William Jackson Taylor, Sr.

William Jackson Taylor, Sr.

Special appreciation goes to Linda Ward Meadows, 3rd great grand daughter of William Jackson Taylor, Sr. and Samantha Jane Rogers Taylor, and 2nd great grand daughter of Benjamin Thomas Cook and Samantha Jane Taylor Cook, for her avid research and contributions to this post.

William Jackson Taylor, Sr. (1801-1885) was a settler of that part Lowndes County, GA which was cut into Berrien County in 1856. He came to the area about 1851, first renting land from William J. Lamb and later establishing a homeplace on the Indian Ford Road (Upper Mud Creek Road).

Grave of William Jackson Taylor, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image source: ShelbyGT2011

Grave of William Jackson Taylor, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

William Jackson Taylor was the subject of a biographical sketch compiled about 1927 by William H. Griffin, an early historian of Berrien County, GA.  Griffin described how William J. Taylor came from South Carolina to settle in Georgia:

William J. Taylor
The subject of this sketch was born in Marion Township, South Carolina, January 4, 1801 and died at his home in Berrien county, Georgia, July 18, 1885.

In the year 1851 he decided to cast his fortunes in the state of Florida, consequently he set out by private conveyance to reach that state but for some cause halted at the village of Alapaha, later known as Milltown [now Lakeland, GA], and rented land from William Lamb remaining there a short period when he moved over into what is known as the Upper Tenth district and bought land, cleared up a farm and remained there until his death.  The farm he cleared is a portion of the land [later] owned by E. B. Taylor, a grandson, on the Indian Ford or Upper Mud Creek road.

Mr. Taylor in addition to being a farmer was an expert blacksmith and maker of bells, trivets, etc.  It was his custom to make a lot of these useful articles and take them on the old fashioned two-wheeled horse cart and peddle them out among the people of the surrounding country, often going into other counties in the sale of his wares. Among the stock raisers of South Georgia, and almost every resident in that day was engaged in stock raising, it was an easy matter to make a sale of one or more bells of different sizes at every house, while the housewife who did her cooking on the open fireplace never failed to barter with him for one or two trivets for use under her cooking utensils.  A trivet, as its name implies, is a 3 legged utensil for use under the pots, spiders and ovens to raise the pot or oven up from the hearth so as to give room for building the fire underneath.  It is formed by welding three legs on to an iron ring about eight inches in diameter, the legs being about four inches in length.  It was a great help to the housewife in her primitive method of cooking. Other articles of Mr. Taylor’s man——- —— —— ———- —– fireplace and on which the pots and kettles were suspended while boiling.  Mr. Taylor’s approach was always heralded by a ringing of his bells of different tones in unison and his quaint method of showing off the merits of his bells were always a source of great amusement to the children who would leave their tasks and gather about his cart while he was bartering with the father and mother.

South Carolina Beginnings

William Jackson Taylor was born January 14, 1801 in South Carolina.  His lineage is uncertain, but his presence is well established in the Census records of  Marion County, SC, along with others of the Taylor family connection.

William J. Taylor first married Samantha J. Rogers. She was born in South Carolina February 3, 1800.  In the 1850 census of William Taylor’s household, his wife “Mantha” and eight children are enumerated by name, all of whom moved with their parents to Lowndes County, GA (now Berrien) in 1851.

1850 census enumeration of William J. Taylor and family in Marion County, South Carolina

1850 census enumeration of William J. Taylor and family in Marion County, South Carolina

In 1850 in Marion County, SC, William Taylor’s neighbors  were Robert Taylor, age 75, and Thomas Taylor, age 50.

A William Taylor appears in the 1840 census of Marion County, SC, with the same neighbors Robert Taylor and Thomas Taylor. Although names of spouses and children were not recorded in the 1840 census or earlier, this enumeration  shows three female children and one male child in William Taylor’s household, as would be expected from the ages given in the 1850 census.  Despite some discrepancies in ages of William, his wife and children, it seems almost certain that the  William Taylor in the 1850 and in the 1840 census of Marion County, SC are one and the same person.

William Taylor also appears as a head of household in the 1830 census of Marion County, SC , as do Robert Taylor and Thomas Taylor. In William Taylor’s household in 1830 there are his spouse and  three children, two boys and one girl. But all of the children named in the 1850 census were born after 1830. If this is the same William Taylor, which seems most likely,  then these three children all left their father’s household before 1850. Given their ages were at least twenty-something by then, it is entirely reasonably that they should have married and established their own households.

In 1820, William Taylor and Robert Taylor both appear as heads of households  in Marion County, SC. William’s household includes his spouse and two children.   William Jackson Taylor and Samantha J. Rogers in 1820 would have been 19 and 20 years old, respectively. If this was indeed their household, then their marriage must have occurred about 1817.  Unfortunately, no documentation of their marriage date has been located.

From Federal Census records, though,  it seems that by 1820  William Taylor and Samantha J. Rogers had established their household in Marion County, SC.  The names of the three eldest Taylor children are not known, and it appears that they had left their father’s household by the time of the 1850 census, but the names of the known children of Samantha J. Rogers and William J. Taylor are listed below.  All of these children were born in South Carolina. The reported dates of birth of the children show typical variances found in 19th century census records; where given below the dates of birth are taken from  grave marker inscriptions.

  1. unknown male Taylor, born about 1818 in South Carolina
  2. unknown female Taylor, born about 1819 in South Carolina
  3. unknown male Taylor, born about 1826 in South Carolina
  4. Fannie R. Taylor, born January 21, 1832; died June 30, 1904; never married; buried Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  5. Mary Taylor, born 1833; at home with her parents in Berrien County, GA in 1860
  6. Thomas L. Taylor, born November 7, 1838; married Fairiby Cook (b. 1846), daughter of Elijah Cook;   died June 18, 1922; buried Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church, Berrien County, GA.
  7. Emeline Taylor, born about 1839, in South Carolina; married Joseph Lewis, January 28, 1866 in Berrien County, GA.
  8. Jemima Taylor, born January 22, 1842; married on December 25, 1856 to William Hill Boyett, who was born July 27, 1834 and died December 16, 1897; Jemima died June 28, 1926; buried Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA
  9. Robert Lewis Taylor, born 1845; married 1st Nancy Tison, daughter of Henry Tison, on June 22, 1834; married 2nd Sallie Boyd, daughter of Aden Boyd; said to be buried in an unmarked grave at Empire Church Cemetery
  10. William Jackson Taylor, Jr. born 1847; married Eliza H. Boyd, daughter of Aden Boyd, on July 29, 1862.
  11. Samantha Jane Taylor, born December 28, 1848; married Benjamin Thomas Cook in Berrien County on December 14, 1865; Jane died June 7, 1888; Ben died October 5, 1924; buried Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

The 1860 Federal Census of Berrien County, GA lists two other children living in William J. Taylor’s household.  They were Martha, age 3, and Harriet, age 1. Both girls were born in South Carolina.

