William H. Griffin, Wiregrass Jurist

William Hamilton Griffin (1853-1917)

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

William H. Griffin

William H. Griffin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1906, after his retirement from the bench Judge Griffin entered into a partnership with Hon. Elisha Peck Smith Denmark, and formed the law firm, Denmark & Griffin. E.P.S. Denmark was the husband of Mary Lane, daughter of Remer Young Lane, a Valdosta banker and one of the largest land owners in all of Lowndes County.  Of Judge Griffin, it was said that “He enjoyed the confidence, esteem and patronage of the most prominent and important people and business interests of Lowndes and adjoining counties.”

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

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

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

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Post-Search Light
Apr. 19, 1917

Judge Griffin Died Sunday

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

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

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery

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

Related Posts:

Henry Needham Bullard and Mary Ann Johnson

Henry Needham Bullard (1878-1938)

Henry Needham Bullard was born and raised near Ray's Mill, GA  (now Ray City).  Image provided by  Aubrey Bullard.  All rights reserved.

Henry Needham Bullard was born and raised near Ray’s Mill, GA (now Ray City). Image provided by Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.

Henry Needham Bullard, son of Green Bullard and Mary A. Knight, was born February 16, 1878 and raised on his father’s farm just south of the Ray’s Mill community (now Ray City, GA).  His father was a Confederate veteran having served with the Berrien Light Infantry,  Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment,  (see Green Bullard Fought Sickness in the Civil War) and a prominent farmer of Ray’s Mill. Berrien County Property Tax records of 1872 show Green Bullard owned 980 acres including all of lots 420 and 469 in the 10th land district. By the time of Henry’s birth in 1878 his father employed ten hands on his plantation. Henry was enumerated in the census of 1880 at the age of two.

1880 census enumeration of Green Bullard, Berrien County, GA

1880 census enumeration of Henry Needham Bullard, Berrien County, GA

The census records of 1900 show Henry Bullard, age 22, still single and living in his parent’s household, along with his brother Louis, and step-brother Adam A. Jones.

Enumeration of Green Bullard in the Census of 1900, Rays Mill District, Berrien County, GA

Enumeration of Henry Needham Bullard in the Census of 1900, Rays Mill District, Berrien County, GA

Henry married Mary Johnson on May 26, 1901 in Berrien County, GA. She was born December 11, 1883 a daughter of Richard Seward Johnson and Ida Isabelle Shaw.  The Johnsons farmed on the Land lot adjacent to the Bullards.

 Image provided by  Aubrey Bullard.  All rights reserved.

Mary Ann Johnson. Image provided by Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.

 

The wedding ceremony was performed by A. A. Knight.  Bullard made a tall, blue-eyed groom; Mary Johnson, a 17-year-old blushing bride.

Marriage certificate of Henry Needham Bullard and Miss Mary Johnson, Berrien County, GA, May 25, 1901.

Marriage certificate of Henry Needham Bullard and Miss Mary Johnson, Berrien County, GA, May 25, 1901.

 

By 1904, Henry Bullard had relocated his family to Valdosta, Georgia. He was working as a rural mail carrier.  When his father died in 1907, Henry Bullard was initially appointed as administrator of Green Bullard’s estate, but this was disputed with his step brother, Mallie Jones.

In 1908 Henry Bullard was a bookkeeper in Valdosta. By 1913 city directories show he was in lumber manufacturing, and he became known as a prominent lumberman.

Children of Henry Needham Bul lard and Mary Johnson.   Left to right:  Russell Aubrey Bullard, Ida Lou Bullard Waits, Alton Parham Bullard, and  Woodrow Wilson Bullard. Image provided by Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.

Children of Henry Needham Bullard and Mary Johnson. Left to right: Russell Aubrey Bullard, Ida Lou Bullard Waits, Alton Parham Bullard, and
Woodrow Wilson Bullard. Image provided by Aubrey Bullard.  All rights reserved.

Children of Henry Needham Bullard and Mary Johnson

  1. Lena May Bullard (1903 – 1904)
  2. Alton Parham Bullard (1904 – 1974)
  3. Ida Lou Bullard (1906 – 1958)
  4. Russell Aubrey Bullard (1908 – 1962)
  5. Woodrow Wilson Bullard (1910 – 1977)

 

Mary Ann Johnson Bullard died May 20, 1914 and was buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA. Later, Bullard relocated his family to Florida where he continued in the lumber business. Henry Needham Bullard died in 1938 and was buried at Cat Creek next to his wife.

Special thanks to Aubrey Bullard for contributions to this post.

Related Posts:

Richard Seward Johnson ~ Ray City Farmer

Richard Seward Johnson (1855-1936)

Richard Seward Johnson. Image courtesy of Henry Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.

Richard Seward Johnson. Image courtesy of Henry Aubrey Bullard. All rights reserved.

