The Biggles murder trial of 1899 concerned a family feud at Rays Mill, Georgia in which J.T. Biggles gunned down Madison Pearson on the porch of Henry Harrison Knight’s store. (See 1887 Family Feud at Ray’s Mill, More on the 1887 Family Feud at Rays Mill, GA, Beagles/Biggles/Beigles of Rays Mill, The Biggles Farm.) Judge Hansell, who for fifty years served on the Southern Circuit of the Superior Court, presided at the trial.
The Atlanta Constitution
October 16, 1899 Pg 3
FIFTY YEARS ON THE BENCH
Judge Hansell’s Remarks to the Grand Jury of Berrien County.
Tifton, Ga., October 15. – (Special.) – Berrien superior court, after four days’ session, adjourned Thursday evening. The entire session of the court was devoted to criminal business, no civil cases being called for trial.
The most important case was that against Thomas J. Beagles, who killed his brother-in-law, Madison G. Pearson, at Ray’s Mill, this county [Berrien], November 4, 1887, or twelve years ago.
Beagles had married Pearson’s sister and out of this a bitter enmity grew up between him and his brother-in-law. Pearson had threatened Beagle’s life and a day or so previous to the shooting had gone to his house and cursed his wife and children.
Beagles swore out a peace warrant for Pearson, and he was carried to justice court at Ray’s Mill for trial. On the court ground the difficulty arose again, and Pearson, the man under arrest challenged Beagles for a fight, and started out the door, pulling of his coat as he went. Beagles was standing near the door and as Pearson came out unarmed, drew a pistol and shot him through the head. The ball entered just in front of the right ear, and produced instant death.
Beagles left the country and was gone three years, but came back and was arrested and placed under bond. Two months ago he was given up by his bondsmen and placed in jail.
The trial of the case consumed a day and a half. The state was represented by Solicitor General Thomas and Colonel W. H. Griffin, of Valdosta, and the defense by Colonels Joseph A. Alexander and W. M. Hammond. Every inch of the ground was well fought and the arguments of Colonels Hammond and Griffin, covering six hours eloquent and masterly. The jury remained out seven hours, returning a verdict of manslaughter with a recommendation to mercy. Colonel Griffin made a touching and eloquent plea for a light sentence and Judge Hansel gave Beagles two years in the penitentiary.
Jim Oscar Sterns, colored, who killed another negro with a coupling pin in Tifton a few weeks ago, was sentenced to the penitentiary for life.
North Cochran, colored, who committed highway robbery, taking $41 from another negro, was given six years in the penitentiary.
Warren Moss, colored, who burglarized the store of C. G. Gray, at Lenox, was given five years.
John Davis, colored, who burglarized the store of J. L. Ford, in Tifton, was given five years.
There were a number of sentences to the chaingang for smaller offenses, all the parties being negroes.
The grand jury recommended the building of a new jail for the county.
In thanking the grand jury for an exceedingly complimentary reference to himself, Judge Hansell stated that next month would be the fiftieth anniversary of his donning the judicial ermine, and the fifty years had been spent on the bench in south Georgia.
In A HISTORY OF SAVANNAH AND SOUTH GEORGIA, (p. 872-874) author William Harden wrote a brief sketch on the life of Judge Hansell:
Augustin Harris Hansell, father of Charles P., was born at Milledgeville, August 17, 1817, and being reared in one of the prosperous homes of Georgia, was given excellent advantages. Prof. Carlisle Beaman was one of his tutors in general subjects, and he studied law under R. K. Hines and Iverson L. Harris. After admission to the bar he began practice at Milledgeville, and for a time served as private secretary for Governor Gilmer. In 1847 he was elected solicitor general, and two years later judge of the southern circuit, then embracing the greater part of south Georgia. Railroads had not yet penetrated to this region, and he journeyed from court to court in his private carriage. He resigned as judge in 1853 but was again elected to the same office in 1859. For some years, until 1850, he was a resident of Hawkinsville, then in Scottsboro two years, and in 1852 came to Thomasville, being one of the most prominent among the early settlers of this locality. During the war he served on the relief committee, and in 1864 spent three months distributing supplies to the soldiers around Atlanta and Marietta. In 1868 he left the bench, resuming private practice for four years, but in 1872 was again appointed judge of the southern circuit and continued in this office until 1903. For more than forty years he honored the bench with his character and ability, and his is one of the foremost names in the Georgia judiciary during the last half of the nineteenth century. On retiring from the bench he lived retired until his death in 1907.
Judge Hansell married Miss Mary Ann Baillie Paine, who was born in Milledgeville. Her father was Charles J. Paine, a native of Petersburg, Virginia, and a physician. … Judge Hansell’s wife died in 1906, and her five children were as follows: Susan V., Charles Paine, Mary H., Frances B., and Sally H.
- Judge Hansell: Distinguished Man of Georgia
- Biggles case was tried by Judge Hansell
- The Misadventures of Mr. Stewart
- Death Claims Judge Hansell, Feb 10, 1907
- Beagles/Biggles/Beigles of Rays Mill
- More on the 1887 Family Feud at Rays Mill, GA
- 1887 Family Feud at Ray’s Mill
- William H. Griffin, Wiregrass Jurist
- Connie Moore and the Fargo Convict Camp