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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Richard Augustus Peeples

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

His father “Henry Peeples (1786-1854), a descendant of pure Scotch stock, was a native of South Carolina. Henry Peeples, born in Camden District, South Carolina, January 14, 1786, was possessed of a princely fortune which, by an unfortunate fire and by an equally unfortunate speculation in cotton, he lost soon after the war of 1812. Gathering up the wreck of his large estate, Henry Peoples moved to Hall county, Georgia, about the year 1821 or 1822, and settled where Gillsville, on the Northeastern railroad, now stands. Henry Peeples’ household and  and one slave were enumerated in Hall County, GA  in the 1830 census.  There he engaged in merchandising and a farming, but failed again.

By 1840, Henry Peeples moved his residence some 20 or 30 miles to the south. With his own wagons and teams he then brought his family and household goods… to Jackson county, Georgia [where he was enumerated in the 1840 census].

Richard Augustus Peeples had seven siblings, six brothers and one sister. His oldest brother was W. Jasper Peeples, for years a prominent lawyer in the Western Circuit of Georgia, and Solicitor-General for four years. Cincinnatus Peeples, a lawyer of prominence, at one time Clerk of the House of Representatives and afterwards State Senator from Clark county and Judge of the Superior Court of the Atlanta Circuit, was his second oldest brother. Henry Thompson Peeples, the third brother, married Melissa Camp on January 14, 1843 in Jackson County; he later became a lawyer, relocated to Berrien county, became a planter, served as Judge of the Inferior Court of Berrien County,  and for several times a member of the Legislature. Two brothers became substantial farmers in Florida. One died young. His sister Josephine Peeples Carroll died July 9, 1854 at Alapaha, GA.

…Owing to the financial embarrassments of his father, Richard A. Peeples obtained but limited country school education. He made the best of his school opportunities and eventually became well educated man and one of the prominent men of south Georgia. In 1842, when quite boy, he joined the Methodists, but the following year united with the Baptist church at Cabin Creek.

Before the decade was out, Henry Peeples moved his family yet again to the south, apparently leaving behind some debts.  He acquired all 490 acres of Lot #8 in the 10th land district of Lowndes County, but an 1847 legal announcement shows that this land and a slave, “one negro man by the name of Denis, about 45 years of age,” were sold at auction on the steps of the Troupville courthouse to satisfy debts owed to  Fennel Hendrix, E.D. Cook and Nelson Carter of Jackson County, GA.  But in early 1848, he managed to force collect on a debt owed to him by Dennis Duncan, said Duncan forfeiting  all 490 acres of Lot #34, 16th District of Lowndes County, to be sold at auction in Troupville to satisfy the debt.

In 1848 he [Henry Peeples]  came to Lowndes county, settling on Flat creek about two and a half miles from where Allapaha now stands, and there established a store, the locality hence taking the name of “Peeple’s Store.” He continued in active business until his death at the age of sixty years. – A History of Savannah and South Georgia

Richard A. Peeples at age 20, came with his father to Alapaha, then in Lowndes County but which in 1856 would be cut into Berrien county. In addition to Peeples’ Store,  his father acquired some 1530 acres of land and was enumerated as the owner of three slaves in the Census of 1850.

During his youth Richard began helping his father in the store and continued until, up on the latter’s death October 30, 1854, Richard assumed management of the mercantile affairs.  His brothers, W. Jasper Peeples and Cincinnatus Peeples, were by this time practicing law together in Athens, GA.  His brother and sister-in-law, Henry Thompson Peeples  and Melissa Camp Peeples, had by this time relocated to Atlanta where they also operated a mercantile store.

In 1850, Richard A. Peeples made a trip back to north Georgia, but not to visit his brothers in Athens or Atlanta. Instead, he went back to Jackson County, GA to take a wife. She was 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 in a ceremony performed by John Pendergrass, Justice of the Peace. The bride’s father, Berryman Camp, was born in Jackson county in 1800, followed farming there many years, and later settled near Cedartown in Polk county, where he died. Her mother was Elizabeth Lyle Camp.

Marriage of Richard Augustus Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp, November 7, 1850.

Marriage of Richard Augustus Peeples and Sarah Jane Camp, November 7, 1850.

After marriage Richard A.  and Sarah Jane Peeples located at Milltown where he was engaged in saw-milling for time.

In the summer of 1853, discussion arose among the people of northern Lowndes County and southern Irwin county who were remote from their respective sites of county government. There was a general feeling of need for a more convenient and satisfactory location for the people to conduct their business and governmental affairs.

A meeting on this subject was convened June 18, 1853 at the Flat Creek Post Office,  Richard A. Peeples served as secretary:

Richard A. Peeples worked on creation of Berrien County, GA. Albany Patriot, July 1, 1853

Richard A. Peeples worked on creation of Berrien County, GA. Albany Patriot, July 1, 1853

The Albany Patriot
July 1, 1853

Flat Creek, June 18, 1853

        Agreeable to previous notice, a portion of the citizens of Lowndes and Irwin Counties, met this day at Flat Creek P. O., for the purpose of taking preliminary measures in regard to the formation of a new county out of a portion of the above counties.
On motion of Jordan Tucker, Esq., Mr. Jas. Griffin, Sen., was called to the Chair and R. A. Peeples, requested to act as secretary. The object of the meeting being explained, the Chairman appointed a committee of twelve to report through their Chairman, Wm. D. Griffin, which was unanimously adopted:
        Whereas, a portion of the citizens of the counties of Lowndes and Irwin labor under manifest inconvenience on account of the distance of their respective county sites:
        Resolved, therefore, That we, a portion of citizens of the 5th and 6th districts of Irwin, and the 9th and 10th districts of Lowndes counties, will use all the means in our power to secure the formation of a new county out of a part of said districts.
        Resolved, further, That we earnestly solicit the aid of our fellow citizens of the two counties, to assist us in choosing                        Representatives to the next Legislature, who will use their influence to have an act passed organizing and laying out said county.
        Resolved, further, That the citizens of Irwin and Lowndes be notified of these proceedings by publication of the same in the Albany Patriot and Georgia Watchman.
        On motion the meeting adjourned.
        JAS GRIFFIN, Sr., Pres’t
        R. A. Peeples, Sec’y.

Upon the organization of Berrien county in 1856 Richard A. Peeples was elected to serve as the first Clerk of the Inferior and Superior courts of Berrien county.  He promptly moved his residence to Nashville,  the county-site of Berrien county which was then but mere hamlet far from railroads.   According to William Green Avera, “the first session of the Superior Court held in Berrien County, was held November, 1856, at the residence of Mrs. Amy Kirby, on the Coffee Road, one mile northeast of the present site of Nashville. Judge P. E. Love was the judge and R. A. Peeples was the clerk.

Peeples then served on the county committee to draw plans and specifications for the construction of the first Courthouse in Berrien County.

Richard A. Peeples was a Mason and had served as Entered Apprentice at St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184, constituted  at Troupville on November 2, 1854. According to the History of Lowndes County, GA, the lodge met on the first and third Tuesday nights upstairs in Swains Hotel, situated on the banks of Little River and owned by Morgan G. Swain.  Among other members of this lodge were Reverend John Slade,  Norman CampbellWilliam C. Newbern, William T. Roberts, James H. Carroll, Andrew J. Liles, and J. J. Goldwire.  Later, the St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was moved from Troupville to Valdosta, GA.

Another of Peeples’ fellow lodge members was William J. Mabry, who in 1856 moved to Nashville, GA, to build the first Berrien court house in 1857.

