Lowndes Grand Jury of 1833

When the May 1833 term of the Lowndes County, GA Superior court convened, the now defunct town of Franklinville was the site of the  County seat of government.   Lowndes then included most of present day Berrien county and the location of present day Ray City, GA.   This section of the country, Wiregrass Georgia, was then still an untamed frontier. As Montgomery Folsom described,  in the 1830s it was “a country that was well supplied with Indians, bears, panthers, wolves and other unfriendly neighbors…”   Dr. Jacob Motte, first doctor to visit Franklinville, observed Lowndes county “being so far south and in a low swampy part of the country had the worst possible reputation for health, and going there [in the warm] season of the year was almost considered certain death to a white man and stranger unacclimated.”

The year 1833 was in the administration of Andrew Jackson. John Coffee, a Jacksonian Democrat and builder of the Coffee Road which opened Lowndes County for settlement, was a U.S. Congressman from Georgia.  L.J. Knight, a Whig then serving as the senator from Lowndes in the Georgia Assembly, was a vocal opponent against what was seen as the executive excesses of “King Andrew.” Levi J. Knight was an original settler of Ray City. Knight’s father, William A. Knight, founding pastor of Union Church, was appointed in 1833 to visit the 35 Primitive Baptist churches and 1,010 members of the Ochlocknee Association situated between the Alapaha and Flint River to instruct them on their duties and responsibilities to the Association. That year L. J. Knight supported the founding of the State Rights Party of Georgia.  The party had been launched  by prominent Georgia political leaders  including John M. Berrien, for whom Berrien County would later be named.

The jurors of the 1833 Grand Jury came to Franklinville by horseback, sulky or wagon, over rude and uncomfortable stage roads described as among the worst in the state by Charles Joseph La Trobe.  La Trobe, an English traveler and writer, in 1833 rode from Tallahassee, FL to Milledgeville, GA  via the weekly stagecoach.

Franklinville, “At its best, it could only boast one store and three or four families and the court house. The court house was built there in 1828-29, and was a small crude affair, costing only $215.00.”  According to Huxford’s Sketch of the Early History of Lowndes County, Georgia, Franklinville was a small trading community of one or two stores and a few houses. Hamilton W. Sharpe, another prominent Whig of Lowndes County, regarded Franklinville a place of intemperance. William Smith, who served as clerk of the court, postmaster, and Ordinary of Lowndes County, was one of the few permanent residents of the town.

 

PRESENTMENTS Of the Grand Jury for the County of Lowndes, at May Term, 1833. WE, the Grand Jury, selected and sworn for the county of Lowndes, do present as a grievance, the conduct of James Touchstone, for frequent and repeated over charges in setting persons over the river at his ferry on the Alapahaw, in the county aforesaid.—Witness, William Roberts, Isben Giddens and Benjamin Sirman. And taking into consideration the badness of the roads, do earnestly and respectfully recommend to the honorable Inferior court, to use all diligence in enforcing the road laws for the improvement and keeping in good order our public roads. And also, having performed the duty devolved on us, in the examination of our county records, together with the records of our Poor School fund, find them correctly and neatly kept, and from an expose of the funds by the Treasurer in cash and good notes, find that the amount exhibited corresponds with the books. We cannot take leave of his honor Lott Warren, without tendering our thanks for his strict attention to the business of our county, and for the good order which he has enforced during the present term. Also we tender our thanks to the solicitor, Stephen F. Miller, for his polite attention to our body during the present term. W e request that these our presentments be published in the Milledgeville papers.
WILLIAM BLAIR, Foreman

Jeremiah Wilson,
Jesse Lee,
Nathan Hodges,
James Rountree,
Lewis Blackshear,
Elijah Beasley,
William Alderman,
Jeremiah Tillman,
Simpson Strickland,
William McMullin,
Thomas Self,
Isben Giddens,
Aaron Mattox,
James Wade,
Benjamin Sirman,
John Lawson,
Bani Boyd,
Alexander Campbell,
Francis Jones,
William Hendry,
William Burman, sen.

On motion of Stephen F, Miller, solicitor-general, it is ordered, That the foregoing presentments be published according to the request of the Grand Jury. I do hereby certify that the foregoing is s true copy from the minutes of the Superior Court.

WILLIAM SMITH, Clerk.
June 12, 1832 51

 

About the Jurors:

Jeremiah Wilson (1795-1877)
Jeremiah Wilson was a son of Captain James Wilson, Revolutionary Soldier and prisoner of war.  According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol II, Jeremiah Wilson, Sr., was born in Ireland. He lived for a while in Effingham county, Georgia, from there coming to the southern part of the state, and locating in that part of Lowndes county that is now included within the limits of Brooks county. The country roundabout was then heavily timbered, with only here and there an open place in which stood the cabin of the pioneer. Game of all kinds filled the forests, and the Indians, which still claimed this land as their happy hunting ground, made frequent raids upon the whites, ofttimes massacring many of the newcomers. [Jeremiah Wilson] was a member of a company formed for defense against the hostile savages, and for services which he rendered in various Indian warfares was granted two lots of land. The tracts which he selected for his own were in that part of Lowndes county now included in Brooks county, one lying six miles north of Quitman, and the other four miles to the northwest. He located on the latter tract, the removal from Walton county being made with teams, the only mode of transportation in those early days, before railroads were dreamed of. Clearing a space, he erected a log house, splitting puncheon for the floors, and riving shakes for the roofs. He was a well educated man, and did much of the surveying of public lands. In 1858 he surveyed and platted the town of Quitman. A successful agriculturist, he carried on general farming with the help of slaves, continuing to reside on his farm until his death at the age of seventy-two years.”  He married twice, first to Elizabeth Lucas about 1818 in Effingham County, GA, and second to Betty Lucas. The New Wilson Papers adds the following:  ” Following his marriage to Elizabeth Lucas, he moved his family to Walton County, GA; then about 1831, relocated to Lowndes County, GA. It is reported that he was also a civil engineer and well educated. He played the violin and was great lover of music. He also was a great fighter and never missed the opportunity for a good fight. He served in the Mexican War [1846-48]… Jeremiah was planter and slave-owner.   In the 1850 Census of Lowndes County,GA he was recorded to own 10 slaves. …[He] was County Surveyor of Brooks County, and helped survey the Florida-Georgia line [1857] He owned 300 acres of land on Lot #439 in the 12th District of Lowndes, which was seized by the Lowndes Superior Court and sold at auction on the courthouse steps at Troupville in 1849 to satisfy debts owed to James W. Smith and Samuel M. Clyatt.  In 1859, he laid out the city of Quitman, the county seat of Brooks County. His wife Elizabeth (nee Lucas) was blind for twenty years, but recovered her sight a short time before her death. She thereby had the pleasure of seeing her children and grandchildren. Jeremiah Wilson was a prominent Democrat of Lowndes County. He died in 1877.

Jesse Lee (1780-1853)
According to Folks Huxford, Jesse Lee was born in Marion District, SC, in 1780, son of Moses Lee. He was a brother of Joshua Lee, who about 1830 dammed the northern outflow of Grand Bay, and constructed a grist mill at Allapaha, GA (now Lakeland),GA. Jesse Lee and his wife, Sarah, had five known children (perhaps others): John Lee, born 1808, married Elenor Wetherington; Moses C. Lee, born 1814, married Jincy Register; Aseneth Lee, born 1820, first married Samuel E. Register; Elizabeth Lee, born 1825, married William D. Wilkerson; Winnifred Lee, born 1827, married John Studstill. Record is found in Marion County, S. C., of deed from Mr. Lee joined by his wife Sarah, to Malcolm McIntyre, dated July 30, 1806, for 100 acres same being a part of a 4434-acre tract granted Moses Lee (Deed book C, page 14, Marion Co.). Two years later they were living in Pulaski County, Ga,, when Mr, Lee and his wife Sarah, were witnesses to a deed dated April 23, 1808, from John Fielder to John Lee, of Laurens County, to Lot 56, 24th District (Pulaski County deed book A, page 3)In the War of 1812, Jesse Lee served as a private under Capt. Fort in a detachment of Georgia militia stationed at Forts Mitchell and Green on the Ocmulgee River in Pulaski County.  His brother, Joshua served as a captain at Fort Green. Jesse and Joshua Lee moved their families to Appling County about 1819, and a few years later they moved to Hamilton County, FL.  There, Jesse and Sarah Lee united with Concord Primitive Baptist Church about 1832. Shortly thereafter, they had moved to Lowndes County, GA, settling in the portion now Lanier County. There Jesse Lee died in 1853, and on May 2, 1853, his son, Moses C. Lee, and son-in-law, Samuel E. Register, applied for administration of his estate; they were appointed, and administered the estate. Mrs. Lee died about 1848. They were buried in the cemetery at Union Church; graves unmarked.


Nathan Hodges
Nathan Hodges came to Lowndes County, GA about 1828. He was a veteran of the War of 1812, having served in the local Tattnall County Militia. According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol II,  Nathan Hodges was, so far as known, a native Georgian, and about 1828 moved from Tattnall county to Lowndes county, settling some five miles south of the present site of Hahira. Lowndes county then comprised a much greater territory than at present, with Franklinville the county seat, which was subsequently transferred to Troupville. Nearly all the land was under state ownership, and directly from the commonwealth Grandfather Hodges bought a lot of four hundred and ninety acres, nearly all timber. [The 1835 Tax Digest for Lowndes County shows the property owned by Nathan Hodges, being all of Lot #85 in the 12th District of old Irwin County, was originally granted to his brother, William Hodges. Some say Nathan  purchased his Lowndes County homestead from William on October 13, 1827.] His family were sheltered under tents while he was erecting the first log-cabin home. For many miles around no mills had yet been built. He had brought with him a steel mill, operated by hand, for grinding grain, and this became such an institution that the neighbors brought their packs of corn long distances to be ground into meal. The date of the Hodges settlement was also several years previous to the final expulsion of the Florida Indians, and it was a not infrequent occurrence that marauding bands crossed the border and disturbed the south Georgians. A log fort stood on the grandfather’s place during these years, and it several times sheltered the inhabitants of this vicinity while hostile redskins were near. On this old homestead the grandfather and his wife spent their last years. They reared eight children, three sons and five daughters, namely: John, Daniel, Aleck, Elsie, Eliza, Caroline, Maria and Polly.

James Rountree (1787-1834)
James Rountree, it is said, was the first pioneer settler to build a house in Lowndes County, GA. The History of Lowndes County, GA reports that in 1821, the four settlers returned to that section of Irwin soon to be cut into Lowndes County. Sections in the north of old Irwin County had been settled and several counties had been laid out.  The families of James Rountree, Drew Vickers, Alfred Belote, and Lawrence Folsom and their African-American slaves were the first pioneer families to settle in the original county of Lowndes after moving there in the winter of 1821-1822. James Rountree was murdered in 1834 while returning home from the coast of the Florida Territory where he had gone to fetch salt.

Lewis Blackshear (1805-1880?)
A land owner of old Lowndes County. By the opening of the Second Seminole War in December 1835, he owned 980 acres of pineland on Lots 250 and 257 in the 12th Land District, Captain Godwin’s District of Lowndes County.   Lewis Blackshear appears  on the 1836 militia roster of men living in the 660th Georgia militia district (the Morven District, Lowndes County); organized under Captain William G. Hall, this company of men was not in active service in the war.   Moved to Alachua County, FL some time before 1850, and later to Volusia County, FL.

Elijah Beasley (1775-1863?) 
a pioneer land owner of Wiregrass Georgia.  In 1820, Elijah Beasley, Rebecca Burnett Beasley and their family were residents of  that part of  Irwin County, GA which was cut into Lowndes in 1825 and later cut into Brooks County.  Irwin county court records show in 1822, Elijah Beasley put up the surety bond for Robert H. Dixon, administrator for the estate of Moses Jurnigan. In the Act of the Georgia Assembly that created Lowndes County, Elijah Beasley was appointed as one of the commissioners charged with selecting a county site for the old Irwin County. The 1830 census places the Beasleys in Lowndes County.  In the newly created Lowndes County, Elijah Beasley was enumerated adjacent to many others of his wife’s Burnett family connections.   Tax digests from that year show Elijah Beasley owned Lot 267 in the 12th District, Captain Pikes District (then Lowndes County, now Brooks).

William Alderman,
From Lowndes County militia rosters, it appears  that William Alderman was living in the 660th Georgia militia district (the Morven District) at the opening of the Second Seminole War  in December 1835. When Governor William Schley called for the formation of general militia companies in Wiregrass Georgia, William Alderman and 89 other men of the 660th district were organized under Captain William G. Hall. Hall’s unit was not in active service.

