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.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Who are these people?

The names of these people get me. They attack me sometimes. I look at W.F. Eve, for example and have driven down the street that our fair town named in his honor many times. Who is this guy?

I start digging into W.F. Eve and find his name on a roster with the Clinch Rifles. Jump over to Solicitor Joseph S. Reynolds who was part of the 2nd GA Volunteers, Company D, CSA- which would also be known as the "Clinch Rifles."

Clinch Rifles... Clinch Rifles.... where have I seen that before? Righhhht... Charles F. McKenzie, member of the grand jury and- Knights of Pythias and Clinch Rifles.

Georgia Railroad Bank and Trust stockholders, members of societies, and cotton mill owners or officers-- the small circles these men ran kept getting smaller and smaller.

But, names keep swirling and as I read them, I can't help but think not of the men they were, rather their descendants- the ones that I know today. Who were these dead guys? Have I jumped down a rabbit hole to disgrace the good names of people I call friends? Lord, I hope not. Because that would be aw-querd.

But, surely not impossible. These men were just that-- men. And we foolish humans are capable of many dastardly things. While I still hold that Mathis didn't do it, I have to find tangible proof to give an idea of doubt.

So I dig.

I dig into the names and get quick glimpses of their lives and I have to make notes upon notes of who is whom because I can't keep it straight anymore. Common themes start making their way to the surface and I have to stop digging in one direction to move in another--

And here I sit:

At the 1904 Locality Index of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity.

What did it mean to be in a fraternity at the turn of the last century? How did they value their brotherhood? These are questions I have not an answer. What I can say is that there area an awful lot of coincidences that are piling up....

Mental note-- query Husband, SAE alum, and see if he has any input.

In 1904 there are a little over 60 men that know the secret handshake of SAE in Augusta Proper, as my friend Caleb put it. Of these 60+ men, at first glance, 11 are somehow associated with the murder of Charles Hickman.


Let's look at it another way: on the scene 10 men were reported being there in addition to the police, the coroner's jury held another 6 and the grand jury was an additional 30-- total ~46 men. Almost 25% of these men were of the same fraternity. And I haven't even started looking at this connection until about two hours ago.

While there were siblings or fathers also of the fraternity- I did not count these in this number. (For instance, there is John W. Reynolds in the 1904 Locality Index- member of the Clinch Rifles and, I think, a lawyer. His home is located at 413 Greene Street and is the brother of Solicitor Joseph S. Reynolds, home located at either 411 Greene Street or 414 Greene Street-- either way... neighbors.)

Just how valuable are these SAE men to the case? If they were cursory witnesses or finger pointers to nefarious hooligans on street cars-- surely those men are not valuable.

But what if one of them found the body? One was the city attorney? Or the attorney for Mathis? What if they were:

James H Phinizy-- also known more commonly in his older years as Hamilton Phinizy; the same Hamilton that identified the body and stayed with Hickman while Doremus and Fraser went for help.

Carleton Hillyer-- Member of the Grand Jury who indicted Mathis

Tracy I Hickman-- Brother to the victim

Charles W Hickman-- Our victim

William H. Fleming-- "Able young attorney" who was one of the two that represented Mathis, the other being a former congressman

Leon H. Charbonnier-- Member of the Grand Jury who indicted Mathis

Henry C. Chafee-- The murderer rested at the edge of the Chafee property/house line, lying in wait for his victim.

Julien P.A. Berckmans and Robert C. Berckmans-- both friend, county commissioner who summoned the dogs in from McBean, usher at wedding, and honorary pallbearer

William H. Barrett-- City Attorney at the time of the Hickman death

It's certainly worth a moment to consider that there is something bigger at play than a robbery gone awry.

Monday, July 31, 2017

We have our man!

If you are long-time reader of my blog, you know that our nephew died a little over a year ago. What we were initially told was a house fire turned into a grisly murder of five friends where the murderer set the house on fire before going to buy breakfast for everyone as an alibi. It's been a difficult process trying to both digest and, in the same breath, reinvest in our family. I watch my sister-in-law go through the waves of grief with unknown triggers pricking at her, reminding her of what she lost.

