John F. Studstill Was Wanted in Arkansas

John F. Studstill assisted his father, William Hustus Studstill, with Berrien County tax collections in 1909.

John F. Studstill assisted his father, William Hustus Studstill, with Berrien County tax collections in 1909. Image detail courtesy of

John Franklin Studstill was a wanted man.

John F. Studstill, subject of previous posts,  was a son of William Hustus Studstill,  Tax Collector for Berrien County in the early 1900s.

From about 1907 to 1909 John F. Studstill assisted his father in the tax collector’s office, until irregularities were discovered in the bookkeeping.  Studstill first fled to Macon, GA where he attempted to obtain an automobile on false financial documents.  He then made his way through Valdosta to Jacksonville, FL before appearing in Texas and Arkansas where he continued his financial frauds. He was finally captured at Bowling Green, FL.

While being transported back from Florida Studstill escaped from custody at Rays Mill, GA.(See Embezzler Son of Illiterate Tax Collector Escapes Detectives at Ray’s Mill, GA) Previous posts ( More on John F. Studstill ~ Ray City Fugitive) told how Studstill operated his frauds and made his escape at Rays Mill, GA.

On June 6, 1909, The Atlanta Constitution reported how Studstill was captured again at his home near Milltown (now Lakeland, GA), but managed to escape from the authorities a second time.

The Atlanta Constitution. 6 Jun 1909.

   Daring Escape by the Young Financier of Berrien County
Valdosta, Ga., June 5 –John F. Studstill, the young financier of Berrien county, Georgia, who is wanted at Macon, Ga. Ashmore, Ark, and other places on charges of forgery, today made a daring escape from Officers Shaw and Watson of Milltown.
    Two weeks ago Studstill cleverly eluded two detectives and escaped.
    Today he was discovered playing with his children. Half clad, he went through an opening in the ceiling of his house and jumped from a back window. Making use of a neighbor’s horse and buggy, he was quickly out of reach of the officers.

By mid-June word was out that John F. Studstill was also wanted in Arkansas. The Atlanta Georgian & News, June 19, 1909 reported the charges.

The Atlanta Georgian & News, June 19, 1909 reported that John F. Studstill of Berrien County was wanted in Arkansas.

The Atlanta Georgian & News, June 19, 1909 reported that John F. Studstill of Berrien County was wanted in Arkansas.

The Atlanta Georgian & News
June 19, 1909


South Georgian Said to Have Fleeced Bank.

     Valdosta, June 19. –  L. A. Byrne, a prominent attorney, of Texarkana, Ark., which was victimized recently by John F. Studstill, of Berrien county, is in this section today trying to get possession of certificates of deposit representing several thousand dollars, which it is alleged Studstill obtained through fraud, and which it is believed he still has.
     Studstill, it is charged, went to Arkansas some time since and represented that he was worth a large sum of money, and wanted to buy farm lands.  He traded for a valuable plantation, giving a check for $5,000 on a Jacksonville, Fla., bank.  Altho this check was returned unpaid in due course of time, it appeared in the meantime to give him an established credit in the little town of Ashdown, which in the interval he proceeded to use.   He gave to each of the two banks there a check on the Jacksonville bank for $1,500 each, drawing from one of them $25 in cash and from the other $40.  Both  banks gave him certificates of deposit for the balance and Studstill then disappeared.  A few days later the $5,000 check was returned marked “no good,” and then the banks knew they were stuck.

It is not yet clear how Studstill managed to resolve his financial and legal issues, but he stayed in the area until his death in 1950.

Related Posts:

More on John F. Studstill ~ Ray City Fugitive

Following up on an earlier post on John F. Studstill’s flight from justice at Ray City, GA.

The Pensacola journal. (Pensacola, Fla.) May 30, 1909 Section 2, Page 10




     Detective Tucker reached here Thursday with John F Studstill from Bowling Green Fla where he arrested him Sunday morning while Studstill was on a visit to his uncle says a special from Milltown, Ga.
     Detective Tucker had a minute description of Studstill and was on the lookout for him.  Early Sunday morning Studstill came out of his uncle’s house with the intention of going up town when Detective Tucker stepped up and told him that he had a warrant for him from Arkansas. Studstill signified his willingness to go back with the detective as he told him that the charge that they had against him was small and he was satisfied that he could satisfy the banks there by returning their money and they would release him.
     Detective Tucker and Studstill reached the home of his father yesterday and spent the day with the  home folk before beginning their journey to Ashdown, Ark.
     Sheriff Avera learned that Studstill was in the county and drove down from Nashville to pick him up on a  warrant that he had from Sparks but found that he was in the hands of Detective Tucker. The sheriff went back without his man.

