Jasper Giddens Caught

Jasper Giddens, who killed Calvin Hightower at Cat Creek,GA  was finally captured at Brookfield, FL in 1887.   The story of the killing was told in previous posts Cat Creek Knife & Gun Club and Jasper Giddens ‘Settles’ Knife Fight.

He was born as Isaac Jasper Giddens in 1844 at Cat Creek, Lowndes County, a son of Duncan Giddens.  The Giddens’ place was just a little southwest of the homestead of  Levi J. Knight, original settler of Ray City, GA. His father, Duncan Giddens, had served with Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1838, and a brother, John Mathis Giddens,  served during the Civil War with the 50th Georgia Infantry, Company B and died about 1862 in a military hospital. (See Marrying Cousins: Letitia Giddens and John Mathis Giddens.)

As a young man, Jasper Giddens had lived in Ware and Clinch counties,  but eventually returned to the general region of Cat Creek and present day Ray City, GA. He took a job as a farm laborer at a plantation on the Lowndes/Berrien county line owned by William Roberts, who at that time was also part owner of the land now occupied by the city of Ray City. (See Ray City Land Passed Through Many Hands

After the 1879 killing, Giddens had eluded authorities for seven years.  But The Atlanta Constitution reported his capture in 1887:

The Atlanta Constitution
March 14, 1887, Pg 2

Jasper Giddens, who killed Calvin Hightower in the fall of 1880, in the upper part of Lowndes county, was captured several days ago at Brooksfield, Florida and is now awaiting his trial.   The account of the killing was published in the Valdosta Times soon after it occurred.  Giddens and Hightower met a a country frolic.  There were several of the Hightowers, male and female, and they were all at enmity with Giddens for some cause, and they warned him not to enter the house where the dancing was progressing. He hesitated some time, but backed by some friends, finally entered when a row at once occurred in which Giddens was severely cut. At first he did not know that he was cut, and he left the house, but returned immediately when he discovered his bleeding wounds and drew a pistol and fired the fatal shot which took the life of Calvin Hightower – the bullet taking effect in the abdomen.  He dodged the sheriff for some weeks and finally arrange a $500 bond, on which were the names of about fifteen of the best men in that portion of Lowndes and the lower part of Berrien.  But before court, when he was to have been tried, he jumped his bond, and his bondsmen were forced to pay the amount. Since that time, those injured gentlemen have been busying themselves to find him, and they have at last succeeded. A detective was employed ans several days ago he landed Jasper Giddens in the Brookfield jail, and Sheriff Harrell, of Lowndes county, went after him. His trial will likely take place at the May term of Lowndes Superior court. There is also a bill against Giddens for bigamy.

Marrying Cousins: Letitia Giddens and John Mathis Giddens

Letitia Giddens and John Mathis Giddens were cousins who lived in the Ray City, GA vicinity prior to the Civil War.

Letitia “Lettie” Giddens was the daughter of Sarah Smith and John Giddens, born July 14, 1832 in Randolph County, GA.  Her mother died in 1845, when Lettie was about seven years old.  Her father was remarried about two years later on April 11, 1847 to Nancy Smith in Randolph County.  Lettie was enumerated there at age 18 in 1850 in the household of her father and stepmother.

About 1851 Letitia Giddens married her cousin John Mathis Giddens.  He was born 1832 in Lowndes County, GA the eldest son of Civility Mathis and Duncan Giddens, and grew up on the family farm near the Cat Creek community, about ten miles southeast of Ray City, GA.  His father, Duncan Giddens,  served with Levi J. Knight in the Indian Wars of 1838. His grandfather, Thomas Giddens, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  His brother, Jasper Giddens, was a subject of earlier posts (see Jasper Giddens ‘Settles’ Knife Fight).

According to Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia Vol 1, John M. Giddens’ father, Duncan Giddens, and uncle Thomas Giddens, came south around 1827-28 to settle in that part of Lowndes county later cut into Berrien county.  Around 1855, Duncan Giddens moved to Clinch County where he served as Justice of the Inferior Court.

In the Census of 1860, John M and Letitia Giddens were enumerated in  Berrien County, where John was a farmer with $850 in real estate and $900 in his personal estate. Census records place them in the neighborhood of James M. Baskin, William Washington Knight, John Knight,Sr. and other early settlers of the Ray City, GA area. According to Huxford, after marriage, Lettie and John M. Giddens made their home in Berrien County near her parents.

Around the start of the Civil War John and Lettie moved to Clinch County and settled in Lot 240, 7th Land District on land  given to them by John’s father, Duncan Giddens. After the outbreak of hostilities John M. Giddens went to Waresboro, GA  to Battery Walker where he enlisted as a private  “for 3 years or war.”  He was mustered into the 50th Georgia Infantry, Company B under Captain Bedford.

John M. Giddens soon learned that soldiers in the confederate camps were under risk of more than battle. His Civil War service records show that from April 30, 1862  he was “absent, sick in hospital.”  By June 1862 he was “sent to hospital in Savannah.”  In July, letters home from the Berrien county soldiers were telling of rampant disease spreading throughout the confederate camps: chills and fever, mumps, diarrhea and typhoid fever. That month, John was “sent 17th of July to Convalescent Camp located near Whitesville, Ga,” about twenty miles south of Savannah.

The confederate facility at Whitesville, GA was Guyton Hospital, subject of earlier posts.  Guyton Hospital had been established just two months earlier. In Surgical Memoirs of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 2, issued 1871, Guyton Hospital was described as one of the better  hospitals in Confederate Georgia.