The academy in Nashville was built through the personal efforts of Richard A. Peeples in 1857, large part of the funds coming from his own purse. William G. Avera described the academy, the first school house in Nashville, GA, built with the cooperative effort of local citizens and the Masons, Richard A. Peeples being a Master Mason in the fraternal order. “They constructed an up-to-date two-story edifice, the upper chamber of which, they named the Duncan Masonic Lodge in honor of the venerable Duncan O’Quin…The lower chamber was named the McPherson Academy in honor of John McPherson Berrien for whom Berrien County was named. The street running north and south in front of the building was named McPherson Street. William J. Mabry became the first Worshipful Master of Duncan Lodge No. 3.

 

McPherson Academy, Nashville, GA which was also home of Duncan Masonic Lodge; it was at intersection of W. McPherson Avenue and S. Berrien Street, and faced eastwardly. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

McPherson Academy, Nashville, GA which was also home of Duncan Masonic Lodge; it was at intersection of W. McPherson Avenue and S. Berrien Street, and faced eastwardly. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

Two years later, Richard A. Peeples furnished half the money for the construction of Baptist church in Nashville. This church was across the street from McPherson Academy.

C. W. "Shine" Anderson, facing McPherson Academy, with Nashville First Baptist Church building in background. Image courtesy of www.berriencountyga.com

C. W. “Shine” Anderson, facing McPherson Academy, with Nashville First Baptist Church building in background. Image courtesy of http://www.berriencountyga.com

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.

Continued….Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

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Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick ~ July, 1861

Berrien County in the Civil War
Berrien Minute Men at Brunswick, July, 1861

Civil War letter of Robert Harris, 29th Georgia Regiment, while encamped at Brunswick, GA.

Civil War letter of Robert Hamilton Harris, 29th Georgia Regiment, while encamped at Brunswick, GA.

Even before the secession of Georgia, Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA, had gathered a company of men, styled the Berrien Minute Men, to serve as volunteer infantry.   Knight, an old Indian fighter, politicianrailroad investor, developer and social leader of south Georgia, anticipated of the formation of the Confederate States Army.  In the winter of 1860, he convened a meeting at Nashville, GA, seat of Berrien County which then included present day Lanier, Atkinson, Cook and Tift counties, as well as present day Berrien, where the company endorsed the Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men.  In the spring of 1861, the Berrien Minute Men encamped and drilled at Nashville, GA.  On May 17, a Grand Military Rally was held at Milltown (now Lakeland), GA on behalf of the Berrien Minute Men.

The following month, Knight’s company of Berrien Minute Men was ordered to  report for muster into the Thirteenth Regiment of Georgia Volunteers.

 

<em>Savannah Daily Morning News</em>, July 24, 1861 reports Berrien Minute Men have received orders to join the formation of the 13th Georgia Regiment, in replacement of  Colonel Paul J. Semmes regiment.  Semmes regiment, the 2nd GA Regiment, which had been on station at Brunswick, GA had been ordered to Virginia.

Savannah Daily Morning News, July 24, 1861 reports Berrien Minute Men have received orders to join the formation of the 13th Georgia Regiment, in replacement of  Colonel Paul J. Semmes regiment.  Semmes regiment, the 2nd GA Regiment, which had been on station at Brunswick, GA had been ordered to Virginia.

 

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 24, 1861
        The following named companies will compose the Thirteenth Regiment Georgia Volunteers, which will take the place of Colonel Semmes’ regiment, now under orders for Virginia, viz:
        Wiregrass Minute Men, Capt. C. W. Styles,
        Brunswick Riflemen, Captain B. F. Harris, Brunswick.
        Lowndes Volunteers, Capt. G. T. Hammond, Valdosta.
        Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Captain W. J. Young, Thomasville.
        St. Mary’s Volunteers, Capt. A. B. Dufour, Darien.
        Seaboard Guards, Captain John C. Nichols, Waynesville.
        Berrien Minute Men, Captain Levi J. Knight, Nashville.
        Piscola Volunteers, Captain William A. Lane, Quitman. –Atlanta Intelligencer, July 21st.

Per orders,  Captain L. J. Knight took his company of Berrien Minute Men to the Georgia coast where  they and other volunteer companies from south Georgia counties were garrisoned at Camp Semmes for the defense of the port at Brunswick, GA.  Camp Semmes, south of the city, had been established by Colonel Paul J. Semmes, commanding officer of  the 2nd Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry. The defense of Brunswick had been the responsibility of the 2nd Regiment until that unit was ordered to Virginia.

Around mid-June, General Lafayette McLaws, Brigadier General A. R. Lawton, and Captain William W. Echols  had visited Brunswick to inspect the troops at Camp Semmes.  Colonel Semmes and the 2nd Regiment had established security checkpoints for all vessels entering the port of Brunswick.

July 4, 1861 Colonel Semmes publishes a circular with requirements for all ships making port at Brunswick, GA. The Berrien Minute Men were among the companies detailed for defense of Brunswick.

July 4, 1861 Colonel Semmes publishes a circular with requirements for all ships making port at Brunswick, GA. The Berrien Minute Men were among the companies detailed for defense of Brunswick.

Savannah Republican
July 8, 1861
CAMP SEMMES.
Brunswick, GA., 4th July, 1861.
Public attention is respectfully directed to the annexed circular, and notice given that all boats are expected to conform to its requirements.  Passengers are ordered not to take passage in any boat until assured by its master of his intention not to disregard the same; and in order to avoid accidents or detention to themselves, to compel, if need be, his compliance therewith.
PAUL J. SEMMES,
Col. 2d Reg’t G.V., comd’g Camp Semmes
and the adjacent coast.
Circular.
HEAD-QUARTERS 2D REG’T G.V.,
CAMP SEMMES, BRUNSWICK, GA., June 25, 1861.
         I. On and after this day, all boats or vessels of any description, passing up or down the river, will be required to set their colors, or, if they have none, to heave to and report themselves to the officer of the day, at Camp Semmes, during the day.
        After sun-down every vessel will heave to and reply to the questions of the sentinel or officer of the day.  One shot will be fired across the bow of any vessel attempting to pass without heaving to, when ordered, and if, after one shot, she attempts to proceed, she will be fired into.
         II. The sentinels on the posts facing the river will be instructed to hail all vessels passing up or down the river which do not set their colors, during the day, and to hail all vessels or boats after sun-down as follows: Steamer, or schooner, or boat, ahoy! (as the case may be,) heave to! The sentinel will then call for the corporal of the guard, who will in turn call for the officer of the day or officer of the guard. The officer of the day will inquire, “What boat (or other craft) is that? – where are you from? – Where are you bound? -have you anything to communicate?” &c.  If the replies be satisfactory, the officer of the day will permit the vessel to pass on.  If any vessel, after a fair challenge attempt to pass, the sentinel will fire across her bow, and call – “The Guard:”
By order of
Col. Paul J. Semmes
W. G. Clemons, 2d Lieut. Co. G.,
Acting Adjutant.

Among the companies replacing the 2nd Regiment at Brunswick   were the Berrien Minute Men with the Thomasville Guards,  Piscola Volunteers, Seaboard Guards, Brunswick Rifles,  Glynn Guards, and Wiregrass Minute Men.

It is a noble thing to fight for our country, and glorious to die in her cause…O, who wants not be a soldier! ~ Robert Hamilton Harris, Thomasville Guards, July, 1861

While encamped there, Robert Hamilton Harris, of the  Thomasville Guards, described the camp and his experiences in a letter to Martha (Mattie) Love, his girl back home in Thomas County, GA. She was a daughter of Peter Early Love,  U. S. Congressman and  former Solicitor General serving old Lowndes County, GA.

A portion of this correspondence has been preserved and scanned in the collection of Civil War letters of Robert Hamilton Harris, housed in the Digital Library of Georgia. Unfortunately, the extant portion of  this letter is not dated. However, we can surmise from contemporaneous events described by Harris that it was written about mid-July 1861.

The partial letter begins in mid-sentence with the description of a ship:

the prize (a boat) before she reaches Savannah. Our men will probably blow her up should any U. S. vessel attack them. She is laden with near $40000 worth of sugar, and was captured by the Jeff Davis on the coast of Newfoundland.

This “prize” was the Yankee brig John Welsh which was captured by the Confederate privateer C.S.S. Jeff Davis  at about 6:00 A. M. on Saturday, July 6, 1861.  This event was widely reported in Confederate and Union newspapers. According the Civil War Naval Encyclopedia, privateers were privately owned vessels sailing under special commissions from their governments in time of war that authorized them to capture ships of an enemy power, be they warships or merchant vessels.  The privateer Jeff Davis was reconnoitering off Delaware when she discovered the  merchantman John Welsh. The John Welsh had departed Trinidad, Cuba, on the 22nd of June for Falmouth, England, having on board a cargo of 300 hogsheads  and 475 boxes of sugar.  She was owned by John Welsh, esq., of Philadelphia. The value of the ship and cargo was estimated at $75,000.  The officers and crew of the John Welsh were taken aboard the Jeff Davis as prisoners and a prize crew was installed. They sailed the John Welsh to Savannah where she was to be condemned as a prize and sold at auction.  Although Robert Harris’s letter made no mention of it, the following day, July 7,  the privateer Jeff Davis captured the schooner S. J. Waring and detailed a prize master and crew  to take her to Beaufort, SC. Three of the original crew, two seamen and the African-American cook, William Tillman, were left on board. Tillman, however, managed to retake command of the ship, killing the Confederate prize master, first mate and second mate.  For his successful action in retaking the ship and sailing her back to New York, William Tillman became the first African-American hero of the Civil War, and received a reward of $6000.00

Harris’ letter goes on to describe  the volunteer infantry companies at the Brunswick rendezvous, and the camp life of the men. This gathering of the companies was prior to their official mustering in to the Confederate States Army:

There are seven companies now encamped in Brunswick, viz. the Thomasville companies, the Berrien Minute Men, Piscola Volunteers, Brunswick Riflemen, Seaboard Guards, and the Wiregrass Minute Men, all of them very fine companies. We will soon be ready for double our number of Federals, and then we will feel easier.
    Our boys seem to enjoy themselves, and I know I do.  We have very hard fare, and have to endure a great many hardships, but we are healthy and have fine bathing facilities. Some of us are in the water nearly all the time. I plunge in regularly every morning at daylight, and spend half an hour or so in the delightful exercise of swimming, after which I don’t go in again during the day. I think this is the best plan.  A very large shark showed himself in our bathing place this morning, but we all went in as soon as he left, for we can’t forego this healthful pleasure because we happen to see a shark in the neighborhood.

Four of these companies, the Piscola Volunteers, Brunswick Rifles, Seaboard Guards, and Wiregrass Minute Men, would later be reorganized into the 26th Georgia Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, along with companies from Lowndes, Ware, Clinch, McIntosh, Pierce and Twiggs  counties.

Harris’ letter mentions that one man of his company, John Bernard, had attempted suicide by cutting his throat. But Dr. [Edwin A.] Jelks of the Piscola Volunteers [Brooks County, GA] was able to suture the wound and keep the man alive, at least temporarily. Jelks, who was a relative of  Harris’ intended, went on to become Surgeon of the 26th GA Regiment.  The 26th Georgia was also the regiment Albert Douglass would join after deserting the Berrien Minute Men in 1862.

Harris also included with his letter a sketch of Brunswick, showing the position of the regimental camp south of the city.

1861 map of Brunswick, GA showing location of the encampment of Captain Levi J. Knight's company of volunteer infantry, the Berrien Minute Men.

Robert Hamilton Harris’ 1861 sketch of Brunswick, GA showing location of the encampment of Captain Levi J. Knight’s company of volunteer infantry, the Berrien Minute Men.

The camp was situated south of the city on the bank of the Turtle River, with  the river front on the west, cedar groves to the north and south, and woods to the east. The Berrien Minute Men (marked B.M.M.) were positioned on the northeast corner of the regimental grounds with the rest of the companies on the north side and on the riverfront. The regiment kept a picket guard on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. The marsh on the east side of the peninsula Harris incorrectly labeled “Bloody Marsh” -the actual Bloody Marsh is on the east side of St. Simons Island. Brunswick’s wharves on the Turtle River are shown, as well as Oak Grove Cemetery, the Darien Road, the Waynesville Road.

Harris’ map also depicts a “prize” ship anchored off the Brunswick wharf.  This may have been a U.S. vessel captured by the privateer schooner Triton, of Brunswick, GA.  The Triton was the very first privateer to be commissioned by the Confederate government.  Confederate president Jefferson Davis had authorized privateers on April 17, 1861 and the Triton was commissioned on May 10, 1861, the  day the orders were published. The Triton was a small, 30-ton schooner, armed with a single six-pounder gun.

The railroad shown on Harris’ map would have been the shortline Brunswick & Florida Railroad, which connected at Glenmore, GA with the Savannah, Albany & Gulf Railroad and the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.  The Atlantic & Gulf was intended to serve as a “Main Trunk” for the two coastal railroads, and it was planned to stretch across south Georgia to steamboat docks on the Flint River at Bainbridge , creating a passenger and freight connection to the Gulf of Mexico.  By 1860, the Atlantic and Gulf had reached the site of Valdosta, GA, bypassing the Lowndes County seat at Troupville, GA.

Civil War era map of the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, running from Yankee Town (now Waycross), GA to Brunswick, GA - Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Civil War era map of the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, running to Brunswick, GA – Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

The captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Levi J. Knight,  was an investor in both the Brunswick & Florida Railroad, and the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.  The state of Georgia had also invested half a million dollars in Brunswick & Florida stock because of the railroad’s perceived strategic value.  An advantage of  these connections, it was said, was that the railroad could move men and materials from ports on the Gulf of Mexico to the Brunswick port on the Atlantic in 24 hours “in case of war between this country and a foreign nation.”   The B&F connection to the Savannah, Albany & Gulf also provided convenient transportation between Brunswick and Savannah, GA.

The Savannah newspapers noted that the Berrien Minute Men and the rest of the 13th Regiment arrived in Savannah on July 30, 1861 via railroad. At that time, they received equipment issued by the Confederate army.

Savannah Daily Morning News
July 31, 1861

Arrival of Troops
The Berrien Minute Men and Piscola Volunteers (Brooks county) arrived yesterday afternoon by the Albany and Gulf Railroad, and are encamped, together with the other companies belonging to the 13th Georgia regiment, on the parade ground. The following is a list of the officers of the former:
Captain – Levy J. Knight
1st Lieutenant – Thomas S. Wylly
2nd Lieutenant – Wm. Giddens
3rd Lieutenant – John C. Lamb
Ensign – Wm. Y. Hill
They number some eighty-five men, rank and file.
Those of the latter are:
Captain – Wm. A. Lane
1st Lieutenant – J. D. Morton
2nd Lieutenant – M. J. Culpepper
3rd Lieutenant – J. M. Rushin
This corps numbers some seventy men.

In August, the seven companies Harris noted at Camp Semmes were joined by the Camden Rifles and the Glynn Guards. On Saturday, August 19, 1861 these nine companies were formally mustered into the 13th Georgia Regiment, under the command of Colonel Cary W. Styles, of Ware county.

