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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Berrien Minute Men On the Square

Before the Civil War, some 32 percent of the population of Lowndes and Berrien County, Georgia were enslaved African-Americans.  In neighboring Thomas County, 51 percent of the people were enslaved. These numbers paled in comparison with the slave population of the coastal counties, where as much as 86 percent of the population toiled in bondage on the sea island cotton and rice plantations of Georgia’s tidewater.  In all, the State of Georgia estimated its citizens owned  three billion dollars worth of slaves.

Almost immediately after the election of Abraham Lincoln,  Levi J. Knight formed the Berrien Minute Men, a company of 103 volunteer infantrymen. Levi J. Knight, original pioneer settler of Ray City, GA was the military leader of the community and a slave owner. He had served as a captain of the local militia company in the Indian Wars, and as a general in the state militia.

The Berrien Minute Men drilled and paraded in the local communities before being called up for deployment. By May, 1861 newspapers reported, “the county is alive with volunteers, and all eager for a fight with the Abolitionists. Our citizens have liberally contributed funds to equip and prepare for service the poor men connected with the companies, and also to supply with provisions and clothing the destitute families of those who shall enter the service.

In 1888 a visitor to Nashville, GA met with surviving veterans of the Berrien Minute Men. A brief passage on their reminiscences was printed in the Atlanta Constitution.

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA

Berrien Minute Men in formation at Nashville, GA
About the Illustration: The Berrien Minute Men of the Georgia 29th Regiment in an 1861 pre-deployment ceremony at the Nashville, Georgia courthouse square. The mounted officer depicts Captain Levi J. Knight (1803-1870) a prominent leader in the area and retired major general of the Georgia militia. The building in the background represents the Berrien County Courthouse, the only known structure from Civil War era Nashville, GA which is documented in photographs. The balcony shown on the courthouse was actually not present until the building was converted to a hotel in 1898. Illustrator: Alan H. Archambault. Image courtesy of Jim Griffin.

The writer of the 1888 news clipping recalled the company of men in their uniforms on the courthouse square.

April 6,1888 Atlanta Constitution. A visitor to Nashville, GA recalls the formation of the Berrien Minute Men during the Civil War.

April 6,1888 Atlanta Constitution. A visitor to Nashville, GA recalls the formation of the Berrien Minute Men during the Civil War.

Atlanta Constitution
Friday April 6, 1888. Pg. 2.

A Brave Band of Men.

Berrien Correspondence Quitman, Ga., Herald.  May the brain that dictates and the hand that indites this sentence be paralyzed if we ever forget our friends and comrades in the days that tried men’s souls. From this county went forth the “Berrien Minute Men” to battle for the lost cause. They were the finest body of men we ever saw in line, and they belonged to the old Twenty-ninth Georgia. Twenty-five or thirty of them on the right of the company were over six feet high. They wore a grey uniform, cut on the claw-hammer style, with a black breast, and trimmed with large gilt buttons. They were a dangerous looking set, and truer, braver, manlier hearts never beat beneath the confederate grey.

Where are these stalwart forms now? We did not see them on the courthouse square at Nashville, where they once mustered so bravely.

Alas! nearly all of this gallant band have passed over the river and are resting under the shade of the trees. We met Henry Knight, John Knight, Lacy Lastinger, Jim Roberts, Jack Parrish, Frank Parrish, and a few others that we knew in the long ago, and we were welcomed, aye, thrice welcomed.

 

About the Courthouse

According to the Berrien Historical Foundation, the Berrien Courthouse was a two-story wooden structure that served the county’s judicial needs from 1858 until around 1897.  The courthouse occupied the square in Nashville, on lands purchased from pioneer, Daniel Griner, and chosen by a commission appointed by the Judge of the Inferior Court.

New Hansell Hotel. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

New Hansell Hotel. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

When the present brick courthouse was to be constructed, the two story wood structure was purchased by Dr. William Bryan Goodman, who moved it to the northeast side of the square and converted it into a hotel.

September 20, 1901 Tifton Gazette reported a new hotel in Nashville, GA

September 20, 1901 Tifton Gazette reported a new hotel in Nashville, GA

Tifton Gazette
September 20, 1901

At the entertainment given by Dr. and Mrs. W. B. Goodman in Nashville Thursday evening last, at which a voting contest for a name for the new Nashville hotel was held, about $20 was realized for the Nashville Methodist church fund. The name “Hotel Hansell,” was selected, in honor of the Southern circuit’s veteran judge.

October 25, 1901 Tifton Gazette reports Hotel Hansell under new management.

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