No one disagrees that the murder of Alonzo Tucker, a black businessman living in Marshfield, who was killed by mob action in 1902, was a despicable event that needs to be understood and memorialized. The Coos History Museum and representatives from the Equal Justice Initiative conducted an educational event on Front Street last February to do just that. But we, as local historians, feel the need to respond to a letter printed in Saturday’s World as several facts need clarification and correction.
Doro Reeves, the letter writer, appears to use the internet’s “change.org” (based on the “Louise” spelling) as source material. Such information on Coos history is false and unreliable as we shall document here.
The letter writer said “no one was ever identified” for Tucker’s murder, yet goes on, two sentences later, to (erroneously) name two specific people. Louis (not “Louise”) Simpson, the head of a bay shipyard and lumber operation, was settling real estate contracts in the fall of 1902 for what would be the incorporation of North Bend the following year. We have never seen any evidence he was involved with the mob action. Patrick Hennessey (not “Hennessy”) was the superintendent of the Newport Mine at Libby. The coroner’s inquest, conducted by Dr. William Horsfall, does not mention that person either. None of the witnesses called to the inquest, including Marshfield’s marshal, Jack Carter, could identify who shot Mr. Tucker.
The letter writer stated there is “an historical site honoring Pat Hennessy” and other places “memorializing and honoring that mob’s ringleaders.” That is news to us. No such places exist.
The letter writer also states Tucker was killed “all for a crime he didn’t commit.” Actually we will never know what the verdict would have been. There was not, obviously, a trial, and that is the great injustice of the event. The Myrtle Point Enterprise of 10 Oct 1920 put it well: “Mob law is a dangerous remedy for the ills of society.”
The writer also put words (erroneously) into the mouth of Coos Bay’s city manager. In fact, the phrase about “hurting the city’s image” came from the Coast Mail and the Bandon Recorder from that era which condemned the mob action.
The letter writer concluded: “History that is not learned or acknowledged is destined to repeat itself.” We agree that we do not want to repeat mistakes from the past. And the Tucker murder was a horrible mistake. We only hope that history gets accurately represented so we can base our decisions on facts. To get more facts, and to read more history that centers on local civil rights issues, see the home website page of the Coos History Museum at: www.cooshistory.org.
Coos History Museum board member
Co-author, "L.J.: The Uncommon Life of Louis Jerome Simpson"