Biggles case was tried by Judge Hansell

The Biggles murder trial of 1899 concerned a family feud at Rays Mill, Georgia in which J.T. Biggles gunned down Madison Pearson on the porch of Henry Harrison Knight’s store. (See 1887 Family Feud at Ray’s Mill, More on the 1887 Family Feud at Rays Mill, GA, Beagles/Biggles/Beigles of Rays Mill, The Biggles Farm.) Judge Hansell, who for fifty years served on the Southern Circuit of the Superior Court, presided at the trial.

Judge Augustin H. Hansell, Southern Circuit, tried many cases in Berrien County, GA.

Judge Augustin H. Hansell, Southern Circuit, tried many cases in Berrien County, GA.

The Atlanta Constitution
October 16, 1899 Pg 3

FIFTY YEARS ON THE BENCH
Judge Hansell’s Remarks to the Grand Jury of Berrien County.
    Tifton, Ga., October 15. – (Special.) – Berrien superior court, after four days’ session, adjourned Thursday evening.  The entire session of the court was devoted to criminal business, no civil cases being called for trial.
  The most important case was that against Thomas J. Beagles, who killed his brother-in-law, Madison G. Pearson, at Ray’s Mill, this county [Berrien], November 4, 1887, or twelve years ago.
    Beagles had married Pearson’s sister and out of this a bitter enmity grew up between him and his brother-in-law.  Pearson had threatened Beagle’s life and a day or so previous to the shooting had gone to his house and cursed his wife and children.
    Beagles swore out a peace warrant for Pearson, and he was carried to justice court at Ray’s Mill for trial. On the court ground the difficulty arose again, and Pearson, the man under arrest challenged Beagles for a fight, and started out the door, pulling of his coat as he went.  Beagles was standing near the door and as Pearson came out unarmed, drew a pistol and shot him through the head.  The ball entered just in front of the right ear, and produced instant death.
    Beagles left the country and was gone three years, but came back and was arrested and placed under bond. Two months ago he was given up by his bondsmen and placed in jail.
The trial of the case consumed a day and a half.  The state was represented by Solicitor General Thomas and Colonel W. H. Griffin, of Valdosta,  and the defense by Colonels Joseph A. Alexander and W. M. Hammond.  Every inch of the ground was well fought and the arguments of Colonels Hammond and Griffin, covering six hours eloquent and masterly.  The jury remained out seven hours, returning a verdict of manslaughter with a recommendation to mercy.  Colonel Griffin made a touching and eloquent plea for a light sentence and Judge Hansel gave Beagles two years in the penitentiary.
Jim Oscar Sterns, colored, who killed another negro with a coupling pin in Tifton a few weeks ago, was sentenced to the penitentiary for life.
North Cochran, colored, who committed highway robbery, taking $41 from another negro, was given six years in the penitentiary.
Warren Moss, colored, who burglarized the store of C. G. Gray, at Lenox, was given five years.
John Davis, colored, who burglarized the store of J. L. Ford, in Tifton, was given five years.
There were a number of sentences to the chaingang for smaller offenses, all the parties being negroes.
The grand jury recommended the building of a new jail for the county.
In thanking the grand jury for an exceedingly complimentary reference to himself, Judge Hansell stated that next month would be the fiftieth anniversary of his donning the judicial ermine, and the fifty years had been spent on the bench in south Georgia.

Home of Judge Augustin H. Hansell circa 1884, Thomasville, GA. On porch, Mrs. Hansel and Judge Hansell; sitting on top step, Miss Sallie Hansell; on bottom step, Jim Jarrett; at foot of steps, Nannie Boles; standing in yard, left to right, Mrs. James Watt, William A Watt, Hansel Watt, Mr. James Watt.

Home of Judge Augustin H. Hansell circa 1884, Thomasville, GA. On porch, Mrs. Hansel and Judge Hansell; sitting on top step, Miss Sallie Hansell; on bottom step, Jim Jarrett; at foot of steps, Nannie Boles; standing in yard, left to right, Mrs. James Watt, William A Watt, Hansel Watt, Mr. James Watt.

In A HISTORY OF SAVANNAH AND SOUTH GEORGIA, (p. 872-874) author William Harden  wrote a brief sketch on the life of Judge Hansell:

Augustin Harris Hansell, father of Charles P., was born at Milledgeville, August 17, 1817, and being reared in one of the prosperous homes of Georgia, was given excellent advantages. Prof. Carlisle Beaman was one of his tutors in general subjects, and he studied law under R. K. Hines and Iverson L. Harris. After admission to the bar he began practice at Milledgeville, and for a time served as private secretary for Governor Gilmer. In 1847 he was elected solicitor general, and two years later judge of the southern circuit, then embracing the greater part of south Georgia. Railroads had not yet penetrated to this region, and he journeyed from court to court in his private carriage. He resigned as judge in 1853 but was again elected to the same office in 1859. For some years, until 1850, he was a resident of Hawkinsville, then in Scottsboro two years, and in 1852 came to Thomasville, being one of the most prominent among the early settlers of this locality. During the war he served on the relief committee, and in 1864 spent three months distributing supplies to the soldiers around Atlanta and Marietta. In 1868 he left the bench, resuming private practice for four years, but in 1872 was again appointed judge of the southern circuit and continued in this office until 1903. For more than forty years he honored the bench with his character and ability, and his is one of the foremost names in the Georgia judiciary during the last half of the nineteenth century. On retiring from the bench he lived retired until his death in 1907.

