Pioneers of Old Lowndes Toasted State Rights and American Independence

Fourth of July 1835 Jubilee and many of the old familiar pioneers of Lowndes and Berrien, members of the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA,  had gathered  at the county courthouse at Franklinville, GA.  State Senator Levi J. Knight, of Beaverdam Creek at present day Ray City, Berrien County, GA, gave a great oration, as did the Reverend Jonathan Gaulden.  Big Billy Smith was there, as was Hamilton Sharp, Aaron Knight, Jonathan Knight, John Knight and William Cone Knight,  Noah H. Griffin, Martin Shaw, Malachi Monk, Captain David Bell and many others.

After the speechmaking came the celebratory meal, followed by a round of regular toasts to Washington, Jefferson, LaFayette, and to former Georgia Governor, George Michael Troup, as well as some to denounce the excesses of President Andrew Jackson.  The event and toasts were reported in The Milledgeville Southern Recorder, a continuation of the report on Fourth of July, At Franklinville, Lowndes County:

The Southern Recorder
August 4, 1835

The company the proceeded to partake of a sumptuous dinner prepared by William Smith, Esq.; and when the cloth was removed, the following regular and volunteer toasts were received with the usual good humor and applause. All seemed to go off well, and the jubilee of the day was celebrated with a dignity becoming a free people.

REGULAR TOASTS

  1. The principles that gave birth to the anniversary: unsullied may they remain, for they are the breathings of the spirit of liberty.
  2. The Union: such as our fathers gave us, not as their degenerate sons have abused and perverted it.
  3. The patriotism of Washington: how unlike that of our present military chieftain and the hero serving politicians of the day!
  4. The signers of the declaration of American Independence: may their memory and fame be immortal.
  5. George M. Troup: morally honest, politically honest, and politically right – the brightest luminary that adorns our political hemisphere: Georgia’s boast, and a nation’s pride. We admire the man and revere the patriot.
  6. Thomas Jefferson: the illustrious writer of the declaration of American Independence: may his memory never hereafter be painted by the praises of those who cloak the odium of their principles under a pretended love of the Union.
  7. The State of Georgia in 1825: she then stood proudly prominent among her compeers, battling for her rights. Alas! where is she now?
  8. The right of resistance ever belongs to the oppressed; may its votaries never want, nor be wanting.
  9. Our next President: better to have Hugh L. White with but one scare on his political visage, than to have a Baltimore manufactured President, crammed upon us, stinking with his political usurpation.
  10. Nullification: used by patriots to protect the right of sovereign state – by office seekers and office holders, to frighten people from the true principles of democracy.
  11. Religion liberty and science: may they remain forever as the constellations in the heavens, and visit in succession all the kingdoms, and people of the earth.
  12. General Lafayette: the friend and associate of Washington: may his memory ever live in the hearts of a grateful, brave, free and independent people.
  13. Georgia’s fair sex:
    “Till Hymen brought his love delighted hour,
    There dwelt no joy in Eden’s rosy bower;
    The world was sad – the garden was wild,
    And man the Hermit sighed, till woman smiled.”

VOLUNTEER TOASTS

    By John Blackshear. The Honorable Charles Dougherty, the present nominee for the Executive of the State; his independent, manly course when the judicial mandate of the Supreme Court was present to him in the case of the missionaries, give ample evidence of his qualifications for the highest office within the gift of the people of his native State.
    Levi J. Knight. State Rights and State Remedies: our political system and policy in 1799; may it never be changed while North America has one proud son to defend it.
    H. W. Sharpe. The principle that brought about a repeal of the alien and sedition laws of 1798 be my principle, even if that principle be nullification.
Thomas D. Townsend. The preservation of a free government requires, not merely that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially, that neither of them be suffered to overleap that great barrier, the constitution, which defends the rights of the people. The rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commissions from which they derive their authority, and are tyrants. The people who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by authority derived from them, and are slaves.
William C. Knight. The patriotic State of South Carolina, with her patriotic rulers, McDuffie, Hamilton, Calhoun, Hayne and others.
John Knight. May it be the steady aim of all our public functionaries in future, to keep our government in that purity in which it stood in 1799.
Sent in by Mrs. Jane Sharpe. The patriotic ladies of the day; may they remember to emulate their Spartan mothers.
Mrs. Mary N. Smith. May the daughters of happy America never want a Washington to defend them.
Mrs. Sarah Underwood. All Fortune’s children except the oldest, Miss Fortune.
William G. Hall. May the tree of liberty long wave its golden branches over the free and happy people of America.
Noah H. Griffin. Nullification: the true conservative of our rights – without it there is no other barrier against usurpation.
Aaron Knight. May the executive of our nation in future cease to contend for enlarged power; but preside with that moderation and meekness that marked the administration of Washington and Jefferson.
Frederick Varn. Success to ex-Governor Hamilton of South Carolina, the originator of Nullification.
Thomas P. Jordan. (a visitor) A speedy and disgraceful death to modern Unionism and man-worship.
D. G. Hutchison. Samuel Chase, the independent statesman; after enumerating many a glaring instance of ministerial violation of American rights, with a voice of thunder that made the hollow dome resound, he swore a might oath that he owed no allegiance to the King of England. ‘Twas then the Demosthenes of Maryland first taught the startled hails of Congress Hall to re-echo the name of independence. May the youths of America imitate his example.
James Smith.  Our next Governor: may he be emulous even to ape Troup.
John Dees.  The Honorable A. S. Clayton: the fearless asserter of State Rights and true principles.
Owen Smith.  The doctrine of State Rights:  while it protects us from the unhallowed ravages of tyranny, may it remain an unshaken bulwark against the destructive fury of faction.

