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.

 

The name of Valdosta

In 1912, the Valdosta Times ran a pair of articles about the naming of the city of Valdosta.  It is said that the town was named by  Col. Lenoreon D. DeLyon, editor of the South Georgia Watchman, which was published at Troupville and later at Valdosta, GA. According to Yesterday & Today, newsletter of the Lowndes Historical Society, Leonoran DeLyon, as editor, and [half] brother Isaac Mordecai DeLyon, as publisher, purchased the Georgia Watchman [Thomasville] newspaper very early in 1858 and moved it to Troupville. They were sons of Judge Levi S. D’Lyon, of Savannah, GA, whose Chatham county property would be the site of an encampment of the Berrien Minute Men and the 29th Georgia Regiment in the early stages of the Civil War.

Valdosta Times
February 18, 1912

The Name of Valdosta and Who Bestowed It

      Valdosta is not so old that knowledge of the man who gave it its name, or the origin of its unduplicated appellation, should be lost in the mists of antiquity, but nevertheless there are all sorts of answers to the question who named the town and where the name came from.
    The most generally accepted statement is that is was called after Governor Troup‘s old home in Laurens county. Another theory is that when the founders of the village that was to become the capital of Lowndes county and the future metropolis of South Georgia were casting about for a name for it, a poetically minded member happened to think of a beautiful Italian valley, the Vale de’Osta, and forthwith Valdosta was christened.
    The Times, though it may not know it origin, is able to make a definite statement as to the identity of the man who gave Valdosta its name. He was Lenorean DeLeon, editor of the Wiregrass Watchman, at old Troupville, in 1858-59, the first newspaper printed in Lowndes county.
    This statement is made on authority of Mr. I. L. Griffin, a pioneer citizen who was born at Troupville, and who knows the history of Valdosta from its founding.  Mr. Griffin states that after Valdosta was established and the county site moved from Troupville, Mr. DeLeon, who was a very talented man, suspended publication of his paper and moved along with the majority of Troupville’s population to the new town, where he became head of the village school, which he taught for several terms. He was an old-time, well-read Southern gentleman,of French extraction,and came to this section from Savannah.  About the close of the Civil War he removed to Texas, where he spent his remaining days.  His extensive reading made him familiar with foreign history and countries, and lends strength to the statement that he named the new town after the Italian valley.
     The new county proposition, or rather the clamor for county seats, was as insistent in those days as they are now, and the establishment of Valdosta was partly due to the demand of the people in the western part of the Greater Lowndes, for a division and a county seat for themselves. Brooks was thus cut off and Quitman established as the county seat, with Little river as the boundary.
     With its western half gone, a commission was appointed to select a new site for the county seat, which would be a little nearer the center of the abbreviated territory. After looking around, the commissioners decided that this was the ideal location for the county seat site, though it would still be near the western border.  They did not think the flat lands to the east and south so well adapted for the laying out of a town, while to have gone to the north would have placed the county seat too far away from the southern border. Four hundred and ninety acres of land were then purchased, the new town laid out and the name supplied by Mr. DeLeon. The latter fact, Mr. Griffin states, was well-known to many of the older citizens, among them Capt. W. H. Briggs and Mr. A. Converse, Sr., who lived at Troupville.
     The father of Col. W.S. West was the member of the legislature from Lowndes when Brooks county was formed and introduced the bill authorizing the moving of the county seat from Troupville to Valdosta.

