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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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, Clerk of the Berrien Courts

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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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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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.

1899 Sketch of Old Lowndes County

In 1856, Berrien County was cut out of Lowndes County, GA. Long before that all of this section, including Lowndes was encompassed in the original county of Irwin. The following is a sketch of the first 75 years of Lowndes County.

The Valdosta Times
October 14, 1899

Historic Sketch of Lowndes County
Written by R. E. L. Folsom

Old Irwin county was composed of sixteen districts, and included the present counties of Thomas, Brooks, Worth, Colquitt, Berrien, Lowndes, Clinch, Echols, and Irwin.  Out of this territory, about 1826, the counties of Thomas and Lowndes were formed, in the south-west and south-east portions respectively.  Lowndes included all of the present counties of Clinch and Echols, and most of the territory of Berrien, Colquitt and Brooks.  Clinch was formed first, then Berrien; then Colquitt; then Brooks; the Echols.

            The county of Lowndes was organized, and the first court held, at Frances Rountree’s on what is now [1899] known as the Remer Young old place, in the year 1827.

    Old Franklinville was the first permanent count seat, founded about the year 1827.  It was located on the Withlacoochee river, near where the skipper bridge now stands.  It was a fine location, from a natural standpoint, and had one of the best springs of water in this county.  It never amounted to much as a business location.  The first clerk of the county court of ordinary was William Smith.

            One among the first representatives of the county was Randall Folsom, from 1832 to 1833.  He was followed by Hamilton Sharpe.

            About 1838, the county seat was moved to the fork of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers, and named Troupeville, in honor of Gov. Troupe.  It was not a picturesque, or even attractive spot for a town, and today a bleak and barren sand ridge, with its scattered clusters of cactus and pine saplings, is all that is left to mark this historic old spot.  It was a great rendezvous for the devotees of fun and excitement and carousal, and a detailed history of the place would furnish every variety of incident, from deeds of heroism down to the most ridiculous escapades.  Troupeville was a considerable business point.  Of the merchants who did business there in the old days, were Moses and Aaron Smith,  E. B. Stafford,  Uriah Kemp, and Alfred Newburn.   The first physician in this section of the country, Dr. Henry Briggs, located there, and put up a drug store.  He built up a very extensive practice, which he kept to the end of his long life.  In those days there were no bar-rooms, as we now find them, but all the merchants, excepting M. & A. Smith, sold liquor.

            Two good hotels were kept here, one by William Smith, who was a master of his trade, and the other by Morgan G. Swain

            The first county surveyor was Samuel Clyatt.  He was succeeded by  Jeremiah Wilson, who held the office, with the exception of one term, till about the close of the civil war.

Judge C. B. Cole was one of the first judges of the superior court.  He was followed by Judge J. J. Scarborough.  It was under Judge Scarborough that Judge A. H. Hansell made his first appearance here, as solicitor general.  He succeeded  Judge Scarborough as judge of the superior court.

            About 1847, occurred the first murder trial in this county.  It was the trial of Samuel Mattox for the murder of a boy by the name of Slaughter.  He was found guilty and hanged for the crime.

            About the year 1859, upon the building of the old Atlantic and Gulf Railroad, now the S. F. & W., this county seat was moved to Valdosta.  The place was named in honor of the home of Gov. Troupe, which he called Val-d’Osta.  This was about the same time that Brooks county was organized.  Shade Griffin was representative at this time, and has the bill passed creating Brooks county.  As he lived on the east side of Little River, the boundary was run so as to put his place in Brooks, where it is said to be yet.

            The merchants who began business in Valdosta at its founding, or soon after, were Thomas B. Griffin, Adam Graham, Moses Smith, jr., Henry Briggs, A. Converse, Capt. Bill Smith,  W. H. Briggs, and the Varnedoes.

The first public road ever cut through this country, was the old Coffee Road, cut out by Gen. Coffee, on a contract from the state.  It began at Jacksonville, on the Ochmulgee River, and ended at old Duncanville, in Thomas county, on the east line.  The first white settlement in this section was made on this road in the fork of the Okapilco and Mule creeks in Brooks county, at an old Indian town, by Jose Bryant, in 1823.   The next settlement was also made on this road, by Sion Hall, near the present site of Morven.  It was here that the first court for the original Irwin county was held.  This settlement was made in 1824.   In the same year, Washington Joyce settled on the east bank of the Little River, and built a ferry at what is now the Miller Bridge.  This was the first white settlement in present Lowndes county.  Next to him came Drew Vickers and Lawrence Folsom and a man named Baker, who built a ferry on the Withlacoochee River, where the Williams bridge now stands.

One of the highways in this section was the old stage road, running from Thomasville to Brunswick through Troupeville.  This was discontinued as a stage line about the year 1850.

In those old days, marketing had to be done at long range.  Not very much cotton was raised – all of the upland variety – but it had to be hauled to Fussell’s and Mobley’s Bluffs, on the Ochmulgee River, and goods hauled back in return.  The only real markets for this section were Tallahassee, Newport and St. Marks.  Going to market was an event in those days, and people went to buy only what was absolutely necessary.   Ah! Those were the happiest days of all.

There were large stock owners in this section, in those days.  There was a fine range and plenty of room, and the raising of stock was then a source of considerable income.  The most important stock raisers were Berry Jones, Francis Jones, Will Folsom, Randall Folsom, James Folsom, and James Rountree.

