Note: I had - at one point - wondered if the below Albert belonged to my family. I do not believe the below Albert Parker was the same as Albert Parks whom is part of my line. #1 The Albert in this article had a middle initial of H and mine's middle initial was A or M. #2 The below Albert was born in 1838 in New York (reference: history books and census This Albert was the son of Dr. Charles Parks) My Albert was born in 1817 in TN or KY #3 This article places Albert H. in Texas, then Kansas, then Little Rock, then Searcy County, Arkansas. Census show my Albert elsewhere.
The Murder Of Albert Parker
By Ray D. Rains
Frontier Times Magazine
A CALM had settled with the approaching autumn night. In the east a full moon at quarter sky, casting its yellow rays, prevailed over the feeble glow of the oil-generated street lamps along Spring Street in Searcy, Arkansas, seat of White County. The little town had the same deathlike stillness that had shrouded the rest of the countryside ever since the Civil War began.
Even after the conflict, peace had not come. Too many land-greedy money-mongers had flocked to the destitute South and these despoilers soon became the power of authority. By spring of 1866 the political term, Republican Party, had all but vanished from the South's vocabulary—replaced with contempt and hatred by "Carpetbagger."
Suddenly an explosion erupted among the Democrats with the organization of the Ku Klux Klan. In April 1867, former Confederate General N. B. Forrest, chosen as the new leader, changed the organization's original format and purpose, referring to the new system more dramatically as the impregnable "Invisible Empire." The result was a surge of enmity which divided the once staunch and powerful Democrat party of the Old South into two factions.
Before the end of the year the amazing number of 20,000 men, in Arkansas alone, had joined the Empire, pledging undying resistance against the Carpetbag forces. The massive group of Democrats represented by the Klansmen unanimously chose the title "Old Guard," while the pitifully few remaining were referred to as "Ante Bellum." These latter, each to his own choice, eventually supported the Republicans either openly or secretly.
SPRING STREET that night was deserted except for two men strolling leisurely south toward Spring Park. Situated at the end of the street, the park afforded an abundance of water from three overflowing springs. From the beginning the park had served as a relaxing, recreational facility for the community. Only after the political turbulence created by the Ku Klux Klan had the park become deserted by its usual late afternoon and early night-time crowds.
One of the men walking on the dimly lit street was James Russell, a day constable for the city. In the crook of his arm he carried a bucket as though his intent was to get water at one of the springs. Albert Parker, a former Confederate captain and a newcomer to Searcy, was the other man. His purported mission was to buy cattle from nearby farms for a northern market.
Albert H. Parker (a brother to David B. Parker, who for many years was Chief Postal Inspector) had left his native New York State and settled in Freestone County, Texas a few miles east of Fairfield on the Trinity River. He was a successful merchant but later acquired considerable land along the Trinity. In time he married, and at the outbreak of the Civil War was considered a farmer and cattleman of great prominence.
When the storm of Secession came, it swept Parker like many others into its vortex. He accepted a commission as captain of a cavalry unit in the Confederate Army. Anticipating victory within the year, he left his wife, his home, and his property to the spoils of a civil war.
After four long and painful years, Parker returned to the life of which he had constantly dreamed; but only dreams they proved to be. Arriving in Texas he found that his wife had died, his home had burned, and his cattle had been confiscated by Confederate foragers. With hatred in his heart, Parker sold his land and went to Lawrence, Kansas.
Kansas, too, failed to provide the peace he was seeking. Sooner or later the word always surfaced that Parker had fought with the Confederacy, and feelings ran high in Kansas against the Rebels. Disappointed and disgusted, he left Lawrence and went to Little Rock in search of his old friend and regimental commander, Major Samuel Walker. Parker had read of the Major's diversion from the Democrats to the Empire, and of his supporting the Republicans then in power.
During the last three years of the Civil War, Walker had been Parker's inspiration to keep fighting what he knew was a losing battle. Time after time he followed the old man's advice, which in the end always guided Parker and his men safely through many treacherous encounters.
PARKER went to Walker's home, explaining his bitter hatred for the segment of the Confederacy responsible for financially and morally wrecking his future.
"I want you to take a letter to Governor Powell Clayton," Walker said after listening to Parker's story. For several minutes the old man wrote on a piece of paper. When he finished, he carefully sealed it in an envelope, then turned his attention back to Parker.
"Powell Clayton," Walker said, "is a goad man—clean in everything he does. But being a Republican, the odds are against him. Getting Arkansas back in good standing with the Union is more than he can do by himself, and at the same time fight that band of murdering scoundrels calling themselves the Invisible Empire.
"Isaac Murphy left office with Arkansas in good condition financially, but he sat on his hind-end and let Bob Shaver organize and recruit better than 20,000 Ku Klux—eighty percent of the Democrat Party. That, as you know, has split the party all to hell."
It was unnecessary to tell Parker what the Klansmen had been doing. For some time he had been keeping up with their activities through the newspapers. Powell Clayton's Republican Party, with its northern proclivity, was already in trouble to the point that he was seeking support from the Ante Bellum Democrats to help counter Shaver and the Klan.
When accused of being a Carpetbagger, Clayton steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, indignantly and stoutly denying any affiliation. Personally Parker felt confident that the Governor's ultimate goal was to reunite the state with the Union, as quickly and as easily as possible.
ON presentation of Walker's letter, the Governor readily invited Parker into his office. In short, Clayton realized immediately that this man was who he was looking for to go undercover and investigate the activities of the Ku Klux Klan.
Clayton outlined his scheme to undermine the Empire with men he had hand-picked and screened. These men would be under the supervision of the Governor's office, as well as being responsible to Adjutant General Keyes Danforth, commander of the newly organized State Militia. As special investigators they would be assigned to various counties to ferret out important figures in the Klan's operation. Where necessary, martial law would be imposed until order could be restored.
Albert Parker and General Danforth were immediately brought together. Parker was assigned to White County, where he was to investigate the attempted assassination of Senator Steven Wheeler, as well as the murder of Ban Humphries, an intelligent and influential Negro leader. Parker was to handle the investigation at his own discretion, but it was suggested he pose as a cattle buyer from Texas. Having experience as a cattleman and having lived in Texas, it was thought he could act the part convincingly.
It was a hot day in early September when Albert Parker stepped from the stage in Searcy, directly in front of a store displaying a sign reading "Greer and Baucum." Entering the store, Parker asked to be directed to a reliable hotel. "Two blocks south and a block east is the Yarnell. It's the best place in town to stay," a young man answered, smiling politely.
After lodging arrangements had been made, Parker left the hotel and walked the three blocks back to town. Greer and Baucum's store was situated at the corner of Spring and Market Streets, facing west. At that corner Parker turned west and crossed the street. The next two blocks contained a jumble of false-front buildings, all in a bad state of repair. But despite their shabby condition, Parker noted every building was occupied and bustling with activity.
At the next corner on the right stood a huge two-story log building with an identifying sign that simply read, "Court House." Next to it was a print shop, the White County Record. "This would be Jacob Frolich's," Parker thought, remembering what General Danforth had said about Frolich's timely editorials.
The General had described the Record's editor and his open contempt for the Negro population, for Carpetbaggers, and for the Arkansas Daily Republican, a newspaper which denounced Shaver and the Klan. Somehow, the belligerent little Searcy editor always beat the Daily Republican to the punch by accusing the Carpetbag forces for things the Daily later blamed on the Klan.
IT HAD BEEN Parker's plan to go to the printing office and have handbills struck, explaining his cattle buying enterprise in the process. He figured the more his presence was circulated, the more widespread his contacts would be. While knowing full well his best information would come from within the limits of Searcy, it would be smart to move freely about the county.
Inside the small print shop he was met by a wiry little man, middle-aged and sporting a full growth of jet-black beard. From beneath heavy brows, his beady eyes seemed to pierce the very depth of anyone before him. Parker felt the urge to turn and walk out, but his better judgment told him this could be his first step toward gaining the information he needed.
