On March 24, 1931, two mill girls from Huntsville in Madison County, northern Alabama, dressed up in overalls and hoboed their way by freight train to Chattanooga, Tenn., about 97 miles away. The older of the two, Victoria Price, who said she was born in Fayettesville, Tenn. and gave her age as 21, planned the trip, urging the younger one, Ruby Bates, 17 years old, to go with her.
All that is in known so far of this trip is what Victoria Price later told concerning it on the witness stand. No check on the truth of her story was made at the trial. According to this story, the two girls arrived in Chattanooga late Tuesday, March 24, and went to spend the night at the home of Mrs. Callie Brochie, who lived, according to Victoria, several blocks off Market Street on North Seventh. Victoria said she did not know the number of the house, but found the place by asking a boy on the street where Mrs. Brochie lived. He pointed it out to the two girls, she said, and all she could say was that it was the fourth house in the block.
A thorough investigation of the neighborhood later by the attorney for the defense failed to discover either Mrs. Brochie or the house she was said to live in.
About 5:45 in the morning on April 6, a picked detachment of the 167th infantry under Major Joe Stearnes, made up of 118 members of five national guard companies of Gadsden, Albertville and Guntersville, Alabama, brought the nine negroes from Gadsden and locked them in the county jail at Scottsboro until the hour of their trial. People from surrounding counties and states began arriving by car and train with the coming of dawn. Thousands had gathered by the time the trial opened at 8:30 o'clock. By ten o'clock it was estimated that a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 swarmed in the narrow village streets of the little county seat of Scottsboro, packing the outside rim of the Square around the Courthouse with a solid mass of humanity. Armed soldiers formed a picket line to keep the mass of people out of the Square, and no one was admitted into the Courthouse without a special permit