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.

 

Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

continued from Richard Augustus Peeples, Clerk of the Berrien Courts.

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples (1829-1891)

Richard Augustus Peeples was the seventh son of Henry Peeples. He was born in Hall county, Georgia, September 24th, 1829. He moved with his father, first to Jackson County then to Lowndes County (now Berrien), GA, settling on Flat Creek about 1847 or ’48. His father established a store, the locality hence taking the name of “Peeple’s Store.” and acquired some 1530 acres of land. Henry Peeples was enumerated as the owner of three slaves in the Census of 1850.  In 1850, Richard A. Peeples married Sarah J. K. Camp, born July 30, 1830, the younger sister of his brother’s wife.  They were married November 7, 1850 in Jackson County. After marriage Richard A.  and Sara Jane Peeples located at Milltown in Berrien County, GA where he was engaged in saw-milling for time.  Upon the organization of Berrien county in 1856 Richard A. Peeples was elected to serve as the first Clerk of the courts and  moved his residence to Nashville.  He was instrumental in the construction of the first school house and the first Baptist church

While serving as Clerk of the Berrien courts, R. A. Peeples undertook the study of law. In 1860,  he moved to the new town of Valdosta, purchasing ten acres of land outside the downtown area from James W. Patterson for $300. The census records of 1860 record that Valdosta had a population of approximately 120 whites and 46 blacks at that time.  Richard Peeples was the owner of four slaves. His real estate was valued at $2000.00 and personal estate was worth $5,500.00 On being admitted to the bar, he opened an office as one of the first lawyers resident in Valdosta. His law office, and that of William Dasher, were directly across the street from the Lowndes County courthouse. The early years of Valdosta coincided with the War years and, as most of the men were away in Confederate service, the dozen or so commercial and public buildings which had been constructed by 1863 were of rather unsophisticated wood frame construction. J. T. Shelton described the courthouse as “a rough frame building,  with a door leading into the court room and another into the small office of the clerk. The interior of the building had plenty of light from its several windows, but not a single coat of paint.

The children of Richard A Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp were:

  1. Sally Peeples (1850-1938)
  2. Henry C. Peeples (1852-1905)
  3. Charles B. Peeples (1854-1912)
  4. Mary Emma Peeples (1856-1928)

But Sarah J. K. Camp Peeples would not live to see her children grown. She died at the age of thirty-three on July 3, 1863.

Obituary of Sarah Jane Peeples, from the Milledgeville Southern Recorder, July 21, 1863

Obituary of Sarah Jane Peeples, from the Milledgeville Southern Recorder, July 21, 1863

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
July 21, 1863

DIED

         Departed this life, at Valdosta, Lowndes county, on the 2d inst., after a short but painful attack, of a few days, Mrs. SARAH JANE PEEPLES, wife of Richard A. Peeples, Esq., in the thirty-third year of her age.
         Beautiful, calm and trusting, passed the years of her earthly pilgrimage; and as quietly and beautifully has passed away, forever, one of the gentle and loved of the earth.
        She embraced religion in her fourteenth year and connected herself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which she continued an ardent and devoted member up to the period of her departure from this world of trouble; and her death-bed scene was one of those a——— —-nces of the truth of Christian religion, which blesses the dying and reflects back upon the living the subdued, but steady light, which makes glad the heart of the Christian traveler. Husband, children, friends, servants, all were bid adieu, and forever with hopeful trust, and she quietly fell asleep in her Saviour’s arms and gladly exchanged this body of death for robes of light and immortality.
        Farewell kindly gentle, and loving daughter, wife, sister, mother, friend. May the strong light of thy truthful, Christian life and womanly virtues long dwell around the vacant hearts and habitation of mourning husband and weeping children. And may the God of all goodness and grace suit this deep and sad bereavement to the increased religious conviction of the stricken ones left behind.

A BROTHER.

Did Sarah J. Peeples die in childbirth? The obituary makes no mention of a pregnancy. But an inscription on her grave marker indicates that she was buried with “little Carrie”  – for whom no date of birth or death is given.

Grave of Sarah Jane Camp Peeples and her daughter Caroline "Carrie" Peeples, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: PhillW

Grave of Sarah Jane Camp Peeples and her daughter Caroline “Carrie” Peeples, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: PhillW

In the fall  and winter of 1863, when the Berrien Minute Men were with Confederate forces facing the Union Army’s encroachment in Georgia, Valdosta became one of the refugee towns of the South.  “As the Union Army advanced in north Georgia and drove toward Atlanta, residents of those areas left their homes,” J. T. Shelton wrote in Pines and Pioneers,

 Refugees clogged the railroads to the southward, for those areas were remote from the fighting. Riding in coaches if they could find seats, loading furniture, provisions and families in freight cars if they were fortunate in securing empties, a wave of new residents came into Lowndes county [via the new Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.]…Acting as a real estate agent, lawyer Richard A. Peeples helped many to locate on newly acquired properties. Some newcomers brought their slaves, and they had to find farms large enough to produce food for their laborers. When rations of corn and peas proved insufficient, the slaves ranged through the woods looking for hogs, cattle, even gophers to supplement their diet. Consequently the local people distrusted the imported black men with the strange “primitive” speech, for the south Georgians were not familiar with the coastal dialect. Ultimately, the rice laborers found no place in Lowndes and drifted back to their former homes.

Among those who “refugeed” to Valdosta was Miss Sarah Virginia Dent, of Savannah, whose deceased father was Captain James Preston Dent, and whose brother was serving in the Confederate States Navy aboard the Confederate raider CSS Alabama.

According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, “During the war between the states he [Richard A. Peeples] commanded company of Georgia Reserves, being stationed at Savannah until the capture of that city, and then in Columbia, South Carolina. The Mayor of Savannah surrendered the city to Sherman’s army on December 21, 1864; Columbia, SC surrendered February 17, 1865. After the fall of the latter city Richard Peeples was sent home sick, and was unable to rejoin his command before the close of the war.” However,  the 1864 census for the re-organization of the Georgia Militia shows Richard A. Peeples claimed an exemption from military service because  he was a county tax collector. He was serving as the Enrolling Officer for the militia company in the 663rd Militia District in Lowndes County, at least as late as June 10, 1864. He supplied his own horse and shotgun.

