Death of Ben Furlong ~ Was it Suicide?

Ben Furlong (circa 1854-1886), Desperado of Berrien County, GA

As Halloween approaches we revisit the scene of Ben Furlong, who was perhaps  most famous ghost ever to haunt Berrien County.

After the 1886 death of Ben Furlong some said his ghost still haunted the scene of his final, heinous crime. In life, Ben Furlong may have been Berrien County’s  most notorious outlaw.  Furlong, a sawmill man when he wasn’t on the bottle, frequented the communities along the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad – Alapaha, Vanceville and Sniff.   He was a wife beater and a murderer wanted for dozens of criminal charges. His infamous deeds were published around the globe.

Furlong died on Friday, September 24, 1886 from an overdose of laudanum, also known as tincture of opium. The compound was commonly available in the drug stores of Berrien County and elsewhere for just five cents a bottle.

Laudanum bottle

Laudanum bottle

Certainly by  the time of Furlong’s death, the dangerous potency of opioids was well known. Still, some thought Furlong’s laudanum overdose was accidental.

The prevailing opinion in Alapaha, GA, the community that perhaps knew Furlong best, was that he intended to take his own life, either out of a guilty conscience or to escape the hangman.

The October 2, 1886 edition of the Alapaha Star examined the question:

 

Alapaha Star, October 2, 1886 questions death of Ben Furlong

Alapaha Star, October 2, 1886 questions death of Ben Furlong

Alapaha Star
October 2, 1886

Was it Suicide?

    There is a difference of opinion as to whether B. W. Furlong committed suicide, but the preponderating belief is that he did. The murder of the colored man, the closing of his mill by his creditors and the effects of a severe spell of drinking were amply sufficient to —- —– —-perate step of his life – that of self-destruction.
    It is reported that he drank two bottles of laudanum Thursday night, about twenty hours before he died, and that when he sank into the last sleep, his breathing indicated poisoning. Every effort was made to arouse him. He was walked about, slapped and rubbed vigorously, but the seal of death was upon him, and he breathed his last about four hours after he fell asleep.
    We are satisfied that Furlong while temporarily insane from the causes we have mentioned, took his own life.

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An Inquest Into the Death of Jesse Webb

Jesse Webb Murdered by Ben Furlong

As previously told,  Jesse Webb was the last victim of Berrien County desperado Ben W. Furlong.  Webb was  shot, knifed, brutalized and, after three days of agony, finally bludgeoned to death with a sledge hammer on September 9, 1886 at Furlong’s Mill.  The mill was situated at Sniff, GA on the route of the Brunswick & Albany Railroad near the county line between Berrien and Coffee counties.

 

1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-inquest
Alapaha Star

October 2, 1886

THE INQUEST

Wednesday morning  [September 22, 1886] acting coroner J. A. Slater and a jury of eight men repaired to Furlong’s mill, five miles east of Alapaha. On arriving there several witnesses were summoned. Jim Simmons, col., was the first witness sworn. He testified that the down freight on Tuesday, September 7th put a colored man off and the conductor told Furlong to take him and work him. The man said he —- want work there. When —- left the colored man started —- it. Furlong told him if —–not come back he would f— him full of shot, went in — the commissary to get his gun The negro came back and F—ong handcuffed him and put Lo—- – white man, as guard over —. About an hour from night f— — –gro made a break for liberty. —

— ran to a swamp seve— hu—– yards south of —— —— —– —-
Furlong was about the —– tance behind Lofton. The —ness ran after Furlong, hoping to keep him from killing the ——. Soon after the pursuers and -ursued were lost to sight in the swamp. The witness heard a gun or pistol shot and stopped. In the pursuit Furlong carried a double barreled gun. In a few minutes he returned, without the gun, and said to the witness, “If you breathe a word about this I will kill you.” He afterwards told witness, “If you mention a word of this affair to a living being I know three men that will swear you did the shooting, and your neck will snap.” Tuesday night [September 7, 1886] Furlong, Tom Sharon and J. M. Lofton took Simmons down to where the wounded man lay. They were all armed with double-barreled guns. When they reached the wounded man they told Simmons to assist Sharon in getting the handcuffs off him. While they were thus engaged Furlong drew his knife and tried to cut the wounded man’s throat. Simmons caught his arm and begged him not to kill the man. He then made a lunge at Simmons’ — — —– —- —-

1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-inquest-2him. Wednesday morning [September 8, 1886] Simmons took the wounded man a bottle of water. The man begged him to take him to one of the shanties. Furlong refused to let him bring him. Later that day he told Lofton the man ought to have something to eat. He was helpless but could talk. The witness did not see the wounded man after Wednesday night.

Thursday night [September 9, 1886] Furlong set for Simmons and told him he wanted him to go with him that night. Simmons told him he was too sick to go.

Several other witnesses were examined, but we have only space for the most important.

Mr. James Cross, white, testified that he came at night Tuesday the 7th, and that Furlong asked him to go and stay at his house that night, as his wife was frightened about something. He did so. About 9 o’clock Furlong came in but remained only a minute. Wednesday night [September 8, 1886] Furlong, Lofton and Sharon stayed out nearly all night. Thursday night they left about 8 o’clock, returned about 9 o’clock, changed clothes, putting on their worst clothes and old shoes, and left again. They were absent until three o’clock. Witness did not –e —- — — morning their pants were wet and muddy to their knees and Sharon’s coat was wet to the pockets. He questioned them but they would not tell where they had been or what they had done.

None of the witnesses saw the man after he died, nor were any of them willing to say that he had been killed, although they felt satisfied that such was the case. The main actors in this brutal tragedy were absent, one in his grave and the other two had fled.

After hearing the testimony of the coroner, the jury and a number of white and colored men scoured the woods and bays and branches for miles, in search of the missing man, but without success. Not a trace was found as to where his body had been hidden.

