Hamilton Sharpe and Lafayette

When General Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution, returned to Georgia in 1825 great crowds thronged to Savannah for his arrival. Among those who gathered to greet the great man was Hamilton Sharpe,  pioneer settler of Lowndes County, GA.

Marquis de Lafayette, from Memoirs of General La Fayette, published 1825.

Marquis de Lafayette, from Memoirs of General La Fayette, published 1825.

“Arriving in Savannah on March 19, 1825, the sixty-seven-year-old Lafayette disembarked from his steamboat to a salute from the Chatham Artillery and the cheers of the crowd. The most poignant moments of his stay in Savannah came when he laid the cornerstones for monuments honoring two other Revolutionary War heroes, Count Casimir Pulaski and General Nathanael Greene.”  – New Georgia Encyclopedia

Hamilton W. Sharpe was just a boy when Lafayette visited Savannah, but his memory of the occasion lasted a lifetime. Sharpe grew up in Tatnall County, but when “a young man hardly in his twenties, had come down from Tatnall County over the Coffee Road, and decided to locate near the home of Hon. Sion Hall at whose home the first court in Lowndes [county] was held a few months afterwards.  So young Sharpe built a small store building out of logs near the Sharpe home; that was in 1826. 

Sharpe’s Store, on the Coffee Road, was the first commercial establishment  in Lowndes County, and became an early post office for the area.  Sharpe was active in politics, and served as a captain of local militia in the Indian Wars.  In religion, Hamilton W. Sharpe was a Methodist. He conducted a large bible class at old Bethlehem Church in Lowndes County, and was a friend and neighbor of Reverend Robert H. Howren. He was a trustee of the Fletcher Institute, of Thomasville, GA.  In his later years he was an innkeeper at Quitman, GA.

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe

Hamilton Wynn Sharpe

In 1886, Hamilton W. Sharpe wrote of his memories of Lafayette in a letter to the editor of the Savannah Morning News (reprinted in the Oct 6, 1886 edition of the Waycross Headlight.)   Sharpe refers to his guests at  the Sharpe House as “inmates” and goes on to reminisce about the weather, his father’s business in Savannah, the Planters Hotel, and the people and places he knew in Savannah:

1886-oct-6-hamilton-w-sharpe

     Editor Morning News:  It has just been remarked by one of our inmates: “How awfully warm it is!”  This remark induced a peep at the themometer-not quite 90 deg.  This does not indicate very warm weather for the middle of September, but I notice that there is no rustling among the leaves on the  trees. Every thing is as “still as the breeze;” not even a shaking, and therefore I conclude that it is owning not so much to the intensity of the heat as the lack of wind, for I do not remember to have seen so little wind in the month of September so far.
      While I confess a deep sympathy for the citizens of our neighboring city of Charleston in all her unparalleled sufferings I am grateful, too, that your city, the emporium of the State of Georgia, has suffered less.
      The writer, though now 80 years of age, has a very distinct recollection of Savannah when but a little boy.  Along with his father, time and again, he visited the city to obtain many of the necessaries and luxuries of life. These were the days of small things to Savannah, compared to her present grand improvements.  Then the principal business of the city was done around the market square and north to the river.  The wholesale houses were principally from Nos. 1 to 8 Gibbons’ buildings, and there was no such thing as the Pulaski House, or the Marshall or Screven House.  The Planters’ Hotel was at that time the hotel of the city.
       Sometimes I have a very distinct recollection of the men with whom my father traded at the time – such men as Gildon, Edward Coppee and others – and the late Thomas Holcombe was a boy about my own age and size.
       Your stately printing and publishing hous was not there to adorn the cornner of Bay and Whitaker streets, nor was there any other important public buildings save the old Exchange.
       It was there the writer happening to be in the city, pressed himself along with the crowd, when the procession was formed in the long room of the Exchange to look upon the venerable features of Gen. Lafayette and shake his hand.  I have always been proud of the occasion and the act.  The next day the corner stone of the Greene and Pulaski monument in Johnson Square was laid.  Gen. Lafayette was the Grand Master of the occasion, and the following words were sung, to wit:

“And around thy brow will twine
The tender leaf of green which grew
In days of Auld Lange Syne.”

      And the wreath in the hands of one of Savannah’s beautiful daughters was fittingly and gracefully twined around the head of the venerable man whose name will ever be dear to Americans.
          The words were sung to the tune, “Auld Lang Syne.”
         Should you ever wander as far as Quitman inquire for Tranquil Hall or the Sharpe House, and you will find the house persided over by two old people who will be glad to see the editor of the Morning News, and will treat him kindly. Our prayer is that both your city and your sister City by the Sea will be relieved for the future of any further shaking up.

H. W. S.

Additional notes:

  • Charles Gildon was a Savannah, Georgia storekeeper. He is referenced in early Savannah newspapers between 1805 and 1855. Gildon’s shop was located on Lot 6, Digby Tything, Decker Ward which faced Ellis Square from 1815-1823.
  • Edward Coppee was a physician and merchant of Savannah, operating businesses at a number of locations in the city.
  • Thomas Holcombe (1815-1885) was a wholesale grocer of Savannah, and served as Mayor of the city during the civil war.

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Old Land Mark Gone ~ Death Of “Uncle Billy” Smith

William Smith (1797-1882), pioneer settler of Lowndes County, GA, homesteaded on land lot No. 50, 11th District along the Withlacoochee River in the 1820s.  Smith would serve as clerk of the court, postmaster, and Ordinary of Lowndes County.

This section was then truly a wild southern frontier of the young American nation, replete with wild animals, panthers, bears, wolves, and snakes; Indians who resented the forceful and often illegal intrusion of settlers on to their native lands; and many febrile diseases, typhoid, malariascarlet fever, and other little understood diseases among them. Through this wilderness in 1823, General Coffee cut a military thoroughfare into north Florida. The Coffee Road opened up the territory and led to the creation of  Lowndes County by an act of the legislature on December 23, 1825.  It was around this time that the Knights first came to Lowndes county and settled in that portion which was later cut into Berrien County.    

The first Courts and first elections in Lowndes County were held at the house of Sion Hall,  who built an Inn on the Coffee Road.  But soon the commissioners of Lowndes County appointed to determine the location of the county courthouse chose William Smith’s place on the Withlacoochee as the site of the county seat, and named the place Franklinville, GA.

Lowndes at that time included most of present day Berrien County, and Lanier, Cook, Tift, Brooks, and Echols, besides. For a time the post office for this vast frontier county was at the home of Big Thumb Daniel McCranie. However, On July 7, 1828, the Post Office Department established a post office at Franklinville and appointed Mr. Smith as postmaster.

FRANKLINVILLE
    The erstwhile town of Franklinville did not exist long –  only about four years.  At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house.

    The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.  The first term of court in it was held in the fall of 1829.

    William Smith was the first one to settle there, and was living there when the site was chosen.  The only other families to ever live there, so far as can be determined were John Mathis, James Mathis and Sheriff Martin Shaw.  After a short residence there the three last named moved to that part of Lowndes cut off into Berrien in 1856.

William Smith, “Uncle Billy” as he was known,  kept an inn at Franklinville in addition to his official duties.

Uncle Billy was a member of the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA,  along with Levi J. Knight, 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.  The Association gathered  at the county courthouse at Franklinville in 1835 to toast State Rights.

Just a few years after its founding, Franklinville was found to be unsatisfactory as the seat of Lowndes county, although a legal announcement in the November 7, 1837 Milledgeville Southern Recorder, pg 4, documents that public auctions were still being held at Franklinville at that date [The same page announces auctions at the courthouse at Troupville] .

… an act was passed by the Georgia legislature, appointing a commission to select an appropriate place for a county site. Franklinville had been its capital, but was not near enough to the center. As the legend goes, Big Billy Knight and Big Billy Folsom were appointed. So it came about that where the wine-red waters or the Ockolocoochee and the black current of the Withlacoochee meet at the end of a long sandbar and go tumbling and writhing, eddying and curving down the long reach of moss-grown trees, like two huge serpents struggling for the mastery, the plat of a town was drawn, and it was called after Georgia’s great chevelier governor, “Troupville,”

William Smith moved to Troupville where he continued to serve as Postmaster.  In 1837, he was also serving as the guardian of the orphans of James Baker.