A letter dated May 20, 1864 addressed to Lieutenant R. A. Peeples indicates he was then serving  in the Georgia Militia at  Savannah, GA and seeking a commission in the Confederate States Army.

Head Qrs Geo Militia
Atlanta May 20, 1864

Lt R A Peeples
Savannah Ga

Lieut,
In reply to your favor 21st inst the Maj Gen Comndg instructs me to reply that you are granted leave of absence from these Head Quarters until the point of elligibility is decided, & if against your right to hold a Commission in CSA, you will at once report to these Head Qrs. By order Maj Gen Wayne Commng
W K deGraffenreid A Ag

Richard Augustus Peeples, Civil War Letter

Richard Augustus Peeples, Civil War Letter

Confederate service records show R. A. Peeples was made Captain, Company G, Symon’s 1st Georgia Reserves. He was with the unit for July and August, 1864, as indicated on Company Muster Rolls , and was elected Captain on July 30, 1864. This unit was surrendered with the 6th Regiment Georgia Reserves and were considered prisoners of war after May 10, 1865.  He was paroled at Thomasville, GA on May 18, 1865.

 

About a year after the death of his first wife he [Richard A. Peeples] married Miss Sarah Virginia Dent, of Savannah, who had refugeed to Valdosta, and whose father [Captain James Preston Dent] was largely interested in the shipping interests of that city.[Her father died of cholera on  July 3, 1850.] A brother of hers, Capt. James Dent, was in the Confederate service on board the cruiser “Alabama,” and when she was sunk by the [USS] “Kearsage” he jumped overboard and escaped capture by swimming to the British vessel, “Greyhound.” [Deerhound] He died afterward from the exposure and its results.

By this second marriage there were born to him [Richard A. Peeples] two daughters and three sons, all of whom [lived] in Valdosta. -Memoirs of Georgia

The five children of the second marriage were:

  1. Walter Dent Peeples (1864-1926)
  2. Etta Lee Peeples (1865-1921)
  3. Richard Alexander Peeples (1867-1927)
  4. Fannie Peeples (1870-1938)
  5. William Cincinnatus Peeples (1872-1947)

After the war, Richard Peeples made his life in Valdosta.

[He] followed the profession of law in Valdosta  with more than usual success, accumulating sufficient to place his large and growing family in easy circumstances. For twelve years he filled the office of city judge, and was one of the influential Democrats and public-spirited citizens of this part of the state. Besides contributing largely, he canvassed the field and raised $2,500.00 to aid in building for the Baptists of Valdosta a house of worship, which was one of the finest in southern Georgia. [He also acted as agent for the church.] Later, he erected, almost unaided, very neat church building at Clyattville, in Lowndes county. – History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia

This church was,  “The Benevolence Baptist Church …organized about 1865 or 1866, by Judge Peeples, and the first building was located on the Henry Brown place. The church building was moved in 1884 to land given by Mr. Charlie Arnold, four miles north on the old Valdosta-Clyattville road. There were twelve charter members. The first pastor was Judge R. A. Peeples. Others were: Messrs. Dave Evans, Mart Knight, High, Pitt Head, Henry Bryant, W. J. Ballen, Davis, Thrasher, Gus Sellars, S.S. Mathis, E. L. Todd, Roy Powell, Harvey Wages, A.C. Pyle, W.C. Taylor, W. J. Harrell, and Pulian Mattox. -History of Lowndes County, Georgia

These four buildings [McPherson Academy, Nashville Baptist Church, Valdosta Baptist Church, Benevolence Baptist Church]  are monuments of his Christian zeal and philanthropy. 

In 1867,  R.A. Peeples was among a group of white Lowndes citizens wrestling with the new realities of Emancipation.  The slave economy of the South was wrecked. J. T. Shelton in Pines and Pioneers observed “In the unsettled conditions of 1865, 1866, and 1867, a grower found it difficult to make cotton; certainly the workers had a hard time finding enough to eat.”  Resisting the conditions imposed upon them by Reconstruction the white planters sought alternatives to employing Freedmen. On September 12, 1867 Peeples along with Col W. H. Manning, Henry Burroughs Holliday, Captain John R. Stapler,  William Roberts, John Washington Harrell, A. McLeod, Hugh McCauley Coachman, John Charles Wisenbaker, W. Zeigler, Major Philip C. Pendleton, Col. S. W. Baker, James A. Dasher, Sr., David Peter Gibson, James T. Bevill, D. J. Jones, Archibald Averett, Charles Henry Millhouse Howell, J. H. Tillman  convened to form the Valdosta Immigration Society. The purpose of this organization was to procure emigrant labor of “the kind wanted”, by sending an agent direct to Europe to obtain them. It was also the  emphatic opinion of the meeting that no planter ought to employ a freedman who has been discharged by his employer for misconduct, but that the freedman should have a recommendation from his former employer.  Major Pendleton was selected as the agent to make the trip.

In 1867, R. A. Peeples was elected as a director of the Georgia Masonic Life Insurance company.

He was a member of the Democratic Party of Lowndes County. In March, 1868 he was a vice president of the Democratic Convention of the First Congressional District of Georgia, which convened to elect delegates to the national convention in New York.

Following the bombing of a political rally of Freedmen held by congressional candidate J. W. Clift at  the Lowndes County courthouse on the evening of Saturday, April 4, 1868, R.A. Peeples chaired a civic meeting condemning the actions of both the bombers and the candidate. This event followed just four days on the Camilla Massacre, where 12 freedmen were murdered in what is generally regarded as the first strike of the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.

In July, 1868 Richard A. Peeples was a Lowndes County delegate to the Democratic state convention to nominate party candidates for the President of the United States. In late August, 1868, Peeples, Remerton Y. Lane and Iverson Griffin, one of the men who had been implicated in the Clift Bombing at Valdosta in April, were among the organizers of a political rally at Valdosta to be held August 27. The announcement in the Valdosta South Georgia Times read, “there will be a free barbecue at Valdosta. Speakers from a distance may be expected. Let every man, white and colored, turn out.”