When the party returned to the mill, it was given as a rumor that the man had been buried in the horse lot, just back of the commissary

Several men, with iron rods, went to the lot and probed it. In one place the rod went down 1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-5— feet in loose earth, but it was not thought at the time it be the man’s grave. It being late in the afternoon [Wednesday, September 22, 1886] the jury adjourned to Saturday, to await the arrival of important witnesses. Just as Alapaha was reached Mr. James Cross came galloping in and announced that the body had been found in the horse lot where the iron rod had sunk in the ground. Several colored men were sent back to guard the body till Thursday morning.

Thursday [September 23, 1886] about nine o’clock the coroner and jury returned to Furlong’s mill. The jury at once repaired to the horse lot and were soon at work exhuming the body of Jesse Webb, this being the name by which the murdered man was said to be known.

After digging a depth of two —and a half or three feet, in the —- –st corner of the lot, between —- — —d and the forage house —- — -ands near the railroad —- —- body was re—– —– —- on his —- — —- —————————- out property. Decomposition had set in and his flesh would peel off at a touch. With the aid of crocus sacks, which were placed under him, the end of which extended out on either side, he was lifted out of the grave and placed in a box.  On examination the skull was found crushed in on the left side just above the ear, seemingly with a large hammer, perhaps a sledge-hammer. On the right side, a short distance from the forehead, and about an inch from the center of the head the skull was also crushed in, the hole being fully an inch and a half in circumference. In the man’s mouth was a roll of waste, such as is used for packing the boxes on car wheels.  The evidence showed that Furlong, Lofton and Sharon were at the commissary about midnight Thursday night, when Furlong asked first Gammage and then Simmons to go with him that night.  What they did after that is left to conjecture, but the presumptive evidence is that they prepared themselves and proceeded to where the wounded negro lay, rammed the waste into his mouth and down his throat, so that he could not cry out when struck, and then crushed in his skull, dragged him a hundred yards through the woods — buggy, hauled him to the lot and buried him.  1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-6All this was done inside of three hours.

The jury of the inquest will sit in Alapaha to-day, when doubtless a verdict will be reached.

This is beyond doubt the most brutal murder that has ever darkened the annals of out county.  This unoffending negro was handcuffed and when he made an effort to regain his freedom, was pursued and shot after he was caught. Paralyzed in every limb, he lay in a dense swamp from about an hour before sundown, Tuesday evening, September 7th, until the following Thursday night at 12 o’clock. During all this time he had one drink of water and one meal, notwithstanding he was less than four hundred yards from several houses. Thursday night, at midnight, three white demons, braced with whiskey, which was the real cause of the crime, advanced through the gloomy swamp to where the helpless man lay and murdered him in the manner already stated.

Furlong, the leader in this horrible murder, is in his grave, but his accomplices are still at large. No time should be lost in bringing them to justice.

The first part of this article was — — would be an inquest.

Nathan Bridges and Jesse Woolbright, two colored men of this place, deserve honorable mention for their unceasing efforts to aid the jury in finding the body and for their attention to the jury while hearing evidence.

Related Posts:

The Ghost of Ben Furlong, Berrien County Desperado

More on Berrien County, GA Desperado, Benjamin William Furlong

Back Story on Benjamin William Furlong

The Vanceville Affair

Ben Furlong’s Ghost Haunted Conscience of Berrien Residents

Southern Georgia: Railroad Pamphlet

The Haints of Berrien County

More Haints of Berrien County

Alapaha Star Reports 1886 Demise of Ben Furlong

Ben Furlong (circa 1854-1886),
Desperado of Berrien County, GA

Ben Furlong was perhaps the most notorious outlaw ever known in Berrien County, GA. Furlong, a sawmill man when he wasn’t on the bottle, frequented the communities along the tracks of the Brunswick & Western Railroad – Sniff, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Enigma and Vanceville.

brunswick-and-western

The Brunswick & Western Railroad linked the communities of northern Berrien County with Brunswick, GA to the east and Albany GA to the west, and connected with the larger Plant Railway.

Furlong was a philandererwife beater and a killer, wanted for dozens of criminal charges including the shooting of B&W engineer Chuck Brock and passenger Will Harrell, and cutting the throat of another passenger.  It was said he committed his first murder at the age of 15. Some said after his demise his ghost haunted the scene of his final, heinous crime.

After his September 24, 1886 death  Furlong’s infamy was literally told around the world. But the most detailed accounting of  Furlong’s final days was published in the Alapaha Star, Berrien County’s own “splendid newspaper” edited by Irishman J. W. Hanlon (Hanlon had previously served as editor of the Berrien County News,  Albany Medium, and later edited the Quitman Sun and wrote humorous works under the pen name Bob Wick).

 

1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-1a

Alapaha Star

October 2, 1886

MURDER AND SUICIDE

A Negro and — the Body In His Stock Lot – Suicide —- The Negroe’s Body Found —- —- – Inquest – A Horrified —- Etc.

Friday evening of last week [September 24, 1886], after the Star had gone to press news reached town that B. W. Furlong, who has been conducting a saw mill at sniff in this county, was dead, from the effects of a dose of laudanum, taken with suicidal intent. Before going to his room about twelve o’clock he asked his wife to forgive him for all he had ever done, and told her that he would go away from there in a few days and begin a new life. He called his children to him and spoke kindly to them and asked them not to disturb him, as he wanted to take a long sleep. He then went to his room, closed the door and, it is supposed, took the fatal dose. Later in the afternoon some one entered the —m, on hearing a strange —– — —– — dead.

Mr. Furlong had been drinking heavily for some weeks, and his creditors, knowing his business to be in a shaky condition, a day or two before his death had his property attached. Mr. Silas O’Quin, of this place, went down Friday morning to levy on some of his property, and found him rational, but wild-looking. He informed Mr. O’Quin that he had shot a negro about two weeks previous to that time and it was supposed that he was dead. This conversation occured about 11 a. m.

