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.