William Patten Drew Lots for Inheritance

William Patten (1820-1907) and his brothers, John Jehu Patten, Jethro Patten, James Patten and Matthew Elihu Patten all lived within the vicinity of Rays Mill, GA (now Ray City) and  Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). They were sons of Elizabeth and James M. Patten. Their mother, Elizabeth Lee Patten, was a daughter of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland), GA. Their sister, Nancy Patten, married John F. Clements in Lowndes County in 1840.

William Patten, of Berrien County, GA Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

William Patten, of Berrien County, GA Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

William, the oldest of the Patten brothers, married Elizabeth Register on May 4, 1845. She was a daughter of Samuel Register, of Registerville, GA (now Stockton, GA), born in Lowndes, now Lanier County, August 31, 1828. The couple made their home near Ten Mile Creek in the area later known as Watson Grade where they raised 12 children.  William Patten was Justice of Peace in the 664th district, Lowndes County, 1845-1848, and 1849-1856.

It is widely reported that William’s father, James M. Patten, died in 1846. His grave marker bears that date, but legal  notices published in the period newspapers clearly indicate he died prior to March 4, 1845. On that date William Patten applied for letters of administration on the estate.

William Patten applied on March 4, 1845 for letters of administration on his father's estate. March 25, 1845 Milledgeville Southern Recorder

William Patten applied on March 4, 1845 for letters of administration on his father’s estate. March 25, 1845 Milledgeville Southern Recorder

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
March 25, 1845

Georgia, Lowndes County

Whereas William Patten applies for letters of administration on the estate of James M. Patten, late of said county, deceased-
These are therefore to cite and admonish all and singular, the kindred and creditors of said deceased, to be and appear at my office within the time prescribed by law, to shew cause, if any exists, why said letters should not be granted.
Given under my hand at office, this 4th day of March 1845. 
William Smith, c.c.o.

William Patten  was appointed the administrator of his father’s estate. Since the legal rights of women were severely abridged in those days, William Patten also acted as legal guardian for his minor siblings, Sarah Patten, James Patten, Elizabeth Patten, John Jehu Patten, Mathew Elihu Patten and Mary Patten.

Altogether there were 11 heirs to the James M. Patten estate, and a distribution of the deceased’ livestock was conducted at the March 1849 Term of the Lowndes Court of the Ordinary, with Levi J. Knight, Justice of the Peace, presiding and Thomas B. Griffin, Clerk of the Court. The livestock was divided into 11 lots. According to the court records, the lots were “numbred 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and were assnged to the distributees in the fowollowing maner to wit the names of the distributees were writen on another piece of paper and put into another hat. The hats were both well shaken. A name was then drawn from the hat containing the names then a number was drawn from the hat containing the number and in that manner continued till all were drawn.

William drew Lot number 5, consisting of “29 head cattle marked crop & split in one eare and under l— in the other, branded VV, approved to $4 per head” and took possession of similar lots on behalf of his six wards. William also purchased from his father’s estate a crosscut saw at $7.00, one bed & furniture at $11.00, one grub hoe at $.50, one desk, powder canister & trunk at $2.75, and five bee hives at $5.37.

William Patten was baptized into Union Primitive Baptist Church on September 9, 1848.  The church was constituted in 1825 on the banks of the Alapaha River by his parents, Elizabeth and James Patten, and maternal grandparents, Martha and Joshua Lee, along with William A. Knight, Sarah Knight, Jonathan Knight, Elizabeth Knight, Mary Knight, Josiah Sirmans, and Matthew Albritton.  William Patten served as clerk of Union church from May 10, 1851 to 1854 when he was dismissed by letter March 11, 1854, to unite with Jethro Patten, Aden Boyd, Nancy Boyd and others in organizing Empire Church. The Boyds gave the land for the church, located near Five Mile Creek  about six miles northeast of present day Ray City out the Sam I. Watson Highway, on Empire Road. Jethro Patten served as first deacon to the church.

William Patten remained a member of Empire church until his death.  William and Jethro were ordained to the ministry by Empire Church and served as pastors to several churches in Clinch and Berrien Counties.

In 1856, William Patten’s place was cut out of Lowndes into Berrien County and he was immediately elected to the office of Justice of the Peace in the newly formed 1144th district, an office he held from 1856 to 1869.  In 1862 he was Captain of the militia district.

There is nothing in the 1850 Census of Enslaved Inhabitants of Lowndes County or 1860 Census of Enslaved Inhabitants Berrien County to indicate that the Pattens were slave owners.  But like many other southern white men, both slave owners and non-slaveholders, the Pattens went off to fight for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Historian Gordon Rhea attributes non-slaveholders’ commitment in the Southern cause to deep held belief in white supremacy, increasing isolation and alienation from the North, and the southern theological interpretation of biblical support for slavery.  Near universal messaging from Southern religious, political and community leaders  reinforced the fears in white southerners of slave rebellion, collapse of the southern economy, loss of status and privilege, and the alleged criminal desires of freedmen.

It is said that William Patten, John Jehu Patten, James Patten, Matthew Elihu Patten and Jethro Patten all fought for the Confederacy. It appears that Jethro Patten served in the 12th Georgia Militia. Jehu and James served with Company E, 54th Georgia Regiment. William served with Company I, 54th Georgia Regiment. Other Berrien Countians in Company I included John Gaskins, Fisher Gaskins, William Gaskins, Joseph Gaskins, and Lemuel Elam Gaskins.  Matthew E. Patten’s Civil War service is not known.

Children of William Patten and Elizabeth Register Patten:

  1. James Irwin Patten born February 15, 1846; married 1st cousin Leanna Patten, daughter of Jethro Patten and Nancy Brown; died 1934
  2. Lewis C. Patten born October 11, 1847; never married; died September 18, 1890.
  3. William C “Babe” Patten born December 28, 1849; married (1) Sarah Lee (2) Laura Watson.
  4. George W. L. Patten born April 21, 1852; died August 8, 1864.
  5. Henry R. Patten born April 17, 1854; died single, November 23, 1873.
  6. Sylvester M. Patten born May 15, 1856; married Eliza Watson; died 1940
  7. Elizabeth Roena Patten born June 27, 1858; married Levi J. Clements; died 1951
  8. Samuel Register Patten born July 8, 1860; married (1) Laura Curry, daughter of Charles W. Curry (2) Matilda Patten, daughter of Matthew Elihu Patten; died 1938
  9. Marcus Sheridan Patten born 1861; married January 1, 1901 to Mittie Walker, daughter of Edgar D. Walker; died 1950
  10. Catherine Matilda Patten born December 20, 1864; died single July 2, 1893.
  11. Mary Jane “Mollie” Patten born November 30, 1866; married John Thomas “J.T.” Webb (1863-1924); died 1955.
  12. Edward Levi Patten born March 31, 1869; died single July 7, 1928.

In 1865 William Patten joined the Masonic fraternity, receiving his degrees in the old Butler Lodge No. 211 at Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). Other members of Butler Lodge included Thomas M. Ray , Hardeman Sirmans and Jesse Carroll.  William Patten was demitted September 18, 1880, and on account of the attitude of his church towards Masonry, never affiliated with a lodge thereafter.

In 1867 William Patten owned all 490 acres of Lot 385 in the 1144th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Lot 385 was north of Milltown (now Lakeland) between the forks of the Alapaha River and Ten Mile Creek. To the west, on Lot 384 his brother James Patten also had some property and the rest of that lot was owned by J. C. Clements. Lot 353 to the northwest was but a small part of the holdings of M. C. Lee.  By 1874, William Patten acquired an additional 490 acres on the adjacent Lot 351 which straddled the Alapaha River.

In 1880, William Patten’s place consisted of 60 acres of tilled land and 920 acres of woodland. He put in 17 acres of corn producing 60 bushels, 20 acres of oats producing 300 bushels, 20 acres of cotton producing 8 bales, 1 acre of cane producing 300 gallons of molasses. He produced well over 100 bushels of sweet potatoes. His orchards included over 100 apple trees and 100 peach trees. His real estate was valued at $800. He owned $50 worth of farming implements and machinery, and $450 in livestock. For the year 1879, he spent $20 on building and repairs, $70 on fertilizer, and $30 on labor. He had one ox, 28 milk cows, and 37 head of other livestock. His herd dropped 16 calves that year and he slaughtered only one animal. On June 1, 1880 he had 75 sheep. His flock dropped 35 lambs that year and he slaughtered three animals. Five sheep were killed by dogs, and ten animals died of stress of weather. He sheared 50 fleeces for 120 pounds of wool. He had 17 hogs, about 20 barnyard chickens and about 50 other poultry. The estimated value of all farm production was $530.

When the 1300th Georgia Militia District was formed in 1889, William Patten was elected Justice of the Peace in that district serving in the office until 1893.

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Freedmen of Lowndes County: 658 Georgia Militia District

Tax Records of Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA as listed in the 1870 Tax Digest

The 1870 Property Tax Digest for Lowndes County, GA was a tax roll of adult male residents. The rolls were organized by militia district.

  •   658 Georgia Militia District
  •   661 Georgia Militia District
  •   662 Georgia Militia District
  •   663 Georgia Militia District
  • 1246 Georgia Militia District

For white citizens, the tax records were organized alphabetically and include fields on taxable professions, dentists, auctioneers, photographers, bowling alleys, billiard tables, game tables, race tracks, children, disabled children, hands employed, real estate, and personal estate.

The tax records of African-American “Freedmen” were segregated from those of whites and placed in the very back pages of the digest. They were organized by ‘Names Of Employer” rather than by “Names Of Freedmen.” The only fields included on the form for Freedmen were for real estate and personal estate. Of the 500 “Colored” men on the 1870 tax rolls of Lowndes County, only 22 were reported with taxable personal property and only 11 owned any real estate.

Some of the men in these rolls were undoubtedly present at the Booby Clift Affair,  which occurred at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.  In Valdosta, a group of young white men attempted to detonate an 18 lb keg of gunpowder to disrupt a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally. The speaker, Joseph Wales Clift (derisively called Booby in the southern press), was a Radical candidate for the U.S. Senate seeking the vote of former slaves.

Illustration of Freedmen in Georgia, 1866. The South: A Tour of Its Battlefields and Ruined Cities, a Journey Through the Desolated States, and Talks with the People

Illustration of Freedmen in Georgia, 1866. The South: A Tour of Its Battlefields and Ruined Cities, a Journey Through the Desolated States, and Talks with the People

As a finding aid, the tables presented here are organized alphabetically by Name of Freedman. Images of the original pages are provided below.

Several African-American men in this district immigrated with their families to Liberia in 1872, including Jordan Lemmon, Aaron Miller, London Wright, and Andrew “Anderson” Obey.

658 Georgia Militia District, Lowdnes County, GA, 1870

Name of Freedman Name of Employer County District
Ples Alexander T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Baalem James Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Andrew Baily Land owner, Self-employed Lowndes 658 GMD
Evis Baker J. J. Hutchinson Lowndes 658 GMD
Sam Bevill T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Morris Brice R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Alford Brown R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Elick Brown I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Carter W.J. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Moses Davis R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Drayton B. A. Edmondson Lowndes 658 GMD
Daniel Folsome R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Randal Folsome H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Caleb Franklin E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Jacob Gayfield W. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Thomas Godin H. B. Heel Lowndes 658 GMD
Charles Green James Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Berry Hall T. Strickland Lowndes 658 GMD
Ike Inman J. T. Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Inman W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Ned Johnson R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Nelson Johnson L. Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Oscar Johnson R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Charles Jones E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Bunch King L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Jef King L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Kirkling L.M. Ayer Lowndes 658 GMD
Umphrey Law E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Jordan Lemons B. Wells Lowndes 658 GMD
Jack Lukas E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Robert Lukas E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Manor John Hodges, Sr. Lowndes 658 GMD
Green Martin I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
William Martin R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Elbert McKennon R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Alexander McLevan W. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Joseph Miley R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Primus Miley R. Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Miller Land owner, Self-employed Lowndes 658 GMD
Albert Miller R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
John Miller Land owner, Self-employed, Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Sam Mincy R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Wilson Mincy R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Mobley Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Dave Moore R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Jerry Nails L. Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Andrew Obea H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Lorenzo Powers I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Moses Powers M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Richard Rafe B. A. Edmondson Lowndes 658 GMD
Aaron Roberts Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Bill Rountree W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
Josiah Rountree W. Rountree Lowndes 658 GMD
John Scruggs Represented by Aaron Miller Lowndes 658 GMD
Frank Sharp H. R. Sharpe Lowndes 658 GMD
Ned Sharp R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Henry Sirmons John Folsome Lowndes 658 GMD
Jack Smith M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Handy Smith M. Nelson Lowndes 658 GMD
Dennis Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Hamp Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Ike Stafford R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
Joseph Swain L. Cokers, Sr. Lowndes 658 GMD
Ben Syrmans R. Young Lowndes 658 GMD
William Thompson B. Wells Lowndes 658 GMD
Daniel Vickers William Cokers Lowndes 658 GMD
Simon Vickers A. H. Ennis Lowndes 658 GMD
London Wright Eli D. Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Wright T Wright John Webb Lowndes 658 GMD
Allen Williams E. L. McRee Lowndes 658 GMD
Williams G. M. Borrew Lowndes 658 GMD
Lee Williams I. H. Tillman Lowndes 658 GMD
Peter Williams J. F. Barefield Lowndes 658 GMD
Peter Williams J. M. Lewis Lowndes 658 GMD

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [1 of 2]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [1 of 2]

Freedmen of Lowndes County, GA Militia District 658, 1870 Tax Digest [2 of 2]

The American Monument at the Mull of Oa

On October 12, 1918, American newspapers revealed the terrible loss of lives in the sinking of the H. M. S. Otranto just weeks before the end of WWI. Berrien County, GA paid a terrible toll.  Twenty-three of her young men perished in the sinking.

