|August 29, 2009||PIPEVINE SWALLOWTAIL||1 comments|
|August 25, 2009||THE RED SUMMER - CHEATING THE HANGMAN||no comments|
|August 17, 2009||THE RED SUMMER - PART 3 - tHE VILLAIN IS CAPTURED||no comments|
|August 16, 2009||Egrets on a Fence||no comments|
|August 15, 2009||JUST CHILLIN'||no comments|
|August 12, 2009||PINEHILL RAINBOWS||1 comments|
|August 11, 2009||THE RED SUMMER, PART 2, THE DYING CONTINUES||no comments|
|August 04, 2009||THE RED SUMMER||no comments|
|July 28, 2009||MOONSHINE KILLS||3 comments|
|July 24, 2009||A Storm on Hunger and Hardship||3 comments|
I took this photograph of a beautiful blue and black swallowtail flittering about the lantanta growing along the sidewalk of River Walk Park along the banks of the Oconee River in Dublin, Georgia.
THE RED SUMMER - Cheating the Hangman
Part 4 of 4
John Cooper knew that if his client had any chance of being found innocent, he had to put him on the stand to make a statement without any cross examination by the State. Cummings gently walked to the stand to make an unsworn statement to the jury. "Gentlemen of the jury, I am up here before you," Cummings began. "I have always been raised right here in Laurens County and I have never given anybody any trouble in my life," he stated. Cummings told the jurors that the trouble began when Mr. Cannon ran into the rear of Buster Wells' car, though he knew not why. He heard the women in the car screaming and hollering and ran out to see what the commotion was about. "I said what's the matter Buster?" He said, 'This man here run into my car and wants me to pay for it." Cummings further stated that Buster asked him for his opinion on what was the best thing to do about it.
After examining the damages, Cummings remarked that he recommended that Cannon and Wells pay for their own damages. While he was squatting down, Cummings said that Cannon screamed, "You haven't got a God d--ned thing to do with it and if you say another word, I'll kill you!" as he ran his hand into his hip pocket. Cummings said, "I told Buster this is the best idea I can give you about it," to which, he said, Cannon screamed, "Didn't I tell you not to say any more about it you G-d d mned black s.o.b.! I'll blow your brains out!" Cummings contended that Cannon pulled his gun and ran to the house to hide. He said that he sat down and then saw a shot gun mounted on the wall facing the door. He asserted that he walked outside to the garden gate and that was when Cannon fired at him. He shot once as Cannon fired his second volley, striking him with a mortal wound. Cummings concluded his statement by saying, "My mother was living there and myself. The squabbling out there in front of the house about the car is how come I went out there and hearing them women hollering. I am twenty years old."
The State recalled Currington and Sheriff Watson, who offered more testimony about the defendant's statement that Buster Wells had told him to shoot him not in the self defense as Cummings maintained. Not leaving well enough alone, Cooper cross-examined Watson, who expounded even more damaging details of Cummings confession to the popular sheriff.
For its first witness, the defense called Buster Wells, who confirmed Cumming's account that it was Cannon, actually a resident of Wilkinson County, who threatened to kill his friend if he didn't shut up and leave the scene. He testified under direct examination that "Mr. Currington didn't do anything except to say 'Lord have mercy,' just like I did. I was scared. I am scared now. I don't feel good." Recounting his eight-week stay in jail before his trial, Wells commented, "I never had nothing to with the killing, except Mr. Cannon just run his car into mine. I never hurt anybody or shot anybody."
Solicitor Stephens launched an intensive cross examination but failed to get Buster to change his story. To reiterate Cummings defense, Buster was redirected to make out a case for self defense telling Mr. Cannon not to shoot Cummings. In the final moments of the testimony, Wells drastically changed his story by saying, "Mr. Cannon never shot at the defendant until after he got his gun. He throwed up his pistol but never shot him at all." In one final dooming moment, Wells, with no fear of double jeopardy, testified, "Mr. Cannon and myself were adjusting the damages done to our cars. We never invited the defendant or didn't need the defendant to help us to adjust our differences."
Devastated at what had unfolded, defense attorney Cooper rose and stated "The defense rests." Judge Kent called for a recess until 9:00 a.m. when he would entertain requests to charge to jury on the legal elements of the case. Stephens and Cooper, along with their assistants, stayed up most of the night writing out their requests to charge the jury, primarily on the elements of malice murder, manslaughter and self defense.
