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. 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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John Carroll Lamb

CAPT. JOHN C. LAMB, C. S. A., AND HIS FAMILY.

john-c-lamb

John Carroll Lamb came with his parents and siblings from North Carolina to settle north of Milltown, GA (now Lakeland) in the late 1840s. He was a son of Margaret Carroll (1799 – 1860) and William Lamb (1782 – 1862).

In 1922, historian Folks Huxford provided the following information on the parents:

Among the early settlers of Milltown and what is now Lanier county, were William Lamb and his family. He was a native of North Carolina, where his family lived near Raleigh. Coming here they settled and lived until the death of the elder Lamb, on the present farm of Nathan Lovejoy, near Milltown.

Mr. Lamb was twice married. By his first wife, whose name is unknown to the writer at present, were born the following children:

Aaron, who remained in North Carolina; Julia, who married a Dr. Hale and who likewise remained in her native state; and Catherine, who married John Carroll of this section.

It seems that the first Mrs. Lamb died in North Carolina, and before leaving there, Mr. Lamb married his second wife, Margaret Carroll, who was a sister to Jesse and James Carroll, early citizens of this county. To this union were born:

  1. John C. Lamb, who married Satira Lovejoy.
  2. Lizzie Lamb, who married Daniel McDonald.
  3. William Lamb, Jr., who married Mrs. Mary Knight, a widow, and daughter of Jesse Carroll.
  4. Edward Lamb, who married Henrietta Griffin, a sister of the late William H. Griffin of Valdosta.
  5. Ann Lamb, who married Dougal McDonald. These two McDonalds were twin brothers.

The Carrolls were likewise from North Carolina, near Wilmington.

The 1850 census records show John C. Lamb in the household of his father in that portion of Lowndes County, GA which was cut into Berrien County in 1856.

1850 Census enumeration of John C. Lamb and family in Berrien County, GA

1850 Census enumeration of John C. Lamb and family in Berrien County, GA

William Lamb, the father, engaged in farming and acquired approximately 1620 acres consisting of  all of Land Lot Nos. 446, 447, 476 and 150 acres of Lot No. 445  in the 10th Land District. He had an estate valued in 1850 at $600 –  a level of wealth equivalent to about $3.8 Million measured in 2012 dollars.

1869 Berrien County Map detail showing location of land lot # 450.

1869 Berrien County Map detail showing location of Land Lots 445, 446, 447, and 448.

In 1850, at age  18 John C. Lamb  was occupied as a teacher.  About 1858, he married Satira Ann Elizabeth Lovejoy. She was a daughter of James L. Lovejoy  and Eugenia  Talley,  of Clinch county, GA and a granddaughter of Methodist minister Reverend Nathan Talley.  John and Satira established their household at Milltown near the plantation of John’s uncle, Jesse Carroll.  To the Lambs a daughter was born, Lillian Eugenia “Jennie” Lamb, in December of 1859.

The Lambs, John C., Satira, and Lillian were enumerated in the Census of 1860 in Berrien County (formerly Lowndes). Also in the Lamb household was John’s brother, Edwin Lamb, age 16.  Before the Civil War, John C. Lamb opened and ran a store in Milltown and his brother, Edwin, clerked. J.C. Lamb was a successful merchant and by 1860 his property was valued at $6500 dollars, making him a multi-millionaire by today’s standards.

1860 Census enumeration of John C. Lamb and family in Berrien County, GA

1860 Census enumeration of John C. Lamb and family in Berrien County, GA

https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu111unit#page/n361/mode/1up

John C. Lamb was appointed as postmaster of Milltown on December 19, 1859, probably posting and distributing mail from his store. On September 29, 1860 he relinquished this position to  his cousin John T. Carroll.

On November 11, 1860, election of Abraham Lincoln was announced.  Before the month was out, on November 28 1860, John C. Lamb joined the “Muster Roll of Capt. Levi J. Knight’s Company of Volunteers, Styled the Berrien Minute Men”

The election of Lincoln ignited the call for secession in the southern states. South Carolina was the first to secede, officially withdrawing from the Union on December 20, 1860, and was quickly followed by Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.  Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown called  a special election on January 2, 1861 to select delegates for a state convention on the issue of secession.  John C. Lamb was elected to represent Berrien County, along with Woodford J. Mabry, at the Georgia Secession Convention of 1861.  When the Georgia Ordinance of Secession passed on January 19, 1861, John C. Lamb was one of the signers of the document.  His participation was documented in the  Journal of the Public and Secret Proceedings of the Convention of the People of Georgia,
Held in Milledgeville and Savannah in 1861, Together with the Ordinances Adopted,  and Lamb’s name appeared on the published Ordinance.

John C. Lamb, of Berrien County, was a signer of the Georgia Ordinance of Secession in 1861.

John C. Lamb, of Berrien County, was a signer of the Georgia Ordinance of Secession in 1861.