On the same day that John M. Giddens arrived at Guyton Hospital, July 17, 1862 his cousin Isbin T. Giddens died there of “brain fever.”  Until his illness, Isbin had been serving as 2nd Sergeant in the Berrien Minute Men,  Company G, 29th Georgia Regiment.

Later company records of the 50th Georgia Regiment show John M. Giddens was “absent sick not known where.”  The Company muster roll, for November and December 1864 observed that he was “absent – sent to Hospital in November 1862 – not heard from since – supposed to be dead.”

John M. Giddens, Company B, 50th Georgia Regiment.  Company Muster Rolls show he was presumed dead since 1862, after he never returned from the hospital at Whitesville, GA.

John M. Giddens, Company B, 50th Georgia Regiment. Company Muster Rolls show he was presumed dead since 1862, after he never returned from the hospital at Whitesville, GA.

According to Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, John M. Giddens died at a military hospital in late November or December 1864, but it seems unlikely that he would have survived that long given the other known facts of his service.  It seems more probable that he died in 1862, shortly after becoming ill.  The location of his burial is not known at the time of this writing.

At home in Clinch County, Lettie Giddens waited for the husband who would never return.  After the war, she moved back to Berrien County with her two children, Virgil A. and Lavinia, and remained there for the rest of her days.  Her father, John Giddens, died in Berrien County in 1866.  Lettie lived on a farm valued at $330 near the home of her step-mother, Nancy Smith Giddens.

Jasper Giddens ‘Settles’ Knife Fight

An earlier post gave a transcription of the December 17 December 1879,  Columbus Daily Enquirer  report of a knife fight and shooting at Cat Creek (see Cat Creek Knife and Gun Club).  A more detailed story appeared in the Valdosta Times, and was picked up by the Daily Constitution in Atlanta.

Atlanta Daily Constitution
December 16, 1879

Valdosta Times: The fatal affray which occurred nearly two weeks ago in the northern portion of this county did not come to our ears in time for our last issue. Better late than never, however, we are enabled to furnish the following particulars: Mr. Jasper Giddens, who is a son of Duncan Giddens, of Clinch county, has been farming on a plantation near the Berrien county line, owned by Mr. William Roberts.  During the year he had employed on his farm as a farm hand a Mr. Calvin Hightower.  A dispute arose between them, and Mr. H. was dismissed.  Mr. Giddens had a claim upon which he entered suit, and upon the occasion of the fatal encounter Mr. Hightower and two of his brothers went over, it seems, to Mr. Gidden’s place to “settle” the difficulty.  They were said to have been well armed. After some words blows were resorted to, and knives drawn and freely used.  Both Hightower and Giddens were severely cut, and it is said that the Hightower brothers were about to take a hand in the fight when Giddens jerked loose from his antagonist, and drawing a pistol, shot him in the abdomen. The wound being a fatal one ended the fight.  Mr. Hightower lived about a week, having died last Tuesday, and Mr. Giddens has fled the country.  We have heard various shades of rumors about the unfortunate affair, but we regard the above as having come from as correct a source as could be obtained. It is hard, of course, to get at the literal details.

Jasper Giddens was born at Cat Creek, GA.  As a young man, he lived in Ware and Clinch counties,  eventually coming back to south Berrien county and the general region of present day Ray City, GA where the shooting occurred.  Cat Creek community is located in Lowndes county near the line with Berrien County.  Just across the county line, in Berrien County, was the Knight community, the homestead of General Levi J. Knight. Many of the Giddens family connection still reside in the nearby area.

Related Posts:

Cat Creek Knife & Gun Club

Following up on the previous post, Gunfight at Cat Creek, the Columbus Daily Enquirer of Columbus, GA reports another shooting in the Cat Creek vicinity, this time involving Isaac Jasper Giddens and Calvin Hightower.    Jasper Giddens was born at Cat Creek, GA and there were many of the Giddens family connection residing in the nearby area, including those at  Ray’s Mill, GA.

The Columbus Daily Enquirer of 17 December 1879 nonchalantly  reports on the “difficulty.”

We learn from the Valdosta Times that a difficulty occurred recently, near the line of Berrien county, between Mr. Jasper Giddens and Calvin Hightower, in which both combatants  were severely cut.  Giddens ended the fight by freeing himself from his adversary’s grasp, and shooting him fatally.

Related Posts:

See more Ray City, GA  and Berrien County history at http://raycity.pbworks.com/

1879 Jasper Giddens shoots Calvin Hightower

Isaac Jasper Giddens was born in Cat Creek, Lowndes County, Georgia. Just across the county line, in Berrien County, was the Knight community, the homestead of General Levi J. Knight. As a young man, Jasper Giddens lived in Ware and Clinch counties, eventually coming back to south Berrien, in the general region of present day Ray City, GA

By 1879, Isaac Jasper Giddens was back in south Berrien county a where the shooting occurred.

Columbus Daily Enquirer,
Dec. 17, 1879.
Georgia News. Pg. 3

We learn from the Valdosta Times that a difficulty occurred recently, near the line of Berrien county, between Mr. Jasper Giddens and Calvin Hightower, in which both combatants were severely cut. Giddens ended the fight by freeing himself from his adversary’s grasp, and shooting him fatally.

 More details were reported by the Valdosta Times and the story made the state newspapers about how Jasper Giddens settled the Knife Fight.  Jasper Giddens fled from justice but was finally captured at Brookfield, FL in 1887.

More Stories from Cat Creek, GA: