Two Men Hanged in Clinch County

The public hanging of  Bob McCoy and Willie Hicks occurred on April 3, 1890 in  Homerville, Clinch County, Georgia.   The two men were tried and convicted of the double axe murder of William Hughes and Ellen Sellers Rice Hughes,  an elderly couple of Dupont, GA.  The story of the murders and the pursuit of the killers were reported in newspapers from New York to California .

As told in the previous posts the Hughes were the grandparents of Creasy Brown Woods, of Rays Mill, GA.  The murders, trial, and hangings occurred when Creasy was about twelve years old.

Robert McCoy was apprehended at Live Oak,  Florida by Sheriff Gottschalk “Gus” Potsdamer, who was himself an ex-convict, having been sentenced and later pardoned for the  murder of another sheriff.  William Hicks was arrested after a knife fight in Jasper, Florida.

The Waycross Reporter
Saturday, December 21, 1889, Pg 2

The Hughes Murderers

     Two of the Hughes murderers, William Hicks and Robert McCoy, are now in the Clinch County jail, and it is thought at Dupont that the other murderer, Robert Saxton, will be produced as soon as Governor Gordon offers a reward for him.
Hicks and McCoy were both captured by accident, as it were—that is to say, they were arrested for other crimes, and from a sense of guilt confessed their complicity in the Hughes murder.
Hicks was in Jasper, Florida, one night, and got into a cutting affray at a Negro candy pulling, and was arrested by Constable William Hinton, to whom he confessed.
Robert McCoy went to Live Oak after killing Hughes, and was arrested there by Sheriff Pottsdamer, for carrying concealed weapons.  He said to Pottsdamer, “You have arrested me for something else than carrying a gun, and can’t fool me in this way.”  “What else?” asked Pottsdamer.  “For the Hughes murder,” replied McCoy.  “And I was not by myself in that thing.  Robert Saxton and Bill Hicks helped me.”
A curious coincidence in the matter is that Sheriff Pottsdamer, Constable Hinton, and John P. Lanier had been trying for a couple of weeks to ferret out the criminals, and by accident two of them almost fell bodily into the hands of their hunters.
Sheriff Dickerson, of Clinch County, in the mean time, had sent to Atlanta for a detective named Moyett, and he was working what he considered a good clew at Dupont, where Lanier was also working a cold trail.  Moyett finally lost his trail, and tried to canter into Lanier’s.  The two clashed, had hard words, and came almost to blows.  Moyett then, so Lanier charges, accused Lanier and Hinton of having the murderers spotted, and conspiring with others to wait until a reward should be offered, when they would produce the murderers, and on this statement, Sheriff Dickerson telegraphed the governor not to offer a reward.
It is further alleged that when the news that Hinton had captured Hicks at Jasper reached Dupont, detective Moyett hurried on to Jasper, and offered Hinton $200.00 cash to take him into co-partnership in the capture and information gotten by Hicks’ confession, saying that he would use his influence in Atlanta to induce the governor to offer a large reward for the other two implicated by Hicks.  But Hinton declined the offer with thanks.  Moyett then threatened to use that same influence to prevent any reward ever being offered.
This but confirms what has often been said before—that the average professional detective is usually as unscrupulous and rascally as the criminal he seeks.  Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but Moyett does not appear to be one of them.

The Waycross Reporter
Saturday, March 8, 1890,  Page 2

To Stretch Hemp

    The two Negroes, who brutally murdered old man Hughes and his wife in Clinch County sometime ago, were tried for the murder at Homerville this week.
The courthouse was packed all day.  The case of the prisoners was ably and ingeniously managed by three counsel, but the evidence offered by the state was conclusive, and left no room for doubt of guilt.  The defendants themselves in making their statements, told a most blood curdling narrative of the heinous assassination; how Robert Saxton, who has since been shot and killed while resisting arrest, cam to them stating that a certain white man had agreed to pay him $35 to shoot his cousin, Orin Register, a highly respected citizen of Clinch County, and induced them to go with him to do the murder; they travelled on, and, coming to the plantation of Mr. Hughes, Saxton proposed to murder the old people and rob the house, as he knew they had some money.
All consented, and upon the pretense of desiring to buy a lunch came into the yard, and with an ax literally beat out the brains of the deceased and then plundered the house and made their escape, after dividing up the money and plunder.  During the trial each was proven to have made at the time of their arrest free and voluntary confessions of their guilt.  The jury after being out only a short time returned a verdict of guilty as to both defendants.
On Thursday Judge Atkinson pronounced the death sentence on the two men.  They are to be hung on Friday—.”

