Stepfather Thinks Negro is Murderer

Stepfather Thinks Negro is MurdererAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

Believes That Newt Lee Bound and Gagged, Then Murdered Mary Phagan

W. J. Coleman, step-father of Mary Phagan, believes that she was murdered by Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, but that before the murder she lay bound and gagged in the factory of the National Pen [sic] company, 37 South Forsyth street, from shortly after noon on Saturday until past midnight.

As people passed back and forth along the street, as members of the girl’s family waited anxiously for her return, he thinks that she lay helpless within the factory, while the negro waited for an opportune time to attack and then murder her.

His belief is that as soon as she had been paid the wages that she went to the factory to collect, she passed into the dressing room, perhaps for a drink of water. There, in his opinion, the negro seized the girl and bound and gagged her. He says there is plain evidence in the dressing room that the girl was first attacked there. Continue Reading →

Today is Mary Phagan’s Birthday; Mother Tells of Party She Planned


Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, June 1st, 1913

Parents Intended to Give Child Happy Surprise—Now They Will Strew Flowers on Her Grave in Marietta Churchyard.


This will be the saddest Sunday with Mary Phagan’s family since that fatal Sunday just five weeks ago when the little girl’s body was found hidden away in the basement of the National Pencil factory.

For to-day is Mary’s birthday, and it had been planned by her mother and stepfather, Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Coleman, that they would give her a party. If she had lived it would have been celebrated last night in her little home on Lindsay Street, where she had spent the past fifteen months of her life.

Instead of that, there is a shadow over the household, and she was spoken of with an ache in the throat and tears. Where last night would have been so happy for Mary, there was silence, and to-day the family expects to go to Marietta to weep above the little mound where she rests and lay flowers on the grave.

Was to Have Been a Surprise.

Mary’s birthday party, Mrs. Coleman said, was to have been a surprise, and as she told of it Saturday morning over the ironing-board—spoke of her other childish birthdays, the things Mary said and did, and all the tender little recollections of her a mother’s heart holds dear—her voice choked with sobs so that she could scarcely speak.

“It would have been the child’s first party,” she said simply. “The poor little thing never had had much in her life—she had to work so hard. It was Mr. Coleman’s idea. He thought it would be nice for her. He was like a father to her, anyway, and the only one she had ever known. Her own father died before she was born. Continue Reading →

Leo Frank Trial: Week Four

Leo-Frank-closeup-340x264Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

Join The American Mercury as we recount the events of the final week of the trial of Leo Frank (pictured) for the slaying of Mary Phagan.

by Bradford L. Huie

ON THE HEELS of Leo Frank’s astounding unsworn statement to the court, the defense called a number of women who stated that they had never experienced any improper sexual advances on the part of Frank. But the prosecution rebutted that testimony with several rather persuasive female witnesses of its own. These rebuttal witnesses also addressed Frank’s claims that he was so unfamiliar with Mary Phagan that he did not even know her by name. (For background on this case, read our introductory article, our coverage of Week One,  Week Two, and Week Three of the trial, and my exclusive summary of the evidence against Frank.)

Here are the witnesses’ statements, direct from the Brief of Evidence, interspersed with my commentary. The emphasis and paragraphing (for clarity) is mine. The defense recommenced with a large contingent of Frank’s friends, business associates, and employees who would say that Leo Frank was of good character and had not, to their knowledge, made any improper sexual approaches to the girls and women who worked under him: Continue Reading →

Employe of Lunch Stand Near Pencil Factory is Trailed to Alabama

Employe of Lunch Stand Near Pencil Factory isAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, May 7th, 1913

Detectives Figure Strangling Was a Typical Mediterranean Crime—Solicitor Dorsey Grills Watchman Lee in Effort to Get New Points.

A new and sensational interpretation was given the Phagan mystery Wednesday afternoon when it was revealed that Pinkerton detectives are trailing a Greek now missing who was employed in a restaurant near the National Pencil factory before the crime was committed.

The reasons that the city detectives give for the adoption of the new theory are:

The slaying of Mary Phagan was not a negro crime, as the only negro who has been suspected in the case, Newt Lee, would have fled from the scene.

The notes which were left with the evident intention of diverting suspicion from the actual criminal were too subtle for Lee to have framed.

Strangulation, the method by which Mary Phagan was killed, is not a negro method of killing.

But this method is typical of the Mediterranean countries.

