Charles Bruner Shaw

Charles Bruner Shaw (1888-1950)

Special thanks to Bryan Shaw for sharing photos and content for this post. Portions reprinted from Shaw Family Newsletter: Charles Bruner Shaw

Born in 1888 in a corn crib on the John Allen farm just outside Ray City, GA, Bruner Shaw would later serve as a police officer for the town. He was a son of Francis Arthur Shaw and Victoria Giddens Knight.

Bruner Shaw in police uniform about 1926. Photographed in Florida.

Bruner Shaw in police uniform about 1926. Photographed in Florida. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

After Bruner’s mother died of scarlet fever in 1889, he and his brother Brodie Shaw were raised by their grand parents, Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw.  The home place of  Francis Marion Shaw and Rachel Moore Allen Shaw was just west of Ray City, at Lois, GA just off Possum Branch Road.  Bruner attended school  through the eighth grade at the two-room Pine Grove School. The Pine Grove and Kings Chapel schools were filled at various times with the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of Rachel and Francis Marion Shaw. 

Bruner Shaw circa 1905

Bruner Shaw circa 1905

At a young age, Bruner Shaw married Mollie Register, daughter of William M. Register (1852-1926) and  Sarah Laura Parrish Register (1854-1933), and granddaughter of Elder Ancil Parrish the old Primitive Baptist preacher of Berrien County.  The Registers were a prominent family of Nashville, GA.  Bruner and Mollie were married on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1905, in a ceremony performed by Bruner’s uncle  Aaron Anderson Knight,  of Ray City, GA. Reverend Knight was  then primitive baptist minister of  Pleasant Church, just west of Ray City, GA.  The bride was one month shy of her 20th birthday; the  groom had just turned 17.

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Mollie Register, December 31, 1905.

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Mollie Register, December 31, 1905.

 

 

Bruner farmed for a while at Ray City, GA near his brother, Brodie Shaw. The census of 1910 shows other neighbors included Mack SpeightsJoseph S. Clements, Bryant Fender, and Frank Gallagher.

A Year of Tragedy

In January, 1911, when his aunt and uncle, Eliza Allen and Sovin J. Knight, moved to Brooks County to a farm on the Little River near Barney, GA, Bruner went along, moving his young family to an adjacent farm. But shortly after their move to Barney, “on April 16, 1911, just 26 days after the purchase of the new farm, Sovin suffered a severe heart attack and died in his new home.

After this family loss  coupled with the death of his infant daughter, Pecola, Bruner Shaw sold his Brooks County farm and returned to Berrien County.  Just six weeks after the sale, his wife, Mollie Register Shaw, died of Scarlet Fever.  She was buried at Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

Bruner’s widowed aunt Eliza later moved  her daughters, Kathleen and Rachel, back to Berrien County to live in the farm home of her parents  (Bruner’s grandparents) , Rachel Moore Allen Shaw and Francis Marion Shaw, just outside of Ray City, GA.

Grave of Mollie Register Shaw (1886-1911), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Cat

Grave of Mollie Register Shaw (1886-1911), Pleasant Cemetery, near Ray City, GA. Image source: Cat

The young widower soon enlisted the help of a teen-age girl to help take care of his children. Fifteen-year-old Charlie Ruth Griffin was the youngest child of William Harrison “Hass” Griffin and Rebecca Jane Parrish, born June 25, 1897 in her family’s cabin on South Old Coffee Road in Berrien County.  Her siblings were Sarah Rebecca, Georgia Lavinia, Mary Ellen, Margaret Frances “Fannie”, Willie Henrietta, William Franklin, and Robert Bruce Griffin.

Charlie Ruth Griffin while a student at White Pond School. Original image detail courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

Charlie Ruth Griffin while a student at White Pond School. Original image detail courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

As Charlie took care of Bruner’s children they grew very close to their nursemaid. After a very brief courtship, Bruner and Charlie were  married November 23, 1913 at the home of the Reverend Aaron Anderson Knight in Ray City.  Reverend Knight was then serving as the first pastor of the newly organized New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church at Ray City.

 

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Charlie Ruth Griffin, November 24, 1913, Ray City, GA

Marriage certificate of Charles Bruner Shaw and Charlie Ruth Griffin, November 24, 1913, Ray City, GA

 

Charlie gave Bruner three more children,  Francis Marion Shaw, Lynette Narcissis Shaw, and Charles Bruner Shaw, Jr.,  and raised Bruner’s two children, Juanita and William Arthur, as if they were her own.

Bruner and Charlie Shaw were a part of society and leisure at Ray City, GA and Berrien County.  In February, 1914 Bruner was among the people from Ray City attending the carnival at Nashville.  Others from Ray City included  Annie Mae Carter, Margie Dasher, Pearl Hardie Knight, Mr. and Mrs. G. V. Harvie, W. H. Luckie, George Norton, J. J. and J. S. Clements.

In 1914, Charlie Ruth and her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw, were also seen at the Mayhaw Lake Resort on Park Street near Ray City. Mayhaw Lake was “The Place” in Berrien County for more than a decade. It was built in 1914 by Elias Moore “Hun”  Knight, of Ray City. The amusement park was such a popular spot that the Georgia & Florida Railroad gave special rates for picnic parties from all points on their line. People from all over the area would journey to Mayhaw Lake, especially on holidays such as the 4th of July and Labor Day. A boarding house [later the home of Effie Guthrie Knight] up the road towards Ray City was opened up by the Paul Knight family   specifically to provide lodging for the Mayhaw crowd. 

Posing in front of the roller skating rink at Mayhaw Lake in 1914, left to right: Burton Moore; Tom Parrish; Manson Johnson; unidentified lady; Charlie Ruth Shaw with her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw; lady; Viola Smith Davis; lady; Mrs. Burton Moore and daughters, Kate Hazen, Thelma Register; Lonnie Smith; boy; man; Shellie Ziegler; and Jessie Ziegler Touchton. Members of the band in the background include: Rossie Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, and J. H. Swindle.

Posing in front of the roller skating rink at Mayhaw Lake in 1914, left to right: Burton Moore; Tom Parrish; Manson Johnson; unidentified lady; Charlie Ruth Shaw with her husband, Bruner Shaw, and daughter, Juanita Shaw; lady; Viola Smith Davis; lady; Mrs. Burton Moore and daughters, Kate Hazen, Thelma Register; Lonnie Smith; boy; man; Shellie Ziegler; and Jessie Ziegler Touchton. Members of the band in the background include: Rossie Swindle, Glenn Johnson, Lonnie Swindle, and J. H. Swindle.

It was about this time that Bruner began his life-long pursuit of the law enforcement profession.  Bruner entered police work through occasional employment as a deputy at Ray City.  At that time the Police Chief at Ray City was Bruner’s cousin, Cauley Shaw.

An incident report in the Nashville Herald, October 9, 1914:

Considerable excitement was occasioned here Monday by a report that Cauley and Bruner Shaw and two other young men of Ray’s Mill had been shot about twelve miles down the Valdosta Road. Several gentlemen from here [Nashville, GA] went in an automobile. But when they reached the scene, they found that the wounds were not serious. A negro for whom they had a warrant, shot at them with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

The Tifton Gazette also reported the incident:

Tifton Gazette reports Bruner shot while serving an arrest warrant, October 6, 1914

Tifton Gazette reports Bruner shot while serving an arrest warrant, October 6, 1914

Tifton Gazette
October 16, 1914

C. B. Shaw, C.H. Jones and Charley Thomas were shot by a negro named John Williams, near Rays Mill Oct. 6, says the Milltown Advocate. Thomas has some trouble with the negro about hauling some cotton and the negro fired at him. He went to Rays Mill, secured a warrant and returned for the negro. The negro opened fire and slightly wounded three of the party who returned from Rays Mill with Thomas. The negro escaped.

Over the next few years, Bruner did stints in the police departments of Milltown (now Lakeland), GA and at Willacoochee.  By early 1919, Bruner had been hired by Berrien County Sheriff J. V. Nix as a deputy at Nashville, GA.

Until 1919, most of the activities of a peace officer involved chasing down petty thieves, and raiding an occasional “skins” (gambling) game…

Production and consumption of moonshine – illegal liquor – was also a problem for law officers. State-wide prohibition in Georgia had passed in 1907, with Ray City’s own representative Jonathan Perry Knight among those leading the charge.

