24 February 2018

When an Event Involving My Relative Sparked a Lynching (Part II)

[Part I is here.]

So, who was J. F. Hammock? And given the use of initials, am I sure this was my relative?

James Francis "Jinks" Hammock was born 6 February 1877 in Houston County, Georgia to William Warren Peavy (1849-1899) and Scynthia A. Hammock (1854-1905).  A year after Jinks was born, for reasons that would require telling a whole other story, he was being raised by his maternal grandparents.  So James Francis Peavy became James Francis Hammock.

The Peavys of that area of Houston (later Peach) County called the town of Byron home.  This was not far from the community of Dunbar, where the lynching of John Shake took place.  Even on a present-day map, you can see Peavy Road and Dunbar Road are less than four miles from each other.

Census records for 1880, 1900, 1920, 1930, and 1940 place J. F. Hammock in Militia District 771 (locally known as Upper Fifth), which contained the community of Dunbar.  It was also noted on the 1920 census that he was residing on a farm on Dunbar Road.

1921 Map of Houston County, Georgia Archives (http://vault.georgiaarchives.org/)

A December 1909 obituary dedicated to the memory of his grandmother Sarah Hammock, specifically placed J. F. at the community of Dunbar.

James Francis Hammock married Minnie Lewis Avant on 29 July 1910.  The couple had daughter Sara nearly one year later.  This "wife and little daughter" family of J. F. follows exactly the narrative of the Macon Telegraph article.

If this wasn't enough to convince me the J. F. Hammock in the article about the lynching of John Shake was my second cousin James Francis, the document that would was his World War I Draft Registration (via FamilySearch).  In the space for notes to be made about the physical description of James Francis Hammock was this:  Lame arm from gun shot wound.  The card was dated September 1918, five years after the lynching of John Shake.


Just to button things up, James Francis Hammock died 18 January 1960, just a month after his wife.  The couple was buried at the Liberty Methodist Church graveyard in the Walden community of Bibb County, Georgia (where Minnie was from).  The church also was where James and Minnie were married.


Now, who was John Shake?

NAACP Headquarters, New York City. Via Library of Congress (loc.gov).It truly bothers me greatly to admit I have no clue.  I have searched for him in census records from 1870 to 1910 in Houston and surrounding counties in Georgia.  Strange not to find a single mention of a man who supposedly was born around 1863 and lived in the same area all his life (or at least about 50 years, it was claimed).  I'm inclined to think the news articles were wildly inaccurate regarding this man who had his life taken from him in 1913.  Given he was a black man in the Jim Crow South, I guess it should be expected.

Conversely, I was able to locate no fewer than 19 records (including census, newspaper, military, cemetery, and marriage) regarding cousin James without leaving my home! The dichotomy between the lives of the two men brought together at that single point in time cannot be overstated.

To be clear, according to MonroeWorkToday, the lynching of John Shake is referenced in the Tuskegee University Archives database, in A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930, and in Fitzhugh Brundage's Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930.  But we may never know if the original newspaper source was faulty.

One more tomorrow. [Go to Part III.]

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