Tells of His Operations
      Sheriff Avera had quite a long talk with Studstill. He said Studstill did not appear to be worried and talked freely of how he was treated in Ashdown. Studstill said that he went out there and let it be known that he was In search of a farm. He Was taken In charge by the president of one of the banks and was driven over the country in the president’s automobile. He made the presidents home his home and finally bought the farm drawing a draft on the Bank of Milltown covering the purchase price.

     Studstill told him about going to Macon and of the deal that he tried to make there for an automobile in which be offered in payment one of the certificates secured from the Ashdown bank.  He said that the dealer wouldnt indorse the certificate but offered to send Studstill to Sparks in the machine and collect for it there.       

     Studstill told the sheriff that he went to Valdosta immediately after trying to make the change of the certificate with the automobile dealer.  He stated that he got off the blind side of the passenger train at Valdosta and walked to his father’s home here. He stayed here with his father two or three days and left for his uncle’s home in Florida where he was finally captured.

Embezzler Son of Illiterate Tax Collector Escapes Detectives at Ray’s Mill, GA

Read more about Ray City, GA history at

On April 3, 1909 the Atlanta Georgian and News reported charges of malfeasance against the office of the Berrien County Tax Collector,  W.H. Studstill.   By today’s standards it seems difficult to believe, but just 100 year’s ago the Berrien tax collector was an illiterate who could not sign his own name.

All of this may have only indirectly affected Ray’s Mill residents, in that they and all other Berrien County tax payers were the victims of  the embezzlement. But a follow-up article (below)  from the Atlanta Constitution carries the drama to the Ray’s Mill stage.

 Atlanta Georgian and News
April 3, 1909


Berrien Tax Collector Makes Affidavit.

    Nashville, Ga., April 3. – Tax Collector W.H. Studstill may be called upon to make good an alleged claim of $913 which is charged against him. A year ago Studstill’s bondsmen made good a shortage of several hundred dollars, after Studstill had sacrificed all his property. The county authorities permitted Studstill to continue in office to the end of his term, January 1, 1909, with the understanding that Silas and R.W. Tygart, of Nashville, have charge of the affairs of the  office.
When Messers Tygart undertook to collect the Atlantic Coast Line Railway Company’s taxes the company answered by stating that they had forwarded their check  for the amount during the latter part of December, and  that it had been paid, indorsed [sic] by W. H. Studstill, tax collector of Berrien county, per John F. Studstill, at the Atlantic National Bank of Jacksonville, Fla., on December 27, 1908.
Studstill was in Nashville on Monday and signed an affidavit that he had not received the money, and that he knew nothing of the transaction. Studstill is an illiterate man, not being able to even sign his name. During his administration – except last year –  his son, John F. Studstill has, transacted all business connected with the office of his father.
Studstill’s affidavit, with a statement of the circumstances of the case, have been forwarded to Comptroller-General Wright.

On May 26, 1909,  the Atlanta Constitution reported  the following escape from  Detective Tucker in Rays Mill, GA (nka Ray City, GA):


John F. Studsill Charged with Getting Money Fraudulently.

    Milltown, Ga., May 25. – (Special)- John F. Studstill, who was recently captured in Bowling Green, Fla., on advices from Ashdown for getting money fraudulently, escaped from Detective Tucker, who had him in charge, while waiting for the train at Ray’s Mill, near here, Saturday afternoon.
   Studstill has been in considerable trouble here of late about money matters; he was for two years his father’s assistant in the tax collector’s office in this (Berrien) county, but was under no bond. Last year the county commissioners called for a settlement from the tax collector, but Tax Collector Studstill was unable to produce the books, claiming his son, John F. Studstill, had them. The commissioners finally checked up Sr.  Studstill’s books, and found him several thousand dollars short, which he promptly made good. It seems that his son, John F. Studstill, did all the work in the office, and it was through his hands that the money was short.
   Some time during the fall the Atlantic Coast Line railway sent W. H. Studstill a check to this place, as this is his home and postoffice, a check covering their taxes for 1908, the check amounting to $913.55. John F. Studstill got it from the office, and carried it to Jacksonville, Fla., and cashed it at one of the banks there. Studstill got word that they were on his track, so he left home here, and took a steamer from Jacksonville for parts unknown. After a delay of two weeks or more the Bank of Milltown, of this place, began to get sight drafts from Studstill at different points in Texas, finally winding up with a draft through the Ashdown bank, of Ashdown, Ark., for $5,-000.  All the drafts were turned down, as Studstill had withdrawn all his funds from the bank.

Perhaps a reader or additional research will provide the conclusion to this saga of family betrayal, embezzlement, and flight from justice.