Double Jeopardy for Rachel Sirmans

In Berrien County, GA in the summer of 1873  there arose a dispute between Burrell Hamilton Bailey and Bradford Ray over what has been described as  “some family matters.” On 23 of June, 1873, while the two men were in the community of Alapaha, GA  the argument turned violent. The exact nature of the dispute between Bradford Ray and B.H. Bailey has not been known these many years, but the research of Phil Ray may now shed some additional light on the matter.

B. H. Bailey was the second husband of Rachel Sirmans Mattox.  She was the widow of Samuel Mattox who was hanged at Troupville in 1843. She was a daughter of Jonathan Sirmans and Martha “Patsey” Rouse, and sister of Hardeman Sirmans.

Bradford Ray, son of Hiram Ray and Rachel Jeffcoat (1817-1865), was the husband of Martha J. Swan. She was a daughter of  Sarah King and Benjamin Swan.

Marriage Certificate of Bradford Ray and Martha Swann, January 5, 1865, Berrien County, GA

Marriage Certificate of Bradford Ray and Martha Swann, January 5, 1865, Berrien County, GA

Up until 1873, everything seemed cozy between the Rays and the Baileys. In 1872,  Bradford’s father made a land swap with Burrell Hamilton Bailey,  trading the Ray place near Cat Creek for  another farm in the 1307 Georgia Militia District, Lowndes County, GA.  Bradford Ray remained behind to work for Bailey as a tenant farmer.   That same year Bradford’s brother, Josiah Ray, married Martha M. Bailey,  a daughter of Rachel and B.H. Bailey. 

In addition to these family connections Bradford and Martha Ray  and Rachel Bailey were connected in faith, as well, all being members of the Primitive Baptist church at Flat Creek, then known as Emmaus Church.

Flat Creek Primitive Baptist Church, Berrien County, GA.  Bradford Ray, Martha J Ray, and Rachel Sirmans Bailey were among the members of the church. Flat Creek was the site at which Berrien County was organized, February 25, 1856 following the creation of the county by the state legislature. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

Flat Creek Primitive Baptist Church, Berrien County, GA. Bradford Ray, Martha J Ray, and Rachel Sirmans Bailey were among the members of the church. Flat Creek was the site at which Berrien County was organized, February 25, 1856 following the creation of the county by the state legislature. Image courtesy of http://berriencountyga.com/

It was in the church minutes that Phil Ray found indications that trouble was brewing between the Rays and the Baileys:   I believe Bradford’s murder by Burrell Bailey was a result of this church incident regarding Bradford’s wife and the accusations by Rachel Bailey against Martha Swan Ray at Emmaus Primitive Baptist, May 3rd 1873. It festered and led to the murder. This is all speculation of course but it does seem to have played a part in it.”

The church minutes have been transcribed  by W. Henry Griffin, and entries of May 3, 1873 and July 5, 1873 are of particular note:

Emmaus Church (Flat Creek), A review of her history
The Griffin Papers,  Vol III, Pgs 78 – 79

 May 3d, 1873    

Martha Ray is reported in disorder and committee is appointed as follows Daniel N. McMillian, W. M. Avera and William Luke. Committee relies on statement of Mrs. Rachel Bailey and on her statement Mrs. Martha Ray is expelled.

Bradford Ray, her husband demands dismission. D. N. McMillian, Solomon Griffin and D. P. Luke are appointed as a committee to labor with him.

† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † †

July 5, 1873

Bradford Ray having died the case on the church books against him was dismissed.

While the contention among the women played out in the church, the men fought in the streets. The cause of Bradford Ray’s death was a confrontation with Burrell H. Bailey which occurred in the early morning hours of June 23, 1873, while the two men were in Alapaha, GA.  When the standoff turned violent, Ray pulled a knife; Bailey pulled a gun. Bailey shot Ray in the stomach, inflicting a wound which proved fatal two weeks later.

 “Ray lived until Sunday morning, 1 o’clock, 29th ult. [June 29, 1873], when the spirit of the unfortunate man passed away.  Thus were the hearts of two families made to mourn over an irreparable loss.”

 Burrell H. Bailey was indicted for murder.  For Rachel Sirmans Bailey, it was a sort of double jeopardy.  Her first husband, Samuel Mattox, had stood trial for the September 7, 1843 murder of William Slaughter and was hanged for the crime.  Her second husband, Burrell Hamilton Bailey, tried for the 1873 murder of Bradford Ray, was acquitted.  Later, the Baileys relocated to Florida.

Epilogue:

  • Rachel Sirmans Bailey died Apr. 14, 1876 and is buried at Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Sirmans, Madison County, FL.
  • Burrell Hamilton Bailey, after the death of Rachel Sirmans, married Mahala M. Taylor Boatwright. He died March 22, 1885 in Lafayette County, FL. His grave is at Salem Cemetery, Taylor County, FL.
  • Martha Swan Ray’s whereabouts after the death of Bradford Ray are unknown.
  • Bradford Ray died June 29, 1873. His final resting place is not known.

Special thanks to Phil Ray for research and contributions to this post.

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Showdown in Allapaha

In previous posts Phil Ray, a descendant of Hiram Ray of Berrien County, has shared his research on the land deals and connections between the Ray and Bailey families that ultimately ended in death (see Burrell Hamilton Bailey Sells Out in 10th, The State vs Burrell Hamilton Bailey).

Here is the story  of  how Bradford Ray was gunned down by Burrell Hamilton Bailey on the streets of Alapaha, GA in 1873.

Bradford Ray was the son of  Hiram Ray and the husband of Martha J. Swan.  In 1872,  Bradford’s father, Hiram swapped his place near Cat Creek with Berrien county farmer Burrell Hamilton Bailey for another farm in the 1307 Georgia Militia District, Lowndes County.   When Hiram Ray moved his family to their new place, son Bradford Ray remained behind to work for Bailey as a tenant farmer. But in the summer of 1873 a dispute arose between Burrell Bailey and Bradford Ray over some family matter. On the 23 of June, 1873, while the two men were in the community of Alapaha, GA  the argument turned violent; Bailey shot Ray in the stomach. Bradford Ray lingered with the wound for two weeks before it proved fatal. Burrell H. Bailey was indicted for murder.

Albany News, July 4, 1873. Burrell Hamilton Bailey shoots Bradford Ray.

Albany News, July 4, 1873. Burrell Hamilton Bailey shoots Bradford Ray.

Albany News
July 4, 1873

Pistol Fighting at Allapaha.

ELEVEN SHOTS EXCHANGED
ONE MAN MORTALLY WOUNDED.

Allapaha, Ga., July 1st, 1873.
Editors Albany News: – Quite a serious difficulty occurred at this place (Allapaha, Berrien county,) on Saturday, 21st June, between Bradford Ray and Bill Bailey.  The following are the particulars:
   Some two or three months ago, threats were passed between Ray and Baily, in regard to some family matters, which were carried into effect at this place, as the following will show:
     The meeting of the parties here, I am informed, was a premeditated arrangement. – Soon after their arrival in town, Baily got considerably under the influence of liquor, and fuel was added to the already kindled flame – the long pent-up passions were soon to leap beyond their bounds.  But through the influence of friends, they were kept apart. Baily, with pistol in hand, walked away, telling Ray (who was then making desperate efforts to follow him) not to follow him, if he did that he would hurt him.  After Baily got away all became quiet, until about four o’clock in the evening, when the parties met again in front of Mr. Dormind’s store, where the fatal difficulty was renewed, with the addition of another party, James Brogden, who was very drunk.  Had it not been for Brogden, I am confident that the affair would have passed off without the loss of life.  He approached Ray with abusive language, which caused several blows to be passed between them.  Seeing that Brogden, who was very drunk, was getting the worst of it, he was parted from Ray several times, but could not be controlled.  While this was going on, words were passing between Ray and Baily, who were in ten feet of each other, and as they were about to get together, Daniel Turner came up and tried to quiet the fuss; but by this time the row became general.  Ray had his knife drawn, and Baily his pistol. – Baily told Ray that “if he approached him, he would shoot him.”  Daniel Turner spoke and said: (I did not learn what he said only from Baily after the fight was over)  “If you shoot Ray I will shoot you!”  As soon as these words were spoken, Baily fired at Ray – the ball entering the stomach – then turned upon Turner, fired the second shot, which was immediately returned.  Baily then fired the third shot at Ray, inflicting a painful wound in his left hip.  Ray was at this time retiring from the scene of action.  The balance of the shooting passed between Turner and Ray – fortunately neither was hit.
     The pistols being emptied, all became quiet, and attention was turned to Ray, who was considered mortally wounded.  Baily was arrested by a Bailiff and turned over to Sheriff Mathews, (who was absent from town at the time of the difficulty) and held in custody until Monday morning, when he gave bond;  but as Ray daily grew worse, Baily’s bondsmen became uneasy, and on Friday, 27th, he was lodged in Nashville jail to await his trial at the August Term of the Superior Court, for the murder of a fellow-being.
    Ray lived until Sunday morning, 1 o’clock, 29th ult., when the spirit of the unfortunate man passed away.  Thus were the hearts of two families made to mourn over an irreparable loss.

ALLAPAHA.

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The State vs Burrell Hamilton Bailey

Burrell Hamilton Bailey and family were among those living in the 1144th Georgia Militia District, later known as the Rays Mill district, at the time of the Census of 1870.  Burrell was farming  and seems to be one of those few who came through the decade of the Civil War better off than he was at the start.  In 1870 he owned $1000 in real estate and $1547 in personal estate.

In 1872, in a property swap with Hiram Ray, Burrell H. Bailey acquired a place situated about four miles north of Cat Creek.

When the Baileys moved to their new place Bradford Ray, the son of Hiram Ray and husband of Martha J. Swan, stayed on as a tenant farmer. But in 1873 a dispute arose between Burrell Bailey an Bradford Ray over the management of the crops. On the 23 of June, 1873, while the two men were in Alapaha, GA the argument turned violent; Bailey shot Ray in the stomach (see Showdown in Allapaha). Bradford Ray lingered with the wound for two weeks before it proved fatal. Burrel H. Bailey was indicted for murder.

Following the charge of murder, Burrell H. Bailey seemed anxious for the trial. Court notes show his legal actions expedited the trial.

Phil Ray, a descendant of Hiram Ray, has researched the court records of Berrien county and provides the following information:

The State vs B.H. Bailey
Murder
And now comes the Defendant into court and waives formal arraignment & copy bill of Indictment, list of witnesses sworn before the Grand Jury, plead not guilty.
                                                  Peeples Whittington
                                                  W. H. Lastinger
                                                  H. G. Turner
                                                  A.T. Mcfrityon
                                                  Defts Atty

But bringing the case to court was a protracted affair as indicated in a note from Judge Hansell dated Sept 22, 1874:

 The State vs B.H. Bailey
Murder
It appearing to the court that W. S. Nichols a material witness in the above stated case has failed to appear at the term of the Court after being duly subpoenaed It is therefore ordered that said W.S. Nichols show cause instated why he should not be attached for contempt of court.
         A.H. Hansell presiding

The March 20, 1875 edition of the Valdosta Times reported on the actions of the Court when the trial was finally convened:

Monday was spent in organizing the Court and the trial of several petty cases – but nothing worthy of note.

Thursday morning the criminal docket was sounded and the case of The State vs. Burrell H. Bailey was called.  Bailey was arraigned upon the charge of murdering Bradford Ray on the 23 of June, 1873. Up to the time of adjournment Wednesday afternoon the examination of the State’s witnesses only had been concluded. [More of this anon.]

Court notes provide further details of the trial

 Berrien Superior Court March Term 1875
The State vs B.H. Bailey
The following is a list of Jurors chosen & sworn to try this case:

1 E.J. Williams           7 S B Dorminy
2 C W Corbitt             8 John M Futch
3 L A Folsom              9 Thomas D Futch
4 J.J. Williams         10 David Hancock
5 E J McDermid      11 James Patten

In the final verdict, Burrell Hamilton Bailey was acquitted of the charge.

The State vs B.H. Bailey
Murder in Berrien Superior Court March Term 1875
We the Jury find the Defendant not guilty.
J.M. Futch

The State vs B.H. Bailey
Murder in Berrien Superior Court March Term 1875

The Jury in the above stated case having returned a verdict of not guilty it is ordered by the court that the Defendant be discharged without a day

Aug H Hansell
Judge B.C.S.C.

 

Not long after the trial, Burrell Hamilton Bailey moved his family to Florida.

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