from The Webster Times, April 3, 1896(XXXIX # 5),
Rev. I. T. Johnson, of Douglas, formerly of Oxford, who has been holding revival meetings on the Pacific slope this winter, had a narrow escape from being lynched in Fresno, Cal., last week Thursday night. He had been holding revival services at Fresno, a city of 10,000 inhabitants,and had made a slanderous remark from the pulpit, which incensed the people to such an extent that they captured him, and attempted to lynch him on the night of the 26th. He was rescued from the mod by the police, and at last accounts he was under the protection of the sheriff.
| Rev. I. T. Johnson in Trouble
The San Francisco Chronicle in its issue of March 26 published the following:
FRESNO. Cal., March 26. The people of Fresno rose in their wrath today against Rev. I. T. Johnson, an evangelist, who has been holding meetings here for some time, and he narrowly escaped rough handling at the hands of the crowd.
The trouble was caused by the publication in a morning paper of an article denouncing the Rev. Johnson for having repeated from the pulpit a statement which he claimed had been made to him that two thirds of the girls of this city were ruined before they were the age of 14 years. The paper also contained an interview with the preacher, in which he admitted having repeated the statement, but declined to give the source of the information.
In the afternoon a number of influential citizens met in the office of the First National Bank, and sent for Johnson to come before them and either deny his charge or prove its truth. After several requests he came, and appeared before a large number of leading citizens, accompanied by several members of his church, and admitted that he had used the language attributed to him, but said that he was only repeating what he had heard on the street from a person who he refused to name. He said he meant no harm and was sorry he gave utterance to the slander.
A statement was prepared for him to sign declaring that what he had said in the pulpit was false, and that he apologized to the people of Fresno. He signed it, and seemed glad to escape trouble so easily. But it proved that his trouble had only begun. during the hour and a half he was in the bank a crowd had been gathering in front of the building, blocking Maraposa and I streets. The people were orderly, but it could be seen that business was on hand.
Just before 6 o’clock Johnson attempted to leave the building by the back door, opening on I street. As soon as he was seen cries went up from the crowd. “There he goes,” and a rush was made for him amid yells and curses from hundreds of enraged men. Johnson attempted to run down the I street, but seeing that he was surrounded, he turned back and rushed into the bank again, pale as death from fright. the crowd surged up to the door, but Sheriff Scott and several deputies and nearly the whole police force of the city has arrived and prevented the crowd from entering the building.
Arthur R. Briggs mounted a box at the bank door, and addressed the people, counseling coolness and begging them not to bring disgrace on Fresno by any unlawful act, and he promised them that if they would go away Johnson would be requested to leave town. Meanwhile Sheriff Scott and two other officers were covering the rapid retreat of the evangelist up Mariposa street. He had been hurried out by another door and got away before the crowd discovered what was done. He lost no time in reaching his lodging house, nearly a mile distant in the northern part of the city.
After he had gone safely away the citizens committee concluded to take steps to induce him to leave the city, as it was feared he would be mobbed if he remained. a committee was appointed to wit on him at once to notify him of his danger and to protect him till he could get out of town if he would go at once. When the committee called on him and made known its mission, rev. Johnson put on a air of defiance, and said he would not leave Fresno till he got ready. It was explained that he took risk in remaining, and with this the committee left him.
In the meantime a mass meeting had assembled at the city Hall to protest against the evangelists slander. Never before was there such a crowd in the city Hall. Hundreds stood in the street who could not gain admittance. Arthur R. Briggs was made chairman. A cry of “Tar and Feathers” went up from the audience, but moderation was urged, and no steps were taken toward violence. Pulpit sensationalism was roundly denounced, and this slander was cited as an example of the deplorable results that follows the reckless mouthings of itinerant irresponsibles. resolutions were passed denouncing Mr. Johnson for his slanderous statements.
Johnson announced that he would preach at the K-street Methodist Church and in anticipation of trouble should he attempt to occupy the pulpit Sheriff Scott and several deputies were on hand. it was learned later in the evening that in spite of all his stout declarations that there were not people enough in Fresno to drive him out, he lost no time in shaking the dust from his feet and leaving for parts unknown.
Shortly after he was waited on by the committee he packed up his possessions and he and his wife hurriedly got out of town.. it is hard to tell what would have been done with him had he fallen into the hands of the crowd which made a rush for him at the First National Bank. Some claimed he would not have received worse treatment than tar and feathers.
Rev. Johnson claims that he is a native of Georgia, but is a citizen of Massachusetts, and that he came to California last October. He is about 45 years of age.