Richard Augustus Peeples, Clerk of the Berrien Courts

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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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.

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.

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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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Reverend John Slade of the Troupville Circuit

Reverend John Slade, Methodist minister, came to the Wiregrass to take up preaching around 1821 and he was a familiar figure throughout South Georgia and Northern Florida.  “He was tall, with an athletic build, high forehead and a strong, clear, musical voice. He was described as being very striking in appearance, and it was said that he possessed an intellect of high order and that he resembled Andrew Jackson,” according to the history of Wakulla Methodist Church where he later served as pastor. On July 31, 1825 Reverend Slade married a Tallahassee, FL girl whom descendants say was Mary Bell.  Her brothers founded the town of Bellville, TX.

In 1826 Reverend Slade rode the Tallahassee Mission which encompassed a vast area of north Florida and South Georgia, including the newly created Lowndes County. Lowndes then included the areas of present day Berrien, Lanier, Brooks, Cook and Tift counties.There were few settlers and very few, if any, churches in this territory.  About 1832, a Methodist church was established at the site of Troupville, Lowndes county, but the population of Methodist churches in Lowndes was not sufficient to sustain a  pastor preaching on a regular circuit until 1841. In 1847 and 1854 Reverend Slade was the circuit-rider on the  Troupville circuit.

Quoting from Hamilton W. Sharpe’s reminiscences in the Wesleyan Christian Advocate in 1884:

“I recall the Rev. John Slade, one of the first preachers of this section. He was a good man, powerful in prayer, and a clear exponent of Gospel truth; is long since gone. At a session of the Florida Conference in Thomasville presided over by Bishop Early, the Bishop was so impressed with Brother Slade’s prayers that he seldom called on any other brother to lead in prayer.”

Reverend Slade was superannuated by the South Carolina Conference in 1829 on account of exposures suffered by him while in this frontier section…

 

Circuit riding Methodist preacher.

The following facts about Reverend Slade come from The History of Jefferson County, FL:

Searching available records for the earliest establishment of Methodism in Florida, it is found that in 1821 the Reverend John J. Triggs was in charge of Allapaha mission in the southern part of Georgia. During the year he amplified his work, and extended his labors southward. In all probability he was the first Methodist minister to preach in middle Florida, after it became American Territory. Associated with him in the work of evangelizing the newer south, was the Reverend John Slade, hardy pioneer of the faith, who prosecuted his mission of extending the Gospel with such ardor and success that he has been called the “Father of Methodism in Florida.”

Reverend John Slade, along with Reverend Fleming Bates and Thomas Ellis, witnessed the Last Will and Testament of  John Hagan, dated Oct. 28, 1822 and probated Nov. 4, 1822, Camden County, GA.  Reverend Bates was an Elder in the Primitive Baptist faith, and of the original presbytery that constituted Union Church, the mother of all the Primitive Baptist churches in this section.   The Executors of Hagan’s estate were Malachi Hagan and William Anderson Knight, Primitive Baptist and father of Ray City settler Levi J. Knight.

In The History of Georgia Methodism from 1786 to 1866,  Reverend George Smith writes about Slade’s first experience as a circuit riding preacher.

…a mission in the southwest of the new purchase was organized, to which two preachers were sent, John J. Triggs and John Slade. To reach this appointment they had to ride through the Indian nation for a long distance, and had to ride in all four hundred miles from the conference.

Triggs had gone out from the last conference, to organize the mission, and now an assistant was sent to him, John Slade, who was recognized as the father of Florida Methodism, though he was not the first to preach the Gospel in the new territory.

He was born in South Carolina, and was now thirty-three years old. He had travelled one year as a supply before 1823, but now for the first time entered the travelling connection, and was appointed to the Chattahoochee Mission.

After travelling about seven years he located, and gave useful labor as a local preacher, to the building up of the Church in Florida. He re- entered the Florida Conference in 1845, and travelled in it till his death in 1854. He was a fine specimen of a man. He was tall, well proportioned, with a fine face. He sang well and preached with power. The country in which Triggs and Slade preached was in the corner of three States, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Their circuit was an immense one. The people were perhaps the rudest in the States, and though now and then, on the better lands, they found some thrifty settlers, generally they were the poorest and most ignorant class of stock-raisers.