Jeremiah Tillman,
According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, “Jeremiah Tillman, a native of South Carolina, was there a resident when the War of 1812 was declared. Enlisting as a soldier, he came with his regiment to Georgia, where he was stationed until receiving his honorable discharge at the close of the conflict in Savannah. Being then joined by his family, he lived for awhile in Ware county, Georgia, subsequently becoming one of the original householders of that part of Irwin county now included within the limits of Colquitt county. Buying a tract of wooded land, he cleared a portion of it, and was there industriously employed in tilling the soil until his death, at the age of seventy-five years. To him and his wife, whose maiden name was Dicey Brown, six children were born and reared.” Jeremiah Tillman and Dicy Brown had the following children: Ruth Tillman, born 1789, married James M Norman; John Tillman, born 1798, married Sarah Mercer; Joshua Tillman, born 1800, married Mary Baker; Dicy Tillman, born 1808, married David Edmondson; Zilpha Tillman, born 1810, married Absalom Baker. Jeremiah’s homesite was located in the  area of Lowndes County, GA which in 1856 was cut into Colquitt County.  According to Folks Huxford, Jeremiah Tillman and wife Dicy Brown Tillman were buried at Old Hopewell Church, southeast of Moultrie. In the 1850 Census, Jeremiah Tillman was assessed with three slaves, one male age 19, one female age 17, and one female age 14.

Simpson Strickland (1806-1870?)
Simpson Strickland, was born about 1806, a son of Archibald and Luander Strickland, of Tatnall County, GA.  His father, Archibald Strickland,  fought with the 3rd Regiment (Wimberly’s Regiment), Georgia Militia, in the War of 1812. Simpson Strickland came with his parents and others of the Strickland family connection to Lowndes County, GA sometime berween 1820 and 1826.  His parents, Archibald and Luander Strickland, were organizing members of Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, September 2, 1826. William A. Knight was a deacon of this church; Matthew Albriton was an organizing Elder and later served as pastor; Redden Wooten was also an organizing member.   In 1829,  Simpson Strickland married Mary Wooten (1811-1851) in Lowndes County, GA. She was a daughter of Redden Wooten;  two of her sisters were married to Morgan Swain and Lasa Adams. In 1832, his father Archibald Strickland was a lucky drawer in the Cherokee Land Lottery. Simpson Strickland’s brother, Simeon Strickland, was married to Elizabeth Lydia Knight, daughter of Jonathan Knight and cousin of Levi J. Knight. Simpson Strickland in an 1850 Census, was recorded as owning three slaves, one female age 21, one female age 5,  one male age 4, and one female age 1. By 1860 Strickland had developed his farm into 140 acres of improved land and 440 acres unimproved. The farm was valued at $2000. He had $200 in farm implements, 1 horse, 8 milch cows, 12 other cattle, and 45 hogs.All told his livestock was valued at $315 dollars. He had 700 bushels of Indian corn, and 8 bales of cotton at 400 pounds each. He had 20 bushels of peas and beans, 400 bushels of sweet potatoes, 30 pounds of butter, 120 gallons of molasses.

William McMullin
William McMullin came to Lowndes County in 1827. In 1830 he  paid the poll tax in Lowndes County and the tax on 8 slaves. He owned 830 acres of pinelands and 150 acres of hardwood on lots 45, 46, and 47 in the 15th land district in Lowndes County, and a total of 740 acres in Thomas and Habersham counties.  William McMullin appears  on the 1836 militia roster of men living in the 659th Georgia militia district (the Nankin District, Lowndes County); organized under Captain Osteen, this company of men was not in active service in the war.

Thomas Self, (1777-1860)
Thomas Selph, son of Ezekiel Selph and Amy Jernigan, born in NC, moved to Bullock County, GA, to Telfair County, GA, and then to Lowndes County, GA some time between 1825 and 1830.  His old home site on Mule Creek, near Barwick, GA was cut from Lowndes into  Thomas County in 1850, and then cut into Brooks County, GA in 1858.  He died in 1860 near Barwick, GA  and is said to be buried at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church cemetery, Brooks County, GA.  His will was the 42nd will to be probated in Thomas County.

Isben Giddens, (1788-1853)
Son-in-law of William Anderson Knight and one of the orginal settlers of old Lowndes County. Isben Giddens and his son, William Giddens,  both served in the Lowndes County Militia during the Indian Wars of 1836-1838, under the command of  Captain Levi J. Knight.    Buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church, Lakeland, GA.

Aaron Mattox,  (1778-1860)
Aaron Mattox was a farmer of old Lowndes County, GA.  His farm place was in present day Berrien County near Ten Mile Creek. He was the father of Samuel Mattox who would be hanged for murder in 1843.

James Wade
James Wade, Soldier, McCraney’s, Lowndes County, GA was one of the lucky drawers in the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery.  The 1830 Lowndes County Tax Digest shows James Wade owned 980 acres of pineland on lots 13 and 296 in the 9th District of Lowndes, 490 acres of pineland on lot 203 in the 5th District of Appling County, and one slave.  He also served on the June 1845 term of the Lowndes County Grand Jury.  He was one of the Commissioners appointed by the Georgia legislature in 1834 “to contract for and cause to be built in the county of Lowndes a suitable Court-house and Jail.”

Benjamin Sirman (1792-1863)
Benjamin Sirmans was born in Emanuel County, GA February 6, 1792, a son of Josiah Sirmans. He was married in July 1814, in Emanuel County, to Martha Johnson, daughter of David Johnson, Sr., and a sister to General David Johnson.  He came to this section with his father about 1822.  The children of Benjamin Sirmans and Martha Johnson Sirmans were: David J. Sirmans; Josiah Sirmans, Jr.; Ezekiel J. Sirmans; Cassie Sirmans, married John Smith; Lavinia Sirmans, married Aaron Tomlinson; Martha Sirmans, married Elihu Morgan; Lucretia Sirmans, married Charles Strickland; Benjamin E. Sirmans; Lyman A. Sirmans; and Levi J. Sirmans. On June 15, 1838 he served on committee petitioning the governor for supplies and monies to support troops and militia to protect against Creek Indian attacks east of the Alapaha River in Lowndes County. Later that month, Benjamin Sirmans was appointed the first postmaster of the bustling trade center at Allapaha (now Lakeland, GA). Ten miles east of Levi J. Knight’s farm, Allapaha was situated at the point where the Franklinville-Jacksonville Post Road crossed the Alapaha River. He united with Union Primitive Baptist Church, September 9, 1848, and was baptized. His wife had previously united with the church December 11, 1841, and was baptized and died a member. He was granted a letter of dismission on February 8, 1862. In February, 1850, a legislative act creating Clinch County named Mr. Sirmans as one of the five commissioners to ‘lay out and organize’ the new county.  Benjamin Sirmans represented Lowndes County in the legislature several years and served one term as State senator from Clinch County. He was also a delegate to the secession convention in Milledgeville in 1861. He died May 1, 1863, and is buried at the Fender graveyard. His wife preceded him to the grave by about seven years.

John Lawson (1783-c.1870)
According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, John Lawson was born and raised in North Carolina. He  “came when young to Georgia, traveling thither in his own conveyance. He located first in Laurens county, later coming south, and settling in that part of Irwin county which was subsequently converted into Lowndes county, and now forms a part of Brooks county. Purchasing land in the part now included in the Barney district, he began the improvement of a homestead. The wild and heavily wooded country roundabout was habited by wild animals of many kinds, and Indians were still numerous and troublesome. He began the pioneer labor of clearing the land, and raised his first crop on soil that had previously been used for the same purpose by the redskins. There being no railways in this vicinity for years after he came to Georgia, all surplus productions of the land had to be hauled to either Saint Marks, Georgia, or to Newport, on the Tallahassee, the general custom of marketing the goods being for a few of the neighbors to combine, and start with a number of teams loaded with produce, taking along with them provisions and cooking utensils, and camp by the way, on the return trip bringing home the household supplies needed. Having improved quite a tract of land, John Lawson occupied it several years, but later in life removed to Colquitt county, where he spent his declining days, passing away at the age of eighty-seven years. His wife, whose maiden name was Rachael Green, was born in North Carolina, and died, at a good old age, in Colquitt county. They reared four children, as follows: Eliza Lawson, Ashley Lawson, Greene Lawson, and Daniel Lawson.” 

Bani Boyd (1789-1854)
Bani Boyd was a son of Sarah Dabney and David Boyd, Revolutionary Soldier, born about 1789 in Montgomery County, GA. On February 3, 1811 Bani Boyd married Nancy Bird Bowen in Tatnall County, GA.   In the War of 1812 he served in the Georgia Militia, Bowling’s Detachment guarding the Georgia coast.  After his first wife died around 1820, Bani Boyd married Sarah Collins.  Around 1828, Bani Boyd and his son, Henry Boyd, moved their families  from Tatnall County to Old Lowndes County, where they established homesteads in that portion of the 10th land district which in 1856 was cut into Berrien County.  It appears that Bani’s brother, Aden Boyd,  brought his family to Lowndes from Ware County about this same time and settled in the same area. The 1844 tax digest of Lowndes County shows Bani Boyd owned 10 slaves and 1,960 acres of pinelands in the 11th Land District.

Alexander Campbell (1777-1875)
According to Folks Huxford, Alexander Campbell and his wife Flora Morrison were both born on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 1777 and 1783 respectively. As children they came to America with their parents on the same ship following the Revolutionary War, arriving in 1788, the same year the Constitution of the United States was ratified.  The Campbell and Morrison families settled in the Wilmington, Brunswick area of North Carolina where Alexander and Flora grew up.  Some time between 1795 and 1810 they were married. Alex and Flora moved west from Wilmington and settled in Richmond County, NC. The first three of their children were born in Richmond County. With the declaration of the War of 1812, Alexander Campbell registered as a British subject  in the United States, as required by law About 1815 Alexander and Flora moved their family to Telfair County, GA where they appear in the census of 1820.  They lived there until 1827 when they moved their family down the Coffee Road to Lowndes County, Georgia and settled in the country outside of a settlement known then as Sharpe’s Store but now is Morven, Georgia.   In 1829 Alexander’s father and mother, John Campbell and Katherine Gillis Campbell, followed them to Morven; John Campbell died that same year. At Morven, they raised their children and developed a fine plantation. Their firstborn son, Norman Campbell, became a postmaster and tax collector in Lowndes County.  Alexander and Flora Campbell were liberal supporters of the nearby Mount Zion Camp-meeting which was started up the year they came to Lowndes, with Reverend Josiah Evans as the first circuit-riding minister. Originally Presbyterians, they united with the Methodist Church at the Camp Ground and continued in that faith until their deaths. The Methodist circuit-rider and other ministers always found a room prepared and waiting for them in the Campbell home. Alexander died in 1875, Flora in 1882. They were buried in the Mount Zion Camp Ground Cemetery at Morven, GA.

Francis Jones (1792-1849)
Major Francis Jones apparently came to the section of Lowndes County  now known as Kinderlou   sometime before 1826. He was the eldest son of James Jones (1764-1824) and Elizabeth “Betsy” Mills Jones,  born  January 27, 1792, in Bulloch County, Georgia.  His father, James Jones, was a veteran of the American Revolution, having served as a private in the Georgia Line.  Francis Jones and his mother were the administrators of his father’s large estate in Bulloch County.  He was also one of the executors of his deceased uncle,  Matthew Jones, in Tattnall County.  Shortly after his father’s death, Francis Jones relocated to Lowndes county with his widowed mother, his brother Berry Jones, and others of the Jones family connection.  On March 26,  1826 Francis Jones married  Rachel Inman Spain. She was the widow of Levi Spain and daughter of Daniel Shadrack Inman (1771-1837),   Revolutionary soldier of Burke County.  She had come from the Carolinas to Lowndes County with her son, John William Spain, and his wife Elizabeth Young Spain. John William Spain acquired 25,000 acres of land and built a house called Forest Hills overlooking the Withlacoochee River.  Francis Jones was a man of great wealth, and joined with his stepson, they soon acquired many more substantial land holdings in that section. He owned a number of plantations and many slaves and cattle. Major Francis Jones undertook the construction of a beautiful southern mansion (later known as Eudorafor his wife Rachel about 3 miles up the road from Forest Hills. Whether the Jones ever occupied the house is not known; he died before it was completed. Francis Jones served as a Justice of Lowndes Inferior Court from 1845 until his death, December 24, 1849.  He left a nuncupative (verbal) will which was probated in Thomas County.  He named Mitchell B. Jones as Executor and divised his large estate to his wife, Rachel, and to his brothers and sisters, viz:  Mrs. Lavinia Young, Matthew Jones, Berry M. Jones, Thomas Jones, Mitchell Brady Jones, Mrs. Elizabeth “Betsy” Jones Winn and Mrs. Harriet Jones Blackshear.   Francis Jones was buried at the Forest Hill Plantation of his stepson John William Spain. His widow, Rachel Inman Spain Jones, died at the home of her son, John W. Spain, in Brooks County, in 1862.

William Hendry (1783-1840)
William Hendry, third son of Robert Hendry , and Ann Lee Hendry, was born in New Hanover County, NC, Feb. 12, 1783. His father, a native of Isle of Arran, Scotland came to America about 1770-5; he served in the Revolutionary War under “Light Horse Harry” Lee and was at Yorktown at Cornwallis’ surrender. William came with his parents to Liberty County, GA and there married December 7, 1807 to Nancy McFail, sister to Catherine, wife of his brother John Hendry … On 28 August 1807, he was commissioned as Ensign of the 17th District of Liberty County...He served as 2nd Lieutenant in Captain Robert Quarterman’s Company, 2nd Regiment, Georgia Militia, in the War of 1812. In 1825 he was named a Justice of the Peace in the 17th District of Liberty County. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Lowndes now Brooks County, and settled in the vicinity of the Coffee Road crossing over Mule Creek, about midway between present Pavo and Quitman, GA and about 20 miles west of Troupville, GAWilliam Hendry was one of the prominent citizens of Lowndes County in his day…his upright and godly life and character has been handed down, by word of mouth, to the present generation… The Hendrys seem to have had skill building and operating mills in Liberty County and again on Mule Creek in his new home. He erected the first water driven mill in this part of Georgia. He engaged in farming and milling the rest of his life… William Hendry fought in the Indian Wars in 1836 and participated in the Battle of Brushy Creek. He was a member of the Methodist Church and was one of the leading spirits in establishing Mount Zion Camp Ground in 1828. He was named a Camp Ground Trustee in both the Act of Incorporation and the deed conveying the campground property. He was also named by the General Assembly December 28, 1835 as one of the Commissioners to locate the county-site of Lowndes County.  He died on his plantation near Mule Creek in western Lowndes County on June 6, 1840, in a typhoid epidemic which took the life of his wife and a son, Eli H. Hendry. He and his wife were buried on Mule Creek. James E. Hendry and William H. Hendry were appointed administrators of his estate. All of his livestock, furniture and other “perishable possessions” were sold at auction.

William Burman, sen.
The 1830 Lowndes County Tax Digest shows William Burman owned 830 acres of pineland and 150 acres of oak and hickory on lots 58 and 185 in the 12th District of Lowndes County

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James Rountree (1787-1834), Pioneer Settler of Old Lowndes

James Rountree (1787-1834)

James Rountree, it is said, was the first pioneer settler to build a house in Old Lowndes County, GA.

James Rountree was a son of William F. and Rachel Rountree, born about 1787 in Burke County, GA. His parents were planters of North Carolina, but had come to Burke County some time before James was born.

The research of Robert Jeffries found that James Rountree moved from Burke County about 1808.  He settled in the newly created Telfair County.  Telfair and Laurens counties were created from Wilkinson County by an act of the General Assembly approved December 10, 1807 (Ga. Laws 1807, p. 37).

This map shows Laurens County (upper) and Telfair County (lower) outlined in red to show the original boundaries specified in the Dec. 10, 1807 act creating both counties. http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/histcountymaps/telfair1807map.htm

This map shows Laurens County (upper) and Telfair County (lower) outlined in red to show the original boundaries specified in the Dec. 10, 1807 act creating both counties. http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/histcountymaps/telfair1807map.htm

“County Records show that James Rountree, of Burke County, on June 27, 1808, bought Land Lot #319 in the 14th District … from John Hand of Columbia County for $100 as shown in Deed Book A on page 93, and on the same date he bought Land Lot #318 in the same district and county from Elijah Roberson for $500 as shown in Deed Book A on page 94.

Later that year, on December 13, 1808 this section was cut into Pulaski County by an act of the General Assembly (Ga. Laws 1808, p. 52). (Today, the 14th Land District of old Wilkinson County is now wholly in Dodge County, GA.)

“The Pulaski County tax-digest for 1811, shows James Rountree lived on Land Lot #150 of the 14th District of Pulaski, now Dodge County. He was also listed for taxation on Land Lot # 319 in the 14th District of Telfair County, and he owned the following property: 300 acres of land in Montgomery County, which had been granted to him, 342 acres of land in Burke County, which had been granted to him, 300 acres of land in Burke County, which he had bought, and Land Lot #245 in the 5th District of Baldwin County. He also paid taxes on four slaves.”

It appears that James Rountree married about 1810 or 1811, although  the record of this marriage and the name of his wife is not known at this time.  There are no extant records of the 1810 census in Georgia, and no records of this marriage have been reported from Burke, Wilkinson, Telfair, Laurens, or Pulaski counties.

What is known from the census of 1820, the 4th U.S. Census in Pulaski County, GA, is that the household of James Rountree there were four white children, three girls and one boy, all under age 10, and ten African-American slaves.  There were no free white adult females in his household. One would surmise that James Rountree was a widower, and that his first wife died sometime before 1820, leaving him to raise their four children.

1820 Census enumeration of the household of James Rountree, Pulaski County, GA seemed to indicate he was a widower living with his children and slaves.

1820 Census enumeration of the household of James Rountree, Pulaski County, GA seemed to indicate he was a widower living with his children and slaves.
 https://archive.org/stream/populationsc18200009unit#page/n100/mode/1up
http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/pulaski/census/1820/pg72a.txt

By matching family histories to the 1820 census, the children of James Rountree by his first wife were:

  1. John Rountree- died young
  2. Harriet Rountree (1812-1875); born January 15, 1812; married James McMullen, Jr., October 7, 1830; died November 10, 1873; buried James McMullen Cemetery, Brooks County, GA.
  3. Nancy Rountree (1814-1901); born October 25, 1813; married Clayton Bradshaw; died January 27, 1906, Brooks County, GA; buried John McMullen Cemetery  GroovervilleBrooks CountyGA
  4. Weston W. Rountree (1815-1895); born July 5, 1815; married Edith Elizabeth Folsom, daughter of William Folsom; died February 12, 1895, Lowndes County, GA; buried 
    Salem United Methodist Church Cemetery, Hahira, Lowndes County, GA
  5. Henrietta Rountree (1817-1901); born May, 1817; married Barry Wells, 1833 in Lowndes County, GA; died  ; buried  Berry Wells Family Cemetery, ShilohLowndes County, GA.

James Rountree first came to the southern region of Irwin County, GA in 1815.  According to A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2:

“Accompanied by three other enterprising and adventurous young men, James Rountree, Drew Vickers and Alfred Belote, [Lawrence Folsom] came to that part of Irwin county now included within the boundaries of Lowndes county, blazing his way through the wilderness on horseback.  

Rountree’s companions were Alfred Belote, Drew Vickers, and Lawrence Folsom.

The blue-eyed, fair-haired, 5’6″ Belote was 22 years old (born 1793). During the War of 1812, Belote was in the reserves with the 10th US Infantry but, according to the National Archives Register of Enlistments in the US Army, he was “discharged April 24, 1815, at Raleigh, NC, term expired,without joining regiment or corps.”  His father, Noah Belote, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  Drew Vickers, 40 years old, was a veteran of the Georgia Militia having served in 1793 in Captain Parrott’s Company of Washington County militiaLawrence Armstrong Folsom (1772-1842), at 43 years old was the senior of the group. His father was a Lieutenant in the Georgia Line during the Revolutionary War.  Folsom was also a veteran, having been commissioned an ensign in the Burke County militia on January 23, 1799. Folsom was married to Rachel Vickers; according to Folks Huxford she was a sister of Drew Vickers, but this is not confirmed by other researchers.

After exploring a considerable portion of South Georgia the quartet invested in government land…The four men went back to their homes in Pulaski and Burke counties, Rountree returning to his motherless children.  James Rountree appears in the 1818 Tax Digest of Pulaski County, paying taxes on 405 acres of pinelands and eight slaves.

The census of 1820 enumerates James Rountree in Pulaski County, GA with his children and slaves. Among his neighbors were William Hendley, his wife Millie Hendley, and four daughters; Nancy, Martha, Jane, and Sophia.  Also next door was the Hendley’s son, Horton Hendley and his family. William Hendley was a Scotsman and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, having served in the Virginia Continental Line.

After some time,  the four companions (Rountree, Vickers, Belote, and Folsom) made plans for relocating to the southern frontier they had explored in 1815,

Mr. Folsom buying a tract about a mile from Little River; Messrs. Rountree and Vickers located near by; and Mr. Belote purchased land that included the present site of the village of Mineola.

Again, Robert Jeffries reports,

“Irwin County deed records show that James Rountree of Pulaski County on March 6, 1821, bought Land Lot#497 of the 9th district of then Irwin, but later Lowndes County, from Kinchen P. Tyson of Jones County for $220 as recorded in Deed Book A on page 27. Also on October 16, 1821 he bought Land Lot #516 in the same district and county from Joseph Barr of Franklin County for $200 as shown in Deed Book A on page 25.”

The History of Lowndes County, GA reports that in 1821, the four settlers returned to that section of Irwin soon to be cut into Lowndes County. Sections in the north of old Irwin County had been settled and several counties had been laid out.  The families of James Rountree, Drew Vickers, Alfred Belote, and Lawrence Folsom and their African-American slaves were the first pioneer families to settle in the original county of Lowndes after moving there in the winter of 1821-1822.

“These gentlemen returned [to south Irwin County, soon to be Lowndes]… with their wives and children, continues A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2, making the overland trip in carts drawn either by horses or mules, following Indian trails a part of the way, at other times making their own path through the trackless woods. Whenever they came to a stream too deep to ford, they swam their stock across, and built rafts on which to take their carts and household goods across.”

These pioneer families were pathfinders, bushwhacking their way through Wiregrass Georgia. But soon the Georgia General Assembly appropriated funds for construction of  a frontier road. It was on December 23, 1822, that General John E. Coffee and Thomas Swain were appointed to superintend the construction. Enoch Hall was employed as one of the overseers for the construction.  Coffee, Swain, and then Governor John Clark were all residents of Telfair County, which undoubtedly influenced the selection of the route. This road, soon known as Coffee’s Road, led to the creation of Lowndes County  It ran from Jacksonville on the Ogeechee River in Telfair County, southwesterly through the then county of Irwin (but now Coffee, Irwin, Berrien) through the then county of Lowndes (but now Berrien, Cook  and Brooks) into Thomas County and via Thomasville southwardly to the Florida line.   Coffee’s Road passed about seven miles west of Ray City, GA.

The Coffee Road provided a convenient route between the frontier homesteaders and their family connections in Telfair, Laurens, and Pulaski counties. It appears that about this time, James Rountree left his frontier home to make a return trip to Pulaski County seeking a wife and mother for his young children.   Pulaski county marriage records show James Rountree was married on March 6, 1823 in Pulaski County to Nancy Hendley.  She was the girl next door to Rountree’s Pulaski county property. She was born April 22, 1793 a daughter of William Hendley, Revolutionary Soldier.

1823 marriage certificate of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley, Pulaski County, GA

1823 marriage certificate of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley, Pulaski County, GA

Georgia
Pulaski County

To any ordained minister of the Gospel, Judge, Justice of the Inferior Court, or Justice of the Peace, to celebrate _________
You are hereby authorized and empowered to join in the holy state of matrimony according to the rites and ceremonies of your church James Rountree and Nancy Hendly and in so doing this shall be your sufficient warrant.
Given under my hand this 5th March 1823
Wesley Yarbrough D.C.C.O

The marriage of the with named James Rountree and Nancy Hendly was solomnized on the 6th March 1823 – W B McGehee J.P.

Entered by Wesley Yarbrough Clk Co

James Rountree took his bride back to his south Georgia place. That year, 1823 James’ brother, Francis Rountree,  also came south to homestead.  The home of Francis Rountree near the Withlacoochee River shortly became the center of governmental affairs for the county:  “On November 30, 1826, the county site of Lowndes County was changed from the house of Sion Hall to the house of Francis Rountree,” according to the Digest of Georgia.

The children of James Rountree and Nancy Hendley were:

  1. James Lester Rountree (1823-1905) 
  2. Annie B. Rountree (1826-1910); born January 1826, she was one of the first children to be born in Lowndes County, GA; married James Folsom, son of Lawrence Folsom;
  3. Georgia Ann Rountree (1834-1922); married J. W. Anderson; moved to Madison Florida

Of course, with the opening of Coffee Road and the creation of Lowndes County, many more settlers moved into south Georgia. Among the new arrivals were Jesse W. Hunter, Enoch Hall, Sion Hall, Hamilton Sharpe, David Mathis, Daniel McCranie and the families of William Anderson Knight and his son Levi J. Knight, who was the first to settle at the present day site of Ray City, GA.

James Rountree appears in the 1830 Tax Digest of Lowndes County and he paid taxes on Land Lots #451, 497, and 516 in the 9th District. The Rountree home and plantation was on Land Lots 497 and 516.  In 1833, he served on the Grand Jury of Lowndes County.

Of the Rountree, Vickers, Folsom, and Belote families, A History of Savannah and South Georgia, Vol 2, says:

They were pioneers in very truth, being the first permanent white settlers of Lowndes county, more especially of its northern portion. There were no mills in that section of the country for several years thereafter, all the grain being ground in mills operated by hand. They kept sheep and raised cotton, and the women used to card, spin and weave the homespun material from which she fashioned all the garments worn by the family. The wild game found in the forests furnished the early settlers with a large part of their subsistence, while acorns, beech nuts and walnuts were so plentiful that the only need of feeding hogs was to keep them from growing wild, an occasional meal serving for that purpose. Very little ready money was then in circulation in the south, and in the newer settlements few store goods were used, salt, sugar and coffee being the principal articles brought in.

Pioneer settlers like James Rountree or Harmon Gaskins did most of their trading at Tallahassee in the Territory of Florida, at St. Marks or Newport on the Florida Gulf Coast, or traveled to the east to trade at Centerville, GA on the St. Marys River. Historian Folks Huxford wrote, “An occasional trip would be made to Savannah but most of the trips were made to the other points named; these trips were usually about once a year, and would last a week or ten days.” Huxford describes how the men traveled in horse-drawn carts, “In such event of a trip, … a journey made in company with two or three neighbors situated like himself.  They drove their carts sitting astride their horses, and took rest-spells by occasionally walking by the side of the horse.  Such trips had to be made to St. Marks, Fla., or to old Center Village in what is now Charlton county.  

It was on the return from an excursion to the Florida coast that James Rountree met his  death. Robert Jeffries reported:

James Rountree was murdered and robbed… near Tallahassee, Florida…  while enroute to the “salt works” on the Gulf of Mexico for salt. Early residents of Lowndes and adjoining counties made regular periodic trips to the Gulf for salt. From his obituary, in the “Southern Recorder” at Milledgeville in the April 16, 1834 edition, it is learned that Mr. Rountree was murdered on March 26, 1834, at night, in his camp on the road from Tallahassee to Thomasville, enroute home. He was supposedly killed by three Negroes, one of whom had been apprehended at this time. The deceased was possessed of a kind and gentlemanly deportment – an innocent and good man – a valuable pattern of frugality and industry. 

The story of the 1834 murder fueled southern plantation owners’ fears of slave violence. After the murder of James Roundtree , a group of citizens formed a vigilante committee calling themselves “The Regulators.” The group was organized at the gravesite of Mr. Roundtree and William Lester was elected as the leader. William Lester was a relative of Susan Bradford Eppes (1848-1942), who was born at Pine Hill Plantation, Leon County, FL and grew up hearing the tales of the murder of James Rountree.  The book Creating an Old South describes her later writings about how the “brave ‘Regulators’ led by her relative William Lester caught an interracial gang guarding the booty from a robbery. Then ‘twenty pairs of willing hands did quick work – tree limbs were stout and strong – and five white men and one negro were left hanging high as Haman.”

Rewards were offered for the capture of the two other alleged murderers.  The Governor of the Territory of Florida, William Pope Duval, in the final days of his administration offered a reward of $200 which was matched by the citizens of Tallahassee.

April 18, 1834, reward offered for the murder of James Rountree

April 18, 1834, reward offered for the murder of James Rountree

Georgia Constitutionalist
April 18, 1834

A reward of $200 is offered by the Governor of Florida, and $200 additional by the citizens of Tallahassee, for the apprehension of two runaways charged with the murder of James Roundtree.

The Tallahassee Floridian reported in the July 22, 1837 edition that the murder of Mr. Rountree near the Georgia line had been committed by two runaway slaves named Joe and Crittenden. “The editor of the Floridian claimed that ‘The object of the perpetrators is supposed to have been money, of which the deceased was known to have a small sum,’”   according to a study of  Slave Unrest in Florida published in the Florida Historical Quarterly.

James McMullen served as administrator for the estate of James Rountree, Lowndes County, GA, 1834

James McMullen served as administrator for the estate of James Rountree, Lowndes County, GA, 1834

Milledgeville Federal Union
July 23, 1834

Georgia, Lowndes County

Whereas, James McMullin applies for letters of administration on the estate of James Rountree, late of said county, deceased,

These are, therefore, to cite and admonish all and singular the kindred and creditors of said deceased to be and appear at my office, within the time proscribed by law, to show cause, if any exist, why said letters should not be granted.

Given under my hand at office, this 8th July, 1834.
William Smith, c.c.c.

Related Posts

Lowndes County Seat Almost Sunk in 1827

Berrien Skirmishes, the Battle of Brushy Creek, and the Indian Maiden

Grand Jurors of 1845, Lowndes County, GA

Pennywell Folsom Fell at Brushy Creek

Dr. Motte Arrives at Franklinville, GA, 1836

In the midst of the Second Seminole War young Dr. Motte, a Harvard educated Army surgeon, found himself detailed for duty at Franklinville, GA to provide medical care for soldiers under the command of Major Greenleaf Dearborn.  The arrival of federal troops in Lowndes County in late September of 1836 followed  a series of engagements between local militia and Native Americans who were fleeing to Florida to avoid forced removal to western lands.  Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA, had led a company of men in a skirmish at William Parker’s place on July 12, 1836, and from July through August, engagements were fought at Brushy Creek, Little River, Grand Bay, Troublesome Ford, Warrior Creek and Cow Creek.

Dr. Motte recorded his experiences in Lowndes County in a journal he kept of his military service. This part of his story picks up in the first days of Autumn, 1836…

In consequence of the great alarm excited in the southern counties of Georgia by murders and depredations committed by the Creek Indians who were endeavoring to escape into Florida from Alabama, Governor Schley had petitioned Gen. Jesup to station some troops in Ware or Lowndes County, that being the least populous and most defenceless portion of the country through which the Indians were passing.  It was also liable to invasions from the Seminoles, as it bordered upon Florida.  In compliance with this request, Major [Greenleaf] Dearborn with two companies of Infantry was ordered to proceed immediately to the above counties in Georgia, and there establish himself.  These counties being so far south and in a low swampy part of the country had the worst possible reputation for health, and going there at this season of the year was almost considered certain death to a white man and stranger unacclimated.  It was necessary then to send some surgeon with the troops, that it may not be said they died without proper medical attendance; and also that they might have a chance of a surgeon in the other world to physic them. Dr. Lawson, the Medical Director, was therefore instructed by Gen. Jesup to select some on of the surgeons for this duty; and the Doctor with his usual friendly discrimination, whenever there was any particularly disagreeable duty to be done, picked upon me. [Dr. Thomas Lawson, Medical Director at Fort Mitchell, was appointed Surgeon General of the United States on November 30, 1836.] So away I was ordered, to die of fever as I thought amidst the swamps of Lowndes County.  Major Dearborn to whom I was ordered to report myself was at Irwinton [Eufala, AL], sixty miles below Fort Mitchell, on the Alabama side of the Chatahooche. It was therefore necessary for me to proceed there forthwith alone….

I found Major Dearborn encamped two miles from Irwinton, and after reporting myself to him rode over to visit Major Lomax, who was also stationed in the neighbourhood with his battalion of Artillery.

On the 29th Sept we took up the line of march for Lowndes County, Georgia, and after crossing the Chattahooche advanced fifteen miles the first day over the most wretched roads that ever disfigured the face of the earth.  We proceeded by easy marches, generally resting in the middle of the day when we took our food, which was prepared before we started in the early morn and again when we encamped for the the night. The second night I slept in a church by the roadside…The third night we slept in the midst of a pine barren. The fourth near the banks of the Kinchafoonee River upon the site of an old Indian town [Chehaw village, where Georgia militia massacred Creek Indians in 1818]

Dr. Jacob Motte's 1836 route to Franklinville, GA

Dr. Jacob Motte’s 1836 route to Franklinville, GA

The fifth night, the surgeon was coming down with fever. Of the sixth day, he wrote that the column had passed through Pindartown, in present day Worth County, GA.  According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Pindartown was of considerable importance in the early days. When the Creek lands changed hands in 1821, the village was bought from the Indians. Pindartown served as the only post office between the Ocmulgee and Flint rivers in the early days. The town was located at the head of navigation on the Flint River, and the stagecoach road between Milledgeville and Tallahassee, Florida, went through Pindartown.

Continuing his narrative of the travel on October 4, 1836, Motte wrote of his worsening condition.

We crossed the Flint river, and had got beyond Pinderton in Baker county, when the exertion proved too great for me, for fever with its dreadful hold had seized on my very life-springs; and finding myself unable to keep my saddle, I was forced to dismount and lie down upon the road until one of the baggage wagons came up, when I was helped into it. The torture I endured for four days during which I was conveyed in this vehicle of torment cannot be expressed in language.  My anxiety, however, to continue with the troops, enabled me to support the greatest agony for some time. 

Motte’s description of the rude and uncomfortable travel by wagon over the stage roads matches the perceptions of  Charles Joseph La Trobe, an English traveler and writer, who in 1833 rode from Tallahassee, FL to Milledgeville, GA  via the weekly stagecoach. La Trobe observed “The roads through the south of Georgia are in the roughest state.

The rough roads in the heat of an Indian summer in south Georgia were too much for the feverish Dr. Motte.

The thin covering to the wagon afforded my burning brain no protection against the heat of a vertical sun in this latitude, and the constant jolting over the rugged roads and roots of trees was fast driving me into a dreadful tempest of delirium. Human nature could endure such suffering no longer, and with reluctance I was compelled to be left in a log-house which stood beside the road in Thomas county, ten miles from Florida. The occupant, whose name was Adams, seemed a kind hearted man, and he promised to bestow [upon me] all the care in his power. Fortunately I retained my reasoning faculties, and I was enabled to prescribe for myself the proper medicines…

… By aid of a good constitution I was at last enabled to master the disease, and after ten days confinement to bed, again stood upon my legs. …On the 21st Oct I had regained sufficient strength to ride my horse; so on that day I bid farewell to my kind and hospitable host…and following upon the trail of the troops, proceeded to rejoin them.

The route of the troops from Thomasville toward Franklinville would have undoubtedly been along the Coffee Road.     Coffee Road, the military road constructed by John Coffee and Thomas Swain in 1823 became the first route opening up the south central Georgia region to pioneer settlers.  In this section the road passed through Thomas county, Lowndes county, and present day Berrien county, continuing on to its terminus at Jacksonville, GA on the Ocmulgee River. From Thomasville heading east via the Coffee Road, Dearborn’s company could reach Sharpe’s Store which was just fifteen miles west of Franklinville, GA

Now traveling alone and by horseback, Motte’s perception of  conditions along the rough-cut roads are in marked contrast to his torturous wagon ride.

Autumn with its refreshing sunshine had now superceded the heat of summer, and its hollow winds, with mournful sound announcing the approach of dreary winter, were driving the leaves about in eddying course; their rustling alone broke the stillness of the scene as I journeyed slowly through the wide forests, which were now throwing off their garb of sturdy vigour and assuming the ostentatious and gaudy livery of the season. The beauty of woodland scenery is always heightened just before the chilly winter throws its icy influence over their bloom. and envelopes them in a robe of dusky brown.  Then it is that the gorgeous and fantastic blending of green, yellow, crimson, purple and scarlet, which tinge the distant prospect, defies the art of the painter, who endeavours in vain to imitate successfully the varied hues of nature.

On the evening of the 22nd Oct I arrived at Franklinville, which is the only town in the whole of Lowndes county, and contains only three log-houses one of which is a court-house, and another the Post-office; the third is a store. This great place is situated on the upper Withlacooché, and here I found the troops encamped. They were preparing to move farther south, and nearer to Florida; and the day after I joined, the tents were struck, the Withlachooché crossed, and after marching ten miles in a southerly direction, a new place of encampment was selected near the plantation of  a Mr. Townsend.

[Thomas O. Townsend was one of the first settlers of Lowndes County, and later owned several lots in the town of Troupville.]

Major Dearborn apparently found the environs of Franklinville unsuitable to military discipline, this despite the fact that the only buildings were the courthouse, post office, an inn operated by William Smith, who was also clerk of the court and postmaster, and the residences of Sheriff Martin Shaw, and of John Mathis and James Mathis. Still, Franklinville was the only “town” in all of Lowndes County and was on the stage road from Jacksonville.   In reflecting on the early history of Lowndes County, Hamilton Sharpe, who operated Sharpe’s Store on Coffee Road, intimated that Franklinville was a rowdy place of drunkenness, at least on days when citizens gathered from the countryside of meetings of the circuit court.

In any event, Major Dearborn soon had his troops relocated to a more remote location.

Related Posts

Lowndes County Seat Almost Sunk in 1827

After the territory of south Georgia was opened with cutting of the Coffee Road, the Georgia Legislature acted on December 23, 1825 to  create Lowndes County.  It was around this time that the Knights first came to Lowndes county and settled in that portion which was later cut into Berrien County.    In the Act creating Lowndes County, the legislature directed that “the place of holding the Superior and Inferior Courts, and elections for county officers…shall be, for the county of Lowndes, at the house of Sion Hall.” The first Courts and first elections in Lowndes County were held at the house of Sion Hall,  who built an Inn on the Coffee Road.

On November 30, 1826, the county site of Lowndes County was changed from the house of Sion Hall to the house of Francis Rountree,” according to the Digest of Georgia.

In 1828 William Smith’s place on the Withlacoochee River was chosen as the county seat. A courthouse was constructed on this site and a town, named Franklinville, was platted.

But an article from the Savannah Georgian dated July 12, 1827 suggests a courthouse was constructed in Lowndes prior to 1828. Did this article refer to Hall’s Inn, situated on land lot No. 271, 12th District, about 1 1/2 miles north of present day Morven, GA?  Or to the home of Francis Rountree? Or was a courthouse constructed at William Smith’s place prior to the incorporation of Franklinville?

Either way, the article documents that sinkholes were a part of pioneer Georgia.

July 12, 1827 A sinkhole was reported at Franklinville, GA

July 12, 1827 A sinkhole was reported at Franklinville, GA?

Savannah Georgian
July 12, 1827

Natural Curiosities. – Travellers in the low country have related to us the following facts:
     A spot of earth, about an acre in extent, near the court house in Lowndes County, suddenly gave way not long since, and sunk to the depth of a hundred feet!  The place is now covered with water, the trees standing as they grew – the tallest pines being 20 or 30 feet below the level of the surrounding country.  Small ponds like this are frequently met with in the lower part of the state, and are called Lime Sinks – produced probably by the action of subterraneous streams.
     In Thomas county, the waters of two creeks, at their junction, formerly made a lake of considerable size, and then ran off in a large rivulet.  But about a year and a half ago, the water of the lake found a subterranean outlet – the bed of the rivulet, as well as the whole lake, has become entirely dry and covered with luxuriant grass, &c. The lake disappeared so suddenly, that tons of fishes, terrapins, and alligators totally unapprised of its intentions, were left behind.
     Travellers speak of the large Ponds or Lakes in Florida, as objects of curiosity. In Armonia Pond are several large Islands, said to be floating!  A circumstance is mentioned of an individual having purchased a small Island, in this pond, which, when he went the second time to see, could not be found! He afterwards heard of it in another part of the lake several miles from where he left it.
     Jackson Pond, in Florida, is said to be increasing in extent – the earth on the margin having settled; or, from its outlet becoming obstructed, the quantity of water having accumulated.  Fields and orchards cultivated but lately by the Indians, are now entirely under water – the tops of the peach trees being nearly covered.
     We have given the above particulars as they are stated to us; and from the respectability of their sources we have no doubt of their being substantially correct. An inquiry into the causes of these operations of Nature, will be an interesting employment for the admirerer of nature’s Works.

Macon Telegraph.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncle Billy was a member of the State Rights Association of Lowndes County, GA,  along with Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharp, Aaron Knight, Jonathan Knight, John Knight and William Cone Knight,  Noah H. Griffin, Martin Shaw, Malachi Monk, Captain David Bell and many others.  The Association gathered  at the county courthouse at Franklinville in 1835 to toast State Rights.

Just a few years after its founding, Franklinville was found to be unsatisfactory as the seat of Lowndes county.

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

William Smith moved to Troupville where he continued to serve as Postmaster.  There, he also operated “Tranquil Hall,” one of the three hotels in the town.  Tranquil Hall was widely famed for its hospitality, and when court was in session at Troupville, the judge and lawyers usually stayed at the tavern.  Tranquil Hall was situated on the public square, along with the court-house and jail, the stables belonging to the stage line and a convenient “grocery.”  The other inns were the Jackson Hotel , situated on the town square and run by Morgan G. Swain and his wife, and a hotel operated by Jonathan Knight for eight or ten years until he moved away to Appling County about 1849.

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

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

— — ◊ — —

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

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

Albany News
January 7, 1870

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

WM. SMITH
MARGET SMITH

— — ◊ — —

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

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

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, February 4, 1882

Old Land Mark Gone.

Death Of “Uncle Billy” Smith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 † † †

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

The Valdosta Times
 Saturday, April 22, 1882

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

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

Peace be to his memory.

H.W. Sharpe.

† † †

Related Posts:

Fourth of July, 1834 and the State Rights Association




In 1834, William A. Knight, Levi J. Knight, Hamilton W. Sharpe, John Blackshear, John McLean, John E. Tucker, William Smith led the effort to form a State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA,  then seat of Lowndes County.  Lowndes, at that time included most of present day Berrien County, and the community  settled by Wiregrass pioneer Levi J. Knight  which would become known as Ray City, GA.  The following year, the  citizens of Lowndes again met  to toast States Rights at Franklinville on Independence Day(1835)  In 1836, they would designate their new county seat as Troupville, in honor of “the great apostle of state rights,” George M. Troup.

George M. Troup

George M. Troup

The State Rights Party of Georgia had been launched in 1833 by prominent leaders of the Troup party, including John M. Berrien, George R. Gilmer, William H. Crawford, William C. Dawson, and Augustin S. Clayton. The  State Rights activists were committed to the notion that individual states could exercise nullification of federal laws which they found objectionable, although this doctrine  was condemned by the Legislature of Georgia and other state governments.  Furthermore, according to the State Rights supporters, individual states where bound by the Constitution only to the extent that they found agreeable;  states could secede from the Union  at will.  These ideas emerged in response the Alien and Sedition Acts – a sort of 17th century version of the Homeland Security Act – which the Federalists enacted as war with France loomed on the horizon.

According to the Library of Congress:

Signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress as America prepared for war with France. These acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, authorized the president to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” and restricted speech critical of the government. These laws were designed to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts helped contribute to the Democratic-Republican victory in the 1800 elections. Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while the other acts were allowed to expire.”

The infringements of the  Alien and Sedition Acts had prompted   Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to secretly author the Kentucky (1798) and Virginia (1799)  Resolutions which first proposed the argument that state legislatures had the right to nullify Federal statutes.   In these resolutions lay the seeds of disunion which culminated in the Civil War.

The 1834 convening of the State Rights activists in Lowndes County was full of rhetoric over the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, South Carolina’s attempts at nullification, Andrew Jackson’s Nullification Proclamation which disputed a states’ right to nullify federal law, and the subsequent Force Act, which authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted federal law.

 

Georgia Journal
September 3, 1834 — page 3

According to previous arrangement, the citizens of Lowndes county friendly to State Rights met in Franklinville on the 4th of July, for the purpose of forming a State Rights Association – when, on motion, Wm Smith was called to the Chair, and John McLean appointed Secretary.  The object of the meeting was then explained by Hamilton W. Sharpe, Esq.  A committee of five persons, to wit: H. W. Sharpe, John Blackshear, John McLean, John E. Tucker, and Levi J. Knight, was appointed to draft a preamble expressive of the political sentiments of the meeting, and a constitution for the government of the association.

The meeting then adjourned until Friday the 1st day of August.

WM SMITH, Chairman

John McLean, Secr’y

————————–

Friday August 1.

THE STATE RIGHTS PARTY OF LOWNDES COUNTY, met pursuant to adjournment, on the first day of August, when Wm A. Knight was appointed President, Matthew Albritton and John J. Underwood Vice President, and William Smith recording Secretary and Treasurer. A committee of three persons was appointed to wait on the President, notify him of his appointment, and conduct him to the chair, after which he addressed the meeting at considerable length.

The preamble and Constitution being called for, H. W. Sharpe, from the Committee, reported the following, which was unanimously adopted.

PREAMBLE.

Your Committee, to whom was confided the trust of preparing a Preamble and Constitution to be submitted to this meeting, for the formation of a State Rights association in the county of Lowndes, beg leave to submit the following:

This meeting, which is called in conformity to the request of the State Rights meeting which was formed in Milledgeville on the 13th Nov. last, is deemed by your committee to be of the utmost importance, in producing unanimity of action in suppor of these great conservative principles of State Rights hitherto of such great importance in prostrating the approaching spirit of consolidation.  The triumph of those principles so much to be desired, calls loudly for the formation of local and county associations, as the best means of disseminating those great political truths maintained by the illustrious Jefferson, affirmed by the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, and sanctioned by the purest patriots of our country.  The state of political parties in Georgia, and throughout the Union, calls loudly for this concert of action to preserve all that is dear to freemen.

There seems to be a spirit abroad in the land, which is likely to fatal to constitutional liberty, and subversive of the Republican doctrines of ’98 and ’99; and in their place is sought to be established antagonist doctrines, calculated to change our political institutions, & destroy our civil rights.  If these doctrines should prevail, then farewell to freedom and State Sovereignty.  Then will the altar of our political faith be destroyed, and its glories extinguished.

Our opponents, to wit, the self-styled Union party of Georgia, would dissemblingly profess to accord with the views of the illustrious Jefferson, and hypocritically pretend to adopt, as the rule of their faith, the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of ’98 and ’99.  They must have forgotten that those far-famed resolutions declare: “That there being no common judge, each party has a right to judge for itself, as well as of infractions as the mode and measure of redress.”  Now this is the doctrine which we profess to believe; this then would have been the State Rights doctrine of the Union party, if they had gone no farther; but in a subsequent Resolution, they declare that in case Congress should pass an unconstitutional law, no State has a right to judge any thing about it.  How this last sentiment can be made to agree with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, we leave our opponents to determine.

It is plainly deducible from the whole tenor of their proceedings, that the ultra-Federal doctrines of the Proclamation of the fatal 10th Dec. 1832, are approved and cherished. The tyrannical and despotic provisions of the Force Bill are sanctioned, its authors and supporters applauded, and the sovereignty of their own State denied.  Then if these doctrines should eventually prove successful, it must result in the final overthrow of constitutional liberty, and the establishment of a consolidated despotism on the ruins of State Sovereignty.

While our opponents are thus actively and zealously engaged in disseminating and circulating these dangerous doctrines, they spare no pains in casting odium and reproach on those of us who are friends to State Rights and State Sovereignty.  The terms “rebel, ”disunionist, ”traitor’ and other opprobrious epithets, are frequently applied to those who would exert their influence to arrest the Federal Government in its march towards absolute power and despotism.  We, as a portion of the State Rights party of Georgia, would cast back these epithets, and say, let posterity judge who are the friends of the Union and liberty, when the transactions of the present day shall become matters of history.

We will now give our opinion of some of the leading political subjects, which seem to be the divisional line between the two parties now in Georgia.

We believe the doctrines of the Proclamation of the 10th Dec. 1832 to be radically wrong, and will have a tendency to destroy the original principles of our government, for it re-asserts the doctrines of the Federalist of former days; “That the States of this Confederacy never had a separate existence; that a State has no right to decide upon the constitutionality of any act of Congress, nor to arrest its progress in its own limits.

It denies the right of secession, even under the most oppressive laws, maintaining that the states have not retained their entire sovereignty, and that the allegiance of our citizens is due to the United States in the first instance, and threatening the employment of the sword and bayonet to coerce a State into submission.

The passage of the Act called the Force Bill to be a high-handed measure, unauthorized by the Constitution. The President, overlooking his former principles, demands of a submissive Congress, their sanction of these extraordinary powers and doctrines, and the means of carrying them into effect.

On no former occasion has the hand of power been exerted over the Constitution of a free country with more daring assumption.

In has, under the pretence of collecting the Revenue, at one fell swoop abolished the State governments, conferred upon the President unlimited powers, and placed at his disposal the Army, Navy, and Militia of the United States, not only to be used at his own caprice, but also authorizes him to confer this power on a deputy Marshall, or whoever he may think proper.  It also give him the power to make a Custom house on a ship of war, and place it at the entrance of any harbor he amy think proper, there to exact at the mouth of a cannon, in the name of duites, the honest earnings of the laboring man, and bestow the money as a bounty upon the lordly manufacturer. The provisions of this act are a disgrace to our Statute Book, and a monumnet of the servile spirit of the 22d Congress, and should be torn from our public archives and consigned to the flames that consumed the records of the Yazoo speculation.

Your Committee, however, can but hope, that there is yet a redeeming spirit among the people of this Government, to check the rapid strides of absolute power which is threatening our institutions with a change from a Republic to a Despotism.

In order that the doctrine of State Rights and State Remedies may be promoted, we, its friends and advocates of the county of Lowndes, think it the utmost importance to organize an Association to act in concert with the Central Committee and all Associations of a similar kind.

Therefore, be it resolved, That it is expedient to form a State Rights Association based upon the doctrines of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of ’98 and ’99, as put foth and contended for by Mr. Jefferson adn other republicans of that day.

In compliance with the duty imposed on your Committee, they would respectfully submit the following

CONSTITUTION

Art. 1. This Association shall be known as the State Rights Association of the county of Lowndes, and have for its object the dissemination of sound political doctrine, based upon the Republican doctrine of ’98 and ’99, as put forthe by Mr. Jefferson and other patriots.

Art. 2. The offices of this Association shall be a President, two Vice Presidents, and a Secretary, who shall also act as Treasurer.

Art. 3. The President shall perform the duties which appertain to such an office in all Associations of a similar kind, and shall call meetings of the Association and appoint Committees; and in his absence, one of the Vice Presidents shall preside.

Art. 4. The Secretary shall keep a correct account of the proceedings of the Association.

Art. 5. Any person may become a member of this Association by signing the Constitution.

Art. 6. This Constitution may be altered or amended by two thirds of the Association, at any annual meeting.

Art. 7. The officers of this Association shall be elected on the 4th of July in each and every year, unless it fall on the sabbath, the the Saturday preceding.

On motion of H. W. Sharpe, Esq. it was

Resolved, That the State Rights papers in Milledgeville be respectfully requested to publish the preceedings of this meeting.

Resolved, That the Editors of the Southern Recorder be directed to print one hundred copies of the Preamble and Constitution adopted by this Association for distributing among the people of this county, and forward their account for payment to the Recording Secretary.

The Association adjourned to meet at Franklinville, on Friday before the first Monday in October next.

WILLIAM A. KNIGHT, President

WILLIAM SMITH, Secretary

From Georgia Journal, Sep. 3, 1834 — page 3

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

Georgia Journal, Sep. 3, 1834 — page 3

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

1834 William A. Knight elected president of Lowndes County State Rights Association at Franklinville, GA. Members include Levi J. Knight, Hamilton Sharpe, William Smith, Matthew Albritton, John J. Underwood, John McLean, John E. Tucker, John Blackshear

 

Related Posts:

Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents

Troupville, Lowndes County, GA

From pioneer times to the present day, Ray City, GA , has been under the jurisdiction of three different counties and six different county seats of government.    From 1825 to 1856  the community fell within the borders of Lowndes County. During that period,   the county seat of government was first at Franklinville, GA, then briefly at Lowndesville, and in 1836 moved to the town of Troupville,GA.

Related posts about Troupville GA:

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

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

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

Here is a conceptual layout of 0ld Troupville adapted from a sketch of the town made by C. S. Morgan, and   superimposed on  a modern map of the confluence of the Withlacoochee River and the Little River .

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

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

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

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

SOME RESIDENTS AND BUSINESS OWNERS OF TROUPVILLE, GA

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

OTHER BUSINESSES AND COMMERCE OF TROUPVILLE, GA

  • Farmers House – a tavern or inn owned by William P. Murdoch,  1852
  • South Georgia Watchman newspaper
  • St. John the Baptist Masonic Lodge, 1854
  • Troupville Academy   –  was authorized by Georgia statutes  in 1852.
  • Little River Baptist Church  –  constituted June 21st, 1840,  construction completed in 1842, although services were held earlier in the home of James O. Goldwire, in other homes and in the Court House. Name changed to Troupville Baptist church in 1844, eventually became First Baptist Church of Valdosta.
  • Troupville Methodist Church  –    In 1842, Anthony C. Bruner was the Methodist Preacher at Troupville,  Later, John Slade was a Methodist preacher riding on the Troupville circuit.
Sketch of Old Troupville, GA by C. S. Morgan

Sketch of Old Troupville, GA by C. S. Morgan

-30-

An Antebellum Trial at Troupville

In 1932, James Nicholas Talley, a son of Berrien County, GA and member of the Macon Bar, published a dramatic account of court proceedings  that occurred in the 1840s in Troupville, county seat of old Lowndes County, Georgia.  Samuel Mattox, son of Aaron Mattox,  was charged in the September 7, 1843 murder of William Slaughter. The Studstill brothers,  Jonathan and Emanuel “Manny” Studstill, sons of Rachel Sirmans and Hustus Studstill (aka Eustus Studstill), were also implicated in the crime. In 1836, Samuel Mattox had been the first to discover Indians were active in then Lowndes county near Ten Mile Creek, prior to the Battle of Brushy Creek.  Ten Mile Creek, the locality of the Slaughter murder, lies slightly northeast of present day Ray City, GA.

Talley’s narrative of the murder of the Slaughter boy and the trials that ensued are transcribed below, along with contemporaneous news clippings of the events and other supplemental information.

AN ANTEBELLUM TRIAL AT TROUPVILLE

By J. N. TALLEY, of the Macon Bar

Late in the afternoon of September seventh, Eighteen Forty-three, a fifteen-year-old boy, William Slaughter, rode through the pine woods near Ten Mile creek. He was driving up a herd of cattle, for it was milking time at his father’s pioneer settlement in the upper part of Lowndes.

At a distant clearing, the calves having been rounded up and penned, Samuel Mattox and his wife, Rachel, the milker, stood at the pasture bars. With them were two young men of the neighborhood, Jonathan Studstill and his brother, Manuel, who had come over to see Mattox and make plans for an early deer hunt. While they were waiting somewhat impatiently for the cows, Manuel displayed a gun which he had brought along, a rifle  so rusty and antiquated in pattern that he declared, to the amusement of the group, it wouldn’t kill a steer at fifteen steps. They were “all in a laugh,” when the straggling herd, guided by the mounted boy, came into sight a quarter of a mile away.

The ford was soon reached, but there horse and rider stopped and, scattering out over a wiregrass level, the cows began to graze.

Observing from the calf lot this delay at the ford, Jonathan with a loud halloo ordered the boy to “come on.” William doubtless did not hear the command, for he continued to await the arrival of a brother from across the creek. From his stand by the fence, possibly actuated by the instinct of the hunter, perhaps-for no reason at all, Mattox closely contemplated the distant youthful figure in the fading light dimly outlined against the dense foliage of the swamp. While Mattox was so engaged, Manuel handed him the rifle and suggested that he shoot. Jonathan likewise said “shoot,” adding that the old firearm wouldn’t hit the side of a house. “Moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil”, as was afterwards charged, Mattox took aim and sighted, first however, it is said, deliberately resting the rifle barrel on a heap of brush. “Stop” screamed Rachel, but the shot rang out, and through the clearing smoke the unoffending lad was seen to fall from his saddle.

Dropping the gun and leaving Rachel at the pasture bars, the men ran to the ford and found the stricken boy. Horrified they discovered that the ball, speeding with unexpected force and accuracy, had penetrated his skull. ­Realizing that the report of the gun had carried far and thinking to avert suspicion, Jonathan and Mattox roughly pressed a pine stick through the open wound into the substance of the brain. Upon receiving this shock, the prostrate and apparently lifeless form arose and for one awful moment stood, face distorted by pain and wide unseeing eyes fixed upon Jonathan. Seizing the horse, which had remained standing by its unconscious master,  Manuel rode away to summons help. Later when Samuel Slaughter, the brother, and [Captain John] Sanderson, a neighbor arrived, and the mother came up in her cart, they were told by Mattox and Jonathan how a random shot fired from across the creek had frightened the horse, how the boy had been violently thrown, and how in falling his head struck a pine knot. Pointing to the stick, Jonathan declared to the mother, “that snag proved your son’s death.”

Early next morning young Slaughter died. The locality where he was shot is still known locally as Slaughter’s Ford and is some five or six miles from the present town of Nashville in Berrien county.

 

Cause of Death Revealed by Hole in Hat.

The remote rural community had been thoroughly aroused. Samuel Slaughter, who heard the shot, maintained that it came from the direction of the calf pen, for at the time he himself had been “across the creek.”  The Studstills, Mattox and Rachel did much talking, and after several days Mattox acknowledged that it was he who fired the “random shot” which frightened the horse. The theory of accidental death was being generally accepted until one day Moses Slaughter at home took down his son’s hat and found a hole, clear cut and evidently made by a bullet. Then Sanderson, who had removed the stick, remembered that instead of being jammed it was loose and moved with the pulsations of the brain. The body was disinterred, a post-mortem made by Dr. Briggs of Troupville, and a rifle ball found imbedded in the left side of the head.

 A Warrant issued for the arrest of Mattox, who promptly sought refuge in the thickets about a secluded pool, afterwards called “the Mattox pond,” and now crossed by State Highway No. 11.


At this point in J. N. Talley’s story we can add that Samuel Mattox was captured and taken to Troupville, GA where he was incarcerated in the county jail. During this time the Jailor in Troupville was Morgan Swain, who was also a blacksmith and innkeeper.  Swain’s Hotel was favored by courtgoers, amicus curiae, and the just plain curious who flocked to town on court days.

As it happened, Mattox was held with cellmates Tarlton Swain and John Strickland.  Tarlton “Talt” Swain was the brother of Morgan Swain, and whereas Morgan represented law and order, Talt Swain and his posse were the community Bad Boys.  It is said that Talt  not being of a mind to take chances with a court trial, effected an escape.  The Milledgeville Federal Union reported the fugitives’ flight and the Governor’s offer of reward for their capture:

Samuel Mattox escapes from Troupville, GA jail, 1843.

Federal Union, Nov. 21, 1843 — page 1

GEORGIA:

A Proclamation

By Charles J. McDonald, Governor of said State.

Whereas, official information has been received at this Department, that SAMUEL MATTOX, charged with the offence of murder, and TARLTON SWAIN and JOHN STRICKLAND, charged with the offence of aiding prisoner to escape from Jail, in the county of Lowndes, have made their escape from the Jail of said county.  Now in order that the said Samuel Mattox, Tarlton Swain and John Strickland, may be brought to trial for the offence of which they stand charged; I have thought proper to issue this my Proclamation, hereby offering a reward of ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, for the apprehension and delivery of either, or THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS for all three, to the Sheriff or Jailer of said county; and I do moreover, charge and require all officers, civil and military in this State, to aid and assist in apprehending and securing said fugitives.
Given under my hand, and the Great Seal of the State, at the Capitol in Milledgeville, this the 7th day of November, 1843, and of the American Independence the sixty-eighth.

CHARLES J. McDONALD.

By the Governor,

J. W. A. Sanford, Secretary of State,

Nov. 7 1843.

The Governor’s offer of a reward was issued by Georgia Secretary of State John William Augustine Sanford.  Sanford had been prosecutor Augustin H. Hansell‘s commanding officer in the Indian Wars of 1836.

It is interesting to note that the legal classified advertisement following the reward announcement  above was for the law offices Samuel Spencer and H. S. Stewart.  Spencer’s presence in Troupville, or the lack thereof, would figure prominently in later court proceedings during the trial of Jonathan Studstill.

Mattox was apparently captured in a timely manner and remanded back to the jail at Troupville to stand trial.

Resuming the account by J.N. Talley:

Mattox Convicted

At Troupville, Mattox was put on trial for his life, convicted, and sentenced to death. The many vital questions argued by counsel were finally decided by the then highest judicial authority, a superior court judge, for there was no supreme court, and no appeal.

New York Herald, June 24, 1844. Samuel Mattox convicted of murder in Lowndes County, GA.

New York Herald, June 24, 1844. Samuel Mattox convicted of murder in Lowndes County, GA.

The execution took place in July (probably 1844) on a hill just east of the Withlacoochee river, and was conducted by sheriff John Towels, who happened to be an intimate friend of the victim. The hanging was witnessed by a crowd said to have been the largest, with one exception, ever assembled at Troupville, the exception being a circus in the late 50’s which for all time set an attendance record at Lowndes’ antebellum capital.

1844 Hanging of Samuel Mattox at Troupville, GA was reported in the Milledgeville Southern Reporter, August 13, 1844 edition.

1844 Hanging of Samuel Mattox at Troupville, GA was reported in the Milledgeville Southern Reporter, August 13, 1844 edition.

Milledgeville Southern Reporter
August 13, 1844

Troupville, Lowndes Co.,
July 30, 1844.

Messrs. Editors:  – Samuel Mattox was found guilty of the murder of William Slaughter, at the last term of our Court, and sentenced to be hung on Friday last, which was done in presence of one thousand persons, as we suppose; and the very next day, (last Saturday.) Alexander McFail killed Ebenezer J. Perkins, by stabbing him. Thus it is among us: one scene of murder succeeds another in such rapid succession, that it is alarming and distressing. McFail has fled.

Truly yours, &c.

J. N. Talley noted in his narrative that, “The records of the Mattox trial were destroyed when the courthouse burned in June, 1858.” From later news clippings, we know that one of the jurors was Ajaniah Smith, who later moved to Baker’s Mill, FL.

Tifton Gazette, March 8, 1901 clipping indicates Ajaniah Smith served on the jury at the trial of Samuel Mattox in 1844.

Tifton Gazette, March 8, 1901 clipping indicates Ajaniah Smith served on the jury at the trial of Samuel Mattox in 1844.

Tifton Gazette
March 8, 1901

Mr. A. Smith, of Baker’s Mill, Fla., is one of the old-timers in this section and was the first sheriff that Brooks county had.  He also fought the Indians in this section, and served on the jury which hanged Samuel Mattox for the murder of a son of Moses Slaughter, in Berrien county many years ago. – Valdosta Times.

Talley documents that  in the matter of the murder of William Slaughter the legal proceedings were an incredibly drawn out affair, stretching over a seven year period. His narrative picks up in 1848 with the trial of Jonathan Studstill, who allegedly aided and abetted the murder of Slaughter.

The Studstill Case

The Studstill brothers had been indicted for murder in the second degree, a capital felony. The charge against them was not tried until 1848, five years after the crime had been committed. Throughout this long period Jonathan languished in Troupville’s little jail near the banks of the Withlacoochee. In the meantime Rachel Mattox had become Rachel Bailey. This comely, young woman seemed dogged by the spectre of crime. Her second husband [Burrell Hamilton Bailey] some years later was also tried for murder, but found not guilty.  (SEE Showdown in Allapaha and  The State vs Burrell Hamilton Bailey)

Troupville in 1848, boasted of three hotels and four lawyers. The resident bar, normally adequate for local needs, was more or less eclipsed by the semi-annual advent of the circuit riders. These perambulatory dignitaries, traveling in gigs and sulkies or on horseback, that year had begun their ­”Fall’ riding at Dublin on the first Monday in September.

An Old Indictment

The following indictment had been returned against Jonathan and Manuel Studstill:

GEORGIA, LOWNDES COUNTY.

The Grand Jurors, etc., in the name and behalf of the citizens of Georgia, charge and accuse Manuel Studstill and Jonathan Studstill, both of the County and State aforesaid, with the offence of murder, as principals in the second degree. For that one Samuel Mattox, not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil, on the 7th day of September, 1843, with force and arms in the County aforesaid, in and upon one William Slaughter, in the peace of the State then and there being, feloniously, unlawfully, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, then and there did make an assault, and that he, the said Samuel Mattox a certain rifle gun of the value of twenty dollars, the property of Manuel Studstill, then and there being found, the said rifle gun being then and there charged with gunpowder and a leaden bullet, which rifle gun he, the said Samuel Mattox, in both his hands then and there had and held at, against and upon him, the said William Slaughter, then and there feloniously, unlawfully, and of his malice aforethought, did discharge and shoot off; and that he, the said Samuel Mattox, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, by force of the gunpowder aforesaid, so by him, the said Samuel Mattox as aforesaid, discharged and shot off, him, the said William Slaughter, in and upon the left side of the head of him, the said William Slaughter, then and there feloniously, unlawfully, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did strike and wound, giving to the said William Slaughter, then and there, with the leaden bullet aforesaid, out of the said rifle gun, so as aforesaid discharged and shot off, in and upon the said left side of the head of him, the said William Slaughter, one mortal wound of the breadth of one inch and depth of two inches, of which said mortal wound he, the said William Slaughter, on and from the said 7th day September, in the year aforesaid, until the 8th day of September, in the year aforesaid, at the house of one Moses Slaughter, in the County aforesaid, did languish, and languishing did live, on which said 8th day of September, in the year aforesaid, about the hour of nine o’clock, in the morning, he, the said William Slaughter, at the house of said Moses Slaughter, in the County aforesaid, of the mortal wound aforesaid, died.

And the jurors aforesaid, on their oaths aforesaid, do say, that the said Manuel Studstill and the said Jonathan Studstill, on the said 7th day of September, in the year aforesaid, in the County and State aforesaid, then and there feloniously, wilfully, unlawfully, and of their malice aforethought, were present, aiding helping, abetting, comforting, assisting and maintaining the said Samuel Mattox in the felony and murder aforesaid, in manner and form aforesaid, to do and commit, contrary to the laws of said State, etc.

This indictment language, convoluted and legally flawed as it was, became an exemplar of indictments, and was cited in legal forms encyclopedias for decades afterwards.  Although the Lowndes court records of this trial were also lost in the courthouse fire of 1858, we know from other court records that the foreman of the jury was Thomas M. Boston.

The Court Room

The State against Manuel and Jonathan Studstill, murder, was sounded for trial at the December term, 1848. The small scantily furnished court room was crowded. Within the bar a dozen or more lawyers occupied cowhide bottom chairs irregularly arranged behind plain pine tables. These tables supported sundry well-worn but highly prized volumes of law, a nondescript collection of ink wells and quill pens, and numerous resplendent stove pipe hats carefully deposited upside down. Trained under his uncles, Eli and Lott Warren, the presiding judge James Jackson Scarborough had become one of the outstanding lawyers of two circuits. His reputation at the bar, however, it is said, was surpassed by that which he attained while on the bench, and “there was a child-like simplicity about him which blended with his legal acumen and judicial ability made him a refreshing character.”  Augustin H. Hansell, solicitor general, appeared for the prosecution. The following year he was to succeed Scarborough as Judge of the Southern Circuit, a station which he occupied and conspicuously adorned during forty-three years. To assist in the prosecution had been retained Samuel Rockwell, rich in garnered experience and gifted in forensic oratory. On behalf of the Studstills appeared the learned Carlton B. Cole, twice judge of the Southern Circuit and destined in after years to preside over the courts of the Macon Circuit, and with Clifford Anderson and Walter B. Hill to form the first faculty of the Law School at Mercer University.

Procedure Reviewed

The State being ready, the first motion came from the defendants who asked for a severance and that they be tried separately.  This granted, Hansell announced that Manuel’s case would be taken up first. Cautiously refraining from announcing that Manuel was ready for trial, Cole informed the court of a pending plea of autrefois acquit.  Issue being joined, there was a complete trial, which ended in a verdict against the plea. Thereupon Hansell announced that the State elected to put Jonathan on trial. This unexpected action was vigorously protested by Cole who insisted that the prosecution could not abandon the case on trial and take up that of Jonathan; Judge Scarborough held, however, that the disposition of the plea was merely the removal of an obstacle out of the way and not a part of the main trial, and directed Jonathan to plead. Cole now moved for a continuance of Jonathan’s case on account of the absence of Samuel Spencer, a member of the Thomasville bar, who was then at Tallahassee in attendance on a meeting of the Presidential Electors, the first to be held in the new state of Florida. In support of this motion it was shown that one [William] Holliday had been subpoenaed by the State for the purpose of proving that in a conversation Jonathan had confessed his guilt. Spencer was expected to testify that Holliday afterwards admitted being “so beastly drunk” on the occasion in question as to have been utterly incapable of understanding the conversation or anything else. The motion was overruled, but the prudent Hansell during the trial was careful not to call Holliday as a witness, thus avoiding the effect of a favorable ruling which might constitute reversible error.  These preliminaries disposed of, at a word from his attorney, Jonathan slowly walked to the prisoner’s dock and awkwardly stood there for arraignment and plea. Already knowing what the State held against him, the prisoner soon tired of listening to the verbose indictment, and turned his gaze straight to a window by the judge’s bench. There, beyond the moss draped trees fringing the Withlacoochee he saw the very hill where a few years before an enormous crowd had gathered to make of Mattox’ hanging a Roman holiday.

With jury in the box the stage was set for the trial of Jonathan’s case upon its merits.

 

The Trial Proceeds

The attention of all in the court room centered upon Augustin H. Hansell as he arose to open the case for the State. In appearance the young solicitor general was tall and strikingly handsome, clean shaven, his abundant hair worn rather long as was the fashion, and his dress, that affected by gentlemen of his profession – dark frock coat, trousers neatly fitting over high boots, waistcoat of gaily flowered silk, surmounted by the folds of a black stock sharply contrasting with his gleaming linen. The prosecuting attorney told the jury that if the State produced that proof the nature of which he had outlined, it would be their duty to find Jonathan guilty.

Before any evidence was submitted, the dignified Cole, addressing the judge, stated that even if the State’s proof should measure up to the expectations of the learned solicitor general, yet the jury would be bound to acquit the prisoner, and moved the court for a directed verdict of not guilty. It was pointed out by Cole that although the indictment charged Jonathan with murder in the second degree, it nowhere directly charged Mattox, the principal, with the offense of murder. While the offense had been described in the body of the indictment, nevertheless, argued Cole, there was at its conclusion no express allegation that Mattox had murdered the deceased, and that the omitted expression, technical though it was, could be supplied by no other. 2 Hawk. Pl. Cr. 224.

The attorneys for the State could not controvert the proposition that this objection to the indictment was fatal at common law. They contended, however, that the rule laid down did not apply to a principal in the second degree, but could find no authority. Driven from the principles and precedents of the cherished common law, the prosecution was reluctantly forced to fall back upon that section of the penal code of 1833, which provided that every indictment shall be deemed sufficiently technical which states an offense in the language of the code or so plainly that the nature of the offense may be understood by the jury. Prince 658.

Notwithstanding the indictment was an imperfect specimen of the draughtsman’s art, yet its meaning being understandable, the judge was constrained to overrule the motion.

Over the objection of the defendant, the indictment against Mattox, together with verdict and judgment and certain confessions made by him, were offered in evidence by the State, and then from the stand was narrated the story of how the boy while driving up his father’s cattle had been shot at the ford on Ten Mile Creek.

Rachel, the chief witness for the prosecution, and perhaps the only woman in the crowded court room, found herself in a trying situation. On the one side was fixed upon her the stern gaze of the unrelenting old pioneer settler, and on the other she beheld the kindly pleading eyes of Jonathan, friend of her former husband. Under these circumstances she clung to the anchor of remembered truth and testified that she heard Jonathan and Manuel tell Mattox to shoot, that the gun wouldn’t hit a boy at fifteen steps, but that she did not know whether her husband took aim or fired at random. Opposing her statement was that of Manuel who said he did not hand Mattox the gun, that so far as he saw or heard, his brother had nothing to do with the killing, and that he did not hear Rachel tell Mattox not to shoot,

The evidence concluded, on the law Cole argued that because of the great distance, the killing was not a probable consequence of the negligent act, therefore, the homicide was reduced to involuntary manslaughter as to which there could be no principal in the second degree. The State, however, contended that since the shooting itself was an unlawful act, the defendant was guilty, if the killing was even a possible consequence.

 

Argument Long and Loud

As soon as the first outburst of impassioned eloquence put the village on notice that jury speaking had begun, men came running from the square, the groceries, the taverns, and stables, and soon taxed the capacity of the courtroom. The anticipation of this probable consequence, it may be remarked without impropriety, did not prevent the aforesaid outburst from being made both early and loud, for it should be remembered that in those days the perambulatory attorney usually had in mind not only the case in hand but two others in the bush, and frequently also political preferment in the offing.

To most of those present, the jury speaking, which embraced argument, anecdote, pathos, oratorical flights, and sharp clashes between counsel, was the high point of the semi-annual entertainment presented by the court. The distinguished and resourceful antagonists no doubt made free use of all the material afforded by the case on trial, and we may imagine how in the disputation poor Rachel was bandied and buffeted back and forth – now thrown down as weak, simple, dominated, untrustworthy –  now exalted as a paragon of unswerving truth and womanly virtue. 

In his charge Judge Scarborough no doubt “summed up” the testimony as is still done in the United States Court, and may have expressed his opinion. Certain it is, the Judge stated to the jury if Rachel swore the truth the defendant was guilty. In view of the hard circumstances of this unusual case and the prominence given her testimony, it is not unlikely the jury conceived the practical question to their determination to be, Did Rachel swear the truth? Since an effort at her impeachment had miserably failed, it was perhaps, easy for them to conclude that she was a truthful witness, and, therefore, to decide, as they did, that Jonathan was guilty of murder.

The pageantry of the trial over, its excitement and suspense ended, a wave of sympathy appeared to move the hushed crowd of curious onlookers.  As they heard the fearsome pronouncement of the judge, interrupted only by the stifled sobs of Rachel, and saw Jonathan standing at the bar, with his staring gaze fixed upon the barren hilltop beyond the Withlacoochee.

 

Conviction Affirmed

The conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court sitting at Hawkinsville at the June Term, 1849. Studstill vs. State  7 Ga. 2. 

In sustaining Judge Scarborough’s ruling that the indictment was good, although it did not meet the technical requirements of the common law, Justice Joseph Henry Lumpkin used the following language:

 “The age is past for the civil and criminal justice of the country to be defeated by the absence or presence of one or more ‘absque hocs,’ ‘then and theres,’ videlicts,’ etc. And for one, I rejoice to see edifices built, although they may be ‘with the granite of Littleton, the cement of Coke, the trowel of Blackstone, and the Masonic genius of a hundred Chief justiciaries, and covered with the moss of many generations,’ swaying beneath the sturdy blows so unsparingly applied by the hand of reform. Why should the spirit of progress which is abroad in the World, and which is heaving and agitating the public mined in respect to the arts, sciences, politics and religion, halt upon the vestibule of our temples of justice? Why not penetrate tearlessly, the precincts of the Bar and Bench, and remodel the principles and practice of the old common law, to accommodate it to the enlightenment of a rapidly advancing civilization? Our courts should co-operate cordially with the Legislature in building up a modernized jurisprudence, upon the broadest foundations.” _­Studstill vs. State, 7 Ga. 2.

 

Jonathan Receives Pardon

By an act approved February 6, 1850, the General Assembly granted to Jonathan Studstill a pardon and declared him entirely exonerated and discharged from the pains and penalties of his conviction and sentence “as fully, freely and entirely as if such conviction and sentence had never taken place or the offense committed.”

After this disposition of Jonathan’s case, apparently the prosecution against Manuel was abandoned.

Pardon of Jonathan Studstill, Acts of the State of Georgia 1849-50.

Pardon of Jonathan Studstill, Acts of the State of Georgia 1849-50.

 AN ACT to pardon Jonathan Studstill of the county of Lowndes.

Whereas at a Superior Court held in and for the county of Lowndes, at December Term, 1848, Jonathan Studstill was convicted of the crime of murder; and whereas petitions from a large number of the citizens of said county of Lowndes have been presented to the General Assembly, asking the exercise of legislative clemency:
Be it therefore enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Georgia in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That from and immediately after the passing of this act, the said Jonathan Studstill be and he is hereby declared to be freely, fully and entirely pardoned, exonerated, and discharged from the pains and penalties of his said convictions and sentence as fully, freely and entirely as if such conviction and sentence had never taken place or the offence committed.
Approved, February 6, 1850.