It appears that the Lowndes Volunteers and St. Mary’s Volunteers were late for reporting at Camp Semmes, and were not mustered into the 13th GA Regiment. The Lowndes Volunteers later mustered into the 26th GA Regiment.  Another Lowndes company (Company I, 12th Georgia Regiment) under the command of Captain James W. Patterson was already in Virginia.  General McLaws encountered them June 21, 1861 at Branchville, VA.

In a letter written from Petersburg, VA McLaws described traveling with the Captain Patterson’s company of Lowndes company over the period from about June 21 to June 24.

We succeeded in starting [from Weldon, NC] about 8 P.M. in an extra train consisting of twenty freight cars and one passenger car. I have said we, because on arriving at Branchville, from Augusta a company of 116 Volunteers from Lowndes County Ga got into the train, and from that time, there was an end to all individuality. I managed to preserve my seat entire, by piling my overcoat, pillow & carpet bag beside me. But they were all around me, in all various attitudes conceivable, and dressed and undressed as suited their humor or degree of heat, artificial or natural, they had steamed up to at the time – one person, the wit of the party, said that if any body would give him a dollar he would sit in his shirt tail, and for an additional half would then pull off his shirt. Most of them pulled off their shoes, some had socks and others none and many were only partially provided. As the heat increased the fetid odor was tremendous – which added to the insane idea peculiar to volunteers that it was the patriotic duty of each and every one to hurrah and yell on passing through any settlement,made the time pass remarkably slow. And whenever we stopped a moment there was a general rush out in search of water, and then when the conductor shouted “get aboard” various fellows would say “I cant find a board but can get a shingle if you want one!” – all of which added to the general hilarity and made the night rather a sleepless one. When the crowd was put into the baggage cars, the noise was none the less but it was further off, so that second night passed more quiet. But today the passenger car was crowded with them again, and the odors and the singing and the patriotic yelling was truly remarkable. The Lowndes company, however, are a very fine looking body of men and in fact are remarkably well behaved, and have a Captain who has them under complete control by the mere force of his personal influence, his name is Patterson and I have no doubt he will do credit to his state.

Unfortunately, through a lack of coordination there was some duplication in the numbering of the Georgia regiments, and as it happened, there was already a 13th GA Regiment in service in Virginia.  In a short time Col. Styles regiment was reorganized, with the majority of the companies remaining at Brunswick to form the nucleus of the 26th GA Regiment while the Berrien Minute Men, Thomasville Guards, and Ocklocknee Light Infantry were ordered on to Savannah, GA to be mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment.

About Robert Hamilton Harris:

Robert Hamilton Harris (April 19, 1842-April 29, 1929) of Thomasville, Georgia, was the stepson of Rev. Robert Fleming. During the United States Civil War Harris served in Company A, 29th Regiment of the Georgia Infantry, reaching the rank of captain. For nearly twelve years after the Civil War, he studied and practiced law. During this period he served as Solicitor of the County Court in Thomas county, railroad attorney, and Mayor of Thomasville. Harris became an ordained minister in 1878. He served as a circuit preacher in rural southern Georgia and as a pastor of Baptist churches in Columbus and Cairo, Georgia, as well as Troy, Alabama. In 1900, he accepted a professorship at Cox Seminary in College Park, Georgia, where he remained until his retirement in the 1920s. On October 13, 1863, Robert Harris married Martha (Mattie) Love (March 5, 1845-December 28, 1900). Martha Love was the daughter of Peter Early Love (1818-1866) of Thomasville (Love served in the U.S. Congress, 1859-1861) [In the 1840s, Love was Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit of Georgia, and served at the Lowndes Superior Court of 1845 which convened in Troupville, GA.]

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Grand Jury Presentments of 1845, Old Lowndes County, GA

In June of 1845, The Grand Jury of Lowndes County, Georgia convened for its 20th year.

Judge Carlton B. Cole presided, with Peter E. Love as Solicitor General,  and Duncan Smith served as clerk of the Court.

1845 Grand Jury Presentments, Lowndes County, GA

1845 Grand Jury Presentments, Lowndes County, GA

Milledgeville Federal Union
June 24, 1845

Presentments

Of the Grand Jury of Lowndes county, June Term, 1845.
We the Grand Jurors, sworn, chosen and selected for the county of Lowndes, make the following presentments:

We have examined the conditions of our Court-house, and find it to be rather in bad condition, and would recommend some action to have it kept in a more cleanly situation.

We have also examined the condition of our Jail, and find it to be in a very unsafe condition, and would recommend good and sufficient repairs.

We have examined the Clerk’s books of our Superior and Inferior Courts, and find them kept in good order.

We have had under our consideration, the situation of the Public roads of our county, and would especially recommend the Inferior Court, to have them placed in a good condition as early as possible.

We have had under consideration, and have thoroughly examined the books and papers of the Treasurer of the Poor School Fund of said county, and find that the Notes are not taken in accordance with the rules and regulations, and furthermore, would recommend a speedy renewal or collection of said Notes; and we specially recommend further, a collection of sufficient amount to settle all the accounts that are yet unpaid.

We further recommend our Inferior Court, to levy a tax for county purposes.

In taking leave of his Honor Judge Cole, the Grand Jury render to him their thanks, for the prompt discharge of the duties of his office, and the courtesy he has extended to this body, during the present term of the Court – also to the Solicitor General, for his courtesy and prompt attention to business, during this term.

And before closing our duties, we would earnestly recommend to our citizens generally, and more especially to the persons who may represent this county in the general assembly of the State, to use their endeavors at the approaching election, for a Judge of this Circuit, to continue in office, the individual who now fills and has for some time filled the office. During the whole period of his services, his administration has been distinguished by the most eminent legal abilities, and a stern and impartial desire to execute the laws without fear of favor. We therefore deem it not only expedient, but necessary that one who has proved himself a good, faithful and able servant, should be continued in an office to which he adds so much dignity.

We the Grand Jury, request that our presentments be published in the Southern Recorder and Federal Union.

Robert Micklejohn, Foreman.

Judge Carleton Bicknell Cole (1803-1876)
Carlton B. Cole twice served as judge of the Southern Circuit and later presided over the courts of the Macon Circuit. In 1848, he was defense attorney for  Manuel and Jonathan Studstill, in the September 7, 1843 murder of William Slaughter, facing Augustin H. Hansell, solicitor general, for the prosecution. About Carlton Bicknell Cole: son of George Abbott Cole and Emmeline (Carleton) Cole. Born in Amherst, MA, August 3, 1803. Graduated Middlebury College, VT, in 1822. Taught and studied law in North Carolina. Admitted to the bar, 1826, and in 1827 removed to Macon, GA. Married Susan Taylor, September 6, 1827. (Children: Ann Eliza; Emmeline Carleton; John Taylor; George Abbott; Carleton Bicknell.) Incorporator and stockholder of The Commercial Bank at Macon, 1831. Judge of the Southern Circuit Court of Georgia, 1833-1847. Chairman of the Convention of Judges of the Superior Courts of Georgia, 1840. Operated a private law school at Midway, GA, 1844-1845. Opened a law practice in Milledgeville, GA, 1846. Admitted to practice before the Georgia Supreme Court, 1846. Chair of the Democratic Republican party of Twiggs County, 1847; A pro-Union Democrat in politics. Professor of Law, Oglethorpe University, 1847-1854. Resumed his law practice in Macon, 1854. Delegate to the State Constitutional Convention, 1865. Judge of the Macon Circuit Court, 1865-1873. Professor of Law, Mercer University, 1875-1876.  Died in Macon, GA, January 23, 1876.

Peter E. Love  (1818 – 1866)
Peter Early Love, Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit of Georgia, served at the Lowndes Superior Court of 1845.  He was born near Dublin, Laurens County, Ga., July 7, 1818; graduated from Franklin College (now a part of the University of Georgia), Athens, Ga., in 1829 and from the Philadelphia College of Medicine in 1838; practiced medicine while studying law; admitted to the bar in 1839 and commenced practice in Thomasville, Thomas County, GA; solicitor general of the southern district of Georgia in 1843; member of the State senate in 1849; elected judge of the State Superior Court for the Southern Circuit in 1853; elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-sixth U.S. Congress and served from March 4, 1859, until his retirement on January 23, 1861; resumed the practice of law in Thomasville, Ga.; member of the State house of representatives in 1861; died in Thomasville, Ga., November 8, 1866; interment in the Old Cemetery.  His daughter, Martha “Mattie” Love, married Robert Harris Hamilton, who was Captain of the Thomasville Guards; this company served in the 29th Georgia Regiment, along with the Berrien Minute Men.

Duncan Smith (1816-1852)

Duncan Smith was born 1816 in Scotland. He moved to Lowndes County, GA some time before 1838, and by 1844 he had acquired 245 acres in the 10th Land District. Some time prior to 1846 Duncan Smith acquired Lot No. 72 in the town of Troupville. He was a member of the Democratic Republican party of Georgia. Justice of the Lowndes Inferior Court, 1840-44.  From January 16, 1844 to his death in 1852 Duncan Smith served as Clerk of Lowndes County Superior Court.

Grand Jurors
The jurors were Samuel E. Swilley, John W. Spain, John Carter, Sr., Enoch Hall, Matthew M. Deas, James Wade, Jesse Hunter, Mathew Young, James McMullen, John McMullen, James Sowell, A. S. Smith, William H. Devane, Sampson G. Williams, William Folsom, Thomas B. Griffin, David Matthis, Ezekiel W. Parrish, Dennis Wetherington, Joshua Limeberger, and Henry Strickland, with Robert Micklejohn serving as foreman of the Jury.

 

An Antebellum Trial at Troupville

In 1932, James Nicholas Talley, a son of Berrien County, GA and member of the Macon Bar, published a dramatic account of court proceedings  that occurred in the 1840s in Troupville, county seat of old Lowndes County, Georgia.  Samuel Mattox, son of Aaron Mattox,  was charged in the September 7, 1843 murder of William Slaughter. The Studstill brothers,  Jonathan and Emanuel “Manny” Studstill, sons of Rachel Sirmans and Hustus Studstill (aka Eustus Studstill), were also implicated in the crime. In 1836, Samuel Mattox had been the first to discover Indians were active in then Lowndes county near Ten Mile Creek, prior to the Battle of Brushy Creek.  Ten Mile Creek, the locality of the Slaughter murder, lies slightly northeast of present day Ray City, GA.

Talley’s narrative of the murder of the Slaughter boy and the trials that ensued are transcribed below, along with contemporaneous news clippings of the events and other supplemental information.

AN ANTEBELLUM TRIAL AT TROUPVILLE

By J. N. TALLEY, of the Macon Bar

Late in the afternoon of September seventh, Eighteen Forty-three, a fifteen-year-old boy, William Slaughter, rode through the pine woods near Ten Mile creek. He was driving up a herd of cattle, for it was milking time at his father’s pioneer settlement in the upper part of Lowndes.

At a distant clearing, the calves having been rounded up and penned, Samuel Mattox and his wife, Rachel, the milker, stood at the pasture bars. With them were two young men of the neighborhood, Jonathan Studstill and his brother, Manuel, who had come over to see Mattox and make plans for an early deer hunt. While they were waiting somewhat impatiently for the cows, Manuel displayed a gun which he had brought along, a rifle  so rusty and antiquated in pattern that he declared, to the amusement of the group, it wouldn’t kill a steer at fifteen steps. They were “all in a laugh,” when the straggling herd, guided by the mounted boy, came into sight a quarter of a mile away.

The ford was soon reached, but there horse and rider stopped and, scattering out over a wiregrass level, the cows began to graze.

Observing from the calf lot this delay at the ford, Jonathan with a loud halloo ordered the boy to “come on.” William doubtless did not hear the command, for he continued to await the arrival of a brother from across the creek. From his stand by the fence, possibly actuated by the instinct of the hunter, perhaps-for no reason at all, Mattox closely contemplated the distant youthful figure in the fading light dimly outlined against the dense foliage of the swamp. While Mattox was so engaged, Manuel handed him the rifle and suggested that he shoot. Jonathan likewise said “shoot,” adding that the old firearm wouldn’t hit the side of a house. “Moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil”, as was afterwards charged, Mattox took aim and sighted, first however, it is said, deliberately resting the rifle barrel on a heap of brush. “Stop” screamed Rachel, but the shot rang out, and through the clearing smoke the unoffending lad was seen to fall from his saddle.

Dropping the gun and leaving Rachel at the pasture bars, the men ran to the ford and found the stricken boy. Horrified they discovered that the ball, speeding with unexpected force and accuracy, had penetrated his skull. ­Realizing that the report of the gun had carried far and thinking to avert suspicion, Jonathan and Mattox roughly pressed a pine stick through the open wound into the substance of the brain. Upon receiving this shock, the prostrate and apparently lifeless form arose and for one awful moment stood, face distorted by pain and wide unseeing eyes fixed upon Jonathan. Seizing the horse, which had remained standing by its unconscious master,  Manuel rode away to summons help. Later when Samuel Slaughter, the brother, and [Captain John] Sanderson, a neighbor arrived, and the mother came up in her cart, they were told by Mattox and Jonathan how a random shot fired from across the creek had frightened the horse, how the boy had been violently thrown, and how in falling his head struck a pine knot. Pointing to the stick, Jonathan declared to the mother, “that snag proved your son’s death.”

Early next morning young Slaughter died. The locality where he was shot is still known locally as Slaughter’s Ford and is some five or six miles from the present town of Nashville in Berrien county.

 

Cause of Death Revealed by Hole in Hat.

The remote rural community had been thoroughly aroused. Samuel Slaughter, who heard the shot, maintained that it came from the direction of the calf pen, for at the time he himself had been “across the creek.”  The Studstills, Mattox and Rachel did much talking, and after several days Mattox acknowledged that it was he who fired the “random shot” which frightened the horse. The theory of accidental death was being generally accepted until one day Moses Slaughter at home took down his son’s hat and found a hole, clear cut and evidently made by a bullet. Then Sanderson, who had removed the stick, remembered that instead of being jammed it was loose and moved with the pulsations of the brain. The body was disinterred, a post-mortem made by Dr. Briggs of Troupville, and a rifle ball found imbedded in the left side of the head.

 A Warrant issued for the arrest of Mattox, who promptly sought refuge in the thickets about a secluded pool, afterwards called “the Mattox pond,” and now crossed by State Highway No. 11.


At this point in J. N. Talley’s story we can add that Samuel Mattox was captured and taken to Troupville, GA where he was incarcerated in the county jail. During this time the Jailor in Troupville was Morgan Swain, who was also a blacksmith and innkeeper.  Swain’s Hotel was favored by courtgoers, amicus curiae, and the just plain curious who flocked to town on court days.

As it happened, Mattox was held with cellmates Tarlton Swain and John Strickland.  Tarlton “Talt” Swain was the brother of Morgan Swain, and whereas Morgan represented law and order, Talt Swain and his posse were the community Bad Boys.  It is said that Talt  not being of a mind to take chances with a court trial, effected an escape.  The Milledgeville Federal Union reported the fugitives’ flight and the Governor’s offer of reward for their capture:

Samuel Mattox escapes from Troupville, GA jail, 1843.

Federal Union, Nov. 21, 1843 — page 1

GEORGIA:

A Proclamation

By Charles J. McDonald, Governor of said State.

Whereas, official information has been received at this Department, that SAMUEL MATTOX, charged with the offence of murder, and TARLTON SWAIN and JOHN STRICKLAND, charged with the offence of aiding prisoner to escape from Jail, in the county of Lowndes, have made their escape from the Jail of said county.  Now in order that the said Samuel Mattox, Tarlton Swain and John Strickland, may be brought to trial for the offence of which they stand charged; I have thought proper to issue this my Proclamation, hereby offering a reward of ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, for the apprehension and delivery of either, or THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS for all three, to the Sheriff or Jailer of said county; and I do moreover, charge and require all officers, civil and military in this State, to aid and assist in apprehending and securing said fugitives.
Given under my hand, and the Great Seal of the State, at the Capitol in Milledgeville, this the 7th day of November, 1843, and of the American Independence the sixty-eighth.

CHARLES J. McDONALD.

By the Governor,

J. W. A. Sanford, Secretary of State,

Nov. 7 1843.

The Governor’s offer of a reward was issued by Georgia Secretary of State John William Augustine Sanford.  Sanford had been prosecutor Augustin H. Hansell‘s commanding officer in the Indian Wars of 1836.

It is interesting to note that the legal classified advertisement following the reward announcement  above was for the law offices Samuel Spencer and H. S. Stewart.  Spencer’s presence in Troupville, or the lack thereof, would figure prominently in later court proceedings during the trial of Jonathan Studstill.

Mattox was apparently captured in a timely manner and remanded back to the jail at Troupville to stand trial.

Resuming the account by J.N. Talley:

Mattox Convicted

At Troupville, Mattox was put on trial for his life, convicted, and sentenced to death. The many vital questions argued by counsel were finally decided by the then highest judicial authority, a superior court judge, for there was no supreme court, and no appeal.

New York Herald, June 24, 1844. Samuel Mattox convicted of murder in Lowndes County, GA.

New York Herald, June 24, 1844. Samuel Mattox convicted of murder in Lowndes County, GA.

The execution took place in July (probably 1844) on a hill just east of the Withlacoochee river, and was conducted by sheriff John Towels, who happened to be an intimate friend of the victim. The hanging was witnessed by a crowd said to have been the largest, with one exception, ever assembled at Troupville, the exception being a circus in the late 50’s which for all time set an attendance record at Lowndes’ antebellum capital.

1844 Hanging of Samuel Mattox at Troupville, GA was reported in the Milledgeville Southern Reporter, August 13, 1844 edition.

1844 Hanging of Samuel Mattox at Troupville, GA was reported in the Milledgeville Southern Reporter, August 13, 1844 edition.

Milledgeville Southern Reporter
August 13, 1844

Troupville, Lowndes Co.,
July 30, 1844.

Messrs. Editors:  – Samuel Mattox was found guilty of the murder of William Slaughter, at the last term of our Court, and sentenced to be hung on Friday last, which was done in presence of one thousand persons, as we suppose; and the very next day, (last Saturday.) Alexander McFail killed Ebenezer J. Perkins, by stabbing him. Thus it is among us: one scene of murder succeeds another in such rapid succession, that it is alarming and distressing. McFail has fled.

Truly yours, &c.

J. N. Talley noted in his narrative that, “The records of the Mattox trial were destroyed when the courthouse burned in June, 1858.” From later news clippings, we know that one of the jurors was Ajaniah Smith, who later moved to Baker’s Mill, FL.

Tifton Gazette, March 8, 1901 clipping indicates Ajaniah Smith served on the jury at the trial of Samuel Mattox in 1844.

Tifton Gazette, March 8, 1901 clipping indicates Ajaniah Smith served on the jury at the trial of Samuel Mattox in 1844.

Tifton Gazette
March 8, 1901

Mr. A. Smith, of Baker’s Mill, Fla., is one of the old-timers in this section and was the first sheriff that Brooks county had.  He also fought the Indians in this section, and served on the jury which hanged Samuel Mattox for the murder of a son of Moses Slaughter, in Berrien county many years ago. – Valdosta Times.

Talley documents that  in the matter of the murder of William Slaughter the legal proceedings were an incredibly drawn out affair, stretching over a seven year period. His narrative picks up in 1848 with the trial of Jonathan Studstill, who allegedly aided and abetted the murder of Slaughter.

The Studstill Case

The Studstill brothers had been indicted for murder in the second degree, a capital felony. The charge against them was not tried until 1848, five years after the crime had been committed. Throughout this long period Jonathan languished in Troupville’s little jail near the banks of the Withlacoochee. In the meantime Rachel Mattox had become Rachel Bailey. This comely, young woman seemed dogged by the spectre of crime. Her second husband [Burrell Hamilton Bailey] some years later was also tried for murder, but found not guilty.  (SEE Showdown in Allapaha and  The State vs Burrell Hamilton Bailey)

Troupville in 1848, boasted of three hotels and four lawyers. The resident bar, normally adequate for local needs, was more or less eclipsed by the semi-annual advent of the circuit riders. These perambulatory dignitaries, traveling in gigs and sulkies or on horseback, that year had begun their ­”Fall’ riding at Dublin on the first Monday in September.

An Old Indictment

The following indictment had been returned against Jonathan and Manuel Studstill:

GEORGIA, LOWNDES COUNTY.

The Grand Jurors, etc., in the name and behalf of the citizens of Georgia, charge and accuse Manuel Studstill and Jonathan Studstill, both of the County and State aforesaid, with the offence of murder, as principals in the second degree. For that one Samuel Mattox, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on the 7th day of September, 1843, with force and arms in the County aforesaid, in and upon one William Slaughter, in the peace of the State then and there being, feloniously, unlawfully, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, then and there did make an assault, and that he, the said Samuel Mattox a certain rifle gun of the value of twenty dollars, the property of Manuel Studstill, then and there being found, the said rifle gun being then and there charged with gunpowder and a leaden bullet, which rifle gun he, the said Samuel Mattox, in both his hands then and there had and held at, against and upon him, the said William Slaughter, then and there feloniously, unlawfully, and of his malice aforethought, did discharge and shoot off; and that he, the said Samuel Mattox, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, by force of the gunpowder aforesaid, so by him, the said Samuel Mattox as aforesaid, discharged and shot off, him, the said William Slaughter, in and upon the left side of the head of him, the said William Slaughter, then and there feloniously, unlawfully, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did strike and wound, giving to the said William Slaughter, then and there, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, out of the said rifle gun, so as aforesaid discharged and shot off, in and upon the said left side of the head of him, the said William Slaughter, one mortal wound of the breadth of one inch and depth of two inches, of which said mortal wound he, the said William Slaughter, on and from the said 7th day September, in the year aforesaid, until the 8th day of September, in the year aforesaid, at the house of one Moses Slaughter, in the County aforesaid, did languish, and languishing did live, on which said 8th day of September, in the year aforesaid, about the hour of nine o’clock, in the morning, he, the said William Slaughter, at the house of said Moses Slaughter, in the County aforesaid, of the mortal wound aforesaid, died.

And the jurors aforesaid, on their oaths aforesaid, do say, that the said Manuel Studstill and the said Jonathan Studstill, on the said 7th day of September, in the year aforesaid, in the County and State aforesaid, then and there feloniously, wilfully, unlawfully, and of their malice aforethought, were present, aiding helping, abetting, comforting, assisting and maintaining the said Samuel Mattox in the felony and murder aforesaid, in manner and form aforesaid, to do and commit, contrary to the laws of said State, etc.