Fredrick Smallwood, church historian for the Attapulgus, GA United Methodist Church wrote of Reverend Slade in 2002. Slade is believed to have founded the church at Attapulgus about 1830.

“Rev. John Slade did serve (as circuit riding preacher) with John T. Trigg on the Chattahoochee Mission of the Oconee District of the South Carolina Conference in 1823. The Georgia Conference didn’t come into existence until 1830. The life of a Circuit Riding Preacher was a hard life. He traveled by horseback, as there were no roads and few towns. He would travel as far as his horse could take him each day, in all kinds of weather, spend the night at the house where he found himself when nightfall caught him. He would usually preach to this house and neighbors, if there were some close by. He usually made his circuit once a month. He was also paid very little and usually these preachers were not married nor owned homes of their own for obvious reasons. Due to the toll on his health, he was required to “locate”; that means not ride the circuit but stay in one place. Since he didn’t ride a circuit, he didn’t get paid either.”

Reverend John Slade was a Mason and when a lodge was formed at Troupville, GA he became a member there. 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.  According to the History of Lowndes County, GA, the new lodge was St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184, constituted  at Troupville on November 2, 1854 with the following officers and charter members:

Reverend Thomas W. Ellis, Worshipful Master; Ephriam H. Platt, Senior Warden; Benjamin C. Clay, Junior Warden; Charles H. Howell, Secretary; John Brown, Treasurer; William H. Dasher, Senior Deacon; J. T. C. Adams, Junior Deacon; John B. Cashan, Tyler.

Other members in addition to Reverend Slade were: Norman Campbell, William C. Newbern, William T. Roberts, James H. Carroll, Adam Graham, Thomas Moore, William Dees, Daniel Mathis, Thomas D. Wilkes, S. D. Smith, James Harrell, J. N. Waddy. William J. Mabry, George Brown, William Jones, J. C. Pautelle, J. R. M. Smith, Reverend F. R. C. Ellis, Robert B. Hester, Andrew J. Liles, William Godfrey, W. D. M. Howell, Hustice Moore, J. Harris, W. H. Carter,  William A. Sanford, Willis Allen, Jeremiah Williams, William A. Carter, John R. Walker, William D. Martin, J. E. Stephens, R. W. Leverertt, L. M. Ayers, S. Manning, James Carter, Willis Roland, John W. Clark, James A. Darsey,  the Entered Apprentices Judge Richard A. Peeples, William Ashley, J. J. Goldwire, snd Fellowcrafts William T. Roberts and Moses Smith.

One of Slade’s fellow lodge members at Troupville was William J. Mabry, who in 1856 moved to Nashville, GA, seat of the newly created Berrien County, where he built the first Berrien court house in 1857 and also became the first Worshipful Master of Duncan Lodge No. 3. Later, the St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was moved from Troupville to Valdosta, GA.

In December, 1861 St. John the Baptist Lodge A. F. M. of Valdosta, elected the following officers; S. A. Smith, Jr., W. M.; S. W. Baker, J. W.; W. D. Howell, J. W.; J. M. Howell, Treasurer; Charles McKinnon, Secretary; R. T. Roberds, S. D.; Willis Allen, J. D., and H. P. Morris, Tyler.

The following sketch of John Slade is from Annals of the American pulpit : or, Commemorative notices of distinguished American clergymen of various denominations : from the early settlement of the country to the close of the year eighteen hundred and fifty-five : with historical introductions published in 1859:

JOHN SLADE*
OF THE FLORIDA CONFERENCE.
1823—1854.

John Slade was born on Beech Branch, Beaufort District, S. C, on the 7th of April, 1790. He was brought up in comparative obscurity, with very limited advantages for education. When he was about thirty years of age, he became hopefully a subject of renewing grace, and connected himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Camden County, Ga. He attributed his conversion, instrumentally, to the influence of his grandmother, an eminently pious person, who took great pains to give a right direction to his youthful mind, not only instructing him in the truths of religion, but often taking him with her, when he was a mere child, into the place of her private devotions, and earnestly supplicating for him the blessing of a renovated heart. After he had reached manhood, the good seed which had been thus early sown, germinated, and ultimately matured into a rich harvest of Christian virtues and graces.