The court refused to charge the jury on the issue of self-defense, although it was the crux of its case that Cummings killed the defendant in front of his home in defense of his life, the lives of his family and his home, claiming that right under Georgia law. Cooper vehemently objected to the shortness of the charge, one which lasted only three and one half minutes and one which Cooper characterized as the shortest charge on record as it did not cover all phases of the trial, including the defendant's unsworn statement. Judge Kent also refused the defense's request to charge the jury on justifiable homicide. Cooper objected that the court erred when it did not inform the jury that it was the duty of the prosecutor to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, the defense objected that Judge Kent failed to inform the jury if their verdict was guilty, that they could recommend mercy for the defendant Cummings.
Just before the courthouse clock struck noon, the case was sent to the jury. Cummings was taken back to his segregated cell to anxiously await the jury's verdict. Two hours later, the jurors finished their deliberations and filed, one by one, back into the jury box. Judge Kent asked foreman F.D. Stokes had the jury reached a verdict. Stokes responded affirmatively, "Yes, your honor, we have." "What is your verdict?" the judge asked. "We the jury find the defendant Hubert Cummings is guilty of murder," Stokes announced. A roar of excited satisfaction arose from the crammed courtroom. Cummings slumped into his chair, his face covered by his hands. His momma sobbed. Solicitor Stephens softly smiled as his greeted ol' man Jim Cannon and his family.
Sheriff Watson handcuffed Cummings and escorted him to the bench. In accordance with the verdict of the jury, Judge Kent ordered, "On the first day of December 1919, you Hubert Cummings shall be executed by the sheriff of Laurens County in private. It may be witnessed by the executing officer, a sufficient guard, your relatives and such clergymen and friends as you may desire." Fixing the time of the execution between 10 o'clock a.m. and 2 o'clock p.m. where upon, Kent stated, "You will hanged by the neck until you are dead, may God have mercy on your soul."
John Cooper immediately filed a motion for a new trial on many grounds, but primarily on the refusal of the court to charge the jury on the issues which he submitted. Judge Kent granted the request and set a hearing on the matter at the Johnson County Courthouse on the morning of December 20th. After listening to the attorneys for the state and the defendant, Judge Kent ruled that there were insufficient grounds to grant a new trial, a ruling to which the defense objected. By appealing to the Supreme Court of Georgia, the execution order was effectively stayed until the high court reached a decision on the merits of the appeal.
The winter days passed so, so slowly. Cummings didn't want to die, dreading the day that his fate would be sealed by the Supreme Court. Eventually the stress began to take its toll on the prisoner. Just as a final decision was about to be handed down by the appellate court, Hubert Cummings' health began to rapidly fail. Cummings breathed his last breath in the Laurens County jail on the morning of March 28, 1920, possibly as a result of the flu epidemic which began to wane in the days before his death.
What began on a Sunday afternoon as an innocent fender bender escalated into a series of the most regrettable events in the history of Laurens County. A little girl's plea for a parasol initiated a series of unfortunate events which led to the deaths of four human beings, the wounding of two others and enough tears for several lifetimes. Church bells rang out that Palm Sunday morning. Spring had come and finally, the flowing blood of the Red Summer stopped.
THE RED SUMMER
The Villain Is Captured
Part 3 of 4
The Grand Jury of Laurens County met in the courthouse on July 29, 1919 to hear evidence to determine if there was sufficient cause to bind Hubert Cummings over to a trial jury on the charge of murder. Twenty-three men were chosen. They chose W.T. Dupree as their foreman. After listening to the testimony of Buster and Winnie Wells, along with Cleveland Currington and Sheriff Watson, the jury quickly found that on the 15th day of June, Hubert Cummings did unlawfully, feloniously and wilfully and of his malice aforethought, did kill and murder by shooting the thirty-one-year-old Raymond Cannon with a shotgun which he held in his hand and caused a mortal wound of which the said Raymond Cannon died, contrary to the laws of the State, the good order, peace and dignity thereof.
With Cummings still at large, Solicitor-General E.L .Stephens presented his witnesses to the grand jury seeking to charge someone in the murder. Buster Wells was the natural choice. Although never implicated by Currington, Stephens was able to obtain an indictment for murder from the sympathetic jury.
