15 March 2011

Crazy Julia Force Shoots and Kills Her Sisters: A Southern Family Secret

When reading through the Summer 2010 edition of Georgia Backroads magazine, I became thoroughly interested in an article by Gaynie G. Guy and Hugh T. Harrington entitled "Julia Force: Victorian Murderess." The crime depicted took place more than 11 decades ago and rocked not only the state of Georgia, but the nation.

Julia Force was the oldest daughter of B. W. and Julia Force. In February 1893, she shot and killed her two sisters, Florence and Minnie, in Atlanta, GA. She claims this was in retaliation to the treatment she received from not only them, but her mother and two older brothers as well. Julia claimed she was physically abused and treated like a slave. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, however, came in the form of public embarrassment. This occurred when her brother Albert instructed a local merchant to no longer extend credit to his sister Julia.

In Julia's mind, killing her two sisters not only would greatly pain the family, but also humiliate them. In the end, the family had to deal with the sorrow and loss of the two young women to be sure, but they managed to get back at Julia as well. They had her judged to be insane and committed to the state asylum. Instead of public humiliation, they received pity from the communities around the state, which likely also extended to the state of South Carolina, as they were a well known family there, as well.

I read several historical newspaper accounts of the crime and decided to transcribe and place some here. The story is quite fascinating and definitely part of Atlanta, Georgia (and consequently Milledgeville, Baldwin County) history. While it is clear the media is definitely slanted toward Julia being insane, I truthfully cannot decide one way or the other. What do you think? This will be a series of posts.

St. Louis Republic, Missouri
26 February 1893
(Viewed online at GenealogyBank.)

A HOME TRAGEDY

Crazy Julia Force Shoots and Kills Her Sisters.

DUAL CRIME AT ATLANTA

A Maniac's Hatred That Had Been Nourished for Years.

A SOUTHERN FAMILY SECRET

The Murderess a Physically Perfect Woman, but "Queer."

WALKED TO THE POLICE STATION

Special to The Republic.
ATLANTA, Ga. Feb 23 -- Miss Julia Force, a monomaniac, whose one fatal delusion, cherished for years, was that her mother and sisters were her bitterest enemies, to-day noon wreaked vengeance, which she had plotted for years, by putting a bullet into the brain of each of her younger sisters.

Miss Julia was alone in the house at the time, and it is believed that she crept behind her sisters and shot them while they were not looking. Miss Minnie Force, aged 28, was killed instantly and Miss Florence, aged 32, lingered in great agony for two hours.

Locking her victims in the room in which they had been shot, Miss Julia quietly donned her street costume, and walking hurriedly to police headquarters she surrendered herself. She had lost none of her steady nerve and the officers did not notice the maniacal gleam in her calm eyes. She told the officers of her deed without a quiver.

At the inquest held to-day it was found simply that the two young women had met their death at the hands of their sister.

A PHYSICALLY PERFECT WOMAN
Miss Julia Force, who did the killing, is the eldest sister of G. H. and A. W. Force, the proprietors of a shoe store on Whitehall street. She is about 34 years old, and is a fine specimen of physical womanhood, though not beautiful in face. Since the family removed here, some years ago, Miss Julia Force has made her home with her two brothers. She received every situation that brotherly love could prompt. She had always been regarded as queer, was willful, and would become melancholy and wretched for days at a time over some fancied slight. She was of an extremely jealous nature, and it was a favorite delusion of hers that her mother and two younger sisters were her enemies and were continually plotting to make her unhappy.

The family is one of the oldest and best of Charleston, S.C. Before the war they were prominent in the social life of the Carolina city, and were types of the old Southern aristocracy. After the war George H. Force and his brother Albert W., came to this city, and have lived here since. They are excellent business men.

ONE SHADOW IN A HAPPY HOME
11 Jun 1880 Federal Census
Atlanta, Fulton County, GA
After the death of their father they brought their mother and three sisters here to live with them. Of recent years they have lived at 44 Crew street, on the corner of Woodward avenue. The elder of the two brothers, Mr. A. W. Force, has been married for 22 years, but lost his wife two months ago. He has two sons, about grown. Mr. George Force has never married, although he is past middle age. He has devoted his time to the care of his widowed mother and fatherless sisters. The only shadow that hovered over the happy home was that thrown by the peculiar delusion of the eldest sister, which was as unfounded as it was unreasonable. On all other subjects she was perfectly sane. But her mad idea that her own mother and sisters were against her poisoned all her life and made her morose and discontented. It grew upon her to such an extent that she became insane.

THE CUNNING OF MANIA
This mania is responsible for today's terrible tragedy. After her mother had left the house this afternoon, Miss Julia sent the two servants off on errands, one to a grocery store near by, the other to her brother's store, sending him word that his sister Minnie was worse and for him to come home. As soon as the servants had left she seems to have set about to take terrible revenge for her fancied wrongs. Quietly she stepped into the room where her sick sister lay. Placing a pistol at her right temple, she fired. Death may have been instantaneous.

Quickly she stepped into the next room and put a bullet in the brain of the other sister, who was doing some light work.

...After the shooting she laid the pistol down, put on her hat and cloak and walked leisurely to the police station, and there she announced what she had done. The officers thought she was simply crazy, that there was no truth in the story, but soon came confirmation from the brother, who had rushed home, as he thought, to the sickbed of his sister.

Miss Force is calm and serene. She declares that she is perfectly sane and what she has done has been simply to get even for her wrongs. This tragedy, coming as it did as a climax to a week of blood and sensation, has caused the greatest excitement here. [End]

Tomorrow, Part II: Miss Julia Force's Story: Why She Murdered Her Two Sisters.


Part III: The Verdict.

Part IV: There Goes the Murderess

Part V: Julia Force is Dead