Soon after he joined the Church, his brethren were so much impressed by his talents and piety that they gave him license to exhort. In 1822, he commenced his labours with the Rev. John J. Triggs, who had been appointed to the ” Early Mission and adjacent settlements.” After being thus engaged a short time, the Church licensed him to preach, and recommended him to the travelling connection. In 1823, he was admitted on trial in the South Carolina Conference, and appointed junior preacher (the Rev. J. J. Triggs, in charge) on the Chatahoochee Mission, embracing a large field in the Southwestern part of Georgia, and a portion of Alabama. In 1824, he was appointed in charge of the Early Mission, embracing in part the ground occupied the previous year, and quite an extent of territory in Florida. In 1825, he was admitted to full connection in the South Carolina Conference, ordained a Deacon by Bishop Roberts, and appointed in charge of the Appling circuit, in the Southeastern part of Georgia. On the 31st of July of this year he was married.

In 1826, he travelled the Tallahassee Mission, embracing a portion of Southern Georgia, and a large territory of wilderness country in Florida.

 

In 1827, he was appointed in charge of the Choopee circuit, in Georgia. On the 10th of February, 1828, he was ordained an Elder by Bishop Soule, at Catuden, S. C. His health having now become much impaired by manifold labours and exposures, he was placed on the superannuated list. This relation he sustained two years. At the Conference held at Columbia, S. C, in January, 1830, he asked for and obtained a location.

In this capacity he laboured in the Southern part of Georgia and in Florida, struggling not only with feeble health but with poverty, for fifteen years. In 1845, his health was so far restored that, upon the organization of the Florida Conference, in Tallahassee, he was re-admitted into the travelling connection, and appointed in charge of the Bainbridge circuit. In 1846, he travelled the Blakeley circuit; in 1847, the Troupville circuit; in 1848, the Warrior Mission. In 1849, he was returned to the Bainbridge circuit. In 1850, he was in charge of the Irwin circuit. In 1851, he travelled the Holmesville Mission. In 1852, he was appointed in charge of the Wakulla circuit. In 1853, he was returned to the Troupville circuit. In 1854, he was appointed to the Thomasville circuit, where he closed his labours and his life.

On the 17th of June, 1854, he attended an appointment at Spring Hill, and, while taking his horse from his buggy in the church-yard, was suddenly stricken down with paralysis. It was hoped, for some time, that he might recover; and, on the 24th, he preached a short sermon to his congregation, from Rev. xv, 2, 3. The effort completely prostrated him, so that it now became manifest to all that his course was nearly run. He died the next evening, ” strong in faith, giving glory to God.” He was in the sixty-fifth year of his age, and had spent thirty-four years in the vocation of a Christian minister. He left a widow and two daughters.

a

FROM THE REV. PEYTON P. SMITH OF THE FLORIDA CONFERENCE.

Albany, Ga., January 24, 1860.

Rev. and Dear Sir: My personal acquaintance with the Rev. John Slade commenced in Tallahassee, Fla., in the year 1839. From that time until his death, I was in the most intimate relations with him, both as a man and a minister. As a preacher in charge, he frequently served on circuits in districts over which I presided. In his travels, he often lodged under my roof, and knelt with me and mine around the family altar. I knew him long—I knew him well; and I knew him only to love him as a friend and faithful brother in the Lord.

In personal appearance John Slade was a noble specimen of a man. He was full six feet, two inches in height, of a large muscular frame, well-proportioned, strong and athletic, and weighing, in his prime, at least two hundred pounds. When I first saw him, he was considerably advanced in life, and by no means in robust health; the consequence of which was that his face presented a somewhat bony appearance, though his countenance was still ruddy, and his form dignified and commanding. He had a large, well-developed head, with a voice for both public speaking and singing, not inferior, on the whole, to that of any man whom I have ever known. In his general aspect and bearing, he always reminded me of the likenesses of General Jackson—he looked as though he was every way competent to be placed at the head of an army.

Mr. Slade possessed an intellect of a high order; and if he had enjoyed the advantages of a thorough intellectual training, he might have reached an eminence which was gained by few of his contemporaries. He possessed great courage, both physical and moral, and no privations and hardships were so great, and no dangers so appalling, but that he resolutely, cheerfully encountered them, whenever he met them in what he believed to be the path of duty.

