Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Wanna see something?

There are errors.

It isn't perfect.

I need to change some repeated adjectives. 

I'll be the first to say all of these things.

There are words below that I do not use in conversation. But, this is not conversation- this is a murder in 1910.

But, here's something from what I am writing.... Let me know your thoughts.


May, 1910 ~ Augusta, GA Supreme Court

“I wouldn’t kill no white man. I’d rather kill every nigger in Augusta than to kill one of you white men,” said Mathis. 

“You white folk care when one of your own dies.”

His lawyer, William Fleming, remained silent. Staring back at the ginger colored negro, the educated man patiently waited for him to continue.

Sobbing, Mathis continued, “I s’pose I will be hanged for it. If’in I aint, I’ll be lynched for it anyhow, but God knows I didn’t kill the doctor. If I had wanted to kill and rob someone, why would I go way up on the Sand Hill to do it, and how did I know that Dr. Hickman was going to pass by and how did I know he was out visiting that night? If I went up there to kill and rob someone, I would’a killed the first man I saw. But I didn’t kill no white man.”

In a dramatic outburst, raising his hand high above his head, he loudly cried, “I hope I may be paralyzed if I killed Dr. Hickman. Gentlemen, how could I be such a fool as to kill a man and try to pawn his watch where I am so well known?”

The defendant on the stand, John Mathis, cradled his head in his large hands and quietly wept. 

Mr. Fleming looked at him with the soft eyes of an aging man beyond his quick fifty-four years. As if speaking to a child, he quietly said, “Now Mathis, is that all you wish to say?”


Pressed lips and fashionable round spectacles, Fleming shifted his gaze to Judge Hammond and slowly raised his head slightly. 

Judge Hammond excused the final witness to the seat beside the deputy who stood guard over him. 

This was the conclusion of the trial that had been in the makings since Dr. Charles W. Hickman was found on the side of the road, dead from a gunshot wound less than three months prior. The white men of the jury mutely stared as Mathis returned to his place. The silence was palatable.

A nameless juror stood, “Excuse me. May I ask a question?”

In a low voice, Judge Hammond replied, “No. Sit down. That is not your job.”

Court reporter Frank Capers continued with his short hand, writing it all down without painting anything into the scene. 

The juror sat and the fate of Mr. Mathis was no longer his own.

The polished shoes clicked on the hard oak floor as Fleming walked back to the defendant’s side,  sitting next to his appointed partner. He closed his eyes and nodded to the gods as the trial concluded, less than 48 hours after it had begun. 

“Dear God, how did we get here?” He thought.

Friday, January 5, 2018

December reworking

Writing a book isn't as easy as I thought it would be. I have talent, thus- I can write a story. I can write a story, thus- I can make that story make sense.

I can write something that someone will want to read. I can write something that will be comprehensible, dropping hints where they belong and remembering to pick up the threads later in the story, weaving it into a crescendo culmination.


Funny thing I have learned about writing a book: it's a lot like making a dress.

The sewing machine doesn't start at the top and work its way to the hem. Rather, it starts with a sleeve. Then, a second sleeve; learning from the mistakes made on the first sleeve, before going back to that first sleeve and repairing the errors.

The skirt might get made in sections simultaneously making pieces of the bodice and collar. The belt is stitched quickly and early before being set aside, only to be picked up later and, realizing the effect of it is all wrong, tossed out and started anew. Finally, the dress is put together and you see that your hem is uneven, the fabric has natural flaws and there are strings still hanging.

It is setaside for a minute to think about how best to make this the dress that it needs to be.

The dress that someone will want to wear.

There is more to it than putting words on paper.

Taking the month of December from writing to rereading, and I am making both notes and corrections. That was December and this is January. These past five days, I have paced and listened to a lot of throaty music.

I say words like "throaty" now.

There are more adjectives in my vocabulary. I make notes of phrases I need to repeat and find ways to stay true to the story. Things are now 'ballet slipper' soft and I want both Ann and Howard to have a happy ending. Happy endings, though, aren't always true to the story. Dr. Hickman did not have a happy ending-- but, he had an ending.

I have spent a lot of time on Milledge at the scene of the crime, thinking. That throaty music in my earbuds, I contemplate what a house that was torn down at the corner of Milledge and Walton Way fifty plus years ago would have looked like and how that knowledge would benefit the story.

If I lived here and needed to get there- how would I do it? If I grew up on this street, what kind of secret paths would I know? Kids know all kinds of things.

The pieces of the story are just that: pieces. These pieces will be tied together, but right now, I still need to get the pieces out of my head and onto paper before they can be bound in a knot.

It has been really cold outside these days and if we were living in 1910 instead of 2018, Dr. Hickman would be alive for just another month. Maybe I will find a psychic to meet me on Milledge at the anniversary of his death or hold a seance. I'm Catholic- I can ask forgiveness for that, right?

Just to let you know.... that's where I am.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


How has it been three months since I last posted about the Hickman murder? My apologies.

But, seriously! THREE MONTHS? I've heard you.

At the grocery store, at church, out to dinner, at school, I've heard you loud and clear:

You can't leave us hanging.
Who killed Dr. Hickman? 


I've been leaving you hanging.

Listen, ya gotta understand, I'm busy. I have three kids and a husband who works about 115 hours in a week sometimes. This life is not for the timid and it sure as heck ain't for the faint.

But cool things have been happening over here and it started small.

It started both small and inconsequential. Kinda like when we started decorating for Christmas and were going to keep things simple this year. Well, spoiler alert: it looks like a Candy Cane Factory exploded on my front porch and I made my own garland this year from tree scraps.

I cooked homemade oatmeal cream pies and Husband strung up one thousand three hundred and fifty color lights on our Christmas tree.

We are freaking Merry around here.

Oh, and no big deal- but, I'm writing a book.


That is not totally accurate.

Let's back up.

Back in August, I started putting my notes in chronological order and worked to fill some holes. Each blog was printed and placed in a three ring binder. Then, a second set of the blog was printed and placed in a different order from when I wrote them, rather when they happened. Finally, one afternoon, I reread the notes I had from the end of the trial where John Mathis was convicted of the murder of Dr. Charles Hickman.

Y'all-- I could see it. I could see the 14 foot ceilings and Judge Hammond sitting in the center with his robes and gavel. Poor John Mathis sat next to an angry deputy who probably chewed tobacco. John Mathis tried not to cry. Not far from Mathis was his lawyer. Mathis' lawyer wore fashionable round glasses. He took off them off the bridge of his nose, wiped the glass and contemplated how they got to this point in modern day 1910.

And it made me wonder-- how did we get to this point? And can I get YOU there? Can I make something interesting that would not be just interesting to me, but interesting to YOU, too?

So, I sat down that day. I shut down the internet and opened my word processor. Do they still call it that? Whatever. I opened my writing apparatus and started writing.

Meanwhile, a publishing house out of Charleston and I found each other and they wanted to see a sample.

Low and behold- I had one.

But, they did not like that I was writing it in a style that was not text book and completely black and white fact. Using phrases like, "he thought..." and filling in some questions with my conjecture instead of leaving the question unanswered... those little things they did not like, which I totally understood. And was thankful that we parted ways before I really got started because suddenly:

I was free from form. 

And it is amazing. Humbling.

I kept writing and kept thinking and kept researching. Some days I can drill out 2,000 words in just a few hours time and others day, well-- those days I spend more time making oatmeal cream pies and less time at the computer.

This was all kept under wraps. I wasn't trying to hide it, but rather, I do not want to fail. I do not want to fall on my face. I want to succeed.

Initially, I thought success would be defined as having a book published.
Thank God for Husband. Nope, as he said, "The point is not to get it published. The point is to get it right."

And that is my point in all this: I want to get it right.

Fast forward/Rewind to about two weeks ago and I was on the phone with my cousin. She knows me so well to not know me at all. She has been following my blog and asked where it was going, hoping that I gave her the answer I did. I started rattling off the details, excited with the plan, and towards the end of the conversation, I said, "I want to get it right because these people were living and one adjective can change the entire conversation and the character from good to evil. I hold these people in the palm of my hand and it needs to be as accurate as I can make it without losing the charisma."

The charisma. Oh, how I love that word.