The Otranto sank October 6, 1918 off the coast of Islay, Scotland after collision with HMS Kashmir, another troopship traveling in the same convoy.  Eight months earlier, on February 5, 1918, Tuscania was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat 77 off the coast of Islay .

In December 1918, the American Red Cross began the erection of a 60-foot stone monument on the the rocky promontory called Mull of Oa, Isle of Islay, Scotland in memory of the Americans who lost their lives on the Tuscania and Otranto. The Oa is the most southern part of the Isle of Islay. The memorial faced the scenes of both disasters and was projected to cost between $60,000 and $70,000. It also looked down upon seven graveyards in which the victims from the two ships were buried.

Architectural rendering of the proposed Mull of Oa, by architect Robert Walker, of Glasgow

1918 Architectural rendering of the proposed Mull of Oa, by architect Robert Walker, of Glasgow

The architect, Robert James Walker, proposed that the monument bear the inscription “Pro Libertate” – For Freedom.

The monument is over 20m tall. It is visible on the headland of the Mull of Oa from miles away across Loch Indaal. It is a stone built tower that is supposed to represent a lighthouse. It has a curved or conical top and there are two rows of small inset squares near the top, presumably as a representation of lights. There are several stone steps that lead to the brass inscription plaque mounted at the base of the tower, on the side away from the cliffs. There is no door or way into the tower. The plaque is almost the height and shape of a door. The plaque is over 2m tall and above the plaque is a bronze American eagle clutching a wreath in both talons. The wreath partly overlaps the main memorial inscription. Two thirds of the way up the tower, above the plaque, is a round flat blonde stone with 1918 inscribed upon it. The tower is situated close to high cliffs on the Mull of Oa which is on the South East aspect of the island of Islay. There is a well marked path through muddy fields to it from a carpark at Upper Killeyan Farm. It is just over 1 km from the carpark to the monument.

Inscription
Upper Plaque on the American Monument at the Mull of Oa, Islay, Scotland

Upper Plaque on the American Monument at the Mull of Oa, Islay, Scotland

Upper Plaque:  SACRED TO THE IMMORTAL MEMORY OF THOSE AMERICAN SOLDIERS AND SAILORS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY IN THE WRECKS OF THE TRANSPORTS TUSCANIA AND OTRANTO FEBRUARY 5TH, 1918 OCTOBER 6TH, 1918. THE MEMORIAL WAS ERECTED BY THE AMERICAN NATIONAL RED CROSS NEAR THE SPOT WHERE SO MANY OF THE DISASTER SLEEP IN EVERLASTING PEACE

“On Fames Eternal Camping Ground,
Their silent tents are spread,
While glory keeps with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.

Memorial plaque from Woodrow Wilson placed at the American Monument on the Mull of Oa, Islay, Scotland

Memorial plaque from Woodrow Wilson placed at the American Monument on the Mull of Oa, Islay, Scotland

Lower Plaque: A TRIBUTE FROM WOODROW WILSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, TO THE MEMORY OF HIS FELLOW CITIZENS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY IN NEARBY WATERS, 1918

ROLL CALL OF THE OTRANTO DEAD FROM BERRIEN COUNTY, GEORGIA

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The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

The Clift Affair occurred at the Valdosta Courthouse on Saturday, April 4, 1868.   Much of what has been written about the incident at Valdosta has minimized what would today undoubtedly be categorized as a terrorist attack.

The Clift Affair occurred just days after the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, probably under the leadership of former Confederate General John B. Gordon, began its reign of political terrorism in this state with the murder of Radical organizer George Ashburn at Columbus, GA. (Georgia would later name its largest military training base of WWI and WWII Camp Gordon in honor of General Gordon).     In Valdosta,  group of young white men attempted to detonate an 18 lb keg of gunpowder to disrupt a gathering of freedmen attending a political rally. The speaker, Joseph Wales Clift (derisively referred to as Booby in the southern press), was a Radical candidate for the U.S. Senate seeking the vote of former slaves.  Local public outcry over the Clift Affair in Valdosta, condemning equally the actions of the candidate and the bombers, was led by Richard A. Peeples, a prominent Confederate veteran and lawyer of Valdosta, and former Clerk of the Court of Berrien County, GA.

 

Joseph Wales Clift, circa 1861-1865. Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, National Archives.

Joseph Wales Clift, circa 1861-1865. Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, National Archives.

Joseph Wales Clift was born in North Marshfield, Plymouth County, MA. on September 30, 1837. He attended the common schools and Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH. He graduated from the medical school of Harvard University in 1862. He entered the Union Army and was acting surgeon from July 13, 1862, to August 7, 1865, then served in the Army of the Potomac until November 18, 1866. Afterwards he moved to Savannah, GA with his brother, Walter Lovell Clift.  J. W. Clift established a medical practice and Walter L. Clift practiced law.  J. W. Clift joined the Georgia Medical Society and was elected Librarian of the organization in January, 1867. The brothers became activists encouraging freedmen to exercise their right to vote which had been granted in the Sherman Military Bill.  J.W. Clift spoke at a Savannah gathering of several thousand freedmen on March 18, 1867.  On May 25, 1867 the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer announced J. W. Clift  had been appointed to the board of voter registration for the city of Savannah by order of Major General Pope under the Reconstruction Acts. Of the 5,330 voters registered in Savannah that year, 3,061 were African-American. At a meeting for the organization of the Republican Party in Chatham County, J. W. Clift was elected as a delegate to the Republican State Convention to be held July 4, 1867 in Atlanta, GA. Both brothers spoke at the Savannah Republican rally October 21, 1867, attended by about 4000 freedmen according to the Atlanta Daily Intelligencer. W. L. Clift was a delegate to the state constitutional convention.  In early 1868, Dr. J. W. Clift was considered as a Radical candidate for mayor of Savannah, but at a mass meeting of freedmen on March 16. 1868 he was nominated as the Radical candidate for the U. S. Congress.

Hitting the campaign trail, J. W. Clift came to Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA. In Pines and Pioneers, J. Shelton described Cliff’s event here:

A candidate for Congress, J. W. Clift arrived in Valdosta to make a campaign speech. Clift sought the Negro vote, and he scheduled an address for Saturday night, April 4, 1868. Without bothering to secure from the authorities the required permission to speak publicly, Clift began his talk to an audience at the courthouse. There was an explosion, for a group of young Confederate veterans had placed a keg containing a “small modicum of powder” beneath the building. No one was hurt, but the young men succeeded in breaking up the meeting.

Primary sources on the Valdosta bombing attack,  the Valdosta Times and Savannah Daily News and Herald, ensconced the event in a shared language that derides the victims and excuses the perpetrators. language that many references have maintained up to the most recent years.

The political candidate, Dr. J. W. Clift was constantly referred to as a “prowling, sniveling booby,” “vagrant scalawag, ” or “carpet bagger.” The terms scalawag and carpetbagger have sometimes been redefined in the modern narrative as neutral;  scalawags were “southerners who supported Reconstruction” and Carpetbaggers were “northerners who came south after the war to seek their fortune through politics.”  But in 1868, these terms were unquestionably pejorative; carpetbaggers were unscrupulous Yankee profiteers and scalawags were the white southern traitors who collaborated with them and the freedmen.  In a clipping from the South Georgia Times reprinted August 20, 1868 in the Atlanta Constitution, Berrien County bragged that it had no scalawags:   “NO SCALLAWAGS IN BERRIEN! No scalawags in Irwin and Telfair, and that’s the reason no election is ordered for those counties. Y.M.D.C. is organized here, but there is not enough radicalism to keep it lively.” (The Young Men’s Democratic Club was the public political wing of the KKK,) Dr. Clift’s brother, Walter L. Clift, a lawyer and delegate to the state constitutional convention, was referred to as a “little cheese-eyed man” and both the Clift brothers were alternately tagged with the description as “a sour little fellow, with weak, wicked eyes…[and] industrious imbecility.” In an extended tirade, the Thomasville Enterprise referred to Dr. Clift as “a silly, overweening school boy, about to be elevated above his capacity…we were never more astonished at the extreme feebleness and want of prestige and capacity in a candidate for so high an office…Such is the contemptible creature who has the effrontery to ask the colored citizens of this district for their votes to send him to Congress of the United States… an unknown adventurer, destitute of talents, character, courage and every manly attribute – an ignorant, insolent upstart, who in the face of an outraged and indignant community, meanly seeks by falsehood and misrepresentation, by appeals to the prejudices and passions of their newly enfranchised race – by hypocrisy and deceit and every base and contemptible artifice, to obtain a position for which he is neither intellectually, morally, legally or socially qualified. 

White Valdostans asserted that by holding the meeting, Dr. Clift himself precipitated the incident  – that he was acting”illegally” since he did not have the approval of civil authorities, although the entire state was then under military rule and Clift was exercising free speech to address a peaceable assembly.  The Valdosta Times even suggested that J. W. Clift planted the bomb himself, in a diabolical plot to implicate “the poor rebs,”  widen the divide between the “good men” of Lowndes county and the “Negroes,” and create a sensation among his black supporters.

Valdosta Times referred to Clift’s audience as “ a mass of villainy, ignorance and vagabondism,” and the “ignorant and credulous classes.” The Valdosta Times wrote that the gullibility of the freedmen was illustrated in their naive belief of Clift’s statements that “white men would have to pay the tax to educate negro children.

The conspirators were just “some of the boys [who] concluded to have a little fun.”  They only “intended to create a ‘big scare’.

The bomb was just a “prank“…“a small modicum of powder, enough to make a little fume with the aid of fire.” Further, it couldn’t have been a real bomb because it was preposterous that any white man would have risked accidentally blowing himself up in the company of “negroes.

Subsequent reports suggest that the conspirators and their allies, having failed in the full destructive effects of the explosion, further broke up and dispersed the crowd of freedmen by force of arms, surrounding the Courthouse building and holding it throughout the night. At the time of the bombing on Saturday April 4, 1868, Valdosta and all of Georgia was still under the  federal military occupation of Reconstruction, and Federal officers viewed the civil unrest as a collapse of local authority. Albert B. Clark,  Freeman’s Bureau agent at Quitman,  “quickly reported to military headquarters at Thomasville that a riot had occurred and that local authorities were ‘powerless’ to do anything about it.

By Monday, April 6, newspapers all over the country were mentioning the Clift Affair in Valdosta, many attributing the violence to the KKK.

The Philadelphia Age
April 6, 1868
At a Republican meeting at Valdosta, Georgia, Saturday night, a disturbance was caused by the discovery of a keg of powder under the speaker’s desk. The meeting dispersed amid general excitement.

οοοοο

Janesville, Wisconsin Gazette
April 6, 1868

The Tribune’s special Savannah of the 5th says the Republican meeting at Valdosta yesterday was broken up by a band of regulators of Ku klux Klan. Powder was placed under the building in which Dr. J. W. Cliff, the Republican candidate for Congress was to speak.

A New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Reconstruction violence in Georgia notes   “It is impossible to untangle local vigilante violence from political terrorism by the organized Klan, but it is clear that attacks on blacks became common during 1868. Freedmen’s Bureau agents reported 336 cases of murder or assault with intent to kill on freedmen across the state from January 1 through November 15 of 1868.”

At Valdosta, a number of concerned white residents of  met to discuss the bombing and attorney Richard A. Peeples, was called to the Chair.  Peeples was a former Clerk of the Berrien County Courts.  R. T. Myddleton was appointed Secretary. Following a motion by Col. A. J. Little, Peeples appointed a committee to draft a resolution expressing condemnation of the actions.  The committee, consisting of Henry Burroughs Holliday, Col. A. J. Little, B. F. Moseley, G. T. Hammond,  and M. C. Morgan quickly composed the following:

Whereas one J. W. Clift a candidate for Congress came to this place on Saturday last, and without giving to the civil authorities the notice required by military orders – so as to enable said authorities to have a police in readiness to preserve order – did at night hold a meeting composed of a large number of negroes, many of whom were armed and standing as guard around the house.

And whereas, certain irresponsible parties did, in a most irregular and disgraceful manner disperse and break up said meeting – thereby endangering the lives of many persons – much to the regret of all good citizens,

We the citizens in meeting assembled, do hereby, express our condemnation and dissapproval of said riotous conduct.

˜ ° ˜

On the evening of Monday, April 6, the civil authorities at Valdosta moved to preempt military intervention in the case. The Mayor M. J. Griffin, of Valdosta, ordered the arrest of  five  suspected conspirators in the bombing: A. H. Darnell, J. D. Calhoun. Iverson L. Griffin, B. L. Smith and J. J. Rambo.

A slightly more detailed version of the events in Valdosta, highly sympathetic to “the boys,” was published in the Savannah newspapers.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
April 10, 1868

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

        Our readers have had rumors of a muss of some sort got up by the vagrant scalawag who aspires to represent the negro constituency of this District in Congress. We have heard various statements in regard to the affair, but nothing authentic until we met the following in the Valdosta Times of the 8th inst. The editor says:
        On Saturday night last there was quite a stir in our town. One Clift, surnamed booby, was here to make a speech, to induce the colored people to vote for him. He went illegally to work, having no fear of the military before his eyes, called his meeting, went to speaking, sans ceremonie, without so much as saying “by your leave, Mr. Mayor.” Having placed himself in the wrong by his lawless course, it is not to be wondered that there was as little sympathy for him as for his cause. Some of the boys concluded to have a little fun, and placed under the building a keg in which it was said there was a small modicum of powder, enough to make a little fume with the aid of fire.
        Another version of it is, that it was placed there with the cognizance of the said Clift, surnamed as above, for the purpose of making a finishing stroke to the poor rebs, as thereby and therein they were to be demolished indirectly by the gunpowder, but directly by his masterly strategy. It is idle to suppose that there was any intention on the part of the boys, if they did it, to blow up their friends and relations, some of whom were in the building. They intended a “big scare” and carried out their purpose quite effectively.
        We condemn in the strongest terms we can use, all such proceedings. They are both unlawful and unjustifiable. They tend to harm the cause they would subserve. The negroes will, of course, be inclined to listen to those who will endeavor to persuade them that it was really the intention to blow them up, and thus the breach be widened that good men are endeavoring to close up as far as may be practicable and right. And so far as this goes Clift has been partially successful, if his is the strategy that laid the explosive train.
        Our citizens have had a meeting and condemned this procedure in unqualified terms of disapproval.
        The strong presumption is that this diabolical gunpowder plot was “a weak invention of the enemy” – a resort of the prowling, sniveling Booby to create a sensation and to increase his electioneering capital with his ignorant and credulous classes.
         The idea that the young men of Valdosta would attempt with a handful of powder to blow up such a mass of villainy, ignorance and vagabondism as must have composed Booby’s auditory, is perfectly absurd – especially when it is considered that the Guy Fawkes of the enterprise in exploding the powder, to which no train or fuse was set, must necessarily have blown himself up with the rest. However fearless and self sacrificing the projector of such a plot might be, it is utterly preposterous to suppose that any white man would be willing to be blown to Ballahack or anywhere else, in such company.

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Valdosta Times
April 8, 1868

We are sorry that the Radicals have not sent a man of sense to run as a candidate for Congressional honors in the First Congressional District. The negroes yesterday “damned” Clift “with faint praise.” His speech was a feeble, sickly tirade against somebody or something, or nobody or nothing. Not one of his hearers could tell to-day what he said or what he meant. Some of them seemed to arouse when he said that white men would have to pay the tax to educate negro children. The response of one was “Bress God, brodder, let us pray.’’ The more sensible among them know how to estimate such a pretender. They are not quite so senseless as he took them to be.
Valdosta Times April 8th.

About the accused, this much is known:

  • IVERSON L. GRIFFIN
    Eighteen-year-old Iverson L. Griffin was the son of a wealthy planter and merchant of Valdosta. His father, Thomas B. Griffin, had served as a Confederate state senator of Georgia from 1861-1863 and was therefore disallowed from taking the Oath of Allegiance to restore his U.S. citizenship. His father had been the owner of 12 slaves, including 4 mulatto children under the age of 4. It is also noteworthy that the Mayor of Valdosta at the time was M. J. Griffin; the only M. J. Griffin that appears in the Lowndes County census records of that period is Iverson Griffin’s brother, Marcus J. Griffin.
  • JOHN DANIEL CALHOUN
    At the time of the Clift Affair, 24-year-old John Daniel Calhoun was a deputy sheriff of Lowndes County, GA. Census records suggest he may have been orphaned at an early age. His early childhood was in the household of Harmon Sapp. In the 1860 census, he was enumerated as a teenager in the household of William Bradford, working as a laborer. Also in the Bradford household was Richard Ault, who would later serve as blacksmith for the Berrien Minute Men. By the 1880s Calhoun would move to Berrien County, GA where he farmed in the 1145 Georgia Militia District. In 1905 he was serving as Postmaster in Crossland, GA.
  • ALEXANDER H. DARNELL
    Darnell was a young merchant of Valdosta. He was native of Kentucky and the first record of his presence in Lowndes County is his signature on the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, signed October 18, 1867. He was 25 years old at the time of the Clift incident. He died in Lowndes County in October 1869 from an “abscess of the liver”.
  • JOHN JAMES RAMBO
    Rambo, age 17 at the time of the Clift Affair, was an orphan of Confederate veteran Dr. John Rambo and Mary Ark Ryals. According to The Rambo Family Tree, his parents were both born in England and immigrated to Georgia. His father received his medical degree at the Medical College of Georgia in Atlanta, graduating in 1847. John J. Rambo was born January 18, 1851 in Perrys Mill, Tatnall County, Georgia. After his mother died of brain fever in 1859, his father married a second time to Maria Clifton.    His father was enumerated in 1860 as the owner of 7 enslaved people. During the Civil War, his father served as a surgeon in the 47th Georgia Infantry Regiment, rising to the rank of Major.  His step-mother died on March 14, 1862 His father left the army on September 17, 1862 because of a physical disability. Some time during or prior to 1863, John J. Rambo came with his father to live in Valdosta, leaving his half-brother William in the custody of his Clifton grandparents.  John’s father died in Valdosta about August 28 1864 at the age of 34.  After the Clift Affair in Valdosta,  John and some of his Ryals relatives kidnapped his younger step-brother, William Rambo, and traveled by boat to New York.  There, John J. Rambo studied to become a doctor and took up medical practice in Brooklyn, NY for the remainder of his life.

Mayor Griffin’s quick action was temporarily effective in preventing military intervention. By the time Lt. Bard and Corporal John Murray arrived in Valdosta with a detail of federal soldiers the five suspects were already in civil custody. For the time being the U. S. soldiers took no action. But a week later, after the alleged bombers were released on bond, the soldiers moved over night to arrest them and transported them to Savannah for confinement in the federal barracks. Valdosta Mayor M. J. Griffin protested the military arrests and Thomas B. Griffin, father of Iverson L. Griffin, traveled to Savannah to visit the accused in jail.  The South Georgia Times report of the arrest was reprinted in the Savannah Daily News and Herald, along with an exchange of telegrams between Mayor Griffin and military authorities.

Savannah Daily News and Herald
April 10, 1868

The Military Arrests in Valdosta.
{From the South Georgia Times}
         We are sorry to have to state that Monday night last some of our young men were taken from their beds and immediately hurried off to Savannah by United States troops, we presume to undergo military trial. It is alleged that they were engaged in the gunpowder sport referred to in — last. They have already given bond – the four are under arrest – to appear and answer before the civil tribunals. Our Mayor and Sheriff promptly discharged their duty in the premises. The hardship of the case is, that civil law has but a name. The iron is —ering in into the soil, and liberty and law is fast passing away. These young men are to be tried where perhaps their case is already prejudged, far away from their homes and sympathy and kindness of friends. Time was when such an act would have fired the great heart of the country from one end of is bounds to the other. They should have been tried by their peers of the vicin– — age, and if guilty of the violation of law, punished as that law would punish them, and not at the behest of prejudiced strangers.
        Our Mayor sent the following telegram to Gen. Meade relative to what had been done here. General Meade’s reply is appended. Alas! for the rights for which our fathers fought, and of which we have so much boasted.
         A telegram was received by Mr. M. J. Griffin, at 6 o’clock yesterday, from Mr. T. B. Griffin that “the boys were all comfortably quartered in the barracks, and well cared for.”

Valdosta, April 14, 1868
Major Gen. Meade, Atlanta, Ga.
Sir: – At a late hour last night, without my knowledge, a party of U. S. soldiers arrived here and carried away the following persons, viz. A. H. Darnell, Iverson Griffin, John Calhoun, Ben Smith, John Rambo – who are alleged to have been concerned in a riot at this place on the 4th inst. These men, as Mayor, I had arrested and bound to appear at the Superior Court of this county to answer for the same. I respectfully request to be informed if they were arrested by your order, and if not, that they be released and take their trial before the civil tribunals of the county.
I have the honor to be,
Your Obedient Serv’t
M. J. Griffin,
Mayor Valdosta

Atlanta, GA., April 14th, 1868
M. J. Griffin, Mayor Valdosta:
The persons named in your telegram were arrested by General Meade’s order, and will be held for trial by Military Commission.
R. C. Drum, A. A. G.

In subsequent days state and national newspapers provided additional details.

The Macon Georgia Weekly Telegraph
April 24,1868

The Clift Electioneering Trick At Valdosta.
Yesterday, Lieutenant Bard, United States Army, arrived in this city on the train from Valdosta, having in charge five young men, whom he had arrested there the day previous, on a charge of having been the originators of the disturbance which occurred at that place on last Saturday night week. –
This is the general supposition, as nothing was said by the arresting officer of the why and the wherefore of their being taken into custody. Their names are Alexander H. Darrell, John Calhoun, John Rambo, Benjamin L. Smith and Iverson L. Griffin. They are all young men of good family, and entirely innocent of all blame in the matter. Mr. Calhoun was Deputy Sheriff of Lowndes County, and a faithful and efficient officer.- Mr. Griffin was not present at the Court House on the night in question, and in no way connected with the affair. Thus are innocent men torn from their families and thrust into prison by the strong arm of military power, and made to suffer by the rascality of a Radical carpet-bag adventurer. [Sav. Rep., 15th.

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Indianapolis Journal
April 30, 1868

ATTEMPT TO BLOW UP A REPUBLICAN MEETING – Information has reached the Congressional Committee rooms that on Tuesday last [Saturday, April 4, 1868] an attempt was made to blow up the Court House at Valdosta, Georgia, where a Republican meeting, composed mostly of colored people, was being addressed by Dr. J. W. Clift (white). A keg containing eighteen pounds of powder had been purchased at a store in the place, and a portion take out to make a train, and the remainder of the powder was placed under the Court House. Fortunately the cask was discovered and removed in season, but the train [fuse] was fired, and in an attempt of the persons present to escape, they were fired upon by a gang of white men outside, who had surrounded the building. This party held possession of the place that night, but on the next day they were dispossessed by the military, and the meeting was held.

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Bedford Inquirer
April 17, 1868

Terrorism In The South

      Our Democratic brethern would have the people believe that the South would be a perfect paradise if such men as Meade, Pope, Sickles, Sheridan, &c., were kept away. General Hancock has had several months control of the Southwest trying to carry out a different policy from that of the before-mentioned heroes with what results is indicated in the following article from the Pittsburg Chronicle of a few days ago:
      The dispatches which we published in yesterday’s issue, relative to the brutal murder of Hon. George W. Ashburn, of Columbus, Georgia, by a gang of villains in disguise, and the breaking up of a Republican meeting at Valdosta, Georgia, by a band of regulators of the Ku-Klux Klan, come at the heels of much similar information through letters and newspapers, and show that in portions of the South, a reign of terrorism is in actual operation. It verily seems that these ill-fated people are moved by some malignant fatality to thwart all efforts which look towards their gradual restoration to order and prosperous enterprise. Not satisfied with opposing every political measure that has been devised to enable them to get out of the dreadful slough in which they were left upon the suppression of the rebellion, they are actually engaged in the suicidal business of convulsing society so utterly by lawlessness, as to put a complete quietus upon the views and schemes of all those adventurous Northern capitalists, who had begun seriously to meditate risking their families and fortunes in the South…It is not pleasant for us to be compelled to state that at present, in many Southern States, it would he unsafe for a Northern man to buy property and attempt to carry on any farming or manufacturing enterprise. We have never gone out of our way to give added circulation to the prejudicial stories that are periodically current about the South. Whenever we could, consistently with the truth, present the bright side of the picture, we have cheerfully done so .But it is, in our judgment, perfectly clear from the accumulated information which pours in upon us, that, notwithstanding the cheerful fancies of such military optimists as General Hancock, there is an immense amount of crime perpetrated in Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, and portions of Arkansas and Missouri. How far it would be possible to curb these excesses by military power we cannot determine. It is probably impossible to keep perfect order over so wide an area and amongst a population so thoroughly demoralized by a long and unsuccessful war. Years will elapse before anything bearing the faintest semblance to the orderly and regulated institutions of the North will prevail. Then will slowly set in a desirable immigration, and the wasted and cursed South will begin to recover, to get strength,to enjoy the blessings of law, and to reap the fruits of sensibly directed industry.

The citizens of Lowndes county presented a bond for the release of the alleged bombers to the military authorities in Savannah, but this offer was rejected.

STILL IN CUSTODY – The young men who were arrested by the military at Valdosta, because Dr. Clift attempted to blow himself up with gunpowder, for political capital, are still held in custody at the United States Barracks in this city, awaiting the orders of General Mead.

The men were kept incarcerated through the election of 1868, and for a couple of weeks afterward.  After about a month of confinement, the suspects were finally released on bail secured by citizens of Savannah.

May 8, 1868

Release or the Valdosta Prisoners on Bail.
—Yesterday Messrs. A. H. Darnell, J. D. Calhoun. Iverson L. Griffin, B. L. Smith and J. J. Rambo, who, it will be remembered, were arrested on suspicion of being implicated in the supposed attempt to blowup a Radical meeting at Valdosta, previous to the election, while one Clift was addressing it, were released on bail in the sum of $10,000 each, to appear for trial when summoned by the military authorities. This was done by order of General Meade. Captain J. L. Moseley brought to the city a bond of $60,000 of the citizens of Lowndes county, which Col. Maloney would not accept, and six citizens of Savannah, representing nearly $200,000, offered themselves as security, were accepted and the prisoners released. The late prisoners requested us to publish the following:

Savannah, Ga., May 8, 1868.
Editors News and Herald: We, the Valdosta prisoners, who have been confined in the United States Barracks at this place, wish, through your paper, to render our thanks to Col. Maurice Maloney and his command, for their kind treatment, both to us and to our friends who visited us.
Yours Respectfully,
A. H. Darnell, Iverson L. Griffin, J D. Calhoun, B. L. Smith, J. J. Rambo, Savannah, GA, May 8,1868.