At the Democratic Convention of the First Congressional District, held September 16, 1868 at Blackshear, GA, Richard A. Peeples and P.C. Pendleton were delegates from Lowndes County, along with W.H. Dasher, James Dasher, James M. Clap and G.G. Hammond. Benjamin Jones, J. E. Williams and H. T. Peeples were the delegates from Berrien County. Delegates from Appling, Bryan, Chatham, Camden, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Liberty, Montgomery, Pierce, Telfair, Laurens, Ware, Wayne, Brooks, Colquitt, Echols, Thomas, and Screven, as well as “colored delegates appointed by Democratic Clubs” were also seated for the convention [The Young Men’s Democratic Clubs were the public political wing of the KKK]. Richard A. Peeples offer a resolution, unanimously adopted, that the purpose of the convention was the nomination of a candidate for Congress in the election to be held March 4, 1869. On the third ballot the convention nominated Augustin H. Hansell as the candidate. The following day, the state House of Representatives in Georgia passed a bill permitting “none but intelligent persons to sit on juries, and exclud[ing] negroes from the jury box.”

Three or four times he [Richard A. Peeples] was elected alderman of Valdosta, and, once, was elected to the mayoralty.  At the organization of the County Court of Lowndes county in 1874, he was appointed Judge, and …held the position ever since, having been reappointed once; and his decisions were seldom reversed by higher courts.

He was ordained in 1876, at Statenville, in Echols county, the presbytery consisting of Elders N. A. Bailey, James McBride, E. B. Carroll and R, W. Phillips. He became pastor of the Statenville church, and, afterwards, of the neighboring churches of Macedonia and Bethlehem. He was for three years Chairman of the Sunday-school Committee of the Mercer Association, and through his instrumentality, mainly, the cause of Sunday-schools was greatly promoted in the eastern part of the Association. Indeed, all his time, which could be spared from his judicial duties, was given to this work, into which he entered most enthusiastically, organizing, by his own efforts, not less than eighteen Sunday-schools. Attended by the earnest-minded partner of his life, he would journey from neighborhood to neighborhood in Jersey spring-wagon, carrying along an elegant parlor organ, advocating the Sunday-school cause, and furnishing such sweet music and singing such beautiful songs, that all hearts were enchanted. Such zeal and capacity could not but succeed.

Mr. Peeples is man of liberal views, and … broad and comprehensive mind. His reasoning powers are of high order, superinduced by an inquiring disposition, and by habit of analyzing, in detail, every thought and subject presented to him. The creatures of his own brain, as far as such can be the case considering that men are but divine instruments, his sermons are characterized by clearness and independence of thought, rather than by impassioned eloquence. In religion, as well as in the affairs of the world, he thinks and acts for himself, with comparative indifference to the opinions of others, being guided by his own judgment. In his speech and manner he is frank and candid, while deceit is utterly foreign to his nature. Five feet and nine inches high, and weighing one hundred and ninety-six pounds, he is man of robust constitution, and bids fair for much longer life of usefulness.  – History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia

In addition to his legal, civic, and religious work, R. A. Peeples was an accomplished farmer and business man.

Atlanta Constitution
December 19, 1882

Valdosta, December 18.
…Judge R. A. Peeples is one of our largest truck farmers. He is now making quite extensive preparations, and will plant next year 130 acres in melons, 10 acres in cucumbers, and about 12 acres in Irish potatoes, besides two acres in cabbages. The Judge has experience in this industry, and your correspondent will have some interesting facts to submit in a few months in regard to the result of his large operations.

His brother, Henry T. Peeples, farmed in Berrien County, GA where he was the largest producer of rice. His nephew, Henry B. Peeples, was one of the early teachers in Berrien County.

About 1885, Judge R. A. Peeples built a brick commercial building at 200 N. Patterson St. to house R.A. Peeples & Sons, which he had established in 1872 as  Valdosta’s first insurance company.  Today, The main entrance of the Peeples Building faces Patterson Street , but originally the main entrance was on Central Avenue. This building in the 1890s was the home of Dr. W. F. Munroe’s drug store; He had a popular soda fountain and was the first to serve fruit ices. This building now houses Kings Grill.

Judge Richard A. Peeples died on Sunday, July 19, 1891. The Valdosta Times reported his death.

 

Valdosta Times
Saturday, July 25, 1891

Judge Peeples Dead. He Passed Suddenly Away On Sunday Morning Last. Brief Sketch Of A Remarkable Career. Judge R.A. Peeples is dead!

He was called away suddenly at two o’clock Sunday morning last. Heart disease seems to have been the cause. On Sunday morning the 11th inst., he was suddenly attacked with a very severe pain in the region of the chest. He suffered intensely, and Dr. Lang was sent for, but before he came the trouble passed off, and the judge was riding about town apparently in usual health a few hours after. On the Thursday following, he had another but lighter attack which soon disappeared. On Saturday, in response to a petition from a colored Baptist Church in the lower part of the county, he got into his buggy and drove down to the Stegall Plantation to settle a disturbance in the Church. Mrs. Peeples was uneasy about him, and after failing to dissuade him from going, sent Jim Johnson, a colored employee, after him in a road cart. The Judge went to the colored Church, but began to feel so badly he was unable to assist the colored people, and started on the return home. He told Jim several times to drive faster, that he was feeling very badly. He got home about dark, and when the anxious wife met him at the gate he said he was quite sick. He refused all importunities to send for the doctor, or some of his grown children living in town, saying that he was not near so sick as he had been. He retired but did not seem to sleep well – his wife keeping a lonely vigil, while their two younger children slept unsuspecting, in other rooms.

About two o’clock Mrs. Peeples noticed that he was breathing badly, and at the same instant, she heard him slap his hands together, probably to attract attention, and when she got to his bedside he was speechless. His son Cincinnatus was immediately dispatched for a doctor, but the Judge breathed his last, without a struggle, before the young man reached the front gate. When he died, no one was in the house but Mrs. Peeples and their daughter, Miss Fannie. Kind neighbors and friends soon gathered in and performed such services as they could for the afflicted family.

