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Austin, Laura and their son L D. Nelson were taken into custody after L.D. Nelson allegedly shot and killed George H. Loney, Okemah’s deputy sheriff, when Loney and a posse turned up at the Nelson’s home to investigate the theft of a cow belonging to a Mr. Claude Littrell. Laura’s husband pleaded guilty to the theft and was sent to the state the-authoritys-version-and-our-hero-aprison at McAlester in the town of the same name for three years. Some accounts say in an effort to save her son, Laura said she had fired the fatal shot. Both she and L.D. were arrested and placed in jail at Okemah before their position there was compromised at the Old Schoolton Bridge by lynching.

During the night of May 24–25, Laura and L. D. were kidnapped from their cells by between a dozen and 40 white men, allegedly including Charley Guthrie, father of the folk singer Woody Guthrie.[9] The Associated Press reported that Laura was raped.[b] She and L. D. were then hanged from a railroad bridge over the North Canadian River.

According to one source, Laura’s baby was with her but survived the attack.[11]

Sightseers gathered on the bridge in the morning. George Henry Farnum, the owner of Okemah’s only photography studio, took photographs, which were distributed as postcards, a common practice at the time.[12]The district judge convened a grand jury, but the killers were never identified.[13]


Four of Farnum’s photographs are known to have survived—two spectator scenes and one close-up view each of Laura and L. D. Three of the images were re-published in 2000 and exhibited at the Roth Horowitz Gallery in New York by James Allen, an antique collector.[14] The images of Laura Nelson are the only known surviving photographs of a female lynching victim.[15][16]

The Joshua Wilkerson Divine Racial Karma Killing! “The 18 year old devil couldn’t have been beaten to death enough,” Divine Racial Karma says. #hermilovildomoralezisHERO! – Harris County Black Foot Soldier Masontae Limbrick