22 September 2011

Handy, Dandy Georgia County Table

It's been at least three years since I created this Georgia county table. I know the information can be easily found online, but I hated to delete my work. :-) So it now will reside here.

Name: Named For: County Seat: Laid Out:
APPLING Colonel Daniel Appling Baxley 1818
ATKINSON Governor W. Y. Atkinson Pearson 1917
BACON Senator A. O. Bacon Alma 1914
BAKER Colonel John Baker Newton 1825
BALDWIN Abraham Baldwin Milledgeville 1803
BANKS Dr. Richard Banks Homer 1858
BARROW Chancellor D. C. Barrow Winder 1914
BARTOW General Francis S. Bartow Cartersville 1832
BEN HILL Benjamin H. Hill Fitzgerald 1906
BERRIEN John M. Berrien Nashville 1856
BIBB Dr. W. W. Bibb Macon 1822
BLECKLEY Logan E. Bleckley Cochran 1912
BRANTLEY William Gordon Brantley Nahunta 1920
BROOKS Preston S. Brooks Quitman 1858
BRYAN Jonathan Bryan Pembroke 1793
BULLOCH Archibald Bulloch Statesboro 1796
BURKE Edmund Burke Waynesboro 1777
BUTTS Captain Sam Butts Jackson 1825
CALHOUN John C. Calhoun Morgan 1854
CAMDEN Earl of Camden Woodbine 1777
CANDLER Governor Allen D. Candler Metter 1914
CARROLL Charles Carroll Carrollton 1826
CATOOSA An Indian Name Ringgold 1853
CHARLTON R. M. Charlton Folkston 1854
CHATHAM Earl of Chatham Savannah 1777
CHATTAHOOCHEE Chattahoochee River Cusseta 1854
CHATTOOGA Chattooga River Summerville 1838
CHEROKEE Cherokee Indians Canton 1831
CLARKE General Elijah Clarke Athens 1801
CLAY Henry Clay Fort Gaines 1854
CLAYTON A. S. Clayton Jonesboro 1858
CLINCH General Duncan L. Clinch Homerville 1850
COBB Senator Thomas W. Cobb Marietta 1832
COFFEE General John Coffee Douglas 1854
COLQUITT Walter T. Colquitt Moultrie 1856
COLUMBIA Christopher Columbus Appling 1790
COOK General Philip Cook Adel 1918
COWETA Indian Name Newnan 1826
CRAWFORD William H. Crawford Knoxville 1822
CRISP Charles F. Crisp Cordele 1905
DADE Major Francis Dade Trenton 1837
DAWSON William C. Dawson Dawsonville 1857
DECATUR Stephen Decatur Bainbridge 1823
DEKALB Baron De Kalb Decatur 1822
DODGE William E. Dodge Eastman 1870
DOOLY Colonel John Dooly Vienna 1821
DOUGHERTY Charles Dougherty Albany 1853
DOUGLAS Stephen A. Douglas Douglasville 1870
EARLY Governor Peter Early Blakely 1818
ECHOLS Robert M. Echols Statenville 1858
EFFINGHAM Lord Effingham Springfield 1777
ELBERT Governor Sam Elbert Elberton 1790
EMANUEL Governor David Emanuel Swainsboro 1812
EVANS General C. A. Evans Claxton 1914
FANNIN Colonel J. W. Fannin Blue Ridge 1854
FAYETTE General LaFayette Fayetteville 1821
FLOYD General John Floyd Rome 1832
FORSYTH General John Forsyth Cumming 1832
FRANKLIN Benjamin Franklin Carnesville 1784
FULTON Robert Fulton Atlanta 1853
GILMER Governor George R. Gilmer Ellijay 1832
GLASCOCK General Thomas Glascock Gibson 1857
GLYNN John Glynn Brunswick 1777
GORDON William W. Gordon Calhoun 1850
GRADY Henry W. Grady Cairo 1905
GREENE General Nathanael Greene Greensboro 1786
GWINNETT Governor Button Gwinnett Lawrenceville 1818
HABERSHAM Joseph Habersham Clarkesville 1818
HALL Governor Lyman Hall Gainesville 1818
HANCOCK John Hancock Sparta 1793
HARALSON Hugh A. Haralson Buchanan 1856
HARRIS Charles Harris Hamilton 1827
HART Nancy Hart Hartwell 1853
HEARD Governor Stephen Heard Franklin 1830
HENRY Patrick Henry McDonough 1821
HOUSTON Governor John Houstoun Perry 1821
IRWIN Governor Jared Irwin Ocilla 1818
JACKSON Governor James Jackson Jefferson 1796
JASPER Sergeant Jasper Monticello 1807
JEFF DAVIS Jefferson Davis Hazlehurst 1905
JEFFERSON Thomas Jefferson Louisville 1796
JENKINS Governor Charles J. Jenkins Millen 1905
JOHNSON Governor H. V. Johnson Wrightsville 1858
JONES Honorable James Jones Gray 1807
LAMAR L. Q. C. Lamar Barnesville 1920
LANIER Sidney Lanier Lakeland 1919
LAURENS Colonel John Laurens Dublin 1807
LEE Richard H. Lee Leesburg 1826
LIBERTY Midway Puritans Hinesville 1777
LINCOLN General Benjamin Lincoln Lincolnton 1796
LONG Dr. Crawford W. Long Ludowici 1920
LOWNDES William J. Lowndes Valdosta 1825
LUMPKIN Governor Wilson Lumpkin Dahlonega 1832
MCDUFFIE George McDuffie Thomson 1870
MCINTOSH McIntosh Family Darien 1793
MACON Nathaniel Macon Oglethorpe 1837
MADISON James Madison Danielsville 1811
MARION General Francis Marion Buena Vista 1827
MERIWETHER General David Meriwether Greenville 1827
MILLER Andrew J. Miller Colquitt 1856
MITCHELL General Henry Mitchell Camilla 1857
MONROE James Monroe Forsyth 1821
MONTGOMERY General Richard Montgomery Mt. Vernon 1793
MORGAN General Daniel Morgan Madison 1807
MURRAY Thomas W. Murray Chatsworth 1832
MUSCOGEE Muscogee Indians Columbus 1826
NEWTON Sergeant John Newton Covington 1821
OCONEE Oconee River Watkinsville 1875
OGLETHORPE General James E. Oglethorpe Lexingon 1793
PAULDING John Paulding Dallas 1832
PEACH Georgia Peach Fort Valley 1924
PICKENS General Andrew Pickens Jasper 1853
PIERCE Franklin Pierce Blackshear 1857
PIKE Zebulon M. Pike Zebulon 1822
POLK James K. Polk Cedartown 1851
PULASKI County Pulaski Hawkinsville 1808
PUTNAM Israel Putnam Eatonton 1807
QUITMAN General John A. Quitman Georgetown 1858
RABUN Governor William Rabun Clayton 1819
RANDOLPH John Randolph Cuthbert 1828
RICHMOND Duke of Richmond Augusta 1777
ROCKDALE Rockdale Church Conyers 1870
SCHLEY Governor William Schley Ellaville 1857
SCREVEN General James Screven Sylvania 1793
SEMINOLE Seminole Indians Donalsonville 1920
SPALDING Thomas Spalding Griffin 1851
STEPHENS Governor Alex H. Stephens Toccoa 1905
STEWART General Daniel Stewart Lumpkin 1830
SUMTER General Thomas Sumter Americus 1831
TALBOT Governor Matthew Talbot Talbotton 1827
TALIAFERRO Colonel Benjamin Taliaferro Crawfordville 1825
TATTNALL Josiah Tattnall Reidsville 1801
TAYLOR Zachary Taylor Butler 1852
TELFAIR Governor Edward Telfair McRae 1807
TERRELL Dr. William Terrell Dawson 1856
THOMAS General Jett Thomas Thomasville 1825
TIFT Nelson Tift Tifton 1905
TOOMBS General Robert Toombs Lyons 1905
TOWNS Governor George N. Towns Hiawassee 1856
TREUTLEN Governor John A. Treutlen Soperton 1917
TROUP Governor George M. Troup LaGrange 1826
TURNER Henry G. Turner Ashburn 1905
TWIGGS General John Twiggs Jeffersonville 1809
UNION The Federal Union Blairsville 1832
UPSON Stephen Upson Thomaston 1824
WALKER Major Freeman Walker LaFayette 1833
WALTON Governor George Walton Monroe 1818
WARE Nicholas Ware Waycross 1824
WARREN General Joseph Warren Warrenton 1793
WASHINGTON George Washington Sandersville 1784
WAYNE General Anthony Wayne Jesup 1803
WEBSTER Daniel Webster Preston 1853
WHEELER General Joseph E. Wheeler Alamo 1912
WHITE Colonel John White Cleveland 1857
WHITFIELD Reverand George Whitfield Dalton 1851
WILCOX Captain John Wilcox Abbeville 1857
WILKES John Wilkes Washington 1777
WILKINSON General James Wilkinson Irwinton 1803
WORTH General William J. Worth Sylvester 1853

[Reference: Georgia History and Government by Albert B. Saye]

16 May 2011

Polly Barclay - Another Murderous Woman?

[An updated version of this post may be found here at the new Georgia Lynchings blog.]

Lately, it seems like the title of this blog should be Female Murderers of Georgia. While searching for information about Julia Force, and especially Cora Lou Vinson, I was led to other "famous" female murder cases in Georgia's history.

"On the 30th ult. was executed at [Washington], Georgia, POLLY
BARCLAY, as an [accessory] in the murder of her [husband]."
- Charleston Courier (South Carolina), 11 June 1806

Polly Barclay is often misstated as being the first woman hung for murder in Georgia. That is incorrect, as that distinction belongs to Alice Riley of Savannah. (We'll save her story for another post.) Point is, Polly Barclay was actually the second woman to be hung for murder in Georgia.

Mrs. Barclay was tried and convicted for the murder of her husband, most often simply referred to as "Mr. Barclay," in 1806. The murder took place in the fall of the previous year. This all happened near the city of Washington in Wilkes County, GA.

Records regarding the murder are difficult to find, and historians owe a debt of gratitude to Miss Eliza A. Bowen for what is known. She wrote stories about Wilkes County people and published articles in the Washington Gazette and Chronicles from 1886 to 1897. Her manuscripts were compiled into a book, The Story of Wilkes County, reprinted in 1950 and again in 1997.

The final chapter of the book, which is cut off mid-sentence, with no additions yet to be found, is about Polly Barclay and the murder of her husband. Several articles of the murder have been written since, but none that I found contained "new" information. Therefore I regard Miss Bowen's research as most likely the closest thing we have to a portrayal of actual events.

Polly Barclay was actually a conspirator in the murder of her husband. She did not pull the trigger on the gun that fired the shot that killed him. She was, however, the only one convicted and punished for the crime. Miss Bowen states, "All the traditions concur in saying that Mr. Barclay was not killed by his wife's hand. All the stories mention her lover and her brother...All the sources of the story concur in saying that the actual doer of the deed escaped."

Polly's co-conspirators were her brother William Nowland and her lover Mark Mitchum. Some say the motive for murder was money, others say it was committed because Polly wanted to be with her lover. It's likely a combination of the two.

Miss Bowen states, "From tradition we learn that the murder took place in the fall or winter [of 1805], after Mr. Barclay had sold his cotton in Augusta and returned, that his wife was not at first suspected, but that suspicion was aroused through something about the money, that then people talked, and various suspicious circumstances were told which when put together led to a belief in the guilt of his wife and her arrest."

Miss Bowen viewed and transcribed minutes from the superior court sessions that took place 205 years ago this month. In them she discovered that trial commenced after a true bill of murder was put forth against William Nowland and Polly Barclay. On 8 May 1806, William Nowland was tried and found not guilty. The next day he was to be a witness for the State. Seems like a situation we would describe today as striking a deal with the prosecution to testify for the State against another individual and receiving immunity in that deal, but that is speculation on my part.

The next day, 9 May 1806, Polly Barclay was put on trial. Opening statements, witness testimonies, closing arguments, jury deliberation, and the verdict all came in one day. The result was, "We the jury find the prisoner at the bar guilty but recommend her to mercy."

What happened to the mercy, I do not know. According to Miss Bowen's transcriptions, the Judge (future U.S. Senator Charles Tait) in the trial handed down the ruling:
That you Polly Barclay be taken from this bar to the place from whence you came, there to remain until Friday the 30th, day of this present month of May, and that on the aforesaid 30th, day of May you are to be taken by a proper officer to a gallows previously to be erected in or near the town of Washington, and then and there on the day aforesaid, between the hours of ten o'clock in the forenoon and two o'clock in the afternoon, you are to be hung by the neck until you are dead and may God have mercy on your soul.
Here are the particulars of the murder as told by Miss Bowen: "Tradition says that...There were two men who came up the road at night fall [supposedly on a Saturday] from the direction of Augusta and stopped at Mr. Barclay's cotton house which stood on the road a short distance from his house, made some noise, to make him suppose that some person was stealing his cotton. There were some visitors at the dwelling house who reported at the trial, that Mr. Barclay was not disposed to go out, but that his wife urged him to do so. Shortly after he went, a shot was heard, and those present reported that she said, 'that shot killed my husband.' When found, he was still living but the ball had cut off his tongue. He died in a few hours."

Mr. Barclay was buried, "it is said," on the spot where he fell. It was marked "by two unhewn stones which were placed upon it and they can be still pointed out on the old Elberton and Augusta road a few miles beyond Sandtown. The grave is on the edge of the road..."

In addition to the scenario described previous, another major witness was revealed at Polly's trial. In short, it was a young boy who witnessed a conversation in which Polly offered her brother $200 to kill Mr. Barclay.

So what about Mark Mitchum, you ask? Well, charges were never brought against him -- nolle prosequi (to be unwilling to pursue). He supposedly ran away upon hearing of the possible indictment.

Legend has it that Polly Barclay was in denial when it came to her death sentence. Even when the officer came to take her to the hanging tree, she grappled for a piece of paper she saw in his pocket, believing it was a stay of execution.

Something else that is often commented on regarding Polly Barclay is her beauty: "All the lines of tradition unite in reporting that the unhappy woman possessed uncommon beauty...It also come down to us, that she put on a fine silk dress to go to execution."