    John M. Cranie jr  The Honorable Charles Dougherty: may he be our next Governor.
James M. Bates.  The sovereignty of the States:  purchased by the blood of the whigs of the Revolution: may the whigs of the day remember it, and remembering feel it.
David Mathis.  Our republican institutions: may they continue to diffuse light and liberty to the happy subjects of America.
Jonathan Knight.  May the State Rights party succeed in restoring the fallen character of Georgia to the elevation in which it stood in 1825.
Martin Shaw, jr.  May American virtue shine when every other light is out:  may freedom of election be preserved, the trial by jury maintained, and the liberty of the press be secured to the latest posterity.
C. S. Gauldin.  The Constitution formed by the wisest hands, increased in its vigor, until federalism gave it a wound in a vital part.  Jefferson applying the balm, republicanism, cured the wound.  Federalism has again entered its vitals; may another Jefferson rise to apply again the restorative State Rights, and restore it to its pristine vigor.
Capt. Bell.  Nullification: used by State Rights men to protect the rights of the States; by office seekers and office holders to frighten fiats into subjects liege and true to the conqueror of Napoleon’s conquerors, but the violator of that constitution he had sworn to defend.
     William Smith.  The fair sex: The only endurable aristocracy, who elect without votes, govern without laws, decide without appeal, and are never in the wrong.
James D. Smith.  The three greatest and best Generals – general peace, general plenty and general satisfaction.
Wm. G. Smith.  When wine enlivens the heart, may friendship surround the table.
    Joel Gornto.  His Excellency Wilson Lumpkin: Georgia’s constant friend, the pure and immaculate statesman; his public acts, though, much abused by political demagogues, will ever be supported bu the yeomanry of Georgia.
M. Monk.  State Rights without nullification, Union without consolidation.

1835 Independence Day toasts at Franklinville, GA. The Southern Recorder, August 4, 1835.

1835 Independence Day toasts at Franklinville, GA. The Southern Recorder, August 4, 1835.

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Trial and Incarceration of James Thomas Beagles

Jame Thomas Beagles (1861-1911)

James Thomas Beagles (1861-1911)

In October of 1899, James Thomas Beagles, aka J. T. Biggles, of Rays Mill, GA sat in the Berrien County jail in Nashville.  At that time the jailhouse was a log building that had been constructed some 25 years earlier.  Beagles was being held for trial for  the 1887 killing of his brother-in-law on the steps of Henry H. Knight’s store at Rays Mill.

At that 1899 term of the Superior Court of Berrien County,   the jail where Beagles  and 11 other prisoners awaited trial was found by the Grand Jury to be in deplorable condition.

Berrien County Grand Jury, October 1899.

Berrien County Grand Jury, October 1899.

Tifton Gazette
Oct. 13, 1899 — page 1

GENERAL PRESENTMENTS

Returned by the Grand Jury, October Term, Berrien Superior Court.

     We, the Grand Jury, chosen and sworn to serve at this term of the court beg leave to submit the following General Presentments:
     We have examined the jail of our county and find it in bad sanitary condition, owing to the size and arrangement of said building, the same being entirely too small and badly arranged, prisoners having to be crowded together, male and female. We attach no fault whatever to the sheriff and jailer in charge, believing that he is doing all in his power to keep the same in order under existing circumstances. And we recommend that our Board of County Commissioners, at as early date as is expedient, build a new jail house and procure sufficient jail cells and arrange said building and cells so as to keep sexes separate and apart, as well as white and colored persons incarcerated therein, considering as we do the present jail a disgrace to the county…

Despite the findings of the Grand Jury, it would be another four years before the now historic building now known as the “old jail” was constructed.

The Berrien Superior Court convened that fall on Monday, October 9, 1899 with Judge Augustin H. Hansell presiding, and Jonathan Perry Knight acting as Clerk of the Superior Court. The docket was full that session and the judge postponed the civil cases, dismissing the witnesses, in order to get on with the trial of the criminal cases. Among the Grand Jury members were Warren L. Kennon, Henry Griffin, and Jonathan L Herring, editor of the Tifton Gazette. Silas Tygart served as clerk, and the jury members selected for their foreman, Malcolm J. McMillian.

 Ex-Senator M. J. McMillian, of Alapaha, is not an office-seeker, but the people know him to be an honorable and upright man, and insist on having his services.  He is foreman of the grand jury this week, though he hid, in an effort to escape the honor when the jury was about to make the selection.
– Ocilla Dispatch.