Judge Hansell married Miss Mary Ann Baillie Paine, who was born in Milledgeville. Her father was Charles J. Paine, a native of Petersburg, Virginia, and a physician. … Judge Hansell’s wife died in 1906, and her five children were as follows: Susan V., Charles Paine, Mary H., Frances B., and Sally H.

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The Misadventures of Mr. Stewart

The previous post related the story, Adventures with a Panther, which occurred in Berrien County, GA in 1849.  A boy named James Stewart aka James Hightower, who was a step-son of Thomas B. Stewart, was attacked.  Neighbors John H. Guthrie, William Green Aikin,  and Jesse Vickery tracked down and engaged the beast in a bloody fight to the death.  The Stewart boy survived the panther’s attack, and the following clipping conveys a continuation of his misadventurous life.

From the Albany Medium

  Somewhere in the forties there lived in Berrien (it was not Berrien then) a boy by the name of Stewart. He was not remarkable for anything except for scrawniness, being of small statue, lean and of a clay-bank color, the result perhaps of private meals off of the chimney clay. But as time sped by he became a hero in that then wild country; at least he was a hero in one sense.

  The family with whom he lived resided not far from the Alapaha swamp. One day he and another boy were sent to the swamp to feed a sow. When within a short distance of it a large tiger sprang out of the bushes and brought Stewart to the ground. He fell on his face, and the tiger seemed to be in no hurry to kill him. Indeed the brute was engaged just then in watching the other boy fleeing in the direction of the house. Being satisfied as to the direction the other boy took, the tiger then took Stewart’s head in its mouth and closed on it, but its teeth slipped over instead of penetrating the skull. It bit the boy’s skull several times with the same result, and the boy, with a presence of mind wonderful in one so young, did not once flinch while the beast was tearing huge furrows through his scalp. The tiger, after holding its nose near the boy’s face an instant, as if listening if he was breathing, seemed satisfied that he was dead, and hastily covering him up with pine straw, ran hurriedly after the other boy.  As soon as the tiger was out of sight Stewart sprang to his feet and, taking a wide circuit, ran with all the speed he could command, and finally reached the house in safety.  The other boy reached the house some time before the tiger came in sight of it, and the brute, seeing that he was too late, hurried back to his first prey.

  If Stewart had moved while the tiger was biting his skull, or if he had breathed while the beast was listening, with its nose close to his face, he would have been torn into fragments; but the boy, have heard of many of the peculiarities of this ferocious beast, was prepared to profit by the knowledge.

 As soon as the boys told of their wonderful escape, three neighbors, all resolute men, determined to hunt down and kill the beast. They had one musket and two hunting knives. Taking a favorite deer hound, they proceeded to the swamp.  When near it they saw the dog take to the trail of the tiger and enter the bushes. In a few moments they hear a howl, then all was quite.  They knew the dog had been killed. Halting, they made a solemn compact to stand by each other to the last. Then they entered the swamp, the man with the musket in front and the others close behind, in Indian file, the front man with his musket ready and the other two with their knives drawn. They had not proceeded more than fifty yards in the swamp when the front man was felled to the ground. The tiger seemed to drop out of the clouds upon him. He fell on his back and the beast tried to seize his throat with its mouth, but he threw up his arm and that member was seized instead. In a moment the second man seized the musket, and, placing the muzzle close to the tiger’s side, fired the load of buck-shot through its body. It still held its hold. Clubbing the gun, he dealt the animal three powerful blows on the head, and still it did not release its victim.  The third man then threw himself upon the tiger and cut its throat. Then it loosened its grip and expired on top of its victim. The animal measured twelve feet from the end of its nose to the tip of its tail.

  A few years after the above occurrence Stewart, while feeding a cane mill; had one of his hands caught and drawn between the rollers and so badly mashed that the hand and a portion of the arm withered.

  Later on he was in the field at work, when a thunder storm came up and he was struck by lightning and left for dead. He came to however, and was all right in a few days.

  By this time he was old enough to take unto himself a wife, but the parents of his girl did not favor the alliance, so they decided on elopement. In those days, even, a hero could get married without shoes, so he started for his future wife, succeeded in getting her from the house and the happy pair were on their way to the parson’s when Stewart was bitten on the foot by a moccasin, a dangerous reptile. Even that did not stop him. They proceeded to the parson’s and were united in wedlock. Stewart did not die from the snake bite. History does not say whether the snake died.

  Next we hear of Stewart, he was being tried for his life for the murder of a man named Wheeler. The evidence was all against Stewart and everybody thought he would hang. He was defended by the now venerable Judge Hansell, of Thomasville, then a young lawyer just “starting out.” So able was the defense, so pathetically did the young lawyer dwell upon the many hairbreadth escapes of the prisoner, who seemingly had been preserved through them all through providential intervention, that the jury brought in such a verdict as to send him to the penitentiary for six years. While in the penitentiary he learned the painter’s trade, and after satisfying the sentence of law returned home, where we leave him.

   While in Irwin recently we learned the above facts from Rev. Jacob Young, who has the local history of all that county for forty or fifty years past at his fingers’ ends, so to speak.

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