"I'm Jacob Frolich, owner of the Record. What can I do for you?" The voice was authoritative, crisp and biting. Before Parker could answer, Frolich remarked, "You're a stranger in Searcy, I believe."
Suddenly Parker didn't like the man. He hated the arrogance plainly visible in the way he kept triumphantly rubbing his hands together and the provoking shift of his beady eyes. From a personal viewpoint, of course, he hated everything Frolich stood for.
Fully realizing that the little printer would be a difficult proposition, where extracting information was concerned, Parker simply stated his business and after bidding Frolich a pleasant good-day, left the building.
As he walked back up the street, he had a feeling that his trip to the Record had been anything but successful. All he had gained was an impression: Jacob Frolich was a prime candidate as one qualified to administer the decrees of the Invisible Empire.
Parker's next stop was at Greer and Baucum's store where he made friends with John McCauley, the young man he had spoken with earlier. John had clerked at the store only a short while, having moved to Searcy from Fairview (Pleasant Plains) in Independence County, twenty-five miles to the north. In May of that year, an enterprising young land investor from Memphis, Leroy Burrow, had recommended John for the job at Greer and Baucum's.
Later Parker learned that Burrow had made his first appearance in White County sometime in late April of 1867. He had been quick to make contact with several of the more prominent citizens in Searcy, such as Dandridge McRae, William Brundidge, and the Record's editor, Jacob Frolich.
McRae was an attorney and during the war had been a soldier, climbing to the rank of general in the Confederate Army.
Brundidge was also an attorney, somewhat older than McRae and well known throughout the state as a successful trial lawyer. These men, along with William Edwards, John Holland, and John Lewis — to name a few—helped Burrow to quickly gain stature in the community.
In the coming weeks, Albert Parker learned much relative to the organization and operation of the Empire. Bit by bit, pieces began falling in place. He found that John Lewis had been foiled in the assassination of Senator Wheeler. He also uncovered the mystery of the Ban Humphries murder. Brundidge, Russell, and a man named Howell Brady, had killed the Negro leader on a lonely road near West Point, a port town on Little Red River.
Parker compiled all the information he had gathered during his short stint of investigation in a letter to Governor Clayton. He addressed the letter to a Mr. Pugh in Little Rock, to avert suspicion.
IT APPEARS that Albert Parker put too much emphasis on his detective duties and not enough on buying cattle to keep his Searcy acquaintances from wondering about the situation. At one of the midnight meetings, Jacob Frolich brought up the subject. After much debate it was decided that a tight surveillance should be placed on Parker's activities. A Klan member employed at the post office was cautioned to be on guard for all incoming and outgoing mail concerning the suspect.
On October 13, 1868 Parker posted a letter with enough evidence to bring every Klan member belonging to the Searcy Den under investigation—possibly enough to bring martial law to the county. In several areas the Empire was already feeling the effects of the State Militia as it swept down on the masked midnight riders.
The names and incidents appearing hereafter are a matter of record in both the Little Rock Daily Republican and the Arkansas Gazette, dating from October 1868 through August 25, 1871. Information was also derived from Governor Clayton's book, The After-math of the the Civil War in Arkansas.
McRae, Frolich and Russell called a special meeting of the Searcy Den for midnight October 13, 1868, during which a committee of five men—called "Yahoos" — were appointed to dispose of Parker. The five were John Holland, William Edwards, William Brundige, Leroy Burrow, and John McCauley. James Russell, Head Cyclops of the Searcy Den, was to deliver the victim to his executioners at the White Sulphur Spring in Spring Park on the night of October 14, at around ten o'clock.
On the fatal night Russell encountered Parker leaving Greer and Baucum's store and invited Parker to accompany him to the park while he drew a bucket of water. On the way they talked of things in general until they came to the White Sulphur Spring. As they mounted the steps to the spring, hooded men with drawn revolvers appeared from the darkness. Russell turned and disappeared in the direction he and Parker had come.
