Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 1870: A Brutal Election Day

On November 8, 1870, Jackson County witnessed perhaps the most violent election day in its history. After ambivalent, almost disbelieving, responses to previous elections won by Republicans candidates, the Conservative-Democrat whites were determined to win back control. James Coker and Dr. Alexander Tennille set the example for several white men brandishing sticks who intermittently harassed black men lined up at the polls to cast ballots and taunted that there would now be a "white man's government." Several black men were beaten and a riot seemed ready to explode at any moment. At one decisive moment, Jim Baker, a white man, grabbed Coker's pistol to prevent the Regulator's leader from shooting a black voter.  Republicans alleged that Judge William Anderson improperly closed the polls before sunset, preventing many men from voting. 

These tactics helped eliminate the large Republican majority. While Charles Hamilton had carried the county by 831 votes two years earlier, now the Republican candidate for congress, Josiah Walls, led by only 4 votes.  Conservative attorney James C. McLean, a rising leader in Jackson County, took an assembly seat, breaking the Republican hold over Jackson County's seats in the state legislature. John Barfield, a "scalawag" farmer, won a place in the assembly as a Republican, but resigned under pressure soon afterwards.  Ben Livingston, an African American grocer, whose son had been murdered at the picnic shootings a year earlier, gained the remaining assembly seat.

These mixed results seemed to infuriate the Regulators even more and frustration at their failure to win back control of the county government through the ballot led to the resumption of more extreme measures.  

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