Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Regulator's Miserable End

According to John Q. Dickinson, James A. Chastain of Marianna led the group of night riders who approached the house of Henry Reed in the middle of one night during the chaos of October 1869.  Reed, a free born African American carpenter, barely escaped with his life, evading his persecutors in the darkness and hiding under the Ely house. His son was wounded while attempting similarly to escape. The Reed family went into hiding and were spirited out of Jackson County by unidentified sympathizers, possibly the Chapmans. Samuel Fleishman also reported that Chastain joined the town "committee" at the meeting where James P. Coker instructed Fleishman to leave Jackson Co. immediately or risk losing his life.
Chastain's life did not turn out, or end, happily.  A Georgia newspaper reported in 1881 that Chastain “a noted burglar and penitentiary convict, who bore the alias of Sutton, and while under arrest and being conducted to the barracks by Capt. Martin and officer Jones, attempting to break from custody, was shot twice, from the effect of which he died....  Chastaine, the dead burglar, was well connected, well educated and a man of the world. He married a Miss Myrick, of Mariana, Florida, some ten or twelve years since, a daughter of John T. Myrick, a prominent merchant of that place, and one of the best families in Florida. He is said to have been born and raised in Lee county, Georgia, but it not known certainly where the place of his nativity is.”

[Georgia Weekly Telegraph, April 4, 1881] 

UPDATE: May 24, 2011
Chastaine and Huldah Myrick married on May 1, 1867.   [ ]
Lots more about James Chastain from Elsa Vorwerk's family genealogical website.  Chastain's career in thieving made the news several years earlier than his death:

"The fact transpired more than three weeks since that James A. Chastaine, for several years past cashier for Ely, Harvey & Richardson, had been systematically robbing his employers, but for satisfactory reasons the newspapers consented to temporarily withhold the details from the public. The sums stolen, directly or indirectly, aggregated about $10,000, the greater portion of which it is understood has been secured to the firm through assignment of property owned by Chastaine here and elsewhere. On the 6th instant Chastaine left, ostensibly for Georgia, where he has relatives, but he took the early morning train on the Little Rock Railroad, and was soon heard of in Little Rock and Hot Springs. Meanwhile, it came to light that he had forged the signatureof Mr. Thad. S. Ely, of the firm, to a note or acceptance for $500, and endeavored to sell it to one of his (Chastaine's) most intimate friends; who, however, suspecting that all was not right, declined to purchase. This fact determined the firm to arrest Chastaine. He was overhawled in Hot Springs, a few days since, but before a requisition could reach Governor Garland he was released on a writ of habeas corpus. His first act thereafter was to ship his trunk to St. Louis; his next to "break" for the woods, the better to avoid another arrest. At last accounts he had not been rearrested. Chastaine is a Georgian by birth, and what is known as a "fast man," spending money on himself and friends lavishly, and has been generally esteemed by his friends a "good fellow." It is said that this is not his first crime, but that he stole several thousand dollars from a former employer in Georgia some years ago, but his relatives made up the deficit and stopped the prosecution."
Augusta Daily Chronicle & Sentinel June 19, 1875: [Memphis Avalanche, June 15, 1875] 

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