William Jackson Taylor and his wife, Samantha, joined with the Primitive Baptist congregation of Empire Church.  Their future in-laws, Nancy Sykes and Aden Boyd, gave land in 1854 to establish Empire Church,  located on Empire Road near Five Mile Creek,  about six miles northeast of Ray City out the Sam I. Watson Highway.

The Sons of William Jackson Taylor

According to W. H. Griffin, all three sons saw service in the Confederate army. The sons were:

  • Thomas Lang Taylor who married Ferraby Cook, a daughter of Elijah Cook, and they were the parents of George M., E.B., William J., Archie and Arthur, twins, and the three daughters. Thomas Lang Taylor enlisted in Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment on March 22, 1862, and mustered out on February 15, 1863 at Camp Winder, Richmond, VA. He was enumerated at age 23 in Berrien County, in the 1864 Census for Re-organizing the Georgia Militia. His profession as “shoemaker”  was critical to the war effort; “keeping the troops adequately shod was a problem that plagued Confederate authorities from first to last.” Thomas L. Taylor later served as  Justice of the Peace in Berrien County.
  • Lewis Robert Taylor, who married first Nancy Tison and after her death Sallie Boyd, a daughter of Aiden Boyd. Pvt L. R. Taylor enlisted in Company E, 50th Georgia Regiment on January 28, 1863 at Coffee Bluff near Savannah, GA.
  • William J. Taylor Jr. was too young for service when the Civil War started. He was enumerated at age 16 in Berrien County in the 1864 Census for Reorganization of the Georgia Militia. William J. Jr., [was] still living [in 1927] and was married to Eliza Boyd, another daughter of Aiden Boyd.  William J. Jr., [was then] in his eightyeth year.

Widower and Groom in a Month

Samantha J. Rogers Taylor,  scarcely survived the end of the Civil War.  William J. Taylor was left a widower on November 6, 1865; Samantha was buried at Empire Church Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

Samantha Jane Taylor tombstone

Grave of Samantha J. Taylor, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

William J. Taylor was not in mourning for long. Within days following the death of his first wife, Mr. Taylor married Mrs. Mary Ford. She was the young widow  of William A. Ford, who apparently died at home in Berrien County, GA about 1864. Born Mary Patience Ellen Musselwhite, she was daughter of Asa Musslewhite, of Lowndes County.   Mrs. Ford had four young children:  Mary Ann E. Ford, age 7; Nancy E. Ford, age 5; John S. Ford, age 3; and Anna Ford, age 1.

There seems to be some confusion of the military records of William A. Ford with those of William D. Ford.

William D. Ford (1839-1862)
William D. Ford, of Berrien County, GA was the husband of Lydia M. Baker.  Military records show he served with The Berrien Light Infantry, Company I, 50th Georgia Regiment.  He enlisted on March 4, 1862 at Nashville, GA and died on October 26, 1862 at Winchester, Frederick County, VA. Extensive research on the 50th Georgia Regiment by James W. Parrish, author of Wiregrass to Appomattox, indicates William D. Ford died of disease at Winchester Hospital and was buried at Stonewall Confederate Cemetery, Winchester VA.

William A. Ford (abt 1825 -abt 1864)
William A. Ford, married Mary P. E. Musselwhite in 1851 in Dooly County, GA and moved to Berrien County, GA before 1860. He  did not serve in the Civil War, claiming the equivalent of “conscientious objector” status.  William A. Ford was enumerated in the 1864 Census for the Re-organization of the Georgia Militia  at age 42 years and 7 months.  His occupation was farming but he was also a preacher, which was the basis of his exemption from Confederate service. Apparently William A. Ford died shortly after the 1864 Georgia census; the date of death and place of burial is not known.

 

William J. Taylor, Sr. and Mary Musslewhite Ford were married in Berrien County on November 30, 1865.  The groom was 64;  The bride was exactly half his age, at 32.

William J. Taylor, Sr and Mary Ford, Certificate of Marriage, November 3, 1865, Berrien County, GA

William J. Taylor, Sr and Mary Ford, Certificate of Marriage, November 3, 1865, Berrien County, GA

The Taylor children’s position on their father’s remarriage so soon after the death of their mother, and to a much younger woman, is unknown.  The wedding ceremony was performed by the widower’s son, Thomas L. Taylor, who was Justice of the Peace.  On the other hand, William J. Taylor’s youngest daughter, Samantha J. Taylor, left the home of her father and new step-mother just two weeks later, to be married to Benjamin Thomas Cook.

On October 27, 1866  William J. Taylor was expelled from the Empire Primitive Baptist Church, presumably on account of his association with a Missionary Baptist church.  According to W. H. Griffin, “Mr. Taylor was a member of the Missionary Baptist church and was a co-temporary and fellow worker with Moses G. Sutton and other pioneer citizens in the establishment of Poplar Springs church out ten miles east of Nashville…”

In 1867,  William Taylor  signed the Oath of Allegiance to the United States in order to have his national citizenship restored and to qualify for the right to vote.  The Oath of Allegiance was required of all southern men whose national citizenship had been renounced by way of the Ordinance of Secession, oaths of  abjuration of national citizenship, oaths of allegiance to Confederate states,  or acceptance of Confederate citizenship.

In 1867 William J. Taylor signed an oath of allegiance to the United States and sought to have his civil rights restored.

In 1867 William J. Taylor signed an oath of allegiance to the United States and sought to have his civil rights restored.

William  and Mary made their home in Berrien County in the 10th Land District.  The children of William J. Taylor and Mary  P. E. Musselwhite were:

  1. Moses A. Taylor, born about 1868
  2. Sarah Ann Taylor, born August, 1870
  3. Ephraim Taylor, born about 1872

The 1870 Census shows William J. Taylor and Mary PE Musselwhite Taylor were enumerated on their farm in the 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA. In their household were their children Moses and Sarah Ann, and Mary’s children by her former marriage, Mary A., Nancy, John and Ann.  Their neighbors were the families of John Sapp, William Garrett, William Gaskins, and Emily Gaskins Newbern, widowed daughter-in-law of Etheldred Newbern.

1870 Census enumeration of William J. Taylor and Mary P E Musselwhite Taylor in Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n501/mode/1up

1870 Census enumeration of William J. Taylor and Mary P E Musselwhite Taylor in Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n501/mode/1up

In 1880, William  and Mary were still in the 1148 th District of Berrien County. In their household were their minor children Moses , Sarah, and Ephriam, and Mary’s daughter, Nancy Ford.  Enumerated at age 81, William Taylor was still working as a blacksmith.  On neighboring farms were the families of his son, Thomas Taylor, and of James Sirmans.

 

1880 Census enumeration of William J. Taylor and Mary P E Musselwhite Ford in Berrien County, GA. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n432/mode/1up

1880 Census enumeration of William J. Taylor and Mary P E Musselwhite Ford in Berrien County, GA. https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n432/mode/1up

William J. Taylor, Sr. is buried by his first wife Samantha in Empire Church Cemetery. Several of their children are buried nearby.  His second wife Mary survived him by many years.

SOURCES:
Griffin Papers, by William Henry Griffin; Taylor Family folder found in Huxford Library; 1820, 1830, 1840,1850 Federal Census for Marion County, SC; 1860, 1870, and 1880 Federal Census for Berrien County, GA; Tombstone inscriptions in Empire Cemetery; Berrien County marriage records.