The Macon Weekly Telegraph, March 12, 1890

The Macon Weekly Telegraph, March 12, 1890

The Macon Weekly Telegraph
March 12, 1890


Negro Murderers of Mr. and Mrs. Hughes Convicted.

McCoy and Hicks to Swing in Clinch.
April 3-They Confessed in Court
 – Story of the Murderof the Hughes.

Valdosta, March 7. -Special.)- Hicks and McCoy, the negroes who murdered Mr. and Mrs. Hughes in Clinch county last fall, were found guilty in Clinch superior court yesterday and sentenced to hang on April 3.

    The case was called Wednesday. The court appointed attorneys for the defense, and all the testimony which could be obtained  was examined before the court and jury, and at the conclusion when the prisoners rose to make their statement they both made a confession of the crime.  Their attorneys plead for the mercy of the court. Judge Atkinson pronounced sentence upon them on Thursday morning last, and they both will hang.
   There were open threats of lynching during the court and the trial of the prisoners, but the citizens of Clinch county wisely determined to let the punishment for the crime proceed in its legal and orderly way.


   A full account of the crime for which these negroes are to hang was published in the TELEGRAPH last fall. Briefly retold it is as follows:
    The murder at first was enveloped in mystery. Mr. and Mrs. Hughes, two old people living a few miles from DuPont, alone, were found one morning brutally butchered with some instrument of death, evidently an axe.  Their premises had benn robbed, and the murderers and despoilers had fled, leaving no evidence of their identity.  By an accident a month later two of the participants in this crime were arrested under a trivial charge at Jasper, Fla.  Without inquiring into the causes of his arrest, Will Hicks said to Marshal Hinton that he knew why he had been arrested and he might as well make a clean breast of it.


   He proceeded then to make a confession of his part in the murder of the Hughes family and implicated Bob McCoy and Robert Saxon.  McCoy, who was captured at the same time, also made a confession.  When the crime was committed Saxon did not go to Florida with Hicks and McCoy, but fled to the solitude of the pine forest in Wilcox county, in this state. After remaining therer some weeks and feeling secure he wrote a letter under an assumed name to his paramour at Cat Creek, this county [Lowndes], wherein he virtually confessed his connection in the crime. The dusky female could not read the letter and called upon a male relative to read it for her.


    This relative had no sympathy with Saxon in his terrible crime, and reported his whereabouts to a white man neighbor.  There being a reward for his capture, the two armed themselves at once and went to Wilcox county to capture him.  They found him but Saxon took the chances of fight, an was fatally shot. He was brought to the Valdosta jail, confessed his crime and died.
    The negroes in their confessions implicated a white man in the crime,but no evidence could be found connecting him with the crime.

The Waycross Reporter
Saturday, March 8, 1890. Page 2

The Two Murderers

    I have been interviewing the condemned criminals that Judge Atkinson has just passed the sentence of death upon, and are to hang April 5th next, at Homerville.  I inquired into their early life and habits.  In a room closely guarded near the Courthouse I found the prisoners.
    The polite guards, as soon as they knew that I wanted some facts for publication, gave me permission to come in and talk with them.
    Will Hicks is twenty-one years of age, was born in Perry, Georgia, where his father now lives.  He has been in this section of the state about four years, and was mainly engaged in turpentine work.  He cannot read.
    Robert McCoy, was born in Sumter County, South Carolina.  He is 19 years old, can read a little, and once belonged to the church, but when he came out to this state, he soon drifted with the tide of evil so prevalent on these turpentine farms.
    Both of these Negroes are of the deepest African type, the animal showing in their faces and heads as predominating over the intellectual.  Indeed, so deep is their depravity that they seem to be under a stupefying influence that is altogether satanic.  They do not realize their danger, being ignorant of the law.  They were the willing dupes of Saxton, a mulatto of some shrewdness, and much of the demoniac in his mental make up.  In my interview with these doomed men I elicited as the prime cause of their terrible crime these three things: whiskey, cards, and bad company.  Let it be emphasized, and let all men, black and white, know that these are three of the most prominent steps to the gallows.  Let the young men, especially, take warning.  Because everyman that drinks, plays cards, and keeps bad company is on the road to the gallows, and will get there sooner or later, unless he stops or takes another road.
    The sentence, as passed by Judge Atkinson, was so impressive, that in breathless awe the full house of hearers stood as if transfixed for the time being.

