If ever there were a man with anger management issues, it was Edwin W. Mooring. Strictly speaking, Mooring was not a Jackson County Regulator: there is no record of his engaging in night riding or acting in consort with the Coker organization during the escalation of violence beginning in 1869. Nevertheless, he was an early and eager proponent of violent opposition to the Bureau and had little regard for racial reconciliation.
Mooring was born around 1828 in North Carolina, but came to Marianna as a young man, probably first to visit his mother's sister and her family. He was an educated and interesting individual. J. Randall Stanley described his multiple careers: he was a “lawyer, southern representative of a New York wine and liquor house, and … special agent for the New York Life Insurance Co. in Tennessee.” [Stanley, History of Jackson County, 152]. One observer wrote that Mooring was "gentleman of high social position, of more than ordinary ability, intelligence and varied culture." The Marianna newspaper described him as "a gentleman of fine manners and cultivated mind." [Atlanta Sunday Herald, Aug. 9, 1874]. He dabbled in poetry and impressed the editor of the Columbus (GA) Enquirer who considered him "a gentleman of culture" and "man of excellent address and a fluent talker." According to one account, Mooring had profited greatly during the war and around 1871, he moved his wife and children (at least 5) to Germany "for education advantages of his children." Mooring established his own residence in New York City, although his business continued to bring him regularly to Georgia and Florida.
His military record, if any, is unclear. Although Mooring was certainly within the extended age range of the Confederate army draft, Shofner reports Mooring contracting with a commissary agent to deliver 1,000 gallons of alcohol at $6/gallon to Columbus, GA in the spring of 1864 [Shofner, Jackson County – A History, p. 234]. The war eventually found Mooring. Dale Cox lists him on the roster of the “Cradle to Grave” home guard that assembled to defend Marianna against the invading Union column in late September 1864. Mooring, along with 40 or so other Marianna men, was seized by the withdrawing Union troops and sent North to endure the 1864-65 winter under the miserable conditions at Elmira prison. [Cox, Battle of Marianna, 126]. Eight months later, after his release, Mooring returned to Marianna.
Perhaps ironic, considering his occupation as a liquor tradesman, Mooring could display deep religious faith. Dr. Charles Hentz reported an encounter with Mooring in 1856 outside the town hotel. At the time, Hentz wrote, the preacher Simon Peter Richardson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was visiting Marianna and inspiring its people. Mooring stood outside the town hotel owned by Mooring's father-in-law, William Nickels, talking with other men. Mooring saw Hentz pass by and Mooring called out "Hentz, are you a Christian?" Hentz responded as "almost every one does when asked the same question – ‘I hope I am’" Mooring retorted that "hoping does no good" and proceeded to ask "what do you know upon the subject – are you a Christian?” This encounter moved Hentz deeply, inspiring him to examine his own casual approach to faith and to rededicate his life toward religion. [Charles A. Hentz, A Southern Practice, 570].
Despite his sophistication and faith, Mooring could be a menacing presence, notorious for his rages. Bureau agent Charles Hamilton considered him a “violent and dangerous character.” Purman described him as “hot and rebellious.” Even an acquaintance sympathetic to Mooring admitted that he was "an excitable man, impulsive, vehement in speech, and of an almost ungovernable temper when aroused.” Mooring was determined to antagonize the Bureau agents whom he habitually and publicly denounced. Certainly Charles M. Hamilton, no shrinking violet himself, felt threatened when Mooring openly carried a weapon to a Bureau organized voter registration rally in Campbellton in the summer of 1867. Mooring was convicted and fined $5 for this offense. On another occasion, Hamilton was so upset by Mooring's "severe abusive language" on the streets of Marianna that he sought to have Mooring charged with "incendryism."
In May 1868, Purman reported a violent assault by Mooring, whom he sarcastically called “a limb of the ‘chivalry’”, on an African American woman whose hoop skirt accidentally brushed Mooring’s knee on a public sidewalk. Mooring struck two severe blows on the woman’s face, and “raved about like a madman.” Mooring’s attack produced “high excitement” in the Marianna black community and a Justice of the Peace had Mooring arrested for assault and battery. These incidents were a prelude to Mooring’s involvement in one of the most bizarre and infamous murders in Jackson County history, which will be described in subsequent postings.