However, with the passage of the 18th amendment to the Constitution (prohibition), a whole new illicit business was the target of he county sheriff and his deputies. “Blind tigers”, as they were commonly referred, brewed alcohol in what was known as a “lard can” still, using syrup and meal processed through a copper worm. The product was a high explosive liquor with enough alcohol in it to burn like gasoline. Drinking of such had been known to cause blindness, if not death. Thus the name “blind tiger.”

By 1919,  reports of drunkenness and lawlessness in Ray City were making newspapers throughout the section. There were plenty of “blind tigers” running stills and selling bootleg liquor in Berrien County and Ray City, and gambling, too, despite the efforts of lawmen like Bruner Shaw, Cauley Shaw,  Gus Clements, Frank Allen, Marcus Allen, Jim Griner, Wesley Griner, and W.W. Griner.

In April, 1919, part-time deputy Bruner Shaw was again shot by an assailant.

1919 Tifton Gazette reports Bruner Shaw shot by John Harris

1919 Tifton Gazette reports Bruner Shaw shot by John Harris

Tifton Gazette
May 2, 1919

Shaw Shot by Negro

Nashville, Ga., April 23- Bruner Shaw, a well known young farmer who has served as special deputy sheriff a numbWer of times, was shot from ambush Saturday at the home of Will McSwain, a negro farmer living near Lois, this county. Shaw recognized his assailant as John Harris, a young negro whom he had arrested at Adel several months ago on a misdemeanor charge. The wouldbe murderer used a 23-calibre Winchester rifle, and the bullet entered the left side of Shaw’s head. He was able to come to Nashville today and swear out warrants against the negro, who is in jail here, having been captured by Sheriff Nix.

 

While pursuing his law enforcement career in other towns, Bruner Shaw maintained his Ray City connections. In 1920 Census records show Bruner and Charlie were residing in Ray City. According to Bryan Shaw,  Bruner’s last child, Charles Bruner, Jr., was born on February 6, 1920, in a home on Trixie Street behind the Marion Shaw home in Ray City. Bruner and Charlie resided in the home for three more years, participating regularly in the events of the community, especially dances and song fests.

Nashville Herald
March 15, 1923

News from Ray City—Everybody that wants to laugh as they haven’t since the war, come out on “Dad’s Night” . . . Last but not least will be some very fine singing by several of our gentlemen singers. They alone will be worth your time, should we have no other attraction. Mr. Bruner Shaw has promised us they will give at least four selections.

Later that year, Bruner Shaw was present at the startup of Ray City’s first power plant.

Sometime that fall Bruner, Charlie Ruth, and their five children moved to Polk County, Florida, where Bruner was hired as a deputy.  There was steady work tracking down bootleggers and their moonshine stills. Details of  big raids appeared in the papers:

The Polk County Recorder
March 2, 1924

“With drawn guns and expecting a battle to the death, sixteen deputies from Sheriff Logan’s force [and two federal agents] surrounded an abandoned sawmill camp in Eastern Polk County. Deputies Hatcher and Shaw volunteered to be a party to call for the surrender of the men sought.”

•∏•

Tampa Tribune
March 31, 1924

Lakeland Deputies Catch Moonshiners

Still of 100-Gallon Capacity Is Haul; Several Arrests Are Made

(Special to the Tribune)
Lakeland, March 30. – Lying in the woods near Bowling Green, Deputies [Newt] Hatcher and Shaw of the sheriff’s office Friday night watched a suspected bootlegger uncover two gallons of moonshie near the hiding place. Floyd Douglas, it is alleged, was getting the liquor to sell to Federal Officer Standau, unaware of the officer’s identity. Five gallons more were found in a search, and Douglas and the liquor were taken into custody. This is said to be Douglas’ second offense.
Just before the Bowling Green visit, the three officials made a big haul at Mulberry, here a 100-gallon copper still, 18 barrels of mash and six gallons of ‘shine were found in a swamp a mile from town. A negro man and woman were arrested as operators of the still.