To the Citizens of Savannah: We wish to return our thanks for their kind attention and hospitality while we were in confinement at this place in the United States Barracks, and to the noble-minded merchants who have so generously stood our most unreasonable bail required by the military authorities. We trust we may at some future time be in such a position as to repay the many obligations under which we have been placed.
A. H. Darnell, Iverson L. Griffin, J D. Calhoun, B. L. Smith, J. J. Rambo,

The Georgia Election of April, 1868

The election of 1868 was a four day affair which commenced on April 20. Throughout the voting period, the southern newspapers maintained a cacophony of allegations of voter fraud, corruption, official vote rigging, coercion, voter ignorance, and other irregularities.  By 1867, the conditions of Reconstruction required an Oath of Allegiance to the United States in order to be listed in the register of qualified voters.  White southern men whose national citizenship had been renounced by way of the Ordinance of Secession, oaths of  abjuration of national citizenship, oaths of allegiance to Confederate states,  or acceptance of Confederate citizenship were required to swear a new oath of allegiance to the United States in order to have their national citizenship restored and to qualify for the right to vote. Some whites who had held posts in the Confederate government or the governments of Confederate states were disqualified from having their citizenship restored through the oath of allegiance.

The April 1868 election in Georgia was a vote for state officers and U.S. congressmen and a vote on ratification of of a new state constitution.  When the votes were counted, the new constitution  was approved by a vote of 88,172 to 70,200. In the race for governor Rufus Bullock, defeated Confederate General John B. Gordon 83,527 to 76,356. In the elections for state representatives, Radicals won 84 of the 172 House seats (29 of them black) and came within three seats of taking control of the House. In the state senate, however, the Radicals (3 of them black)  carried a solid majority, with 27 seats to the Democrats’ 17 seats. The Radical believed blacks were entitled to the same political rights and opportunities as whites.

Clift Wins Seat in House of Representatives

Under Reconstruction, the results of the election were subject to certification by the military authorities. In the announcement made by General Meade, Dr. J. W. Clift was declared the winner in the First Congressional District of Georgia.

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
July 7, 1868

Headq’rs Third Military District, Department of Ga., Fla. and Ala.,
Atlanta, Ga., June 30, 1868.

General Orders No. 93,

From the returns made to these Headquarters by the Boards of Registration, of the election held in the State of Georgia for civil officers of said State and for members of Congress, under the provisions of General Orders No. 40, (Paragraph III,) issued from these Headquarters, which election commenced on the 20th day of April, 1868, and continued four days, it appears that in said election the following named persons were elected Representatives to the Congress of the United States from the Congressional

Districts to their names respectively attached, viz :
             First District—J. W. Clift.
             Second District—Nelson Tift, Sr.
             Third District—W. P. Edwards.
             Fourth District–Samuel Gove.
             Fifth District—C. H. Prince.
             Sixth District—John H. Christy.
             Seventh District—P. M. B. Young.

By order of Major General Meade.
R. C. Drum,
Assistant Adjutant General.

Following the ratification of the 14th Amendment by the newly elected General Assembly, the US Congress initially readmitted Georgia to the Union in July 1868.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment.

Joseph Wales Clift served in the Fortieth U.S. Congress from July 25, 1868, to March 3, 1869.  

Second Valdosta Attack on Representative Clift

Representative Clift did not enjoy a triumphant return to Valdosta. While passing through the “notorious” town in October 1868, he and his brother, Walter Lovell Clift, were again assaulted and their lives threatened.

Manitowoc Tribune
October 8, 1868

      We are informed that about ten days ago Joseph W. Clift, M. C. [Member of Congress] from Southern Georgia, while riding in the cars on the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, with his brother was treated in a manner which shows conclusively that free speech is not tolerated in that section of the country.
     When the train stopped at Valdosta a town of one thousand inhabitants, distant from Savannah about one hundred and twenty miles, a large crowd surrounded the cars, and some fifteen or twenty ruffians, armed with heavy sticks, entered the car with the avowed purpose of taking them out and lynching them.
They were only prevented from doing this by the urgent entreaties of several prominent men, one of whom was an elector on the democratic ticket. The argument of the gentleman was, that the ‘boys mustn’t do it because it would injure the party and town!’ The crowd outside becoming weary of waiting for the sport to commence, hooted and yelled ‘Bring the d—-d Radical out!’ and again the roughs seemed determined to accomplish their purpose but were again met by the same objections on the part of their friends and after heaping all manner of insults on them offensive gentlemen were quietly passing through their town, reluctantly relinquished their purpose and left the train. This town Valdosta enjoys an unenviable notoriety as the scene of a Ku-Klux monstralation last April when a band of forty or fifty armed men first placed eighteen pounds of powder under the Court house where Dr. Clift was about to address a Republican meeting and when by accident the infernal plot was discovered just in season to prevent their drunken tool from firing the train [fuse] and hurling three hundred people into eternity, the meeting was broken up by violence, and the mob took and held the town all night threatening to assassinate prominent Republicans and rendering it necessary to send for military aid before the meeting could proceed.
       Several person prominent actors in the April affair, and now under bonds of $10,000 each for their participation in the same were leaders in the recent attack.

Returning to Washington, DC, Clift presented credentials as a Member-elect to the Forty-first Congress but during the recess period actions in Georgia,  including the expulsion of black legislators from the state Assembly and the Camilla Massacre, had resulting in the re-imposition of Reconstruction and federal military jurisdiction for the state under the command of General Alfred H. Terry.  With Georgia’s return to un-reconstructed status, Clift and the other representatives and senators of  Georgia were not allowed to take their seats in the U.S. Congress.  

Thomas Nast sketch from a montage on Reconstruction violence entitled "Southern Justice," Harpers Weekly, March 23, 1867

“Southern Justice,” Thomas Nast sketch of Reconstruction violence, Harpers Weekly, March 23, 1867  depicted a scene in Texas but aptly portrayed the events of the Camilla Massacre which occurred September 19, 1868.

In January 1870, General Terry  removed ex-Confederates from the Georgia General Assembly, replaced them with the Radical runners-up, and then reinstated the expelled black legislators. “Terry’s Purge”established a solid Radical majority in the Georgia legislature, which ratified the Fifteenth Amendment  in February 1870 and chose new senators to send to Washington.

 The 15th Amendment to the Constitution established voting rights for African American men by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote

On July 15, 1870, Georgia became the last former Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union.

Upon the withdrawal of federal military rule from Georgia, the rise of KKK terrorism quickly suppressed the newly gained civil and political rights of southern blacks.  When the midterm election put white supremacists back in control of the state senate, Governor Bullock resigned and fled the state rather than face impeachment by a hostile legislature.

Speaking from the steps of the Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. on November 29, 1871, Dr. Joseph W. Clift made an impassioned appeal to the Radicals of Georgia, which was printed and circulated in a political leaflet.

 

 An address to the Republicans of Georgia .... Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

An address to the Republicans of Georgia …. Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

 

 An address to the Republicans of Georgia .... Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

An address to the Republicans of Georgia …. Joseph W. Clift. Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C. Washington. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.20602100/

AN ADDRESS TO THE REPUBLICANS OF GEORGIA.

Governor Bullock having resigned, and the duly elected Representatives of the people having decided by an overwhelming majority that a Governor should be elected for the unexpired term, on the 19th of December, 1871, leaving only twenty days to organize a campaign under peculiar circumstances, and understanding that prominent Republicans, whom I honor and respect, have discussed the advisability of sustaining the veto of Governor Conley, by refusing to nominate or vote for any person for Governor, on that day, thereby letting the election go by default, I am prompted to write this letter and advocate, with such vigor as I may, exactly the opposite course of action.

I admit the arguments of my friends:

First . That there is little time to prepare for such a contest.

Second . That Governor Conley’s action, together with the silence of the Republican Representatives, who apparently acquiesced in it, have some force.

Third . Some minds may also be influenced by the depressing influences which still remain as the result of the election last December; and by the additional reason, that challenging for non-payment of the poll-tax, will prevent many colored Republicans from voting.

It has been said to me, let Governor Conley’s position be legal or illegal, it furnishes the Republican party an excellent excuse for not voting, and being badly beaten, the conditions being so unfavorable to their success in the contest. To many, these reasons, with other reasons, may be conclusive against our party running a candidate, and voting December 19; to my mind, they are not good reasons for such a course of action, and I sincerely hope our friends will immediately reconsider the question , and so far from letting the election “go by default,” make the above reasons alleged as sufficient to deter us from contesting the election with our Democratic friends, reasons for putting forth the most earnest and vigorous efforts to organize the party and meet the old enemies of Equal Rights, and exact justice to the colored man fairly and squarely in the teeth, and do brave battle for some pure-minded, honest Republican, who, if elected, will serve out the term with credit to himself and benefit to the State.

I am thoroughly convinced that this is the very best course for us to pursue. The contrary course seems to my mind neither wise, brave, patriotic, or just. We have as much time to work for the election as our opponents.

Governor Conley’s position is at least of doubtful legality, and even if it were technically correct, the voice of the people, speaking through their Representatives, speaks in thunder tones, and most emphatically—and as I think wisely—construes the language of the Constitution of Georgia to mean that a new Governor must be elected next month.

Neither brief time for preparation, Governor Conley’s position, the result of the last election, or the inability of our friends to pay their taxes, should for one instant shut our ears to this call of the people. It must, will, and ought to be obeyed at any cost.

The wishes of the people are entitled to respect, and the individuals, or party, who fail to heed them when so plainly expressed, and on so important a question as the one pending, will do itself great wrong, and suffer in the end accordingly.

I never did, and do not now believe in shirking a fight with Democracy under any pretext however specious, and circumstances however discouraging.

We ought to be ready and willing to meet them whenever and wherever duty calls, and defend the great principles advocated by our party since ’56, and by many good men long before.

These principles are as good and true to-day as ever they were, and the bitter and relentless warfare waged by our unscrupulous opponents against everything which tends to unshackle the hands of the honest laborer of Georgia—and everywhere else—should only nerve every man of us to “gird up his loins” and fight like heroes for the education and elevation of the masses, and the defeat of the cardinal principles of Democracy.

Instead of giving up the fight, let it be continued, and give them no quarter, till the last stronghold of the greatest foe of Liberty, and Equal Rights in this country, shall be carried, and they shall surrender to the cohorts of Freedom, and to the Civilization of the nineteenth Century.

If we would save our “Common School System,” in Georgia, and preserve the liberties of the people, we must fight it out with them, if we all go to our graves before the cause is finally triumphant. But triumphant it will be, and that at no distant time, as sure as a merciful God exists.

The wrongs of our poor people call loudly for redress, and the cry must be heeded, and responded to by all true hearts.

We must play no cowardly part in this fight, nor bow our neck to the Democratic yoke, otherwise we are not worthy the blessings we seek.

Let them, all the leading Republicans now in Atlanta, take Counsel together immediately, and prevail on Gov. Conley, Hon. J. S. Bigby, Ex-Gov. James Johnson, or one of a half dozen other pure and true Republicans of ability, and prominence, to allow the Party to make an effort to place them in the Gubernatorial chair.

Let Governor Conley reconsider his determination, and contest his right to his position before the PEOPLE, that Mighty Tribunal , higher than all courts.

Let us pay our poll taxes , rapidly organize our party in every county, and poll every vote we can; then , if we are ever so badly beaten, we shall have at least the satisfaction of meeting our old enemy face to face, and doing battle valiantly for the right.

It will put us in harness for the greater battle of ’72, in which the principles of justice will surely triumph over oppression and wrong, and the result be perfect Peace.

JOSEPH W. CLIFT.

Continental Hotel, Washington, D. C., Nov. 29, 1871.

 

Joseph Wales Clift died in Rock City Falls, Saratoga County, NY on May 2, 1908; He was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Clift estate, North Marshfield, MA.

 

Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

continued from Richard Augustus Peeples, Clerk of the Berrien Courts.

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples was the seventh son of Henry Peeples. He was born in Hall county, Georgia, September 24th, 1829. He moved with his father, first to Jackson County then to Lowndes County (now Berrien), GA, settling on Flat Creek about 1847 or ’48. His father established a store, the locality hence taking the name of “Peeple’s Store.” and acquired some 1530 acres of land. Henry Peeples was enumerated as the owner of three slaves in the Census of 1850.  In 1850, Richard A. Peeples married Sarah J. K. Camp, born July 30, 1830, the younger sister of his brother’s wife.  They were married November 7, 1850 in Jackson County. After marriage Richard A.  and Sara Jane Peeples located at Milltown in Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in saw-milling for time.  Upon the organization of Berrien county in 1856 Richard A. Peeples was elected to serve as the first Clerk of the courts and  moved his residence to Nashville.  He was instrumental in the construction of the first school house and the first Baptist church

While serving as Clerk of the Berrien courts, R. A. Peeples undertook the study of law. In 1860,  he moved to the new town of Valdosta, purchasing ten acres of land outside the downtown area from James W. Patterson for $300. The census records of 1860 record that Valdosta had a population of approximately 120 whites and 46 blacks at that time.  Richard Peeples was the owner of four slaves. His real estate was valued at $2000.00 and personal estate was worth $5,500.00 On being admitted to the bar, he opened an office as one of the first lawyers resident in Valdosta. His law office, and that of William Dasher, were directly across the street from the Lowndes County courthouse. The early years of Valdosta coincided with the War years and, as most of the men were away in Confederate service, the dozen or so commercial and public buildings which had been constructed by 1863 were of rather unsophisticated wood frame construction. J. T. Shelton described the courthouse as “a rough frame building,  with a door leading into the court room and another into the small office of the clerk. The interior of the building had plenty of light from its several windows, but not a single coat of paint.

The children of Richard A Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp were:

  1. Sally Peeples (1850-1938)
  2. Henry C. Peeples (1852-1905)
  3. Charles B. Peeples (1854-1912)
  4. Mary Emma Peeples (1856-1928)

But Sarah J. K. Camp Peeples would not live to see her children grown. She died at the age of thirty-three on July 3, 1863.

Obituary of Sarah Jane Peeples, from the Milledgeville Southern Recorder, July 21, 1863

Obituary of Sarah Jane Peeples, from the Milledgeville Southern Recorder, July 21, 1863

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
July 21, 1863

DIED

         Departed this life, at Valdosta, Lowndes county, on the 2d inst., after a short but painful attack, of a few days, Mrs. SARAH JANE PEEPLES, wife of Richard A. Peeples, Esq., in the thirty-third year of her age.
         Beautiful, calm and trusting, passed the years of her earthly pilgrimage; and as quietly and beautifully has passed away, forever, one of the gentle and loved of the earth.
        She embraced religion in her fourteenth year and connected herself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which she continued an ardent and devoted member up to the period of her departure from this world of trouble; and her death-bed scene was one of those a——— —-nces of the truth of Christian religion, which blesses the dying and reflects back upon the living the subdued, but steady light, which makes glad the heart of the Christian traveler. Husband, children, friends, servants, all were bid adieu, and forever with hopeful trust, and she quietly fell asleep in her Saviour’s arms and gladly exchanged this body of death for robes of light and immortality.
        Farewell kindly gentle, and loving daughter, wife, sister, mother, friend. May the strong light of thy truthful, Christian life and womanly virtues long dwell around the vacant hearts and habitation of mourning husband and weeping children. And may the God of all goodness and grace suit this deep and sad bereavement to the increased religious conviction of the stricken ones left behind.

A BROTHER.

Did Sarah J. Peeples die in childbirth? The obituary makes no mention of a pregnancy. But an inscription on her grave marker indicates that she was buried with “little Carrie”  – for whom no date of birth or death is given.

Grave of Sarah Jane Camp Peeples and her daughter Caroline "Carrie" Peeples, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: PhillW

Grave of Sarah Jane Camp Peeples and her daughter Caroline “Carrie” Peeples, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: PhillW

In the fall  and winter of 1863, when the Berrien Minute Men were with Confederate forces facing the Union Army’s encroachment in Georgia, Valdosta became one of the refugee towns of the South.  “As the Union Army advanced in north Georgia and drove toward Atlanta, residents of those areas left their homes,” J. T. Shelton wrote in Pines and Pioneers,

 Refugees clogged the railroads to the southward, for those areas were remote from the fighting. Riding in coaches if they could find seats, loading furniture, provisions and families in freight cars if they were fortunate in securing empties, a wave of new residents came into Lowndes county [via the new Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.]…Acting as a real estate agent, lawyer Richard A. Peeples helped many to locate on newly acquired properties. Some newcomers brought their slaves, and they had to find farms large enough to produce food for their laborers. When rations of corn and peas proved insufficient, the slaves ranged through the woods looking for hogs, cattle, even gophers to supplement their diet. Consequently the local people distrusted the imported black men with the strange “primitive” speech, for the south Georgians were not familiar with the coastal dialect. Ultimately, the rice laborers found no place in Lowndes and drifted back to their former homes.

Among those who “refugeed” to Valdosta was Miss Sarah Virginia Dent, of Savannah, whose deceased father was Captain James Preston Dent, and whose brother was serving in the Confederate States Navy aboard the Confederate raider CSS Alabama.

According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, “During the war between the states he [Richard A. Peeples] commanded company of Georgia Reserves, being stationed at Savannah until the capture of that city, and then in Columbia, South Carolina. The Mayor of Savannah surrendered the city to Sherman’s army on December 21, 1864; Columbia, SC surrendered February 17, 1865. After the fall of the latter city Richard Peeples was sent home sick, and was unable to rejoin his command before the close of the war.” However,  the 1864 census for the re-organization of the Georgia Militia shows Richard A. Peeples claimed an exemption from military service because  he was a county tax collector. He was serving as the Enrolling Officer for the militia company in the 663rd Militia District in Lowndes County, at least as late as June 10, 1864. He supplied his own horse and shotgun.

A letter dated May 20, 1864 addressed to Lieutenant R. A. Peeples indicates he was then serving  in the Georgia Militia at  Savannah, GA and seeking a commission in the Confederate States Army.

Head Qrs Geo Militia
Atlanta May 20, 1864

Lt R A Peeples
Savannah Ga

Lieut,
In reply to your favor 21st inst the Maj Gen Comndg instructs me to reply that you are granted leave of absence from these Head Quarters until the point of elligibility is decided, & if against your right to hold a Commission in CSA, you will at once report to these Head Qrs. By order Maj Gen Wayne Commng
W K deGraffenreid A Ag

Richard Augustus Peeples, Civil War Letter

Richard Augustus Peeples, Civil War Letter

Confederate service records show R. A. Peeples was made Captain, Company G, Symon’s 1st Georgia Reserves. He was with the unit for July and August, 1864, as indicated on Company Muster Rolls , and was elected Captain on July 30, 1864. This unit was surrendered with the 6th Regiment Georgia Reserves and were considered prisoners of war after May 10, 1865.  He was paroled at Thomasville, GA on May 18, 1865.

 

About a year after the death of his first wife he [Richard A. Peeples] married Miss Sarah Virginia Dent, of Savannah, who had refugeed to Valdosta, and whose father [Captain James Preston Dent] was largely interested in the shipping interests of that city.[Her father died of cholera on  July 3, 1850.] A brother of hers, Capt. James Dent, was in the Confederate service on board the cruiser “Alabama,” and when she was sunk by the [USS] “Kearsage” he jumped overboard and escaped capture by swimming to the British vessel, “Greyhound.” [Deerhound] He died afterward from the exposure and its results.

By this second marriage there were born to him [Richard A. Peeples] two daughters and three sons, all of whom [lived] in Valdosta. -Memoirs of Georgia

The five children of the second marriage were:

  1. Walter Dent Peeples (1864-1926)
  2. Etta Lee Peeples (1865-1921)
  3. Richard Alexander Peeples (1867-1927)
  4. Fannie Peeples (1870-1938)
  5. William Cincinnatus Peeples (1872-1947)

After the war, Richard Peeples made his life in Valdosta.

[He] followed the profession of law in Valdosta  with more than usual success, accumulating sufficient to place his large and growing family in easy circumstances. For twelve years he filled the office of city judge, and was one of the influential Democrats and public-spirited citizens of this part of the state. Besides contributing largely, he canvassed the field and raised $2,500.00 to aid in building for the Baptists of Valdosta a house of worship, which was one of the finest in southern Georgia. [He also acted as agent for the church.] Later, he erected, almost unaided, very neat church building at Clyattville, in Lowndes county. – History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia

This church was,  “The Benevolence Baptist Church …organized about 1865 or 1866, by Judge Peeples, and the first building was located on the Henry Brown place. The church building was moved in 1884 to land given by Mr. Charlie Arnold, four miles north on the old Valdosta-Clyattville road. There were twelve charter members. The first pastor was Judge R. A. Peeples. Others were: Messrs. Dave Evans, Mart Knight, High, Pitt Head, Henry Bryant, W. J. Ballen, Davis, Thrasher, Gus Sellars, S.S. Mathis, E. L. Todd, Roy Powell, Harvey Wages, A.C. Pyle, W.C. Taylor, W. J. Harrell, and Pulian Mattox. -History of Lowndes County, Georgia

These four buildings [McPherson Academy, Nashville Baptist Church, Valdosta Baptist Church, Benevolence Baptist Church]  are monuments of his Christian zeal and philanthropy. 

In 1867,  R.A. Peeples was among a group of white Lowndes citizens wrestling with the new realities of Emancipation.  The slave economy of the South was wrecked. J. T. Shelton in Pines and Pioneers observed “In the unsettled conditions of 1865, 1866, and 1867, a grower found it difficult to make cotton; certainly the workers had a hard time finding enough to eat.”  Resisting the conditions imposed upon them by Reconstruction the white planters sought alternatives to employing Freedmen. On September 12, 1867 Peeples along with Col W. H. Manning, Henry Burroughs Holliday, Captain John R. Stapler,  William Roberts, John Washington Harrell, A. McLeod, Hugh McCauley Coachman, John Charles Wisenbaker, W. Zeigler, Major Philip C. Pendleton, Col. S. W. Baker, James A. Dasher, Sr., David Peter Gibson, James T. Bevill, D. J. Jones, Archibald Averett, Charles Henry Millhouse Howell, J. H. Tillman  convened to form the Valdosta Immigration Society. The purpose of this organization was to procure emigrant labor of “the kind wanted”, by sending an agent direct to Europe to obtain them. It was also the  emphatic opinion of the meeting that no planter ought to employ a freedman who has been discharged by his employer for misconduct, but that the freedman should have a recommendation from his former employer.  Major Pendleton was selected as the agent to make the trip.

In 1867, R. A. Peeples was elected as a director of the Georgia Masonic Life Insurance company.

He was a member of the Democratic Party of Lowndes County. In March, 1868 he was a vice president of the Democratic Convention of the First Congressional District of Georgia, which convened to elect delegates to the national convention in New York.

Following the bombing of a political rally of Freedmen held by congressional candidate J. W. Clift at  the Lowndes County courthouse on the evening of Saturday, April 4, 1868, R.A. Peeples chaired a civic meeting condemning the actions of both the bombers and the candidate. This event followed just four days on the Camilla Massacre, where 12 freedmen were murdered in what is generally regarded as the first strike of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.

In July, 1868 Richard A. Peeples was a Lowndes County delegate to the Democratic state convention to nominate party candidates for the President of the United States. In late August, 1868, Peeples, Remerton Y. Lane and Iverson Griffin, one of the men who had been implicated in the Clift Bombing at Valdosta in April, were among the organizers of a political rally at Valdosta to be held August 27. The announcement in the Valdosta South Georgia Times read, “there will be a free barbecue at Valdosta. Speakers from a distance may be expected. Let every man, white and colored, turn out.”

At the Democratic Convention of the First Congressional District, held September 16, 1868 at Blackshear, GA, Richard A. Peeples and P.C. Pendleton were delegates from Lowndes County, along with W.H. Dasher, James Dasher, James M. Clap and G.G. Hammond. Benjamin Jones, J. E. Williams and H. T. Peeples were the delegates from Berrien County. Delegates from Appling, Bryan, Chatham, Camden, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Liberty, Montgomery, Pierce, Telfair, Laurens, Ware, Wayne, Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Thomas, and Screven, as well as “colored delegates appointed by Democratic Clubs” were also seated for the convention [The Young Men’s Democratic Clubs were the public political wing of the KKK]. Richard A. Peeples offer a resolution, unanimously adopted, that the purpose of the convention was the nomination of a candidate for Congress in the election to be held March 4, 1869. On the third ballot the convention nominated Augustin H. Hansell as the candidate. The following day, the state House of Representatives in Georgia passed a bill permitting “none but intelligent persons to sit on juries, and exclud[ing] negroes from the jury box.”

Three or four times he [Richard A. Peeples] was elected alderman of Valdosta, and, once, was elected to the mayoralty.  At the organization of the County Court of Lowndes county in 1874, he was appointed Judge, and …held the position ever since, having been reappointed once; and his decisions were seldom reversed by higher courts.

He was ordained in 1876, at Statenville, in Echols county, the presbytery consisting of Elders N. A. Bailey, James McBride, E. B. Carroll and R, W. Phillips. He became pastor of the Statenville church, and, afterwards, of the neighboring churches of Macedonia and Bethlehem. He was for three years Chairman of the Sunday-school Committee of the Mercer Association, and through his instrumentality, mainly, the cause of Sunday-schools was greatly promoted in the eastern part of the Association. Indeed, all his time, which could be spared from his judicial duties, was given to this work, into which he entered most enthusiastically, organizing, by his own efforts, not less than eighteen Sunday-schools. Attended by the earnest-minded partner of his life, he would journey from neighborhood to neighborhood in Jersey spring-wagon, carrying along an elegant parlor organ, advocating the Sunday-school cause, and furnishing such sweet music and singing such beautiful songs, that all hearts were enchanted. Such zeal and capacity could not but succeed.

Mr. Peeples is man of liberal views, and … broad and comprehensive mind. His reasoning powers are of high order, superinduced by an inquiring disposition, and by habit of analyzing, in detail, every thought and subject presented to him. The creatures of his own brain, as far as such can be the case considering that men are but divine instruments, his sermons are characterized by clearness and independence of thought, rather than by impassioned eloquence. In religion, as well as in the affairs of the world, he thinks and acts for himself, with comparative indifference to the opinions of others, being guided by his own judgment. In his speech and manner he is frank and candid, while deceit is utterly foreign to his nature. Five feet and nine inches high, and weighing one hundred and ninety-six pounds, he is man of robust constitution, and bids fair for much longer life of usefulness.  – History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia

In addition to his legal, civic, and religious work, R. A. Peeples was an accomplished farmer and business man.

Atlanta Constitution
December 19, 1882

Valdosta, December 18.
…Judge R. A. Peeples is one of our largest truck farmers. He is now making quite extensive preparations, and will plant next year 130 acres in melons, 10 acres in cucumbers, and about 12 acres in Irish potatoes, besides two acres in cabbages. The Judge has experience in this industry, and your correspondent will have some interesting facts to submit in a few months in regard to the result of his large operations.

His brother, Henry T. Peeples, farmed in Berrien County, GA where he was the largest producer of rice. His nephew, Henry B. Peeples, was one of the early teachers in Berrien County.

About 1885, Judge R. A. Peeples built a brick commercial building at 200 N. Patterson St. to house R.A. Peeples & Sons, which he had established in 1872 as  Valdosta’s first insurance company.  Today, The main entrance of the Peeples Building faces Patterson Street , but originally the main entrance was on Central Avenue. This building in the 1890s was the home of Dr. W. F. Munroe’s drug store; He had a popular soda fountain and was the first to serve fruit ices. This building now houses Kings Grill.

Judge Richard A. Peeples died on Sunday, July 19, 1891. The Valdosta Times reported his death.

 

Valdosta Times
Saturday, July 25, 1891

Judge Peeples Dead. He Passed Suddenly Away On Sunday Morning Last. Brief Sketch Of A Remarkable Career. Judge R.A. Peeples is dead!