On the 30th day of May, in the year of 1806, Mrs. Polly Barclay was hung on a large white oak tree "which once stood on the north side of Main Street." Legend has it she was not hung by a rope, but by a chain. Mrs. Barclay was buried in an unmarked, undisclosed grave.

26 April 2011

Cora Lou Jackson Tallen (Talent?) Vinson & the Principal Players

This post will show you what I have found out about Cora Lou Vinson thus far. My only research has been the online kind, and that is of course limited. I am very intrigued by her, and would love to know her ultimate fate. Did she live out the rest of her life in prison, or was she eventually able to get clemency? She doesn't strike me as a woman that would stop after just one attempt at that. I would also personally be thrilled to know her final resting place.

I do also understand that this really did not happen all that long ago. Less than 100 years, and some of Cora's and/or William's grandchildren might be living their lives without the desire to have this relatively recent past drudged up. Having said that, if there is anyone with information they are willing to share, I would greatly appreciate a comment or email.

OK! Here's what I've found:

Newspaper articles provided a bit of information. As chronicled when her nephews were testifying against her, Cora's maiden name was possibly JACKSON. She was described as a sister of "Simp" Jackson, whose sons J. S. and Roy took the stand. That same article brings out the fact that her marriage to William D. Vinson was a second one. Her first was "to a man named Tallen," by whom she had a daughter named Mary.

The article by Dudley Siddal states this: "...Married first at 14, she had only the education that falls to a mountain-born woman whose childhood was spent in the cotton mills. But she is intelligent, answers questions directly..."

I have not yet found Cora in census records before she was married to Mr. Vinson, but I did find this entry in the Georgia Marriages database at FamilySearch: Cora Jackson married M. L. Talent 24 June 1893 in Cobb County.

In 1910, having been married to William D. Vinson for seven years, they were in Atlanta on Ponders Avenue. William was a practicing physician. It is listed that Cora (aged 33 years) had four children, three living. Two of Mr. Vinson's sons from a previous marriage were listed: William B. and Tilley D. The two girls listed were from the union of William and Cora: Pauline and Ruby.

1920 finds a 38 year old Cora listed by herself with three children. Her marital status is already listed as widowed, even though it's two years before Mr. Vinson would be killed. Her likely attempt at "keeping up appearances" proved to be a bit ironic. The three children are Pauline, Ruby, and Louis J.

In 1930, Cora is exactly where you would expect to find her -- in the Georgia State Penitentiary at Baldwin County. She was a 52 year old widowed prisoner.

As you can see, Cora's birth years range from 1877 to 1882 to 1878. Newspaper articles at the time of the murder estimate her birth year to be 1878 or 1879. I have found three possible entries for Cora in the Georgia Deaths database at Ancestry and the Social Security Death Index (one might could argue there are more, but not one I viewed fits perfectly):

· Cora L. Vinson, d. 13 Feb 1953 Fulton Co, GA, aged 68;
· Cora Vinson, d. 23 Feb 1971 Baldwin Co, GA, aged 86; and
· Cora Vinson, b. 1 Jul 1889, d. Feb 1971, last residence at Milledgeville, Baldwin Co, GA.

Cora and William's daughter Pauline is found with her husband and three children still in Atlanta in 1930. Her husband, William T. Brown, is still a city fireman as stated in a newspaper article. Pauline was married about 1920 at age 15, sometime after the January census enumeration when she was still listed with her mother.

Here are two possible entries for Pauline in the Georgia Deaths database. I think the first is likely our subject:

· Pauline V. Brown, d. 6 Apr 1979 Fulton Co, aged 73; and
· Pauline V. Brown, d. 10 Jan 1985 Coweta Co, aged 77.

William "Willie" B. Vinson, son of W. D. and his first wife, is listed with his divorced father at Fulton County, Georgia in 1900. By 1930 he is married to Minnie L. and has three daughters in Dekalb County. His occupation was life insurance salesman.

Georgia Deaths, 1919-98 shows a William B. Vinson d. 25 Oct 1945 in Dekalb County at age 57. FindAGrave provides us with the burial location of East View Cemetery in Atlanta.

After Tillie D. is enumerated with his divorced father in 1900 as was brother William, we find him still in Atlanta in 1920. He is married to "Viola" Miller, and they are listed in her parents' household. Tillie was a practicing dentist. In 1930, Tillie and "Violet" are in Atlanta with their young son. Tillie is still a dentist, and we can add a veteran of World War I.

Tillie registered for the draft about 1917, while he was living with his father and step-mother on Ponders Avenue in Atlanta. His occupation was even listed then as dentist. Tillie was described as having brown eyes and dark brown hair on his draft card.

The only Tillie D. Vinson in the Georgia Deaths database states he died 6 August 1956 at age 61 in Dekalb County.

...Does this family connect to yours?

23 April 2011

Suffrage is Bringing Woman Down from Her Pedestal (Battered Wife or Cold-Blooded Killer Part V)

Woman Slayer Facing Gallows: Though condemned to
hang July 28 for slaying her husband, Mrs. Cora Lou
Vinson, behind bars in Atlanta prison, is hopeful public
sentiment may save her from the gallows.
- Muskegon Chronicle, Michigan, 14 June 1922

And public sentiment was divided.

While Cora sat in the women's ward of Atlanta's "grim jail called the Tower," waiting for the results of her appeal, a debate raged outside as to whether or not a woman should be given the death penalty. News articles spoke of how Cora would be the first execution of a white woman "since before antebellum days."

There was a wonderful article written by Dudley A. Siddall that ran in several newspapers in June 1922. I'd love to share with you the entire piece, but it is just too long for a post. Here are some highlights:

Leading Suffrage Workers Declare There Must Be Equality Before Courts As Well As At the Polls
Now that women vote like men, should they pay the same penalty for crime as men? Even though the penalty is hanging?

Col. William Schley Howard, former member of congress who aided in prosecuting the case, said in an interview: "Women have demanded equal rights in business and politics. In every way they have indicated their desire to be treated as men. Why then should a woman -- solely on sex grounds -- be accorded any special privilege by a jury? The time has come when they should be treated like men before the bar of justice."

...If it is true that sentiment toward women is changing from a chivalrous to man-to-man attitude, defense lawyers in future woman murder trials may have to shift their tactics. The old sympathy pleas and sympathy stage setting will be relegated to the place of outworn things in legal practice.

Miss Eleanore Raoul, Atlanta, Ga. president Atlanta League of Women Voters: "Woman has passed through the age of dependents into an age which regards her as an intelligent being. Consequently there should no longer be a question as to whether she should be treated as a human being fully responsible for her acts. I believe we women are prepared to accept our responsibilities along with our privileges."

Ruth Hale, New York, president of the Lucy Stone League, which believes women should retain their maiden names after marriage: "If I were the woman in the Georgia case, I would insist on being hanged. As a citizen any woman must bear the same responsibilities as a man. It is wrong for her to expect even Georgian chivalry."