When war finally came John C. Lamb and his brothers, William J. Lamb and Edwin Lamb, were among those who volunteered to serve in Captain Levi J. Knight’s Company of Berrien Minute Men.  In August of 1861, he was mustered into the 29th Georgia Regiment Volunteer Infantry at Savannah, originally in Company C, as a private.  Perhaps because of his political leadership, business experience and education John C. Lamb was marked for command.

On October 11, 1861 three companies of the 29th Regiment including the Berrien Minute Men were stationed on Sapelo Island. They were manning  Sapelo Battery, an earthworks and gun emplacement on the south end of Sapelo Island defending Doboy Sound. In a letter to his wife, Private John Hagan described Battery Sapelo as armed with five cannons the largest of which was a 160 pounder.   He wrote, “We…havent Elected any of our offiscers for the company yet we feel assured that John C. Lamb of mill town will be our Capt…”  By October 14, 1861 Lamb was indeed elected Captain of Company B, Berrien Minute Men.  He received official notification of his commission from the Georgia Adjutant General, and accepted his commission by letter on October 24, 1861.

John C. Lamb to Adjutant General Henry Constantine Wayne, Oct 24, 1861 letter accepting commission as Captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Company B.

John C. Lamb to Adjutant General Henry Constantine Wayne, Oct 24, 1861 letter accepting commission as Captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Company B.

To H. C. Wayne
Adjutant General
Milledgeville, GA

Sapelo Battery, GA
Oct 24, 1861

Sir

Yours of the 17th Inst has been duly rcvd covering commission for myself as Captain of Berrien Minute Men Company B.

I accept the commission and have taken and subscribed to the oath herewith attached.

Very Respectfully Your Obedient Servant

John C. Lamb

March of 1862 found the Regiment at Camp Tatnall, GA where the duty of ordering supplies for the unit fell to Captain Lamb.  In addition to the routine requisitions for  shoes, horse fodder, tents, axes, fuel for the camp fires, etc.  Captain Lamb had the unhappy task here of ordering coffins for men lost from his command.

In early May of 1862, the Berrien Minute Men were with the Regiment at Camp Causton’s Bluff.  Captain Lamb was promoted to major of the regiment May 10, 1862, when Major Levi J. Knight declined to be re-elected to the position due to illness.  Thomas Spalding Wylly succeeded Lamb as company captain (Wylly later served as captain of  Company H, 4th GA Cavalry). This  re-organization occurred while the 29th GA Regiment was stationed at Camp Debtford, GA.  Camp Debtford was on the Debtford Plantation, situated east of Savannah on the grounds of present day Savannah Golf Course.  This was just east of Fort Boggs and near Battery Lee. Major Lamb was detached for a few weeks for service “on the Savannah River near Fort Jackson.”  The following month the Regiment moved to Camp Mackey, GA, where Major Lamb was placed in command. Camp Mackey was a picket post located on a rice plantation on Mackey’s Point, on the Savannah River. “Many soldiers … lost their lives by disease contracted from the malarious rice fields about Mackey’s Point, below Savannah, where the Twenty-ninth Georgia Regiment was stationed for a long time” (Savannah Morning News, April 29, 1874) .

In July, 1862 Major Lamb was on detached service at Camp Troup on the Savannah River. In November the Major was moved to Camp Young near Savannah, and in December to Camp Clingman at Ashville, NC.

While stationed at Camp Young, 20 men of the 29th Georgia regiment deserted.  Four of the deserters were from Company K, the Berrien Minute Men, including Elbert J. Chapman, Albert Douglas, Benjamin S. Garrett, and J. P. Ponder.

John C. Lamb’s father, William Lamb, died near Milltown in 1862 and was buried in Milltown in the old cemetery. John C. Lamb and his brother-in-law, Dougal  McDonald, were appointed executor of his father’s estate. In accordance with the will probated in Berrien County court, John C. Lamb stood to inherit “Land lot No. 446 in the 10th district of Berrien Co…also,  Negro man, Cato, ca 28 yrs old, Negro girl, Senah, about 6 yrs old & horse mule named Ball.” However, Lamb was with the command of the Berrien Minute Men and the rest of the 29th GA regiment, taking part in the battles of the western wing of the Confederate army.

When the 29th Regiment caught up with deserter Elbert J. Chapman in Mississippi, Major Lamb served as the Judge Advocate for the court-martial.  Chapman was convicted of desertion, but his sentence was withheld while the Confederate Army fled before Federal forces.

In a battle near Jackson, MS Major Lamb was killed on July 13, 1863.  This was just after the fall of Vicksburg, and the 29th had retreated across the Big Black River where they formed a battle line against the pursuing federal forces. From July 9th through the 12th shelling, skirmishing, and sometimes hard fighting went on.  John Hagan wrote, “on the morning of the 13th shelling began at 8 a.m. & continued till 11 a.m. our Regt suffered again Maj John C. Lamb was killed instantly by a round Ball.  He was on the right of our company & within  2 feet of Capt Knight, J. M. Griffin & myself when he was shot…our men was turablely Shocked but all acted the part of a Soldier.”