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

The Dumb Act

 It is significant that the same legislature passed a statute, approved February 21, known as “the Dumb Act of 1850,”which made it unlawful for any superior court judge in his charge to the jury to express or intimate his opinion as to what has or has not been proved or as to the guilt of the accused. There was at the time a considerable sentiment in favor of curbing the judiciary, but the Studstill case was probably one of the leading factors which crystallized that sentiment in Georgia.

The bill which became known as the Dumb Act was introduced by Richard H. Clark, then a senator living at Albany. Incidentally it is interesting to note that the author of the bill himself subsequently occupied the judicial station for twenty-two years. We are told this distinguished jurist would sometimes lose sight of the restraints thrown around the judge by our peculiar system of jurisprudence and appear to invade the province of the jury, and that most of the reversals of his judgment by the supreme court were based upon exceptions to alleged expressions of opinion before the jury. 99 Ga. 817

Judge Clark was familiar with the Studstill case, and in 1876 he referred to it as “one of the most interesting cases in the judicial annals of the State.” (58 Ga. 610).

 

Old Troupville

Lowndes County in 1843, when young Slaughter was killed, lay between Thomas and Ware, extended from the Florida line northward ninety miles, and was very sparsely settled. Its first county seat Franklinville, on the Withlacoochee two miles west of Cat Creek, had been abandoned ten years before and a permanent capital established at Troupville, a village situated in the angle formed by the confluence of the Little and Withlacoochee rivers, some six miles distant from the site of the present city of Valdosta.

At the time of the Studstill trial in 1848 Troupville was still a small village the next decade however, being a gateway to the new state of Florida, and supposed to be on the line of a projected railroad from Savannah, its growth was almost phenomenal.  At one time its bar consisted of thirteen members. Its newspaper The South Georgia Watchman, was the predecessor of the Valdosta Times.

When attending court, the judge and lawyers usually stopped at a tavern widely famed for its hospitality and presided over by a genial host, who was affectionately called “Uncle Billy Smith”. Across the street from the inn was the public square. On this was situated not only the court-house and jail, but also the stables belonging to the stage line and a convenient “grocery”.

The orderly decorum of the court room at Troupville was occasionally disturbed by energetic but short-lived fist fights on the square, but another disturbance occurring periodically had the more serious effect of halting the court. This was preceded by the shrill blasting of a bugle, followed by the measured“ beat of galloping horses and the loud, reverberations of the lumbering stage coach from Thomasville, as it rattled across the boards of Little River bridge. The forced recess continued until the stage with four fresh horses crossed over the Withlacoochee bridge and departed on its long journey through the pines to Waresborough.

A source of interruption within the court room itself was the practice of having grand jury witnesses sworn in open court. From time to time, more or less inopportune, a grand juror escorting two or three witnesses would appear at the bar, where upon the business in hand was suspended until the oath could be administered. These interjected proceedings were narrowly watched, and not infrequently a bystander, whose conduct was about to be investigated would be seen to make a hurried departure for the purpose of securing temporary immunity from punishment should the grand jury return a presentment.

The general complexion of a court crowd in those times differed somewhat from that of the post bellum period in that the black population remained at home, excepting the family coachman. These privileged and interesting characters contributed their bit to entertain the transients on the square, while their influential masters within the courtroom occupied chairs and hobnobbed with the dignitaries of bench and bar.

Court Week always attracted a great concourse of people. Some attended from necessity or compulsion, some to enjoy the feast of erudition and eloquence; others to trade, traffic or electioneer, but to many it was an occasion for much drinking and horse swapping, and for indulgence in cock fighting, horse racing, and other “Worldly amusements” for which Troupville became somewhat notorious. Indeed, among the Godly, it was regarded as a wild town – almost as wicked as Hawkinsville.

 

A Vanished Town

Now beneath a spreading oak that shades the old Stage road, a granite marker points out to passers-by the place where once stood Troupville – the far famed capital of Lowndes.

Only the rivers there remain, eternally the same –
Black waters, musically slipping,
Whose ripples sway the gray moss dipping
From hoary overhanging, trees
That murmur to the whispering breeze
Old tales of ancient memories.

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Pioneers of Old Lowndes Toasted State Rights and American Independence

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

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

The Southern Recorder
August 4, 1835

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

REGULAR TOASTS

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

VOLUNTEER TOASTS

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

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

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

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

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Levi J. Knight’s 4th of July Address at Franklinville, GA 1835

The  Independence Day celebration in Lowndes County, GA in 1835 (prior to the creation of Berrien County) was held at Franklinville.  The previous year, Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of present day Ray City, GA,  had served on a committee that wrote the draft constitution of  the State Rights Association of Lowndes County.  On the Fourth of July, 1835,  Knight gave the keynote address at the Franklinville celebration.  At the time, Levi J. Knight was serving in the Georgia Assembly as state senator of Lowndes County,GA .

Southern Recorder
August 4, 1835

FOURTH OF JULY

AT FRANKLINVILLE, LOWNDES COUNTY

According to previous notice, a large and respectable number of our citizens convened at the Court house at an early hour of the day – when the Rev. Jonathan Gaulden was chosen President of the day and John Dees, Vice President. About half past 12 o’clock, the company was formed at Mr. Smiths’, and marched into the court-house headed by James Williams, Marshal of the day, when a Throne of Grace was addressed by the Rev. J. Gaulden. The declaration of American Independence was then read by H. W. Sharpe, Esq., after which a chaste and patriotic Oration was delivered by Levi J. Knight, Esq., Orator of the day.

ORATION.

Fellow Citizens – We should regard it as an interesting occasion which calls us together. Every association, whatever its character, which sets apart a day for rejoicing and for recollection, consecrates a period when the heart shall go back with memory to revisit the spring time of its existence. On this occasion, as the organ of your sentiments, it is to me a source of singular gratification to reflect upon the nature of the object which has gathered us here. Casting aside our every day occupations and cares of life, we have come up on the jubilee of our country’s liberty, to honor the day that gave birth to the greatest republic in the world. Perhaps the day could not be more appropriately honored, or the hour more agreeably occupied, than by dwelling briefly upon the proud merits of our country.

This day 59 years ago, our chivalrous sires from the then thirteen States, in the burning language which you have just heard read, declared we would be free from the yoke of Great Britain, which at that time hung over us, and to which pledge they bound themselves in the strongest of all human obligations – no less than their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. It is a theme from which none can turn away; it lays claim to our hearts, not only as a magnanimous people, but as the children of that country which it is a pride and glory to call our own, our native land. No one surveys the physical resources of our country with more gratification than myself. It furnishes me a noble satisfaction to behold its broad lands covered with an vigorous and rapidly multiplying population; to know that the busy h— of civilization and industry is fast invading the stillness of the forest; to view our commerce stretching — white sails over every wave — feel that in the hour of danger, brave hearts and skillful hands are ready to gather beneath the folds of our country’s banner. No one returns from such a contemplations with a higher sense of his country’s excellence and glory, or with deeper gratitude to God, who hath given us such an inheritance, than I do.

There is another circumstance which this view will not permit us to overlook. An immense ocean rolls its waters between us and the old world. We inhabit a continent far removed from the influence of other nations. It is difficult to comprehend the immense importance of this circumstance, or feel and know the force and peculiarity of its results. We can however feel that it promises a lasting and undisturbed operation of our free institutions. Should the political atmosphere of Europe all become poisoned, it dies before it reaches our healthful clime; no breeze can waft it over the rolling waves. Let their lands degenerate into falsehood and crime, till demons occupy and pollute their altars of Christ, their victory closes with their shores; they cannot overleap the mighty barrier which the God of nature hath thrown between us. Did we occupy some portion of the continent of Europe, our juxtaposition to other powers might prove fatal to our liberty. Though their elements of civil society may heave, their systems may totter, the volcanoe may burst forth and flame the heavens; yet we feel not the shock; secure in the distance, we look on and learn wisdom. Who, in the contemplation of such a scene, does not rejoice that providence has cast his lot in this land, in behalf of whose liberty nature itself does battle!
What a beautiful scene does our own State present, of the excellent system under which we live. Over its fertile land there is spread out already an intelligent, noble, and rapidly increasing population. It seems as but yesterday this spot was a wilderness – the forest of centuries waved over it – the only contrast to its unbroken gloom was the glare of the council fire, and the wild song of the Indian. To-day how different! – Beauty, taste, and civilization, here have met to honor the day that gave birth to our liberty. There is another matter I cannot pass silently by – it is education. To this we owe the present greatness of our nation; it is to this we may look for a perpetuation of our institutions. Education alone can render us capable of judging of the abuses of our Government, from whatever source they may emanate. It is ignorance alone that can make a slave. Here, then, let us examine the peculiar influence which our government is likely to exert upon the intellect of the country. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that it is free, essentially free, not in name alone, but in spirit and in action. It throws a broad shield over every citizen, but it leaves each to the exercise of his gifts. It recognizes no established spheres in which men must move, without the hope or power of passing beyond. It throws open wide the great lists of society, and bids all contend for its distinctions, trusting to their own valor and their own skill. It forgets the artificial distinction of birth, and passing by the unworthy descendants of patrician blood, seeks the humblest and poorest of its enterprising sons who have divorced themselves from the obscurity of their origin by the might and grandeur of their intellect. Minds that would sleep cold and silent on the gloom of despotism, start forth into glorious life and power under the light of liberty. I regard the intellectual character of our country is of the greatest importance. The power of political ascendancy is gone by. This is an age in which moral influence is felt. There have been times, when the barbarian trod learning into the dust; when the brutal spoiler overwhelmed the contriver of arts; but the conquest of mind has begun; the dark days of blood have departed, the sun of peace has arisen; never again shall science be chained by despotism; the empire of mind is established, and henceforth nations are to be ranked, not according to their physical but their moral strength. What are bright skies and balmy breezes, when man is crushed by the iron hand of despotism? What inspiration can wake up the genius of him, who lives under a system of government that writes slave on his forehead? It is remarked by distinguished writers, that a nation has no character unless it is free; and indeed the history of mankind would go far towards establishing the assertion, that unless it be free it can have no literature worth the name. It is always satisfactory to be able to try our opinions by the actual experience of others. Free institutions alone present to the mind a fair opportunity for expansion; they do most towards stimulating intellect, and afford man the greatest inducement to exercise his best powers. Let us pass for a moment to other lands, and compare France with her neighbor Spain. Can geographical varieties so slight creat so wonderful a difference in the degree of intellectual development? The one great in every department of learning, the other yet in the gloom of the dark ages and bare of genius. While France can vie with any nation on earth except our own, as to the glory of her institutions, her liberal principles and her proud and lofty intellect, we see Spain enveloped in despotism and superstition. No! not to climate, not to the separation which nature hath placed between the two lands, but to the difference of their political systems, the cause must be traced. What one of our fair guests, but must feel a secret pride and emotion as she looks on her tender offspring, or some one of near relations, and sees a prospect of their enrolling their names on the list of their country’s intellectual excellence. No nation in its infancy has ever done so much in this way. The early history of the most of them is little better than a distinguished detail of petty feuds and bloody contests. But already how much has our country accomplished? What a delightful encomium on our system it must furnish, to visit each State, from the oldest and most established, to the youngest that is just pouring its enterprising population into the bosom of the forest. You pass from the magnanificent city, where the chief objects which meet your glance are temples of worship with their tall spires pointing to heavens, and institutions of learning nobly testifying to the munificence of the government, and your enter the forest, just falling beneath the axe, you find people, though rude and unpretending, who hold it as their first duty to worship God, the very next to educate their sons. Though we have no wealth to pour into the lap of science; though the scholar must content himself with poverty; yet all is not barren. As our country becomes older, and wealth increases, the influence of these causes will outstrip calculation; the grandeur of their results no man conjecture.

My heart swells with a lofty conviction that our political system is the best adapted of any on earth to elevate the character of man, to energize his intellect, and to call it forth in the noblest and boldest shapes, where it dreads no human power. Here It is where opinions may be expressed fearlessly, and where there is nothing to tempt from the pursuit of truth. A free press upon which government lays no fetters, ready to spread their opinions to the world, to detect corruption and applaud virtue – a free people, early taught to think right on all subjects – what may we not hope for? We have an age friendly to intellectual development. Grim visaged war hath smothered his front; ambition of men has assumed a holier aspect; truth has touched them with her wand; they no longer make it their great business of life to marshal victorious hosts upon the tented field or strive for an empire of blood; they have discovered that glory is to be won elsewhere than in the red path of battle; the effort now is to be wise, to be learned, and to be good. Let these things, fellow-citizens, fill us with an ardor in the cultivation of our literature. This only can enable the rising posterity to maintain and hand down to generations yet unborn, our glorious system of government, which is the true desire of a republican people.

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1835-jul-4-levi-j-knight-pt-1

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

 

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