Holt-Delhi Historical Society

Established 2014

The History of John Taylor in Ingham County

John Taylor was born into slavery in Kentucky and was liberated by Union troops during the Civil War. In August 1864, he enlisted in the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry, which subsequently joined the 102nd United States Colored Infantry Regiment. After the War, Taylor worked for farmer John Buck in Delhi Township. When Taylor left to seek employment elsewhere, Buck refused to pay him for his work. On the night of August 23, 1866, Taylor came to the farm to collect his wages. John Buck was not there, but Taylor encountered his wife, mother-in-law, and daughter. He allegedly stuck them with an axe and fled. No one was seriously injured, but newspapers reported that Taylor had murdered Buck's daughter and attempted to kill all three women. Some accounts said Taylor confessed to acting "in his fright and confusion," with no intent to kill anyone. Taylor was caught and placed in the Ingham County Jail in Mason to await trial.

Reacting to inaccurate news reports of a supposed triple-murder attempt, a mob seized teenage John Taylor from his jail cell on August 27, 1866, and brutally lynched him across from Mason's railroad station. Several local papers criticized the "inhumanity and lawlessness" of the killing by declaring the law would have been too lenient. Mason's citizens passed a resolution to condemn the event and "disclaim any participation in the horrible crime." A mob leader was tried by acquitted. Taylor was probably buried on the "Hogsback," a glacial esker between Holt and Mason, and may have been reburied later. Though this park came to be known as Deadman's Hill, it was not Taylor's final resting place. Delhi Charter Township acquired the park by donation in 1972, and it was renamed John Taylor Memorial Park in 2018. 

John Taylor Memorial Park was dedicated, along with the Michigan Historical Marker, on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.