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.