Here I am.
Putting it out there.

That is where I have been- stuck in my word processor and creating a world from 1910 where we live and stand today. Will I succeed? You bet. Because success will not be in getting it published, it will be in getting it right.

Publishing will just be gravy.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Let's Talk about Mr. Thomas

Landon Thomas lived at 933 Milledge Ave, directly across from where the shooting took place. A direct descendent of Mr. Thomas still resides in the home today. A grand home, it was often featured on postcards and advertisements for our fair city.

Mr. Langdon Thomas, president of a rivaling mill, John P. King Manufacturing Co at the time of the death of Dr. Hickman, was born in Frankfurt, Kentucky on June 5,1859. He came to Augusta after completing his studies at Bethany College. A little research shows two Bethany Colleges- one in Kansas, founded in 1881 and the other in W. Virginia, founded in 1804. One assumes he went to W. Virginia for his education.

He will take Miss Mary Cecile Fleming as his wife, known as Minnie by her friends. She is a local girl, born to Mr. Porter Fleming and his third wife in January 1861. The Thomas wedding will be small- at the home of her parents on Oct. 21, 1885. With no attendants and only the brothers of the bride standing with the groom and the sisters of the groom standing with the bride, there was much congratulating before the beautiful couple took the Columbia/Charlotte/something train up to Boston, NY, and DC before returning to the home state of the Groom, Kentucky,

Minnie and Landon spend a year in Kentucky before returning to the hometown of the bride.

On June 1, 1886, having been back in Augusta for just a short time, the doors opened on Fleming, Thomas, and Company- a banking establishment. R. A. Fleming, Frank E. Fleming (brother in law and father in law, respectively) and Landon Thomas opened this bank at 813 Broad Street. Frank, a former teller at Georgia Railroad bank, oversaw and trained his son and son-in-law.

In 1887 he will start construction on the family homestead, still standing in 2017.

{I had to remove the photo}

The Landon family will appear countless times (actually 1,168) in the society section of the newspaper, regaling of golf games, bridge games, travels, entertaining, societal engagements, debutante balls, chaperoning, teas, the stylings of the lace dresses, and all the other things deemed of newsworthy at the time.

Years later, Mr. Thomas will become associated with the King's Mill in 1897 and president in 1898. Upon retirement from the reigns, he would serve as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the rest of his days.

In the summer months, he would pack his family and take the train up to Atlantic Beach where they would vacation at their summer cottage in Jamestown. I am quoting the newspaper in this regard and am a little hazy on my New England geography- but don't quite think that Atlantic Beach and Jamestown go hand in hand, that being said-- I don't think this point is crucial enough to confirm.

He had four children, the younger two being daughters-- Ellen, born March 1895 and Emily, May 1897. This puts them at about 15 and 13 at the time of the murder. I'll bring this to point in just a minute.

In 1901, the newspaper ran an article about "A Good Cause," referencing the Shiloh Orphanage and written by Mr. D. McHornton, Manager, Shiloh Orphanage. Shiloh orphanage was located at 334 Sherman Street. (There's a lot to say about the Shiloh Orphanage, but that's not the point of this)

For the uneducated, like myself, the Shiloh Orphanage was one of a handful of orphanages in Augusta, but this one catered only to the "colored children, abandoned." The children already at a disadvantage because they were colored, are now in the hands of the Shiloh orphanage- supported by the many colored churches and societies, preachers, teachers, and Christians. "Right here in Augusta, there was good white friends to the negro as there are in the United states. Here are some of the names of friends to these poor unfortunate orphans: Mrs. Judge Eve, Mrs. J C C Black, Mr. T I Hickman, and his dear father, Mr and Mrs Landon Thomas, Mr W H and W B Bingham, Mrs P D Horkan, Mr Walter Clark, Mr Wm. Boyle, Mr T F McCarthy, Mr Mike McAuliffe (?), Mr Hahn, Mr Claussen, Mr Ferber, Mr Vicetto, Mr Plumb, Hon Judge Eve (master of good roads and bridges), Mr D Timm, Mr B Lawrence, Mr P G Durum, Mr Hollman, Mr A J Twiggs, Mr T C Bligh, Col. D R Dyer, Mr C H Cohen, Mr T P Murphy, our good policeman, Mr Tim Lyons, Mr Sheehan, Mr Jacobs, and many other of the good class of white citizens whom I will always feel indebted to in caring for the home..."