In one of the speediest trials in Laurens County's history, Buster Wells stood before a jury of all white males in racially charged times. All white juries rarely acquitted black defendants when charged with a felony against whites. Realizing that his mortal fate was imminent, Buster began to uncontrollably sob as the jury returned in just a few minutes and the jury foreman stated, "We find the defendant, Buster Wells, not guilty."
Sheriff Watson quietly kept an eye out for Hubert Cummings. He obtained information that Cummings was continuing to correspond with his family while in hiding. He intercepted several of the letters, tracing them to Welsh, West Virginia. He contacted Sheriff S.A. Daniel, who picked up Cummings, a.k.a. Will Roach, and held him until Watson arrived.
Watson found Cummings in the jail when he arrived. When he got to the depot, he observed nearly five hundred black workers standing outside the depot building until the train arrived.
While in West Virginia, it was reported that Cummings confessed to his crime by admitting he shot a man in Georgia with a shotgun, a fact that was never released to the public. Although Cummings told the sheriff little about the details of the alleged murder, he did start trying to exculpate himself to a reporter for the Macon Telegraph by blaming the whole unfortunate event upon the acquitted Buster Wells.
"I wrote home to some friends a couple of weeks ago. That letter caused my arrest," Cummings stated. Steadfastly proclaiming his innocence, he told the newsman that he begged Sheriff Watson to try him immediately. Watson still feared that lynchers were tying their knots, but more importantly to him, he feared that Cummings would attempt and be successful in escaping his grasp one more time.
Charlie Stinson, M.B. Singleton and Lee Fordham traveled on a car of the M.D. & S. Railroad to see for themselves the accused killer of their friend. Singleton stated that Cummings talked freely of the case and was anxious to come back to Dublin for a trial. To make things a lot simpler for everyone involved, Hubert Cummings was kept in the safe company of the Bibb County jail in Macon until his trial, which was set for early November in the Laurens County Courthouse, a venue which the defense attorney strenuously objected to as being prejudicial to the rights of Cummings to a fair trial.
On November 4, 1919 in the second week of the October term of Laurens County Superior Court, the case of the State of Georgia vs. Hubert Cummings (Case # 2265) was called for trial by Judge John Luther Kent, of Wrightsville. Solicitor-general E.L. Stephens announced ready for the state. John R. Cooper, representing Cummings, reluctantly announced ready.
The courtroom was packed for one of the greatest spectacles the twenty-three-year-old building had ever seen. The weather was fair, cool and foggy as spectators arrived early Tuesday morning at the doors waiting for a prime seat, not taken by members of Cannon's family, other members of the bar and privileged guests.
Forty-four jurors appeared before the court for voir dire. Ben F. Currie was the first to be selected. N.G. Bartlett, I.H. Payne, and J.N. Dixon were excused due to their kinship to the parties or witnesses in the case. C.H. Johnson, W.F. Towson, J.T. Blackshear, H.M. Livingston and A.S. Pritchett filled out the first row of the jury box. J.D. Chambers joined B.O. Rogers, W.L. Herndon, J.E. Johnson and W.D. Dixon on the back row. F.D. Stokes, the jury's foreman, took the last seat.
Cummings nudged Cooper's arm as juror W.F. Towson came up for examination. Towson testified that he had met Cummings on a prior occasion some five years earlier. Although he didn't remember the details, he did recall that the meeting had something to do with some chickens he sold to a Negro named Holliman. Towson, who lived not too far from Thomas Crossroads, denied under intense questioning from defense attorney Cooper that he had ever had a conversation with the defendant, recalling that he did know his brother Virgil, but Hubert would have been a little boy at the time. The solicitor's objection to Cooper's line of questioning was designed to show Towson's bias against his client was sustained.
Cooper put Cummings on the stand for the limited purpose of controverting Towson's testimony. As a witness in own defense Cummings testified, "He come over there and questioned me about some chickens Ira Holliman had and if he ever caught me on his premises again he would send me to the chain gang. I knew him personally at the time. He stayed just above Midville Church."
Towson was recalled to the stand. He couldn't remember having such a conversation with Cummings, but even if he did, he stated, "I would not hold it against him at all. My mind is perfectly impartial between the State and the accused." Judge Kent ruled that Towson was competent to hear the case by overruling the defense's objection that by seating Towson, the defendant would have been deprived of his right to life and liberty contrary to the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. (Editor's note: W.F. Towson was the father of William Malcom Towson, a future judge of Laurens County Superior Court.)
