Now perhaps a better word could have been used by our President, but the term lynching is by no means the creation of events related to racial strife. The use of lynching as a capital punishment began in 1780 by a man born in Altavista, Virginia on the property shown above. Charles Lynch, from whose actions the word came, was a local planter who became a Colonel in the Virginia militia in the fight against the British for American Independence. The home, now the Avoca Museum, was rebuilt in 1901 by his descendants and was deeded to the town of Altavista in 1981. It is a showplace for area history going back over a thousand years about the area.
Lynching is not a lawful act, it is the meting out of deathly punishment, usually slow and tortuous by someone or a group taking the law into their own hands. In the case of Colonel Lynch, it sprang from a request by Governor Thomas Jefferson to stop local Tory supporters who planned to free captured British prisoners from jail. Lynch was expected to gather such loyalists to the Crown and take them to the colonial State Capitol in Richmond, which had been moved from Williamsburg in 1779 due to safety concerns about the old location's susceptibility to British attack. Remember, the colonials set up their own state governments with militias and were constantly under threat of being captured with the likely result of either long prison sentences or death by any means. All of their officials knew if caught, they would lose everything they had and they and their families might all be put to death. Lynch, for his part, accepted Governor Jefferson's order, but decided it was much more efficient to put them to death without trial using savage methods of torture before ending the loyalist lives. It would be a sign to anyone favorable to the Crown of what their fate could be if they didn't relent in their actions. He chose to use torture as part of the execution sentence since the British had also been very brutal to colonists, including burning to death the entire population of a small settlement in a church service Sunday morning. Such an event occurred in South Carolina with friends and family of the American Swamp Fox, Francis Marion, suffering great personal loss. British soldiers sealed the exits and torched the structure to the shrieks of the people inside. Such atrocities were not uncommon. And while the old stories of lynchings of black slaves and former slaves are certainly true, they did not constitute the origination of the action or the word, nor did hanging necessarily offer the means of doing so. Frankly, the action was just as likely to be something in the mold of the movie Braveheart about the Scottish fighting the British as it was a wild west town or a Southern sharecropper environment with a hanging over a tree limb and it was earlier in American history. In any event, any such act is, of course, heinous and uncivilized. But, it's easy for us to condemn what Lynch did, but since his goal was to take any step possible to make sure that the new nation won the battle from the oppressive Crown and he and those like him were successful in doing so.
Today, the Avoca Museum is a place where the true history of the area around Altavista, a town that is part of the Lynchburg metropolitan area, can be taught, both the good and the bad of it, to young people in an environment that explains how different times of our societal development operated differently. So, the rest of the story is something that is good to learn, for when we do we get a truer picture of both what took place and why and we learn to judge it by standards of the times that they happened and not under a politically correct veil, we get a more realistic picture. Only the truth will set us free and children and men and women of many different races and creeds can visit the museum and share that truth. That's how we learn and that includes the origination of a word that is used in our description of things. I just thought it was worthy of bringing to light. Nothing can be more valuable in helping us all live together in harmony than the truth, for with truth we can also learn what needs to be done and avail ourselves of forgiveness and avoid being consumed by hate. If we are consumed by hate, we will be destroyed by it.