Working along these new lines, the detectives are of the opinion that the crime was not committed inside the National Pencil Factory. They believe that the girl was attacked outside the factory and that her body was taken inside with the intention of hiding it ultimately in the furnace, although the body never reached there. Continue Reading →

State Enters Phagan Case; Frank and Lee are Taken to Tower

State Enters Phagan Case; Frank and Lee are Taken to Tower

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 1st, 1913

Watchman and Frank Go on Witness Stand This Afternoon—Dorsey, Dissatisfied, May Call Special Session of Grand Jury To-morrow.

Coroner Donohuoo [sic] late to-day issued a commitment against Leo M. Frank, superintendent at the National Pencil Company, and Newt Lee, night watchman, charging them with being suspected in connection with the death of Mary Phagan and remanding them to the custody of the sheriff. They were later taken to the Tower.

Arthur Mullinaux [sic], held since Sunday, was released.

Frank’s commitment read as follows:

To Jailor: Continue Reading →

Frank Tried to Flirt With Murdered Girl Says Her Boy Chum


At the left top is Detective Black, of the city, and at the right Detective Scott, of the Pinkertons. Below is a scene of the inquest. At the bottom is a sketch by Henderson of the negro, Newt Lee, whose straightforward story at the inquest has tended to lift suspicion from him.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Thursday, May 1st 1913

Mary Phagan Was Growing Afraid of Advances Made to Her by Superintendent of the Factory, George W. Epps, 15 Years Old, Tells the Coroner’s Jury.


Newt Lee, Night Watchman, on Stand Declared Frank Was Much Excited on Saturday Afternoon—Pearl Robinson Testifies for Arthur Mullinax—Two Mechanics Brought by Detectives to the Inquest.


When a Constitution reporter saw Leo M. Frank early this morning and told him of the testimony to the effect that he had annoyed Mary Phagan by an attempted flirtation, the prisoner said that he had not heard of this accusation before, but that he did not want to talk. He would neither affirm nor deny the negro’s accusation that never before the night of the tragedy had Frank phoned to inquire if all was well at the factory, as he did on the night of the killing.

Evidence that Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the pencil factory in which the lifeless body of Mary Phagan was found, had tried to flirt with her, and that she was growing afraid of his advances, was submitted to the coroner’s jury at the inquest yesterday afternoon, a short time before adjournment was taken until 4:30 o’clock today by George W. Epps, aged 15, a chum of the murdered victim. Continue Reading →

Seek Clew in Queer Words in Odd Notes

Seek Clue in Queer Words in Odd NotesAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

Who Would Be the Most Interested in Saying That the Night Watchman Did Not Do It?

While the tendency of the police straight through has seemed to be to doubt that Mary Phagan, the murdered girl, really wrote the small notes found beside her body purporting to give a clew to her murderer, the girl’s stepfather, W.J. Coleman, thinks it possible that she may have written one of the scrawls.

That one is the note written on the little yellow factory slip—so faintly traced it is almost impossible to read it. It is the one that says:

mama that negro hired down

here did this I went to get water

and he pushed me down this hole

a long tall negro black that has it

woke long lean tall negro I write

while play with me.

“Somehow, it looks like her handwriting to me,” said Mr. Coleman. “But, of course I can not be sure. Now, about the other note I am doubtful. It seems to be written too well for the child to have done it in the almost insensible condition she must have been in at the time. Whether she wrote either of the notes of her own accord, though, or whether she was forced to do it by her murderer to turn suspicion from himself, of course is mere speculation. Only time can tell, if anything.” Continue Reading →

Negro Watchman is Accused by Slain Girl’s Stepfather

Negro Watchman is Accused by Slain Girl's StepfatherAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

That Mary Phagan never left the factory after she entered it at 12:15 o’clock Saturday, the day of her murder, and that she was killed and her body dragged into the basement by the negro night watchman, Newt Lee, now in jail, is the firm belief of the child’s stepfather, W. J. Coleman, and other members of her family.

As for Arthur Mullinax, former street car conductor, held on suspicion, Mr. Coleman told a Georgian reporter he thought him innocent of the crime. He was also very doubtful if J. M. Gant [sic], ex-bookkeeper for the pencil factory, where the girl worked, had anything to do with her murder or knew anything about it.

“If the negro watchman did not kill the child, how would it have been impossible for him to hear her screams going on in the building?” he asked.  “A livery stable man next door heard them, and it would have been much easier for the watchman to. If the black did not do it himself, then he must have known something about it, and who the person was who did it.” Continue Reading →