Throughout the article, a white person cannot be recognized without calling that person a "good white gentleman" or "good white friends," etc. Apparently, all whites in 1901 are good people.

Thomas will live another 34 years after the 1910 murder, dying in the family estate on the hill in 1944- one year before the conclusion of WWII. Off the top of my head, Mr. Thomas will see the Civil War, The First World War, and the Second World War before his death. Surely there are more- but, gracious what kind of changes this man saw in his life.

Quoting from his obituary:

"His understanding of God was the dominating force of his life, for he was a profoundly religious man. His convictions were his own, and they were based on an open-minded investigation, a wide reading, and a prayerful lie. With singular devotion he investigated the life of the Spirit." 

"His religious convictions were strong and clear. There was nothing of the sectarian about him. He claimed for himself the right to worship the Lord God Almighty as he understood Him, and at the same time, he freely granted the same right to all others."


But, why am I spending so much time talking about a guy who was lived across the street from the murder (and didn't hear the gunshot)? On May 3, 1910, "Mr. Thomas testified to finding bullet hole on his front porch directly after the shooting, being in a direct line from where the body was found. Shortly after finding this hole, said that his little daughter picked up a bullet on the font porch and it exactly fit the hole."

His "little" daughter was either 13 or 15 years old, depending on which daughter found it.

As I started writing this blog, the name "Fleming" sounded familiar and I chalked it up to Fleming Street... in Wrens? or Fleming Complex.... or something. Fleming was just sticking with me and finally I went back and reread some of the past few blogs. Does Fleming sound familiar to anyone else?

Poor John Mathis, he was represented by two very capable lawyers- one being William H. Fleming, Thomas Landon's brother in law. William H was Minnie/Mary's older brother born in 1855, six years her senior. The Honorable Fleming made speeches at Confederate Monument dedications about race relations. While many of these speeches were published as he was a fantastic orator, I have yet to research these, so I can only assume that they weren't favorable to our darker skin companions on this marble we call earth.

William H Fleming

Finally, the way his obituary concluded: His convictions were his own. What does that mean? His convictions were his own? Aren't all of our convictions our own? I have asked a couple of friends what this means, seeing if they thought the same thing I did. Is there a hidden meaning in there? He could be ruled by no law but his own? And then... what was that law? {putting a pin in this, I'm going to circle back to it-- don't worry.}

There is so much more to say about Mr. Thomas and the rest of the Fleming brigade, but I don't have enough information yet to more than speculate, thus we will have to leave it right here for right now.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Don't Go Thinking

Don't go thinking that I have lost interest or have moved on to something else. I'm just at a dang standstill. There's more to tell, but I have kids who have avoided nap time and another who started school yesterday. If you're still listening, I'm still here.

Just a moment, please.

PS- Got a book in the mail which cites Hickman. What's it about? Prohibition in SC/GA.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Defense

The defense presents the following:

- There were no witnesses that saw Mathis at the scene of the crime nor can anyone place him in the neighborhood on the evening of the killing.

- The defense also an expert to testimony in regards to the pistol found in the wood stack. He will state that it will "not having been fired but three times." (If anyone cal explain that sentence to me, I'd greatly appreciate it.) In "Modern 1910" no expert can tell that any pistol had been fired only three times.

- Two witnesses Fanny McCoy and J.P. Casey saw a man coming from the scene of the crime. They will testify that he did not resemble Mathis in stature or color.

[pin in this, too-- we need to talk about this further]

- Credibility should not be placed solely on Mathis' shoulders as he is a shift worker switching from days and nights with no concept of a weekend/day of week or month in place.

- Quoting from the article: "Mathis had protected his innocence steadfastly in the face of every effort on the part of the authorities to get him to confess him complicity. In it though every known means had been used to force a confession from him: that even when the chief pointed a loaded pistol in his face and ordered him, under fear of death, to confess he had stated he knew nothing about the murder."