There, he also operated “Tranquil Hall,” one of the three hotels in the town.  Tranquil Hall was widely famed for its hospitality, and when court was in session at Troupville, the judge and lawyers usually stayed at the tavern.  According to an South Georgia Watchman, September 1, 1858 editorial, it was the only thing in Troupville worth bragging about. Tranquil Hall was situated on the public square, along with the court-house and jail, the stables belonging to the stage line and a convenient “grocery.”  The other inns were the Jackson Hotel , situated on the town square and run by Morgan G. Swain and his wife, and a hotel operated by Jonathan Knight for eight or ten years until he moved away to Appling County about 1849.

Troupville itself would suffer the same fate as Franklinville. When the Atlantic & Gulf railroad (later the Savannah, Florida & Western Railway) came to Lowndes County, it bypassed Troupville, following a route four miles to the south through the site now known as Valdosta, GA. The first train rolled into Valdosta in July of 1860.

The railroad was in process of building when residents of Troupville began to move. William Smith, one of the pioneers, and known as “Uncle Billy” Smith, the day the deed was signed by Mr.Wisenbaker giving the railroad six acres of land on which to build the first station, tore off the wing of his hotel at Troupville and moved it to Valdosta, where he operated his hotel several years. The first house moved to the new town was owned by Judge Peeples and it was rolled from Troupville to Valdosta, being placed on pillars on the lot on Troup street where it now stands. Several other houses were also moved bodily and some few of them are yet standing. In a few weeks time Troupville as a town was no more.

— — ◊ — —

Advertisement for Tranquil Hall, upon its relocation from Troupville, GA to Valdosta, GA, 1870.

Advertisement for Tranquil Hall, upon its relocation from Troupville, GA to Valdosta, GA, 1870.

Albany News
January 7, 1870

The Proprietors of Tranquil Hall, formerly of Troupville, have opened a house at Valdosta, Ga., for the accommodation of the Traveling Public, where they will find the fare equal to that of any House on the line of the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad, and charges as reasonable.

WM. SMITH
MARGET SMITH

— — ◊ — —

Uncle Billy and his wife Margaret continued to operate Tranquil Hall at Valdosta, GA.  Eventually, in their declining years they sold out to Darius M. Jackson.

William “Uncle Billy” Smith died February 1, 1882.  His obituary was reported in the Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, February 4, 1882

Old Land Mark Gone.

Death Of “Uncle Billy” Smith.

Mr. Wm. Smith, an old gentleman, whose history is intimately connected with that of Lowndes County, died last Wednesday morning at his residence in Valdosta in the eighty-fourth year of his age, leaving his aged wife (who we believe is about the same age) to tarry a while longer with us. The funeral services were held at his late residence Wednesday afternoon and his remains were buried in our cemetery Thursday morning at 10 o’clock. Mr. Smith was born in 1797, in North Carolina, and emigrated to Irwin, now Lowndes County, and settled the place now known as “Old Franklinville.”

       The Indians, bears and panthers were numerous in these pine forests then and Mr. Smith’s early life was one of some adventures. (Here we will remark that Mr. Smith promised us to write up a history of those early days for publication, but from a feebleness which had been growing on him for six months we suppose he was not able to do the work.)

       When Lowndes was made a county the county site was located at Franklinville, (Mr. Smith’s home,) and he was elected Clerk of the Court. An interesting account of the first court held was published in these columns about a year ago from his pen.

       Later, the county site was moved to Troupville and there Mr. Smith kept a hotel. “Tranquil Hall,” as it was known, was noted for its hospitable landlord and lady and for its splendid table. Travelers carried the good name of this country inn far and wide.

“Tranquil Hall,” with Troupville, was moved and helped to make Valdosta, when the Gulf Road came through here; but the hotel declined with the old people and about ten years ago they gave up the business, and sold the building. It is now occupied by Mr. D. M. Jackson.

Mr. Smith has more than once been Ordinary of the County, having held that office as late as twelve or fourteen years ago. He has held other positions of honor and trust, and in his prime of manhood was a leading and influential man. He had two sons, William and Henry, who died after the war, leaving families. All of Wm. Smith Jr.’s family have died, we believe, but Mr. Henry Smith’s widow, four children and one or two grandchildren are living. So Mrs. Wm. Smith, the widow of the deceased, survives all but four grandchildren and the great grandchildren. We hope the good old lady will find her remaining days as comfortable and as happy as they can be to one left alone at such an age. We would like, at some other time, to give Earthier reminiscences of the old gentleman’s life, if we can get hold of the data.

 † † †

To this obituary, Hamilton W. Sharpe added the following testament (By 1880, Hamilton Sharpe had removed to Quitman, GA where he operated a hotel known as Sharpe House.) :

The Valdosta Times
 Saturday, April 22, 1882

Mr. Wm. Smith. Christian Advocate. William Smith died in Valdosta recently in the eighty-fifth year of his age.

I have known him for over half a century. He was elected Clerk of the Superior Court of Lowndes County in the year 1827, which office he held consecutively for a number of terms, and filled other offices of trust and honor in that county. He was the proprietor of “Tranquile Hall,” located in Troupville, the then county site of Lowndes, and the house was long and favorably known as one of the best hotels in the state. The result of the late war between the States was very hard on him, as his all consisted of slave property. His life was long and varied, a true friend in every respect. He became a member of the M. E. Church South many years ago, but was not very demonstrative in his religious duties until late in life. He was a constant attendant on Church, and always enjoyed the services of God’s house. His departure was very sudden, but we have no fears as to his being well prepared for the change, which was a happy one to him. His children, one by one, all preceded him to the grave, but his wife, like himself very old, still lingers on these mundane shores.

Peace be to his memory.

H.W. Sharpe.

† † †

Related Posts:

Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents

Troupville, Lowndes County, GA

From pioneer times to the present day, Ray City, GA , has been under the jurisdiction of three different counties and six different county seats of government.    From 1825 to 1856  the community fell within the borders of Lowndes County. During that period,   the county seat of government was first at Franklinville, GA, then briefly at Lowndesville, and about 1836 moved to the town of Troupville,GA. [A legal announcement in the November 7, 1837 Milledgeville Southern Recorder, pg 4, documents that public auctions were still being held at Franklinville at that date.]

Related posts about Troupville GA:

In its heydey, Troupville was the center of commerce and social activity for the region. Promoters of the town hoped to develop the Withlacoochee River as a navigable waterway. In 1845, the citizens of Lowndes county petitioned the state legislature “praying that the State tax and 1846 and 1847, be retained by said county, to improve the navigation of the Withlacoochee river,” but the House committee on Petitions returned an unfavorable report.

Among the prominent pioneer settlers who frequented the town were the Knight family.  Reverend William A. Knight, was the religious leader of many of the Primitive Baptist churches in the area and the father of Levi J. Knight,  earliest settler at the site of present day Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

White’s Statistics of the State of Georgia, published 1849, describes Troupville thus:

Troupville is the [Lowndes County, GA] seat of justice, immediately in the fork made by the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Little rivers.  It has the usual county buildings, three hotels, two churches, four stores, several mechanics’ shops, two physicians, and four lawyers.  It is distant from Milledgeville 180 miles S.; 40 from Thomasville; 75 from Waresborough, and 75 from Irwinville.  It is a healthy and pleasant village.  Population about 20 families.

Here is a conceptual layout of Old Troupville adapted from a sketch of the town made by C. S. Morgan, and   superimposed on  a modern map of the confluence of the Withlacoochee River and the Little River .

Map of Troupville, GA adapted from C. S. Morgan

Map of Troupville, GA adapted from C. S. Morgan

In addition to the structures depicted on this map, the following Troupville property owners are known:

  • Lot No. 1       “on the east side of the Courthouse” property of William  McAuley prior to 1841
  • Lot No. 2        1/2 acre “water lot”, Jesse Townsend, prior to 1846
  • Lot No. 3        1/2 acre, John J. Underwood, prior to 1844
  • Lot No. 4        1/2 acre, John J. Underwood, prior to 1844
  • Lot No. 5        1/2 acre, John J. Underwood, prior to 1844;  1/4 acre “water lot” property of Jared Johnson, prior to 1846
  • Lot No. 6        1/2 acre, John J. Underwood, prior to 1844
  • Lot No. 7       1/4 acre,Uriah Kemp, prior to 1839; south half (1/8 acre), Daniel S. Graham prior to 1841.
  • Lot No. 8       Uriah Kemp, prior to 1839
  • Lot No.  9      Uriah Kemp prior to 1839, Hiram Hall prior to 1842
  • Lot No. 10     1/2 acre, Hiram Hall prior to 1842, John J. Underwood, prior to 1844
  • Lot No. 11     1/4 acre “well improved” lot owned by John Studstill up to 1845; Richard Allen after 1845
  • Lot No. 13      south half (1/8 acre), James A. Boyet prior to 1842.
  • Lot No. 14      “on the east side of the Courthouse” property of William  McAuley prior to 1841
  • Lot No. 15      1/4 acre  “water lot”, Jesse Townsend, prior to 1846
  • Lot No. 16       1/4 acre, William P. Murdoch prior to 1852
  • Lot No. 17     Daniel W. ThomasTen Pin Alley
  • Lot No. 21     1/4 acre, John J. Underwood prior to 1846.
  • Lot No. 25     1/4 acre, William Lastinger prior to 1840; Hiram Hall prior to 1842, Burnett & Hall  (Joseph S. Burnett and Hiram Hall) 1842 to 1843.
  • Lot No. 28     1/4 acre mol, Thomas O. Townsend prior to 1847
  • Lot No. 29     1/4 acre, John J. Underwood prior to 1844, Samuel Maulden, prior to 1847
  • Lot No. 32     1/4 acre, Hiram Hall prior to 1842, Burnett & Hall  (Joseph S. Burnett and Hiram Hall) 1842 to 1843;  John J. Underwood, 1843 -1844;  property of Hiram Hall, 1844 and described as   ” the place whereon John J. Underwood now [Aug 13, 1844] lives.”
  • Lot No.  34    property of William  McAuley prior to 1841
  • Lot No. 35     Henry J. Stewart, , prior to 1850. Stewart was an Attorney at Law and served as Postmaster in 1848.
  • Lot No. 37     Joseph S. Burnett and Hiram Hall prior to 1841
  • Lot No. 38     1/4 acre, William McDonald, prior to 1838
  • Lot No. 39     1/4 acre, William D. Branch, prior to 1840
  • Lot No. 42     1/4 acre, William D. Branch, prior to 1840
  • Lot No. 45     5 acres mol (Wilson’s Survey), Mikel Myers, prior to 1848
  • Lot No. 46     Peter K. Baillie, prior to 1842
  • Lot No. 50     1/4 acre, “on which is situated the Methodist Episcopal Church,” property Duke K. Jimson prior to 1846.
  • Lot No. 53     1/4 acre, Duke K. Jameson;  also Richard W. Kirkland prior to his death in 1848
  • Lot No. 57     1/4 acre, John J. Underwood prior to 1846.
  • Lot No. 58     1/4 acre, John J. Underwood prior to 1846.
  • Lot  No. 59    1/4 acre, John J. Underwood prior to 1844; Thomas O. Townsend prior to 1845
  • Lot  No. 60    Thomas O. Townsend prior to 1945
  • Lot No. 61      1/4 acre, Duke Blackburn prior to 1838;  Uriah Kemp,  prior to 1839
  • Lot No. 64      1/4 acre,   Uriah Kemp,  prior to 1839; John J. Underwood, prior to 1844
  • Lot  No. 65    Thomas O. Townsend prior to 1845
  • Lot No. 66     Thomas O. Townsend prior to 1845
  • Lot No. 67     1/4 acre, John J. Underwood prior to 1846.
  • Lot No. 68     1/4 acre, John J. Underwood prior to 1846.
  • Lot No. 69     1/2 acre, John J. Underwood, prior to 1844
  • Lot No. 70     1 1/2 acre, John J. Underwood, prior to 1844
  • Lot No. 72     Duncan Smith prior to 1846.
  • Lot No. 73     2 acres mol, Lodowick Miller, prior to 1842
  • Lot No. 91     1/4 acre, John J. Underwood, prior to 1844

SOME RESIDENTS AND BUSINESS OWNERS OF TROUPVILLE, GA

  • John Ashley, attorney, 1848
  • Sumner W. Baker, attorney, 1856
  • George W. Behn, attorney, 1845
  • M.J. Bennett
  • W. B. Bennett, attorney, Associate Editor of the Thomasville Southern Enterprise, 1858
  • M. B. Bennett, attorney
  • James B. Bliss, jeweler, 1843
  • Elisha Ward Bozeman  – not a Troupville resident, but  in the 1850s he was  a “hack driver”  who regularly drove carriages through the town on the route from Thomasville, GA to Monticello, FL. He was later a resident of Quitman, GA
  • Henry Briggs, Doctor and apothecary shop owner.
  • Anthony C. Bruner, Methodist Preacher in 1842
  • Joseph S. Burnett, sheriff, 1839
  • T.A. Caruth, 1857 pastor
  • John B.Cashan, merchant
    • Deborah Cashan, wife of John B. Cashan
    • Children of John B. Cashan
      Ann E. C. Cashan
      Sarah J. Cashan
      John B. Cashan, Jr.
      James S. Cashan
      Jones E. Cashan
  • Albert Converse
  • Mary Converse
  • Reverend William B. Cooper, first pastor of Little River Baptist Church
  • D. R. Creech, traveled to New York City, October 1857
  • O.P.Dasher , traveled to New York City, October 1857
  • William H. Dasher, Attorney at Law, 1852-56
  • T. S. Davies, Attorney at Law, doing business as the firm Davies & Rockwell, 1846.
  • William H. Goldwire, Attorney at Law, 1852
  • A. Davis, Pastor 1858
  • William Wesley Dowling, Farmer 1849-1854
    • Ardelia Frier Dowling, Wife of William W. Dowling
    • Children of Ardelia and William W. Dowling
      John Moses Dowling
      Sarah Elizabeth Ann Dowling
      Ryan Eli Dowling
      Henry Taylor Dowling
      Mary Emily Dowling
  • Thomas William Ellis,  Doctor and druggist
    • Piercy Dixon Ellis, wife of Dr. Ellis
    • Elisabeth Ellis, daughter of Dr. Ellis
    • Caroline Ellis, daughter of Dr. Ellis, married John B. Cashan in Dooly Co., 22 Jul, 1849
  • Ryan Frier, minister of the Little River Baptist Church, 1842
  • Reverend Jonathan Gaulden, organizing member of the Little River Baptist Church.
  • William Oglethorpe Girardeau – of Monticello, FL, had a law office in Troupville, 1848, in partnership with Charles S. Rockwell
  • William Godfrey, Grocery merchant circa 1850
  • Henrietta O. Goldwire, member of the Little River Baptist Church
  • James O. Goldwire, constituting member and deacon of the Little River Baptist Church
  • Marie I. Goldwire, member of Little River Baptist Church
  • William H.Goldwire, second pastor of Little River Baptist Church, Attorney at Law, 1852
    • Ann C. Goldwire, Wife of William H. Goldwire
    • Children of Ann C. and William H. Goldwire
      Matilda M. Goldwire
      Sophia B. Goldwire
  • Old Monday, a slave of the Goldwires
  • Thomas Butler Griffin
    • Jane Moore Griffin
    • Children of Thomas Butler Griffin and Jane Moore Griffin
      Marcus J. Griffin
      Samuel Moore Griffin
      Iverson Lamar Griffin
  • W.W. Griffin, Methodist Episcopal preacher, 1843
  • Joshua Griffith, Sales Agent for the Wiregrass Reporter (Thomas County newspaper)
  • Barney Howell –  in the 1840s “was mail carrier between this neighborhood [Thomasville] and Monticello, Florida, making the horseback journey with great regularity and going via Troupville, which was then county seat of Lowndes County.”   He was a resident of Thomas County and a brother of Caswell Howell, who served as one of the early members of the Baptist Church at Milltown, GA.
  • Thomas Hughes Hines, Attorney at Law, residing at Stansell’s hotel, 1850; doing business as the firm Nelson & Hines, 1852, and on his own account in 1853
  • Seaborn Jones, died November 9, 1849, accidently shot by his nine-year-old son, William Jones
  • Jonathan Knight, hotel operator circa 1840-1849
  • D. B. Johnson, student at Troupeville Academy, circa 1849