 

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William H. Griffin, Wiregrass Jurist

William Hamilton Griffin (1853-1917)

William Hamilton Griffin was born in that part of Lowndes County, GA which was cut into Berrien County in 1856. He became a prominent public administrator and jurist of Wiregrass Georgia, and was involved in some of the most dramatic legal contests in Ray City history.

William H. Griffin

William H. Griffin

William Hamilton Griffin  was born July 18, 1853, on his father’s plantation, located in that portion of Lowndes county which is now included in Berrien county, GA. His honored parents, William D.and Nancy (Belote) Griffin, were also natives of Lowndes county.”

He was a cousin of Bessie Griffin, and Lester Griffin of the Connells Mill district (Georgia Militia District 1329), just west of  the Rays Mill community  (now Ray City, GA),

“The father, William D. Griffin, aided in effecting the organization of Berrien county and was its second treasurer, which office he held continuously until his death, in 1892, except one term, during the so-called -“Reconstruction” period, immediately succeeding the Civil War, when nearly all white voters were, under Federal statutes, practically disfranchised. The father was a soldier in the Confederate service during the latter part of the war and was with Johnston’s forces in the operations of the Atlanta Campaign.”

The paternal grandfather represented Brooks county in the state legislature, though his residence was on land now in Lowndes county. The great-grandfather, James Griffin, was a private soldier in the Revolutionary War.  James Griffin and Sarah Lodge Griffin were early settlers of Irwin County, GA.

William H. Griffin, the subject of this sketch, was afforded only the advantages of the common schools of his native county, the family fortunes, in common with those of most southern families, having been seriously affected by the war. He was educated in the public schools and academies at Nashville, GA. He soon developed traits of leadership and at twenty was elected clerk of the court for Berrien County, an office he held in 1874-5. From 1882 to 1885 he held of the office of Ordinary of Berrien County. While in this office he studied law, and in 1884 he was admitted to the Georgia bar. He at once began the practice of his profession at Nashville, but in 1885 he removed to Valdosta, GA.  There he formed a law partnership with Judge Benjamin F. Whittington, as Whittington & Griffin, this relation continuing for several years.

He was elected mayor of Valdosta in 1892, and served three consecutive terms. Governor William Yates Atkinson appointed him judge of the city court of Valdosta in 1897, for a term of four years, at the expiration of which he was reappointed for a like term, by Governor Allen D. Candler, and continued on the bench until 1905. During his eight years of service he tried 1,358 civil cases and 2008  criminal cases, a total of 3,866. His decisions were carried to the supreme court but 18 times and were reversed in only two cases.

In politics Judge Griffin was a Democrat, having always given that party his unqualified support. He served as mayor of Valdosta, judge of the city court, representative in the state legislature from Lowndes County, Chair of the Democratic Executive Committee of Lowndes County, and as referee in bankruptcy. His elevations to public office were a tribute to his worth and to the respect with which he was held by the community.

He was a member of the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and held membership in various bar associations. His chief recreations were fishing and hunting.

William H. Griffin was twice married — first, on May 18, 1879, to Margaret “Maggie” MacDonald, daughter of Dougal P. and Anna (Peeples) MacDonald, of Nashville, Berrien county. Maggie McDonald was born in 1864. Her father was listed on the 1860 roster of Levi J. Knight’s Berrien Minute Men, but he was also enumerated in Berrien County on the 1864  Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia. Maggie was apparently raised by Dr. Hamilton M. Talley, as she appears in his household in Berrien County in the census of 1870. She died in 1890.

William H. Griffin was second married to Miss Carrie Abbott, of Randolph, VT, September 28, 1892. He had two children of the latter marriage—William Abbott Griffin, born in 1896, and Margaret Griffin, born in 1902. William and Carrie Griffin were members of the Methodist Episcopal church South.

William H. Griffin served as attorney for the estate of prominent Rays Mill turpentine man Robert S. Thigpen, engineering some of the largest property deals in Ray City history in the disposal of the Thigpen estate.  Thigpen’s holdings at the time of his death in 1898 included his turpentine plants and naval stores stock at Rays Mill, Naylor and Lenox, GA.

In 1899, William H. Griffin represented James Thomas Beagles, defending him for the Killing of Madison G. Pearson at Henry Harrison Knight’s store at Rays Mill (now Ray City),GA some 12 years earlier. The Beagles case was tried before Judge Augustin H. Hansell. Attorney Griffin made a most eloquent and affecting appeal in behalf of his client, Beagles, for a light sentence, and every one in the court room was moved by his strong and well-chosen words. Beagles was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to only two years incarceration.

In 1906, after his retirement from the bench Judge Griffin entered into a partnership with Hon. Elisha Peck Smith Denmark, and formed the law firm, Denmark & Griffin. E.P.S. Denmark was the husband of Mary Lane, daughter of Remer Young Lane, a Valdosta banker and one of the largest land owners in all of Lowndes County.  Of Judge Griffin, it was said that “He enjoyed the confidence, esteem and patronage of the most prominent and important people and business interests of Lowndes and adjoining counties.”

In the matter of Green Bullard’s estate, William H. Griffin was retained by William B. Shaw to represent the interests of his wife, Fannie Bullard ShawGreen Bullard was a long time resident of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) area, and  owned land out Possum Creek Road and on toward the community of Cat Creek. The Shaws wanted the estate to be administered by Fannies’ brother, Henry Needham Bullard, rather than her half-brother, William Malachi Jones.   The other side of the family was represented  by Buie & Knight in the dispute. Mallie Jones was the son of Mary Ann Knight Bullard by her first husband, William A. Jones.

Judge Griffin’s name was synonymous with integrity. He “walked uprightly, worked righteousness, and spoke the truth in his heart.” He exemplified the best ideals of the profession. He was generous-spirited, and gave liberally of praise and commendation where he thought it due.  When the first train to roll through Ray City on the Georgia & Florida Railroad arrived at Valdosta, it was Judge W. H. Griffin that gave the welcome address at the celebration.

His death occurred at his home in Valdosta, April 15, 1917, and the throng of people, including many lawyers from other counties, who attended his funeral attested strongly the esteem and love there was for him in the hearts
of those who knew him.

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Obituary of William Hamilton Griffin

Post-Search Light
Apr. 19, 1917

Judge Griffin Died Sunday

Prominent Valdosta Jurist Passed Suddenly Away From Heart Trouble – Well Known Here.