 Atlanta Constitution
April 4, 1890


The Murderer of Old Man Hughes Pays the Penalty.

The Assassins Meet Their Fate With Dogged Indifference – The Story of Their Crime and Subsequent Capture.

Waycross, Ga., April 3. -[Special.]- Robert McCoy and Will Hicks, colored, were hanged publicly at Homerville today, for the murder of William Hughes and wis wife.  The drop fell at 1:03.  They died in fourteen minutes from strangulation.


Both men confessed the brutal crime which they had committed, and died game.  They both passed their last night on earth as though nothing was to transpire on the morrow.  After a meagre breakfast they chatted cheerfully and passed the forenoon in singing and praying.  At dinner their menu consisted of a cup of coffee and biscuit.  About 4,000 followed the procession to the gallows.


    The murder which they expiated today was one of the most cold-blooded in the catalogue of crime.  They were hired to kill other parties, and while en route to do their dastardly work, ascertained that Mr. Hughes was known to keep considerable money in the house, and they decided that it would be more lucrative to murder the Hughes family instead.
    They lingered around the premises until evening, and quietly approached the house, found the old lady in the kitchen when she was most cruelly murdered with an ax, and then leaving the kitchen, they met the husband at the gate, and served him similarly.  The ax with which this atrocious crime was committed is still on exhibition.  It was not until the following morning that the murdered bodies were discovered.


Robert Saxton, a third party who aided in this inhuman act, was killed while resisting arrest, thus cheating the gallows of what he deserved.

The Bloody Story: 1889 Murder of the Hughes Family in Clinch County

As told in the previous post the grandparents of Creasy Brown Woods, of Rays Mill, GA, were murdered in 1889 in Clinch County when Creasy was twelve years old.  Her grandparents were William Hughes and Ellen Sellers Rice Hughes.  Sensational stories of their brutal murder and the subsequent capture of the killers ran in the Atlanta Constitution and in newspapers from coast to coast.

Atlanta Constitution
November 18, 1889  Page 2


Arrest of  Three Men Suspected of Complicity in a Double Murder.

Waycross, Ga., November 17.  -(Special.)- Your correspondent learned in an interview with J. H. Morratt of J. H. Morratt & Co.’s detective agency of Atlanta, who arrived here today from Dupont, and who has been employed by Sheriff Dickinson and the county authorities of Clinch to work up the Hughes double murder case, that the following parties are under arrest:  Robert McCoy, at Live Oak, Fla.;  William Hicks, at Jasper, and Robert Baxter, at Valdosta, Ga.  The only clew he had to work on the case was telegram from McCoy to Ed. Ferrell, of Dupont, dated Jasper, as follows:
    “Is you got any money? If you aint I got lots.”
    Upon being questioned, Ferrell gave the whole plot away, thereby enabling Detective Morratt in securing the evidence to prove the guilt of the now arrested parties. On the persons of the arrested parties were found several hundred dollars, along with the gun and pair of shoes which were identified as the property of the murdered couple.
    Robert McCoy gave a voluntary statement, implicating himself and his other two pals in their bloody deeds.  The parties on the night of the murder made good their escape under the cover of darkness by walking to the first station and taking the first train to Jasper, and they divided and were arrested in the different places as described above.
    As soon as a requisition can be obtained they will be removed to Dupont for trial.  Daniel Harper and Henry Johnson, who were previously arrested, charged with with the above murder, have been set at Liberty.  The evidence against the parties now in custody prove their guild beyond a doubt.  Detective Morratt returned to Atlanta on this afternoon’s train very much gratified with his success.

Atlanta Constitution
November 28, 1889  Page 2


McCay and Hicks Certainly the Guilty Parties.

Valdosta, Ga., November 27 -(Special.) Sheriff Dickinson, of Clinch county, came up at noon today with Robert McCay and Wm. Hicks, the murderers of old man Hughes and his wife.  The negroes are undoubtedly the guilty parties, and the two negroes, who were in jail charged with the crime, were set free.  McCay and Hicks both made full and fee confession of the crime, and state that another negro named Sexton helped carry out the double murder and theft.  Sexton is  a yellow negro with large teeth, on or two of which is missing.  He is supposed to be in middle Georgia, and a liberal reward is offered for him.

