James Walker Fannin was born 1 January 1804, the son of a Morgan County, Georgia plantation owner named Dr. Isham Fannin. At the age of 15, James Walker entered the military academy at West Point in New York. He resigned six years later. He then returned to Georgia, became a merchant, and got married.
In 1834, J. W. Fannin moved his family to Texas. Less than a year later, likely because of his ties to the state, "Fannin was appointed by the Committee of Public Safety and Correspondence, an assembly of prominent Texans seeking independence from Mexico, to solicit funds and supplies from sympathizers in Georgia…" [New Georgia Encyclopedia] Fannin became a captain in the Texas volunteer army, and by the end of 1835, was commissioned a colonel in the Texas regular army. Soon after, he was given command of a regiment containing many volunteers from Georgia.
"By February 12, 1836, Fannin had marched his regiment to Goliad, an old Spanish fort on the southwest bank of the San Antonio River…" [New Georgia Encyclopedia]
Fannin at Goliad: Story of the Brutal Massacre of 1836
As told by Lucian Lamar Knight in Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends (vol. 2):
ONE of the most brutal massacres of history was the inhuman sacrifice of life at Goliad during the war for Texas independence, in 1836. Colonel James W. Fannin, who lost his life in the massacre, was a native Georgian, who, removing to Texas in 1834, raised a company, which he called the Brazos Volunteers, and joined the army of General Houston. On the fall of the Alamo, Fannin received orders from his commander to destroy the Spanish fort at Goliad and to fall back to Victoria. He delayed his retreat for some time, in order to collect the women and children of the neighborhood, whose lives were exposed to imminent peril. But he finally set out for Goliad with 350 men.
En route to this point he was overtaken by General Urrea, at the head of 1,200 Mexican troops. There followed a battle which lasted for two days, during which time the Mexicans lost between 300 and 400 in killed and wounded, and the Texans only about 70; but Fannin, having been wounded in the engagement, was forced by the exigencies of the situation to surrender. He agreed to capitulate only on condition that his troops should be paroled. But, instead of being set at liberty, they were marched to Goliad as prisoners of war, and, on March 27, 1836, in pursuance of orders said to have been received from Santa Anna, were, in the absence of General Urrea, massacred in cold blood.
Per the New Georgia Encyclopedia:
[O]n Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, more than 330 Georgians, Texans, and others imprisoned at Goliad were marched out into the woods and shot. While some prisoners escaped the massacre, Fannin was kept inside the fort. He was taken to the courtyard, where he was blindfolded, seated, and shot through the head. His body was burned. During the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836, Fannin's watch was discovered in the possession of a Mexican officer. The officials who found it assumed the Mexican was responsible for Fannin's murder; he thus met death in a like manner as Fannin.
The injured Fannin was the last to be slaughtered. His three dying wishes were to be shot in the chest, given a Christian burial and have his watch sent to his family. Instead, the Mexican commanding officer shot Fannin in the face, burned his body with the others and kept the timepiece as a war prize.
Several places were named in Fannin's honor. One such place is Fannin County, Georgia, created in 1854. In 1895, Blue Ridge became the county seat.
Courthouse in the image above dates to 1937. It now houses the arts association. Below is the new courthouse.
Downtown Blue Ridge today: