Documented by Kayleigh Dayka

James Mayes was a black man born to David and Frances Mayes in North, Washington County, Kentucky. This county is located in Central Kentucky, just one county over from Fayette County where Lexington is located. The 1880 census listed him as being born “about 1878” but the 1900 census listed him as born in 1877. He had an older brother and four older sisters, and his three eldest siblings worked as farm hands in 1880. David Mayes was a brick molder, while Frances kept the house.

At some point in time, James moved to Boyle County, perhaps after his marriage to Jane in 1898. They rented a home in a white neighborhood (only one other black family lived on their street) in the 2nd Magisterial District. James worked as a farm laborer and his wife Jane worked as a cook.

On January 9th, 1902, Mayes was jailed in the Springfield prison. The story published by newspapers was that he attempted to assault Louisa Jean, the “pretty daughter of Joseph Jean, one of the best and most respected farmers in the county” (The Courier-Journal, 12 Jan 1902). She lived with her sister and two brothers in Simmonstown, about 6 miles away from Springfield. On that Thursday, her brothers began making their way towards Lebanon, and while she was heading towards an outhouse, it was said that Mayes stopped chopping wood and attempted to assault her. The brothers were not too far away, and returned when they heard her screams. They beat Mayes brutally, but other people convinced them to turn him over to the law. However, the white people of Springfield were enraged, and on January 11th, they stormed the jail in Springfield and dragged Mayes out.

That night, James Mayes was hung on an elm tree in front of the school yard. It is noted in multiple newspapers that the mob was so orderly that the residents of the home ten feet away did not hear a disturbance.
The Courier-Journal noted the day after the lynching that “The negroes seem very indignant, claiming Mayes was innocent.” James Mayes was likely only 24 when he died.

Location of the Lynching