Monday, July 19, 2010

"Bloody Settlement of an Old Feud in Jackson County"

Recent studies have shown that Florida was among the most violent states during the nineteenth century. Prior to the War, however, Jackson County held the reputation of one of the most peaceful regions in that state. The post-war period quickly ended that. Although occuring at the beginning of the Reconstruction era, the remarkable confrontation recounted in the following newspaper extract seems to have arisen from a personal dispute, not some political cause. This story is not directly pertinent to The Jackson County War, but gives a fascinating depiction of extra-legal dispute resolution:

"A serious shooting affair occurred at Neely's Store, in Jackson county, on Wednesday, 29th ult. [ed. Nov. 29, 1865]. The parties concerned were two men by the name of Williams, and one named Clare, on one side, and two Hams, father and son, on the other. The cause was an old feud existing for sometime. For the purpose of settlement they met at the precinct on election day, armed with rifles and double-barreled guns. At the first fire, one of the Williams was killed, and Ham, Sr., firing at the other brother, Newton Williams, missed his aim, the ball unfortunately taking effect on the body of a Baptist preacher, named Grantham, and inflicting what is believed to be a mortal wound. Meanwhile, the younger Ham was shot down, and his father, standing over him, defended his body with clubbed, but empty gun. While thus engaged, Newton Williams approached, and firing one barrel with fatal effect, into the breast of the father, turned and discharged the other through the head of the prostrate and disabled son. This ended the difficulty. Newton Williams remained on the ground nearly all day, assisted in the burial of his brother, and defied arrest. Next day, Captain [ed. Charles C.] Rawn of the Seventh Infantry, in command at Marianna, with a rifle of men, proceeded to the spot, and arrested Williams at his own house. Clare, at last accounts, was still at large.  - Quincy Commonwealth,"
quoted in the Richmond Daily Dispatch, Dec. 28, 1865. [recovered from http://dlxs.richmond.edu/d/ddr ]

3 men face off against 2 to settle "an old feud," and 3 of them, and possibly a 4th man, a bystander, are killed!  Some searching around on the census records gives information about the individuals involved. Newton Williams, also referred to as Jasper Newton Williams (not to be confused with a man born in 1847 in Jackson County with the same name) was about 31 at the time of this incident.  Williams was allegedly to have killed Green White and Sancho Turner during their botched attempt to seize Sgt. Bond described in the Aug. 1869 post.  In addition, Williams is said to have shot his friend Sgt. Bond in the leg during a drunken card game, giving him a total of 5 men shot and 4 murdered.  Williams had two brothers, James Williams, about one year older, and William Williams Jr., 5 years younger.  I'm not sure which brother was killed by the Hams, but I'm guessing it is James since the Williams brothers' father, William Williams Sr., was living with James in the 1860 census, but lives with Newton's family in the 1870 records.
The Hams are most likely William Ham, about 53 at the time of his death, based on the 1860 census, and his son is possibly Patrick, who, again according to the 1860 census, would have been about 19 when Newton Williams shot him in cold blood.  William Ham was fairly prosperous, listed as owning 120 acres of land in the 1860 records. The only Grantham who is plausible as a victim is Daniel, about 40 in 1865, but listed as a farm laborer, not a minister.
I cannot find any information about Williams brothers ally, Clare.

1 comment:

Dale said...

Dan, I believe the "Clare" mentioned in the article may have really been named Clary or Cleary. Both names can still be found in and around Jackson County.

Dale