While the Klansmen had donned white hoods to conceal their identity, they had omitted the remainder of their usual garb and Parker had no trouble identifying each of his captors. He was familiar with all of them in their roles as citizens and their alleged involvement with the Empire.
After the first shock had passed, Parker tried to turn the confrontation into a practical joke. But he was assured it was no joke; their job was simply to kill him. In disbelief he asked their motive. Parker was told he had written Governor Clayton, revealing information pertinent to the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in White County.
When Parker denied the charge, he was told that the letter had been intercepted at the post office by a member of the Klan and delivered to the Head Cyclops for examination. After a lengthy debate, the Den members had voted to dispose of him.
Parker was led a half-mile southwest of Searcy to what was then the McConnaha farm, shot several times, and dropped into a dug-well. A number of posts and timbers were used to press the body to the bottom and secure it in this position.
TWO DAYS later Jacob Frolich wrote one of his stimulating editorials in the White County Record:
"It is grievant to learn our good friend, Albert Parker, has suddenly left town without paying his hotel bill. Being the gentleman he was in our midst, it is hard to believe Mr. Parker would, of his own freewill, abscond leaving Mr. Yarnell holding an unpaid bill in the sum of $18.00. Though his acquaintance was short, the good citizens of our fair city regret losing this honorable Democrat, which could have been a great asset in the coming election. It is the opinion of this paper, as well as the opinion of many of our good citizens of Searcy, the so-called Royal Loyal League may know more about the situation than they care to admit."
Again Frolich had been quick to use his pen in an effort to involve the black population supporting the Republican Party. Less than a year before a group of Negroes had come together organizing the Royal Loyal League, fighting for their legal admission to the voting polls, ignoring all threats made by the Empire.
With Ban Humphries' murder, Frolich had made an open accusation against the League, claiming the murder was brought about by discord among the rank and file. But try as they might, the Klan failed to keep the black organization from growing. By the summer of '68 over 200 Negroes had banded together, determined to go to the polls in the next election.
As the months went by, Albert Parker was forgotten by all except perhaps those who had so ruthlessly murdered him. Then, just short of a year, on September 10, 1869, bits of clothing, strands of matted hair and fragments of decaying flesh began to surface at the dug-well. The body was removed from the well and identified by those knowing him personally. John McCauley was one who came forward to help with the identification. That night McCauley quit his job at Greer and Baucum's and returned to his home in Fairview. He was not seen again in Searcy until Circuit Court convened in March 1870. It is not recorded, but is presumed that he returned as a witness in some other case.
In the last week of March 1870, Major F. M. Chrisman, an Ante Bellum Democrat and a former Confederate officer newly appointed to be Circuit Superintendent of Public Instruction, received vital information that brought the unsolved Parker murder to a speedy conclusion.
The same week Circuit Court was in session, Chrisman was forced to share a room with John McCauley because of overcrowded conditions at the hotel. During the night Chrisman was awakened by sobs and groans coming from McCauley. When questioned, McCauley told Chrisman he had been mentally tormented since the day he helped remove Parker's body from the well on the McConnaha farm. He confessed he had helped Burrow, Holland, Brundige and Edwards kill Parker, after James Russell had enticed the victim to Spring Park.
On June 2, 1870 McCauley made a sworn statement to the same effect, but added that McRae and Frolich had known of the intended murder and had helped appoint the five Yahoos who did the killing.
WHEN General Keyes Danforth arrived in Searcy, he could only find Russell, Holland, Edwards and McCauley — all had been hidden away on a farm belonging to Major Chrisman's brother, Issac. Leroy Burrow was on a business trip to Memphis and not expected back for several days. He was later apprehended on a riverboat at DeValls Bluff and taken to Little Rock, as were the others.
Frolich slipped out of Searcy after dark, reportedly heading for the Canadian border. Dandridge McRae was sought in vain, though the State Militia made every effort. Years later McRae said he had taken refuge with a Union sympathizer he had befriended during the war in Woodruff County across White River.