This indictment language, convoluted and legally flawed as it was, became an exemplar of indictments, and was cited in legal forms encyclopedias for decades afterwards.  Although the Lowndes court records of this trial were also lost in the courthouse fire of 1858, we know from other court records that the foreman of the jury was Thomas M. Boston.

The Court Room

The State against Manuel and Jonathan Studstill, murder, was sounded for trial at the December term, 1848. The small scantily furnished court room was crowded. Within the bar a dozen or more lawyers occupied cowhide bottom chairs irregularly arranged behind plain pine tables. These tables supported sundry well-worn but highly prized volumes of law, a nondescript collection of ink wells and quill pens, and numerous resplendent stove pipe hats carefully deposited upside down. Trained under his uncles, Eli and Lott Warren, the presiding judge James Jackson Scarborough had become one of the outstanding lawyers of two circuits. His reputation at the bar, however, it is said, was surpassed by that which he attained while on the bench, and “there was a child-like simplicity about him which blended with his legal acumen and judicial ability made him a refreshing character.”  Augustin H. Hansell, solicitor general, appeared for the prosecution. The following year he was to succeed Scarborough as Judge of the Southern Circuit, a station which he occupied and conspicuously adorned during forty-three years. To assist in the prosecution had been retained Samuel Rockwell, rich in garnered experience and gifted in forensic oratory. On behalf of the Studstills appeared the learned Carlton B. Cole, twice judge of the Southern Circuit and destined in after years to preside over the courts of the Macon Circuit, and with Clifford Anderson and Walter B. Hill to form the first faculty of the Law School at Mercer University.

According to J. T. Shelton’s Pines and Pioneers, Carlton B. Cole was assisted by Peter Love, John J. Underwood, Clark, and Samuel Spencer.

Procedure Reviewed

The State being ready, the first motion came from the defendants who asked for a severance and that they be tried separately.  This granted, Hansell announced that Manuel’s case would be taken up first. Cautiously refraining from announcing that Manuel was ready for trial, Cole informed the court of a pending plea of autrefois acquit.  Issue being joined, there was a complete trial, which ended in a verdict against the plea. Thereupon Hansell announced that the State elected to put Jonathan on trial. This unexpected action was vigorously protested by Cole who insisted that the prosecution could not abandon the case on trial and take up that of Jonathan; Judge Scarborough held, however, that the disposition of the plea was merely the removal of an obstacle out of the way and not a part of the main trial, and directed Jonathan to plead. Cole now moved for a continuance of Jonathan’s case on account of the absence of Samuel Spencer, a member of the Thomasville bar, who was then at Tallahassee in attendance on a meeting of the Presidential Electors, the first to be held in the new state of Florida. In support of this motion it was shown that one [William] Holliday had been subpoenaed by the State for the purpose of proving that in a conversation Jonathan had confessed his guilt. Spencer was expected to testify that Holliday afterwards admitted being “so beastly drunk” on the occasion in question as to have been utterly incapable of understanding the conversation or anything else. The motion was overruled, but the prudent Hansell during the trial was careful not to call Holliday as a witness, thus avoiding the effect of a favorable ruling which might constitute reversible error.  These preliminaries disposed of, at a word from his attorney, Jonathan slowly walked to the prisoner’s dock and awkwardly stood there for arraignment and plea. Already knowing what the State held against him, the prisoner soon tired of listening to the verbose indictment, and turned his gaze straight to a window by the judge’s bench. There, beyond the moss draped trees fringing the Withlacoochee he saw the very hill where a few years before an enormous crowd had gathered to make of Mattox’ hanging a Roman holiday.

With jury in the box the stage was set for the trial of Jonathan’s case upon its merits.

The Trial Proceeds

The attention of all in the court room centered upon Augustin H. Hansell as he arose to open the case for the State. In appearance the young solicitor general was tall and strikingly handsome, clean shaven, his abundant hair worn rather long as was the fashion, and his dress, that affected by gentlemen of his profession – dark frock coat, trousers neatly fitting over high boots, waistcoat of gaily flowered silk, surmounted by the folds of a black stock sharply contrasting with his gleaming linen. The prosecuting attorney told the jury that if the State produced that proof the nature of which he had outlined, it would be their duty to find Jonathan guilty.

Before any evidence was submitted, the dignified Cole, addressing the judge, stated that even if the State’s proof should measure up to the expectations of the learned solicitor general, yet the jury would be bound to acquit the prisoner, and moved the court for a directed verdict of not guilty. It was pointed out by Cole that although the indictment charged Jonathan with murder in the second degree, it nowhere directly charged Mattox, the principal, with the offense of murder. While the offense had been described in the body of the indictment, nevertheless, argued Cole, there was at its conclusion no express allegation that Mattox had murdered the deceased, and that the omitted expression, technical though it was, could be supplied by no other. 2 Hawk. Pl. Cr. 224.

The attorneys for the State could not controvert the proposition that this objection to the indictment was fatal at common law. They contended, however, that the rule laid down did not apply to a principal in the second degree, but could find no authority. Driven from the principles and precedents of the cherished common law, the prosecution was reluctantly forced to fall back upon that section of the penal code of 1833, which provided that every indictment shall be deemed sufficiently technical which states an offense in the language of the code or so plainly that the nature of the offense may be understood by the jury. Prince 658.

Notwithstanding the indictment was an imperfect specimen of the draughtsman’s art, yet its meaning being understandable, the judge was constrained to overrule the motion.

Over the objection of the defendant, the indictment against Mattox, together with verdict and judgment and certain confessions made by him, were offered in evidence by the State, and then from the stand was narrated the story of how the boy while driving up his father’s cattle had been shot at the ford on Ten Mile Creek.

Rachel, the chief witness for the prosecution, and perhaps the only woman in the crowded court room, found herself in a trying situation. On the one side was fixed upon her the stern gaze of the unrelenting old pioneer settler, and on the other she beheld the kindly pleading eyes of Jonathan, friend of her former husband. Under these circumstances she clung to the anchor of remembered truth and testified that she heard Jonathan and Manuel tell Mattox to shoot, that the gun wouldn’t hit a boy at fifteen steps, but that she did not know whether her husband took aim or fired at random. Opposing her statement was that of Manuel who said he did not hand Mattox the gun, that so far as he saw or heard, his brother had nothing to do with the killing, and that he did not hear Rachel tell Mattox not to shoot,

The evidence concluded, on the law Cole argued that because of the great distance, the killing was not a probable consequence of the negligent act, therefore, the homicide was reduced to involuntary manslaughter as to which there could be no principal in the second degree. The State, however, contended that since the shooting itself was an unlawful act, the defendant was guilty, if the killing was even a possible consequence.

Argument Long and Loud

As soon as the first outburst of impassioned eloquence put the village on notice that jury speaking had begun, men came running from the square, the groceries, the taverns, and stables, and soon taxed the capacity of the courtroom. The anticipation of this probable consequence, it may be remarked without impropriety, did not prevent the aforesaid outburst from being made both early and loud, for it should be remembered that in those days the perambulatory attorney usually had in mind not only the case in hand but two others in the bush, and frequently also political preferment in the offing.

To most of those present, the jury speaking, which embraced argument, anecdote, pathos, oratorical flights, and sharp clashes between counsel, was the high point of the semi-annual entertainment presented by the court. The distinguished and resourceful antagonists no doubt made free use of all the material afforded by the case on trial, and we may imagine how in the disputation poor Rachel was bandied and buffeted back and forth – now thrown down as weak, simple, dominated, untrustworthy –  now exalted as a paragon of unswerving truth and womanly virtue. 