    The following account appearing under a Valdosta date line in the daily press Monday will be interest to Bainbridge friends of the deceased.
     Judge Griffin was well known here, and was related to Representative E. H. Griffin, of this city.
    “Judge William H. Griffin, one of Valdosta’s prominent men and a leading south Georgia lawyer, succumbed to attack of heart failure this afternoon at 1:45 o’clock after less than an hour’s illness.  He was alone at his home when the attack came on him, members of his family being at church.  Mrs. Griffin returned home soon after he was stricken and a physician reached his side in a few minutes but was powerless to relieve his patient.
    “Judge Griffin was sixty-four years of age, an active south Georgian, and for forty years a citizen of Valdosta. He was a member of the law firm of Denmark & Griffin, and controlled a large and lucrative practice.  He was a member of the two last general assemblies of Georgia and exerted a strong but conservative influence in that body.  He had been judge of the city court of Valdosta, mayor of the city, member of the school board and active in the public life of this city and section, which loses one of its best citizens in his death.
     “Judge Griffin is survived by his wife and two children, a son, Mr. Abbot Griffin, and daughter, Miss Margaret.
   “His son was in Macon, where an announcement of his father’s death reached him.
    “Judge Griffin’s funeral and interment will take place here probably on Monday.”

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery

Grave of William Hamilton Griffin, Sunset Hill Cemetery. Image source: Robert Strickland.

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October 1, 1908 First Train Rolls into Rays Mill, GA

On Thursday, October 1, 1908  the very first train rolled into Rays Mill (now Ray City), GA on the tracks of the Georgia and Florida Railroad. It was an exciting day in the Wiregrass and when the train stopped at the Ray’s Mill depot. Nearly one hundred people boarded for the excursion to Valdosta.

An Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147454

An Engine of the Georgia & Florida Railroad. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/147454

The Valdosta Times reported on the great celebration upon the arrival of the train in that city.  Among the  G & F passengers on the very first northbound train rolling out of Valdosta was Louis Malone Bullard, son of Green Bullard and husband of Dollie Howard Knight.

Valdosta Times
October 3, 1908

A BIG CROWD ON EXCURSION

Valdosta’s Neighbors Celebrate Opening of New Railroad.

Nearly Six Hundred People Came to the City Today on Excursion Over the Georgia and Florida Road From Points North of Here – The Visitors are Given a Cordial Welcome.

(From Thursday’s Daily. [October 1, 1908])

The excursion over the Georgia and Florida railroad today, marking the opening of the new line, brought big crowds to Valdosta.  Our neighbors paid us a visit, and Valdostans extended them a cordial greeting.
 The train from Hazlehurst reached the city about 12:30 on schedule time. It was  met at the turnout on the new road by a committee of twenty-five citizens, carrying badges with which to tag the excursionists. Mayor Roberts boarded the engine at the crossing and brought the train into the city, with the whistle blowing and bell ringing every foot of the way.  At the depot the excursionists, numbering nearly six hundred people were formed in line and marched up Patterson street and to the Odd Fellows Hall on Central avenue, where a splendid lunch had been prepared.  The ladies in the party, numbering about one hundred and fifty, were met by a committee at Pinkston’s store and carried up stairs where refreshments had been prepared for them.
 No pains were spared by the committee in charge of the entertainment for the visitors, to make the occasion a pleasant one.  The lunches at both places were simply splendid, and enough had been provided to feed even a larger crowd.
 After dinner there were a number of speeches at the Odd Fellows’ Hall, Judge W. H. Griffin welcoming the visitors to the city in a ten minute talk which was applauded to the echo.  Prof. McDonald, of Douglas, made a splendid speech expressing the appreciation of the people along the new line for the cordial welcome given them by the citizens of Valdosta.  He was followed by Col. Smith, of Nashville, who added his praise to that of the hundreds who had given the occasion their unqualified endorsement.
 Every town on the new line was represented in the excursionists. Hazlehurst, Douglas, Willacoochee, Nashville, Ray’s Mill and all of the other towns sent representative crowds.  One hundred and seventy-two came from Nashville and nearly a hundred boarded the train at Ray’s Mill.
Between seventy-five and one hundred came up on the early train from Madison and the towns between here and there.
The visitors have a half day to spend  in the city, as the train on the return trip does not leave until six o’clock this afternoon.

First Train.

    The first passenger train of the Georgia and Florida going north left out of Valdosta this morning at about 8:30 o’clock.  It was the accommodation train No. 20, and carried several freight cars and a passenger coach.
    No 20 met the excursion train coming from Hazlehurst, at Nashville.
    Several passengers got aboard.  Some for Mathis, some for Ray’s Mill and others for Nashville.  Among the passengers were J. R. Fitzgerald, Garland Wilkinson and L. M. Bullard.
    Those who watched this first train going north from Valdosta over the new route of the Georgia and Florida, realized the dream of leading Valdostans for years.
   This might well be called the birthday of the new era for the city’s prosperity, as the Georgia and Florida opens up a vast territory that was hard for Valdosta to reach heretofore.
    When completed the road from Madison to Augusta will touch many good towns but among them all it will have no better friend than Valdosta.

-30-

The Estate of Green Bullard

Green Bullard was a long time resident of the Rays Mill (now Ray City) area, and husband of Mary Ann Knight.   The Bullards owned land out Possum Creek Road and on toward the community of Cat Creek.  (See Green Bullard and Green Bullard Fought Sickness in the Civil War)

Following Green Bullard’s death in 1907, there was some dispute among his children and step-children over the administration of his estate.

One side of the family, represented by Buie & Knight, wanted Henry Needham Bullard appointed as administrator.  The other side, represented by William Hamilton Griffin, wanted Mallie Jones as administrator. Attorney William Hamilton Griffin,  who was judge of the Valdosta City Court and a former mayor of Valdosta. Col. Griffin was a native of Berrien County and had served previously as clerk of the Berrien County court and as Ordinary of Berrien County.

Children of Mary A. Knight and William A. Jones (1835-1866)

  1. William Malachi Jones (1861-1925)
  2. Adam Allen Jones (1863-1922)

Children of Green Bullard and Mary A. Knight

  1. Sally Louise Bullard  (1866 – 1919) married Albert B. Surrency
  2. Susan Bullard (1871 – 1950)  married Jesse Shelby “Doc” Shaw
  3. Fannie Bullard (1874 – 1941) married William Berrien Shaw
  4. Henry Needham Bullard (1878 – 1938) married Mary Johnson
  5. Louis Malone Bullard (1881 – 1945) married Dollie Howard Knight

The court challenge was reported in the April 11, 1908 edition of the Valdosta Times.

April 11, 1908 Adminstration of the estate of Green Bullard is contested by daughter Fannie Bullard Shaw

April 11, 1908 Administration of the estate of Green Bullard is contested by daughter Fannie Bullard Shaw

Valdosta Times
April 11, 1908

Contest Over Administration

    Mr. William B. Shaw, of Bainbridge, representing his wife [Fannie Bullard Shaw], accompanied by his attorney, Judge W. H. Griffin, and Mr. Will Simms, went to Nashville yesterday to appear before the ordinary there and have Mr. Henry Bullard made administrator of the estate of Greene Bullard.  Other heirs wanted Mr. Mallie Jones made administrator.  Judge Griffin represented one side and Buie & Knight the other.  Judge Patterson heard the arguments and later appointed the clerk of the superior court, probably as a compromise, or  until the matter may be given further consideration.

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R. S. Thigpen ~ Turpentine Man of Ray’s Mill

Robert Silas Thigpen (1849-1898)

Robert S. Thigpen was a wealthy Naval Stores manufacturer and a resident of Berrien County, Ga.  In the 1890s he lived near Ray’s Mill where he owned and operated a turpentine still.

Born Robert Silas Thigpen, August 13, 1849 he was a son of Dennis Thigpen, of South Carolina. It appears that R.S. Thigpen came to Georgia with his family from South Carolina when he was a young man, probably in the 1860s.

In 1880, R. S. Thigpen and his younger brother John Thigpen were living in the 1125 Georgia Militia District in Worth County.  By that time, Robert was already a successful manufacturer of  Naval Stores, in the comparatively new turpentine industry. The 1880 census non-population schedules show R.S. Thigpen owned a Tar & Turpentine Naval Stores operation valued at $6000. This turpentine still was situated on the Ty Ty Creek near Isabella, GA. The enumeration sheet shows Thigpen generally employed about 60 hands, who worked 10 hour days, year-round. Skilled workers received $1.50 a day, and ordinary laborers 65 cents. Thigpen’s total annual payroll for the operation ran $5000 a year.

Georgia Property Tax Digests of  1890 show Robert S. Thigpen owned 843 acres in the Mud Creek district of Clinch county, Georgia Militia District 586, including all of lot 349 and parts of lots 486, 487, and 484. He was employing 70 workers in his operations there. He had $700 of merchandise on hand, $465 in household furnishings, $210 jewelry, $3200 in livestock, $225 in plantation and mechanical tools, $2810 in other property, all total valued at $13,800.

Early 1900s Turpentine Still in South Georgia. Image Source: Georgia Virtual Vault.

Early 1900s Turpentine Still in South Georgia. Image Source: Georgia Virtual Vault.

By 1894, Thigpen was manufacturing naval stores in Berrien County and had a turpentine still at Ray’s Mill.  One of the residents at the Thigpen property was Horace Cox.   As a young man Cox had worked in a carriage shop, and was the son of a Berrien County mechanic, Samuel D. Cox.

In the summer of 1894,  fire struck at Rays Mill.

Tifton Gazette
June 8, 1894 pg 1

The Thigpen mill near Rays Mill post office, Berrien county, was destroyed by fire one day last week.

On June 19, 1894 allegations of arson were made against Horace Cox by a committee of 110 citizens, who signed  and published a petition against Cox  in a paid advertisement in the Valdosta Times. Cox had been suspected of numerous arson cases in Berrien and Clinch counties.  The accusers asked R.S. Thigpen to turn Cox out, although Thigpen had not signed the petition.

That Fall, Thigpen suffered another setback when he was thrown from a horse.

Tifton Gazette
November 2, 1894  Pg 1

Mr. R. S. Thigpen was thrown from a horse near Ray’s mill last Sunday and two of his ribs were broken.  The girt to his saddle broke and the saddle turning threw him off.  He came to the city [Valdosta] in a carriage sent from here and is getting along well at present. – Valdosta Telescope.  Mr. Thigpen is a citizen of Berrien County and lives near Ray’s Mill.

Despite these hindrances, R.S. Thigpen continued with his operations at Ray’s Mill.

Tifton Gazette
Aug 16, 1895 Pg 3

Milltown Mention

L. D. Liles has sold his mercantile interests to R. S. Thigpen. The stock will be moved to the latter’s still near Ray’s Mill.

In February of 1896 incendiaries again struck in Berrien County, this time burning the landmark  Banks Mill at Milltown (now Lakeland).  This time, Horace Cox was formally charged with the arson. (see Horace Cox and the Burning of Bank’s Mill)  But he was acquitted  in the case, and afterwards he pursued a libel case against the Valdosta Times and the committee which had petitioned against him in 1894.  Cox’s lawsuit omitted any complaints against R.S. Thigpen.

Although the libel case Cox brought would continue to wind through the courts for another decade, Horace Cox’s connection with R.S. Thigpen was severed later that year by yet another fire.

Tifton Gazette
November 6, 1896 Pg 1

The residence of Mr. Horace Cox, near Thigpen’s still, was destroyed by fire, supposed to be of incendiary origin, last week.  But little of the furniture was saved. There was no insurance.

Thigpen continued his turpentine still at Rays Mill and worked for public improvements to support his operation.  The Tifton Gazette, Friday Sept 4, 1896 edition noted under “Green Bay Items:”

Mr. R.S. Thigpen is pushing to completion a bridge across Thigpen Bay, on the new public road running by way of Thigpen Still and H.H. Knight’s. He has contracted to build the bridge for $200. Those who oppose the opening of the new road said it would cost $500 to build that bridge.

Over his life, R. S. Thigpen amassed sizable holdings in naval stores, including his properties at Ray’s Mill, GA.  He  died on February 23,1898, and was buried at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.  The regional newspapers reported on the settlement of his estate:

Macon Telegraph,
April 17, 1898  Pg 1

VALDOSTA.

Valdosta, Ga., April 16.

Judge W.H. Griffin, counsel for the administrator of the estate of the late R.S. Thigpen, has closed a trade for $35,000 of property in the estate. The turpentine plant at Rays mill was sold to W.F. Powell & Co. of North Carolina for $13,000 and naval stores stock to other parties for about $13,500. The still in this county near Naylor was sold for about $6,500. These large sales comprise only a minor part of the estate, but the good prices that were gotten for the property assures not only the solvency of the estate, but that the heirs will get a good deal from it.

 

Tifton Gazette
May 6, 1898 pg 4

 Mr. W. F. Powell, of North Carolina, with his father has purchased the Thigpen turpentine plant at Ray’s Mill from the estate of the late R. S. Thigpen.   The deal was made last week and engineered by Judge W. H. Griffin, the attorney for the estate.  Besides the valuable Ray’s Mill property, the still at the Bamberg place was also sold.  Henson, Bros. & Co., are the buyers, and it is understood that the price paid was about $6,500. {text illegible} 13,500 in naval stores stock {text illegible} ld, making about $35,000 {text illegible} n’s property to change hands in the past few days. -Valdosta.

 After the death of R.S. Thigpen, his wife and children made their home in Valdosta in a large house on Patterson Street.

Children of Sarah and Robert S. Thigpen:

  1. Annie Thigpen, b. December 1882
  2. Percy Thigpen, b. July 1886
  3. Fred Thigpen, b. August 1888
  4. Robert Silas Thigpen, Jr., b. May 1892
Gravemarker of Robert Silas Thigpen, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.

Gravemarker of Robert Silas Thigpen, Sunset Hill Cemetery, Valdosta, Lowndes County, GA.

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Trial and Incarceration of James Thomas Beagles

Jame Thomas Beagles (1861-1911)

James Thomas Beagles (1861-1911)

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

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

Berrien County Grand Jury, October 1899.

Berrien County Grand Jury, October 1899.

Tifton Gazette
Oct. 13, 1899 — page 1

GENERAL PRESENTMENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUPERIOR COURT IN SESSION.