Mr. Furlong’s body was taken to Waresboro Sunday morning [September 26, 1886] for interment.

Immediately after his death rumors of the killing of the negro began to circulate, and on Friday evening [September 24, 1886], for the first time, they reached Alapaha. It seems that Furlong had been short of hands for several weeks.  A negro boarded the B. & W. R. R. at some point and stated that he was hunting work, and that he had no1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-2a money. The conductor, knowing that Furlong needed hands, took the negro to Sniff and turned him over to —- was taking to Furlong got off —-Willachoochee,
where he had work. The negro objected strenuously to being put off, and refused to work. Shortly after the train left, the negro walked off in the direction of Willacoochee, but was soon discovered by Furlong, who brought him back, handling him pretty rough in doing so.

Furlong then handcuffed him. That evening, after dark, according to report, the negro slipped out of the commissary and had gone some distance out on the tram-road when he was missed. He was still handcuffed. Lofton, a white man, in Furlong’s employ, discovered the fleeing negro and showed Furlong the direction he had taken. Furlong pursued him with a double-barreled gun, and in a short time the report of the gun was heard. Furlong returned without the negro. Before he reached the mill he met a mulatto who was a trusted employe, who had started after Furlong, hoping to prevent him from shooting the negro. Furlong told him that he had shot the negro and that if he divulged it, he, Furlong, had men there who would swear that he, the mulatto, did the shooting. Later in the night Lofton and the mulatto were sent by Furlong to the wounded man —- — ——— –. — ——- was shot through the neck and was completely paralyzed, except his tongue. When he saw Lofton he said: “if it hadn’t been for you Mr. Furlong would not have shot me.” This mulatto says he carried the wounded man something to eat later in the night. This was Tuesday night. It is reported that the negro lay there until Thursday night, when he disappeared. That night Furlong ordered out three mules, one for a wagon and two to be saddled. Where they went is not known, but the supposition is that the mission was to take the body to some deep water, weight it and sink it out of sight.

Lofton has fled, and his whereabouts are unknown. It is said that he is well connected in Atlanta. The mulatto is named Jim Simmons and is here.

Last Sunday [September 26, 1886] a crowd of whites and blacks went down to the Alapaha river and dragged for the body of the missing 1886-0ct-2-alapaha-star-ben-furlong-3anegro at the bridge at Moore’s old mill, but without success.

It is now rumored that the —- was concealed in a branch — of the mill.

But those rumors would turn out to be wrong, the mill branch concealed no body. An inquest into the fate of Jesse Webb was about to uncover the ultimate cause of death and the true location of the body.

 

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William H. Griffin, Wiregrass Jurist

William Hamilton Griffin (1853-1917)

William Hamilton Griffin was born in that part of Lowndes County, GA which was cut into Berrien County in 1856. He became a prominent public administrator and jurist of Wiregrass Georgia, and was involved in some of the most dramatic legal contests in Ray City history.

William H. Griffin

William H. Griffin

William Hamilton Griffin  was born July 18, 1853, on his father’s plantation, located in that portion of Lowndes county which is now included in Berrien county, GA. His honored parents, William D.and Nancy (Belote) Griffin, were also natives of Lowndes county.”

He was a cousin of Bessie Griffin, and Lester Griffin of the Connells Mill district (Georgia Militia District 1329), just west of  the Rays Mill community  (now Ray City, GA),

“The father, William D. Griffin, aided in effecting the organization of Berrien county and was its second treasurer, which office he held continuously until his death, in 1892, except one term, during the so-called -“Reconstruction” period, immediately succeeding the Civil War, when nearly all white voters were, under Federal statutes, practically disfranchised. The father was a soldier in the Confederate service during the latter part of the war and was with Johnston’s forces in the operations of the Atlanta Campaign.”

The paternal grandfather represented Brooks county in the state legislature, though his residence was on land now in Lowndes county. The great-grandfather, James Griffin, was a private soldier in the Revolutionary War.  James Griffin and Sarah Lodge Griffin were early settlers of Irwin County, GA.

William H. Griffin, the subject of this sketch, was afforded only the advantages of the common schools of his native county, the family fortunes, in common with those of most southern families, having been seriously affected by the war. He was educated in the public schools and academies at Nashville, GA. He soon developed traits of leadership and at twenty was elected clerk of the court for Berrien County, an office he held in 1874-5. From 1882 to 1885 he held of the office of Ordinary of Berrien County. While in this office he studied law, and in 1884 he was admitted to the Georgia bar. He at once began the practice of his profession at Nashville, but in 1885 he removed to Valdosta, GA.  There he formed a law partnership with Judge Benjamin F. Whittington, as Whittington & Griffin, this relation continuing for several years.

He was elected mayor of Valdosta in 1892, and served three consecutive terms. Governor William Yates Atkinson appointed him judge of the city court of Valdosta in 1897, for a term of four years, at the expiration of which he was reappointed for a like term, by Governor Allen D. Candler, and continued on the bench until 1905. During his eight years of service he tried 1,358 civil cases and 2008  criminal cases, a total of 3,866. His decisions were carried to the supreme court but 18 times and were reversed in only two cases.

In politics Judge Griffin was a Democrat, having always given that party his unqualified support. He served as mayor of Valdosta, judge of the city court, representative in the state legislature from Lowndes County, Chair of the Democratic Executive Committee of Lowndes County, and as referee in bankruptcy. His elevations to public office were a tribute to his worth and to the respect with which he was held by the community.

He was a member of the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and held membership in various bar associations. His chief recreations were fishing and hunting.

William H. Griffin was twice married — first, on May 18, 1879, to Margaret “Maggie” MacDonald, daughter of Dougal P. and Anna (Peeples) MacDonald, of Nashville, Berrien county. Maggie McDonald was born in 1864. Her father was listed on the 1860 roster of Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men, but he was also enumerated in Berrien County on the 1864  Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia. Maggie was apparently raised by Dr. Hamilton M. Talley, as she appears in his household in Berrien County in the census of 1870. She died in 1890.

William H. Griffin was second married to Miss Carrie Abbott, of Randolph, VT, September 28, 1892. He had two children of the latter marriage—William Abbott Griffin, born in 1896, and Margaret Griffin, born in 1902. William and Carrie Griffin were members of the Methodist Episcopal church South.

William H. Griffin served as attorney for the estate of prominent Rays Mill turpentine man Robert S. Thigpen, engineering some of the largest property deals in Ray City history in the disposal of the Thigpen estate.  Thigpen’s holdings at the time of his death in 1898 included his turpentine plants and naval stores stock at Rays Mill, Naylor and Lenox, GA.

In 1899, William H. Griffin represented James Thomas Beagles, defending him for the Killing of Madison G. Pearson at Henry Harrison Knight’s store at Rays Mill (now Ray City),GA some 12 years earlier. The Beagles case was tried before Judge Augustin H. Hansell. Attorney Griffin made a most eloquent and affecting appeal in behalf of his client, Beagles, for a light sentence, and every one in the court room was moved by his strong and well-chosen words. Beagles was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to only two years incarceration.

In 1906, after his retirement from the bench Judge Griffin entered into a partnership with Hon. Elisha Peck Smith Denmark, and formed the law firm, Denmark & Griffin. It was said that “He enjoyed the confidence, esteem and patronage of the most prominent and important people and business interests of Lowndes and adjoining counties.”

In the matter of Green Bullard’s estate, William H. Griffin was retained by William B. Shaw to represent the interests of his wife, Fannie Bullard ShawGreen Bullard was a long time resident of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) area, and  owned land out Possum Creek Road and on toward the community of Cat Creek. The Shaws wanted the estate to be administered by Fannies’ brother, Henry Needham Bullard, rather than her half-brother, William Malachi Jones.   The other side of the family was represented  by Buie & Knight in the dispute. Mallie Jones was the son of Mary Ann Knight Bullard by her first husband, William A. Jones.

Judge Griffin’s name was synonymous with integrity. He “walked uprightly, worked righteousness, and spoke the truth in his heart.” He exemplified the best ideals of the profession. He was generous-spirited, and gave liberally of praise and commendation where he thought it due.  When the first train to roll through Ray City on the Georgia & Florida Railroad arrived at Valdosta, it was Judge W. H. Griffin that gave the welcome address at the celebration.

His death occurred at his home in Valdosta, April 15, 1917, and the throng of people, including many lawyers from other counties, who attended his funeral attested strongly the esteem and love there was for him in the hearts
of those who knew him.

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Post-Search Light
Apr. 19, 1917

Judge Griffin Died Sunday

Prominent Valdosta Jurist Passed Suddenly Away From Heart Trouble – Well Known Here.

    The following account appearing under a Valdosta date line in the daily press Monday will be interest to Bainbridge friends of the deceased.
     Judge Griffin was well known here, and was related to Representative E. H. Griffin, of this city.
    “Judge William H. Griffin, one of Valdosta’s prominent men and a leading south Georgia lawyer, succumbed to attack of heart failure this afternoon at 1:45 o’clock after less than an hour’s illness.  He was alone at his home when the attack came on him, members of his family being at church.  Mrs. Griffin returned home soon after he was stricken and a physician reached his side in a few minutes but was powerless to relieve his patient.
    “Judge Griffin was sixty-four years of age, an active south Georgian, and for forty years a citizen of Valdosta. He was a member of the law firm of Denmark & Griffin, and controlled a large and lucrative practice.  He was a member of the two last general assemblies of Georgia and exerted a strong but conservative influence in that body.  He had been judge of the city court of Valdosta, mayor of the city, member of the school board and active in the public life of this city and section, which loses one of its best citizens in his death.
     “Judge Griffin is survived by his wife and two children, a son, Mr. Abbot Griffin, and daughter, Miss Margaret.
   “His son was in Macon, where an announcement of his father’s death reached him.
    “Judge Griffin’s funeral and interment will take place here probably on Monday.”

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery. Image source: Robert Strickland.

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Jim Griner ~ Lawman

Deputy Jim Griner,  Berrien County Lawman

James Benjamin “Jim” Griner , who was Ray City, GA Police Chief in the 1940s, also served as Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County from 1905 to 1915.  (In 1915,  Griner was elected Police Chief of Nashville, GA.)  Below are a few clippings from newspapers around the region  about his time as Deputy Sheriff .

Deputy Sheriff James B. "Jim" Griner, 1906, Nashville, GA

Deputy Sheriff James B. “Jim” Griner, 1906, Nashville, GA

Griner’s ten years of deputy work were filled with escorting prisoners, working the bloodhounds, trailing chain gang escapees,  tracking arsonists, raiding gambling dens and blind tigers, gunfights with desperadoes, and more. He began his law enforcement career as a deputy for Sheriff Marion J. Kinard.

Jim Griner worked as a deputy for Sheriff Kinard, 1905.

Jim Griner worked as a deputy for Sheriff Kinard, 1905.

Tifton Gazette
March 24, 1905

Mr. I. C. Avera, for a long time deputy sheriff, is now city marshal of Nashville, and makes a model officer.  Messrs. J. A. Lindsey and J. B. Griner are Sheriff Kinard’s deputies, and are making good officers.