As I research this murder of Dr. Hickman, Jonathon's murder is always at the back of my head as a cruel comparison with 106 years between the two. When it took 11 months for a grand jury to convene in Colquitt County - I learned that the DA must be very sure of his case for a grand jury to convene that quickly. The grand jury- strangers to anyone not in the room, and surely not a published list in then newspaper. The man being held for the murder in present day was arrested about a week after the murder and is represented by a public defender, funded by a non-profit agency as he has no means to afford an attorney on his own dime.

Either times are different or things just moved faster in the judicial system 107 years ago, because the sad case of John Mathis will conclude in less than a months' time. The grand jury convened April 18, 1910 and the jury will make their decision by May 5, 1910- with a trial taking place in that time between the two. For those of you that don't have a calendar in front of you-- that's two weeks and three days.

That's it.

An article published on Sunday, April 17th, 1910 states that the grand jury will convene on Monday (April 18) and that the regular session of the superior court for the trial of criminal cases will begin next Monday (April 25). Judge Hammond was in charge of the grand jury convened that day.

The following is a list of those who comprise the grand jury:

Charles F. McKenzie        
H.R. Perkins
Marlee Walton                  
C.G. Keely/Reely
E.W. Berman                    
J.J. O'Connor
C.M. Harrington              
T.S. Gray
J.J. Farrell
W.M. Dunbar
D. Sancken
D.S. Holmes
J.H. Bredenberg
E.C. McCarthy
G.H. Gercke
P.A. Brenner
G.P. Welch
J M C Murphy
Carlton Hillyer (?)
R G Tarver
W K Kitchens
Abram Levy
J M Smith
E B Hook
E J Doris
A G Jackson
L H Charbonnier
J A Anderson
Frank Spears
John P Mulherin

Grand Jury aside-- we have a lot of people out there and I had to make a list of all the people that were on the scene, who were the pallbearers/processioners at the funeral, the ushers at the wedding, the people who were on the coroner's jury, which convened at 3:30am the night of the murder. There are some people that overlap.

Back to the grand jury.

Some of these names are classic hometown names--

Doris? It was the oldest jeweler in town until Windsor took over in that market.
Spears? Went to school with his great-great-grandkid. Dad owns an insurance agency now.
Hook? Went to school with his great-great-great-grandkid, too. He grew up in a massive house near where the murder took place. No idea where "this" Hook from 1910 lived.
Sancken? Yes, you guessed it-- went to school with one of his kinfolk, too. The Snackens made their name, and their dollars, in the dairy world.
Dunbar? His sons' granddaughter married a Marks and, yes, went to school with her.
Mulherin? Welch? McCarthy? Old Catholic families... though that seems a little obvious.

Charles F. McKenzie ran the company started by his father, J.H. McKenzie & Sons at 463 Broad Street, just five blocks down from Tunkle Pawn. McKenzie was a member of the mystic Shrine, the Knights of Pythias, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. He was a member of the clark Light Infantry and the Clinch Rifles.

The Coroner's Jury had the following present to view the body and initial review of evidence found on Dr. Hickman:

E J Costello
John C Harper
E W Overton
W F Eve, Jr.
Dr. W W Battey, Jr
F.W. Capers

Less than 24 hours after the death of Dr. Hickman, a private conference was held in the office of Solicitor Reynolds that included Judge Eve and Judge Hammond. Judge Eve would serve as an honor pallbearer in coming days for his friend.

Back to April 18-- John Mathis is indicted on the murder of Dr. Hickman. The village and the city will have the trial for their golden boy as they have hoped for. Justice will finally be served. One week later, a "STRONG COUNSEL" is set to defend Mathis.

How Strong?

Pretty strong.

William H. Fleming and A. L. Franklin are appointed by Judge Hammond. Fleming, a former congressman, and Franklin, an able young attorney will serve as Mathis' attorneys. The article concludes with the following, "Few men who have been arraigned in the superior court here have been so well represented or have had their cases in more competent hands than has this alleged murderer of one of the most prominent and popular citizens of Augusta."

It has to be asked-- this is before the Miranda Rights became the norm. (Thank you Miranda v. Arizona) How easy it could have been to let this negro [sic] think he had to represent himself and just throw him under the law-bus. But, they didn't. Someone out there gave this guy every fighting chance he had to save his skin.

Or did they?

I have to go back to when Jonathon's murderer was indicted and formally charged a few months ago. The judge had a conversation with Mr. Peacock:

Son, are you pleased with your attorney?

Yes sir.

Son, I'm going to be asking you this a lot. Are you satisfied with the way your case is being handled?

Yes sir.

Mr. Peacock, I need you to understand that you have the right to choose a different attorney. Do you wish to have someone else represent  you? Do you feel that you are getting the best possible defense for your case?

Yes sir.

Good. Because let me be perfectly clear: If you are found guilty, I do not want you coming back to me saying that you were poorly represented. Get used to this question about your attorney, you're going to be hearing it a lot.

Yes sir.

It wasn't until that last sentence I heard that I understood why he was asking that question. In comparing that murder trial to this murder trial, were they giving Mathis the very best because they did not want him popping his head back up, saying that he was unfairly treated? This is 1910, nothing about being a person of color is fair.

So, why the former congressman? Why William Fleming? Mr. Fleming, an enthusiastic Mason and member of Webb Lodge No. 166, Chapter No. 2 R.A.M. and Georgia Commandery No. 1 was also a Knight of Pythias and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Knight of Pythias? I'm going to have to find out more about this and if there are any other members that are involved in this murder. (a quick phone call to someone within the group in California, corrected me-- it is pronounced pithe-e-as, not pah-thigh-as)

The kids are awake and are at my feet, wanting snacks. Children!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Back to April, 1910

It's hard for me to comprehend when 1910 was. So often I try and reference facts about the era- like that it was before WWI or after the invention of the telephone. I have to remind myself that the streets were not paved and African-Americans who were over, say 30- were probably born into slavery. They were property.

My car is my property. Truthfully, it is the bank's property because I am still paying on it- but it is mine, nonetheless. Sometimes it gives me a moment to think about what it meant to live in 1910. Women could not vote until 1919-- that's 9 years after where we are sitting on this "fair day with variable winds."

April. 1910. Allergies are rampant in April and Augusta has a thick yellow coating over everything. Those variable winds cause the wicked yellow dust to fluff out of the pine trees in an acrid cloud. April is a transitional month- going from just kinda hot to holy-hell-hot.

Allergies, pollen, and women's suffrage aside- we are watching the demise of a young man following the death of another.

This part of the story starts on the evening of April 2, 1910.

My plan is as follows:

1- I am going to explain the events from the police/newspaper point of view of what happened following the arrest of James/John Mathis.

2- Next, I will go through the side of the story from Mr. Mathis' point of view.

3- Finally, I will present information about the trial, not necessarily going into great detail about the trial itself, as much of the information has already been presented.

4- I'm not sure.

But, let's go ahead with where we left off last week:

James Mathis, Col., Negro who Offered Watch for Pawn
When first arrested negro said he had bought the watch at the georgia-Carolina Fair months before Dr. Hickman was assassinated-- warrants sworn out for negro woman-- negro man undergo "sweating" process by police chief- All night investigation at the barracks- after examination of hours negro put in county jail.

Pause: "sweating" is a term that the newspaper put in quotes, thus I do the same. I did some research on the term "sweating" and talked to a few police officers. Of course, I knew what the word "sweating" presented: a nasty examination of who says what about whatever. It isn't pretty. The police officers I asked used a term we know today-- coercion. Confessions presented through coercion are not accepted in courts of law, nor are they permissible by the law.

