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.

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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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Burrell Hamilton Bailey Sells Out in 10th

Burrell Hamilton Bailey was a Wiregrass pioneer in the vicinity of present day Ray City, GA in the early 1800s. He was born 19 October 1826 in Irwin Co., Georgia, the son of Burrell Henry Bailey and Mary “Polly” Land.

According to the research of Phil Ray, Burrell Henry Bailey, the father, was appointed as a commissioner for superintending the first elections in Irwin County and was himself elected as an Inferior Court Justice in those elections held in March of 1820.  The very  first action of the Irwin Inferior Court was to authorize the Clerk of the Court to issue licenses to “tavern-keepers and retailers of spirituous liquors.”  Burrell Henry Bailey resigned from the court in May, 1821.

That July, Burrell Bailey and Isham Jordan were appointed by the Irwin county Inferior Court to survey and mark a portion of the first public road in Irwin county. Two years later, Isham Jordan would serve as a trailblazer and hunter for General John Coffee during the construction of a military road passing through the site of present day Nashville, GA and on southward to the Florida line (see Coffee Road Led to Creation of Lowndes County). Burrell Henry Bailey also served on the first Grand Jury in Irwin county in September 1820, and served as a Corporal in Company H, 4th Georgia cavalry.

After his father died in 1845, Burrell Hamilton Bailey sold his claim to Lot 241, a land grant of 490 acres in the 10th Land District,  Lowndes County (formerly Irwin County), GA.  This district covered a large area of Berrien county  including the present day area of Ray City, GA. Land records show that he sold this land to Bryan Edmondson in 1851.

(See Transcript below)

Burrell Hamilton Bailey 1851 land transaction with Bryan Edmondson, Lowndes County, GA (now Berrien County). Image courtesy of Phil Ray.

Burrell Hamilton Bailey 1851 land transaction with Bryan Edmondson, Lowndes County, GA (now Berrien County). Image courtesy of Phil Ray.

Georgia
Lowndes County

This indenture made and entered into the fifteenth day of September Eighteen hundred and fifty one between Burrell H. Bailey of the County and State aforesaid of the one part and Bryan Edmondson of the same place of the other part witnefseth that the said Burrel H Bailey for and in consideration of the sum of Two hundred and fifty Dollars to him in hand paid at and before the sealing and delivery of these presents the receipt where of is here by acknowledged hath granted bargained sold conveyed and confirmed unto the said Bryan Edmondson his heirs and afsigns all that tract & or parcel of Land situate lying and being in the Tenth District originally of Irwin now Lowndes County and known in the plan of said District by the number (241) Two hundred and forty One containing according to this plat is the Grant four hundred and ninety acres be the same more or lefs to have and to hold the said bargained premises to the only proper use benefit and behest of him the said Bryan Edmondson his heirs and afsigns forever in Fie Simple And I the said Burrell H. Bailey do by sinture of these presents warrant and find the aforesaid bargained prin Land from and against the claim or claims of myself my heirs executors administrators and afsigns and from the claim or claims of all and every other person or persons whatever unto the said Bryan Edmondson his heirs and afsigns forever in witnefs whereof I the said Burrell H. Bailey have herewith set my hand and seal this day and date above written signed sealed and acknowledged in presence of

Jesse Touchton                    Burrell H. Bailey
(2nd witness signature
not legible)

Enhanced detail of 1869 map of Berrien County, GA land lots in the 10th Land District, showing relative locations of Nashville, GA, Land lot 241, and homeplace of Levi J. Knight. Comparison with modern maps shows that the placement of rivers and streams is clearly distorted. Furthermore, this map shows General Knight's place located west of Cat Creek, when historical accounts indicate that the Knight homestead was east of the creek.

Enhanced detail of 1869 map of Berrien County, GA land lots in the 10th Land District, showing relative locations of Nashville, GA, Land lot 241, and homeplace of Levi J. Knight. Comparison with modern maps shows that the placement of rivers and streams is clearly distorted. Furthermore, this map shows General Knight’s place located west of Cat Creek, when historical accounts indicate that the Knight homestead was east of the creek.

In 1847 in Lowndes County, GA Burrell Hamilton Bailey married Rachel Sirmans Mattox.  She was the widow of Samuel Mattox who was hanged at Troupville in 1843, and had two children: Mary Mattox, born about 1843, and Aaron Mattox, born about 1844 in Georgia.  Rachel was the daughter of Jonathan Sirmans and Matha “Patsey” Rouse, and sister of Hardeman Sirmans.

After marriage, Rachel Sirmans and  Burrell H. Bailey lived at her father’s old home place.

In the 1850 Census  Rachel and Burrell are enumerated there in Lowndes County, with her two children and now with two daughters of their own;  Lavicey, age 3, and Winnifred H., age 1.  Living nearby is Rachel’s widowed mother, Martha Sirmans, age 59, head of her own household with her son, Abner (19).  Burrell H Bailey’s brother, Cullen Dean Bailey,  and sister-in-law, Elizabeth Ruth Herrin,  also had a farm nearby.

In 1856,  the Bailey’s land was cut out of Lowndes County,  with the creation of Berrien County.  Reader Sheri Felts contributes that Rachel’s mother moved sometime before 1860 to a place next to her son Mark R. Watson, where she farmed and cared for the children of her deceased son James Lemuel Kirkland. These children were Elizabeth Kirkland, John A. Kirkland, William O. Kirkland, and Rachel Kirkland;  Hardeman Sirmons was given actual guardianship of the children by his half brother James.

Rachel’s  brother, Abner Sirmans, took over her mother’s farm.  Rachel and Burrell continued to raise crops and children on their own place. The 1860 Census shows Rachel and Burrell H. Bailey and their children living on the farm adjacent to Abner Sirmans and his family.

Children of Burrell Hamilton Bailey and Rachel Sirmans:

  1. Luvicey L. Bailey, born April 26, 1848 in Georgia
  2. Winnifred H. Bailey, born about 1849 in Georgia died before 1860
  3. Lemuel H. Bailey, born March, 1851 in Laurens Co., Georgia married Mary Ann Gaskins on October 9, 1873. She was a daughter of Fisher J. Gaskins.
  4. Aurelius H. Bailey, born 1853 in Berrien Co., Georgia  probably died young.
  5. Martha M. Bailey, born March 14, 1854 in Georgia  married first Josiah Ray, this marriage ended in  divorce. She later married William Howard of Taylor County, Fl.
  6. Rachael Bailey, born April 1, 1856 in Taylor Co., Florida married John Slone of Madison County, FL
  7. Burrell H. Bailey Jr, born June 11, 1857 in Taylor Co., Florida married a  McLeod and moved to Madison County, FL
  8. Annie Eliza Bailey, born January 8, 1860 in Taylor Co., Florida married a Rowell and moved to Madison County, FL
  9. William Colonel Bailey, born April 10, 1862 in Berrien Co., Georgia
  10. John A. Bailey, born April 09, 1864 in Berrien Co., Georgia
  11. Sarah Almisy Bailey, born 1868 in Georgia
  12. Joseph S. Bailey, born May 30, 1870 in Georgia

Special thanks to Phil Ray for research contributing to this article.

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