[To the contrary] Sheriff J. I. Lowry, Atlanta, Ga, charged with executing condemned prisoners in Fulton county: "A woman should not be hanged -- well, simply because a woman is a woman."
Another interesting aspect to this case involved the property of Cora's husband. Should she get it? Especially since this property was a point of contention between the two, and possibly a reason why she killed him? This was 50+ years before Son of Sam laws prohibiting a criminal from profiting from their crime.

Well, she got it. "Condemned, She Shares in Estate of Her Victim: Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson, under sentence of death for the murder of her husband, W. D. Vinson, several months ago, was awarded a share in his estate in a decree handed down by Judge George L. Bell, in Fulton County Superior Court. Mrs. Vinson...was given the Vinson home and a share in other property..." (Dallas Morning News, Texas, 6 October 1922)

Later that month, the final ruling came (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas, 21 October 1922):
Slayer of Husband Escapes Gallows
ATLANTA, Ga. Oct 21 -- Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of her husband here last March, today escaped the gallows when she appeared in superior court, was given an immediate new trial, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 1926, four years after Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson began her life term in the Georgia State Penitentiary, she requested a pardon or parole. The request was denied.

So ends the story of Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson and the murder of her husband. (Link takes you, dear reader, to the beginning of the series.) However, as we genealogists know, that does not end the story of the life of Cora Lou Jackson Tallen Vinson. In fact, it is only a portion of it.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Easter! After the weekend, I will share with you some genealogical particulars about Cora Lou. And unless a miracle comes my way in the next 48 hours, I will likely end that post with a plea for help. See you then!

22 April 2011

Twelve Southern Men Have Voted to Hang a Southern Woman (Battered Wife, or Cold-Blooded Killer Part IV)

Cora Lou Vinson to Hang July 28 for Husband's Murder

Hangman's Rope for Slayer of Dr. W. D. Vinson

Death Penalty for Mrs. Cora Vinson

"Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson was convicted by a jury in superior court here tonight of the murder of her husband, Dr. W. D. Vinson, and sentenced to be hanged July 28.

The verdict without a recommendation to mercy was more than even Solicitor General Boykin had asked, as he had urged the jury to convict the woman and fix her sentence at life imprisonment, saying he had never asked that a woman be hanged. Under Georgia law a murder verdict without a recommendation carries the death penalty which the presiding judge formally imposes." (Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama, 4 June 1922)

From 4 June 1922 edition Macon Telegraph, Georgia article by John W. Hammond:
Mrs. Vinson sat calmly by the defense table, chewing gum, while the jurors filed into the court room, and the verdict was being read by Assistant Solicitor E. A. Stephens. She gave no sign of emotion when the fateful word 'guilty' was sounded through the intense stillness of the big court room.

Mrs. Pauline Brown, daughter of the condemned woman, sat by her mother. She, too, appeared unmoved.

Judge Humphries asked Mrs. Vinson if she had anything to say why the sentence of death should not be pronounced on her. The woman, still chewing gum, merely shook her head.
So why was she given the harshest penalty of death when it wasn't even asked for? The article continues:
There has lately been very widespread discussion in Atlanta of the fact that "too many women have been shooting up men and getting away with it," and at the outset of this case, even though the court officials apparently did not work to that end, there was reason to believe Mrs. Vinson would get the extreme penalty if the evidence justified it.

Feeling of Unrest.
It is a fact that, ever since the case of Mrs. Williams, the young woman who shot to death an engineer on a drinking party, and drew practically no sentence at all at the State prison farm, there has been an evident feeling of unrest. That had been added to by the fact that it is reported here, and has been for some time, that Mrs. Williams is no longer at the prison farm, but is somewhere "out in the State having a good time."

In the past few years there have been no less than half a dozen cases of this kind, in each one of which the verdict has been mere nominal punishment.
So is that the finale of the saga of Cora Vinson? Not by a long shot. Her attorneys immediately filed an appeal "to the higher tribunals" for a new trial. Pending that ruling, Cora's execution was automatically stayed.

Her words on the matter: "I don't believe they will hang me for what any woman would have done under the circumstances."

Tomorrow: the feminist debate rages, and the final ruling.

21 April 2011

Nephews on the Stand Tell His Side of the Story (Battered Wife or Cold-Blooded Killer Part III)

Yesterday I gave you Cora Lou Vinson's side of the story. Today I'll tell you what he said. This will have to be in the form of testimony from his nephews, though, since Dr. William D. Vinson was dead.

Atlanta Constitution, Georgia
2 June 1922

Nephews, On Stand, Claim Mrs. Vinson Threatened Husband

Say That She Had Stated She Would Shoot Him to Prevent His Sons Getting Property

Roy Jackson Tells of Visit to His Home by Mrs. Vinson, Who Was Hunting Her Husband

Testimony by two nephews of Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson, on trial in the Fulton superior court for the murder of her husband, Dr. W. D. Vinson, to the effect that she had on numerous occasion threatened to shoot her husband, concluded the third day of the trial, which began Tuesday.

"Yes, sir," exclaimed Roy Jackson, nephew of the defendant, "my aunt came to my house Christmas night, 1919, and said she would shoot the hell out of Dr. Vinson, Willie and Tillo B. [printed as Tillie in other articles], too, before they'd ever get any of that property. Willie and Tillo B. are Dr. Vinson's sons."

J. S. Jackson, also a nephew of the accused woman, testified she had stated to him she would kill Dr. Vinson, and one time, in his presence, told Dr. Vinson she would pick up an ax and knock out his brains if he "did not get the hell out of there."

...[Roy Jackson, referring to 1919] "She had been drinking, or was on one of her high horses," he said...

..."Nearly every time I saw her she said she would kill Dr. Vinson and the two sons before she would let them have the property." When questioned as to her exact words, the language used was not printable.
I referred to the nephews as "his," and the newspaper article refers to them as "hers." Both are correct of course, but just so you know, Roy and J. S. Jackson were sons of Cora's brother Simp Jackson. Willie and Tillo (Tillie) were sons of Dr. Vinson from a previous marriage.

I found Dr. Vinson's death certificate online at Georgia's Virtual Vault. Cause of death was "multiple gunshot wounds of head (homicide)."

Just about every news article I read pointed out that Dr. Vinson had filed for divorce, citing that "she" had threatened to kill him.

Tomorrow: The Verdict.

20 April 2011

"It was hell. I could endure it no more," She Said. (Battered Wife, or Cold-Blooded Killer Part II)

Yesterday we discussed the newspaper reports regarding the killing of Dr. W. D. Vinson in 1922 Atlanta, Georgia. Today's post will inform you of Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson's side of the story.

Before Cora officially went on trial for the murder of her husband, she and her lawyers tried the insanity defense: "Special plea of insanity was being heard in [Atlanta] superior court today for Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson, widow and slayer of Dr. W. D. Vinson...The daughter of Mrs. Vinson testified that her mother is insane." (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Georgia, 2 May 1922.) It didn't work. Cora's trial began the first of June.

Cora Lou Vinson Makes Statement

The article the following appears in was published in the 4 June 1922 Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Georgia) after the verdict was rendered, as highlighted in the title which I do not yet want to give. :-) I will tell you this: A subheading was TWELVE MEN WERE OUT BUT TWO HOURS... Not exactly a jury of her peers. On with the statement!

The statement of Mrs. Vinson, which was given late Friday afternoon, was the sole testimony offered by the defense and as a result of this move, they have the opening and closing speeches in the argument.