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

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

*****

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

*****

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

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

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

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

October 13, 1899 Tifton Gazette on the Convict Lease System

October 13, 1899 Tifton Gazette on the Convict Lease System

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

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

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

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Biggles case was tried by Judge Hansell

The Biggles murder trial of 1899 concerned a family feud at Rays Mill, Georgia in which J.T. Biggles gunned down Madison Pearson on the porch of Henry Harrison Knight’s store. (See 1887 Family Feud at Ray’s Mill, More on the 1887 Family Feud at Rays Mill, GA, Beagles/Biggles/Beigles of Rays Mill, The Biggles Farm.) Judge Hansell, who for fifty years served on the Southern Circuit of the Superior Court, presided at the trial.

Judge Augustin H. Hansell, Southern Circuit, tried many cases in Berrien County, GA.

Judge Augustin H. Hansell, Southern Circuit, tried many cases in Berrien County, GA.

The Atlanta Constitution
October 16, 1899 Pg 3

FIFTY YEARS ON THE BENCH
Judge Hansell’s Remarks to the Grand Jury of Berrien County.
    Tifton, Ga., October 15. – (Special.) – Berrien superior court, after four days’ session, adjourned Thursday evening.  The entire session of the court was devoted to criminal business, no civil cases being called for trial.
  The most important case was that against Thomas J. Beagles, who killed his brother-in-law, Madison G. Pearson, at Ray’s Mill, this county [Berrien], November 4, 1887, or twelve years ago.
    Beagles had married Pearson’s sister and out of this a bitter enmity grew up between him and his brother-in-law.  Pearson had threatened Beagle’s life and a day or so previous to the shooting had gone to his house and cursed his wife and children.
    Beagles swore out a peace warrant for Pearson, and he was carried to justice court at Ray’s Mill for trial. On the court ground the difficulty arose again, and Pearson, the man under arrest challenged Beagles for a fight, and started out the door, pulling of his coat as he went.  Beagles was standing near the door and as Pearson came out unarmed, drew a pistol and shot him through the head.  The ball entered just in front of the right ear, and produced instant death.
    Beagles left the country and was gone three years, but came back and was arrested and placed under bond. Two months ago he was given up by his bondsmen and placed in jail.
The trial of the case consumed a day and a half.  The state was represented by Solicitor General Thomas and Colonel W. H. Griffin, of Valdosta,  and the defense by Colonels Joseph A. Alexander and W. M. Hammond.  Every inch of the ground was well fought and the arguments of Colonels Hammond and Griffin, covering six hours eloquent and masterly.  The jury remained out seven hours, returning a verdict of manslaughter with a recommendation to mercy.  Colonel Griffin made a touching and eloquent plea for a light sentence and Judge Hansel gave Beagles two years in the penitentiary.
Jim Oscar Sterns, colored, who killed another negro with a coupling pin in Tifton a few weeks ago, was sentenced to the penitentiary for life.
North Cochran, colored, who committed highway robbery, taking $41 from another negro, was given six years in the penitentiary.
Warren Moss, colored, who burglarized the store of C. G. Gray, at Lenox, was given five years.
John Davis, colored, who burglarized the store of J. L. Ford, in Tifton, was given five years.
There were a number of sentences to the chaingang for smaller offenses, all the parties being negroes.
The grand jury recommended the building of a new jail for the county.
In thanking the grand jury for an exceedingly complimentary reference to himself, Judge Hansell stated that next month would be the fiftieth anniversary of his donning the judicial ermine, and the fifty years had been spent on the bench in south Georgia.

Home of Judge Augustin H. Hansell circa 1884, Thomasville, GA. On porch, Mrs. Hansel and Judge Hansell; sitting on top step, Miss Sallie Hansell; on bottom step, Jim Jarrett; at foot of steps, Nannie Boles; standing in yard, left to right, Mrs. James Watt, William A Watt, Hansel Watt, Mr. James Watt.

Home of Judge Augustin H. Hansell circa 1884, Thomasville, GA. On porch, Mrs. Hansel and Judge Hansell; sitting on top step, Miss Sallie Hansell; on bottom step, Jim Jarrett; at foot of steps, Nannie Boles; standing in yard, left to right, Mrs. James Watt, William A Watt, Hansel Watt, Mr. James Watt.

In A HISTORY OF SAVANNAH AND SOUTH GEORGIA, (p. 872-874) author William Harden  wrote a brief sketch on the life of Judge Hansell:

Augustin Harris Hansell, father of Charles P., was born at Milledgeville, August 17, 1817, and being reared in one of the prosperous homes of Georgia, was given excellent advantages. Prof. Carlisle Beaman was one of his tutors in general subjects, and he studied law under R. K. Hines and Iverson L. Harris. After admission to the bar he began practice at Milledgeville, and for a time served as private secretary for Governor Gilmer. In 1847 he was elected solicitor general, and two years later judge of the southern circuit, then embracing the greater part of south Georgia. Railroads had not yet penetrated to this region, and he journeyed from court to court in his private carriage. He resigned as judge in 1853 but was again elected to the same office in 1859. For some years, until 1850, he was a resident of Hawkinsville, then in Scottsboro two years, and in 1852 came to Thomasville, being one of the most prominent among the early settlers of this locality. During the war he served on the relief committee, and in 1864 spent three months distributing supplies to the soldiers around Atlanta and Marietta. In 1868 he left the bench, resuming private practice for four years, but in 1872 was again appointed judge of the southern circuit and continued in this office until 1903. For more than forty years he honored the bench with his character and ability, and his is one of the foremost names in the Georgia judiciary during the last half of the nineteenth century. On retiring from the bench he lived retired until his death in 1907.

Judge Hansell married Miss Mary Ann Baillie Paine, who was born in Milledgeville. Her father was Charles J. Paine, a native of Petersburg, Virginia, and a physician. … Judge Hansell’s wife died in 1906, and her five children were as follows: Susan V., Charles Paine, Mary H., Frances B., and Sally H.

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More on the 1887 Family Feud at Rays Mill, GA

James Thomas Beigles

James Thomas Biggles

In the winter of 1887, a family  feud at Rays Mill, Georgia turned deadly when J.T. Biggles gunned down Madison Pearson from the porch of Henry Harrison Knight’s store.

At that time Knight’s store was  one of the few commercial establishments at Rays Mill and was a community meeting place.  The store was situated on present day Pauline Street, approximately opposite from the Ray City School.  In front of the store was an area known as the “court ground”  and the building served as the court house when there was need.   Knight’s store was also occupied by Dr. Guy Selman, one of the first doctors in the area,  and after David Ridgell departed in 1905 it was the location of the Ray’s Mill Post Office.  Henry Knight’s son-in-law, Cauley Johnson was postmaster. The building was destroyed by fire, probably in the 1940’s.

James Thomas Biggles was born in Georgia in October, 1860, a son of John Jefferson Beagles and Catherine Wright Biggles. (There was obviously some confusion over the spelling of the family name.)

Mary Elizabeth Pearson

Mary Elizabeth Pearson

J.T. married Mary Elizabeth Pearson on July 26, 1879. The ceremony was performed by Jonathan D. Knight, Notary Public.  James Thomas Biggles  appeared in the census of 1880 in District 5 of GMD#1144 as Thomas Beagle, farm laborer, age 19, with wife, Elizabeth, age 21. In the cemetery of Union Church (aka Burnt Church), next to the grave of Mary E. Biggles, stands a small headstone with the inscription “Infant of Mr. & Mrs. J.T. Biggles, Born and Died Apr. 15, 1879.”

J.T Biggles had a running feud with his brother-in-law, Madison G. Pearson.  At first Biggles tried to work through the court, but he soon took the law into his own hands and murdered Pearson before a crowd of citizens.  Biggles became a fugitive for twelve years before returning to stand trial.

The state press reported on the Murder in Berrien:

The Columbus Enquirer-Sun
Nov. 11, 1887 — page 3


Terrible Result of an Old Feud.

     Nashville, Ga., Nov. 9. – At Ray’s mill in this county, on Tuesday evening last, a dreadful encounter occurred in which M. G. Pearson was shot and instantly killed by J. T. Beagly, the cause being a family feud. It appears the parties had met to amicably settle the trouble if possible, but soon engaged in some hot words, when Pearson said to Beagly:
“Come out in the sand and we will settle the trouble.”
     They started out. Beagly drew his pistol and fired upon him as he went out, and shot him dead the first fire, then took to the swamp and has not yet been captured.

The Valdosta Times provided additional details:

The Valdosta Times
November 12, 1887

MURDER IN BERRIEN

J. T. Beigles Kills Madison G. Pearson at Ray’s Mill – A Family Feud which ends in the murder of a Brother – in- law.

Madison G. Pearson was killed by his brother-in-law, J. T. Beigles, at Ray’s Mill, in Berrien County, last Friday, the 4th, inst. A Family feud was at the bottom of the difficulty.

Beigles had married Pearson’s sister. The mother of the latter lived for sometime with her son, but a family quarrel, it seems, drove her to her daughter’s home. After she took up her abode with the Beigles family, some questions arose about the division of her small property. One report says that she willed all she had to Mrs. Beigles, and thus aroused her son’s indignation, and another rumor says that Beigles killed a beef which belonged to the Pearson estate, and that this was the cause of the trouble between the two men. At any rate there was trouble between them, and the old lady took the side of her son-in-law. Pearson, it seems, made some threats, and Beigles had him arrested under a peace warrant. Friday, the day of the tragedy, was set for a hearing before the Justice of the district, and Beigles and his wife and old Mrs. Pearson appeared at the Court ground at Ray’s Mill as witnesses. The bailiff had Madison Pearson under arrest, and the parties at interest, and about forty interested neighbors, all met at Mr. H. H. Knight’s store. Beigles’ father was among those present, and he approached Pearson about a compromise, but Pearson thought he had been greatly outraged, and freely expressed his indignation. He refused to accept the proposals made by the elder Beigles. A witness to the whole affair at the Court grounds informs us that the elder Beigles’ attitude and manner was not such as indicated any real desire for a fair compromise, and that his actions and his words were the immediate cause of the conflict, if it can be called a conflict. In reviewing the difficulty, the elder Beigles, who was standing between his son and Pearson, made some assertions which the latter vehemently denied or disputed, and the younger Beigles shouted to Pearson that he was a liar. At this Pearson, replied hotly that if Beigles would step with him to the ground from the porch upon which they stood, he would whip him, and as he spoke he sprang off at right angles from Beigles, but he struck the ground a dead man. Beigles fired at him on the spring, and the ball entered the side of the head near the left temple. Pearson doubled up as he lie fell and his head hit the ground first. He never spoke a word, and died in a few moments. Pearson had two brothers on the spot, and one ran to the dying man and the other started upon Beigles, but he met a cocked pistol in his face, and was warned to stand back, or else share the fate of his brother. Beigles kept his face to the awe-stricken crowd, pistol drawn, while his father pushed him backward some thirty feet, then he turned and they both fled. There was not a gun or pistol on the hill that could be found, and the two Beigles escaped. A pursuit was quickly organized, but they had gotten out of sight, and are yet at large. Pearson was not armed.

Pearson’s mother and sister witnessed the murder of their son and brother, so an eye witness informs us, without shedding a tear. After some little time Mrs. Pearson walked up to the dead man laying upon the ground, and stooped down and kissed him. She then rose calmly and walked away without any signs of emotion.

Thus a Justice’s court was sadly and suddenly transformed into an inquest court. The coroner lived forty miles away, and the bailiff, who held Pearson in custody as a prisoner when he was killed, summoned a jury, and the Justice, who was about to convene his court to try Pearson on a peace warrant, instead of proceeding with the trial, swore in an inquest jury to sit upon the dead body.

After swearing numerous eye witnesses the jury found that the killing was done as outlined above, that the same was willful murder; also that the elder Beigles was an accessory to the dead.

We are indebted to a neighbor of the parties, and an eyewitness to the tragedy, for the above statement of the circumstances connected directly and indirectly to the killing. All the parties were sober.

In 1899 the Valdosta reported the follow up on the trial of the Biggles case.

The Valdosta Times
October 17, 1899

BERRIEN SUPERIOR COURT. CONCLUSION OF THE BEAGLES-PEARSON CASE.

Berrien Superior Court after a four days’ session adjourned Thursday afternoon. The session was devoted entirely to criminal business, no civil cases being called. The principal case of importance was the trial of Madison G. Pearson, Nov. 4, 1887, twelve years ago as was stated in Friday’s Times.

Beagles was married to Pearson’s sister, and there had been considerable bad blood between them, culminating when Mrs. Pearson left the home of her son and went to live with her daughter, Beagles’ wife.

Pearson threatened to kill Beagles on several occasions and a few days before his death went to Beagles’ house and cursed his wife and children.

Beagles then swore out a peace warrant for Pearson, and he was arrested under it and carried to the Court House at Ray’s Mill for trial. A large crowd was on the court ground, among them Beagles, and Pearson challenged him for a fight, pulling off his coat and starting out the door as he did so. Beagles was standing on the porch of the house, within a few feet, and as Beagles stepped out fired at him, shooting him through the head, the ball entering just in front of the right ear and coming out behind the left ear, producing instant death.

Beagles skipped the country, and spent several years in Florida, returning just before his arrest. He was admitted to the bail, and staid under bond until two months ago, when his bondsman gave him up, and since that time he has remained in jail.

At his trial he was represented by Col. Joseph A. Alexander of Nashville and W. H. Griffin of Valdosta, while the state was represented by Col. W. M. Hammond of Thomasville and Solicitor General Thomas. The trial lasted a day and a half, and every inch of ground was stubbornly fought. The principal evidence against the dead man was the ante-mortem statement of his own mother, made four years ago, which was exceedingly bitter in denunciation of her son.

Six hours were spent by Cols. Griffin and Hammond in their strong and eloquent arguments of the case, and he jury remained out on it seven hours before returning a verdict of manslaughter with recommendation to mercy. Col. Griffin made a touching appeal to the court for mercy, and Judge Hansell fixed the sentence at two years in the state penitentiary.

