On August 26, 1874, 16 black men were held in the Gibson County Jail in Trenton, Tennessee. The men had been transferred to the neighboring jail from Picketsville after being accused of shooting two white men. However, in the early morning, a contingent of 400 to 500 masked men rode into town with shotguns and demanded they were given access to the men in the jail.
The jail attendant was ordered to give the mob leader the key to the cells. The members of the mob then bound the hands of the 16 black men and led them away. The jail attendant later testified to hearing shots fired in a series in a distance. When the jailer went out to investigate what happened, he found six of the men lying along Huntingdon Road. Four of the men were dead, and their bodies were pumped with bullets. The two men who were found alive later died as well.
The bodies of the ten remaining men were found at the bottom of a river about one mile out of town. Local officials denounced the lynching and concluded that the men were killed by gunshots that were fired by unknown parties. The white townspeople were becoming fearful that the black people were arming themselves and planning to retaliate against them. The mayor of Trenton ordered officials to collect all guns belonging to blacks. If blacks refused to hand over their guns, they were threatened and some were ultimately shot.