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Judge Carleton Bicknell Cole

Carlton Bicknell Cole

Carleton Bicknell Cole

Judge Carleton Bicknell Cole (1803-1876)
Carleton B. Cole twice served as judge of the Southern Circuit and later presided over the courts of the Macon Circuit. In 1848 in the Lowndes County court at Troupville, GA, he was defense attorney for  Manuel and Jonathan Studstill, in the September 7, 1843 murder of William Slaughter, facing Augustin H. Hansell, solicitor general, for the prosecution. About Carlton Bicknell Cole: son of George Abbott Cole and Emmeline (Carleton) Cole. Born in Amherst, MA, August 3, 1803. Graduated Middlebury College, VT, in 1822. Taught and studied law in North Carolina. Admitted to the bar, 1826, and in 1827 removed to Macon, GA. Married Susan Taylor, September 6, 1827. (Children: Ann Eliza; Emmeline Carleton; John Taylor; George Abbott; Carleton Bicknell.) Incorporator and stockholder of The Commercial Bank at Macon, 1831. Judge of the Southern Circuit Court of Georgia, 1833-1847. Chairman of the Convention of Judges of the Superior Courts of Georgia, 1840. Operated a private law school at Midway, GA, 1844-1845. Opened a law practice in Milledgeville, GA, 1846. Admitted to practice before the Georgia Supreme Court, 1846. Chair of the Democratic Republican party of Twiggs County, 1847; A pro-Union Democrat in politics. Professor of Law, Oglethorpe University, 1847-1854. Resumed his law practice in Macon, 1854. Delegate to the State Constitutional Convention, 1865. Judge of the Macon Circuit Court, 1865-1873. Professor of Law, Mercer University, 1875-1876.  Died in Macon, GA, January 23, 1876.

 

The Sunny South
March 22, 1884

Bench and Bar of Georgia

Sketches and Anecdotes of Distinguished Judges and Lawyers.

Number 23.

By R. W. D.

Carleton B. Cole.

Carleton Bicknell Cole was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, August 7, 1803. His father died quite suddenly when the child was but a few months old, leaving him to the care of a young mother. His school advantages were good; he loved his books, became a close student and at the age of 19 graduated at Middlebury College, Vermont. His health having become impaired in consequence of his sedentary habits and close and unremitting application, he was sent to North Carolina that he might breathe the balmy Southern air and recuperate his wasted vitality. Being detained here from time to time, he finally decided to make the South his permanent home, and casting about for a permanent location, determined to adopt the profession of law. He commenced the study in the office of Judge Frederick Nash, of Hillsboro, and after a thorough course under that distinguished lawyer, was duly admitted to the bar. In 1826 Mr. Cole came to Georgia, locating in the then small town of Macon, where, in partnership with Hon. John G. Polhill (afterwards Judge of the Ocmulgee Circuit) he commenced the practice. While in Hillsboro, N.C. he had contracted marriage with Miss Susan N. Taylor, and therefore so soon as he had established himself in Georgia he returned to claim her as his wife. This good lady shared with him for many years his fortunes and reverses.
      Of the public life of Judge Cole I shall give nearly the whole space of this memoir to a communication from one who knew and loved him well.
General T. P. Smith, in Valdosta Times: 

“* * * * * He came to Georgia in 1826 or ’27 located in Macon to practice law and pursued the profession diligently for some years, when Gov. Schley appointed him to fill a vancancy on the bench of the Southern Circuit, caused by the death of Judge James Polhill. His commission bore date 13th April,1836, and not in 1833, as the Macon Telegraph erroneously stated. He took his seat on the bench at Pulaski Superior Court, third Monday in April, 1836, and continued to hold courts under his temporary appointment until the Legislature met in November ensuing.
When that body convened, the first important measure to engage its attention was the election of a Judge for the Southern Circuit. There were two candidates for the office, viz: Carleton B. Cole and Arthur A. Morgan. The writer of these lines went into the gallery of the House of Representatives to witness the election and remembers the balloting of the members and the sore disappointment of the friends of Judge Cole, who had entertained strong hopes of his election. The counting of the votes disclosed the fact that his opponent had more than doubled him. As the election of Judge Morgan was only for one year his opponents resolved to contest his election at the next session. The Legislature of 1837 convened and when the election for Judge of the Southern Circuit came up the names of Judge Morgan and Carleton B. Cole were again announced as candidates, as they had been the session before. The writer again went into the gallery of the House to witness the election and remembers the balloting of members, the counting of votes and the general rejoicing of the friends of Judge Cole when the Speaker announced his election as judge of the Southern Circuit, over his competitor. The exact vote is not remembered, but it was probably only two or three majority.