Let's read that one more time: That even when the chief pointed a loaded pistol in his face and orders him under fear of death to confess he had stated he knew nothing about the murder.

In another article, Chief Elliott "admits he put pistol to Mathis' head and threatened to blow brains out if he did not tell truth about watch."

The Chief of Police took a loaded gun, held it to a suspects head, cocked the pistol and said, "Confess or die," ... and Mathis did not confess? That's right. He did not confess.

Actually, let's just leave that there for the moment. I'm leaving today to pick up Birdie from camp and then we are heading to the beach for a few days before school starts.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Back to the Mathis Trial

I talked to Husband yesterday and there was a moment where I realized I had touched a nerve.

"Woah- don't go messing with my boys," was the exact comment. He laughed, but I knew...Whoops. Sorry, honey.

But, he did have a good point-- if theses guys were fraternity brothers, friends, and comrades from youth, they-- like us-- want justice served and served quickly.

Honorable Wiliam H Fleming and A.L. Franklin, Esquire are the defense team for the negro [sic] Mathis and his trial is schedule for five days later.  FIVE DAYS-- talk about speed! It was reported that "Mathis seemed nervous and unstrung and glanced about uneasily."

Mathis is described as a "ginger colored negro [sic] and known by the nickname, 'Cockeyed Johnnie' because of a peculiar cast in one eye." At his arraignment, he pled not guilty and a jury was secured with little trouble. Seven men were excused and the state objected to four while the defense objected to 14. The final jury was as follows:

George W. Wright
John Moore
H.K. Lowery
Evans Redfern
L.A. Dorr (?)
Thomas J. Vaughn
A.B. Saxon (?)
George R. Tommins
W. Doughty Miller
Henry D. Bain
J.S. Nixon
Thomas B. Robinson

(FYI-- none of these men are in the 1904 locality index for SAE. Score one for the good brothers of Old Gold and Lions)

"As the case proceeded, Mathis seemed to grow more and more nervous. His head kept constantly moving and turning from side to side, while his eyes were everywhere and seemed to set upon nothing."

The prosecution's case rests solely on circumstantial evidence:

- Mathis was in possession of Dr. Hickman's watch. When asked how he came into possession of the watch, his story changed from buying it back in November at the Georgia-Carolina fair to he was holding it for a friend, Henry Hampton also a negro [sic].

- When Mathis' house was search, a number of pistols were found together and one hidden  separately under a pile of wood, outside. The pistol found outside had three chambers fired once. Inside Mathis' house was a cartridge containing a bullet of the same calibre as that found on the lawn of Mr. Landon Thomas' house. Mr. Thomas resides directly across the street from were Dr. Hickman met his demise.

[Put a pin in Mr. Thomas, we need to talk about him.]

- At Mathis' arrest, he wore a pair of shoes that were almost identical to the tracks in the soft dirt found at the murder scene. The heel is not identical, but the state charges the tMathis had taken the shoes to the repair shop the Saturday following the murder and had the heels lowered and rubber heels put on.

          - quoting from the article: "That when he was told the shoes were those worn by the man who had done the shooting he said no one could tell that as rubber heels would have left the imprints of the tack holes in the rubber in the earth, this statement being made by him without his being told there were no evidences of tack holes int he imprints."

- Mathis' conduct in jail: Immediately after his arrest, he stated that he fully expected to be convicted of the crime. Mathis sent a message through "a trusty" to his "paramour," Gussie D'Antignac, to the effect of she must keep her mouth shut; they did not have enough to get anything out of him."

          - moment of commentary here: these two statements seem to go in direct contrast of each other,
          unless Mathis knows something we don't.

- It is believed that Mathis left his home about 7pm on the night of the shooting and returned home about 9:30; he denied hearing of the hulling until he was arrested, though his mother stated she read him this account and his wife read it to him the Sunday following.

- Mathis has not maintained work from November until February 7, being supported in the interim by his "hunchback mistress, Gussie D'Antignac."

        - Um.... don't oversell it, Augusta Chronicle- okay? Hunchback Mistress? Paramour? Geeeeeez,      
         this broad sounds like a real special lady.

Kids are awake-- tomorrow we will talk about the defense and their case.