In the U.S Census of 1900 James T. Biggles was enumerated on June 23, 1900 as a convict in the Fargo Convict Camp in the Jones Creek District of Clinch County, GA.

In 1910, the Biggles were back together in Rays Mill, GA where they were enumerated with several boarders living in their household.

James Thomas Biggles died May 11, 1911 in Ray City, Berrien County, Georgia. He was buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lakeland, GA. On his tombstone his name appears as J.T. Biggles.

Grave Marker of James Thomas Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave Marker of James Thomas Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Reports on the disposition of his estate were reported in the Nashville Herald:

Nashville Herald
Aug 7, 1911

Administrators Sale

Pursuant to an order of the Court of Ordinary, will be sold before the court house door in Berrien County, all the real estate belonging to J.T. Biggles, deceased, to wit: one lot in the town of Milltown, on Howell Ave., known as the H.L. Kelly lot; also ten acres of lot No. 473 in the 10th district in the southeast corner of said lot; also, 36 acres in the ? district, the last two tracts known as the Margaret Horsby lands; also, 100 acres, bounded on the west by Milltown and Nashville public road, east by Dog Branch, and lands of Jas. Johnson and Banks lands, on the north by lands of Mary E. Biggles, said tract known as land sold by E.M. Giddens to J.T. Biggles; also, lot 6 in block 32, lot 8 in block 73, lot 1 in block 69, lot 6 in block 59, lot 10 in block 48, all in the new survey in Milltown, Ga., also, one-half acre in town of Milltown bounded east by lands of M.E. Patten, south and west by lands of R.L. Patten, north by old Brunswick & Western right-of-way; also lot No. 3 in block No. 29, Roberts survey of Milltown, Ga., Sold as the property of the estate of J.T. Biggles, deceased, to pay debts and for distribution. August 7, 1911

Nashville Herald
Sept 5, 1911

Administrator’s Sale

Georgia, Berrien County. Will be sold before the court house door on the first Tuesday in October the following land: 1/2 acre of land in the town of Milltown bounded east by lands of M.E. Patten, south and west by lands of R.L. Patten, north by old Brunswick & Western right-of-way on which is situated one gin house and one barn, five double Foss gins, one short cotton gin, one conveyor, one double Monger box press, one seed conveyor and all belts and pulleys now used in the gin house. Terms cash. Sept 5, 1911. M.W. Bargeron, W.A. Biggles, Administrators of Estate of J.T. Biggles.

Mary Elizabeth Biggles died May 7, 1923. She was also buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church. Her tombstone reads, ” Mary Elizabeth Biggles, May 7, 1923, Aged 70 Yrs., A loving mother and grandmother.”

Gravemarker of Mary Elizabeth Pearson Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, Georgia

Gravemarker of Mary Elizabeth Pearson Biggles, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, Georgia

Four Dead in a Week

D. Edwin Griner lived many years in Ray City, Berrien County, GA and is buried there at New Ramah Cemetery.  He was the eldest son of Sarah C. Gaskins  and  Samuel J. Griner and as a young man he lived with his parents and siblings near Nashville, GA.   When D. Edwin Griner was a young man of 17,  his family suffered tragic loss.  In the spring of 1889 in the weeks just before Easter,  four  of the Griner children, Edwin’s siblings, died of measles.

The Berrien County Pioneer
Friday, April 5, 1889
Nashville, Ga.

Mr. Samuel Griner, living some two miles from here, lost three of his children last week from measles. Two of them were twin boys some twelve years of age. The other a little girl some younger which died last Friday night. There seemed to be something miraculous about the little girl’s death, she was neither sick nor cold on Sunday morning, or thirty-six hours after death. Another of Mr. Griner’s children is very low and not expected to live. Mr. and Mrs. Griner has the sincere sympathy of the entire community in their sorrowful bereavement.

The Berrien County Pioneer
Friday, April 12, 1889
Nashville, Ga.

Mr. Sam Griner, of Nashville, lost another one of his children this week from measles. This is the fourth child he has lost from this disease. The bereaved parents have the sympathy of all.

 The Valdosta Times,
Valdosta, Georgia
Saturday, April 13, 1889

Four Dead in a Week. In writing soothing words for a bereaved family after the loss of some of the loved ones, we seldom have to mention more than one or at the most two who have departed this eventful and flickering spark of mortality. But in this instance four of the precious pets of the home of Samuel J. and Sarah C. Griner are gone to answer the summons of the Grand Master of the Universe to be with Him in His kingdom that they may be the more able to behold his glory. In His sojourn on the vale of sorrow He said “suffer little children to come unto me,” and though his will may conflict with the will of frail humanity we must bow in humble submission to Him in all patience, knowing that “the Lord giveth and that the Lord taketh away.” and Job, said “and blessed be the man of the Lord.” Truly our children are jewels in our households but they are only entrusted to care for a very short period by the creator, our Heavenly friend.  Then surely we can of ready mind, restore the jewels to their owner whose loan has caused us so much pleasure. The first of this lovely quarto to obey the death call was little Archie, one of the petted twins who had been the especial pets of his parents and friends for ten years.  Just before his death and when the sweet life was fast going he called his pa and gave his dying instructions concerning a pet dog he and his little brother claimed. “Pa” said he “feed my dog and take good care of him?” And then his eyes closed in the sweet sleep of death. The next to go was little Arthur who died just thirty-six hours later. Like his little twin brother he too had a dying message. The little dog kept constant vigil at the bedside of the little boys and after Archie was gone he knew very well something was not as it use to be. A few minutes before the last little master went away the little pet dog got up, and looked around, reared up on the bedside and wagged his tail and looked at the dying boy’s face who reached out his hand and the dog kissed it a last good by. Turning to his pa he said, “pa there is two boys gone.” On being asked who he replied “us.” He was then asked if he wished to see anybody he said “nobody but Archie.”  And then he called his pa to come near. Soon all was over, and his spirit joined that of his dear brother in paradise.

Next came little Martha aged about seven. She died on the third day after little Arthur. Then the baby remained. Little Rhoda, aged about two years. Faint hopes were expressed that she might recover.  And then the poor almost broken hearted parents were so anxious.

It does seem as if our Heavenly Father is severe on us sometimes when He in His wisdom intends good. Perhaps it is so in this case. For two days her life hung in the balance and did not seem to turn either way. But the hungry pain prayed ceaselessly on her weak vitals and third day after her little sister died she passed away. Oh, what sorrow now dragged upon the poor parents hearts. In one short week they had witnessed the death of four of their precious darlings, and it is only they who’ve felt such pain that can understand their sorrow. May God in His mercy bless them with soothing comfort.

In the Churchyard at Flat Creek Church are four new graves where the loved ones will rest until the morn of the resurrection when they shall rise to be with the general assembly and Church of the first born.

Dear parents, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends, let us prepare to go us there too.

Their cousin,
    W. Henry Griffin

Edwin’s mother, Sarah Gaskins Griner,  could not long survive the loss of four children.  She had suffered with a disability at least since 1880.  Did she fall victim to the measles, did her own health just give out,  or was she simply overcome by grief?  Whatever the cause she, too, had died before the end of 1889.

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