 

Sheriff Jim Griner and Charlie Israel, 1907

Sheriff Jim Griner and Charlie Israel, 1907

 

Tifton Gazette
April 26, 1907

Deputy Sheriff Griner went to Homerville Sunday and brought Charlie Israel back to jail. He is the young white man who dug a hole in the brick wall of the county jail and made his escape a few weeks ago. Sheriff Screven Sweat of Clinch captured him. – Nashville Herald. Israel is the young man that burglarized the store of J. B. Gunn, at Enigma, several weeks ago.

1908-jim-griner-and-ed-sutton

Tifton Gazette
September 18, 1908

 

Ed Sutton, who was tried and adjudged insane here last week, got away from Deputy Sheriff Griner at Cordele, while enroute to the asylum. The county authorities offer a reward of $25 for him. – Nashville Herald.

Sheriff Jim Griner calls out the bloodhounds, 1909.

Sheriff Jim Griner calls out the bloodhounds, 1909.

 

Waycross Journal
July 2, 1909

Nashville, Ga., July 2. – John A. Gaskins, living in the upper Tents [Tenth] district, six or eight miles east of Nashville, came here and got Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner and his blood hounds to go to his place for the purpose of tracking incendiaries who set fire to his gin house Monday night. The dogs failed to track the offender, however, and Mr. Griner returned to Nashville without a prisoner. Mr. Gaskins thinks he has a clue, as threats have been made against him because he refused to let certain parties fish in his mill pond. The ginnery, which had just been completed was a total loss.

 

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner captures John Bradford, 1909

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner captures John Bradford, 1909

Tifton Gazette
December 17, 1909

Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner and John Bradford went down in Clinch county Monday night and captured Dick Studstill, a desperate negro who is wanted in this county for assault with intent to murder. He resisted arrest several months ago, near Sparks, and shot at Sheriff Avera and posse who were raiding a gambling and tiger den. – Herald.

Sheriff Jim Griner in shootout with Beaty Gaskins, 1911

Sheriff Jim Griner in shootout with Beaty Gaskins, 1911

Vienna News
April 14, 1911

Sets Bullets Flying Wildly in Nashville

Adel, Ga., April 11. – News has reached this city of an affray at Nashville Saturday evening in which Beaty Gaskins, a well known and prominent young man, undertook to shoot up the town. He began by shooting at a young man named Knight, and continued to shoot until he had fired nine times. He came near hitting a clerk in Wein’s store and sent a bullet into the county school commissioner’s office in which were a number of teachers, it being the time of the monthly meeting of the teacher’s institute. He also sent a bullet into the office of J. P. Knight, ex-senator from this district. After shooting half a dozen times Gaskin directed his shots into the office of Judge W. D. Buie of the city court, hitting that official and Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner, who was there.
Mr. Griner returned the fire and slightly wounded Gaskins, was then arrested. Later he was released under bond of $10,500. He is a son of John A. Gaskins, one of the wealthiest men in Berrien county.

1913-jim-griner-and-oscar-jones

Tifton Gazette
November 7, 1913

Nashville Herald: Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner left Friday for Belleville, Illinois, in response to a telegrram from the Prison Commission advising him to go after Oscar Jones, who escaped from the Berrien county chaingang two years ago.  He is a lifetime man sent here from Fulton county in 1911.

a

Deputy Sheriff Jim arrests Bob Luke, 1914

Deputy Sheriff Jim arrests Bob Luke, 1914

Tifton Gazette
June 12, 1914

Bob Luke, who shot and killed Calvin Lingo about three weeks go, was placed under arrest last week by Deputy Sheriff Jim Griner, of Berrien.  Luke says he killed Lingo in self defense while Lingo was under the influence of whiskey.  He offered to surrender but the coroner’s jury returned a verdict of Justifiable homicide and he was turned loose.  Lingo’s brother had the warrant sworn out for Luke.  George Henderson, the only eye-witness to the tragedy, has also been placed under arrest.

Prisoners escape Deputy Jim Griner, 1914

Prisoners escape Deputy Jim Griner, 1914

Atlanta Constitution
December 31, 1914

Two Prisoners Escape Berrien County Jail

Nashville, Ga., December 30. – (Special.) – J. C. Carter, a white man held in the Berrien county jail here for stealing hogs, and Capers Beach, colored, held for securing goods under false pretense, escaped late last night by sawing a bar in two and climbing to the ground on tied blankets. Love Vickers, colored, reported it to Deputy Sheriff J. B. Griner, but they had already successfully effected their escape. When last seen they were headed for Sparks on the Georgia and Florida track.

James B. Griner Elected Nashville Police Chief, February 11, 1915

James B. Griner

In the 1940s James Benjamin “Jim” Griner served as the Chief of Police in Ray City, GA (see also A Christmas Wedding for Mary Catherine Hill).   But long before that he served as Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County, and in 1915 he was elected Chief of Police in Nashville, GA.   He was sworn in on February 11, 1915.

James B. Griner was elected Nashville, GA Chief of Police in 1915.

James B. Griner was elected Nashville, GA Chief of Police in 1915.

Since at least 1905, Jim Griner had been working as Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County, and in 1915 he ran for the office of Police Chief of Nashville.  The incumbent Police Chief was Richard McRae Rhoden.  The election was a close race, and Nashville Mayor F. M. Barker cast the deciding vote for Griner.

1915-jb-griner-sheriff

 

Tifton Gazette
February 19, 1915

GRINER NASHVILLE CHIEF

Mayor Cast Vote Which Defeated Rhoden

Nashville, Ga., Feb 11 – Inauguration of city officers at council chamber last night was attended by a big crowd. After much discussion, it was decided not to lower salaries of any officials.

The city electrician gets an increase in salary. Chief R. M. Rhoden and ex-Deputy Sheriff J. B. Griner were tied for chief of police, until Mayor F. M. Barker cast his vote for Griner.

John T. Griffin was elected over R. W. Tygart. Horace Sikes was elected water and light superintendent, and Austin Avera was named night policeman.

 

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Cauley Hammond Shaw was Ray City Police Chief

Cauley Hammond Shaw (1883-1961)
Ray City Police Chief, 1914

Cauley Hammond Shaw. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and www.berriencountyga.com

Cauley Hammond Shaw. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw and http://www.berriencountyga.com

In 1914 Police Chief Cauley Shaw was the officer responsible for law and order in Ray City, Ga.

The Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law by Bryan Shaw, relates that Cauley H. Shaw served as Deputy Sheriff in Berrien County, 1907; Nashville Police Chief, 1908; Milltown City Marshal, 1910; Douglas Police Chief, 1911; Ray City Police Chief, 1914; Willacoochee Police Chief, 1920; and was the first motorcycle police officer in Valdosta, GA.

Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law

Shaw Family Newsletter: In the Name of the Law

Cauley Hammond Shaw was born November 5, 1883, a son of Charlton Hines Shaw and Rebecca Jane Devane.  As a boy, he attended the local schools through the 7th grade. In the Census of 1900 Cauley H. Shaw, age 16, is enumerated in his parents’ household. His father owned a farm near Adel, GA where Cauley assisted with the farm labor. Cauley’s elder brother, Lester H. Shaw, worked as a teamster, while his younger siblings attended school.

As a young man, Cauley Shaw entered the profession of  law enforcement, serving as a Deputy Sheriff of Berrien County in 1907.   On January 16, 1907 he married Julia Texas Peters , in Berrien county, GA. She was the daughter of William Peters and Sarah Mathis, born May 20, 1883 in Berrien, GA.

A year later  Cauley accepted the position of Police Chief in Nashville, GA. The newlyweds were blessed with their firstborn child on February 21, 1908, a boy they named James C. Shaw. Tragically, their infant son died just six months later on September 3, 1908 and was laid to rest in Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. The following year on October 24, 1909 Julia delivered a second child, Julian C. Shaw. Again, tragedy struck, the newborn surviving just a few weeks. The baby Shaw was interred at Cat Creek Cemetery.

In April of 1910, Cauley and Julia were found in Hazelhurst. GA. They were boarding in the household of Rebecca W. Barber, widow of Dr. John W. Barber. Cauley owned a barbershop where he worked on his own account. Soon, though, Cauley returned to police work, serving as City Marshal of Milltown (now Lakeland, GA) in 1910, and Police Chief of Douglas, GA in 1911.

In 1913 a third child was born to Cauley and Julia, a daughter they named Hazel Annie. By this time, Cauley Shaw had moved his young family back to Ray City, GA where he served as Chief of Police.

Bryan Shaw relates an incident report from the Nashville Herald, October 9, 1914:

Considerable excitement was occasioned here Monday by a report that Cauley and Bruner Shaw and two other young men of Ray’s Mill had been shot about twelve miles down the Valdosta Road. Several gentlemen from here went in an automobile. But when they reached the scene, they found that the wounds were not serious. A negro for whom they had a warrant, shot at them with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

Again, January 22 , 1915:

 Officers at Ray’s Mill raided a skin game a few nights ago and brought in ten colored men and boys.

The first World War found Cauley Shaw and his family still in Ray City. On September 12, 1918 Cauley Shaw registered for the WWI draft in Ray City. Signing as Registrar on his draft card was the town pharmacist, C.O. Terry. He was 34 years old, medium height, medium build, with blue eyes and light hair. Cauley had given up  his position as Ray City Police Chief to Charlie H. Adams,  and was  employed in farming at Ray City.

1918 Draft Registration for Cauley Hammond Shaw.

1918 Draft Registration for Cauley Hammond Shaw.

By the time of the 1920 census, Cauley Shaw had moved his family to Willacoochee, GA, where he had returned to law enforcement, working as a city policeman. When the Shaws were enumerated on January 2, 1920 they were renting a house on Vickers Street. The Shaw household consisted of Cauley, wife Julia, their seven-year-old daughter Hazel, and their niece Myrtie Smith, age eight.

The Valdosta City Directory shows, in 1923, Cauley and Julia Shaw were living in a home at 406 Floyd Street, Valdosta, GA.  Cauley was employed as a foreman. His cousin, Brodie Shaw, owned  home a few blocks away at 203 S. Lee Street, and was working as a “yardman” [lumber yard?].  By 1925, the directory shows  Cauley was back in police work for the city of Valdosta.  Brodie Shaw had moved even closer, to a home at 307 Savannah Street.

Some time before 1930, Cauley and Julia moved to Douglas, GA where Cauley had served as police chief in 1911. Cauley again took work as a city policeman. They first rented then purchased a home near the corner of Ashley Street and College Avenue.   In 1930, their daughter, Hazel, married John H. Peterson, of Douglas.

Julia and Cauley remained in Douglas, GA.  The census records show Cauley’s 1940 salary as a police officer there was about  $23 dollars a week.

Family of Cauley Hammond Shaw , circa 1953. Left to right John Henry “J.H.” Peterson, Hazel Annie Shaw Peterson, Cauley Hammond Shaw, James Russell Peterson, Juliah Peters Shaw, Benajah Peterson, Mary Juliah Peterson. Front row: Sue Ellen Peterson, John Hammond “Pete” Peterson. Photo courtesy of Susie Peterson and www.berriencountyga.com

Family of Cauley Hammond Shaw , circa 1953. Left to right John Henry “J.H.” Peterson, Hazel Annie Shaw Peterson, Cauley Hammond Shaw, James Russell Peterson, Juliah Peters Shaw, Benajah Peterson, Mary Juliah Peterson. Front row: Sue Ellen Peterson, John Hammond “Pete” Peterson. Photo courtesy of Susie Peterson and http://www.berriencountyga.com

Julia Peters Shaw died March 16, 1956.   Cauley Hammond Shaw died in Douglas, GA on March 28, 1961.  Both are buried in Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes county, GA.