As a Preacher, Mr. Slade adhered most closely to what he believed to be the teachings of the Bible. His views were strictly in accordance with those which form the accredited system of the Methodist Church; and he knew how to sustain them by forcible and appropriate argument. I cannot say that he devoted as much time to theological reading as some of his brethren; and yet his preaching betrayed no lack of familiarity with theological subjects. He wielded the sword of the Spirit with great energy, and sometimes with prodigious effect. I remember hearing him preach once at a Camp-meeting in Hamilton County, Fla., on the ” Divinity of Christ, and the triumphs of his Gospel;” and there was a sublimity, both in what he said and in his manner of saying it, worthy of the most distinguished of our pulpit orators. Not unfrequently his sermons carried with them revival fire, and would strike conviction to many a previously careless heart.

In 1840, while a local preacher, he held a meeting, in company with another preacher, which continued for ten days. The greater part of the preaching devolved upon him; and his sermons, though exceedingly plain, were characterized by great power, and breathed a truly apostolic spirit. Not only did many of the common people who listened to them receive the Gospel gladly, but not a small number of the rich, the proud, the fashionable, were deeply impressed under them, and bowed in penitence at the foot of the Cross. After the meeting closed, he baptized twenty-seven by affusion, and seventeen by immersion. But the very next day he was overtaken by a severe bodily affliction, by means of which he was taken off from his labours for a long time.

Soon after his recovery, an incident occurred, which may be referred to as illustrating his great zeal in the cause of his Master. He met a congregation, according to appointment, but they had failed to get their house covered. Not at all disconcerted by the circumstance, he stood, Bible in hand, beneath the burning rays of a summer’s sun, and preached Christ crucified to a handful of sinners, with three or four Christians, with as much fervour as if he had been addressing a large congregation. On this spot there now stands a large church edifice, with a proportionally large membership. Some who heard him on that occasion, still live, to testify to the unction with which he spoke, and to cherish his faithful labours in their grateful remembrances.

Allow me to add the testimony of one who was present at the organization of the Florida Conference Missionary Society, at which Mr. Slade, when far advanced in life, was also present:—

” To crown the interest of this novel and exciting scene, just at this moment, a hoary-headed man, of plain and unpretending exterior, was seen wending his way along the aisle of the Church, towards the altar. He was leaning, like Jacob, upon his staff—still there was something of elasticity about his step; the fire of his eye was yet undimmed, and, as he looked around him, a smile of holy triumph played across his manly features. Who was that timehonoured one? It was the Rev. Mr. Slade,—the first man who planted the standard of the Cross in Florida, when this fair land was a voiceless solitude. He it was, who, fired by the same zeal which still throws its unquenched halo around his declining years, left the abodes of civilization to bear the glad tidings of the Gospel to the few straggling settlers who had penetrated the haunts of the red man in these Southern wilds; a pioneer, bold, fearless, and strong in the Lord, who stood up in the wigwam, in the low-roofed cottage, or under the sheltering branches of some primeval oak, and mingled the voice of praise and thanksgiving with the hoarse murmurings of the wilderness, the roaring of the distant waterfall, and the desert howlings of the savage Indian. What must have been the feelings of that toil-worn veteran of the Cross, as he drew a contrast between those fading reminiscences of the past and the living realities of the present! What a tide of associations must have rolled across his mind, as he remembered the little cloud of witnesses, not larger than a man’s hand, that used to hover about his pathway in the days of his first sojourn in Florida, and beheld it now, with its magnificent folds extended along the face of the whole heavens, casting forth its alternate showers and shade upon the sunburnt soil, and causing the joyless desert to bloom and ‘ blossom as the rose!’ “

I will only add that Mr. Slade was distinguished for his humility, his selfdenial, his devotedness to Christ, his fidelity to all his Christian obligations. He cared not for the wealth or honour of the world, but was willing to ” count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.” His great desire was to do good; and to this he devoted all his powers of both body and mind. Salvation was his theme on the road, around the fireside, wherever he could gain the ear of a human being. He lived preeminently to glorify his Master, and the light of his example still lingers on earth, though he has gone to his reward.

I am very truly yours,

P. P. SMITH.

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Morz Swain was Innkeeper, Blacksmith, Sheriff & Jailor of old Troupville, GA

By special request…

On August 9, 1851, A brief announcement appeared in the newspapers of the state capitol at Milledgeville, GA.  Morgan G. Swain, prominent and colorful citizen of Troupville, GA, was dead.