Atlanta Constitution
December 6, 1889 Page 5


Of The Murder Of The Hughes Family In Clinch.

Robert McCoy and Will Hicks Tell the Full Story of the Murder of the Old Couple, and the Motive.

Valdosta, Ga., December 5. -[Special.]- The Times gives the confession of Robert McCoy and Will Hicks, who acknowledges the murder of the Hughes family.  Hicks owns that he killed the old man and says that Robert Saxton killed the old lady.  Saxton is still at large.
    Hicks and another negro got into a shooting scrape at Jasper over a game of cards, and in the melee a negro woman got shot.  The other negro was captured in the town, but Hicks skipped out in the direction of Live Oak.  Marshal Hinton got on a horse and galloped around by a private road and got ahead of him four miles below Jasper, and waited awhile for his game, and then took him in.  He was carried back to Jasper and lodged in jail. Hinton found out that Hicks had considerable money, and by a series of questions drew a confession out of him.  He also gave the other two away, and said that McCoy was in Live Oak and Saxton was in Valdosta.  McCoy, finding that Hicks had given the whole matter away, also made a confession.  He had Mr. Hughes’s shoes on his feet at the time of his capture.  They led their captors to a place four miles from Jasper, and showed them where they had hidden Mr. Hughes’s gun.  They also went to a point near Mr. Hughes’s residence and showed them where they had thrown the satchel which contained the money and notes.  The notes were still in the satchel when found.


    Hicks and McCoy say that Saxton came to them where they were at work in Echols county, and told them that he had a job for them in which there was some money.  Hicks agreed to go, but McCoy objected at first, but at length agreed.  They went with Saxton to a white man’s house near Statenville.  They did not know his name.  Saxton and the white man stepped aside and had a long talk.  Coming back Saxton said to the white man that he need not fear to talk before Hicks and McCoy, that they “were all right.”  The white man told them to go on with Saxton and do the work and then to come back, that he had twenty-five dollars for them.  He said that he would put a piece of paper on the top of the fence where they were standing, and when they had done the work and returned they must take the paper and put it under the fence and then go down in the swamp near by and remain there until he came to them, which he would do as soon as he had discovered that the paper had been moved, and he would bring them their money.


    They were to go over into Clinch county and kill Mr. Orin Register, who lived near Mr. Hughes.
    When on the way to Mr. Register’s they met Mr. and Mrs. Hughes in the road near their house hauling some water in barrels for their hogs.
    When they had passed the old people, Saxton said to the other two that those old folks had money, and they could kill them with less danger to themselves and get more money than they would for the killing of Register.  This new scheme took at once, and they dismissed Register and set about the new work then in hand.

Atlanta Constitution
December 22, 1889


Which Gave Away the Location of the Murderer.

Saxon, Who Was Concerned in the Slaughter of the Hughes Family, Run Down in Wilcox County, and is Now in Jail.

    Valdosta, Ga., December 21. -[Special.]- Soon after the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Hughes, in Clinch county, an account of which was printed in THE CONSTITUTION at the time, two of the murderers were arrested in Florida, and were lodged in the jail at this place.


    Today the other one, Robert Saxton, was brought in.  He had two bullets in his back, put there by the good had of Mr. J. M. Maltres, of this county.  When the officers closed in on the trio at Jasper, Saxton escaped and made his way to Wilcox county in this state.  Several days ago he wrote to a negro woman in this county, to inquire about the fate of his abettors in the crime, and he directed her to address her answer to Henry Williams, at Sibbie, Wilcox county. The woman could not read, and she went to Mr. Maltres to read it for her, and thus he got Saxon’s secret.  There was a reward for Saxon, and Mr. Maltres went for it.  He went to Wilcox county and follow Saxon several days.  He came upon him finally near the Ocmulgee river.  Saxon fled when called upon to surrender, but two bullets from Maltres’s pistol called him to a halt. The wounds are serious, and may prove fatal.

Creasy Brown Woods buried at Dupont, GA

An old newspaper clipping reported the passing of Creasy Brown Wood, wife of George W. Wood.

Nashville Herald
Friday October 13, 1911

Death of Mrs. G. W. Woods

Mrs. G. W. Woods died at her home near Rays Mill, Tuesday evening, October 10, at 2:30 o’clock, after an illness of about six weeks.
    Mrs. Woods was a well known lady and was loved by all who knew her.  She was about thirty years of age.  She leaves a husband and five children, besides her brothers and sisters, to mourn her death. Her remains were carried to DuPont for burial.
    Mrs. Woods bade her husband and loved ones good-bye before she died.
    Her bereaved husband has the sympathy of many friends.

“May he and she in Heaven meet,
Cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet.”
                         – A Friend

The Herald extends its deep sympathy to Mr. Woods in the loss of his wife.

Creasy Brown Wood was buried at North Cemetery – Dupont, GA  near her parents, grandparents, and many others of her family connections rest.

Grave marker for Creasy Brown Wood, Wife of George W. Wood, North Cemetery, Dupont, Clinch County, GA.

Grave marker for Creasy Brown Wood, Wife of George W. Wood, North Cemetery, Dupont, Clinch County, GA.

Creasy Brown, born 14 Aug 1877, was the daughter of Sarah M. Hughes (22 Jan 1847 – 19 Jan 1904)  and James Brown (15 Sep 1828  –  15 Aug 1900)  of DuPont, Clinch County, GA.  In the census of 1900, Creasy was enumerated in her parents’ household in the 1280 District of Clinch county, where they were neighbors of Otis Mikell, subject of earlier posts (Ola Crews and Otis Mikell)

The graves of Creasy Brown’s maternal grandparents bear an unusual inscription –  MURDERED.  When Creasy was twelve years old her grandparents were brutally murdered at their home in Dupont, GA.

Atlanta Constitution
November 9, 1889 pg 2


A Double Murder in Clinch County, Georgia.

An Old Man and His Wife Found Dead on Their Premises – Excitement of the Affair.

    Valdosta, Ga., November 8. -(Special)- A most horrible and brutal double murder has just come to light from Clinch county.  The victims were an old man 78 years of age, and his aged wife.  The murderers are supposed to be negroes.  It is supposed that the murder was committed late Wednesday evening, but was not discovered till yesterday evening, some twenty-four hours later.  Mr. Hughes and wife lived seven miles south of Dupont by themselves.  They were good citizens and had raised a large family of respectable sons and daughters, who had grown up and left home.  One of the boys rides the mail from Dupont to Dames’ mill, and the route goes by the old man’s house. On Wednesday morning last, young Hughes stopped a few minutes to see the old folks, and the old gentleman told him that three negroes, a mulatto and two blacks, had been dodging about his place in a suspicious manner.  They called, ostensibly, for water, and inquired if anyone lived with him and his wife. They then disappeared, and later when he went in the woods to cut some posts, Mr. Hughes came up on them lying behind some logs.  On the return of young Hughes, later in the day, he stopped again, and found his parents safe and all right. He supposed the negroes were likely after pilfering, and did not give the matter much further thought. On Thursday afternoon two of Mr. Hughes’s grandsons, Thadeus Hughes and Jimmie Rice, young lads, went to spend the night with the old people, and when they entered the yard they found their grandfather laying near the steps dead.
    They immediately fled and carried the news to the nearest neighbors. A crowd soon gathered, and when they returned to the old peoples’ residence they found the old lady also dead in the kitchen. She had evidently been killed first, while the old man was probably in the lot feeding his stock. She was preparing supper, and had some raw meat in a bowl in her hand when the fatal blow was struck with an ax from behind. She fell upon her face and the bowl broke as she fell, and another lick on the back of her head shattered her roach-comb and crushed in the skull.  The old man was met or overtaken in the front yard and dealt two blows which crushed his skull and killed him immediately.  The bloody ax which did the work was found leaning against the plazza not ten steps from where the old man lay.  Mr. Hughes is supposed to have had over two hundred dollars in his trunk, which was found out in the yard, broken open and rifled. The people in the neighborhood are greatly excited about the affair, and every effort will be made to hunt down the red-handed villains, but they got twenty-four or thirty-six hours the start if they left the country as soon as the crime was committed. Sheriff Dickerson has offered a reward for the murderers, and will use every endeavor to catch them.

Her grandparents were buried in North Cemetery – Dupont, GA.

Grave markers of William Hughs, and Ellen S. Hughs, murdered in 1889, buried at North Cemetery, Dupont, Clinch County, GA.

Grave markers of William Hughs, and Ellen S. Hughs, murdered in 1889, buried at North Cemetery, Dupont, Clinch County, GA.

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