During Sunday scores of friends and acquaintances called to see for the last time a face and form which had been a prominent figure in this community for thirty odd years. Among them were a large number of our colored people, with whom he was always popular. The funeral services were conducted at the house at 9 o’clock on Monday morning. Rev. P.H. Murray, the Pastor of the Baptist Church, was absent from the city, and couldn’t be reached by a telegram on Sunday; and the Judge’s warm friend, Rev. B.F. Breedlove, Pastor of the Methodist Church, officiated in his stead, assisted by Rev. Mr. Reaves. The earnest and eloquent words of the preacher were brief but impressive. The house and yard and street in front of the house of mourning were filled with sympathizing friends. The active pall bearers were Messrs. C.C. Varnedoe, S.B. Godwin, L.F. Zeigler, J.R. Slater, A.A. Parrish and CR. Pendleton. The honorary pall bearers, Messrs. R.Y. Lane, W.H. Briggs, A. Converse, Thos. Crawford, J.O. Varnedoe and Louis Strickland. The funeral procession was perhaps the largest that ever moved through our streets to the cemetery. According to his frequently expressed desire his remains were laid away with the simplest ceremony, and without display.

Although some of his nine children lived many miles away all were present when this last service for his mortal remains were performed. Judge Peeples would have been 62 years old on the 14th of next September. He was one of the very first settlers in Valdosta, and has always been intimately associated with the growth and prosperity of the town. Once its Mayor, several times an Alderman, and always a public-spirited, hard working citizen, he has done perhaps more than any one man to make Valdosta the town she is to-day. For sixteen years he was Judge of our County Court, and during that long period he made a model Judge. His decisions were appealed to a higher court but seven times, and he was reversed but three. This record of able and eminent service stands without a parallel, perhaps.

Grave of Richard A Peeples, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: Cat.

Grave of Richard A Peeples, Sunset Cemetery, Valdosta, GA. Image source: Cat.

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Lowndes Grand Jury of 1833

When the May 1833 term of the Lowndes County, GA Superior court convened, the now defunct town of Franklinville was the site of the  County seat of government.   Lowndes then included most of present day Berrien county and the location of present day Ray City, GA.   This section of the country, Wiregrass Georgia, was then still an untamed frontier. As Montgomery Folsom described,  in the 1830s it was “a country that was well supplied with Indians, bears, panthers, wolves and other unfriendly neighbors…”   Dr. Jacob Motte, first doctor to visit Franklinville, observed Lowndes county “being so far south and in a low swampy part of the country had the worst possible reputation for health, and going there [in the warm] season of the year was almost considered certain death to a white man and stranger unacclimated.”

The year 1833 was in the administration of Andrew Jackson. John Coffee, a Jacksonian Democrat and builder of the Coffee Road which opened Lowndes County for settlement, was a U.S. Congressman from Georgia.  L.J. Knight, a Whig then serving as the senator from Lowndes in the Georgia Assembly, was a vocal opponent against what was seen as the executive excesses of “King Andrew.” Levi J. Knight was an original settler of Ray City. Knight’s father, William A. Knight, founding pastor of Union Church, was appointed in 1833 to visit the 35 Primitive Baptist churches and 1,010 members of the Ochlocknee Association situated between the Alapaha and Flint River to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association. That year L. J. Knight supported the founding of the State Rights Party of Georgia.  The party had been launched  by prominent Georgia political leaders  including John M. Berrien, for whom Berrien County would later be named.

The jurors of the 1833 Grand Jury came to Franklinville by horseback, sulky or wagon, over rude and uncomfortable stage roads described as among the worst in the state by Charles Joseph La Trobe.  La Trobe, an English traveler and writer, in 1833 rode from Tallahassee, FL to Milledgeville, GA  via the weekly stagecoach.

Franklinville, “At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house. The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.”  According to Huxford’s Sketch of the Early History of Lowndes County, Georgia, Franklinville was a small trading community of one or two stores and a few houses. Hamilton W. Sharpe, another prominent Whig of Lowndes County, regarded Franklinville a place of intemperance. William Smith, who served as clerk of the court, postmaster, and Ordinary of Lowndes County, was one of the few permanent residents of the town.  Attorney John J. Underwood was also a resident of the town and owned several town lots.  Henry Blair, who was sheriff of Lowndes County, held the Sheriff’s auctions in front of the old courthouse at Franklinville.

 

PRESENTMENTS Of the Grand Jury for the County of Lowndes, at May Term, 1833. WE, the Grand Jury, selected and sworn for the county of Lowndes, do present as a grievance, the conduct of James Touchstone, for frequent and repeated over charges in setting persons over the river at his ferry on the Alapahaw, in the county aforesaid.—Witness, William Roberts, Isben Giddens and Benjamin Sirman. And taking into consideration the badness of the roads, do earnestly and respectfully recommend to the honorable Inferior court, to use all diligence in enforcing the road laws for the improvement and keeping in good order our public roads. And also, having performed the duty devolved on us, in the examination of our county records, together with the records of our Poor School fund, find them correctly and neatly kept, and from an expose of the funds by the Treasurer in cash and good notes, find that the amount exhibited corresponds with the books. We cannot take leave of his honor Lott Warren, without tendering our thanks for his strict attention to the business of our county, and for the good order which he has enforced during the present term. Also we tender our thanks to the solicitor, Stephen F. Miller, for his polite attention to our body during the present term. W e request that these our presentments be published in the Milledgeville papers.
WILLIAM BLAIR, Foreman

Jeremiah Wilson,
Jesse Lee,
Nathan Hodges,
James Rountree,
Lewis Blackshear,
Elijah Beasley,
William Alderman,
Jeremiah Tillman,
Simpson Strickland,
William McMullin,
Thomas Self,
Isben Giddens,
Aaron Mattox,
James Wade,
Benjamin Sirman,
John Lawson,
Bani Boyd,
Alexander Campbell,
Francis Jones,
William Hendry,
William Burman, sen.

On motion of Stephen F, Miller, solicitor-general, it is ordered, That the foregoing presentments be published according to the request of the Grand Jury. I do hereby certify that the foregoing is s true copy from the minutes of the Superior Court.

WILLIAM SMITH, Clerk.
June 12, 1832 51

 

About the Jurors:

Jeremiah Wilson (1795-1877)
Jeremiah Wilson was a son of Captain James Wilson, Revolutionary Soldier and prisoner of war.  According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol II, Jeremiah Wilson, Sr., was born in Ireland. He lived for a while in Effingham county, Georgia, from there coming to the southern part of the state, and locating in that part of Lowndes county that is now included within the limits of Brooks county. The country roundabout was then heavily timbered, with only here and there an open place in which stood the cabin of the pioneer. Game of all kinds filled the forests, and the Indians, which still claimed this land as their happy hunting ground, made frequent raids upon the whites, ofttimes massacring many of the newcomers. [Jeremiah Wilson] was a member of a company formed for defense against the hostile savages, and for services which he rendered in various Indian warfares was granted two lots of land. The tracts which he selected for his own were in that part of Lowndes county now included in Brooks county, one lying six miles north of Quitman, and the other four miles to the northwest. He located on the latter tract, the removal from Walton county being made with teams, the only mode of transportation in those early days, before railroads were dreamed of. Clearing a space, he erected a log house, splitting puncheon for the floors, and riving shakes for the roofs. He was a well educated man, and did much of the surveying of public lands. In 1858 he surveyed and platted the town of Quitman. A successful agriculturist, he carried on general farming with the help of slaves, continuing to reside on his farm until his death at the age of seventy-two years.”  He married twice, first to Elizabeth Lucas about 1818 in Effingham County, GA, and second to Betty Lucas. The New Wilson Papers adds the following:  ” Following his marriage to Elizabeth Lucas, he moved his family to Walton County, GA; then about 1831, relocated to Lowndes County, GA. It is reported that he was also a civil engineer and well educated. He played the violin and was great lover of music. He also was a great fighter and never missed the opportunity for a good fight. He served in the Mexican War [1846-48]… Jeremiah was planter and slave-owner.   In the 1850 Census of Lowndes County,GA he was recorded to own 10 slaves. …[He] was County Surveyor of Brooks County, and helped survey the Florida-Georgia line [1857] He owned 300 acres of land on Lot #439 in the 12th District of Lowndes, which was seized by the Lowndes Superior Court and sold at auction on the courthouse steps at Troupville in 1849 to satisfy debts owed to James W. Smith and Samuel M. Clyatt.  In 1859, he laid out the city of Quitman, the county seat of Brooks County. His wife Elizabeth (nee Lucas) was blind for twenty years, but recovered her sight a short time before her death. She thereby had the pleasure of seeing her children and grandchildren. Jeremiah Wilson was a prominent Democrat of Lowndes County. He died in 1877.

Jesse Lee (1780-1853)
According to Folks Huxford, Jesse Lee was born in Marion District, SC, in 1780, son of Moses Lee. He was a brother of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland),GA. Jesse Lee and his wife, Sarah, had five known children (perhaps others): John Lee, born 1808, married Elenor Wetherington; Moses C. Lee, born 1814, married Jincy Register; Aseneth Lee, born 1820, first married Samuel E. Register; Elizabeth Lee, born 1825, married William D. Wilkerson; Winnifred Lee, born 1827, married John Studstill. Record is found in Marion County, S. C., of deed from Mr. Lee joined by his wife Sarah, to Malcolm McIntyre, dated July 30, 1806, for 100 acres same being a part of a 4434-acre tract granted Moses Lee (Deed book C, page 14, Marion Co.). Two years later they were living in Pulaski County, Ga,, when Mr, Lee and his wife Sarah, were witnesses to a deed dated April 23, 1808, from John Fielder to John Lee, of Laurens County, to Lot 56, 24th District (Pulaski County deed book A, page 3)In the War of 1812, Jesse Lee served as a private under Capt. Fort in a detachment of Georgia militia stationed at Forts Mitchell and Green on the Ocmulgee River in Pulaski County.  His brother, Joshua served as a captain at Fort Green. Jesse and Joshua Lee moved their families to Appling County about 1819, and a few years later they moved to Hamilton County, FL.  There, Jesse and Sarah Lee united with Concord Primitive Baptist Church about 1832. Shortly thereafter, they had moved to Lowndes County, GA, settling in the portion now Lanier County. There Jesse Lee died in 1853, and on May 2, 1853, his son, Moses C. Lee, and son-in-law, Samuel E. Register, applied for administration of his estate; they were appointed, and administered the estate. Mrs. Lee died about 1848. They were buried in the cemetery at Union Church; graves unmarked.


Nathan Hodges
Nathan Hodges came to Lowndes County, GA about 1828. He was a veteran of the War of 1812, having served in the local Tattnall County Militia. According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol II,  Nathan Hodges was, so far as known, a native Georgian, and about 1828 moved from Tattnall county to Lowndes county, settling some five miles south of the present site of Hahira. Lowndes county then comprised a much greater territory than at present, with Franklinville the county seat, which was subsequently transferred to Troupville. Nearly all the land was under state ownership, and directly from the commonwealth Grandfather Hodges bought a lot of four hundred and ninety acres, nearly all timber. [The 1835 Tax Digest for Lowndes County shows the property owned by Nathan Hodges, being all of Lot #85 in the 12th District of old Irwin County, was originally granted to his brother, William Hodges. Some say Nathan  purchased his Lowndes County homestead from William on October 13, 1827.] His family were sheltered under tents while he was erecting the first log-cabin home. For many miles around no mills had yet been built. He had brought with him a steel mill, operated by hand, for grinding grain, and this became such an institution that the neighbors brought their packs of corn long distances to be ground into meal. The date of the Hodges settlement was also several years previous to the final expulsion of the Florida Indians, and it was a not infrequent occurrence that marauding bands crossed the border and disturbed the south Georgians. A log fort stood on the grandfather’s place during these years, and it several times sheltered the inhabitants of this vicinity while hostile redskins were near. On this old homestead the grandfather and his wife spent their last years. They reared eight children, three sons and five daughters, namely: John, Daniel, Aleck, Elsie, Eliza, Caroline, Maria and Polly.