      Of the friends who worked most earnestly and uncompromisingly, and without whose assistance the election of Judge Cole must have failed at the second trial, were certain attorneys practicing in the courts over which Judge Morgan presided. It was they who arraigned Judge M. before the members of the Legislature of 1837 to undo the work of the previous session.
      Judge Cole entered at once upon the duties of his office, and presided for the term of four years and, in 1841, was re-elected over Col. Patterson, of Early – who had been a prominent man in the politics of the State. Thus it appears that he served eight years on the bench besides the temporary appointment in 1836, of Gov. Schley. At the close of his judicial career in 1845, the names of the political parties in Georgia had been changed from Union and States Rights to Whig and Democrat, and Judge Scarborough was elected by a Whig legislature to succeed him.
        Judge Cole resumed the practice of his profession and was a regular attendant on the courts of Lowndes and other counties of the Southern Circuit many years after his retirement from the Bench. Eventually the war came, slavery fell and a new constitution was ordered or required to meet the changed political condition of the State. Upon its adoption and the reorganization of the different departments, Judge Cole was tendered the judgeship of the Macon Circuit. He appeared upon the Bench and held the office for several terms. Certain members of the Bar were anxious for his reappointment and petitioned the Governor in his behalf. To this his Excellency declined to accede, but bestowed the office upon another who at present occupies the Bench of that Circuit.
       The most of Judge Cole’s judicial service was prior to the organization of the Supreme Court of Georgia, and when the legal opinions of the judge, given from the Bench, was the received and recognized law of the case. This autocratic power, it was sometimes stigmatized by counsel in their zeal for clients, caused them now and then to impeach, openly or covertly, the integrity of the presiding judge. The writer remembers our judge in Georgia who was impeached and tried before the Legislature for no other purpose, it was believed by many, than to get rid of his judicial opinions. It was this violence at the Bar engendered by a paltry judicial system, that led to the noted duel between Flournoy and Walton in 1811. The nephew espoused the cause of his uncle, Judge Walton, and lost his life. Judge Cole could not wholly escape this sort of vituperation, but met it apparently with a stoic indifference. Fortunately for the country the Supreme Court was organized in 1845, to determine questions of litigation in the last resort. The measure was not only beneficial in producing a better feeling between the judges and lawyers, but has been the ground work of vast progress and improvement in the laws of the State.
       A word concerning Judge Cole as a lawyer at the Bar, and these remarks will be brought to a close. In his day he was a popular attorney and had the management of many important causes. In his arguments before the court and jury it cannot be said that he was either eloquent or sought to stir the passions of the human heart. His strong forte was in a calm appeal to the good sense of the party addressed; in doing this he was always logical and interesting and seldom failed to command the closest attention. In his intercourse, during court, with the members of the bar, the county officers, the jurors and witnesses in attendance for the trial of causes, he was uniformly courteous and instructive; and when not engaged in the transaction of the business, he showed the sociability of his nature by mingling freely with the people, and by this means he gained their confidence and esteem.
       Judge Cole lived in Georgia nearly fifty years, and was at no time a candidate for office, except for Judge of the Superior Court. At no time was he called or known as a statesman of politician. His convictions and principles attached him warmly to the union of the States under the Federal Constitution, and in all the contests of Georgia looking to a separation of the Union, he was found true to his long cherished political sentiments.
T.P.S.
Valdosta, Ga., February 8, 1876

      Thus in the forgoing communication do we have a brief but comprehensive view of Judge Cole as a lawyer and judge, together with a mention of his political views. It remains but to be said that he left behind him a high reputation for his judicial worth and went to his grave with an untarnished name.

      It was stated in the communication quoted above, that Judge Cole was never a candidate for any position except the bench, but to this must be added, that he was sent by the people of Bibb to the Convention of 1865, an important body, which assembled immediately after the war, for the purpose of adjusting matters of State to the new order of things and providing for the people in their new and anomalous condition. Judge Cole made a useful member of this Convention, and did much toward shaping the future of Georgia. As being in a judicial line, he accepted the chairmanship of the law school of Mercer University at Macon a few years before his death. “Here,” says the memorial passed by the faculty of that institution, “his previous experience as a lecturer, his extensive practice at the bar and his long occupancy of judicial office, gave him rare and valuable qualifications for the impartation of legal instruction. So wide were the resources of his experience,and so great was the mastery of his memory over them, that he was prepared to explain and enforce every principle of the science of law with copious illustrations. Retaining, in an advance age, the freshness and verdure of the hear, he felt a deep and abiding interest in young men; and he gave to the organization of the school over which he presided, and especially to his own department – Equity Jurisprudence and Practice – warm devotion and faithful labor.”
       As explanatory of the reference in the extract given, “his previous experience as a law lecturer,” it should have been stated that in 1840, after his first retirement from the bench, he opened a law class at Midway near Milledgeville, the then site of Oglethorpe College, which he continued to teach for seven years, having a steady attendance of 25 or 30 students.
      By reference to the Court Roll in this volume it will be seen that Judge Cole presided over the Southern Circuit three different times, and over the Macon Circuit also under three successive appointments, giving him in all nearly fifteen years on the bench.
      He was tall, dignified and courteous, combining in his personthe suaviter in modo and fortiter in res.
     He led a consistent Christian life, and died an active and loved member of the Episcopal Church.
   

    I select as a fitting close to this memoir an extract from the memorial resolution of the Macon Bar:
      “In all the relations of society and home, Judge Cole was not less distinguished than as a professional and public man. Dignified and urbane in manner, he had a tender heart and affectionate disposition. As a Christian he was meek and humble as a child, relying for salvation not upon his own merits, but upon the atoning blood of his Savior and his God.
      Into the sanctity of his household we dare not intrude, but who can doubt that he was all that is lovely in a father, a husband and a master. He has left us, after filling his allotted space of more than three score years and ten, brimful of usefulness and honor, and well may we proclaim him.

      “The friend of man, the friend of truth,
       The prop of age, the guide of youth;”

and with just pride declare,

      “Few hearts like his with vigor warmed,
       Few heads with knowledge so informed.”

And knowing that of this world he made the best, and employed his talents to the advancement of his race and the glory of his Maker, we feel well assured that in another and brighter world
‘he lives in bliss.'”

Carleton Bicknell Cole
entered life enternal
Jan. 23, 1876.

Regimental Feud at Camp Wilson Near Savannah, GA

“Sin and wickedness prevails…

In January of 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment were made at Camp Wilson near Savannah, GA.  This camp was initially established by  then Colonel Claudius Charles Wilson’s 25th Regiment of Georgia Volunteers, and was used by 25th, 27th (31st) and 29th Regiments.   After the arrival of the 29th Regiment a verbal feud erupted between certain officers of the 29th and officers of the 25th Georgia Regiment then stationed at Camp Wilson. The cause of the contention was an allegation of rampant gambling in the encampment of the 25th Regiment, condoned if not endorsed by officers of the regiment.  It was first alleged the men of the 25th Regiment were gambling at cards, but later clarified that they were playing a game of chance called “chuckaluck.”

Now a story circulated that General Robert E. Lee, while opposed to gambling, was somewhat somewhat naive about games of chance.

A good joke on the General is this: He had been trying to suppress gambling in the army, when news came to him about a strange game. “Major Marshall,” said he, in his strong grave voice, “what is this new game I hear of –‘Chickabuck,’ I think they call it.” Major Marshall could not say. “Captain Latham,” said the General, addressing another member of his staff, “perhaps you can inform us.” — There was a general laugh, as the Captain explained, that he had heard at race courses of a game called “chuck-a-luck,” which was played, he believed with cards and dice, and sometimes called “sweat-cloth;” but, as for “chickabuck,” that was a profound mystery to him.