The examination of potential jurors went on long after the sun set at 5:40. After a short supper break, the trial began at seven o'clock and continued until late in the foggy night. Cleveland Currington took the stand and told his eyewitness version of the events of June 15th. He stuck to his story that Cummings initiated the conflict after the matter of damages had been settled between Cannon and Buster Wells. Despite Cooper's attempts to controvert his damning testimony, Currington told the jury that he saw Cummings kill his friend Cannon with a single blast of his shot gun.
Sheriff Lester Watson took the stand next, mainly to testify about his attempt to capture the fleeing suspect in Laurens County and throughout the Southeast and some nine hundred to a thousand miles away in West Virginia. The State, presenting only the sole testimony of the friend and employer of the deceased Raymond Cannon, then rested its case.
Photo of Sugar, a former pound puppy, who is not dead, but is taking a nap underneath a cool fan on a hot summer day.
THE RED SUMMER - The Dying Continues
Part 2 of 4
Cleveland Butler was sleeping in his own bed after a long day of toiling in the chalk mines in Twiggs County. Butler, described by some as "a strange Negro," was spotted earlier in the day by a quartet of men who decided he resembled Cummings. They skulked around the mines long enough to discover that Butler went home to sleep. Messers Tharpe, Griffin, Myers and an unknown fourth assailant went to Butler's shack and found him asleep in the bed. After calling out to Butler twice, the men decided that their man must be preparing to shoot them first. They peered through the coverings of the house, found Butler, and launched a massive volley of buckshot into the sleeping quarters. The mortal wound tore away portions of Butler's jaw, chin, teeth and tongue.
The bounty hunters took their prized catch to Sheriff Griffin at the jail in Jeffersonville. The sheriff refused to take the badly bleeding man, insisting that they take him to a hospital immediately. Griffin told them if he was indeed the man they were looking for and that he should be taken to the jail in Macon, which they did. Again, the Bibb County sheriff turned them away and instructed them to take their victim to the hospital in Macon, where he died within a few minutes of his arrival.
Sheriff Griffin immediately notified Laurens County Deputy Sheriff Watson, who gathered a party of men who knew Hubert Cummings. They rode by train to Macon to examine the corpse of the man who was said to have been the killer of Raymond Cannon. For ten minutes, the squad examined the body and found that Butler did indeed bear a strong resemblance to Cummings, but that he was much lighter in color and had a scar on his face, which the suspect did not have. When officials examined Butler's pockets, they found that he was a twenty four years old, who was recently discharged from the Army. Inside his coat pocket was his last pay envelope from his employer, the American Clay Company. His father, J.D. Butler of Eastman, Georgia, was summoned to confirm the identity of the deceased, who was taken by train for interment in Eastman.
Like all of the other events in this remarkable story, law enforcement officials were subjected to an disturbing dilemma. The posse which attempted the citizen's arrest was illegally organized and was totally without authority to apprehend Butler or anyone else for that matter. The Macon News carried a story which stated that Butler was shot while attempting to resist a presumed lawful arrest. Apparently, the white killers were never indicted for their actions in the murder of the innocent man in another in the series of unfortunate events.
That summer was called the " Red Summer." Though times in Laurens County were relatively quiet, race riots across the South and across the nation were escalating. Lynching and antiblack violent attacks were as numerous as they had been since the infancy of the Ku Klux Klan. Though a wave of fear spread throughout the Bailey and Burgamy Districts where the descendants of former slaves lived in abundance, tempers appeared to have cooled, or at least for a little while
After three weeks, tempers were still running high in Burgamy's District. The July sun seared the Sunday (July 6, 1919) afternoon air. After the boiling sun set, temperatures fell just as the tempers of the local began to boil. Six angry white men went to the home of Bob Ashley. George and Clyde Green, sons of Luther Green and Mary Jane Payne Green, joined John Payne, Jr., Landers Cannon, Cleve Bright and Robert Rozier. The Greens were still enraged after the death of their first cousin, Raymond Cannon. In their minds, they knew that Hubert Cummings was hiding inside the home of Bob Ashley, not too far from the home of Raymond Cannon.