In his charge Judge Scarborough no doubt “summed up” the testimony as is still done in the United States Court, and may have expressed his opinion. Certain it is, the Judge stated to the jury if Rachel swore the truth the defendant was guilty. In view of the hard circumstances of this unusual case and the prominence given her testimony, it is not unlikely the jury conceived the practical question to their determination to be, Did Rachel swear the truth? Since an effort at her impeachment had miserably failed, it was perhaps, easy for them to conclude that she was a truthful witness, and, therefore, to decide, as they did, that Jonathan was guilty of murder.

The pageantry of the trial over, its excitement and suspense ended, a wave of sympathy appeared to move the hushed crowd of curious onlookers.  As they heard the fearsome pronouncement of the judge, interrupted only by the stifled sobs of Rachel, and saw Jonathan standing at the bar, with his staring gaze fixed upon the barren hilltop beyond the Withlacoochee.

Conviction Affirmed

The conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court sitting at Hawkinsville at the June Term, 1849. Studstill vs. State  7 Ga. 2. 

In sustaining Judge Scarborough’s ruling that the indictment was good, although it did not meet the technical requirements of the common law, Justice Joseph Henry Lumpkin used the following language:

 “The age is past for the civil and criminal justice of the country to be defeated by the absence or presence of one or more ‘absque hocs,’ ‘then and theres,’ videlicts,’ etc. And for one, I rejoice to see edifices built, although they may be ‘with the granite of Littleton, the cement of Coke, the trowel of Blackstone, and the Masonic genius of a hundred Chief justiciaries, and covered with the moss of many generations,’ swaying beneath the sturdy blows so unsparingly applied by the hand of reform. Why should the spirit of progress which is abroad in the World, and which is heaving and agitating the public mined in respect to the arts, sciences, politics and religion, halt upon the vestibule of our temples of justice? Why not penetrate tearlessly, the precincts of the Bar and Bench, and remodel the principles and practice of the old common law, to accommodate it to the enlightenment of a rapidly advancing civilization? Our courts should co-operate cordially with the Legislature in building up a modernized jurisprudence, upon the broadest foundations.” _­Studstill vs. State, 7 Ga. 2.

Jonathan Receives Pardon

By an act approved February 6, 1850, the General Assembly granted to Jonathan Studstill a pardon and declared him entirely exonerated and discharged from the pains and penalties of his conviction and sentence “as fully, freely and entirely as if such conviction and sentence had never taken place or the offense committed.”

After this disposition of Jonathan’s case, apparently the prosecution against Manuel was abandoned.

Pardon of Jonathan Studstill, Acts of the State of Georgia 1849-50.

Pardon of Jonathan Studstill, Acts of the State of Georgia 1849-50.

 AN ACT to pardon Jonathan Studstill of the county of Lowndes.

Whereas at a Superior Court held in and for the county of Lowndes, at December Term, 1848, Jonathan Studstill was convicted of the crime of murder; and whereas petitions from a large number of the citizens of said county of Lowndes have been presented to the General Assembly, asking the exercise of legislative clemency:
Be it therefore enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That from and immediately after the passing of this act, the said Jonathan Studstill be and he is hereby declared to be freely, fully and entirely pardoned, exonerated, and discharged from the pains and penalties of his said convictions and sentence as fully, freely and entirely as if such conviction and sentence had never taken place or the offence committed.
Approved, February 6, 1850.

∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫∫

The Dumb Act

 It is significant that the same legislature passed a statute, approved February 21, known as “the Dumb Act of 1850,”which made it unlawful for any superior court judge in his charge to the jury to express or intimate his opinion as to what has or has not been proved or as to the guilt of the accused. There was at the time a considerable sentiment in favor of curbing the judiciary, but the Studstill case was probably one of the leading factors which crystallized that sentiment in Georgia.

The bill which became known as the Dumb Act was introduced by Richard H. Clark, then a senator living at Albany. Incidentally it is interesting to note that the author of the bill himself subsequently occupied the judicial station for twenty-two years. We are told this distinguished jurist would sometimes lose sight of the restraints thrown around the judge by our peculiar system of jurisprudence and appear to invade the province of the jury, and that most of the reversals of his judgment by the supreme court were based upon exceptions to alleged expressions of opinion before the jury. 99 Ga. 817

Judge Clark was familiar with the Studstill case, and in 1876 he referred to it as “one of the most interesting cases in the judicial annals of the State.” (58 Ga. 610).

 

Old Troupville

Lowndes County in 1843, when young Slaughter was killed, lay between Thomas and Ware, extended from the Florida line northward ninety miles, and was very sparsely settled. Its first county seat Franklinville, on the Withlacoochee two miles west of Cat Creek, had been abandoned ten years before and a permanent capital established at Troupville, a village situated in the angle formed by the confluence of the Little and Withlacoochee rivers, some six miles distant from the site of the present city of Valdosta.

At the time of the Studstill trial in 1848 Troupville was still a small village the next decade however, being a gateway to the new state of Florida, and supposed to be on the line of a projected railroad from Savannah, its growth was almost phenomenal.  At one time its bar consisted of thirteen members. Its newspaper The South Georgia Watchman, was the predecessor of the Valdosta Times.

When attending court, the judge and lawyers usually stopped at a tavern widely famed for its hospitality and presided over by a genial host, who was affectionately called “Uncle Billy Smith”. Across the street from the inn was the public square. On this was situated not only the court-house and jail, but also the stables belonging to the stage line and a convenient “grocery”.

The orderly decorum of the court room at Troupville was occasionally disturbed by energetic but short-lived fist fights on the square, but another disturbance occurring periodically had the more serious effect of halting the court. This was preceded by the shrill blasting of a bugle, followed by the measured“ beat of galloping horses and the loud, reverberations of the lumbering stage coach from Thomasville, as it rattled across the boards of Little River bridge. The forced recess continued until the stage with four fresh horses crossed over the Withlacoochee bridge and departed on its long journey through the pines to Waresborough.

A source of interruption within the court room itself was the practice of having grand jury witnesses sworn in open court. From time to time, more or less inopportune, a grand juror escorting two or three witnesses would appear at the bar, where upon the business in hand was suspended until the oath could be administered. These interjected proceedings were narrowly watched, and not infrequently a bystander, whose conduct was about to be investigated would be seen to make a hurried departure for the purpose of securing temporary immunity from punishment should the grand jury return a presentment.

The general complexion of a court crowd in those times differed somewhat from that of the post bellum period in that the black population remained at home, excepting the family coachman. These privileged and interesting characters contributed their bit to entertain the transients on the square, while their influential masters within the courtroom occupied chairs and hobnobbed with the dignitaries of bench and bar.

Court Week always attracted a great concourse of people. Some attended from necessity or compulsion, some to enjoy the feast of erudition and eloquence; others to trade, traffic or electioneer, but to many it was an occasion for much drinking and horse swapping, and for indulgence in cock fighting, horse racing, and other “Worldly amusements” for which Troupville became somewhat notorious. Indeed, among the Godly, it was regarded as a wild town – almost as wicked as Hawkinsville.

 

A Vanished Town

Now beneath a spreading oak that shades the old Stage road, a granite marker points out to passers-by the place where once stood Troupville – the far famed capital of Lowndes.

Only the rivers there remain, eternally the same –
Black waters, musically slipping,
Whose ripples sway the gray moss dipping
From hoary overhanging, trees
That murmur to the whispering breeze
Old tales of ancient memories.

-30-

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