Chuckaluck was a popular game around both Confederate and Union campfires. The rules were straightforward and simple. The chuckaluck dealer would have a strip of oil cloth with figures 1 to 6 on it, dice and a dice box. You place your money on your favorite figure and the dealer chucks the dice. Maybe you’ll win and maybe you lose.

Chuck-a-luck was gambling game of dice popular around both Confederate and Union campfires.

Chuck-a-luck was gambling game of dice popular around both Confederate and Union campfires.

 

An old Chuck-a-luck banker’s proposition to “chuck” players went:

All young men disposed to gamble,
Chuckaluck’s a game that’s easy to handle;
The more you put down less you take up,
And that’s the game they call chuckaluck.

By November 1862, Robert E. Lee  would issue a General Order prohibiting gambling.

“The general commanding is pained to learn that the vice of gambling exists, and is becoming common in this army. The regulations expressly prohibit one class of officers from indulging in this evil practice, and it was not supposed that a habit so pernicious and demoralizing would be found among men engaged in a cause, of all others, demanding the highest virtue and purest morality in its supporters. He regards it as wholly inconsistent with the character of a Southern soldier and subversive of good order and discipline in the army. All officers are earnestly enjoined to use every effort to suppress this vice, and the assistance of every soldier having the true interests of the army and of the country at heart is invoked to put an end to a practice which cannot fail to produce those deplorable results which have ever attended its indulgence in any society..”

But historian Bell I. Wiley observed, “If Lee was just then discovering this propensity of his troops he was far behind time, for that evil had flourished in the Army of Northern Virginia, as elsewhere, long before he assumed command.” Dice, cards and lotteries were among the most common games of chance. But soldiers would bet on anything; horse racing, lice racing, any sort of racing, contest, fight, or chance.

Isaac Gordon Bradwell, a private in the 31st Georgia Regiment stationed at Camp Wilson, wrote,

“Young and inexperienced when I enlisted, I was surprised to find so many gamblers among my comrades. It seemed that as soon as they entered the service and found themselves free from civil law, they resorted for pastime between all duty in camp, and a great part of the night was spent in that way until our field officers ordered all lights out after a certain hour. But this did not quite put a stop to it, for during the day, when there was any leisure, there were many games of chance which could be indulged in despite our duties.”

Writing from Camp Wilson to the Rome Courier on January 1, 1862, a soldier of the 29th Georgia Regiment reported:

          Sin and wickedness prevails to a great extent in this camp. It is enough to make any Georgian blush to learn that there is two or three faro banks in Col. Wilson’s Regiment, in full blast, nearly every night, and what makes the picture still darker, the officers not only permit it, but several patronize them. How can we reasonably expect God to bless such Regiments on the battlefield? When officers set such examples, what may we expect of the privates, especially the young men who are just entering the threshold of manhood.
          A great many young men who, when they first came into camp, did not know one card from another, are now playing, and many for gain. I am proud to say there is very little of it, either in our Regiment, or Col. [Pleasant J. ] Phillip’s. The officers of our Regiment are all opposed to any of their men playing cards, and what little there may be, is done slyly.
         There is no Regiment that has a better set of officers than the 29th. They are all high toned, honorable gentlemen, and all attentive to their duties. The Regiment is fast filling up. Those that have been absent on sick furloughs are returning, and bringing new recruits with them. We would like to receive a few more of the right sort from
FLOYD.

Rebutting these allegations was Lieutenant Colonel William Percy Mortimer Ashley of the 25th Georgia Regiment, who was so devoted to the rebellion that at the conclusion of the war he would refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance.  Taking personal offense to Perry’s public allegations, Ashley with a letter to the Daily Morning News in Savannah:

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA
January 21, 1862

Camp Wilson, January 20th, 1862.

        “Sin and wickedness prevails to a great extent in this camp. It is enough to make any Georgian blush to learn that there is two or three Faro banks in Col. Wilson’s Regiment in full blast nearly every night, and what make the picture still darker, the officers not only permit it, but several patronize them.”
         The above is an extract from a communication published in the Rome Courier, which we pronounce a base calumny upon the officers and privates of the 25th Regiment. Our desire to disabuse the public mind and set at ease the hearts of those fathers and mothers who have sons in our Regiment, is the sole cause of our noticing the above vile slander in this public manner. The author is known to me, and proper steps are being taken to bring him to account before the proper tribunal.
Wm. Percy M. Ashley
Lieut. Col. 25th Regiment G.V.

Replying in the Daily Morning News, Lieutenant Thomas J. Perry repeated and clarified his allegation.

Daily Morning News
Savannah, GA

January 23, 1862

Camp Wilson, (Near Savannah, Ga.,)
January 21st, 1862.

Lieut. Col. W.P.W. Ashley, 25th Regiment Georgia Volunteers:

       Dear Sir – You say “the above extract is a base calumny upon the officers and privates of the 25th Regiment, and that you know the author, and that proper steps are being taken to bring him to an account before the proper tribunal.” In reply, permit me to say, I am more than willing and fully prepared to meet you and the Regiment in the investigation of the charge, for “the truth is mighty and must prevail.”
         As I stated in my letter to you on Saturday last, I may have been in error to say “Faro banks;” perhaps I should have said “Chuckaluck banks.” You dare not deny their existence in the 25th at the time I wrote the communication and since then, and you know the tendency and evil is the same in their “damning influence” upon those you suffer to participate in them, for there is merely a distinction without a difference; and I would here remark that I am truly sorry to see a gentleman who holds so high a position quibble about such a small thing. You seem to try to make the impression that I include the privates as being responsible for the existence of those “Chuckaluck banks.” I deny it. The officers are alone responsible for their existence, and all the evils that naturally follow, for if you all had done your duty they would not have been there, and this difficulty would have been obviated.
         I am aware there are some officers in the 25th who I know to be opposed to those games, but it is to be regretted that they will stand with their arms akimbo, apparently indifferent to their duty and trust reposed in them, and see the youth in their charge traveling the downward road to ruin and not try to rescue them by either word or act.
       Why did you not publish the correspondence between us? Why did you not have the fairness to acknowledge in your letter that I acknowledged to you, and to three of the officers of the 25th on the first inquiry, that I was the author of the communications? It appears that you wish the impression to go out that you obtained the information from some other source.
      The riotous conduct of a portion of your regiment on last Saturday night in marching out of the 25th and into and across the 29th Regiment with a lantern hoisted on a pole, was the natural fruits of those “chuckaluck banks.” In justice to you I will here state that you came immediately and ordered them back, and apologized to Col. [Thomas W. ] Alexander, and assured him the insult was not intended for him or the regiment, and at the same time stated that it was done without the knowledge or consent of any of the commissioned officers. I hope such was the case; but it looks very unreasonable for so many to get up such a move and march out without the knowledge of some officer. It looks so unreasonable I am forced to the conclusion that there was a “power behind the throne greater than the throne itself.”
      According to my view of things, it little becomes a superior to insult an inferior officer when the former knows the latter’s hands are tied firm and fast by army regulations, wisely made by the guardians of our young Confederacy. Let these restraints be removed, and then I will in earnest Christian feeling hurl back the lie so boldly given in your communication.
      To all those who love peace and good order I will say I regret that this matter has taken the course it has, but you will, no doubt, justify me in replying through the press, as justice to myself and cause of truth demands it.
     What I have done I did with a conscientious belief that it was not only my duty to my country, but the cause of morality and religion; and here express the hope that if anything more is said or done it be before the proper tribunal. I am ready. I shall say nothing more unless duty requires it of me.
Yours, &c.,
Thos. J. Perry
Lieutenant Berry Infantry

A few days later, the 29th Georgia Regiment left their bivouac at Camp Wilson, and moved to a new camp about a mile distant. But Lieutenant W.P.M. Ashley and the 25th Regiment pressed the point. Perry was hauled before a military tribunal and court martialed.

Rome Weekly Courier
May 16, 1862

Our Savannah Correspondence.

Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
May 8, 1862

Dear Courier; I have at last heard the result of my Court Martial case. I was relieved of duty one week, and to be reprimanded by the Colonel, for “writing the communication and not notifying Col. Wilson of the gaming.” It was read out at dress parade on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday evening we re-organized our company, which put an end to it. Capt. Turner was re-elected Captain; T. F. Hooper, 1st Lieut.; T. J. Perry, 2nd do.; Jas M. Carney, 3d do. Capt. Turner declined accepting the Captaincy.
     Our Regiment is on picket duty on Oakland and Whitmarsh Island, in connection with the 13th Regiment and 11th Battalion. We have had no fighting yet, though we are sometimes in shooting distance of the Yankees.
     Lieut. Hooper arrived to-day. No one was ever received with a more hearty welcome.  Henry J. Blakeman died yesterday at the Augusta Hospital.  He was a good soldier and very popular in the company.  There are no prospects of a fight here soon.
     Capt Cameron, as you well know, is a good fellow, and attends to his own business, and thinks every body else ought to do the same. He is regarded at Headquarters in the service.  Our commissary, W. H. Stark, is a model officer also. They give perfect satisfaction to all concerned – so you may imagine we fare well.
    The weather is remarkably pleasant. Days moderately warm and nights cool. The sea breeze is delightful.
    There is but a few cases of sickness in our company.  It is much more healthy here than our up country friends would suppose. We have good water, but not so good as you have in Floyd.

As a final note on this episode, the First Baptist Church of Savannah supported the actions of Thomas J. Perry in shedding light of the prevalence of “sin and wickedness” in the Confederate camps about Savannah.  A committee of the church expressed their support with a letter to Perry’s home town newspaper.

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier
August 21, 1862

Thomas J. Perry

      A special committee appointed to examine the case of brother Thomas J. Perry, who is under the watch care of this Church, (First Baptist Church, of Savannah) who has been court-martialed and censured by the Twenty-fifth Georgia Regiment, for writing and publishing an article exposing the injurious practice of gambling playing of cards, &c. in their midst – beg leave to report:
      We have read the article and the particular paragraphs upon which the charge or charges were based and in our Judgement no blame attaches to brother Perry. The publication of the article referred to may be an infraction of military rule; but certainly no violation of any known moral and religious duty. And so far from imputing guilt to him, we cordially state that we believe he was in the discharge of a high christian duty, in thus grappling with this fascinating sin in its comparative incipiency in their midst. Brother Perry, with us, enjoys the full confidence of his brethren.
       We suggest that a copy of this report be transmitted to the Church at Rome, of which he is a member.
All of which is respectfully submitted.

Geo. W. Davis
W.W. Wash,
Committee

[George W. Davis, “an anti-slavery man” was a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Savannah, and treasurer of the City of Savannah. His son, George Whitefield Davis,  fled Georgia in 1861 after being arrested as northern spy. He joined the U.S. Army and fought with the 11th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry at South Mountain and Antietam. Over a 42 year army career he rose to the rank of Major General, and served in positions as president of the board of publication of the “Rebellion Records,” military governor of Puerto Rico, commander of the Division of the Philipines, and a member of the Panama Canal Commission.
William W. Wash was a teacher, planter, and trustee of First Bryan Babtist Church, which today is the oldest continuous African-American Baptist Church in the United States.
William H. Stark, Commissary Officer of the 29th Georgia Regiment, was also a member of the First Baptist Church of Savannah]

About the protagonists:

Thomas J. Perry (1824-1878)

Thomas J. Perry was born on August 28, 1824, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He married Mary E Fulton on September 3, 1857, in Floyd, Georgia. They had two children during their marriage. Before the Civil War, Thomas J. Perry was in partnership with G.W.F. Lamkin in the firm of Perry & Lamkin, Grocery Merchants located at No. 4 Choice Hotel, said partnership being dissolved when Perry was in service with the Berry Infantry at Savannah. His residence was in the Etowah Division of the city of Rome, near the Rome Railroad track and the Etowah River. His offices in the 1870s were at 77 Broad Street, Rome, GA, opposite May’s Livery Stable, near the post office.   Merchant, Lawyer, Mason, Baptist, Judge, he was a tireless promoter of his home town, Rome, GA.  He died on September 28, 1878, in Rome, Georgia, at the age of 54. Upon his death, Reverend Gustavus Alonzo Nunnally delivered the following during a Grand Masonic Procession to Perry’s grave on Myrtle Hill:

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier
May 24, 1879

Thomas J. Perry

He was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and at an early age removed with his parents to Gwinnett county, Georgia.  At the age of twelve he was left an orphan.  A helpless lad in the midst of difficulties; a child without kin or patrimony; a waif thrown upon the tide to be drifted at the mercy of careless waves, his prospects were not at all flattering.  In accordance with the laws of the land he was bound out to Mr. – Lamkin, to whom he rendered, during his minority, faithful service, and from whom he received those aspirations for a true manhood, and those truths of a noble life which were exemplified in the history of their ward. Having reached his majority he started West.  He reached Kingston, Ga., without funds or friends, kith or kin – with no commendation but his open face, with no resources but his fertile mind and brawny arm, and with no purpose but to do his duty and be an honest man. He manfully took the pick and shovel and worked upon the railroad which was being constructed at that place. After staying on the works a while he proceeded upon his journey. And in company with another gentleman he reached Rome in a few days in about the same condition as when he arrived at Kingston. Here began the development of the noble traits of character which commended the principles he had imbibed in the home of his orphanage and which were prophetic of the station to which he afterward attained.

1. With him all needful labor was honorable. This maxim he illustrated the next day after he reached Rome. In company with his friend he went from house to house seeking employment; he finally was told by a citizen that he had only one job that needed to be done.  It was to clean up his stable and cart the manure into his garden. Perry’s companion, who had more pride, but less sense, stood up proudly and refused with expressions of disdain and contempt such menial service. But the noble-hearted orphan, Tom Perry, said, “Give me the tools and I am ready for the work.” He did the work satisfactorily and cheerfully. It was the beginning of his success.  He won the confidence of the wealthy citizen, proved his usefulness, and was entreated to make Rome his home. He never forgot the maxim “that all needful work was honorable,” and while he observed it himself he encouraged others to do the same. The hard palm of the son of toil always received from him the warm grasp of sympathy and the sunburnt brow of the laborer was always cheered by the smile of recognition which fell from Perry’s face.

2. He always had a due appreciation of a favor.  He never forgot a kindness shown him, and he never cherished a wrong committed against him.  His Sabbath evening pilgrimages to the neat little home of his foster parents, over the Etowah, showed how he regarded the kindness and love they had manifested toward him in his young orphanage. Never was son more devoted to his natural parents than he to them.

3.He was always ready to recognize merit in others. He aimed at equality with others – even the best and noblest – but he determined to reach it – not by dragging them down but by climbing to their high position. He spoke evil of no man, but rather whispered good counsel in his ear and braced himself to support a falling brother.

4.He was fully conscious of all the claims which the public had upon him. Some may say that he had a thirst for office, but it was only that he felt he owed much to the public that always made him willing to take another office. He was indefatigable in his official labors. He was seen quite exhausted and worn down one day by overwork, with a physician feeling of his pulse in one hand and prescribing for his disease while in the other he held his pen and was busily executing some of the papers connected with his court.
While with a broad heart he took in all mankind yet Rome was the place of his labors, the subject of his benefactions, the center of his attachments and the idol of his life.
He understood fully the language of the old English poet:

“There is a land, of every land the pride,
Beloved by Heaven, o’er all the world beside,
Where brighter suns dispense serener light,
And milder moons emparadise the night;
In every clime, the magnet of the soul.
Touched by remembrance, trembles to that pole;
For in this land of Heaven’s peculiar grace,
The heritage of natures noblest race,
There is a spot of earth supremely blest
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.
Art thou a man? -a patriot? -look around;
O! thou shalt find, howe’er thy footsteps roam;
That land thy country, and that spot thy home!”

To every letter he wrote there was a postscript in favor of Rome – in every conversation with strangers there was a parenthetic expression commending the city of Rome, and every stake he set up in business – every scheme and project – all pointed towards Rome.

5. He had a due regard for the future. He lived not alone for the present. There was no selfishness in his purpose, there was no limits to the bearing of his projects. He planted tree beneath whose shade other generations shouls rest and from off whose weighted boughs other children would pluck the ripened fruit when the hand that dropped the seed was paralyzed in death and the foot that covered them was charred in the tomb.

6. He was suggestive without being a visionary. He was full of suggestions. He was always thinking, meditating, cogitating something that promised good. “Has any one any thing to offer for the good of the order?” always brought Tom Perry to his feet and upon his lips there would be spoken softly the name of a widow in distress, or an orphan in want or some brother in misfortune.

7. He was progressive, yet he was conservative.

“He was not the last to lay the old aside
Nor yet the first by whom the new was tried.”

The old plans and cherished expedients were readily thrown aside by him when a better plan had been presented.

8. He was aggressive, but not destructive. He would correct the wrong yet save the wrong-doer. He would crush the crime with the iron heel of the law but he would press the criminal to the warm bosom of sympathy and love. The justice of his court room was not vindictive, but compassionate, his sentences were not punitive but reformatory and his executions were not intended to immolate the evil doer but to rescue and passify the victim of lawlessness.
But he sleeps. He has been summoned to grand assize. He is happy in having the same judgement measured out to him which he dispensed when here among men.
No truer friend molds in the dust of Myrtle Hill, and no nobler heart beats in the bosom of the living. Let the precious memories of his manly virtues hang around his name like the rich fragrance of this boquet over the sod beneath which his remains repose.  And let his faults be buried in the vault and lost in the ruins of the tomb where his remains decay.
“The lodge, the school-room – the church – and State
Sustain in thee an equal loss,
But who would call thee from thy weight
Of glory, back to dear life’s cross!
Thy faith was kept, thy course was run,
Thy good fight finished; hence the word,
Well done, oh! Faithful child , well done,
Taste then the mercies of thy Lord.”

Among Thomas J. Perry’s civic accomplishments:

Vice Grand of Loyal Order of Odd Fellows Lodge No. 40, 1860; High Priest of Royal Arch Chapter, No. 26;  Alderman, Rome City Council, 1865-1870;  Agent for Johnson’s Union Washing Machine, 1865;  Grand Juror, January 1866 term of Floyd County, Superior Court; Deputy Tax Collector, 1866; Stamp Agent, 1866; Rome Board of Trade, 1866;  Secretary and Stockholder of the Oostananaula Steamboat Company, 1866; President, Schley Council, Good Samaritans, 1866; Agent for the Anchor Line Steamship Company, 1868;  Director and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Cherokee Masonic Life Insurance Company (Cherokee Masonic Aid Association), 1869; Justice of the Peace, 1869; Incorporator of the Memphis Branch Railroad, 1869; Deacon of the Rome Baptist Church, 1869;  Attorney, 1869; Right Illustrious Hiram of Tyre, Grand Council of Royal and Selected Masters, 1870;  Scribe Ezra and Grand Master 3rd Vail, of Rome, GA, 1870; Agent for Tilton’s Journal of Horticulture, 1871;  Judge, 1870-1874; Committee of Arrangements and Reception, August 1871 Convention of the Georgia State Agricultural Society at Rome, GA; Agent of the Commission for the Monument to the Confederate Dead of Georgia, 1872; Candidate for Justice of the Peace for 919th Georgia Militia District, 1872; appointed  Grand Master 3rd Vail at the Grand Chapter and Council of Masons of the State of Georgia, 1873; Secretary of the Rome Fair Association, 1873; Clerk of the Floyd County Board of Commissioners of Roads and Revenue, 1873; Secretary and stockholder Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association of the Cherokee Country of Georgia and Alabama, 1873; Local Agent for the St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga Railroad Line, 1873; Agent for New Orleans Mutual Insurance Company, 1873; Agent for the Old Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York; Emigrant Agent for Western & Atlantic Railroad, 1873; Agent for The Household magazine, 1873;  Commissioner of Deeds, 1873; Notary Public, 1873; Secretary of the Bee Keepers’ Convention of Alabama and Georgia, 1873; Local Agent for Irwin & Thurmond’s Southern Nursery of Atlanta, 1873; Agent for the Georgia Real Estate and Immigration Company, 1874; Board Member, Mary Carter Steamboat Company, Rome, GA, 1874; instrumental in securing Congressional appropriation for the clearing of the Oostanula River, 1874; juror on the Coroner’s inquest in the death of Rome policeman J.P. Mooney;  honored with the christening of the steamboat the Thomas J. Perry, 1874; Secretary for the North Georgia and East Tennessee Steamboat Company, Rome, GA, 1874;    Appointed by Rome Citizens Committee to promote Rome, GA as location of a federal armory,  1874;    appointed Grand H. T., Royal Arch Masons,  1875; Past Dictator, Knights of Honor, Hill City Lodge, Rome, GA, 1875; Thrice Illustrious Master, Etowah Council Cryptic Masonry Lodge No. 12; organizer of the River Convention at Rome, GA, 1975; appointed by the Governor to represent Georgia at the Chicago Convention of Trade and Transportation, 1875; Grand Master of the 1st Veil; Committee member for a Cotton Factory at Rome, GA;  published Perry’s Church Register, a copyrighted ledger for the use of Baptist churches’ recording of baptisms and memberships, 1876; De bonis non administratis for the estate of N. J. Omberg, 1876; Secretary of the Soldier’s Monument Fair Association, 1876;   elected High Priest of the Rome Royal Arch Masonic Chapter  No. 26, 1876; elected Senior Warden, Cherokee Lodge No. 66; member of Tilden, Hendricks and Dabney Club of Rome, GA, 1876; Local Agent for Atlanta Nurseries, Rome, GA, 1876; elected Illustrious Deputy Grand Master in the grand Council of Georgia;

 

William Percy Mortimer Ashley (1825-1888)

William P. M. Ashley was born in Camden County, Georgia, May 14, 1825, and died in the same county January 2, 1888. At the opening of the war between the states he was, like many others, in affluent circumstances, and, as he believed the Confederate cause was right, he dedicated himself, his professional knowledge as a civil engineer, and a large part of his fortune, to the cause. Not content with this, he raised a company for the state defense, which was known as the Altamaha Scouts, of which he became captain, and subsequently, as the war continued, he was called to still higher office, becoming colonel of the Third Georgia Volunteers and as such commanded his regiment at the dread Battle of Chickamauga. There he was so severely wounded that continued service in the field was no longer possible, therefore his professional knowledge was utilized in detail duty. At the close of the war he was with General Johnston’s army in the surrender. There were many noble men of that period who in their course had pursued a path which seemed to them right and could never, under any circumstances, change their convictions, hence, at no time could they be brought to take the oath of allegiance. They had proved their faith in their convictions by fighting and suffering for them and could not deny that faith.