♦♦♦♦

Valdosta Times
February 18, 1912

“Val-De-Osta” Was Name of Troup’s Farm

     An article that appeared in the Times last Friday in regard to the origin of Valdosta’s name has caused a good deal of comment in this city and section, among old-timers especially.
      The Times has a communication from an old resident of Valdosta which says: “In regard to your article in the issue of February 14, ‘The Man Who Named Valdosta’, the facts are these: Lenora DeLeon, whom I knew personally before he went to Texas in 1867 or 1868, named Valdosta after Governor Troupe’s plantation in Laurens county, old Troupeville having been named after the rugged old governor. See the suggestion of one by the other.
      “But it is a historical fact that Governor Troupe named his plantation after the Alpine Val-de-osta.”
These facts have several times been printed by the Times.
The confusion seems to have arisen by claiming that Valdosta was named after the Alpine valley and town of that name, when, as a matter of fact, it was named after Governor Troupe’s estate in Laurens county, the name of his home be adopted for the new town, which was made up largely of people who came from a town named after Governor Troupe himself, old Troupeville.
The Savannah Morning News of Sunday contained a correspondence from Valdosta, which made it appear that Valdosta was named after the Alpine city and valley. If the Morning News had printed the entire article that was sent it the facts in the case would have appeared, as it was stated in the full article that Valdosta’s name was taken from Troupe’s home, though the original Valdosta was in Italy.
A year or two ago Bishop Pendleton sent to the public library of this city a book by Felice Ferrero, the Italian historian, who was thoroughly acquainted with the valley of Val-de-osta and who wrote a most interesting story of that valley and of its people. More than 1,000 years ago it was one of the most beautiful spots in Europe and the old castles, the sewerage and the splendid highways that were built then still exist, though in a dilapidated condition.
In the near future the Times hopes to review the story which was written by this Italian historian, reproduce many of the things which he wrote of the Valdostans who formerly inhabited the Alpine valley and who, in many of their characteristics, remind one of the sturdy, hard-headed Valdostans of South Georgia.

Related Topics

Grand Jurors of 1845, Lowndes County, GA

In June of 1845, The Grand Jury of Lowndes County, Georgia convened at Troupville, GA. The reader will bear in mind that in 1845, Lowndes encompassed all of present day Berrien, Cook, Brooks, Lanier, and parts of Tift, Colquitt, and Echols counties, as well.  So the citizens on this 1845 grand jury were the friends and neighbors of  the Knights, Giddens, Sirmans, and others who settled around present day Ray City, GA.

It had been 20 years since Judge Holt had convened the first Lowndes Superior court in 1825 at the home of Sion Hall on the Coffee Road. In the intervening years, not one, but three Courthouses had been built. The first courthouse was at Franklinville, but after a few years the county seat was moved to Lowndesville, and then to Troupville, in the fork of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers. The 1845 Court may have been conducted with a bit decorum, than the original. Then again, it may not have been. Troupville was said to be a wicked place, with horse racing & other gambling, drinking, games and amusements.

Judge Carlton B. Cole presided at the 1845 court session, and Duncan Smith served as clerk of the Court.

The jurors were Samuel E. Swilley, John W. Spain, John Carter, Sr., Enoch Hall, Matthew M. Deas, James Wade, Jesse Hunter, Mathew Young, James McMullen, John McMullen, James Sowell, A. S. Smith, William H. Devane, Sampson G. Williams, William Folsom, Thomas B. Griffin, David Matthis, Ezekiel W. Parrish, Dennis Wetherington, Joshua Limeberger, and Henry Strickland, with Robert Micklejohn serving as foreman of the Jury.

Robert Micklejohn (1799-1865)
Robert Micklejohn was born July 2, 1799 in Louisville, GA, which was named in honor of King Louis XVI and was then serving as the State Capitol of Georgia. At the age of five, he moved with his parents, George Micklejohn and Elizabeth Tanner,to Milledgeville, GA which became the state capitol in 1806. He married Mary Jane Sowell on September 3, 1823 in Milledgeville, GA. In 1830-31, he served as Tax Collector of Baldwin County. He came to Lowndes County about 1845 where he entered into a partnership with Richard Allen, Robert Prine, and his brother-in-law James Sowell. Invoices in probate records indicate Robert Micklejohn also worked for Captain Samuel E. Swilley as a tutor and clerk. By 1850  he returned to Milledgeville, where he served as clerk of the City Council and as a Justice of the Peace. Robert Micklejohn died on his 66th birthday, July 2, 1865. His grave is at Memorial Hill Cemetery, Milledgeville, GA.

Captain Samuel E. Swilley (1793-1846)
Captain Samuel E. Swilley was a military leader in the late 1830s conflicts with Native Americans. His company of men fought in the Battle of Brushy Creek, actions at the Little River and at Grand Bay, August, 1836, and led the Skirmish at Troublesome Ford.  Samuel Swilley came from Appling County to Lowndes in 1827, bringing  his wife and children  to settle about 23 miles south of the Lowndes county seat at Franklinville.  He established a large plantation  on Hammock Lake near present day Lake Park, GA, where he constructed a substantial log house on the edge of the woods and log cabins for his slaves in the midst of his corn fields. He built a water-powered mill  with a grist mill, cotton gin and sawmill.  In all, his land holdings in Lowndes county consisted of more than 5000 acres. He was a member of the Democratic Republican Party of Lowndes County.  Just a year after serving on the Grand Jury, in the fall and winter of 1846, a deadly fever struck the Swilley household taking the lives of  Mr. Swilley, his wife and most of their children. For years thereafter, it was referred to as the Swilley Fever.

David Mathis (1802-1875)
David Mathis was a Whig and a strong supporter of state’s rights. He was among the Pioneers of Old Lowndes Toast[ing] State Rights and American Independence at the Fourth of July 1835 Jubilee at Troupville, GA. In 1836, he served in Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company in  the Last Indian Fight in Berrien County.   “David Mathis, oldest son of John Mathis, was born in North Carolina in 1802, and was brought as an infant by his parents to Bulloch County, Georgia. He was married in 1822 to Miss Sarah Monk, born 1801 in Bulloch County a daughter of William and Jerushia Monk. David Mathis brought his family to what was then Lowndes County in the winter of 1825-1826, and settled on lot 102, 9th district. This is one mile east of the present village of Cecil, Cook County. In January 1826, he built his log home, a sturdy and comfortable home that he occupied until his death about fifty years later. This home was on the Coffee Road, main thoroughfare of travel in those days from middle Georgia into southwest Georgia and Florida. It was a stagecoach stop where the horses were rested. Many people in those pioneer days enjoyed the hospitality of the Mathis home.  Mr. Mathis was ensign of the militia in the 658th district, 1828-1840, and Justice of Peace, same district, 1829-1834. In the Indian Wars of 1836, he provided forage for the Volunteers of Hamilton W. Sharpe’s Company. He served as Justice of Berrien Inferior Court, 1861-1862. Mr. Mathis was a member of Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church into which he was baptized about 1840, but later transferred his membership to Salem Church which is now in the City of Adel. His wife was a member also. He died about 1875 and his wife died soon after. They were buried at Pleasant Church.”

John Carter, Sr. (1794-1880)
According to descendants “John Carter was born in Colleton District, South Carolina in 1794. John usually signed his name as John Carter, Sr., to distinguish himself from his first cousin John Carter. He was a son of Elijah Carter. He was married in Colleton about 1825 and his wife Lavinia, born 1799 in South Carolina. Her maiden name is unknown. Mr. Carter removed from his old home in South Carolina, near Little Salkehatchie River to Lowndes County, GA, in 1830.  Mr. Carter was a First Lieutenant in the militia in the 661st district of Lowndes County, 1832-33 and served again in the same company between 1835-39. He served an enlistment as a private under Capt. Samuel E. Swilley in the 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the Florida Mounted Volunteers, June 16th to Dececember 16th, 1837, in the 2nd Florida Indian War. It was noted he entered into this enlistment with 1 black horse. He was Honorably Discharged from Ft Gilleland on December 18. He enrolled at Ft Palmetto in [Levy County, Florida].  John Carter, Sr., was baptized into the membership of Union Primitive Baptist Church; August 9, 1840; and the next year, on June 9, 1841, was dismissed by letter with others, to join in the constituting of Antioch Church which was nearer his home. He became a charter member of Antioch and continued as a member there for some years, as did his wife.  Their home was cut out of Lowndes into Echols County in 1858.”

