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

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

Atlanta Constitution
November 18, 1889  Page 2


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

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

Atlanta Constitution
November 28, 1889  Page 2


McCay and Hicks Certainly the Guilty Parties.

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

Atlanta Constitution
December 6, 1889 Page 5


Of The Murder Of The Hughes Family In Clinch.

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

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


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


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

Atlanta Constitution
December 22, 1889


Which Gave Away the Location of the Murderer.

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

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


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