In addition to the charge of murder against James Thomas Beagles, the criminal docket included: Emma Reese charged with assault and attempted murder; Jim Oscar Stearns charge with the murder of Amos White; Warren G. Moss on the charge of burglary at Lenox; Allen Cooper charged with the killing of Philip Johnson at Kissemmee, FL; Rachel Thomas on counts of assault and battery; John Davis for burglary of the store of Mr. I.D. Ford; Robert Bell for simple larceny from Mr. W.M. Thurman; North Cochran for highway robbery.

The session of the superior court drew a significant crowd, and so was also prone to interruptions of every sort.

The woman “with the hoe” turned up at the last session of Berrien superior court.  She was colored, lived near Cecil, and laid open the cheek of another woman during a rucus, with that useful plantation instrument.

The attorneys arguing before the court were colorful and well-known characters of the Wiregrass judicial circuits.  Colonel Hammond, for example, was one of the prosecuting attorneys but was himself facing prosecution for shooting and wounding Colonel A. L. Hawes at Thomasville the week before.

But it was the Beagles case that generated the most interest.  The case had dragged over a decade because of the flight and subsequent return of Beagles. Beagles was defended  by Col. William Hamilton Griffin,  who was judge of the Valdosta City Court and a former mayor of Valdosta. Col. Griffin was a native of Berrien County and had served previously as clerk of the Berrien County court and as Ordinary of Berrien County.

SUPERIOR COURT IN SESSION.

Berrien’s Mills of Justice at their Semi Annual Grind.

Berrien’s superior court convened Monday morning at ten o’clock, that grey-haired veteran of the bench, Judge Aug. H. Hansell, presiding.  Besides the county bar, those of Worth, Lowndes, Thomas, Colquitt and Albany were well represented.
   The grand jury organized by electing Hon M. J. McMillan foreman and Silas Tygart clerk, and after an able and comprehensive charge from his honor, settled down to work, with a volume of business before it.

*****

Nashville, Oct. 10. – The entire day (Tuesday) in superior court has been consumed in the trial of Thos. J. Beagles for the killing of Madison G. Pearson, at the justice court grounds at Ray’s Mill, Nov. 4th, 1891.  [Note: actual date was 1887]
   Beagles had married Pearson’s sister, and to this marriage Pearson was violently opposed.  Growing out of this opposition, there was bad blood between the two for a year or more, and Pearson had threatened Beagles’ life, and gone to his home and cursed him in the presence of his wife.
    Beagles then swore out a peace warrant against his brother-in-law, on which he was arrested and gave bond for his appearance at justice court the next day.
    In the court house the row was again raised, and Pearson invited Beagles out to fight him, starting out at the door and pulling off his coat as he did so.   As Pearson was on the steps, going down, Beagles, who was standing near, drew a pistol and shot him in the side of his head, killing him instantly.
    Beagles then went to Florida, where he staid [sic] several years, and on his return was arrested and finally admitted to bail.
    Sometime ago, Beagles’ bondsmen gave him up, and he has been in jail for two months.
At the trial to-day, the state was represented by Solicitor-Gen. Thomas and Col. W. M. Hammond, while Cols. Jos. A. Alexander and W. H. Griffin represented the defendant.
    The battle has been a hard-fought one throughout the day, and every point of the evidence thoroughly sifted.  At adjournment to-night, the fight is not concluded, Cols. Thomas and Alexander having addressed the jury, while Cols. Griffin and Hammond will address them tomorrow.

*****

Oct. 11.  –  The morning session of superior court was occupied with the speeches of Cols. Griffin and Hammond on the Beagles case.  That of Col. Griffin, for the defendant, was a masterly arrangement of law and evidence in behalf of his client, and delivered in the clear, concise manner for which Col. Griffin is so well known.
    The argument of Col. Hammond was eloquent and strong, well supported by law, and his arrangement of the prisoner was scathing and masterly.  The arguments were concluded before one o’clock, and Judge Hansell delivered his charge to the jury before adjourning for dinner.

Oct. 13 … Judge Griffin made a most eloquent and affecting appeal in behalf of his client, Beagles, for a light sentence, and every one in the court room was moved by his strong and well-chosen words.
   Sentences were then pronounced as follows…

J. A. Beagles, white, convicted of manslaughter, with recommendation, two years in penitentiary.

But James Thomas Beagles did not spend his two year sentence in the penitentiary.  The very same issue of the Tifton Gazette that carried the outcome of the October 1899 term of the  Superior Court of Berrien County also carried an interesting note on the convict lease system:

October 13, 1899 Tifton Gazette on the Convict Lease System

October 13, 1899 Tifton Gazette on the Convict Lease System

“There is a big boom in the value of state convicts.  Recently there has been a strong demand for the convicts, and lessees under the new system are anxious to get all the men that they can even at advanced prices”

Under the convict lease system, J. T. Beagles was sent to the convict camp at Fargo, GA.   G.S. Baxter & Company operated the convict camp at Fargo to provide labor for the firm’s large sawmill operation. The sawmill at Fargo was the largest in Clinch County, and by 1903 the State Prison System of Georgia was leasing more than 1,000 convicts to the firm. (see Connie Moore and the Fargo Convict Camp)

After serving his sentence, J. T. Beagles returned to Ray City to make his home and work.

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