William Washington Knight also gave an account of  the death of John C. Lamb.  In a letter to his wife, Mary, written July 22, 1863 from Scott County, MS, between Jackson and Meridian, MS,  Knight wrote, “About ten minutes after fire open Maj Lamb was hit with a twelve pound round shot on the head. It knocked off half his head, kill[ing] him so dead he did not move but very little. He was standing on his feet among or at the feet of our men, in two feet of Jonathan [Knight] and Lt [Wiley E] Baxter.”     It was not until after Major Lamb’s death that the deserter Chapman was executed by firing squad.  Knight himself would be dead within six months; his widow Mary Carroll Knight later married John C. Lamb’s brother, William J. Lamb.

Lamb’s cousin, John T. Carroll, and his father-in-law, James Lovejoy, were the executors of his estate. The following January, they ran the legal announcement in the Milledgeville Confederate Union.

Disposition of the Milltown, GA property of John C. Lamb, 1864.

Disposition of the Milltown, GA property of John C. Lamb, 1864.

Milledgeville Confederate Union
January 26, 1864

Georgia, Berrien County
By order of the Court of Ordinary of said county, will be sold on the first Tuesday in March next, at the Court house door in said county, one improved lot in the village of Milltown, lately occupied by J. C. Lamb, belonging to the estate of the said John C. Lamb, deceased.  Sold for benefits of the heirs and creditors of said deceased.  Terms on the day of sale.

JOHN T CARROLL,  Adm’rs
JAMES LOVEJOY,

Paid $5
January 9th, 1864

The settlement of the estate continued after the War ended.

The estate of John C. Lamb was administered by his cousin, John T. Carroll, in 1867.

The estate of John C. Lamb was administered by his cousin, John T. Carroll, in 1867.

Milledgeville Federal Union
June 4, 1867

GEORGIA, Berrien County.
TWO months after date application will be made to the Court of Ordinary of Berrien County for leave to sell the land belonging to the estate of John C. Lamb, decd.

W E C                                          JOHN T. CARROLL, Adm, r.
May 6th, 1867.                                                                    41 9t.

The land Lot 446,  10th District, which John C. Lamb had inherited from his father, was auctioned October 1867 to settle estate debts.

Administrator's Sale for the estate of John C. Lamb, 1867.

Administrator’s Sale for the estate of John C. Lamb, 1867.

Milledgeville Federal Union
October 8, 1867

Administrator’s Sale.
Will be sold before the Court House door in Nashville, Berrien county, Ga., on the first Tuesday in OCTOBER next, one Lot of Land No. 446 containing four hundred and ninety acres, in the 10th District of said county.  Sold for the purpose of paying debts.  And sold as the property of John C. Lamb deceased.  Terms Cash.

          (W E C)          JOHN L. CARROLL,  Adm’r.

      Aug.    5th, 1867.                                        2 tds.

Folks Huxford provided the following:

During the war, Mrs. Lamb stayed with her parents, at their home in the Stockton district of Clinch county. To Major and Mrs. Lamb only one child was born, Lillian Eugenia Lamb,  who married Hampton Anderson Howell of Milltown.  The children of Mr. and Mrs. Howell were Will H. Howell,  who served as clerk of the superior court of Lanier county, Hamp Howell, Jr., who was postmaster at Milltown, [and Elizabeth Howell].

After the War, widow Satira Lovejoy Lamb continued to live with her parents, James L. Lovejoy  and Eugenia  Talley. In the 1870s, her grandfather Reverend Nathan Talley and his second wife, Martha Travis Talley, were also residing in the Lovejoy household.  Satira’s widower uncle, Dr. James W. Talley had taken Miss Araminta Mississippi Holzendorf as his second wife, and it was undoubtedly through this connection that Satira came to know her uncle’s brother-in-law, Robert Stafford Holzendorf.

A few years after the close of the Civil War Mrs. Lamb married Robert Stafford Holzendorf, who had emigrated to Clinch county with his father, Alexander Holzendorf, and located at Stockton during the war. The Holzendorfs were members of an old Camden county family, who had lived there since the days of the Revolution. Alexander Holzendorf and his family “refugeed” as it was known, from Camden to Clinch on account of the exposed danger of Camden county to the enemy during the war.

To Mr. and Mrs. Holzendorf were born four children, viz.:

  1. James A. Holzendorf, who married Hattie Phillips, daughter of Wm. S. Phillips of Stockton. Mr. Holzendorf was a railroad agent at Stockton a number of years.
  2. Robert Holzendorf, Jr., who married Elizabeth Williams of Greenwood, S. C, and who lived at Norfolk, VA.
  3. A. M. Holzendorf of Waycross, who first married Mamie Penland, and she died, leaving a son, Algeron; and the second wife was Lula, a daughter of Jasper Roberts of Echols county.
  4. John L. Holzendorf, who married Stella Carter, daughter of Irving Carter, and who died in Milltown.

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Obituary of William J. Lamb ~ died June 13, 1908

William J. Lamb ~ Confederate Veteran

Resolutions of the Berrien Minute Men

How Old Yellow Was Killed