 

Richard Seward Johnson, a son of Merritt H. Johnson (1814 – 1877) and Mary Ann Holland (1819 – 1894), was born about 1855.  His father, Merritt H. Johnson, was a farmer of Thomas County, GA who before the Civil War had $600 in real estate and $3453 in his personal estate. His father was not enlisted during the Civil War, instead appearing on the 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia,   a statewide census of all white males between the ages of 16 and 60 who were not serving at that time.  Many of the men enumerated in this census were exempt from service, and Merritt H. Johnson may have been exempted on account of his age (50).

Richard Seward Johnson’s parents came from Johnston County, North Carolina to settle in Thomas County, GA some time before 1850, along with his maternal grandparents and many others of the Holland family connection. Enumerated in 1850 in Thomas County, GA and  in Colquitt County in 1860, his parents were apparently residing in that portion of Thomas County which was cut into Colquitt County in 1856.

Richard Seward Johnson left his parents’ household by the time he was 15, as indicated by his absence there in the Census of 1870.  He apparently made his way to Berrien County, GA where on April 28, 1878 he married Ida Isabelle Shaw.   She was a daughter of William Jasper Shaw and Elizabeth Wetherington, born on the first Christmas of the Civil War, December 25, 1861.

Marriage certificate of Richard Seward Johnson and Ida Shaw

Marriage certificate of Richard Seward Johnson and Ida Shaw

By 1878 Richard Johnson owned 100 acres of lot 498, 10th Land District on the south side of the Ray’s Mill community, 1144 GMD. This land was valued at $300, and another 50 acres valued at $300 were in Mary Ann Johnson’s name. Together, they owned $70 in household furnishings, $259 in livestock, $70 in books and tools. Another 100 acres of Lot 498 was listed as the property of Jerry R. Johnson.  Jonathan Knight held an adjacent plantation of some 12oo acres on lots 497, 496 and 517. Other neighbors included Thomas S. Murphy on portions of lots 497 and 498,  Marcus Giddens on portions of lot 497,  Senator Jonathan E. Bryant on Lot 515, Green Bullard on lot 469,  and James M. Baskin owned lots 470 and 471.

From the 1879 tax records it appears that most of Mary’s acreage had been transferred to Richard. Mary was not listed as a property owner, whereas Richard was shown with 140 acres on Lot 498, valued at $600. His brother, James R. Johnson had also acquired 100 acres of Lot 498.  His father-in-law, William J. Shaw had acquired 310 acres on portions of Lot 499 and 514.  Jeremiah Shaw owned portions of Lots 499 and 500. Another 220 acres of lot 498 belonged to Thomas S. Murphy.  Moses H. Giddens was on a 250 acre portion of Lot 497, James M. Baskin continued on lots 470 and 471, and Jonathan Knight maintained his extensive plantation on adjacent lots.

In 1880, Richard S. Johnson had 140 and James R. Johnson 110 acres on Lot 498.  Moses H. Giddens on was on parts of 497, Thomas S. Murphy on portions of 497 and 498, William J. Shaw on portions of 499 and 514, and James M. Baskin owned lots 470 and 471.

For the  about the next 50 years, Richard Seward Johnson and his bride raised children and crops at Ray City, GA.

  1. William Cauley Johnson (1879 – 1958) married Rosa Lena Knight
  2. Florence Johnson (1881 – 1969) married Johnnie S. Peters
  3. Mary Johnson (1882 – 1914 ) married  Henry Needham Bullard (1878 – 1938)  on May 26,  1901 in Berrien Co., GA.
  4. Bessie Johnson (1885 – 1980) married Joseph B. Patten (1887 – 1971) on February 12, 1910
  5. Lillie Johnson (1886 – 1963) married Charlie Register who served as minister of Cat Creek Church
  6. Manning Filmore Johnson (1890 – 1967) married Marie Lola Carter
  7. Manson Lowndes Johnson (1890 – 1975)
  8. Ida Bell Johnson (1894 – )

Ida Isabell Shaw Johnson died January 4, 1927 at Ray City, Berrien County, GA.  She was buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.  Richard Seward Johnson died in 1936 and was buried at Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.

 

The Estate of Green Bullard

Green Bullard was a long time resident of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) area, and husband of Mary Ann Knight.   The Bullards owned land out Possum Creek Road and on toward the community of Cat Creek.  (See Green Bullard and Green Bullard Fought Sickness in the Civil War)

Following Green Bullard’s death in 1907, there was some dispute among his children and step-children over the administration of his estate.

One side of the family, represented by Buie & Knight, wanted Henry Needham Bullard appointed as administrator.  The other side, represented by William Hamilton Griffin, wanted Mallie Jones as administrator. Attorney William Hamilton Griffin,  who was judge of the Valdosta City Court and a former mayor of Valdosta. Col. Griffin was a native of Berrien County and had served previously as clerk of the Berrien County court and as Ordinary of Berrien County.

Children of Mary A. Knight and William A. Jones (1835-1866)

  1. William Malachi Jones (1861-1925)
  2. Adam Allen Jones (1863-1922)

Children of Green Bullard and Mary A. Knight

  1. Sally Louise Bullard  (1866 – 1919) married Albert B. Surrency
  2. Susan Bullard (1871 – 1950)  married Jesse Shelby “Doc” Shaw
  3. Fannie Bullard (1874 – 1941) married William Berrien Shaw
  4. Henry Needham Bullard (1878 – 1938) married Mary Johnson
  5. Louis Malone Bullard (1881 – 1945) married Dollie Howard Knight

The court challenge was reported in the April 11, 1908 edition of the Valdosta Times.

April 11, 1908 Adminstration of the estate of Green Bullard is contested by daughter Fannie Bullard Shaw

April 11, 1908 Administration of the estate of Green Bullard is contested by daughter Fannie Bullard Shaw

Valdosta Times
April 11, 1908

Contest Over Administration

    Mr. William B. Shaw, of Bainbridge, representing his wife [Fannie Bullard Shaw], accompanied by his attorney, Judge W. H. Griffin, and Mr. Will Simms, went to Nashville yesterday to appear before the ordinary there and have Mr. Henry Bullard made administrator of the estate of Greene Bullard.  Other heirs wanted Mr. Mallie Jones made administrator.  Judge Griffin represented one side and Buie & Knight the other.  Judge Patterson heard the arguments and later appointed the clerk of the superior court, probably as a compromise, or  until the matter may be given further consideration.

Related Posts:

DEATH OF MRS. BULLARD

One hundred and three years ago today, on this date, December 27, 1908, Mrs. Mary Ann Knight Bullard died at the home of her son, Henry Needham Bullard, in Valdosta, Georgia.  Mrs. Bullard was a lifelong resident of the Ray City area.

Mary Ann Knight was born July 1, 1838 in the Knight settlement at the location now known as Ray City,  Berrien County, Georgia.  Her father was John Knight and her mother was Sarah “Sallie” Moore. She was a niece of General Levi J. Knight.

On November 5, 1856 Mary Ann Knight married William A Jones in Berrien County, Georgia. The bride’s grandfather, Elder William A. Knight, performed the marriage.  The Berrien County Marriage Records of 1856 include the following hand written entry:

 Go any ordained minister of the gospel Judge of the Superior Justice of the Inferior Court Justice of the peace or any person by the Laws of this State authorised to Celibrate  these are to authorise and permit you to join in the Venerable State of matrimony this William A. Jones of the one part and this Mary Ann Knight of the other part according to the constitution and laws of this state and according to the rites of your church provided there be no lawful cause to obstruct the same and this shall be your authority for so doing given under my hand and seal this the 1st day of November 1856.

John Lindsey Ordy

 Thereby Certify that William A. Jones and Miss Mary Ann Knight were duly joined in matrimony by me this fifth day of Nov 1856

William A Knight, O.M.

After William Jones was killed in the Civil War, the young widow married Green Bullard.  Green Bullard was a Civil War veteran who served with Company I,  50th Georgia Regiment, the Berrien Light Infantry. They were married March 25, 1866 in a ceremony performed by William Patten, Justice of the Peace.   For forty years the Bullards lived near Ray City, GA in what is now Lanier County.  Green Bullard died November 15, 1907, and was buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave marker of Mary Ann Elizabeth Knight Bullard, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Grave marker of Mary Ann Elizabeth Knight Bullard, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Mary Ann Knight Bullard died in the morning on the last Sunday of the year, December 28, 1908.  She was buried next to her husband, Green Bullard, at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Valdosta Times
January 2, 1909 pg 3

DEATH OF MRS. BULLARD.

An aged and good Woman Passed Away Early Sunday Morning.

Mrs. Mary Ann Bullard, one of the oldest and best known women in this section, died at the home of her son, Mr. H. N. Bullard, in this city about one o’clock Sunday morning.  Her remains were carried to Berrien county and interred at Beaver Dam church, near her old home, on Monday.
    Mrs. Bullard was the widow of Green Bullard, one of Berrien county’s pioneer citizens, and resided in that county for probably fifty years.  She was a daughter of John Knight, and a sister of Capt. L. J. Knight, of Quitman; of the late H. H. Knight and of Jack Knight, of Berrien county, and has two sisters living, Mrs. Louis Clyatt, of Lake City, and Mrs. Linny Griffin of Berrien county.  She leaves a large family connection throughout this section.
    Mrs. Bullard was married twice, her first husband being a Mr. Jones, who died during the civil war, leaving his young widow with two small children.  She was united to Mr. Bullard about the close of the war and lived happily with him until his death in November, 1907.  Her children are Mallie and Adam Jones, of Berrien county; Mrs. Sallie Surrency, of Florida; Mrs. Susie Shaw, of Berrien county; Mrs. Fannie Shaw, of Bainbridge, Ga.; H. N. Bullard of this city, and Lewis Bullard of Ray’s Mill.
    For three or four years Mrs. Bullard had been in feeble health, having suffered from two or more strokes of paralysis, complicated with heart trouble.  She was about 70 years old, and despite the loving care of her family her end could not be prolonged.
    Her death is mourned not only by her children and relatives, but by a large number of friends, who had grown to love her after a long and intimate acquaintanceship.

Related Posts: