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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Men at Beaver Dam Baptist Church

A group of men assembled at Beaver Dam Baptist Church (now known as Ray City First Baptist Church), Ray City, GA.  This was before the present brick church was built.

A group of men assembled at Beaver Dam Baptist Church (now known as Ray City First Baptist Church), Ray City, GA. The church building was the original wooden structure that served before the present brick church was built. (Identifications Needed.)

Walter Howard Knight, photographed at Beaver Dam Baptist Church (now known as Ray City Baptist Church), Ray City, GA.

Walter Howard Knight, photographed at Beaver Dam Baptist Church (now known as Ray City Baptist Church), Ray City, GA.

Walter Howard Knight, a son of William Washington Knight (1829 – 1863) and  Mary E Carroll (1839 – 1906), is the only identified individual in the photo above.  He was born November 28, 1859 in Berrien Co., GA and died June 13, 1934.  Walter Howard Knight is buried at Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

BEAVER DAM BAPTIST CHURCH
In 1874 when Mercer Association missionary Reverend J. D. Evans came to Ray’s Mill, GA  Thomas M. Ray was deeply moved by the Baptist’s message.  Thomas M. Ray must have attended the church meetings in the old log school house and the big revivals that were held in May and July, 1874, for he became instrumental in the formation of a Baptist Church at Ray’s Mill.  On September 20, 1874 a small group of followers met with Reverend J. D. Evans  at  the  home of Thomas and Mary Ray to organize the Beaver Dam church.  Thomas M. Ray. and David J. McGee were elected to represent the new church to the Mercer Baptist Association and were sent as messengers to the Valdosta Church. The Reverend J. D. Evans wrote a petitionary letter which they carried to the association. In November 1874 Thomas M. Ray was appointed to a church building committee along with James M. Baskin and David J. McGee. He served on the committed that selected and procured the site for the construction of the church building. He continued to serve on the building committee until his death.

The original wooden church building at Beaver Dam was constructed by W.A. Bridges and James M. Baskin (see Baskin Family Helped Found Ray City Baptist Church).  Construction began in  January of 1875.  Baskin and Bridges hand hewed the timbers to frame the church.   Sawn lumber were purchased but had to be dressed by hand. The building was finished with windows and siding. The pulpit, table and pews were all built on site. J.M. Baskin made the doors himself.