Graves of Cauley Hammond Shaw and Julia Peters Shaw, Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.  Image courtesy of  Cullen and Jeanne Wheeler.

Graves of Cauley Hammond Shaw and Julia Peters Shaw, Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. Image courtesy of Cullen and Jeanne Wheeler.

 

The Ray City Skin Game

Skin Game

The Nashville Herald briefly reported in the January 22, 1915 edition:

 Officers at Ray’s Mill raided a skin game a few nights ago and brought in ten colored men and boys.

According to Bryan Shaw’s In the Name of the Law, the Ray’s Mill officers at the time were Cauley Shaw and Bruner Shaw.

Ray City Police Officers, Cauley and Bruner Shaw.  Image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Ray City Police Officers, Cauley and Bruner Shaw. Image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia (1897)  provides the following definition:

skin game – n. A game, as of cards, in which one player has no chance against another, as when the cards are stacked or other tricks are played to cheat or fleece; any confidence-game.

The Online Etymology Dictionary adds:

skin game – In 19c. U.S. colloquial use, “to strip, fleece, plunder;” hence skin-game, one in which one player has no chance against the others (as with a stacked deck), the type of con game played in a skin-house.

Skin games were operated from towns large and small, New York City to Ray City.

the-skin-game

At the gambling table.

Title: Migratory laborers and vegetable pickers playing "skin" game in back of juke joint and bar in the Belle Glade area of south central Florida. Image source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/fsa2000037636/PP/

Title: Migratory laborers and vegetable pickers playing “skin” game in back of juke joint and bar in the Belle Glade area of south central Florida. Image source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/fsa2000037636/PP/

In Lights and Shadows of New York Life,  James D. McCabe describes the skin game:

In gambler’s parlance, it is called a “skin game.”  In plain English it means that the bank sets out to win the player’s money by deliberate and premeditated fraud… Here every guest must stake his money at the risk of encountering personal violence from the proprietor or his associates.  The dealer is well skilled in manipulating the cards so as to make them win for the bank always, and every effort is made to render the victim hazy with liquor, so that he shall not be able to keep a clear record in his mind of the progress of the game.  A common trick is to use sanded cards, or cards with their surfaces roughened, so that two, by being handled in a certain way, will adhere and fall as one card.  Again, the dealer will so arrange his cards as to be sure of the exact order in which they will come out.  He can thus pull out one card, or two at a time, as the “necessities of the bank” may require.  Frequently no tally is kept of the game, and the player is unable to tell how many turns have been made—whether the full number or less.  Even if the fraud is discovered, the visitor will find it a serious matter to attempt to expose it.  The majority of the persons present are in the pay of the bank, and all are operating with but one object—to get possession of the money of visitors.  The slightest effort at resistance will ensure an assault…


William Lonnie Royal and the Turkey Heist

William Lonnie Royal  (1897 – 1981)

Lonnie Royal, 1973.

Lonnie Royal, 1973.

William Lonnie Royal was born June 13, 1897, at  Homerville, Clinch County, GA.  He was a son of Gabriel Marion Royal and Vercy Lee Fender. Some time after 1910 his father rented a farm at Ray City, GA and this is where Lonnie grew to be a man.

On June 21, 1917  William  Lonnie Royal married Utha Gertrude Mixon in Berrien, Georgia.  The ceremony was performed by Lyman Franklin Giddens, who was Justice of the Peace at Ray City.  Utha Mixon was a daughter of Mary Elizabeth Clance and William Henry Mixon, of Ray City.

Marriage Certificate of William Lonnie Royal and Utha Mixon, Berrien County, GA

Marriage Certificate of William Lonnie Royal and Utha Mixon, Berrien County, GA

When the 1918  WWI draft registration occurred, Lonnie Royal was 21 years old and living and working at Ray City. He was of medium height and build, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He was working for Daniel Jackson “Jack” Gaskins, a farmer in the Lois District just west of town. He listed Frank Royal, of Ray City, as his next of kin.

In the spring of 1919 Lonnie and Utha, now with an infant son, were trying to make a home. It’s unclear just how Lonnie came to such a desperate state, but  he was charged in a number of thefts in the Ray City vicinity. The first case involved the heist of a turkey, said fowl being the property of a Mr. Connell. A second case involved the burglary of the residence of Lonnie’s employer, Jack Gaskins.  Mr. Connell may have been Clinton D. Connell, who was a neighbor of Jack Gaskins. The disposition of these cases was reported in the Nashville Herald:

April 4, 1919 - Lonnie Royal was convicted of a misdemeanor theft.

April 4, 1919 – Lonnie Royal was convicted of a misdemeanor theft.

“Nashville Herald:  Two of the cases against Lonnie Royals, a young white man living near the Berrien-Lowndes line, were tried.  He was acquitted of stealing Mr. Connell’s turkey, but was convicted of burglarizing the home of Mr. Jack Gaskins.  The jury recommended that he be punished as for a misdemeanor.”

Lonnie was acquitted in the case of the turkey heist, and apparently the jury took pity on him in the burglary case as they recommended sentencing for a misdemeanor crime.

Lonnie and Utha made their home in the Ray City area for many years.

Children of William Lonnie Royal and Utha Gertrude Mixon:

  1. Samuel Clarence Royal, b.  Jul 26 1918, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; married Mary Sue Smith; died  March 4, 2008 Louis Smith Hospital, Lakeland, Lanier, Georgia
  2. Clara Mae Royal, b.  Jan 21 1920, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; died  Dec 25 1923, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia
  3. William Clyde Royal, b.  May 14 1921, Lakeland, Lanier, Georgia; married Dora Brown; d.  Feb 27 1997, Columbus, Muscogee, Georgia
  4. Velma Louise Royal, b.  Dec 26 1922, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; died  Dec 12 1923, New Bethel Cemetery, Berrien, Georgia
  5. Alva Inez ‘Mickie’ Royal, b.  May 03 1924 Ray City, Lanier, Georgia; married 1) Woodard Bailey, 2) Horace L. Grayson; died  Jan 09 2010, Beaumont, Texas
  6. Gola Wylene Royal
  7. Agnes Kathleen Royal, b.  Jul 22 1929, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; m. Dale Wilson; died  Dec 04 1972, Phoenix, Arizona
  8. Jewel Christine Royal, b.  Aug 23 1930, Ray City, Berrien, Georgia; died  May 28 1944, Lakeland, Lanier, Georgia
  9. Gladys Helen Royal, b.  Aug 18 1933, Ray City, Lanier, Georgia; m. Ralph Henderson ; died  July 23, 2006, Bryon, Olmsted, Minnesota

William Lonnie Royal died March 2, 1981 in Berrien County, GA.  He was buried at Fender Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Graves of Lonnie Royal and Utha Mixon, Fender Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Graves of Lonnie Royal and Utha Mixon, Fender Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

 

Images and information on Mixon family history contributed in part by http://royalmixon.tribalpages.com/

Judge Holt and the Fish-Grass Case

It is said that Judge Thaddeus Goode Holt presided over the first session of the Superior Court of Lowndes County, GA in 1825, convened at the home of Sion Hall, and where Levi J. Knight served as foreman of the Grand Jury.

In Macon, the Honorable Thaddeus G. Holt  went into law practice with his brother-in-law, Allen Fleming, Esquire. A case of note was the Fish-Grass case, concerning the fishing for shad on the Ocmulgee River.

American Shad.

American Shad.

In The bench and bar of Georgia: memoirs and sketches, with an appendix, containing a court roll from 1790 to 1857, etc, Volume 2, Steven Frank Miller tells a story of the Fish-Grass case in which Thaddeus G. Holt and Allen Fleming represented defendants in the Superior Court of Twiggs County:

A little circumstance may be here related as occurring in 1832, or thereabout…

A well-known citizen of Macon, considerably advanced in years and of great wealth, had retained Messrs. Shorter and Gordon as standing counsel. The litigation in which he was engaged was quite extensive, and some of it very curious. Among other possessions he owned land on opposite sides of the Ocmulgee, and had resolved to permit no fishing on his property, except by his leave. In the shad-season, several poor men residing in Bibb crossed over, fastened their canoes to the Twiggs side, and threw out their nets for fish in the river. To warm themselves, they kindled a fire on the bank, burned pine-knots, and probably increased their comfort by adding a few sticks of other wood to the flame. This was the only ” breaking the plaintiff’s close and treading down his grass” for which his counsel were instructed to bring an action in Twiggs Superior Court, because it was for a trespass on the realty. The defendants employed a gentleman* [Thaddeus G. Holt] who had just retired from the bench of the Southern circuit, and his partner† [Allen Fleming] in the practice, whose modesty alone forced him afterward from the bar. The trial came on:  the plaintiff, trembling with bodily infirmities, yet resolute, appeared in court with his title-papers, scowling vengeance on the poor fishermen who had dared to trample on his rights,— “the grass aforesaid.”

The evidence showed a legal trespass of a very harmless character. Mr. Gordon argued the case for the plaintiff by stating the law, and maintaining that because the plaintiff was rich it was no reason why justice should be denied where a plain case of damage had been made out; for the law presumed damage whenever a trespass was committed. The effort was up-hill, a heavy strain to counsel, and the jury looked as if they had no disposition to encourage him by nods or smiles of approbation as he dwelt on the strong points of his argument.  After Mr. Gordon closed, the junior counsel of the defendants launched forth in a vein of goodhumored yet convulsive ridicule, and blowed the case so completely that the jury in five minutes returned a verdict for the defendants. Whereupon the plaintiff instantly paid the cost and entered an appeal, declaring that he would “give it to the rascals next time.” While the appeal was pending in the grass-fish case, Mr. Gordon found it inconvenient to attend Twiggs court, and the action was transferred into the hands of a gentleman‡ [John A. Cuthbert] who, as an advocate, (a former Representative in Congress,) evinced a high order of talent and very refined and uniformly-courteous address. His speech for the plaintiff was calmly logical, and was a fair specimen of Westminster deduction from small premises. The ex-judge, who was behind none of his compeers in blandness of manner, then touched the spark to the magazine of fun in the case, and away it exploded, causing much suppressed laughter, even at the expense of Mr. Gordon, who was accused of deserting his large practice in the court rather than appear in so pitiful a case or seeming to offend his rich client by a refusal,—a case so unequal, so much power on the one side and so much weakness on the other, as to remind one of a whale making war upon a minnow, if nature ever permitted such contests; a case where a rich man grudged a few straggling fish in a public highway (for all rivers in Georgia were such) to the poor families who looked to it for their daily support. The special jury readily gave a concurring verdict for the defendants. A motion was made for a new trial, on which a rule nisi was granted, and taken to the Convention of Judges, who advised a dismissal of the rule. Thus terminated the case,

* Hon. Thaddeus G. Holt, now of the city of Macon.

†Allen Fleming, Esq., then of Marion, but who for the last eight or ten years has been the Agent of the Marine and Fire Insurance Bank at Griffin.

‡John A. Cuthbert, Esq., then editor of the Federal Union, now a resident of Mobile, Alabama, and late judge of the county court.

 

Additional notes on Judge Thaddeus G. Holt:
His father, Thaddeus Holt, served for a short time in the state legislature and as a lieutenant colonel in the militia during the War of 1812. He participated in several duels during his life and was eventually murdered in October of 1813.

 

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