James Rountree (1787-1834)
James Rountree, it is said, was the first pioneer settler to build a house in Lowndes County, GA. The History of Lowndes County, GA reports that in 1821, the four settlers returned to that section of Irwin soon to be cut into Lowndes County. Sections in the north of old Irwin County had been settled and several counties had been laid out.  The families of James Rountree, Drew Vickers, Alfred Belote, and Lawrence Folsom and their African-American slaves were the first pioneer families to settle in the original county of Lowndes after moving there in the winter of 1821-1822. James Rountree was murdered in 1834 while returning home from the coast of the Florida Territory where he had gone to fetch salt.

Lewis Blackshear (1805-1880?)
A  pioneer land owner of old Lowndes County, arrived in the county prior to 1827.  He was a fortunate drawer in the Georgia Land Lottery of 1827, drawing a lot in Muscogee County.  By the opening of the Second Seminole War in December 1835, he owned 980 acres of pineland on Lots 250 and 257 in the 12th Land District, Captain Godwin’s District of Lowndes County.   Lewis Blackshear appears  on the 1836 militia roster of men living in the 660th Georgia militia district (the Morven District, Lowndes County); organized under Captain William G. Hall, this company of men was not in active service in the war.   Moved to Alachua County, FL some time before 1850, and later to Volusia County, FL.

Elijah Beasley (1775-1863?) 
a pioneer land owner of Wiregrass Georgia.  In 1820, Elijah Beasley, Rebecca Burnett Beasley and their family were residents of  that part of  Irwin County, GA which was cut into Lowndes in 1825 and later cut into Brooks County.  Irwin county court records show in 1822, Elijah Beasley put up the surety bond for Robert H. Dixon, administrator for the estate of Moses Jurnigan. In the Act of the Georgia Assembly that created Lowndes County, Elijah Beasley was appointed as one of the commissioners charged with selecting a county site for the old Irwin County. The 1830 census places the Beasleys in Lowndes County.  In the newly created Lowndes County, Elijah Beasley was enumerated adjacent to many others of his wife’s Burnett family connections.   Tax digests from that year show Elijah Beasley owned Lot 267 in the 12th District, Captain Pikes District (then Lowndes County, now Brooks).

William Alderman,
From Lowndes County militia rosters, it appears  that William Alderman was living in the 660th Georgia militia district (the Morven District) at the opening of the Second Seminole War  in December 1835. When Governor William Schley called for the formation of general militia companies in Wiregrass Georgia, William Alderman and 89 other men of the 660th district were organized under Captain William G. Hall. Hall’s unit was not in active service.

Jeremiah Tillman,
According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, “Jeremiah Tillman, a native of South Carolina, was there a resident when the War of 1812 was declared. Enlisting as a soldier, he came with his regiment to Georgia, where he was stationed until receiving his honorable discharge at the close of the conflict in Savannah. Being then joined by his family, he lived for awhile in Ware county, Georgia, subsequently becoming one of the original householders of that part of Irwin county now included within the limits of Colquitt county. Buying a tract of wooded land, he cleared a portion of it, and was there industriously employed in tilling the soil until his death, at the age of seventy-five years. To him and his wife, whose maiden name was Dicey Brown, six children were born and reared.” Jeremiah Tillman and Dicy Brown had the following children: Ruth Tillman, born 1789, married James M Norman; John Tillman, born 1798, married Sarah Mercer; Joshua Tillman, born 1800, married Mary Baker; Dicy Tillman, born 1808, married David Edmondson; Zilpha Tillman, born 1810, married Absalom Baker. Jeremiah’s homesite was located in the  area of Lowndes County, GA which in 1856 was cut into Colquitt County.  According to Folks Huxford, Jeremiah Tillman and wife Dicy Brown Tillman were buried at Old Hopewell Church, southeast of Moultrie. In the 1850 Census, Jeremiah Tillman was assessed with three slaves, one male age 19, one female age 17, and one female age 14.

Simpson Strickland (1806-1870?)
Simpson Strickland, was born about 1806, a son of Archibald and Luander Strickland, of Tatnall County, GA.  His father, Archibald Strickland,  fought with the 3rd Regiment (Wimberly’s Regiment), Georgia Militia, in the War of 1812. Simpson Strickland came with his parents and others of the Strickland family connection to Lowndes County, GA sometime berween 1820 and 1826.  His parents, Archibald and Luander Strickland, were organizing members of Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, September 2, 1826. William A. Knight was a deacon of this church; Matthew Albriton was an organizing Elder and later served as pastor; Redden Wooten was also an organizing member.   In 1829,  Simpson Strickland married Mary Wooten (1811-1851) in Lowndes County, GA. She was a daughter of Redden Wooten;  two of her sisters were married to Morgan Swain and Lasa Adams. In 1832, his father Archibald Strickland was a lucky drawer in the Cherokee Land Lottery. Simpson Strickland’s brother, Simeon Strickland, was married to Elizabeth Lydia Knight, daughter of Jonathan Knight and cousin of Levi J. Knight. Simpson Strickland in an 1850 Census, was recorded as owning three slaves, one female age 21, one female age 5,  one male age 4, and one female age 1. By 1860 Strickland had developed his farm into 140 acres of improved land and 440 acres unimproved. The farm was valued at $2000. He had $200 in farm implements, 1 horse, 8 milch cows, 12 other cattle, and 45 hogs.All told his livestock was valued at $315 dollars. He had 700 bushels of Indian corn, and 8 bales of cotton at 400 pounds each. He had 20 bushels of peas and beans, 400 bushels of sweet potatoes, 30 pounds of butter, 120 gallons of molasses.