Matthew M. Deas (1794-1873)
“Matthew M. Dees, an early prominent citizen of Lowndes County, was born in South Carolina, in 1794, and was a son of John Dees, R. S., and his wife, Mary. The parents moved with their children to Tattnall County, Ga., at an early date, and it was there that the subject grew to manhood and married. His first wife by whom his children were born, was Jane Strickland, born 1795 in N. C. daughter, of Lewis and Martha Grantham Strickland, a pioneer Tattnall County family. In 1829, Matthew M. Dees removed from Tattnall County to Madison County, FL, and settled near the Georgia line, thence he moved to Lowndes County about the time the Indian War began, and he acquired lands in the present Clyattville district of Lowndes County. He served as Major of the 138th Battalion, Lowndes County militia, 1838-1841. About 1845 he moved to the Bellville section of Hamilton County, Fla., only a few miles from his former Georgia home, and lived there until his death about 1872. He served as County Commissioner of Hamilton County, 1849-1851, and as a Justice of Peace there, 1863-65. The first wife died in 1851, in Hamilton County, and Mr. Dees was married to Rebecca Downing, Jan, 9, 1853, in Hamilton County. She was born 1802 in South Carolina. She survived her husband several years. He is listed in the 1850 Census for Hamilton County, FL (56 years old) Maj. Dees died intestate in Hamilton Co. Fla., November, 1873”

Matthew Young
Matthew Young was among the prosperous planters living near Troupville, GA and making that town their trading headquarters. The 1850 agricultural census of Lowndes County shows Matthew Young owned 3040 acres of land, 300 acres of which were improved. He had $440 worth of farm equipment and machinery, five horses, a mule, 30 milk cows, two oxen, 70 other cattle, 75 sheep and 100 hogs. His crib was stocked with 800 bushels of Indian corn,  400 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 25 lbs of butter. He had 28 bales of ginned cotton at 400 lbs each, and 150 lbs of wool.

A.S. Smith
A.S. Smith was a Storekeeper at Troupville, GA.

Sampson G. Williams (1808-1896)
Sampson G. Williams lived in McCraney’s District, Lowndes County. was one of the fortunate drawers in the 1832 Cherokee Land lottery.  He was born January 31, 1809, a son of James Williams, Revolutionary Soldier, and Elizabeth Holleway.  Sampson Griffin Williams married Elizabeth McCranie, daughter of Daniel “Big Thumb” McCranie, on March 10, 1831 in Lowndes, later Berrien, and now Cook County. His place was 490 acres on Land lot 323, 9th District.  S. G. Williams served in Hamilton W. Sharpe’s company in the Indian Wars of 1836, and later was elected Senator in the Georgia Assembly.

Thomas B. Griffin (1816-1877)
Thomas Butler Griffin was born 1816 in Montgomery Co, GA, and lived in Old Troupville in Lowndes County, GA. He  was a wealthy merchant and planter, a member of the Lowndes County Democratic Party. He, along with Andrew J. Clyatt,  Duncan Smith, and John W. Spain, represented Lowndes County at the May 3, 1841 Convention of Democratic Young Men of Georgia, in Milledgeville, GA.     In a meeting at Swain’s Inn at Troupville, Thomas B. Griffin, was selected delegates to the Convention in Milledgeville to nominate a Governor of the Democratic party.  In 1843, He married Jane Moore, daughter of Jesse Moore and Rebecca Studstill. She was born 1827 in Bullock Coounty, GA, and died April 13, 1892 in Lowndes County.  Thomas B. Griffin, was the Sheriff of Lowndes county 1846-1848.  In 1860 Thomas B. Griffin was enumerated as the owner of 12 slaves. He moved from Troupville to the new town of Valdosta when it was formed,  and according to the Valdosta Historic Downtown Visitor’s Guide,  owned the first store in Valdosta, located at Patterson and Hill Avenue. Thomas B. Griffin was elected State Senator for the period of 1861-1863. In 1868, his son, Iverson Lamar Griffin, was allegedly involved in the bombing of a gathering of Freedmen attending a political speech. In 1873, he was one of the incorporators on the Valdosta and Fort Valley Railroad. Thomas B. Griffin died January 20, 1877 in Lowndes Co, GA.