George Green went to the front door and called out to Ashley. According to those on the outside, Bob Ashley fired at Green, striking him with a fatal shot. It was only then that the remaining men began firing at the Ashley house. Ashley's wife told a contrasting story. Mrs. Ashley maintained that Green bammed on the door demanding that her husband open his store and serve the men some cold soda water. Ashley told the men it was too late in the evening, but the men insisted, threatening to come in after him. Ashley pleaded with the men not to come in his house, insisting that his wife was sick. According to Mrs. Ashley, the sextette began relentlessly firing, riddling the house with bullets. Ashley attempted to shoot back. He crawled to the table where he kept his pistol, crawled back to the door, fired twice and struck George Green, who died within a half hour. Sometime during the ruckus, Clyde Green was shot, possibly by the unintended fire of his fellow assailants. The Greens were taken to the former home of Raymond Cannon, which seemed to become the headquarters of the movement to capture Hubert Cummings. Ashley, known to be a good man without any fear, was struck in the head and fell into unconsciousness.
The next morning investigators found many bullets inside the house and only two outside the house, a finding which tended to substantiate Ashley's story. They also found Ashley's shotgun, with cobwebs in its muzzle, in its usual place in the corner of his bedroom.
No warrants were issued. The situation was quiet. Sheriff Watson was cautiously optimistic since there was no evidence of any race riots. Nearly every adult black male in the area spent that night in the swamp, fearing that the white men were going to clear out the entire lot of them.
Deputy Sheriff Ashley traveled out to the scene of the shooting with physicians to determine Ashley's condition, one which was thought to have been grave. Before Ashley and the doctors could see Ashley, Ashley's friends took him, with a bullet hole in his head, into the swamp. Just before they reached the cover of the tree line, they panicked and dumped a nude Ashley into a fence corner to face all alone the scavenging and biting varmints of the darkness after the waxing gibbous moon set just after midnight.
Although Ashley had laid out all night, his head bleeding profusely, he was surprisingly able to speak the next morning when found by physicians, who immediately moved him to Dublin for better treatment in the Laurens County jail.
Sheriff Watson praised the people of the county for being a better class of people than others, but prepared for the worse by asking the Dublin Guards, under the command of Captain Lewis Cleveland Pope, to stand guard around the courthouse square to protect Ashley from vengeful lynchers. Rumors were flying that the blacks of the county had met and were about to launch an insurrection. Those rumors proved to be unfounded. After four days, the Guards were withdrawn and no attempt was ever made to lynch Ashley, whom doctors found through x-rays had several broken bones in his skull and was too ill to be moved.
Luther Green went to the office of Solicitor EL Stephens, Sr. and asked him to seek an indictment against Bob Ashley for the murder of his son George. Stephens presented testimony from Sam Rozier, R.H. Rozier, Emmet Rozier, E.E. Clark along with the testimony of Deputy Sheriff L.F. Watson and Dr. H.L. Montford, who examined Green's corpse. Based on the testimony of Sheriff Watson that more bullets were found inside of the Ashley house and only two outside, grand jury foreman W.T. Dupree announced that the no bill of indictment would be issued for the murder of George J. Green by Bob Ashley.
THE RED SUMMER
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Part 1 of 4
Little Miss Mary Stanley forgot her parasol as she was headed to church on a lazy Sunday summer afternoon. Mary never dreamed that her one moment of innocent forgetfulness would indirectly lead to the deaths of four men and the serious maiming of another. It all started at one of the most historic intersections in Laurens County. It ended on a hard bunk in a cold cell of the dank Laurens County jail.
The scene is Thomas Cross Roads, one of Laurens County's most ancient landmarks. This is the place where the red men greeted each other as they trekked along their ancient paths. This is the place where the Blue and the Gray stopped as they were looking for the fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis or where General Joseph Wheeler brought his 10,000 man cavalry force in an attempt to thwart the villainous General William T. Sherman's 60,000 man right wing as it cut a devastating swath through Middle Georgia. This is the place where the venerable Governor and U.S. Senator, George M. Troup, maintained a small plantation, not too distant from where Laurens County's government began in 1808. None of these historical facts seemed to matter to the people who gathered there on that faithful Sabbath afternoon.
Buster Wells and his wife Winnie were heading toward late afternoon church services on the afternoon of June 15, 1919. It was a beautiful fair late spring Sunday afternoon. Their daughter and her friend were driving down the Old Macon Road when Mary noticed that she had left her parasol. The little girl asked Buster to stop his car at the home of Mrs. Alice Carswell, the mother of one Herbert Cummings, and some four and one half miles from the Wells place. Wells stopped his Overland car. After the girls warned him that cars were coming down the road behind him, Buster immediately pulled off to the right shoulder of the road as close as he could to the slope of a four-foot-high embankment. Wells parked just beyond the yard gate, leaving plenty enough room, or so he thought, for cars to pass by.
Tailing just behind the Wells family was one Raymond Cannon, son of James N. "Mr. Jim" Cannon, a prominent area farmer and his wife, the former Miss Mollie Green. Cleveland Currington, a twenty-four-year-old married sharecropping farmer working for Cannon, was driving his Maxwell car on the way to see Charlie Stinson. Though he couldn't recall why he going there, ol' Cleveland did seem to vividly remember in exacting detail all of the events of the afternoon, which contrasted starkly from Buster Well's account. "I saw Mr. Cannon, who I knew, coming down the road when he saw Buster Wells pull out in front of Cannon's stripped down Ford automobile. I don't know exactly where he was going," he remembered as they left the Cannon home. Currington recalled that he was traveling about 15 to 20 miles an hour about a quarter of a mile from the crossroads when he saw that Cannon's car was about sixty feet away from Well's car.
All of sudden Wells began to back up, a move which ended in a rear end collision. He distinctly remembered that Well's car was not on the side of the road as Wells had said but definitely in the dried mud ruts in the center of the narrow road some 50 to 60 yards ahead of Cannon on a slightly uphill grade. Currington was able to pass Wells on the right but Cannon tried to stop and couldn't. After skidding about thirty feet, Cannon's car collided with Well's automobile, which according to the witness had backed up some thirty feet and was still backing up upon impact with Cannon's car. The sole white observer of the collision opined that no one could have avoided the collision when Wells was backing up as he did. He saw no evidence that Cannon was driving recklessly, although he did admit that
both he and Cannon liked to take an occasional drink of moonshine when the notion came over them.
Raymond E. Cannon was a veteran of the late war. The resident of Rt. 2, Montrose was inducted into the U.S. Army on July 17, 1918. He served at Camp Greenleaf at Fort Oglethorpe in northwest Georgia until August 22nd, when he was transferred to the U.S. Army Hospital # 1 in New York, where he was discharged on February 28, 1919.
Cannon, agitated and aggravated, got out of his car and sprinted toward the Well's car. Cannon's car was slightly damaged, suffering a bent radiator. The men quietly and peaceably assessed the slight damages and came to an amicable settlement. That's when all Hell broke lose.
Hubert Cummings was visiting his mother at her Route # 4 home when he heard a loud noise. He sprang to his feet and ran to see what the matter was. Witnesses to the event told the happenings which followed differently. Currington said Cummings came out and told Wells "you don't pay him a damn cent, it wasn't your fault. Cannon told Cummings to hush, telling him that he had no business in the matter. Then Cummings ran back into the house. He appeared a few moments later brandishing a single barrel shot gun. Currington clearly remembered the alleged assailant standing in a garden before Cummings dashed toward the scene of the collision, aimed his gun at Cannon, and screamed "Now, God d..n you, make me hush!" Cannon turned to see the barrel of Cumming's gun pointed straight at him. Buster Wells slowly backed away, not wanting to alarm either one of the
combatants, who were standing just beyond the garden in the middle of the road.
Cummings fired. Cannon, a fine physical specimen, was thirty one years old and
weighed about 145 pounds. He died almost instantly from the wounds to his breast and face, but not before he managed to pull his pistol, its trigger guard broken from the impact of the buck shot, from his pocket and get off a futile shot at his assailant. The girls screamed. Buster tried to comfort them, knowing that Cummings was not going to shoot them and it was all over, or so it seemed. After the commotion subsided, Cleveland Currington picked up the pistol, which wound up at the home of Cannon's father though Currington denied under oath that he took it there.
Realizing that his friend was dead, Currington sped to the Cannon home to tell his family what had happened. Cummings, fearing for his life, set out toward the nearby Chappell's Mill pond. The Cannons took their son's body for burial in lower Wilkinson County in the old family cemetery on the place of his great granddaddy, ol' man Eason Green. Sometime later after his death, the State of Georgia marked his grave with a marker indicating that he was a member of the 157th Depot Brigade.