Obituary of Morgan G. Swain appeared Aug 19, 1851 in the Milledgeville Federal Union newspaper.

Obituary of Morgan G. Swain appeared Aug 19, 1851 in the Milledgeville Federal Union newspaper.

The Milledgeville Federal Union
August 19, 1851

DIED. – In Lowndes County, on the 9th inst., after a short but severe illness, Morgan G. Swain in 48th year of his age.

A slightly longer obituary appeared a few days later in The Albany Patriot.

Obituary of Morgan G. Swain.

Obituary of Morgan G. Swain.

The Albany Patriot
August 22, 1851

OBITUARY.
Departed this life on the 9th instant at his residence, in Lowndes county, Geo., MORGAN G. SWAIN, aged fifty years, after an illness of nine days.
He has left a wife and a large family of Children, besides an extensive circle of acquaintances to lament his loss.
Troupville, August 13, 1851.

Born in 1805 in Montgomery County, Georgia, Morgan G. Swain was one of thirteen children of Rebecca Johnston and Canneth Swain (1770-1831).  His father, Canneth Swain, was a planter of Montgomery County and served there as Justice of the Peace  from 1808 to 1812.  Swainsboro, GA was named after his uncle, Senator Stephen Swain, who served in the Georgia Assembly for more than twenty years and who introduced the bill that created Emanuel County.

About 1826, Morgan G. Swain moved with his parents to the newly created Thomas County, GA where his father had purchased land in 1825.  In addition to the property in Thomas County,  Canneth Swain owned nearly two thousand acres of land in Early and Lee counties, and herds of hogs and cattle.

On September 3, 1828 Morgan Swain married seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Wooten in Thomas County, GA.  She was a daughter of Redden Wooten and Susannah Byrd. Swain’s brother-in-law was Lasa Adams, who fought in the Indian Wars of 1836.

1828 Marriage license of Morgan Swain and Elizabeth Wooten, Thomas County, GA

1828 Marriage license of Morgan Swain and Elizabeth Wooten, Thomas County, GA

To any Judge  Justice of the Inferior Court   Justice of the peace or ordained Minister of the Gospel    Greeting   These are to authorise you to Join together in holy and sacred Matrimony Mr Morgan Swain and Miss Elizabeth Wooten for which this will be your sufficient Licence given under my hand at office this the 18th August 1828

Neill McKinnon CCC the witness    Executed on the 3rd day of September by Amelus Hughen   Minister of the Gospel    1828

Entered this the 23 December 1828

On the census records of 1830, Morgan Swain was enumerated in Thomas County next to his father-in-law, Redden Wooten. For several years the Swains made their home in Thomas County;  Morgan Swain served as 1st Lieutenant of  the Militia in the 763rd District.  But when Troupville was establish in 1838 as the county seat of Lowndes County,  the Swains moved  there to be among the town’s first residents. In Troupville, Morgan Swain set up a blacksmith shop  and  also took work as Deputy Sheriff, both trades that suited him as one of the biggest, strongest men in Wiregrass Georgia.

For five years the Swains prospered in Troupville.  While Elizabeth Swain raised their children,  Morgan Swain “became owner and operator of Swain’s Hotel in Troupville, which competed with “Uncle Billie” Smith’s hotel [Tranquil Hall] for public patronage, especially during court and muster days.”  But on June 20, 1843 Elizabeth Wooten Swain died at age 32, leaving Morgan with two young children to raise.  Elizabeth Wooten Swain was buried, it is said, in Bethel Primitive Baptist Church cemetery, where others of the Wooten family connection are interred.

About six months later, in January, 1844 Morgan Swain married a second time. On January 11, 1844, Swain married Rebecca Griffin, eldest daughter of Shadrach Griffin. Her father was a pioneer settler of Irwin County, and a road commissioner on that section of the Coffee Road which crossed over the Alapaha River. Morgan and Rebecca were married in a ceremony performed by X. Graham. The wedding was announced in The Macon Telegraph.

Wedding announcement for Morgan G. Swain and Rebecca Griffin appeared in The Macon Telegraph, Feb 20, 1844.

Wedding announcement for Morgan G. Swain and Rebecca Griffin appeared in The Macon Telegraph, Feb 20, 1844.