Ezekiel W. Parrish (1818-1887)
Ezekiel W. Parrish, born February 16, 1818, in Bulloch county, Georgia, son of Henry Parrish and father of Ansel A. Parrish, was very young when his parents removed to southern Georgia and after his father’s death he remained with his mother until his marriage, when he bought land one mile from where is now located the town of Cecil and there engaged in farming and stock-raising. In 1864 he sold his farm and received its value in Confederate money, which he still held when the war closed, but fortunately he had retained about seventeen hundred acres east of Hahira in Lowndes county. He settled on the latter estate, erected the necessary buildings and made it his home until his death on September 1, 1887. Martha C. (Wootten) Parrish, his wife, born in Taliaferro county, Georgia, had preceded him in death, her demise having occurred in June, 1871. She was a daughter of Redden Wootten and wife, the latter of whom was a Miss Bird before her marriage.

Joshua Lymburger (1809-1848)
Joshua Lymburger or Limeberger came from Effingham to Lowndes county,GA  some time before 1834 and settled with his wife in Captain Dees’ district. He was a son of Israel Christian  Limeberger and Mary Catherine Schneider. Joshua Limeberger married Salome Schrimp on January 10, 1830 in Effingham County, GA.   In 1834, he owned 490 acres in Irwin county and was the agent of record for 2027 acres in Houston county under his father’s name. By 1848  he owned two lots of land [980 acres MOL]  in Lowndes County. Joshua Limeberger died May 13, 1848 in Lowndes County, GA.  His grave is at Forest Grove Cemetery, Clyattville, GA.

John W. Spain (1818-1870)
John William Spain, born December 4, 1818, a son of Levi Spain and Rachel Inman Spain. His father  died while John was a minor.  According to an article by Nancy Young Schmoe, John William Spain and widowed mother Rachel Inman Spain, came about 1826 to the section of Lowndes County now known as Kinderlou. “They came from the Carolinas and were of Welsh descent. John William then bought twenty five thousand acres of land on both sides of the Withlacoochee River, and soon moved with his family across the river and built a home known as Forest Hill,” on a bluff overlooking the Withlacoochee about six miles southeast of  present day Quitman, GA. “The road running beside the house was an old stage coach road that came out of Lowndes County into Brooks, crossing the Withlacoochee at a place known as ‘Spain’s Crossing,’ where a ferry boat plied the river for many years.”  His mother married on March 26, 1826 to Major Frances Jones, a wealthy planter who built one of the earliest plantation mansions of Lowndes county, known today as Eudora Plantation (in present day Brooks County).  As an orphan, John William Spain, received a draw in the Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832,  drawing Lot 127, 11th Dist., 2nd Sect., Gilmer County. John William Spain married Elizabeth Young (1822-1885). John W. Spain was a member of the Democratic Republican Party. He was elected as the Lowndes county representative to the state legislature for the 1841-1843 term. John W. Spain, along with Andrew J. Clyatt,  Duncan Smith, and Thomas B. Griffin, represented Lowndes County at the May 3, 1841 Convention of Democratic Young Men of Georgia, in Milledgeville, GA. In 1844, the Georgia Legislature passed an act “to establish John W. Spain’s bridge across the Withlacoochee river, on his own land, in the 12th district of Lowndes county, and rate the ferriage for the same.” In the 1850s he served as postmaster of the post office at Piscola, Lowndes, County, GA.  Among his properties, Spain owned Lot #10 of the 15th district, in Brooks County. In 1859, he served as a Brooks County Road Commissioner. At the onset of the Civil War, he provided $2000 to equip the Brooks Rifles militia company with rifles.  Applied for and received a presidential pardon from President Andrew Johnson for acts of Rebellion, August 28, 1865. Died November 7, 1870; grave at West End Cemetery, Quitman, GA.