William McMullin
William McMullin came to Lowndes County in 1827. In 1830 he  paid the poll tax in Lowndes County and the tax on 8 slaves. He owned 830 acres of pinelands and 150 acres of hardwood on lots 45, 46, and 47 in the 15th land district in Lowndes County, and a total of 740 acres in Thomas and Habersham counties.  William McMullin appears  on the 1836 militia roster of men living in the 659th Georgia militia district (the Nankin District, Lowndes County); organized under Captain Osteen, this company of men was not in active service in the war.

Thomas Self, (1777-1860)
Thomas Selph, son of Ezekiel Selph and Amy Jernigan, born in NC, moved to Bullock County, GA, to Telfair County, GA, and then to Lowndes County, GA some time between 1825 and 1830.  His old home site on Mule Creek, near Barwick, GA was cut from Lowndes into  Thomas County in 1850, and then cut into Brooks County, GA in 1858.  He died in 1860 near Barwick, GA  and is said to be buried at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church cemetery, Brooks County, GA.  His will was the 42nd will to be probated in Thomas County.

Isben Giddens, (1788-1853)
Son-in-law of William Anderson Knight and one of the orginal settlers of old Lowndes County. Isben Giddens and his son, William Giddens,  both served in the Lowndes County Militia during the Indian Wars of 1836-1838, under the command of  Captain Levi J. Knight.    Buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church, Lakeland, GA.

Aaron Mattox,  (1778-1860)
Aaron Mattox was a farmer of old Lowndes County, GA.  His farm place was in present day Berrien County near Ten Mile Creek. He was the father of Samuel Mattox who would be hanged for murder in 1843.

James Wade
James Wade, Soldier, McCraney’s, Lowndes County, GA was one of the lucky drawers in the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery.  The 1830 Lowndes County Tax Digest shows James Wade owned 980 acres of pineland on lots 13 and 296 in the 9th District of Lowndes, 490 acres of pineland on lot 203 in the 5th District of Appling County, and one slave.  He also served on the June 1845 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.”

Benjamin Sirman (1792-1863)
Benjamin Sirmans was born in Emanuel County, GA February 6, 1792, a son of Josiah Sirmans. He was married in July 1814, in Emanuel County, to Martha Johnson, daughter of David Johnson, Sr., and a sister to General David Johnson.  He came to this section with his father about 1822.  The children of Benjamin Sirmans and Martha Johnson Sirmans were: David J. Sirmans; Josiah Sirmans, Jr.; Ezekiel J. Sirmans; Cassie Sirmans, married John Smith; Lavinia Sirmans, married Aaron Tomlinson; Martha Sirmans, married Elihu Morgan; Lucretia Sirmans, married Charles Strickland; Benjamin E. Sirmans; Lyman A. Sirmans; and Levi J. Sirmans. On June 15, 1838 he served on Lowndes county Committee of Vigilance and Safety petitioning the governor for supplies and monies to support troops and militia to protect against Creek Indian attacks east of the Alapaha River in Lowndes County. Later that month, Benjamin Sirmans was appointed the first postmaster of the bustling trade center at Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA). Ten miles east of Levi J. Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. He united with Union Primitive Baptist Church, September 9, 1848, and was baptized. His wife had previously united with the church December 11, 1841, and was baptized and died a member. He was granted a letter of dismission on February 8, 1862. In February, 1850, a legislative act creating Clinch County named Mr. Sirmans as one of the five commissioners to ‘lay out and organize’ the new county.  Benjamin Sirmans represented Lowndes County in the legislature several years and served one term as State senator from Clinch County. He was also a delegate to the secession convention in Milledgeville in 1861. He died May 1, 1863, and is buried at the Fender graveyard. His wife preceded him to the grave by about seven years.

John Lawson (1783-c.1870)
According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, John Lawson was born and raised in North Carolina. He  “came when young to Georgia, traveling thither in his own conveyance. He located first in Laurens county, later coming south, and settling in that part of Irwin county which was subsequently converted into Lowndes county, and now forms a part of Brooks county. Purchasing land in the part now included in the Barney district, he began the improvement of a homestead. The wild and heavily wooded country roundabout was habited by wild animals of many kinds, and Indians were still numerous and troublesome. He began the pioneer labor of clearing the land, and raised his first crop on soil that had previously been used for the same purpose by the redskins. There being no railways in this vicinity for years after he came to Georgia, all surplus productions of the land had to be hauled to either Saint Marks, Georgia, or to Newport, on the Tallahassee, the general custom of marketing the goods being for a few of the neighbors to combine, and start with a number of teams loaded with produce, taking along with them provisions and cooking utensils, and camp by the way, on the return trip bringing home the household supplies needed. Having improved quite a tract of land, John Lawson occupied it several years, but later in life removed to Colquitt county, where he spent his declining days, passing away at the age of eighty-seven years. His wife, whose maiden name was Rachael Green, was born in North Carolina, and died, at a good old age, in Colquitt county. They reared four children, as follows: Eliza Lawson, Ashley Lawson, Greene Lawson, and Daniel Lawson.” 

Bani Boyd (1789-1854)
Bani Boyd was a son of Sarah Dabney and David Boyd, Revolutionary Soldier, born about 1789 in Montgomery County, GA. On February 3, 1811 Bani Boyd married Nancy Bird Bowen in Tatnall County, GA.   In the War of 1812 he served in the Georgia Militia, Bowling’s Detachment guarding the Georgia coast.  After his first wife died around 1820, Bani Boyd married Sarah Collins.  Around 1828, Bani Boyd and his son, Henry Boyd, moved their families  from Tatnall County to Old Lowndes County, where they established homesteads in that portion of the 10th land district which in 1856 was cut into Berrien County.  It appears that Bani’s brother, Aden Boyd,  brought his family to Lowndes from Ware County about this same time and settled in the same area. The 1844 tax digest of Lowndes County shows Bani Boyd owned 10 slaves and 1,960 acres of pinelands in the 11th Land District.

Alexander Campbell (1777-1875)
According to Folks Huxford, Alexander Campbell and his wife Flora Morrison were both born on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1777 and 1783 respectively. As children they came to America with their parents on the same ship following the Revolutionary War, arriving in 1788, the same year the Constitution of the United States was ratified.  The Campbell and Morrison families settled in the Wilmington, Brunswick area of North Carolina where Alexander and Flora grew up.  Some time between 1795 and 1810 they were married. Alex and Flora moved west from Wilmington and settled in Richmond County, NC. The first three of their children were born in Richmond County. With the declaration of the War of 1812, Alexander Campbell registered as a British subject  in the United States, as required by law About 1815 Alexander and Flora moved their family to Telfair County, GA where they appear in the census of 1820.  They lived there until 1827 when they moved their family down the Coffee Road to Lowndes County, Georgia and settled in the country outside of a settlement known then as Sharpe’s Store but now is Morven, Georgia.   In 1829 Alexander’s father and mother, John Campbell and Katherine Gillis Campbell, followed them to Morven; John Campbell died that same year. At Morven, they raised their children and developed a fine plantation. Their firstborn son, Norman Campbell, became a postmaster and tax collector in Lowndes County.  Alexander and Flora Campbell were liberal supporters of the nearby Mount Zion Camp-meeting which was started up the year they came to Lowndes, with Reverend Josiah Evans as the first circuit-riding minister. Originally Presbyterians, they united with the Methodist Church at the Camp Ground and continued in that faith until their deaths. The Methodist circuit-rider and other ministers always found a room prepared and waiting for them in the Campbell home. Alexander died in 1875, Flora in 1882. They were buried in the Mount Zion Camp Ground Cemetery at Morven, GA.

Francis Jones (1792-1849)
Major Francis Jones apparently came to the section of Lowndes County  now known as Kinderlou   sometime before 1826. He was the eldest son of James Jones (1764-1824) and Elizabeth “Betsy” Mills Jones,  born  January 27, 1792, in Bulloch County, Georgia.  His father, James Jones, was a veteran of the American Revolution, having served as a private in the Georgia Line.  Francis Jones and his mother were the administrators of his father’s large estate in Bulloch County.  He was also one of the executors of his deceased uncle,  Matthew Jones, in Tattnall County.  Shortly after his father’s death, Francis Jones relocated to Lowndes county with his widowed mother, his brother Berry Jones, and others of the Jones family connection.  On March 26,  1826 Francis Jones married  Rachel Inman Spain. She was the widow of Levi Spain and daughter of Daniel Shadrack Inman (1771-1837),   Revolutionary soldier of Burke County.  She had come from the Carolinas to Lowndes County with her son, John William Spain, and his wife Elizabeth Young Spain. John William Spain acquired 25,000 acres of land and built a house called Forest Hills overlooking the Withlacoochee River.  Francis Jones was a man of great wealth, and joined with his stepson, they soon acquired many more substantial land holdings in that section. He owned a number of plantations and many slaves and cattle. Major Francis Jones undertook the construction of a beautiful southern mansion (later known as Eudorafor his wife Rachel about 3 miles up the road from Forest Hills. Whether the Jones ever occupied the house is not known; he died before it was completed. Francis Jones served as a Justice of Lowndes Inferior Court from 1845 until his death, December 24, 1849.  He left a nuncupative (verbal) will which was probated in Thomas County.  He named Mitchell B. Jones as Executor and divised his large estate to his wife, Rachel, and to his brothers and sisters, viz:  Mrs. Lavinia Young, Matthew Jones, Berry M. Jones, Thomas Jones, Mitchell Brady Jones, Mrs. Elizabeth “Betsy” Jones Winn and Mrs. Harriet Jones Blackshear.   Francis Jones was buried at the Forest Hill Plantation of his stepson John William Spain. His widow, Rachel Inman Spain Jones, died at the home of her son, John W. Spain, in Brooks County, in 1862.

William Hendry (1783-1840)
William Hendry, third son of Robert Hendry , and Ann Lee Hendry, was born in New Hanover County, NC, Feb. 12, 1783. His father, a native of Isle of Arran, Scotland came to America about 1770-5; he served in the Revolutionary War under “Light Horse Harry” Lee and was at Yorktown at Cornwallis’ surrender. William came with his parents to Liberty County, GA and there married December 7, 1807 to Nancy McFail, sister to Catherine, wife of his brother John Hendry … On 28 August 1807, he was commissioned as Ensign of the 17th District of Liberty County...He served as 2nd Lieutenant in Captain Robert Quarterman’s Company, 2nd Regiment, Georgia Militia, in the War of 1812. In 1825 he was named a Justice of the Peace in the 17th District of Liberty County. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Lowndes now Brooks County, and settled in the vicinity of the Coffee Road crossing over Mule Creek, about midway between present Pavo and Quitman, GA and about 20 miles west of Troupville, GAWilliam Hendry was one of the prominent citizens of Lowndes County in his day…his upright and godly life and character has been handed down, by word of mouth, to the present generation… The Hendrys seem to have had skill building and operating mills in Liberty County and again on Mule Creek in his new home. He erected the first water driven mill in this part of Georgia. He engaged in farming and milling the rest of his life… William Hendry fought in the Indian Wars in 1836 and participated in the Battle of Brushy Creek. He was a member of the Methodist Church and was one of the leading spirits in establishing Mount Zion Camp Ground in 1828. He was named a Camp Ground Trustee in both the Act of Incorporation and the deed conveying the campground property. He was also named by the General Assembly December 28, 1835 as one of the Commissioners to locate the county-site of Lowndes County.  He died on his plantation near Mule Creek in western Lowndes County on June 6, 1840, in a typhoid epidemic which took the life of his wife and a son, Eli H. Hendry. He and his wife were buried on Mule Creek. James E. Hendry and William H. Hendry were appointed administrators of his estate. All of his livestock, furniture and other “perishable possessions” were sold at auction.

William Burman, sen.
The 1830 Lowndes County Tax Digest shows William Burman owned 830 acres of pineland and 150 acres of oak and hickory on lots 58 and 185 in the 12th District of Lowndes County

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