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)

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