Saturday, July 22, 2006


1868 (January through June)
Hamilton left Jackson County in January 1868 and was succeeded by Purman. Purman had become deeply involved in Florida politics, spent much time out of the area, and left the Bureau in the summer after being elected to the state senate. At the beginning of the year, Purman observed that “a stronger spirit of hostility exists against the colored people to-day than ever before” and attributed that hostility to the freedmen’s “immovable position on Republican principles.” 1868 finds the first mention of the KKK. Purman’s replacement, John Dickinson, didn’t dwell on violent incidents in his reports. The following year, of course, assassination and mayhem would overwhelm the county and Dickinson would provide the most detailed eyewtiness report.

In the vicinity of Greenwood, Mr. Grey refused to deliver up a colored child, on the order of the Bureau “to its rightful guardians, and expelling with the flourish of firearms the holder of the order from the premises. Enraged at this treatment of his authorized demand, the freedman collected a band of half-a-dozen armed followers, and proceeding to the house of Mr. Grey obtained possession of the child without the exercise of any violence but of course by the force of the menace.” (WJP to AHJ, 1/4/68)

Purman writes that the KKK has sent him“several very unfriendly notices” and that from assassination “no one is protected save by an overruling Providence.” (WJP to AHJ 4/30/68)


U.S. 7th Inf. troops leave Marianna (Marianna Courier in Weekly Floridian 5/19/68)

May 22nd, “Mr E. W. Mooring, a limb of the “chivalry”, and a man of hot and rebellious character, was met on the public sidewalk by a colored woman who accidentally in passing brushed his knee with her hoopskirt, whereupon this valorous male struck her two severe blows in her face, and raved about like a madman. A high excitement was instantly produced in the colored community, and after much difficulty in finding a Justice of the Peace, which petty functionary was at last found in the outskirts of the county, Mr. Mooring was arrested for assault and battery. After a shameful and malicious judicial farce for two days before a nincompoop of a country squire, he was adjudged not guilty, and was accordingly not committed for trial before Court.”

May 23rd,: REDDICK BLUNT freedman, was killed near Marianna. Blunt “was under arrest for hog-stealing, and while in the custody of Constable Street and two colored assistants, for conveyance to the country jail, it is said he attempted to escape, and ran about half-a-mile from the road, through a heavy thicket in the woods, where he was overtaken and killed by a two charges from a shot-gun, in the right breast. A peculiar feature in this case is, that Constable Street made no pursuit at all, but remained in the road, while the colored assistants alone gave chase, and one only a short distance, while the third who was alone and shot the prisoner in the front part of the body, was a brother of the woman from whom the hog was stolen …this murder was unnecessary and unjustifiable.”

“Murder, homicide and assassination have long been so common in the experience of this section of the country, that their terrible occurrence scarely rises to the importance of a subject for sober conversation, and instead of producing horror and indignation in the moral faculties of the community, it excites only reckless comments and a fashionable spirit of bravado.” (WJP to AHJ, 5/30/68)

June 4th: “Lot Wood, a vagabond whiteman, assaulted with a knife and ripped out the entrails of JAMES DONALD, an old freedman. There was no open provocation for this murderous deed, and the old man died in a week afterwards. Wood has escaped, and is skulking in the piney woods on the borders of the State.”

In Washington County: “Upon the vague and even unreasonable suspicion that James Bellamy, a freedboy, stole $75, he was carried out on the bay where he was tied to an anchor and plunged into the water for the purpose of extorting a confession of guilt from him, and in spite of all his frightful and prayerful asservations he was taken at 12 o’clock at night into the woods and hung to a tree, though all the while asserting his innocence, until at last half dead with fright and suffering, he was released to find his way back in the darkness as well as he could.”

“On the plantation of John Pitts, near Marianna, three colored women were wounded with fine bird shot, for the offense of merely drawing water from the well after being ordered to desist, while this same well always supplied the premises and quarters with water, and is the only one in the vicinity. One woman was quite severely wounded. All this was done for the unjust purpose of driving the hands off the plantation, in which attempt the Bureau several times restrained the employer.” (WJP to AHJ, 6/30/68)

Thursday, July 20, 2006


The murder rate remained low in 1867 though incidents of violence and intimidation increased. The Hamilton and Purman complained repeatedly that the planters missed no opportunity to swindle their freedmen laborers by discharging them for petty offenses prior to the distribution of the crop share and by encouraging them to run up their store credit accounts at the plantation and with merchants who colluded with the planters. The Agents believed that, as Reconstruction policy progressed, the whites were becoming more “desperate and reckless.” They particularly complained of the influence of Georgia politician Benjamin H. Hill on Jackson County’s whites.

GILBERT WALKER (freedman) was murdered near Marianna on Feb. 2, 1867 by Hugh Parker (white). “Gilbert, engaged in hauling lumber, met a Mr. Bell driving an empty one oxcart in the public road, both gave way, but the road being narrow, and Gilbert heavily loaded, sufficient space to pass could not be given, and both stoped. Gilbert got down and held aside some bushes to permit Bell to pass – which he did. At this juncture Parker came up, on foot, and demanded of Gilbert why he did not turn out of the road. Gilbert replied that he did as far as he could. Parker retorted “If you ever do that again I’ll kill you”- and cursing him, added “I might as well do it now”- and put a revolver to his breast and shot him – Gilbert expired in fifteen minutes. Efforts were, at the time, and have since been made to arrest the murderer, but he still at large.” (CMH to ECW 2/28/67)

Hamilton and Purman visited Campbellton for the purpose of supervising labor contracts. “In the morning a few of the best citizens were present, but towards noon all of this ilk quietly disappeared off the ___, and a crowd of roughs had full sway. Whiskey was guzzled down in abundance to get up steam to assault the “Yankees”, and a mob of a dozen drunken, cowardly wretches, with revolvers buckled round them came into our room, criticizing and insulting us in the most provoking manner. Our only protection was in our revolvers laying on the table before us. They retired, came again, repeating this manoeuvre several times, when we were entreated by our colored friends to leave the town as quickly as possible, which in our unprotected condition we thought expedient to do, and did, in an open manner, with our revolvers in our hands, surrounded by a small-band of noble freedmen.” (WJP to ECW, 2/28/67) .

Brutal murder, by beating, of freedman EPHRAIM BUCK. The freedpeople were afraid to give information “for fear of bringing down the vengeance of the murderers, & their friends upon themselves. It seems that Ephraim had been accused of stealing, and that afterwards he was seen upon Selmans (?) premises, and that Selman & McLernand – two men of notoriety – caught, abused and beat him that he died.” (CMH to AH Jackson, 3/31/67)

“George W. Melvin (white) was tried before the Circuit Court of this District held at this place during the month, charged with the murder of ELAIS HAMMOND (white) and convicted of manslaughter. Archy Hunter(?) (cold.) for rape upon the person of _____ Smith (cold) & acquitted; and Louis White (cold) for rape upon Sarah Bryant (white) & acquitted. Louis and Henderson White brothers, were charged with the commission in conjunction, of this fell deed, in Sept. last. Henderson, a boy of 15 years, was tried before the same tribunal last Fall (case then reported) was convicted, and executed by hanging, on 2 March last. He had a fair trial.”

On May 6th, “Joe and Frank Register, and Tip Skippee (white) outrageously maltreated a colored man (Chas. Russ) living near Vernon, Washington Co. It is said that this freedman who sustains a good character, I am told, - entered the room of a white woman where he was working, who reported the fact to the above mentioned boys, whereupon they took him (Charles) down into the swamp, hard by, and gave him two hundred lashes, and left him quite dead, in the swamp. Judge Bush acted promptly in the matter having the culprits arrested and bound over for their appearance at the next term of the court in that Co.”

On May 25th, Joe Moreton (white) of Campbellton assaulted, knife in hand, Franklin Hovey (cold.) with intent to kill, cutting him in several places slightly.” Moreton was arrested but immediately released upon bail.

Assailant approaches Hamilton with a knife in Washington County. Flower desecration incident at the Marianna cemetery. See Weinfeld FHQ article on Charles Hamilton for details (CMH to General, 5/31/67)

Appearance of B.H. Hill. White friends of the Bureau Agents insulted daily on the streets of Marianna. Another apparent attempt on Hamilton’s life in Campbellton.

A Mr. Teat, living on the Apalachicola river, in Calhoun Co., reported for driving three laborers from his premises and turning their families out of doors, and threatening to shoot them if they ever put foot upon his place again. The laborers were working for a third of the crop, and claimed that it was Teat’s object to deprive them of their share.
Teat’s neighbor, Mr. B. Baker, reported for having beaten a black girl with a club.
(CMH to AJH, 7/31/67)

Hamilton is instructed to investigate the location of the murder of DAN WEBSTER, a black boy, along the Chattahoochee River. (AHJ to CMH 8/7/67)

On 9/27 evening “Archibald Hunter, a freedman of bad character, committed a violent rape upon a white woman, Miss Sophronia Bell, while she was proceeding to her home. It seems to be a most aggravated case, and the felon so far has eluded all pursuit.” (WJP to AHJ 9/30/67)

Harassment of Republican southern whites continues. Blacks receive disproportionate fines for minor offenses (“the white man is fined five and the black man fifty dollars for the same offense”). Vandalism of Hamilton and Fleishman property. (CMH to AJH 10/31/67)

Small group of soldiers dispatched by Hamilton to help freedmen collect their crop shares is driven off from several farms at gun point.

Two murders occurred during the month – all white. Silas Gladden shot one FULLERTON near Greenwood. Collet shot & killed DICKSON & Dickson’s brother avenged his death by killing COLLET. Both Gladden and Dickson escaped.

Whites are well-armed: “every man and boy in the county I am told carries his revolver and knife, and the civil authorities (there are none but the sheriff & his deputy – and the Judge of the Co. Criminal Court, & several justices – all the rest have resigned, or refuse to act) do not discharge their duties, either from fear, or from sympathy with the rebels.”

William Coker “a hot-headed youth of this place committed an assault & battery with intent to kill upon Robert Dickson, freedman, without the shadow of provocation. I directed the Deputy Sheriff R.N. Pitman to arrest him, but he has failed to do it. This man Coker, with a crowd of others of the same stripe have been raising little disturbances for some time past. This is the crowd I have every reason to believe that shaved my horses, and disfigured Mr. Fleishman’s buggies.” (CMH to AJH 12/31/67)

On Dec. 6, at Greenwood, NORMAN HALL stabbed JOHN COULLIETTE “with a knife, and a small .. the latter, seeing the use of the weapon.. his father, inflicted a like wound on Hall. Both the wounded men died.” GA Weekly Telegraph, 12/13/67 citing Marianna Courier.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Hamilton and Purman report only two murders, but white perpetrated violence is on the rise and increasingly organized. The local judiciary is firmly established as an agent of white domination and black subjugation.

Immediately upon Charles Hamilton’s arrival in Marianna, he observed the harassment of the white school teacher at the Freedman’s Bureau school in Marianna.

George Brammer (white), “the teacher here [Marianna] is frequently annoyed” and was “harassed by 4 young men threatening to arrest him.”

John Bate (white) of Jackson Co. “struck a freedwoman laborer in the face with a stick and ordered the freedwoman’s mother, Lucinda Poges [?] to correct her daughter for her insolence.” Lucinda protested. When Lucinda attempted to prevent Bate’s wife from throwing her possessions out of the house, “Bate’s son struck her on the arm, Bate struck her on the head and the dog bit her, hurting her severely.” Bate turned the family, husband, wife and child out of his plantation (CMH to TWO 2/28/66). Bate and his son were tried for assault and battery before the county criminal court. The son was acquitted and, Bate was fined five cents and costs. A month later Lucinda had still not recovered from her injuries. (CMH to JL McHenry, March 31, 66)

Attacks on the Freedmen’s School in Marianna continued, but this time the freedmen began to show evidence that they were organizing themselves and standing up to the intimidation:
“The night school has been frequently disturbed. Report of mob calling out Brammer from the school house, menacing him with four revolvers and expressions of shooting him if he not promise to quite the place and close the school. The Freedman came promptly to his aid and the mob dispersed.”

“About the 18 or 19 of April: This same mob threatened to destroy the school that night, and the freedmen hearing this, assembled for self-defense. Not less than forty
colored men armed to protect themselves; but the preparations becoming known to the respectable rowdies, they only maneuvered about in small squads, and were wise enough to avoid a collision.” (CMH to JLMcHenry, 4/30/66)

Hamilton and Purman receive reports of “abuse, imposition, and assault and battery, on freedmen.” Certain whites are “too ready to inflict the most shameful treatment on the least whim or custom, or provocation whatever.” A particular source of tension is the continuing practice of white employers punishing freedman children, “which punishment, it is reasonable to believe is often cruel and unnecessary.”

Violent opposition in Greenwood and Campbellton to establishment of Freedman’s schools is so intense “that no teacher is willing to brave their fury in opening a school.” (WJP to CMH 5/31/66)

Whites object to reports of upcoming celebration by freedmen to commemorate July 4th.
“Curses were showered upon the Bureau and freed-men, - swearing that they would shoot the men who carried the pictures and the flag, and, vi et armis, oppose the celebration.”
(CMH to JLM 6/30/66) [Celebration passed off peacefully].

Harassment of Freedmen by local law enforcement and supported by the judiciary is by now in full effect:
“Civil authorities are too prone to arrest the freed people for trivial offenses and petty ‘crimes.’ They do not certainly enjoy the privileges or liberties extended to the white citizens. They have no conscience against arresting and fining the freed-people to the full extent of the law for petty offenses against the State or individuals, and looking over them if committed by “my people.” I do not say that in doing this the Authorities transgress the law, or overstept it, - but I do say that partiality is shown. The freedpeople are sometimes fined excessively, from which the county treasury is replenished – and yet they to not get the benefit of the funds – especially the poor funds.” (CMH to JLM 7/31/66)

Practice of requiring pre-payment of all court fees “is an effectual, impediment in the way of prosecutions for assault and battery on freedpeople, while cases of this character are becoming more numerous and aggravated.” “A disposition prevails among these petty magistrates and the people of their respective communities, to colleague and prevent as far as possible all prosecutions against white persons . . . and to watch every freedman with a lynx-eyed scrutiny, and on the slightest pretext arraign him before the authorities, and visit him with the extremest penalty of the law.”

An assault and battery was committed on Mary Jane Baker (freedwoman) by William. Parker (white). Justice Hughes refused to issue a warrant until the fee of six dollars should be prepaid. In about ten days, having raised the money, Baker applied again, when, on pre-payment, the warrant was issued. Parker was arrested, tried and fined $5.00.

The wife of Robert Cody (freedman) was beaten and assaulted and he was driven violently from the plantation of his employer, Cullin Curl without justifiable cause. When Cody sought redress, Judge Milton of the Criminal Court held the Freedmen’s Bureau approved contract invalid and Cody “became involved in twenty five dollars cost.” (WJP to CMH 9/29/66)

From the Columbus Daily Enquirer: "A difficulty occurred betwenn Wash. Melvin and ELIAS HAMMOND, about twelve miles west of Marianna, Fla., in which several shots were exchanged. Hammond was wounded in the thigh, of which he died a few days after. Melvin had two of his fingers shot off and his arm badly injured. Have no heard the cause of the quarrel." [9/18/66]

Many cases of mal-treatment & shameful abuses…Assault & Battery – almost always without provocation – is frequent.”

TWO FREEDMEN are reported to have been way-laid and killed in this county, within the month. One was shot walking in the public road – the other while hunting in the woods, near Campbellton. No arrests made. (CMH to EC Woodruff, 12/31/66)

Dr. Ethelred Philips of Marianna reported that one of the men murdered had been ambushed by planters who suspected him of stealing corn. (E. Philips to J. Philips, 12/19/66)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


During the War years and the first year of Reconstruction, racial killings were rare events in Jackson County, Florida. Charles Hamilton was asked to compile a list of murders occuring since the war began:

4/13/1861: JOE, a “slave” murdered. John D. Padget (white) of Jackson Co. was tried in October 1866 for the murder and acquitted.

2/13/1863: RUBEN, a “slave” was murdered in Calhoun Co. Fla. on the 13th of Feb. 1863, by Luke Lot (white). Lot was tried in the Circuit Court of the West Dist. of Fla., Judge Bush presiding, on the 2nd May 1866, verdict “not guilty” [NOTE: Luke Lot became a legendary figure of white resistance in the Florida, Georgia, Alabama border country during Reconstruction. Dale Cox suggests that Lot may have been instrumental in organizing the white community during the “Jackson County War”].

Spring 1863: (1) A negro was killed (shot), and (2) body of one drowned found in the Chipola River near the Natural Bridge, Jackson Co. “Their names, or the circumstances could not be ascertained. They were said to be ‘runaways.’”

12/13/65: WYLIE “freedman, was whipped to death …in Marianna, by Ashley B. Hamilton” (white) of Jackson Co. Hamiton was arrested and sent to Tallahassee under guard but escaped “at the Arsenal” (Chattachoochee?). Hamilton was tried in the Circuit Court at Marianna on October 18, 1863 (same trial as Padget) “and the jury returned a verdict of ‘not guilty.’”

“As far as I can ascertain no murders have been committed by Freedmen since the commencement of the War, in this District, all of which is respectfully submitted.”
(CMH to J Lyman, 10/24/66)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Updates to come

I haven't forgotten this blog. Instead, I've been consumed by other matters such as editing my transcriptions of Charles Hamilton's Freedmen's Bureau reports. I'm not sure what to do with these documents. The file is too large to conveniently place on the blog. If anyone readers are interested in more information about the reports of the Freedmen's Bureau officers of Jackson County, Florida from 1866 to 1868 (Hamilton, Purman and Dickinson), feel free to contact me.