The Ashley family in America are direct descendants of William Lordawick Ashley, a native of England and evidently a man of station there in the days of Queen Anne, for it was that sovereign who gave him a grant of land situated in the new world, between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, near Charleston, South Carolina. In that section the Ashleys prospered and increased in numbers and importance and when the Revolutionary struggle came on, one Nathaniel Ashley was found in the ranks as a soldier. Immediately after the close of the Revolutionary war, Lordawick Ashley, son of Nathaniel, removed from South Carolina to Georgia and settled in Telfair County.  William A. Ashley, a son of Lordawick Ashley, was the father of  Col. W. P. M. Ashley . William A. Ashley was born in Telfair County, Georgia, in 1799, and was a planter and slaveholder. In 1821, at Princeton, New Jersey, he was married to Mary Jane Morford, and then located in Camden County, Georgia, where Mrs. Ashley died in 1830. She was born at Princeton, New Jersey, in 1800.

Col. W. P. M. Ashley was united in marriage on February 14, 1846, to Miss Fannie Baisden Dunham. She was born in Liberty County, Georgia, in 1826, and died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Dunwoody Jones, at Atlanta, in 1897. Her parents were Rev. Dr. Jacob and Sarah (Baisden) Dunham, and many members of the Baisden family reside at Live Oak, Florida. Rev. – Dr. Jacob Dunham was a minister in the Baptist Church. He was a son of John and Sarah (Clancy) Dunham, both of whom were born in England and were brought to America in youth, crossing the ocean on the same vessel with General Oglethorpe, in 1733. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Dunham settled at Eagle Neck, in McIntosh County, Georgia, where George Dunham became a rice planter. His will, recorded in Book A, of the colonial records of the state, shows him to have been a man of large estate, his possessions including lands and slaves. To William P. M. Ashley and wife a family of eight children was born, but two of these surviving: Claude L., and Mrs. Dunwoody Jones, of Atlanta. Claude L. Ashley attended the public schools in Liberty County but moved to Atlanta in 1888. He was a man of scholarly tastes and took much pleasure in his library, his tastes in reading being largely along the line of history. He showed much interest in local affairs, particularly in civic government serving in the general city council, representing the Fourth Ward. In many ways and on many occasions he displayed qualities of leadership in this body and his good judgment and good citizenship was universally recognized. On October 27, 1892, Mr. Ashley was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth Miller, a daughter of Capt. Hiram Miller, a veteran of the Federal army, who, during the war between the states, like the late Colonel Ashley of the Confederate army, was severely wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga. 

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The Sulky Race

From The Bench and Bar of Georgia  published in  in 1858 comes a tale of woe on the old Southern Circuit Court of Georgia. The time frame given in the story would seem to place the event sometime in the 1830s. The judge on the bench of the Southern Circuit in that decade might have been Thaddeus G. Holt, Arthur A. Morgan, or  Carleton B. Cole.

While sketching with a free hand, the author will venture to relate a very laughable scene which occurred on the road from Franklin [Franklinville. GA] (the old county site of Lowndes) to Thomasville, — the like of which is not on record. Travel on the circuit, in the days referred to, was altogether in sulkies or on horseback. There were no buggies in use then. On a bright Sunday morning, as half a dozen sulkies and two or three outriders, forming the main column of the Southern bar, were proceeding on the march, all the wayfarers fresh and cheerful, a large fox-squirrel was seen to cross the road and ascend an old pine stump ten or fifteen feet high. Here was an opportunity for sport ; and with a simultaneous leap from their sulkies came the men of law to chunk the squirrel from his retreat, — the horses being left alone, without any fastening, in the road. From the discharge of pine-knots at the squirrel, and the hollering to boot, one of the horses got alarmed and set off briskly without his driver. All the other horses followed the example; and such a race of sulkies had never been, and never will be again. Away they sped in the open pine-woods. Occasionally a wheel would strike a stump or a large root, and then there would be a rattling, as if to stimulate the horses to their utmost diligence. The race drew gradually to a close, — or, at least, the sulkies were smashed and scattered about, some against saplings, some against large trees, and one was shivered into fragments on a log. Here the vehicles retired from the contest. Not so the horses. They kept on, seriously terrified, with harness flying in all directions.

While this movement was in full blast, the gentlemen of the law stood their ground. They saw it was a grand ruin, and that their only consolation was to be revenged on the squirrel, the innocent cause of their misfortune. The attack was renewed more fiercely than ever. Pine-knots and a prodigious expenditure of lungs on the part of his assailants brought down his squirrelship, bleeding and lifeless, at their feet. One of the party gathered up the trophy, and they all proceeded to view the race-track. Here one would pick up an overcoat, another an umbrella, one a whip; several identified their cushions; and at decent intervals spokes and segments of a wheel, portions of the seat, a loose dashboard, pieces of shaft, and other relics, were strewed along to show the battle-ground. Then sulky after sulky — some capsized, others resting with one wheel in the air, others so badly crushed that the owners could scarcely recognise them — would appear, until the whole number was answered. The trunks generally retained their strapping without material injury.

The law-travellers walked to a farm house, where they reported their difficulty, and asked for a wagon and team to take them and their baggage to Thomasville, some twenty miles. The request was readily granted, and in this conveyance the judge and his bar drove up to the hotel after nightfall. Their detention was explained amidst roars of laughter, in which our Florida brethren joined heartily. In the course of two or three days the horses were all brought in, and the remains of the sulkies taken to the carriage-shop, where there was a general fixing up, — the harness-maker also receiving his full share of patronage. Such was the squirrel-frolic of the Southern bar. Nothing of the kind has occurred since. At each subsequent riding, the ground has continued to be pointed out, with divers localities well remembered by the participants in the sport, though more than twenty years have intervened. The adventure will pass as a tradition sacred to more primitive times.

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