Enoch Hall (1804-1886)
Enoch Hall, a Lowndes county pioneer and son of Sion Hall and Mrs. Bridget “Beady” Hall, was an overseer in the laying out of the Coffee Road, and settled with his father near present day Morven, GA, about 1823 shortly after the opening of the road. Justice of the Lowndes County Inferior Court, 1832-37. Served as Lt. Colonel, Lowndes County, 81st Regiment, Georgia Militia, under Colonel Henry Blair. Enoch Hall led, as a Major, a company of men in Actions at the Little River and at Grand Bay, August, 1836  Together with his father, Sion Hall, the Halls held 2,680 acres of pine lands in the 12th Land District of Lowndes County, 1220 acres in Cherokee County, 2027 acres in Lee County, 2027 acres in Carroll County and 4054 acres in Randolph County, GA. Died September 2, 1886; grave at Hall Cemetery, Morven, GA.

James Wade 
James Wade, Soldier, McCraney’s, Lowndes County, GA was one of the lucky drawers in the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery. He served on the May 1933 term of the Lowndes County Grand Jury.  He was one of the Commissioners appointed by the Georgia legislature in 1834 “to contract for and cause to be built in the county of Lowndes a suitable Court-house and Jail.”

Jesse Hunter (1811-1871)
Jesse W. Hunter was born about 1811 in Georgia, a son of Abraham Hunter and Ann Rushing. According to the History of Brooks County, he came to Lowndes County  about 1823,  shortly after the opening of the Coffee Road, with his mother and father, who settled in the fork of the Okapilco and Mule Creeks. The 1844 Lowndes County Tax Digest shows Jesse W. Hunter owned 301 acres of pine lands in Lowndes County and 360 acres of hardwood in Cherokee County. His Lowndes county home was cut into Brooks county when it was formed in 1858.  During the Civil War, he was drafted into Company F, 5th Georgia Regiment, but petitioned Governor Brown for a discharge on account of age and infirmity. Jesse W. Hunter died August 16, 1871. The grave of Jesse W. Hunter, and the grave of his wife Elizabeth are at Union Church Cemetery (aka Burnt Church), near Lakeland, GA.

James Sowell
James Sowell was a brother-in-law of Robert Micklejohn, who served as foreman of the 1845 Grand Jury of Lowndes County.  He was born 1801 in Bertie  North Carolina, a son of Ezekiel Sowell and Ann Layton. He came with his family to Georgia some time before 1823, and on December 8, 1826 James Sowell married Milly Rape in Henry County, GA.  James Sowell, Hood’s District, Henry County was a lucky drawer in the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery, drawing lot number 159 in the Tenth District,Third Section of the Cherokee Country.  Tax digests show that James Sowell had arrived in Lowndes County, GA by 1844, settling in Captain Samuel E. Swilley’s District.  The 1850 census shows James and Milly in Lowndes County with their nine children. Some time before 1860, James Sowell moved his family to Florida where they were enumerated in Hamilton County.

James McMullen (1806-1865)
According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2, “James McMullen  was born and reared in Georgia. His father was one of the earlier settlers of Georgia, having located in Thomas county while that section of the country was in its pristine wilderness. He was of thrifty Scotch ancestry and a man of sterling integrity.  James McMullen was trained to habits of industry and early showed natural ability as a mechanic.  Although he never learned a trade, he became an expert with tools, and could do general blacksmithing, or  make either a barrel or a wagon. After his marriage he lived for a while in Thomas county, from there  removing to that part of Lowndes county that is now a part of Brooks county. Purchasing land in the Hickory Head district, he was there a resident until his death at the age of sixty years. He married Harriet Rountree, who was born in Lowndes county, where her father, a pioneer settler, was murdered by negroes while taking the produce of his farm to one of the marketing points in Florida, either Tallahassee or Newport. She too died at the age of three score  years…In his political affiliation James McMullen was a Whig, and long before there were any railroads in Georgia he served as a representative to the state legislature.”  His daughter, Martha McMullen, married Edward Marion Henderson, who died of wounds after the 1836 Battle of Brushy Creek. In 1859, James McMullen served as a Brooks County Road Commissioner. Died December 6, 1865; grave at James McMullen Cemetery, Brooks County, GA.

John McMullen (1808-1868)
According to the 1913 text Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends, “John and James McMullen, brothers, were among the earliest pioneers to enter the pine solitudes of this section [present day Brooks County] of Georgia…”   John married Nancy Rountree and James married  Harriet Rountree, daughters of Francis Rountree, of Lowndes County, GA. In 1859, John McMullen served as foreman of the first Grand Jury in Brooks County.

William H. Devane (1817-1869)
William H. Devane was a farmer in the 53rd Division of Lowndes County, GA. He came with his parents to Lowndes County as a boy around 1828. His father, Benjamin Devane,  was a veteran of the War of 1812, and served in the Indian Wars in Florida and Georgia; In 1838, Benjamin Devane served as a private in Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company.  William H. Devane married his first cousin, Margaret A.Rogers, about 1841.  In 1859, he served as a Brooks County Road Commissioner. At the onset of the Civil War,  William H. Devane sought to raise a company of Brooks County volunteers, but ended up enlisted in Company E, Georgia 1st Infantry Regiment.

David McCall (1802-1881)
David McCall, Jr, was born in 1802,  a son of David McCall and Frances “Fannie” Fletcher. He married Eleanor Johnson on  July 20, 1825 in Tatnall County, GA; she was born in 1810. In 1835 they made their home in Appling County, GA.  Some time before 1844, they relocated to Lowndes County, Georgia.  He was later a hotel keeper in Valdosta, GA.

William Folsom
William Folsom was the uncle of Penneywell Folsom, who fell at Brushy Creek in the Indian Wars of 1836. The Folsom place was located near the Coffee Road, and about a mile and a half further west is where the road crossed the Little River. “The Folsom bridge, a noted crossing place, spans the [Little] river here.”  The Folsoms had built a small fort against Indian attacks, and it was from this fort that the Lowndes county pioneers marched to the encounter at Brushy Creek.  In 1837,  William Folsom served on the commission appointed to select a new site for the Lowndes county seat of government;  a location at the junction of the Withlacoochee and Little Rivers was chosen, and Troupville became the county site.

Dennis Wetherington (1807-1885)
Dennis Wetherington, an early settler of Lowndes County, was born in South Carolina, October 1, 1807, a son of Peter Wetherington.  He moved to Lowndes County with his parents between 1825 and 1830. In 1831, he first married Sarah Carter, a daughter of Captain Jesse Carter and Mary “Molsy” Touchton. The couple settled on a farm in the present day Naylor District. Dennis Wetherington was baptized into the membership of Union Church, February 11, 1832, and was dismissed by letter to join in constituting Unity Church nearer his home, about 1842. Molsy Carter Wetherington died about 1850. After her death, Mr. Wetherington married 2) Rebecca Roberts, daughter of John C. Roberts, who lived on Cow Creek. Upon Rebecca’s death, he married her sister, Elizabeth Roberts. This according to Folks Huxford.

Henry Strickland (1794-1866)
Henry Strickland was born in 1794 in Georgia.  He married Sarah Lanier November 6, 1820 in Effingham County, GA. He moved his family to Lowndes County about 1831 and settled in Captain Caswell’s District.  The 1834 Lowndes County tax digest shows he owned 930 acres in Lowndes County, 400 acres in Effingham County, 490 acres in Appling, 490 acres in Thomas County, 250 acres in Baker county, 2027 acres in Lee County, and 2027 acres in Meriwether County. Henry Strickland was Justice of Lowndes Inferior Court from 1833 to 1837 and again from 1857 to 1859;  December 23, 1835 appointed commissioner to select the site of the Lowndes County courthouse and jail; Major of the 138th Battalion, Georgia Militia, 1836 to 1838 – participated in actions at the Little River; December 22, 1837, appointed to the board of trustees for the proposed Lowndes County Academy at Troupville; Primitive Baptist; affiliated with Friendship Church along with wife, Sarah, soon after moving to Lowndes County;  membership received by letter in March, 1846 at Old Antioch Church, now in Echols county,  elected church clerk;  died 1866.