He was called away suddenly at two o’clock Sunday morning last. Heart disease seems to have been the cause. On Sunday morning the 11th inst., he was suddenly attacked with a very severe pain in the region of the chest. He suffered intensely, and Dr. Lang was sent for, but before he came the trouble passed off, and the judge was riding about town apparently in usual health a few hours after. On the Thursday following, he had another but lighter attack which soon disappeared. On Saturday, in response to a petition from a colored Baptist Church in the lower part of the county, he got into his buggy and drove down to the Stegall Plantation to settle a disturbance in the Church. Mrs. Peeples was uneasy about him, and after failing to dissuade him from going, sent Jim Johnson, a colored employee, after him in a road cart. The Judge went to the colored Church, but began to feel so badly he was unable to assist the colored people, and started on the return home. He told Jim several times to drive faster, that he was feeling very badly. He got home about dark, and when the anxious wife met him at the gate he said he was quite sick. He refused all importunities to send for the doctor, or some of his grown children living in town, saying that he was not near so sick as he had been. He retired but did not seem to sleep well – his wife keeping a lonely vigil, while their two younger children slept unsuspecting, in other rooms.

About two o’clock Mrs. Peeples noticed that he was breathing badly, and at the same instant, she heard him slap his hands together, probably to attract attention, and when she got to his bedside he was speechless. His son Cincinnatus was immediately dispatched for a doctor, but the Judge breathed his last, without a struggle, before the young man reached the front gate. When he died, no one was in the house but Mrs. Peeples and their daughter, Miss Fannie. Kind neighbors and friends soon gathered in and performed such services as they could for the afflicted family.

During Sunday scores of friends and acquaintances called to see for the last time a face and form which had been a prominent figure in this community for thirty odd years. Among them were a large number of our colored people, with whom he was always popular. The funeral services were conducted at the house at 9 o’clock on Monday morning. Rev. P.H. Murray, the Pastor of the Baptist Church, was absent from the city, and couldn’t be reached by a telegram on Sunday; and the Judge’s warm friend, Rev. B.F. Breedlove, Pastor of the Methodist Church, officiated in his stead, assisted by Rev. Mr. Reaves. The earnest and eloquent words of the preacher were brief but impressive. The house and yard and street in front of the house of mourning were filled with sympathizing friends. The active pall bearers were Messrs. C.C. Varnedoe, S.B. Godwin, L.F. Zeigler, J.R. Slater, A.A. Parrish and CR. Pendleton. The honorary pall bearers, Messrs. R.Y. Lane, W.H. Briggs, A. Converse, Thos. Crawford, J.O. Varnedoe and Louis Strickland. The funeral procession was perhaps the largest that ever moved through our streets to the cemetery. According to his frequently expressed desire his remains were laid away with the simplest ceremony, and without display.

Although some of his nine children lived many miles away all were present when this last service for his mortal remains were performed. Judge Peeples would have been 62 years old on the 14th of next September. He was one of the very first settlers in Valdosta, and has always been intimately associated with the growth and prosperity of the town. Once its Mayor, several times an Alderman, and always a public-spirited, hard working citizen, he has done perhaps more than any one man to make Valdosta the town she is to-day. For sixteen years he was Judge of our County Court, and during that long period he made a model Judge. His decisions were appealed to a higher court but seven times, and he was reversed but three. This record of able and eminent service stands without a parallel, perhaps.

Grave of Richard A Peeples, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: Cat.

Grave of Richard A Peeples, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: Cat.

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Richard Augustus Peeples

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples was the seventh son of Henry Peeples. He was born in Hall county, Georgia, September 24th, 1829

His father “Henry Peeples (1786-1854), a descendant of pure Scotch stock, was a native of South Carolina. Henry Peeples, born in Camden District, South Carolina, January 14, 1786, was possessed of a princely fortune which, by an unfortunate fire and by an equally unfortunate speculation in cotton, he lost soon after the war of 1812. Gathering up the wreck of his large estate, Henry Peoples moved to Hall county, Georgia, about the year 1821 or 1822, and settled where Gillsville, on the Northeastern railroad, now stands. Henry Peeples’ household and  and one slave were enumerated in Hall County, GA  in the 1830 census.  There he engaged in merchandising and a farming, but failed again.

By 1840, Henry Peeples moved his residence some 20 or 30 miles to the south. With his own wagons and teams he then brought his family and household goods… to Jackson county, Georgia [where he was enumerated in the 1840 census].

Richard Augustus Peeples had seven siblings, six brothers and one sister. His oldest brother was W. Jasper Peeples, for years a prominent lawyer in the Western Circuit of Georgia, and Solicitor-General for four years. Cincinnatus Peeples, a lawyer of prominence, at one time Clerk of the House of Representatives and afterwards State Senator from Clark county and Judge of the Superior Court of the Atlanta Circuit, was his second oldest brother. Henry Thompson Peeples, the third brother, married Melissa Camp on January 14, 1843 in Jackson County; he later became a lawyer, relocated to Berrien county, became a planter, served as Judge of the Inferior Court of Berrien County,  and for several times a member of the Legislature. Two brothers became substantial farmers in Florida. One died young. His sister Josephine Peeples Carroll died July 9, 1854 at Alapaha, GA.

…Owing to the financial embarrassments of his father, Richard A. Peeples obtained but limited country school education. He made the best of his school opportunities and eventually became well educated man and one of the prominent men of south Georgia. In 1842, when quite boy, he joined the Methodists, but the following year united with the Baptist church at Cabin Creek.

Before the decade was out, Henry Peeples moved his family yet again to the south, apparently leaving behind some debts.  He acquired all 490 acres of Lot #8 in the 10th land district of Lowndes County, but an 1847 legal announcement shows that this land and a slave, “one negro man by the name of Denis, about 45 years of age,” were sold at auction on the steps of the Troupville courthouse to satisfy debts owed to  Fennel Hendrix, E.D. Cook and Nelson Carter of Jackson County, GA.  But in early 1848, he managed to force collect on a debt owed to him by Dennis Duncan, said Duncan forfeiting  all 490 acres of Lot #34, 16th District of Lowndes County, to be sold at auction in Troupville to satisfy the debt.

In 1848 he [Henry Peeples]  came to Lowndes county, settling on Flat creek about two and a half miles from where Allapaha now stands, and there established a store, the locality hence taking the name of “Peeple’s Store.” He continued in active business until his death at the age of sixty years. – A History of Savannah and South Georgia

Richard A. Peeples at age 20, came with his father to Alapaha, then in Lowndes County but which in 1856 would be cut into Berrien county. In addition to Peeples’ Store,  his father acquired some 1530 acres of land and was enumerated as the owner of three slaves in the Census of 1850.

During his youth Richard began helping his father in the store and continued until, up on the latter’s death October 30, 1854, Richard assumed management of the mercantile affairs.  His brothers, W. Jasper Peeples and Cincinnatus Peeples, were by this time practicing law together in Athens, GA.  His brother and sister-in-law, Henry Thompson Peeples  and Melissa Camp Peeples, had by this time relocated to Atlanta where they also operated a mercantile store.

In 1850, Richard A. Peeples made a trip back to north Georgia, but not to visit his brothers in Athens or Atlanta. Instead, he went back to Jackson County, GA to take a wife. She was Sarah J. K. Camp ,born July 30, 1830, the younger sister of his brother’s wife.  They were married November 7, 1850 in Jackson County in a ceremony performed by John Pendergrass, Justice of the Peace. The bride’s father, Berryman Camp, was born in Jackson county in 1800, followed farming there many years, and later settled near Cedartown in Polk county, where he died. Her mother was Elizabeth Lyle Camp.

Marriage of Richard Augustus Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp, November 7, 1850.

Marriage of Richard Augustus Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp, November 7, 1850.

After marriage Richard A.  and Sarah Jane Peeples located at Milltown where he was engaged in saw-milling for time.

In the summer of 1853, discussion arose among the people of northern Lowndes County and southern Irwin county who were remote from their respective sites of county government. There was a general feeling of need for a more convenient and satisfactory location for the people to conduct their business and governmental affairs.

A meeting on this subject was convened June 18, 1853 at the Flat Creek Post Office,  Richard A. Peeples served as secretary:

Richard A. Peeples worked on creation of Berrien County, GA. Albany Patriot, July 1, 1853

Richard A. Peeples worked on creation of Berrien County, GA. Albany Patriot, July 1, 1853

The Albany Patriot
July 1, 1853

Flat Creek, June 18, 1853

        Agreeable to previous notice, a portion of the citizens of Lowndes and Irwin Counties, met this day at Flat Creek P. O., for the purpose of taking preliminary measures in regard to the formation of a new county out of a portion of the above counties.
On motion of Jordan Tucker, Esq., Mr. Jas. Griffin, Sen., was called to the Chair and R. A. Peeples, requested to act as secretary. The object of the meeting being explained, the Chairman appointed a committee of twelve to report through their Chairman, Wm. D. Griffin, which was unanimously adopted:
        Whereas, a portion of the citizens of the counties of Lowndes and Irwin labor under manifest inconvenience on account of the distance of their respective county sites:
        Resolved, therefore, That we, a portion of citizens of the 5th and 6th districts of Irwin, and the 9th and 10th districts of Lowndes counties, will use all the means in our power to secure the formation of a new county out of a part of said districts.
        Resolved, further, That we earnestly solicit the aid of our fellow citizens of the two counties, to assist us in choosing                        Representatives to the next Legislature, who will use their influence to have an act passed organizing and laying out said county.
        Resolved, further, That the citizens of Irwin and Lowndes be notified of these proceedings by publication of the same in the Albany Patriot and Georgia Watchman.
        On motion the meeting adjourned.
        JAS GRIFFIN, Sr., Pres’t
        R. A. Peeples, Sec’y.

Upon the organization of Berrien county in 1856 Richard A. Peeples was elected to serve as the first Clerk of the Inferior and Superior courts of Berrien county.  He promptly moved his residence to Nashville,  the county-site of Berrien county which was then but mere hamlet far from railroads.   According to William Green Avera, “the first session of the Superior Court held in Berrien County, was held November, 1856, at the residence of Mrs. Amy Kirby, on the Coffee Road, one mile northeast of the present site of Nashville. Judge P. E. Love was the judge and R. A. Peeples was the clerk.

Peeples then served on the county committee to draw plans and specifications for the construction of the first Courthouse in Berrien County.

Richard A. Peeples was a Mason and had served as Entered Apprentice at St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184, constituted  at Troupville on November 2, 1854. According to the History of Lowndes County, GA, the lodge met on the first and third Tuesday nights upstairs in Swains Hotel, situated on the banks of Little River and owned by Morgan G. Swain.  Among other members of this lodge were Reverend John Slade,  Norman CampbellWilliam C. Newbern, William T. Roberts, James H. Carroll, Andrew J. Liles, and J. J. Goldwire.  Later, the St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was moved from Troupville to Valdosta, GA.

Another of Peeples’ fellow lodge members was William J. Mabry, who in 1856 moved to Nashville, GA, to build the first Berrien court house in 1857.

The academy in Nashville was built through the personal efforts of Richard A. Peeples in 1857, large part of the funds coming from his own purse. William G. Avera described the academy, the first school house in Nashville, GA, built with the cooperative effort of local citizens and the Masons, Richard A. Peeples being a Master Mason in the fraternal order. “They constructed an up-to-date two-story edifice, the upper chamber of which, they named the Duncan Masonic Lodge in honor of the venerable Duncan O’Quin…The lower chamber was named the McPherson Academy in honor of John McPherson Berrien for whom Berrien County was named. The street running north and south in front of the building was named McPherson Street. William J. Mabry became the first Worshipful Master of Duncan Lodge No. 3.

 

McPherson Academy, Nashville, GA which was also home of Duncan Masonic Lodge; it was at intersection of W. McPherson Avenue and S. Berrien Street, and faced eastwardly. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

McPherson Academy, Nashville, GA which was also home of Duncan Masonic Lodge; it was at intersection of W. McPherson Avenue and S. Berrien Street, and faced eastwardly. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Two years later, Richard A. Peeples furnished half the money for the construction of Baptist church in Nashville. This church was across the street from McPherson Academy.

C. W. "Shine" Anderson, facing McPherson Academy, with Nashville First Baptist Church building in background. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

C. W. “Shine” Anderson, facing McPherson Academy, with Nashville First Baptist Church building in background. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

While serving as Clerk of the Berrien courts, R. A. Peeples undertook the study of law. In 1860,  he moved to the new town of Valdosta.

Continued….Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

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The Old Gray Mill


Banks Mill, Milltown (now Lakeland), Georgia

Reprinted in the June 9, 1887 edition of the Sandersville Herald… a poem by American writer, politician, lawyer and doctor Thomas Dunn English undoubtedly expressed the sentiments of many a farmer

The Old Mill

Here from the brow of the hill I look
Through a lattice of boughs and leaves
On the old gray mill, with its gambriel roof,
And the moss on its rotting eaves.
I hear the clatter that jars its walls,
and the rushing water’s sound;
And I see the black floats rise and fall
As the wheel goes slowly round.

I rode there often when I was young,
With my grist on the horse before,
And talked with Nellie, the miller’s girl,
As I waited my turn at the door.
And while she tossed her ringlets brown,
And flirted and chatted so free,
The wheel might stop or the wheel might go-
It was all the same to me.

‘Tis twenty years since last I stood
On the spot where I stand today
And Nellie is wed and the miller is dead,
And the mill and I are gray.
But both, till we fall into ruin and wreck,
To our fortune of toil are bound,
And the man goes and the stream flows,
And the wheel moves slowly round.

Thomas Dunn English, 1880
Boston Beacon

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Smiths of Ray City

Thomas Jefferson Smith (1864-1946)

Ray City home of Thomas Jefferson Smith and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sirmans Smith, formerly located on the southeast corner of Main Street and Swindle Street, Ray City, GA

Ray City home of Thomas Jefferson Smith and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sirmans Smith, formerly located on the southeast corner of Main Street and Swindle Street, Ray City, GA

 

Ray City Home of Tom and Lizzie Smith, front elevation faced Swindle Street. This home was demolished about 2010 to make way for the construction of the Ray City Church of God, and Swindle Street has since been abandoned.

Ray City Home of Tom and Lizzie Smith, front elevation faced Swindle Street. This home was demolished about 2010 to make way for the construction of the Ray City Church of God, and Swindle Street has since been abandoned.

Thomas Jefferson Smith and his second wife, Elizabeth Mahaley “Lizzie” Smith lived in this house in Ray City, GA in the 1940s. Before its demolition in 2010, this house was sometimes called the “Murder House” by local residents. It was the home of an elderly woman who was murdered in a home invasion. She was killed with a cast iron skillet. No one was ever convicted of the crime.

 

Thomas Jefferson Smith grew up in the 1157 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA. He was a son of George and Amanda Smith. He married Jennette P. Shaw on August 17, 1884 in a ceremony performed by Lott W. Sirmans, Notary Public. She was born in 1869, a daughter of Elizabeth Parker and Richard James Shaw, and sister of Rachel J. Shaw. The Smiths lived for a while in the Connell’s Mill District west of Ray City, on the Cecil & Milltown Road where they were neighbors of Botie Peters, Caulie Augustus DeVane, Arren Fountain, and Remer Albritton.

  1. Caulie Columbus Smith, 1885–1968, married Marietta Bass, daughter of Joe Bass
  2. James Mansfield Smith, born September 19, 1887; attended Kings Chapel School; married Zonie L. Wooten, December 1, 1911; died October 18, 1957; burial Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  3. Verdie Belle Smith, born October 13, 1889; married Alvin Lee Ray, January 25, 1908; died October 29, 1981; buried New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA
  4. Viola Anne Smith, born 1892; married William U. Davis, January 10, 1915.
  5. Lonnie William Smith, born 1895; WWI Service in SC; married Sudie Green about 1920; relocated to South Carolina; died September 25, 1949; buried Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  6. Leila Smith, born about 1897; married Charlie Lamar Ray; died 1924; buried Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  7. Georgia Edna Smith, born December 28, 1898;  first wife of Rossie Futch, married December 22, 1918;  died December 17, 1942; buried Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  8. Charlie Thomas Smith, born January 7, 1901; married Thelma ?; died October 21, 1945; buried Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, GA
  9. Owen Newton Smith, born October 16, 1904; died July 29, 1975
  10.  Pauline Smith, born about 1908
  11. Margaret Myrtle Smith, born about 1911

The Smith children attended King’s Chapel School.  Some time before 1920 the family moved to the Cat Creek District, to a farm on the “Ray City & Valdosta Road by Cat Creek.”

Jeanette P. Shaw died July 8, 1922 at the age of 53. She was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, west of Ray City, GA.

On May 3, 1924 Tom Smith married Elizabeth Mahaley “Lizzie” Sirmans in a ceremony performed by Lyman Franklin Giddens.  She was the 32 year-old daughter of Shabatha Fender and Frank John Sirmans,

In 1930, Lizzie and Tom Smith lived in a house on Pauline Street across from Beaver Dam cemetery. This house was the residence of William Creech and family in the 1940s. By the time of the 1940 census the Smiths had moved up the block to a small house on the corner of Swindle and Main Street.

Ray City, GA map detail showing location of 1930-1940s residences of Thomas and Lizzie Smith.

Ray City, GA map detail showing location of 1930-1940s residences of Thomas and Lizzie Smith.

 

Thomas J. Smith died in 1946. He was buried at Pleasant Cemetery next to his first wife.

Graves of Jeanette P. Shaw and Thomas J. Smith, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Graves of Jeanette P. Shaw and Thomas J. Smith, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Searcher

Elizabeth S. “Lizzie” Smith died December 30, 1967. She was buried at Fender Cemetery, near Lakeland, GA.

Grave of Elizabeth S. Smith. Fender Cemetery, near Lakeland, GA

Grave of Elizabeth S. Smith. Fender Cemetery, near Lakeland, GA. Image source: Hether Pearson Pillman Belusky

 

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King’s Chapel School

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In 1850, Levi J. Knight Opposed Secession

 

 Reynolds's Political Map of the United States Designed to Exhibit the Comparative Area of the Free and Slave States and the Territory open to Slavery or Freedom by the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise with a Comparison of the Principal Statistics of the Free and Slave States, from the Census of 1850


Reynolds’s Political Map of the United States Designed to Exhibit the Comparative Area of the Free and Slave States and the Territory open to Slavery or Freedom by the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise with a Comparison of the Principal Statistics of the Free and Slave States, from the Census of 1850

In 1850 Levi J. Knight opposed secession. Knight, who  was a Whig in politics,  in 1834 had been a leader in the effort to form a State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA,  along with  William A. Knight,  Hamilton W. SharpeJohn Blackshear, John McLean, John E. Tucker, William Smith   Lowndes, at that time included most of present day Berrien County, as well as the community  settled by Wiregrass pioneer Levi J. Knight  which would later become known as Ray City, GA.  In 1835 on Independence Day Knight toasted States Rights at Franklinville, then the government seat of Lowndes County.  In 1836, Lowndes County moved the county seat to Troupville, named in honor of “the great apostle of state rights,” George M. Troup.

An ardent advocate for State Rights, Knight was still opposed to secession in 1850. But on this issue in Lowndes County, his was a dissenting voice. It was a turbulent time in Georgia politics.  In the U.S. Congress, Henry Clay had engineered the Compromise of 1850. Its provisions were these: to admit California without slavery; to permit New Mexico and Utah to settle the question for themselves; to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; and to re-enact a law compelling the return of escaped slaves…  Georgia’s entire delegation supported the compromise, whigs and democrats uniting. But the secessional fires kindled in Georgia…. were still crackling…

A state convention was called in Georgia to consider the impact on the state’s federal relations. Every county was to elect representatives to this convention. In Lowndes county, the pro-Union candidates were Levi J. Knight and Mills M. Brinson. The pro-secession candidates were William L. Morgan and Dr. William Ashley, All four of the candidates were slave owners.

  • Mills M. Brinson (1812-, prominent planter of Lowndes County; member Salem Primitive Baptist Church; pro-Union Democrat; Chairman, Democratic Party of Lowndes County, 1848; in 1850, owner of 24 enslaved people.
  • General Levi J. Knight (1803-1870), state assemblyman; planter; Indian fighter; member of Union Primitive Baptist Church; in 1850, owner of 6 enslaved people, father-in-law of Thomas M. Ray,; organizer of the Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Regiment.
  • William L. Morgan, Esq. (1811-1862), attorney; resident of Troupville, GA; 1st Lieutenant, Lowndes Hussars, 81st Georgia Regiment, 1848;  pro-secession Democrat; in 1850, owner of 7 enslaved people.
  • Dr. William Ashley, (1824-1863); physician and planter; resident of Troupville, GA; pro-secession; in 1850, owner of 5 enslaved people.

A local history item in the Clinch County News recounted the election of delegates, and the state convention:

Clinch County News
August 2, 1929

Anti-bellum Politics

        Away back in 1849 when California was admitted as a state by Congress, politics seethed and Southern senators thundered forth against the motion. The average book you pick up does not deal with the situation except from a national viewpoint. Few people now living, know that Georgia came near seceding from the Union in 1850. It was due to the level-headedness and cool-headedness of certain state leaders that things were kept in check. The Whig party which was beginning to crumble slowly, used its influence against disunion, and they were aided by some Democratic leaders though most of the Democrats were crying for secession.
       The admission of California as a state was viewed by most Georgia people as simply taking land or territory owned by all alike, slaveholders and non-slaveholders, and then excluding slaveholders from moving there with their slaves, and then admitting it as a state. Our people viewed it further, that it was unfair to other states to take territory that was bought and paid for and set it up as a state equal with other sovereign states; that such territory should never be anything other than property held in common, subject to territorial supervision and management by the United States government; and Georgia democrats openly advocated secession. The Democratic papers boldly demanded “Give us liberty from that infamous pack of states, or give us death.” Democratic congressmen warned congress that it might mean secession in some of the Southern states.
      When the legislature of Georgia met in 1850 things were red-hot and the secessionists were running things then. A pretty strong effort was put forth to get the legislature to declare Georgia free and clear of the United States. They confided their plans then to get other states to follow suit.
      The argument about secession was a subject that consumed most of the attention and time of the 1850 legislature which convened in January. Whig legislators, while deprecating the California occurrences, extolled loyalty to the flag and talked about the glory of the good old U.S.A., and counselled working within rather than without the Union. Democratic speakers answered that they had already tried to get justice with in the Union. Whig speakers rejoined that if the Democrats would step out of the way and turn it over to the Whigs in Washington, they could smooth it out. Thus, it went.
            The resolution favoring secession was referred to the committee on —-of the Republic, and the committee reported out substitute resolution directing the Governor to call a convention of the people to vote upon it. The legislature thus washed its hands of the matter, and —-it on which was probably a —- thing as events finally proved.

.<<|>>.

In Lowndes County, a coalition of Whigs and moderate Democrats met to form a local party supporting election of pro-Union delegates…

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
November 19, 1850

At a meeting of a large portion of the people of Lowndes County, for the purpose of nominating two candidates, for Delegates to represent the county of Lowndes in the Convention to be held in Milledgeville on the 10th of December next, on motion, Messrs. William C. Knight (W.)[Whig] and M. Brinson (D.)[Democrat] were called to preside over the deliberations of the meeting; and Charles S. Rockwell requested to act as Secretary. The following resolutions were adopted:

Whereas a Convention of the People of Georgia has been called by the Governor of our State in pursuance of an act of the Legislature approved Feb. 8th, 1850, and we the People of Lowndes County, believing that no just cause of resistance now exists, therefore resolved:

1st. That we will not support any man as a candidate for the said Convention, who does not pledge himself, that he will commit no act or give his vote for any measure that will tend directly or indirectly to subvert the Constitution of Georgia, or the United States.

2nd. That we believe the people of Georgia may honorably acquiesce in the action of the last Congress of the U. S. in reference to the subject of slavery-

3d. That in supporting candidates for said Convention, we will vote for one man of each political party, provided the above required pledges are given by them.

4th. That we recommend to the members of the Convention, the exercise of “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.”

On motion, a committee was appointed by the Chairman, to report the names of two suitable candidates to represent the county of Lowndes in the convention, who having retired for a short time, reported the names of Gen. Levi J. Knight (Whig,) and Miles M. Brinson, (Dem.) The report was confirmed by the meeting. The gentlemen selected by the meeting as candidates then expressed themselves willing to subscribe in full to the foregoing resolutions.

After requesting the above proceedings to be published in the Macon Journal & Messenger, Southern Recorder, and Savannah Georgian, the meeting adjourned.

WM C. KNIGHT.
MILES M. BRINSON }Pres’s
Chas. S. Rockwell, Sec’y

.<<|>>.

The 1929 Clinch County News continued with additional history of the state convention…

The election for delegates to the convention was held Nov. 24, 1850, and two delegates for each representative in the legislature was elected.

The convention was to meet Dec. 10, 1850.

In Clinch County, Union men were elected; Ware elected Union men but Lowndes county sent delegates in favor of secession. The candidates and the vote they received, from these three counties, were as follows: Union men in the first column of names and disunion men in the next column or row:

[UNION]

Ware:      James Fullwood   199
               J. Walker             125
Lowndes: L. J. Knight          309
               M. M. Brinson       97
Clinch:    Benj. Sirmans     266
               Jas. W. Staten    155

DISUNION

Ware:       Nathan Brewton    98
Lowndes: W. L. Morgan        321
                W. Ashley            315
Clinch:     Simon W. Nichols 29
               John H. Mattox     20

The result of the election was a great majority for the Union advocates. The total votes cast was 71,115 votes,

The Augusta Daily Chronicle & Sentinel reported that on the evening of December 11, 1850, between sessions of the Georgia Sate Convention, a group of Georgia’s leading Union men met in Milledgeville to organize a Georgia association for a new national political party, the Constitutional Union Party.  Levi J. Knight was appointed as a representative to attend a national convention of the new party. This Grand Union Meeting was to be held in Washington, D. C. on February 22, 1851 but never materialized.

Meanwhile, at the Georgia state convention…

…the Union Men mostly Whigs, had a majority in the state of 22,117, and controlled two-thirds of the convention. Thomas Spalding of McIntosh county, a Union man, was elected president of the convention.The tide had turned -secession was defeated. 

Space forbids more details about this interesting event in our state history, other than to say that [after] several days’ oratory the committee reported out a set of resolutions which condemned the admission of California as a state; condemned the pernicious activities of the Free-soilers or Abolitionists; excoriated the Democratic party for its alleged failures; praised the administration of President Fillmore, and patriotically declared for the Union and eulogized the good old U.S.A.

Thus was averted civil war eleven years before it had to come.

The report of the state convention became known as the Georgia Platform of 1850:

Setting forth Georgia’s strong attachment to the Union, it deplored the slavery agitation, asserted the right of the state to settle this question for themselves, avowed a willingness to accept the compromise measures of Mr. Clay [Compromise of 1850], but declared it to be Georgia’s duty and determination to resist any measure of Congress to disturb the peace or to invade the rights of the slaveholding states…Georgia’s action produced a tranquilizing effect upon other states and…deferred the great Civil War for at least ten years. – A standard History of Georgia and Georgians

In 1860, when the election of Abraham Lincoln was imminent, Levi J. Knight formed a company of infantry called the Berrien Minute Men, which fought with the 29th Georgia Regiment in the Civil War.  In 1861, the 29th Georgia Regiment was detailed to defend the Sapelo Island plantation of Thomas Spalding and the port of Brunswick, GA.

William Devane

William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane (1838-1909), planter of Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, GA. His brother, Benjamin Mitchell DeVane (1835-1912), was a notary public and an alderman in the city government of Adel, GA. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

William DeVane was born in Lowndes, now Berrien County, March 30, 1838, and was a son of Francis DeVane. His grandfather, Captain John DeVane, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. William’s father and uncles Benjamin (1795-1879) and William Devane (1786-1870) had come to Lowndes County from Bulloch County, GA about 1831 along with  others of the DeVane family connection.

The 1850 census places William DeVane in his father’s Lowndes County household, along with his older siblings Benjamin and Patrick who worked as laborers. William, age 12, apparently was not yet assisting with the farm work, although records do not indicate that he was attending school at that time, either.   William’s brother Thomas was working the farm next door.  Some of the neighbors included Samuel Connell, William Parrish, Ansel Parrish, Absolom Parrish, James Parrish, James J. Fountain and Thomas Futch.

At the time of the 1860 census, William and Benjamin DeVane were still living in their father’s household and working at farming. The census records indicate William, age 23, attended school that year. Patrick DeVane and Thomas DeVane had farms nearby. Some of the neighbors were Nathaniel Cooper, William B. Turner, Henry J. Bostick, Fredrick M. Giddens, John A. Money, and Ansel Parrish.

During the Civil War, William and his three brothers all joined the army. William was the first to join, enlisting in Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment  as a private  on March 4, 1862 at Nashville, GA.  Benjamin DeVane enlisted in the same company May 9, 1862 at Nashville, GA. He was later elected 2nd Lieutenant of Company D, 50th GA Regiment and served to the end of the war. Patrick joined Company I on August 14, 1862 at Calhoun, GA. He fell out sick at Culpepper, VA on November 18, 1862 and died in a Confederate hospital on December 13, 1862; his estate was administered by William Giddens. William Devane’s brother Thomas Devane enlisted in Company H, Georgia 1st Infantry Regiment on 21 Dec 1862.

The 50th Georgia Regiment was sent to the defenses around Savannah.  Sergeant Ezekiel Parrish, son of the DeVane’s neighbor James Parrish, wrote home on April 23, 1862 describing their encampment situated near Savannah:

“about one or one and a half miles east of the city where we can have a fair view of the church steeples and the nearest part of the town…Our camps are very disagreeable now in consequence of the dryness of the weather, the ground being sandy and loose and the winds high. it keeps ones eyes full of sand almost all the time which is not a very good remedy…It is about one mile or little over to the river from our camps. We can see the steamboats passing almost constantly…Our camps are situated near extensive earthworks or entrenchments for the protection of our troops should the enemy attempt to attack the city by land. Fort Boggs [is] on the river below town about 1/2 miles below…it commands the river tolerable well. the marsh between the channel and the fort is about 1/4 of a mile wide and the fort is on a high bluff at the edge of the marsh and is covered from the view of the river by a strand of thick bushes on the hillside…Captain Lamb‘s Company [Berrien Minute Men, 29th Georgia Regiment] has moved from Camp Tatnall to a place on the river below fort Jackson and about one mile and a half from Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment.

The 50th Georgia Regiment went on station at Fort Brown. Fort Brown was situated at the Catholic Cemetery at what is now the intersection of Skidaway Road and Gwinette Street.

Fort Brown was one of the anchors of an extensive earthworks protecting Savannah.

A line of formidable earthworks, within easy range of each other, in many places connected by curtains, and armed with siege and field guns, was thrown up for the immediate protection of Savannah. Commencing at Fort Boggs on the Savannah River and thence extending south and west in a semi-circular form, enveloping the at distances varying from one to two and a quarter miles, it terminated at the Springfield plantation swamp. The principal fortifications in this line were Fort Boggs, mounting fourteen guns, some of them quite heavy and commanding the Savannah River – Fort Brown, near the Catholic Cemetery, armed with eleven guns – and Fort Mercer, having a battery of nine guns. Between Springfield plantation swamp – where the right of the line rested just beyond Laurel Grove cemetery – and Fort Mercer, were eighteen lunettes, mounting in the aggregate twenty guns. Connecting Fort Mercer with Fort Brown was a cremaillere line with nine salients, mounting in the aggregate eight guns. Between Fort Brown and Fort Boggs were seven lunettes armed with eight guns. These works were well supplied with magazines. It will be noted that the armaments of these city lines consisted of seventy pieces of artillery of various calibers, among which 32,24,18, 12, and 6 pounder guns predominated. A considerable supply of ammunition was kept on hand in the magazines. – Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 17

 

On May 18, 1862 Ezekiel Parrish wrote from “Savannah, Ga Camps near Fort Brown”:

We are living very hard here now for the soldiers rations of bacon have been reduced to so small a portion that we are pretty hard {illegible} for something to grease with. Several of our last ration of bacon has been less than one pound to the man for four May’s rations, but of the other kinds of provisions we draw plenty to do well though the pickel beef is so poor and salt and strong that it is not very good and in fact some will do without before they will eat it. Occasionally we get some fresh beef but it is very poor without any grease to go with it…The water here is very bad and brackish and a continual use of it is enough to make anybody sick.

William DeVane, 24 years of age,  would serve only a short time before providing a substitute. Substitution was a form of Civil War draft evasion available to those who could afford it.

Substitution
With war a reality, the Confederate legislature passed a law in October 1861 declaring that all able-bodied white men were obligated to serve in the military. This statute allowed substitutions for men who had ‘volunteered’ for the militia. It also permitted those not required by law to enlist in the military to serve as substitutes. However, by the Spring of 1862, after a year of fighting and hardship, the flow of new volunteers became a trickle, which forced the 
Confederacy to pass the first American conscription law. In April 1862 the legislature authorized a draft of men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years. This law also allowed substitutes to be used. Later that year, in September 1862, the legislature extended the maximum draft-eligible age to forty-five years. The revision specifically stated that only those who were not eligible for the draft presumably those too old, too young, or foreign citizens – could serve as substitutes.  – Mary L. Wilson, 2005, Profiles in Evasion

The market price of a soldier, it is said, soon mounted to from $1500 to $3000. …To employ a substitute or to accept services as one was regarded by many, and almost universally so in army circles, as highly reprehensible.  – A. B. Moore, 1924, Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy

After just over three months of service and without engaging in any action, DeVane secured a discharge from the army June 18, 1862, by furnishing a substitute. According to company rolls, John R. Croley  enlisted that same day at Fort Brown, Savannah, GA as a substitute in DeVane’s stead.   The 47-year-old Croley (also Crowley or Crawley) was himself exempt from military service. Croley had brought his family from Sumter County to Berrien County in 1860.

Shortly after assuming DeVane’s place, Croley and the rest of the 50th Georgia Regiment were sent to Camp Lee in Virginia. Croley was to have a rough time of it. Soon sick, he was left behind at the camp when the regiment pulled out on August 21, 1862. In February 1863 he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 2, Richmond, VA with Rheumatism. On March 12, he was admitted to the the C.S.A. General Hospital at Farmville, VA with diarrhea.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Confederate service record of John R. Croley, substitute for William DeVane.

Croley returned to duty April 29.  He was with his unit when the 50th GA Regiment entered the Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863. Severely wounded and taken prisoner of war, he was sent to one of the Union hospitals in and about Gettysburg.  His arm was amputated, but he did not recover. He died of wounds July 31, 1863.  The location of his burial is not known, presumably in the vicinity of Gettysburg.  A monument in his memory marks an empty grave at Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Centograph of John R. Croley (Crawley), Keel Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Croley was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, PA while serving as a substitute for William DeVane. Image source: Karen Camp.

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Administration of the estate of John R. Croley in Berrien County, GA

Croley left behind a widow and four children in Berrien County. William DeVane sat out the rest of the war.

DeVane was married on May 10 1865 in Dooly County, GA to Miss Sarah Jane “Sallie” Butler of that county. She was born February 12, 1842, a daughter of Ezekiel and Eliza Butler.

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Marriage Certificate of William DeVane and Sallie Butler, Dooley County, GA

Born to William and Sallie were eleven children:

  1. Emma Lorena DeVane, born February 18, 1866, married George W. Marsh of Sumter County, FL.
  2. Marcus LaFayette DeVane, born April 25, 1867, died September 15, 1889.
  3. Columbus Clark DeVane, born February 11, 1869, never married.
  4. Ada Belle DeVane, born April 10, 1870, married William J. Hodges of Lowndes County, GA
  5. Ezekiel H. DeVane, born December 4, 1872, married Beulah Parrish, daughter of Elbert Parrish.
  6. William E. Pemberton DeVane, born November 8, 1875, married Mary McClelland, daughter of Robert McClelland
  7. John F. DeVane, born August 2, 1877; died October 1878.
  8. Benjamin Robert DeVane, born October 15, 1879; married Bessie Whitehurst, daughter of Nehemiah Whitehurst
  9. Caulie Augustus DeVane, born September 15, 1882; married Alma Albritton, daughter of Matthew Hodge Albritton
  10. Connard Cleveland DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married Nellie Mae Coppage, daughter of Jehu Coppage
  11. Onnie Lee DeVane, born November 11, 1884; married John W. Strickland, son of William J. Strickland of Clinch County.

The homeplace of William DeVane was about four and half miles west of Ray City on the Nashville-Valdosta Road. It was situated on the north half of lot 457, 10th district. Possum Creek, a tributary of Cat Creek, crosses the northeast corner of this land. The place was given to William by his father before the elder DeVane’s death in 1868. William DeVane had received no deed however, and title was vested in him March 1870, by arbitration proceedings agreed to by all the heirs.

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

Home of William DeVane (1838-1909) Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com/

The 1870 Census enumeration shows that William DeVane’s household then included his wife, Sarah Jane, and children, Emma, Marcus, Columbus, and Ada, as well as an African-American boy, Rufus Prine, who at age 11 was working as farm labor.

Berrien County Tax records also document that after the War, William DeVane worked his farm with the help of freedman Joseph Prine. The relationship between Joseph and Rufus is not known.  Joseph Prine was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1816. The 1872 tax records show DeVane employed seven hands between the ages of 12 and 65. This count matches exactly with the 1870 Census enumeration of the Joseph Prine household, which then included Joe Prine (56), Jane Prine (54), Samuel Prine (22), Chaney Prine (33), Elza Prine (17), Jasper Prine (14), and George Prine (11), as well as the younger Prine children, Jinnie (8), Huldy (7), Eliza (5), and Philip(2).

In 1872, the William DeVane farm consisted of 508 acres on portions of lots 457 and 418 in the 10th Land District. To the north was Mary DeVane with 755 acres on Lots 418 and 412. Benjamin Mitchell DeVane also owned portions of Lot 418 and 419. John Baker had 122 acres on Lot 419. William H. Outlaw had 245 acres on Lot 419. To the south, John W. Hagan owned 356 acres on lots 503 and 504. J.S. Roberts also had some acreage on 503 and 504.  To the east, the Reverend John G. Taylor, Sr. had 400 acres on Lot 456.  By 1877 John Webb had acquired a 1470 acre tract just to the northeast of the William DeVane place.

 

William DeVane developed one of the finest plantations in Berrien County, containing 935 acres. It was situated on a public road and Possum Creek. The main house was six-rooms, and there was also a three-room house and a tenant house on the place. The six-horse farm of over 100 cultivated acres was said to produce a bale of cotton to the acre. Devane kept 120 head of stock on a fine stock range. His equipment included farm implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle, two wagons, and two buggies.

Sallie Butler DeVane died June 15, 1896.  A death announcement appeared in the Tifton Gazette.

Tifton Gazette
July 10, 1896

Mrs. Sallie Devane, of this county, wife of Mr. William Devane, died on Tuesday of last week.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave of Sarah Butler DeVane (1842-1896), Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

 

William DeVane died March 8, 1909.

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Graves of William DeVane and Sarah Butler DeVane, Pleasant Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

Grave of William Devane, Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA

 

A series of legal advertisements regarding the estate of William DeVane appeared in the local papers:

Valdosta Times
March 27, 1909

Notice to Debtors and Creditors All parties having claims against the estate of the late Wm. Devane, are requested to present them properly made out, to the undersigned. Those indebted to his estate will please make settlement at once.
The deceased at the time of his death was not indebted to any of the heirs.
C. C. Devane,
Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. 5.

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Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1909

Notice of Sale.

We will sell to the highest bidder for cash, on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county, at the Wm. Devane estate, the following property: 935 acres of land; one farm containing 150, the other 785 acres; 175 in cultivation, 120 head of stock. Farming implements, oat reaper, cane mill and syrup kettle; two wagons; two buggies; 350 bushels of corn; six tons of cotton seed. Heirs of Wm. DeVane.

Valdosta Times
November 20, 1909

Public Sale

We will sell to the highest bidder, for cash on the 24th day of November, in Berrien county at the Wm. DeVane place, the following property: 2 farms containing 935 acres, 150 in one, 785 acres in the other; 111 acres in cultivation; fair Improvements—timber is fine; 120 head of stock and farming Implements. C. C. Devane, Hahira, Ga., R. F. D. No. 5.

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Valdosta Times
August 14, 1912

FOR SALE—A fine plantation, One of the best in Berrien county, containing 935 acres, within 4 1/2 miles of Georgia and Florida railroad. Nearest station, Ray’s Mill. 6-horse farm in state of cultivation. Soil very productive, will produce bale of cotton to the acre, other crops in proportion. One six-room dwelling, one three-room and a tenant house on the place. Good water. Near schools and churches. Fine stock range. River runs through edge of land. Public road through farm. Will sell on account of division between heirs. If desired stock, mules, hogs, cattle, goats and farm implements can be bought at reasonable prices. C. C. DeVane, Hahira, Ga., R.F.D.

 

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