•∏•

The Tampa Times
April 19, 1924

Raids Discourage Makers of ‘Shine

(Special to The Times.)
Bartow, April 19. – When the home of a Mrs. Beaumont, just over the Polk county line in Hillsborough county, was raided Wednesday the officers making the raid captured 244 bottles of 4 1/2 percent beer and three half pint bottles of shine. The arrest was made by Polk county Deputy Sheriffs Hatcher and Shaw with Federal prohibition Officers Standau and Dugan, who took the prisoner and evident to Tampa.
The recent series of captures of “shine” outfits conducted by Sheriff Logan and his deputies seems to have discouraged the moonshining industry in Polk county, according to reports from the sheriff’s office and judging from the record of convictions of violators of the prohibition laws in the criminal court combined with the sentences imposed by Judge Olliphant it seems highly probably that bootleggers of Polk county will decided that business isn’t so good in these parts.

In July, 1924 Bruner served as Night Police Chief in Haines City, FL. His friend and colleague, Newt Hatcher, was the Day Police Chief.

Bruner Shaw in front of his squad car at Haines City Florida. Image detail courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Bruner Shaw in front of his squad car at Haines City Florida. Image detail courtesy of Bryan Shaw

The exploits of Officer Shaw were occasionally reported in the Tampa Tribune.  On December 21, 1925, the paper reported C. B. Shaw was involved in a gun battle with a murder suspect.

December 21, 1925 C. B. Shaw in gun battle with Odom Dunlap, alleged murderer of Owen Higgins.

December 21, 1925 C. B. Shaw in gun battle with Odom Dunlap, alleged murderer of Owen Higgins.

Later, Bruner Shaw served as chief of police at Frostproof, FL.  A high profile case while Bruner Shaw as chief of police at Frostproof Florida was the kidnapping of  E. L. Mercer, well-to-do citrus grower.

June 6, 1928 Tampa Tribune reports Frostproof, FL police chief Bruner Shaw investigating kidnapping of E.L. Mercer

June 6, 1928 Tampa Tribune reports Frostproof, FL police chief Bruner Shaw investigating kidnapping of E.L. Mercer

In the fall of 1929, the Shaw family returned to Berrien County, GA where Bruner sharecropped the John Strickland property on the old Valdosta highway. While the family went about bringing in crops of corn, tobacco and cotton, and the children [Marion, Lynette, and Charles, Jr.] were attending school at Kings Chapel, Bruner found temporary employment with the Berrien County Sheriff and the Ray City Police.

By November, 1930 Bruner Shaw was named Chief of Police in Alapaha, GA and moved the family there. He was once again again in pursuit of “blind tigers.”

Nashville Herald,
December 18 , 1930

Last Wednesday afternoon Chief C. B. Shaw and Deputy Sheriff Wesley Griner and W. W. Griner went over near Glory and went down in the river swamp about one mile west of Glory and found 180 gallons of corn mash. There was no still found with this buck. The officers poured out the contents and busted up the barrels. The people of Alapaha are pleased with the work of Mr. C. B. Shaw since he has been Chief of Police. We all hope that Mr. Shaw will stay on here as he is doing such good work and helping to clean up the community by catching blind tigers.

Moonshine still bust about 1930 near Glory, GA on the Alapaha River . Chief of Police, Bruner Shaw, 2nd from the right. Other identified is Brooker Shaw, brother of Chief Shaw, 2nd from the left.

Moonshine still bust about 1930 near Glory, GA on the Alapaha River. Chief of Police, Bruner Shaw, 2nd from the right. Other identified is Brooker Shaw, brother of Chief Shaw, 2nd from the left.

It was the midst of the Great Depression, and though his work was appreciated, the pay was meager.  In the summer of 1931,  Bruner removed his family from Berrien County for last time and the Shaw family moved back to Frostproof.

The Shaw Family Newsletter: CHARLES BRUNER SHAW, SR: Have Badge, Will Travel, by Bryan Shaw, relates the story of Bruner Shaw’s life, law, business, and family.

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Dog Day Duel Brings Death

Horace Luke, son of Estell Nash and Perry Luke, was the second fatality of the Johnson-Luke Feud in the Summer of 1926.  On a Saturday afternoon, August 28, 1926 the young boy was riding with his parents to pick up his grandmother, Lucretia “Cresie”  Luke, at her home near Ray City, GA when the family was accosted by an “in-law.”   In the ensuing gun battle, the boy’s parents were both wounded,  his uncle Lonnie Johnson was killed with a shotgun blast, and Horace was fatally wounded in the chest.  He died on Sunday, August 29, 1926.

Horace Luke, age 6, was a victim of the 1926 Johnson-Luke fued in Berrien County, GA

Horace Luke, age 6, was a victim of the 1926 Johnson-Luke feud in Berrien County, GA

The Atlanta Constitution
August 30, 1926   Pg 11

6-YEAR-OLD BOY FEUD VICTIM DIES

    Nashville, Ga., August 29.   Perry Luke, Jr. aged about six years, died during the night of a gunshot wound received yesterday in the gun battle staged in the Johnson-Luke family feud.

   The boy was wounded in the chest by bullets fired during a gunshot battle staged on a highway near here in which Lonnie Johnson,  35, of Daytona, Fla., formerly of Berrien county, was killed, Perry Luke was shot in the shoulder and Mrs. Perry Luke was shot through the neck, the bullet coming out at the mouth.

    Lonnie Johnson, just back from Florida, who was in an automobile with his wife, is said to have driven to the home of Walter Luke, informing him that he was going to wipe out the family of Walter’s brother, Perry, on sight.

    At the time, according to information in the hands of county officers, Lonnie Johnson, who married a sister of Mrs. Perry Luke, ascertained that Perry Luke had gone to the home of his mother, to get her to spend Sunday with them.  The mother resides on the highway between Adel and Ray City.

    As Johnson drove away rapidly in the direction of the residence of his mother, Walter Luke, cranked up his truck and obtained his shotgun and started in pursuit, but the automobile outran the truck in the chase.

   When approaching the residence of his mother, Walter Luke found Lonnie Johnson’s car turned across the highway, blocking traffic, while he said Lonnie Johnson was shooting into the car containing his brother and the members of his family.

    As he climbed out of the truck Walter Luke says that Lonnie Johnson turned his pistol upon him, but Walter Luke opened fire with his shotgun and killed Johnson almost instantly.

The Survivors and the Dead

Lonnie Johnson was killed on August 28, 1926 by a shotgun blast fired by his brother-in-law Walter Luke.  Father-in-law Edward C. Nash was the informant on Johnson’s death certificate.  The location of Lonnie Johnson’s grave is not known.

Death Certificate of Lonnie Johnson, August 28, 1926.

Death Certificate of Lonnie Johnson, August 28, 1926.

Horace Luke, shot in the chest by Lonnie Johnson, died the following day, on Sunday, August 29, 1926.  Horace Luke was buried at Flat Creek Cemetery, north of Nashville, GA.

Grave marker of Horace Luke, Flat Creek Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Grave marker of Horace Luke, Flat Creek Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Bessie Nash Johnson was uninjured in the feud. She contracted tuberculosis and went to the State Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Alto, GA.  She died less than a year after the gun battle, passing from this life on June 7, 1927.

Death certificate of Bessie Nash Johnson, State Tuberculosis Sanitarium, Alto, GA

Death certificate of Bessie Nash Johnson, State Tuberculosis Sanitarium, Alto, GA

Fannie Estell Nash Luke, wife of Perry Luke, was “shot in the neck, the bullet coming out at the mouth.”  She died ten years later and was buried at Flat Creek Cemetery, Berrien County, GA

The Nashville Herald
Mrs. W.P. Luke Is Called By Death
 

   Mrs. W. P. Luke, well known and highly esteemd [sic] Berrien county lady, died Tusday [sic] morning at 11 o’clock at her home 14 miles south of Nashville on the Nashville-Valdosta highway.  She had been ill since September. The deceased, who was 33 years of age, was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ed C. Nash, who reside near Lake Park, but former Berrien county citizens.  Mrs. Luke was born and reared in this county, and was married to Mr. Luke about 15 years ago.
     Funeral services were held Wednesday morning at 11 o’clock at Flat Creek church, conducted by Rev. A.H. Giddens and Elder John Harris of Valdosta, and lasting tributes were paid to the life of the deceased.
     The pall-bearers were Messrs T.B. McDonald, John Stalvey, Jim Willer, John Chason, J.A. Sapp and J.T. Herring.
    Arrangements and burial were in charge of the Giddens Funeral Home of  Nashville.
    Surviving are the husband, three sons, two daughters, two brothers and one sister.

Perry Luke, shot in the shoulder,  survived and lived to age 63. He died  September 26, 1963 and was buried at Flat Creek Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA.

Walter Luke was not injured in the battle. He died June 8, 1975 in Lowndes County, GA.

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