Morgan G. Swain operated one of the three hotels in Troupville. One was “Tranquil Hall” run by William “Uncle Billy” Smith.  The second was that operated by Jonathan Knight for eight or ten years until he moved away to Appling County about 1849.  A third hotel, situated on the town square,  was operated by Swain.

Upon the occasion of his marriage in January, 1844 Swain apparently felt it necessary to advertise his intention to continue as innkeeper. “Swain’s Hotel,” the tavern operated by Morgan G. Swain, was properly called The Jackson Hotel, and for several months in 1844 he ran this ad in the papers of the state capitol.

Jackson Hotel, Troupville, GA was operated by Morgan G. Swain.

Jackson Hotel, Troupville, GA was operated by Morgan G. Swain.

The Milledgeville Federal Union
February 6, 1844

JACKSON HOTEL
Troupville, Georgia
The subscriber respectfully informs his friends, and the public generally, that he still continues at his old stand, and feels grateful for the liberal encouragement heretofore extended to him, and assures his friends that no effort on his part, shall be wanting, to render the utmost satisfaction to those who may favor him with a call.
His Table will at all times, exhibit the best specimens of eating, the country affords.
His Stables are large and commodious – he is likewise able to oversee in person, that every care and the best of provender, is amply supplied to all animals, entrusted to him.  His terms are adapted to suit the times – very reasonable.

MORGAN G. SWAIN
Troupville, Ga., Jan. 16, 1844

Morgan Swain’s grandson, Montgomery M. Folsom, was a Wiregrass poet and historian whose writings have been featured in previous posts on this blog.  According to Folks Huxford, Folsom, a sort of grandson of old Troupville, in his series of articles entitled “Down the River” published in ‘The Valdosta Times’ in 1885, also wrote of old Troupville in an interesting manner”

‘Old Troupville! What a charming spot for the mind of the lover of reminiscent lore to contemplate! Here, semi-annually the Judge and his satellites, the jurors, litigants, court attaches, sightseers, horse-swappers, peddlers, tinklers, bummers, rowdies and all the rabble rant; all did congregate in august assemblage and solemn conclave.

* * * * *

Among those who settled in Troupville and left behind many momentous memories, was Morgan Goodgame Swain, a burly blacksmith from Emanuel, who was ever ready for a fight, frolic or a footrace. He stood six feet three and weighed over two hundred without pound of surplus flesh. As handsome as a Greek god he was gifted with herculean strength and a heart that was generous and true. He erected his forge on the bank of the Ockolockochee, and his wife took possession of the tavern. Becky, she was lord above, and Morz was lord below.

* * * * *

There, at that pile of rocks stood Morgan G. Swain’s blacksmith shop, and the rocks are the remains of his forge. Many a time and oft has he stepped out in the road and throwing off his hunting-shirt, flop his arms and crow like a game-cock “Best man in Troupville, by —–!’

Despite this zest for life, in late 1845, Morgan Swain sought to dispose of his hotel and Troupville city lots.

In November 1845, Morgan G. Swain advertised to sell the Jackson Hotel and his Troupville, GA property.

In November 1845, Morgan G. Swain advertised to sell the Jackson Hotel and his Troupville, GA property.

Albany Patriot
November 26, 1845

NOTICE

Being desirous of paying up my debts and moving into the country, I offer my possessions in the county of Lowndes, consisting of FOUR LOTS in the town of Troupville, three of which are Well Improved, and 245 Acres of Pine Land, also well improved, in the immediate vicinity of Troupville, for sale at the lowest price for which property can  be had.
    On the Town Lots now is standing, and in good repair, a Large TAVERN, suited for the accommodation of Travellers.  Purchasers, by paying a part of the price in cash,  can have their time to pay the balance.
    The above will be sold at Public Outcry, on the First Tuesday in January, if disposed of before at private sale. The house-hold and kitchen furniture will also be sold in the same manner.
MORGAN G. SWAIN
Troupville, Nov. 26, 1845

During this period Swain had continued to hold public office, serving as Justice of the Peace of 658th District of Lowndes County from 1844 to 1849, and also as the county Jailor.

In 1847 Swain’s old place, the Jackson Hotel, hosted the Lowndes County Democratic party for the purpose of selecting representatives to the gubernatorial convention and also candidates for election to the state legislature. In 1849, Swain’s further interest in politics was apparent in his involvement in the activities of the Democratic party in Lowndes county.

