America's newspapers, while decrying the savage brutality of the lynch mobs, in general gave only loosely detailed, ultimately sympathetic reports that absolved the communities and officials of any collusion or guilt.
The following account of the lynching of Laura and L. W. Nelson was drawn from Oklahoma papers: A teenage boy, L. W. Nelson, shot and killed Deputy George Loney, whose posse was searching the Nelson cabin for stolen meat. Laura Nelson, trying to protect her son, claimed to have shot Loney. Her innocence was determined weeks before the lynching. The boy's father pled guilty to stealing cattle "and was taken to the pen, which probably saved his life."
Forty men rode into Okemah at night and entered the sheriff's office unimpeded (the door was "usually locked"). The jailer, a man named Payne, lied that the two prisoners had been moved somewhere else, but when a revolver was "pressed into his temple," he led the mob down a hall to the cell where L. W. Nelson was sleeping. Payne unlocked the cell, and they took the frightened boy, "fourteen and yellow and ignorant," and "stifled and gagged" him.
"Next they went up to the female jail (a cage in the courthouse) and took the woman out." She was "very small of stature, very black, about thirtyfive years old, and vicious." Mother and son were hauled by wagon six miles west of town to a new steel bridge crossing the Canadian River "in a negro settlement," where they were "gagged with tow sacks" and hung from the bridge. "The rope was halfinch hemp, and the loops were made in the regular hangman's knot. The woman's arms were swinging at her side, untied, while about twenty feet away swung the boy with his clothes partly torn off and his hands tied with a saddle string. The only marks on either body were those made by the ropes upon the necks. Gently swaying in the wind, the ghastly spectacle was discovered by a Negro boy taking his cow to water. Hundreds of people from Okemah and the western part of the country went to view the scene.""Sheriff Dunagan thought at first that negro neighbors of Nelson's had come and turned them lose." "No attempt to follow the mob was made." "The work of the lynching party was executed with silent precision that makes it appear as a master piece of planning." "While the general sentiment is adverse to the method, it is generally thought that the Negroes got what would have been due them under process of law."