sympathies of all who know them.