William Brundidge had taken flight to Texas soon after Parker's body was recovered from the well. After John McCauley's sworn statement, Brundidge was never mentioned again, either in the indictments or the trial records.
On January 10, 1871 a trial was held in DeValls Bluff, Prairie County, on a change of venue for Edwards, Holland and Russell for the murder of Albert Parker. Prosecutor Yonley asked for a continuance, so Judge John Whytock consented to release the prisoners on $5,000 bond each.
During the next six months several political ploys were made. Judge Whytock, who was slated for Chief Justice, relinquished his circuit judgeship to former defense attorney Colonel Sol F. Clark, who in turn immediately called Circuit Court into session in White County. McCauley was tried with Edwards, Holland and Russell, all receiving a verdict of not guilty.
In the meantime, friends of Frolich and McRae had made a deal with Joseph Brooks, a so-called "Brindletailed" Republican candidate for governor, not to field any Democratic candidates in the coming election for the guaranteed freedom of all accused in the Parker affair. After being promised acquittal by "hook or crook," Frolich and McRae came out of hiding, posted bond and waited for trial, docketed for August 25, 1871.
It is noted in Criminal Court Docket A—page 79, dated August 21, 1871— that Leroy Burrow was to appear with Frolich and McRae. However, no mention was made of him thereafter. In Powell Clayton's book, no mention was made of Burrow after he had turned states evidence. It is believed by most local historians that he was closely tied to General Forrest in organizing the Empire in Arkansas; also that Burrow was released through compromise between the two opposing factions trying to gain political control of Arkansas.
So on August 25, 1871 Frolich and McRae—without Burrow—were brought to trial. The prosecution asked for a continuance, but was denied by Judge Clark and the trial went on. The next day the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, without leaving the jury box.
In answer to criticism by the Republican Daily of September 7, Judge Clark wrote a letter to the Arkansas Gazette, revealing that the Frolich-McRae jury had been selected by the White County Sheriff—a Governor Clayton appointee. He also pointed out that all the prosecution's witnesses had been dismissed by the prosecutor.
However tragic the whole affair seems, it would be shameful not to make certain remarks concerning some of the accused. Despite the documents of evidence, Dandridge McRae before his death in 1899 proved to be one of the greatest public servants in Arkansas history. After over a hundred years his presence is still felt in both county and state. One of the finest elementary schools in Central Arkansas bears his name. Across the street from the school stands the old McRae home, where through days and nights of loneliness it sheltered the family while he executed his duties as brigadier-general in the Confederate Army.
John A. McCauley returned to the farming region in Independence County. I have been unable to trace his movements beyond a few months after the Parker incident ended. The graves of his father and that of his grandmother, along with many other relatives, have been located—but no John A. McCauley.
Jacob Frolich is believed to have returned to his native Canada. William Brundidge evidently never returned to White County, as there is no gravestone or even an unmarked grave in the old Brundidge family burial plot, indicating as much. All the rest accused in the records lived out their life spans in dutiful service to the community.
While time has all but erased the violent years of Reconstruction, a flame is still easily kindled from the spark of the eyes of an old-timer when questioned about the past. It would be a mistake to say that they or their fathers ever agreed with the words so boldly written by Powell Clayton:
"It is a monstrous proposition that five men called 'Yahoos' should have been vested with power to seal the fate of an American citizen, and take the life of a man doomed by their decision and then, by the very strength of the organization on whose behalf they acted, escape the consequence of their awful crimes."
His statement is true, of course, but events have to be judged in the context of the circumstances under which they occurred. I have talked with Dandridge McRae's 91-year-old grand-daughter. She had read many accounts and heard many stories of the General's activities with the Klan, but it was her opinion that he did what he felt he had to do. For most Southerners, and even for men in the border states, the Civil War was still going on during Reconstruction days. Enemies and spies were in their midst — disguised in civilian clothing — and terrible deeds were committed by ex-Confederates whose minds and hearts had been unhinged by the Bloody Sixties.