The bitter story of a woman scorned was told to the jury Friday afternoon by Mrs. Vinson.

Mrs. Vinson, weeping the while, said she slew her husband [because] he had been cruel to her, had threatened her life, and said he was going to divorce her because of her wrecked physical condition and marry another woman young and wealthy [printed as "young and healthy" in other articles].

Ethel Robertson & Cora Vinson
She took the stand at 3:15 and delivered a dramatic recital for more than an hour. When she came to the description of the actual shooting, feeling in the court room was intense, and her daughter, Mrs. Ethel Robertson, who had been sitting with her mother all during the trial, fainted and had to be taken from the court room.

Mrs. Vinson at the outset took up the thread of the story leading up to the fatal shooting.

"I went to my husband's office to obtain funds to buy groceries on the afternoon of March 30. He only allowed me $7 a week for household expenses, and it did not give me enough to provide for myself and children."

"He was writing a prescription when I came into his office. I begged him to come back and live with me. He told me to sit down and shut up; that he was going to marry a young and healthy woman; that he was tired of me."

"I told him I loved him. I love him still, but he was so cruel to me I could not stand it any longer. When he told me there was another woman in his heart I became enraged. His coat flapped back and I saw the butt of the revolver he carried night and day. He previously had threatened to kill me, so I thought my time had come."

Tells of Shooting.
"I decided I would not be shot down like a dog. I drew my revolver from my coat pocket. I pointed the weapon at him...I was so weak I could hardly pull the trigger. Finally I heard a crash and knew the gun had gone off. They say I fired four shots, I only remember firing once."

"I had been in servitude for nineteen years. He treated me unkindly. He frequently threatened my life. On one occasion he tried to poison me and I was between life and death for five days. It was hell. I could endure it no more. And the problem took the natural turn of the whole sorry mess."

"But I loved him when I married him. And I love him now."

Mrs. Vinson spoke nervously and rapidly with occasional lulls when she would stop, evidently trying to concentrate. She had notes in her hand to which she referred from time to time.

Charges Assault
Mrs. Vinson prefaced her story of the shooting with a sordid story of alleged mistreatment during her nineteen years as Dr. Vinson's wife, charging that on various occasions he had threatened her life and on one occasion he shot at her and barely missed her baby's head.

She charged him with malpractice, with having made a dope fiend out of her, with having given her a social disease which was transmitted to one of the children, and with infidelity as far back as the time previous to the birth of their first child.

"I deprived myself of all pleasures to help him get a start in life," she declared. "He made me do all the work around the house, refusing to hire a servant because he said he had married me to work for him."

"He tried to run me away -- said I was a fool to live with him -- that I was so bony I would rattle if he held me up. But I loved him and begged him to stay in the house and avoid the disgrace of a divorce for our children's sake."
Cora Lou's attorney, Samuel Hewlett, in closing "declared the evidence showed that Mrs. Vinson shot in self-defense, and pictured her as a woman hounded by her husband, deprived of the necessities of life, and suffering great mental anguish as well as physical pain, at the time of the shooting." (Macon Telegraph, Georgia, 4 June 1922.)

"Dread of the hangman's noose is nothing compared to the fear I lived under before I killed my husband...

I killed my husband in self-defense. Therefore I have committed no crime."

- Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson

Tomorrow: "He Said."

19 April 2011

Battered Wife, or Cold-Blooded Killer?

I first posted a news item about Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson and the death of her husband at the Southern Obituaries blog. A single short comment by Marian Pierre-Louis of Marian's Roots & Rambles encouraged me to learn more about the story. I found a fascinating tale of questionable sanity, battered wife syndrome (about 50 years before it was even acknowledged), infidelity, divorce, murder, capital punishment history and debate, feminism, and more. I cannot possibly retell the tale in a single post, so look for this series to continue over the next few days.

The Killing

When Cora Lou Vinson fired the shot that killed her husband, it seems it was heard "round the world" (or at least the United States). Newspapers from every part of the country ran the headlines:

· "Wife Kills Husband: Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson Fires Fatal Shot"

· "Atlanta Woman Kills Husband"

Two articles that set the stage for the "he said, she said" fight (though the "he" was dead) are below.

Daily Record, North Carolina
31 March 1922
Called Her Husband Cruel and Beat Him Frequently, at Last Ending His Life With Bullet
ATLANTA, Ga. March 31 -- Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson, who was held in the county jail here, today charged with killing her husband, Dr. W. D. Vinson, who was shot to death in his office here late yesterday, had by threats forced him to deed all his property to her before they finally separated, according to a copy of his petition for divorce.

The petition charged that she had frequently threatened to kill the physician and that once she met him in a downtown drug store talking to other men and kicked him. It cited occasions where she is alleged to have attacked him with tongs, a hatchet and an umbrella. Her counter petition to the suit claimed that she had been a faithful wife and accused him of inhumane treatment.

The divorce suit was to have been heard next Monday while a suit by which Dr. Vinson sought to recover his property, he is alleged to have deeded to Mrs. Vinson, was pending, and a warrant charging Mrs. Vinson with being insane had just been settled last Tuesday by a lunacy commission refusing to send her to the asylum...

Dr. Vinson was shot while writing prescriptions in his office in the rear of a drug store, one shot being fired before he knew his wife was in the room,...a clerk in the drug store told the police that after the doctor fell from the chair to the floor with his face towards Mrs. Vinson, she fired three more shots directly into his face and walked out of the drug store to a waiting taxicab.

Dr. Vinson, who was 65 years old, died shortly after being shot without having regained consciousness. His wife is 44 years old.
Marietta Journal, Georgia
6 April 1922

Both Dr. and Mrs. Vinson are well known in Marietta and by Cobb County People

Marietta and Cobb county people, who know both members of the Dr. Vinson family, were shocked to learn of the tragic death of the doctor in Atlanta last Thursday. The following extract is taken from Friday's Constitution:

Dr. W. D. Vinson, 65 years old, was shot four times by his wife, Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson from whom he had been separated for several years, at 4:30 o'clock Thursday afternoon while he was writing prescriptions in his office located in the rear of Pierce's drug store, 790 Marietta street, and died an hour later at the Grady hospital as the result of the bullets, all of which entered his head. Mrs. Vinson is being held at the Fulton county jail, without bond, charged with murder...

Dr. Vinson came to Atlanta nearly half a century ago from Roswell, where he was born and raised. He comes of a family of well-known physicians.

He is survived by three sons, Dr. T. D. Vinson, W. B. Vinson, and Master Louis Vinson; two daughters, Mrs. Fred Brown and Miss Ruby Vinson; a sister, Mrs. Fannie Robinson; and four brothers, Dr. George Vinson, of Marietta; Dr. Sam Vinson, of south Georgia; and Luther and John Vinson.

Funeral services will be held from St. James church at 2:30 o'clock Sunday and Atlanta Lodge F. & A. M., No. 59, will have charge of the funeral. Interment will be in West View.
Tomorrow: "She Said."

07 April 2011

Civil War Era Records Free Access Week at Ancestry

You may have already heard, but just in case you haven't: Ancestry is offering free access to all of their Civil War era records for one week, beginning today.

Some records they house that may be of interest to Georgia researchers are:

· Confederate Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861-1865
· Georgia Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960
· Confederate Applications for Presidential Pardons, 1865-1867

The last database includes Samuel and Edward Felder's applications for Presidential pardon recently written about on this blog here and here, respectively.

Also included in the free access promotion is their newly launched Military Headstone Collection, described as "the most comprehensive searchable collection of Civil War era gravestones." This database includes the National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia (1866-2010).

Good Luck in your searches!

25 March 2011

A Friend of Friends Friday: Negro Man Named Bob Brought to Jail

Augusta Chronicle, Georgia
24 April 1840
(Viewed online at GenealogyBank.)

BROUGHT TO JAIL, on the 15th instant, a negro man by the name of BOB, and says he belongs to Samuel Felder of Perry, Houston county, Geo. Said negro is about five feet nine or ten inches high, of light complexion, no scars, except one on the breast by the whip. The owner is requested to come forward, pay charges and take him away. JAMES HALL, Sheriff

22 March 2011

Samuel Felder's Confederate Application for Presidential Pardon (Amanuensis Monday Tuesday)

Yesterday I posted a transcription of Edward Lewis Felder's Confederate Application for Presidential Pardon. Today I will bring you his father's. Samuel Felder was born 24 November 1796 in South Carolina, possibly a son of Henry Felder and Margaret Standmeyer. In 1860 he was living in Houston County, Georgia with a combined real and personal estate valued at $107,152. He was the owner of twenty slaves.

Samuel's son (Samuel Felder, Jr.) enlisted and fought with Company C, Georgia 6th Infantry Regiment. Samuel, Jr. died from wounds 1 June 1862, most likely in Virginia as a result of the Battle of Seven Pines.
[Pg 1, Left Side]
Houston Co Georgia
Aug 16th 1865

Felder Samuel

Applies for Pardon

_____ Dist of Columbus
Macon Georgia
Aug 16th 1865
Respectfully forwarded
Jno Thorton
Brig Genrl U.S.V.

[Pg 1, Right Side]
Houston County
Samuel Felder
_____ application for pardon

Executive Office
Provisional Govt of Geo
Milledgeville, Sep 8, 1865
This applicant makes what I believe to be an honest confession of his great sorrow in favoring the secession of Georgia. He is represented as a reliable and conscientious man, and certainly takes a proper view of the results of the war. So, I believe he will in future make a peaceable & loyal citizen. I recommend his pardon.
J. Johnson
Pro Gov of Ga

Eli Warren Atto for applicant & his address is "Fort Valley
Houston County

[Pg 2]
Perry, Houston County, Georgia
August the 12th 1865,

To His Excellency Andrew Johnson, President of the United States -- J.C.

I am a citizen of Houston County Georgia, residing in the town of Perry. I am Sixty eight years old & have a wife & five living children - I am excluded from the benefits of the Amnesty Proclamation of your Excellency of the 29th May last and under the 13 chapter therein only & Because I was a voluntarily participant in the late Rebelion of the South against the United States - and was on the said 29th of May & am now worth in taxable property over the sum of Twenty thousand ($20,000) dollars besides slaves, and respectfully ask that your Excellency grant me a special pardon, that being the only exception in said proclamation _____

The government of the United States has no property of min it its possession -- nor am I aware of having any property of the Government of the United States in my possession -

No proceedings have been commenced against me in any of the courts of the United States for Treason - or for conspiracy against the Government of the United States - so far as I know, or believe or ever heard of -

I am neither a politician or professional man and never held a civil or military office in my life except some 40 years ago I was a Justice of the Peace, - I ever & always have been a farmer and have devoted the most of my time & attention to that business -- And I know less about the Constitution & political matters than those [Pg 3] should know that have made them their study. An unfortunate strife has long since existed between the North & the South upon the slavery question -- Many leading politicians of the South professed to believe - & so assured the people, that for Georgia or the slave states to secede from the union would put an end to that strife, be a complete remedy for that evil -- That it was a rightful & peaceable remedy, that instead of causing a war between the two sections that it was a measure of peace between them - & would result in good to both North & South - because it would restore & establish peace between the two sections. -- This was what many of the leading politicians in the South assured the people -- Those to whom I had been in the habit of looking for advice on political matters & who had my confidence assured me that no war - but peace between the two sections on the slavery question would result from secession - and confiding in their opinions & judgement on the subject of secession & wishing to see the strife so long & so unhapily existing between the North & the South on the slavery question put an end to - & that to peaceably - I was for that cause, in favor of Georgia's seceeding from the Union - & so voted for members of the Convention that passed the Ordinance of Secession. -- In giving that vote, I am satisfied that I at least made a great mistake - for I was deceived as to the effect of secession upon the peace of the country - & my conduct in that regard I regret. ~

But what assumed to be a Confederate Government having soon thereafter been established - I then felt it to be [Pg 4] right to aid to some extent the country of my residence in the war that it seems so unexpectedly to me, resulted from or _____ out of secession -- In this though I never took up arms or in any way entered the service of the Confederate States - so called - but did contribute something in money & supplies to sustain the confederate soldiers in the field - this I did though to a limited extent. ~

But the war has terminated disastrously to the South & I most heartily wish it never had commenced & I pray your Excellency to grant me a special pardon as I desire to be restored to all the rights & privileges of a citizen of the United States. ~ I recognize the fact that slavery is dead & cannot be revived -- I have taken an Amnesty Oath hereto attached & will in good faith conform to all the obligations thereby imposed.
I am very Respectfully
Your Obedient Servant
SamL Felder

Houston County

Before me personally came Samuel Felder of said county & state and being duly sworn says on oath that the facts stated in his foregoing petition are true. ~
Sworn to & subscribed before me, this August 12th - 1865
W. T. Swift Ordinary
Houston Co Ga
Samuel died a couple of years later on 3 October 1867. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery at Perry, Georgia. His epitaph states he was A Baptist 40 Years.

21 March 2011

Edward Felder's Confederate Application for Presidential Pardon (Amanuensis Monday)

Edward Lewis Felder was born 3 May 1826 in South Carolina to Samuel and Ann Felder. In 1860, he was living in Houston County, Georgia and was the owner of thirty slaves. Here is a transcript of his Confederate Application for Presidential Pardon:

[Pg 1, Left Side]
Application for Special Pardon by Edward L. Felder
of Houston County State of Georgia
Within 13 Exception
Sept 28 / 65
Worth over $20,000
Perry, Geo

[Pg 1, Right Side]
Executive Officer
Provisional Govt of Geo
Milledgeville Sep 2 1865
I recommend pardon & amnesty for this applicant, as I am satisfied from his character and petition, he will prove a peaceable, loyal & useful citizen.
J. Johnson
Pro Gov of Ga

[Pg 2]
Application for Special Pardon
State of Georgia
Houston County
Town of Perry
August 26th, 1865

To His Excellency Andrew Johnson
President of the United States

The Petition of Edward L. Felder respectfully showeth that he is a resident citizen of said county and state, that he is thirty nine years of age, that he has a wife and six children, and that he is excluded from the benefits of Amnesty Proclamation of May 29. Eighteen Hundred and Sixty five. only by reason of his holding property of the value of Twenty Thousand Dollars, though Petitioner is _____, but little if any over that amount.

Your Petitioner respectfully showeth that none of his property is in possession of the United States Government and that no proceedings have been instituted against him in any of the courts of the United States, for treason or conspiracy against the Government of the United States.

Your Petitioner further showeth that in Eighteen Hundred and Sixty, he voted for delegates to the state conventions to consider such measures as might be necessary, to [redress? reduce?], what all professed to _____, grievances to the South. with the understanding however, that said delegates were not in favor of secession, as the only remedy. And your petitioner [Pg 3] now sees that secession was a great and fatal mistake. Your Petitioner has never been in the service of the Confederate States, and fully recognizes the authority and dignity of the United States and acquiesces in its policy.

Your Petitioner has informed his former slaves that they are free, and made a fair and liberal contract with them, which has been approved by the Commandant of this post. and realizes and acknowledges the fact, that slavery is forever extinguished.

Your Petitioner has already lost greatly by the war.

Your Petitioner has taken and subscribed the oath hereto attached and will faithfully observe its obligations, and desires to be restored to all the rights and privileges of a citizen of the United States. Therefore your Petitioner prays that your Excellency may grant him a Special Pardon, and your Petitioner will ever pray & c & c.

E. L. Felder

(Affidavit and Amnesty Oath over.)

[Pg 4]
State of Georgia
Houston County

Ordinarys Office in & for said County

I Edward L. Felder of said county and state do swear before Almighty God, that the facts stated in the foregoing petition to which my signature appears are true.

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 26th day August 26th 1865.
W. T. Swift
Ordny Houston County Georgia

Apparently, Edward was able to maintain his lifestyle even after the war, as the 1870 Houston County, Georgia federal census shows his real estate plus personal estate combine to be valued at $72,000.

Edward died 25 August 1872 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery at Perry, Houston County, Georgia.

19 March 2011

Julia Force is Dead (A Southern Family Secret Finale)

Final part of A Southern Family Secret, the saga of Julia Force.

Julia died 30 March 1916, still an inmate of the Georgia State Sanitarium. An obituary:

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Georgia
27 April 1916
(Viewed online at GenealogyBank.)


State Stirred by Crime for Which She Was Convicted.

Atlanta, Ga. -- News was received in Atlanta Wednesday of the death of Julia Force, at the state sanitarium at Milledgeville. She was the central figure in a tragedy that stirred the entire state in 1893, when she killed her mother [sic] and two sisters following family quarrels. She was judged insane.

News was also received that she had been buried in the city cemetery there in the lot of a former matron of the hospital. [End]

Julia was indeed buried in the same lot of a former matron of the hospital, Mrs. Johnanna Mitchell Darnell. The cemetery is Memory Hill in Milledgeville, GA. Mrs. Darnell also happened to be the granddaughter of a former Georgia Governor, David Brydie Mitchell. Johnanna and Julia are buried in the governor's lot. The former governor died in 1837. I wonder if he could ever have imagined a "murderess" would be interred less than six feet from his remains almost 80 years after his death.

Some additional notes:

Central State Hospital (the name it is currently known by) in Milledgeville, Georgia was founded in 1842. It is still active and a well-known facility to this day.

Julia's sisters, brothers, and parents were all laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery of Atlanta. Julia's mother died in 1900, her brother Albert died in 1917, and her brother George died in 1921.

18 March 2011

To an Asylum Goes the Murderess Julia Force (A Southern Family Secret Part IV)

Part IV of A Southern Family Secret, the saga of Julia Force.

Here are a few newspaper accounts of Julia Force's commitment to the State Insane Asylum at Milledgeville, Georgia:

Savannah Tribune, Georgia
8 July 1893
(Viewed online at GenealogyBank.)

SUBTERFUGE was practiced in Atlanta by sending the woman Julia Force who murdered her sisters recently to Milledgeville as an insane person. It is said by many that she is not insane, but that this was done only to keep her family from being humiliated.

Kalamazoo Gazette, Michigan
19 July 1893
(Viewed online at GenealogyBank.)


Goes the Murderess Julia Force, a Former Leader in Atlanta Society.

Miss Julia Force, who slew her two sisters in Atlanta last February, was committed to the State insane asylum at Milledgeville last week. When Miss Force was introduced into the asylum parlor she greeted the superintendent, whom she had known previously. She told him that she was not and never had been insane; that she had been driven to desperation by the ill-treatment of her family, and that she had killed her sisters. She said the legal proceedings which held her back from conviction were acceptable to her family and she submitted, if that would do them any good. She explained that she would like occupation while in the asylum and as she was a trained nurse, graduated from a Protestant Episcopal convent in New York, she would do duty in that capacity. It is likely that her request will be complied with, as she seems to be perfectly sane...

Afro-American Advocate, Kansas
28 July 1893
(Viewed online at GenealogyBank.)

JULIA FORCE of Atlanta has been acquitted of the charge of murdering her two sisters, the court deciding that while she was so crazy as to make the killing no crime, she is not crazy enough to be restrained of her liberty. As the gentle Julia has some more relatives that she doesn't like it behooves them to buckle on their armor or emigrate. [End]

Julia H. Force can be found in 1900 and 1910 federal census records as an inmate at the Georgia State Sanitarium in Baldwin County, Georgia. Ages listed as 51 and 61, respectively.

Tomorrow, the finale.

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

Part III: Julia Force Will Not Be Hanged, to Be Placed in an Asylum

17 March 2011

Julia Force Will Not Be Hanged, To Be Placed in an Asylum (A Southern Family Secret Part III)

Part III of A Southern Family Secret, the saga of Julia Force.

New York Herald
27 June 1893
(Viewed online at GenealogyBank.)


Insanity Successfully Pleaded in the Trial of the Girl Accused of Double Murder.


Notwithstanding the Strong Defense the State Will Try Hard to Secure a Conviction.


ATLANTA, Ga. June 26, 1893 -- Miss Julia Force will find herself an inmate of the insane asylum to-morrow. Her trial for the murder of her two sisters opened today in the criminal courts of the county of Fulton, and before the day's work was over it was apparent to all that the crime was committed because of the woman's insanity; that the State almost abandoned the case...It is a certainly that a verdict of insanity will come within fifteen minutes after the jury retires...

The prisoner, dressed in a claret colored street costume, with her face heavily veiled, walked into the court room leaning on the arm of her aunt, Mrs. Conley. The two women took seats in the centre of the room, immediately opposite the Judge. Miss Force closed her eyes, rested her hands on the arms of the chair and sighed...

[Mrs. Force, the mother of the prisoner, and Julia's brothers (G. H. and A. W.) testified in support of insanity.]

...Chief of Police Connolly testified that when he met Miss Force in his office she refused to say anything to him about the crime or who committed it. Soon afterward, however, she unpinned from her throat a breastpin containing her father's picture and handed it to him, saying she was unworthy to wear it...

...Witness told her of the awful crime, but she seemed to take it as an everyday affair, and said she had been maltreated by those who should have loved her.

[While speaking to a doctor the morning after the shootings]...She had told him then that her brothers were cruel to her and she had to get her sisters out of the way, as they were instrumental in the treatment given by her brothers. She said she prayed for deliverance and added, "But it had to be."

[Two doctors] said in conclusion he believed Miss Force was a monomaniac. [From Wikipedia: "In 19th century psychiatry, monomania is a single pathological preoccupation in an otherwise sound mind...In 1880, it was one of the seven recognized categories of mental illness." Example = Paranoia.]

[Julia was age 38; Florence was age 30; and Minnie was age 25.]...The news of the tragedy created intense excitement, owing in some measure to the prominence of the Force family, two members of which, G. H. and A. W., are successful shoe manufacturers in Atlanta. The general impression was that Miss force was insane, and her erratic conduct on many previous occasions seemed to furnish good grounds for such an impression.

...This gray haired woman with the strong but stern face was brought before a jury on February 28, and heard a writ read, in which the members of her family expressed their beliefs that she was insane...[doctor stated she was "under the influence of an insane delusion" that "her family were her enemies..."].

Mrs. Force then testified that her daughter Julia had not been mentally balanced since October 16, 1892, on which day she had acted very strangely and altogether like an insane person. Finally Mr. Albert W. Force testified that his sisters's mind was unsound, that all her grievances were imaginary and that for some days before the tragedy he had fully expected to be shot down every time he went home to dinner or opened the door. He also pointed our that one of his brothers was in an insane asylum and that his aunt's mind has been at one time unbalanced. In regard to his sister's complaint that storekeepers had been instructed not to give her credit, he said that he had given such instructions, as he did not consider his sister responsible. The jury then questioned Miss Force and in reply she said that she was not insane, that her family has always wronged her, and that, though she had a high temper, she had ever tried to do right. The jury declared her insane, at which she protested loudly, saying "I am not insane!" Finally, on March 9, the Grand Jury indicted her for murder. [End]

Tomorrow: To an Asylum Goes the Murderess Julia Force.

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

Part V: Julia Force is Dead

16 March 2011

Miss Julia Force's Story: Why She Murdered Her Two Sisters (A Southern Family Secret Part II)

Part II of A Southern Family Secret, the saga of Julia Force.

The State, South Carolina
28 February 1893
(Viewed online at GenealogyBank.)



Slighted All Her Life by the Other Members of the Family -- Details of the Horrible Tragedy

ATLANTA, Ga. Feb 27 -- Today's sensation is the publication of the full statement of Julia Force who murdered her two sisters. It is a statement probably ten thousand words in length, and was found by the police in possession of a friend of Miss Force, to whom it had been entrusted, but who knew nothing of its contents.

It is the story of the life of a high-strung, sensitive child, who grew to womanhood and to mature maidenly years in the belief that her mother, sisters and brothers at all times slighted her. She goes into minute details of many happenings in the family, which she takes as corroborating all she has claimed.

"They all loved my sisters better than they did me," the story goes. "Of course, they were younger while I was growing older. Everything in the house was for 'Sister Minnie,' or for 'Sister Florence.' A new dress or a new ornament would always look so well on them, without ever once referring to how it would look on me. I had the trouble of helping to raise them, because I was the oldest, and it made my blood boil to see them preferred before me in the love of brothers and mother. I could not stand it; no, and nobody else would."

After summing up a great many instances of imaginary wrong she goes on: "I was willing to bear my private griefs in private. I did not wish to harrow the public with the story of my personal griefs. But when public disgrace is piled upon me by notifying merchants not to credit me, the limit of endurance has been reached. When the clerks along the streets can thus point at me, for what have I to live? Just think of it! I am thus marked out, while my sisters are favored and fondled and petted. Public disgrace is too much, and I can't, will not, stand it."

"It is enough," she writes. "I have borne all I can bear. May God avenge, and, for every insult that has been given me, heap the crushing weight of insult, mortification and suffering, moral and physical, upon the heads of those scoundrels and traitors (meaning her brothers). Oh, my Father! help your child."

Thus was the climax reached on Friday. Miss Julia according to the story as told by herself, resolved to immediately execute the vengeance she had been plotting so long. She gave no sign of her intention. Her mother left home early in the morning to be gone until after noon. Miss Julia seized upon the opportunity to do the terrible deed. She went up town and purchased a good pistol and a box of cartridges. She loaded the pistol and laid it aside for use.

She then took from her trunk the statement which she had been preparing for so many months. She wrote a final entry upon its pages, and drawing a heavy line across the bottom of the page, signifying that the end had been reached, she hurriedly left home and went to a friend's house and left the statement. She then returned home.

The time for her deadly revenge had come. She sent Lula Jenkins, the house girl, off on an errand. The cook was first sent to the grocery store, and then after her brothers.

With the cook and house girl away, Miss Julia was alone in the house with her victims. No one knew of her fatal purpose. Without the quiver of a muscle she made her last preparations for the slaughter. Across the hall was her sister Minnie. The young lady was engaged in doing some fancy needlework, and as she worked she sang. Scarce ten feet away her murderous, maniacal sister was loading a revolver. Outside the sunlight gleamed and the street was full of noise of the noon of day.

Miss Julia crept across the hall into the room in which Miss Minnie, all unsuspecting, sat alone. Miss Julia held the pistol behind her. Miss Minnie looked up with an expression of displeasure as her elder sister entered her room. Her relations with her sister were always of an exceedingly acrid nature and she greeted her sister's appearance with disgust.

"Minnie, why did you tell the storekeeper not to sell me anymore goods?" asked Miss Julia venomously.

The young lady started to reply, but before she could do so Julia threw the pistol from behind her, and, placing it almost against Miss Minnie's head, fired. The young lady dropped to the floor with a groan. She writhed a little in the death agony. Blood spurted from the bullet hole. Julia bent over her dying sister and watched her expiring struggles. While she stood over her with the smoking revolver in her hand, Miss Minnie died. After being shot she never spoke once.

Miss Julia then locked the door and walked upstairs to Miss Florence's room. The invalid was standing beside the fireplace in her nightgown. Julia was in a terrible mood and Miss Florence received her coldly, Julia spoke to her sick sister roughly.

"Julia, will you leave the room?" Miss Florence said.

Julia's eyes gleamed with an expression of deadly hatred. She made a move toward her trembling sister. Miss Florence started toward her bed. Weak as a babe from long sickness, she tottered as she walked.

Behind her come her sister, bent on her terrible revenge. The younger lady reached the bedside in safety.

Florence had turned as she reached her bed to see if her sister was leaving her. Julia was beside her, the fatal pistol in her hand. Florence threw up her hands. There was a sharp report, and Miss Florence fell back upon the white sheets with a bullet in her brain.

Julia saw the blood stream from her sister's head and left the room. She locked the door behind her, and walking downstairs and out of the house she made her way to police headquarters. There was no undue haste; she was calm. The rest is known.

Miss Force will be tried on a writ of lunacy tomorrow. [End]

The articles posted so far were from the time Julia spent before the Grand Jury. She was indicted for murder and the trial was set for the summer.

Tomorrow, the verdict.

Part IV: There Goes the Murderess

Part V: Julia Force is Dead

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.)


Crazy Julia Force Shoots and Kills Her Sisters.


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


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


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.

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.

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.

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