  • Isaac de Lyon, publisher of the South Georgia Watchman newspaper
  • Leonoren de Lyon, editor of the South Georgia Watchman newspaper
  • Robert Marlow, member of Little River Baptist Church
  • R. J. McCook, Methodist Episcopal Preacher, 1856
  • Charles C. Morgan
  • David B. Morgan, Attorney
  • William Louis Morgan,  Attorney at Law and Secretary of the Lowndes County Inferior Court; came from Macon to Troupville in 1842; beekeeper; Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit (1843); representative to the 1845 Georgia Democratic Convention; secessionist representative to the 1850 Georgia State Convention which produced the Georgia Platform; grave at Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, GA
  • Thomas L. Nelson, Attorney at Law, doing business as the firm of Nelson & Hines.
  • Captain George W. Patterson, born in VA; lawyer and school teacher in Troupville from 1854 to 1860; relocated to Valdosta.
  • James W. Patterson, Attorney, 1854
  • Dr. W. H. Perry, of Troupville, received his medical degree in Augusta in 1843.
  • Henry Peeples, Merchant
  • John Peeples
  • Richard Augustin Peeples, Merchant, later mayor of Valdosta
  • Tillman D. Penrifoy, Preacher, 1840
  • Col. Ephriam H. Platt, Attorney and real estate agent, 1853 -1858.
  • George Robie, Teacher, 1842
    • Frances Barrett Robie, wife of George Robie
    • Georgia A. Robie, daughter of George Robie, b. 1842 at Troupville, GA
  • Charles S. Rockwell, Attorney at Law, doing business in 1846 as the firm of Davies & Rockwell, and in 1848 as the firm of Rockwell & Girardeau; also taught school in Troupville; moved to Thomasville before 1860.
  • John Slade,  Methodist preacher riding on the Troupville circuit.
  • Aaron Smith – Storekeeper
  • Duncan Smith, Secretary of the Democratic Party of Lowndes County, 1848; Clerk of court, 1851
  • Henry H. Smith, head of Troupville Bible Society, 1856
  • Mose Smith – Storekeeper, owned the first store in Troupville
  • Moses Smith, Jr.
  • William Smith, Innkeeper of  Tranquil Hall and Postmaster of Troupville
  • S. Spencer, Attorney at Law, doing business as the firm of Spencer & Stewart, 1843
  • H. S. Stewart, Attorney at Law, doing business as the firm of Spencer & Stewart, 1843
  • George W.Stansell, Hotel keeper
    • Eliza E. Stansell, wife of G. W. Stansell
  • John Strickland
  • Elizabeth Wooten Swain, 1st wife of Morgan Swain
    • Children of Elizabeth Wooten and Morgan Swain
      Joel Wooten Swain
      Rachel Inman Swain
  • Rebecca Griffin Swain, 2nd wife of Morgan Swain
    • Children of Rebecca Griffin & Morgan Swain
      Silvania Swain
      Emily Swain
      Thomas Swain
      William Swain
      Morgan Swain, jr
  • Morgan Swain, Innkeeper, jailor, blacksmith, and sheriff
  • Tarlton Swain, brother of Morgan Swain
  • Daniel W. Thomas, Shopkeeper, residing at Stansell’s hotel, 1850.
  • John Towells, Sheriff, 1844
  • Solomon W. Walker, Farmer
    •  Mary King Walker
    • Children of Solomon W. Walker & Mary King Walker
      Solomon Wesley Walker
      Matilda Walker
      Nancy Jane Walker
      Sophia Walker
      Henry Clay Walker
      William Webster Walker
      Isham F. Walker
      Mary Walker
  • Lewis P. D. Warren, Attorney, admitted to the bar at Troupville, 1848
  • Powhatan Whittle, Attorney; born abt 1832 in Virginia; arrived in Troupville 1854; a lineal descendant of Pocahontas;
  • William Wilder
    • Sarah Wilder
      Hopkins Wilder;
      John W.Wilder;
      Jane M.Wilder;
      Bathsheba Wilder;
      Andrew J.Wilder;
      Edward Gross Wilder
      Sarah E Wilder

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

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

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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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