All night and throughout the next day, some two hundred or so of Cannon's armed neighbors and friends frantically searched Burgamy's District for the suspected murderer. Cummings later stated that he ran back into the house and met Buster Wells in the back yard. From there, Hubert said that he rode with Buster to his house. Cummings left on Monday night, with a small stipend from Buster in his pocket. Somehow, he managed to escape and found his way to Lyons, Georgia.
A reward of $1,000.00 was posted for the capture of Hubert Cummings. Half of the money was put up by the family and friends of Raymond Cannon. The other half came from the State of Georgia. An all points lookout was placed for Cummings, who was described as six feet tall and weighing 175 pounds. He was described as large muscled with a ginger brown complexion with a slight tinge of red. Cummings wore a size 10-11 shoe and could be further identified by a gold crowned tooth on the right side of his mouth and having a small scar under one eye.
The following Friday, Cummings boarded a train for Millen eluding the reward seekers. From there, he made his way to New Orleans, LA, Mascot, TN., Lynch, KY. to West Virginia, where, under the assumed name of Will Roach, he was helping to sink a shaft for a mine. Meanwhile, Buster Wells was taken to jail and charged with conspiracy in the murder of Raymond Cannon.
The Death of Officer George Crawford
"Moonshine kills," or so they used to say. Prohibitionists believed that it was a spirit brewed by the Devil himself. Poisoned swigs often killed their consumers. In the spring of 1921, the Devil's brew led to the deaths of three people, two of the men made it, and one of tried to stop them and wipe away the demon rum from the face of the Earth, or at least from Laurens County.
George Crawford was a law man. He was a son of a lawman. His daddy, a county sheriff, was slain while attempting to apprehend a prisoner. Before this day, May 21, 1921, was over, George too would take his last breath in the performance of his duty.
Folks in Laurens County who obeyed the law and what the Bible told them so had no taste for moonshine or any other spiritous liquors. Whiskey making was illegal in Laurens County and in the entire country under the eighteenth amendment to the United States Constitution.
Laurens County's commissioners hired their own policeman to enforce the state law against moonshining. Sometimes these officers conducted raids in conjunction with state and federal officers. This time, county policeman George Crawford and his deputy, E.M. Osborn, set off to look for a still, which they believed was operated by one Math Holsey or his daddy, ol' man Green Holsey, way down in the lower extremities of Burch's District.
When the officers approached the back door of the Holsey's shanty of a house, they were greeted by the old man's wife and daughter. Crawford told the old woman that they were there to raid the place. Mrs. Holsey reached for a cow hide-bottomed chair, picked it up, and tried to smash it across the soft side of Crawford's skull.
Crawford and Osborn knocked the woman to the ground and ran down the hall, which extended the entire length of the dog trot shack up to the front door.
Ol' man Holsey burst into the breeze way brandishing a shotgun. Crawford instinctively wrestled hm to the ground and took his gun. Osborn, out of the corner of his best eye, noticed the senior Holsey reaching behind a crookedly hung picture frame and pull out an object. At first, he did know exactly what the old man had in his hand. He was about to found out soon, and frighteningly soon.
Crawford and Holsey fiercely fought for control of the weapon. Deputy Osborn ran around to the other side of the scrum and beckoned to George, "What's he got George?" Crawford screamed out, "He's got a gun!"
Osborn then turned and noticed Math Holsey, the old man's son, standing in the middle of the dim hallway. Just as the officer noticed the younger Holsey, the miscreant bootlegger raised his rifle and fired a single and instantly fatal round into the body of policeman Crawford, who loosened his grip on his opponent and fell backward to the floor.
Green Holsey righted himself and took his aim at Osborn, who was standing some two or three feet away. The deputy quickly turned and shot point blank first, just as he was trained to do, instantly killing the old man, who was by then six feet away. Math winced and started toward the front door. As Holsey ran, the deputy fired two more shots, both of which he believed to be fatal. It was determined later that two of the deputy's bullets had lodged in Holsey's hip and calf. Osborn quickly returned to his comrade to render aid. "George was still breathing, but he never spoke and he died in two or three minutes," Osborn recalled.
Deputy Osborn sprinted across the field to find deputies Art Sapp and John Renfroe, who were raiding yet another still. The three law enforcement officers returned to the house and the yard to look for any signs of Math Holsey or drops of his blood trailing toward the woods. Math Holsey had vanished. Only a pool of blood confirmed Osborn's belief that his shots had indeed been mortal.