Morgan G. Swain was a member of the Democratic Party.

Morgan G. Swain was a member of the Democratic Party.

The Albany Patriot

Democratic Meeting in Lowndes.
Troupvill, May 6th, 1849 
   The Democratic party of Lowndes county held a meeting in the Court House today. – On motion, William Hines was called to the Chair, and – Edmondson requested to act as Secretary.  The object of the meeting was explained by Morgan G. Swain, Esq.  The following resolutions were passed:
Resolved, That this meeting appoint a committee of seven to select delegates from each district to meet the delegates from the county of Ware at David Johnson’s, Esq., on the 4th Saturday in June next, to nominate for this district a Senatorial candidate for the Legislature.
Resolved, That James Jamerson, David G. Hutchinson, William Zeigler, James Coston, Thomas B. Griffin, James C. Hodges, and Wm. L. Morgan, Esqrs. be selected delegates to the Convention in Milledgeville to nominate a Governor of the Democratic party.
Resolved, That the citizens of the different districts in this county be requested to appoint  two delegates each to meet in Troupville on the first Monday in July next, to nominate a candidate for Representative of this county to the next Legislature.
Resolved, That this meeting now adjourn.
WM. Hines, Chm’n
–Edmonson, Sec’y

As given above, Morgan G. Swain lived a short but prominent life in old Troupville, GA and there he died on August 9, 1851.  It is said he was buried in the cemetery of Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, Brooks County, Ga.

His father-in-law, Shadrach Griffin, served as administrator of his estate.

1822 Legal advertisement for administration of the estate of Morgan G. Swain, appeared in The Albany Patriot, August 22, 1851.

1822 Legal advertisement for administration of the estate of Morgan G. Swain, appeared in The Albany Patriot, August 22, 1851.

The Albany Patriot
 August 22, 1851.

Georgia Lowndes County.
Whereas, Shadrick Griffin applies to me for Letters of Administration on the estate of Morgan G. Swain, late of said county dec’d.
     These are therefore to cite, summons and admonish all persons interested, to be and appear at my office within the time prescribed by law, to shew cause (if any) why said letters may not be granted.
     Given under my hand at office, this, 16th day of August, 1851.
DUNCAN SMITH, cco.
August 22, 1851.

Swain’s widow applied in July 1852, for guardianship of the “minors and orphans” of the deceased.  Dr. Henry Briggs, Ordinary of the Lowndes Court advertised the application in The Milledgeville Southern Recorder.  Dr. Briggs was one of the first doctors to take up residence in Troupville, GA.

Rebecca Swain applied for guardianship of "the minors and orphans of Morgan G. Swain."

Rebecca Swain applied for guardianship of “the minors and orphans of Morgan G. Swain.”

Milledgeville Southern Recorder
July 13, 1852

 GEORGIA, LOWNDES COUNTY
     Whereas Rebecca Swain applies to me for letters of Guardianship of the persons and property of the minors and orphans of Morgan G. Swain, late of said county, deceased –
     These are, therefore, to cite, summon and admonish all persons interested to be and appear at my office on or before the first Monday in September next, and show cause, if any exist, why said letters of Guardianship should not be granted.
     Given under my hand this  1st July, 1852.
H. BRIGGS, Ordinary L. C.
July 6, 1852

Shadrach Griffin, Swain’s father-in-law and administrator of his estate, continued with the disposal of his property and the conclusion of his affairs.

Administrator's Sale: estate of Morgan G. Swain

Administrator’s Sale: estate of Morgan G. Swain

The Albany Patriot
February 6, 1853

Administrator’s Sale.
Georgia, Lowndes County.

Will be sold at the late residence of Morgan G. Swain, late of said county dec’d, on Thursday the 1st day of April next, all the personal property, consisting of cattle, horses, hogs, stock cattle, and household and kitchen furniture, and a great many other articles too tedious to mention.  Sale will continue until all is sold.  Terms of sale made known on the day.
SHADRACH GRIFFIN, Adm’r
February 6, 1853.
——————————————-
All persons indebted to the estate of Morgan G. Swain, late of Lowndes county dec’d, will come forward and make payment – and all those having claims against said estate will render them in according to law.
SHAD’H GRIFFIN, Adm’r.
February 6, 1853