Seaborn Tipton should have known better. After all, he was a duly deputized constable of the Bailey Militia District of Laurens County. But, on a warm winter night a century and a quarter ago, Seaborn Tipton did a bad, bad thing. He conspired with a young friend Joe Weaver to rob old man Joseph Perry.
Joe Weaver, a seemingly chronic scoundrel, had been in trouble before. Earlier that winter, Weaver, Charley Jackson, and Fed Hightower robbed the business house of J.T. Smith. The teenager Weaver made his way over to Meriwether County, where he ironically served as a night guard of a convict gang. When a letter to Fed Hightower revealed Weaver’s location, W.C. Thompson was dispatched to return the fleeing felon back to Laurens County and justice.
Weaver was convicted of the burglary and sentenced to fifteen years in the state penitentiary. But, before serving very little of his sentence, young Joe surreptitiously secured a two-inch auger, bored through an exterior jail wall, and fled into the darkness. The convict didn’t stray too far from his home, hiding in the woods near the home of his good friend, Seaborn Tipton. Tipton’s wife, the former Miss Amanda Wynn of Wilkinson County, would later admit that her husband "was feeding someone in the woods for some time."
Weaver, a tall, handsome, curly haired, blue eyed, light complected teenager with pretty, white teeth was desperate to get enough money to allow him to flee from Laurens County and take up a new life far, far away. Weaver and his father, Seaborn L. Weaver, joined Tipton to discuss a plot to murder Joe Perry, who had married a sister of S.L. Weaver’s wife. The men knew Perry kept money around his house. Perry, a well-respected man in his community, was a seventy-three old veteran of the Civil War. Perry, too old to actually serve in the infantry, joined the local militia at the age of fifty.
On the night of March 11, 1887, Joe Weaver and Seaborn Tipton set out in the dark to rob their neighbor Perry, who lived some four to five miles north of Dublin. Tipton draped a red calico dress over his head. Mrs. Tipton, his willing accomplice, cut out spaces for his eyes, nose and mouth. The daring duo crept up to Weaver’s modest abode, illuminated by a bright waning gibbous, midnight moon.
The perfidious pair picked up a fence rail and used it as a battering ram to break down in the bedroom door of the slumbering victim. As the intruders entered Perry’s bedroom, Perry sprang up from his bed as fast as a septuagenarian possibly could. Weaver and Tipton grabbed and wrestled with Perry, who was finally able to pull of his arms free.
One attacker grabbed Perry’s free arm and yelled, "Shoot him! Shoot him!" A single shot rang out. The attackers fled into the moonlight. Perry reached for his gun and fired in the direction of his assailant’s flight. Two ineffective shots were returned in Perry’s direction. One attacker, shot through the heart by the other attacker, staggered into Perry’s yard and fell dead on the ground. Thinking that his attackers had fled in frustration, Perry, overwhelmed with the excitement, laid back down and went to sleep.
The following morning, a young Negro boy went out to Perry’s well to draw a bucket of fresh well water. The boy found a dead man, which he assumed to another Negro. While the coroner was sent for, the corpse was left lying where it fell until the constable arrived. When the coroner did arrive, he discovered that the dead body was indeed the body of Constable Tipton.
A general alarm of excitement and disbelief spread throughout the Bailey District. Marshal Martin and his blood hounds were summoned. An immediate reward of one hundred dollars was issued for the arrest of Weaver. Governor John B. Gordon, Georgia’s hero of the Confederacy, offered another $150.00 to brought the total bounty for the killer to $250.00. The possibility of lynching Weaver was quite real if he had been captured immediately. Law officials suspected that Weaver had already fled the county with less than $20.00 on his person.
Laurens County Sheriff J.C. Scarborough set out on Weaver’s elusive trail which led him to the home of Andrew Hobbs. At first, Hobbs denied the sheriff permission to search his premises. Scarborough pressed the issue. After Hobbs, a well-respected county official, consented to a search, the Sheriff found Weaver’s hiding place in Hobbs’ gin house, complete with Weaver’s clothes, bedding, and personal papers. After the initial investigation, Justice K.H. Walker issued a warrant for A.J. Hobbs, Seaborn Weaver, and Ben Raffield for harboring the suspected murderer.
The intense manhunt continued. From time to time, rumors of Weaver’s presence in the community spread like wild fires throughout the county. One somewhat credible report led law enforcement officials out to Lick Pond, a thicket so dense that naked eye visibility of any thing but trees was impossible beyond a few feet.
Sheriff Scarborough’s attempts to capture Weaver were exacerbated when in late June published reports in the Dublin Gazette said that Tipton, Weaver’s victim, was seen with his family, who followed him around the countryside, causing much calamity over Tipton’s return from the dead.
On April 1, The Sandersville Progress reported that Weaver was captured in Brewton. This report, like all the others of his sighting or capture, turned out to be false. An exhaustive search of surviving newspapers revealed no reports that Weaver was ever captured. Joseph Perry died on February 23, 1898.
His one deed of depravity done, his one irresistible impulse of avarice satisfied, his dreams of unwarranted wealth having slipped through his greedy hands, Seaborn Tipton, shot dead by a bullet shot from the gun of Joe Weaver, once again proved the ancient idiom, what goes around comes around.