The officers found a phone at a nearby house and sent out a distress call and a summons for a posse. They placed a similar call to the sheriff in Alamo, some ten air line miles closer than the courthouse in Dublin.
Tracking bloodhounds searched the piney woods and oaky swamps in hopes of finding the fleeing felon. Not a hint of Holsey's location was found until the posse appeared at home of Holsey's brother. There, some two miles away from Math's house, the searchers found still another pool of Matt's rapidly diminishing blood supply. A little girl confirmed that a bleeding man had been in the house and that he had fled into the nearby brush. The dogs were put back on the trail and found Holsey in short order.
While the dogs held the fugitive at bay, Deputy Sheriff Singleton apprehended Holsey, urging him to surrender. And, it appeared that he did give himself up. Singleton promised Math that he would not hurt him. Math sat down in apparent submission. All of a sudden, Math drew his rifle and began firing at Singleton.
Instantly a massive volley of rifle and shotgun fire of the posse struck Math. In the ensuing few minutes, Holsey's already dead body was so badly riddled with bullets that it was difficult to move him in one piece. Math Holsey's shattered and broken corpse was returned to the scene of the crime, where it was unceremoniously dumped beside the decaying cadaver of his death father, just where he had fallen earlier in the day.
Crawford, described as a fearless officer, had been a Laurens County policeman for two years. This acclamation was attested to by the fact that during the entire clash with Green Holsey that he did not draw his gun, not once. When the morticians were preparing his body for the funeral, they found Crawford's leather billy still secured in his pocket.
George Crawford was known to have been a policeman who fervently sought out makers of illegal moonshine. It cost him his life and the eternal misery of his widow, his eight children and a host of friends. But, no murder of a law enforcement officer would stop the fight to end crimes, whenever and wherever they occur. The county commissioners recognized the magnitude of the moonshine problem. So, they appointed not one, but two, officers to carry on the battle. Within two weeks of George Crawford's tragic death in the performance of his duty, Judson L. Jackson and J.K. Rowland stepped in and picked up the torch of justice to carry on the fight the rid the county of the evil demon rum.
A Storm on Hunger and Hardship
A Storm on Hunger and Hardship
The cicada symphony crescendoes. Thunder rolls from east to west. Fireflies flitter about the dusk signaling the menacing tempest. Across the swamp, lighting breaks the fading rays of the setting sun. Ole Mr. Raccoon, who earlier was skulking around the cherry laurels, has found sanctuary in the hollow of a decaying water oak. As the darkness envelopes the entire sky, even the fireflies are seeking shelter from the trickle. The cool zephyrs sway the canopy of ancient pines and fragrant magnolias. The lightning frolics with the Devil. The booming thunder bellows in tune. Behind the clouds hides the trembling crescent moon. Raindrops drip down from the leaves. Slowly at first, then in steady streams. Saturating the summer scorched sands. The tumult retreats to the south. The echoes of thunder wane. And, the bullfrogs croak once again. The freshet quenches the Earth’s thirst. The creatures of Hunger and Hardship settle down for the night. and sleep in solace ‘til the rosy dawn’s first light. Scott B. Thompson, Sr. July 24, 2009
The cicada symphony crescendoes.
Thunder rolls from east to west.
Fireflies flitter about the dusk signaling the menacing tempest.
Across the swamp, lighting breaks the fading rays of the setting sun.
Ole Mr. Raccoon, who earlier was skulking around the cherry laurels,
has found sanctuary in the hollow of a decaying water oak.
As the darkness envelopes the entire sky,
even the fireflies are seeking shelter from the trickle.
The cool zephyrs sway the canopy of ancient pines and fragrant magnolias.
The lightning frolics with the Devil.
The booming thunder bellows in tune.
Behind the clouds hides the trembling crescent moon.
Raindrops drip down from the leaves.
Slowly at first, then in steady streams.
Saturating the summer scorched sands.
The tumult retreats to the south.
The echoes of thunder wane.
And, the bullfrogs croak once again.
The freshet quenches the Earth’s thirst.
The creatures of Hunger and Hardship settle down for the night.
and sleep in solace ‘til the rosy dawn’s first light.
Scott B. Thompson, Sr.
July 24, 2009