Monday, March 09, 2009

March 1869: violence following the Finlayson/Purman shooting

The Finlayson/Purman shooting initiated a period of violence that left an additional five Jackson County men dead and six more wounded during the spring of 1869. The first of these victims was James T. Colliette, a forty-two-year-old white farmer and father of five children, shot to death in his house. There was speculation that Colliette had been involved in the Finlayson/Purman shooting, although his role may have been limited to his "sanctioning the foul deed." A few weeks later, a young white man named Swain, staying at the McGriff farm near Chattahoochee, "was decoyed out...after night by a noise made about the stables...shot and killed." In the same neighborhood, two weeks later, two black men were shot and wounded. On the night of April 3, Richard Pooser, an African American county constable was severely wounded by a load of buckshot.

Meanwhile, Jackson County's leadership responded to the violence. James. L. G. Baker, one of the county's largest land-holders, presided over a meeting of Marianna citizens, which condemned the Finlayson/Purman shooting and arranged for resolutions to be printed in Florida's major newspapers. The committee, however, defeated any movement toward reconciliation by asserting that Purman had confessed, on his presumed deathbed, that the shooters' motives had been personal, rather than political. Purman, gradually recovering, insisted from his sickbed in Marianna that the assassination "was entirely political" and contended that the committee had misrepresented him. John Q. Dickinson, the Jackson County Bureau Agent who succeeded Purman, took upon himself the task of promulgating Purman's position and sent letters to several Florida newspapers and even to his native Vermont. Dickinson's letters immediately provoked a letter writing campaign accusing him of disparaging Jackson County's white citizenry.

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