Coercion... sweating... water boarding... whatever. You get the idea: Sweating is nothing that sounds like much fun.


April 3, 1910- the first line of the article is straight to the point: James Mathis, a negro, about 25 years of age is under arrest.

After dark on April 2, Mathis offered the watch for pawn. Harry Shapiro, clerk of Tunkle Pawn, was at the counter when Mathis approached. Shapiro appreciated that it was a valuable time piece. As he continued to examine it, Mathis grew restless. Shapiro cross-checked the numbers on the watch with the numbers provided to all the pawn brokers in the area from the police. The numbers, 831329 on the movement and 70735 on the case were a match, but the initials (CWH) had been scratched off.

965 Broad, built in 1865, the location of Tunkle Pawn in 1910

Mathis, a repeat customer, had never pawned something of such value before now. As the clerk "poured questions upon the negro [sic]" he grew more nervous. Upon the the third "where did you tell me you go it?" he became suspiciously restless.

Finally, Mathis said he would come back later. Shapiro told him to wait in the yard. "Mathis, who is of bright color, turned ashy, almost pale-like,  was int he attitude of attempting to run." At this point, Shapiro forcibly took him into custody and police officer M.O. Matthews responded and the negro [sic] was hurried to the barracks. Matthews was not on duty at the time, but was on hand having been just outside the door.

With minimal information being released from the police, Chief Elliott made an order issued to every man on the force and witness to not discuss the case and the officers "are literally caring out those orders."

"The negro [sic] made a statement before this order was issued saying that the watch was purchased as the Georgia-Carolina Fair in November. It was not known if the negro [sic] persisted in this lie under the "sweating" process by the chief of police, which lasted from 10pm to 3am."

"The first arrest other than that of a Mathis was of a negro woman [sic]. Mathis had been sent to the cage and an officer put over him with instructions to no permit any one to speak to the prisoner."

this is where it gets a little... henky.... 
continuing to quote excerpts from a news article: 

"The 'sweating' of this woman was in progress for hours. Chief Elliott denied himself to every one and instructed the officer on the door at his private office to admit no one but the lieutenant of police or others for whom he sent and to not permit him to be disturbed..."

"At 3am Chief Elliott, taking with him the woman that he then had under cross-examination slipped away from the barracks, going out of the back way and leaving the premises without any one seeing him. He also had Mathis with him."

A different paragraph in the same article would allude to it being inconclusive if Mathis was with Chief Elliott and the negro woman [sic] when they slipped away.

Y'all. Does this scream sexual assault to anyone else? As a woman, that sounds horrid. As a black woman in 1910, that sounds like the most intimate kind of fear possible.

When Chief Elliott returned at 3:30am, the only statement he would make was that of "I Have Dr. C.W. Hickman's watch."

Mathis is described as 25 years of age, 5'11, 145 pounds, and clean shaven. He is "ginger-cake" in color and of slim build. On the night of his arrest, he wore a pair of light trousers, dark shirt, and no coat. "If the police knew anything of his avocation or residence, they declined to tell. He has the appearance of a butler, more so than a laborer."

The final paragraph says, "At 4am, it developed that Chief of Police Elliott has had the negro Mathis under surveillance for a long time-- in fact, ever since the murder or directly after the murder."


Several days later, Chief of Police Elliott held a private conference with Mayor Thomas Barrett and Solicitor General Joseph S Reynolds where he laid out the entire record of the Hickman Murder Case.  Barrett and Reynold suggested that minor information or confirmation of a branch of the case which had yet to be secured ought to be secured prior to any public statements by the police department.

Barrett and Reynolds were quick to agree that a statement of progress made and of what had been accomplished would, at that time, embarrass in the further "investigations, however minor" that they deemed should be pursued. They are content to to await the wrap up of these minute branches.


Remember a few blogs ago I mentioned that the Pinkertons were on the scene privately investigating?   In April, they are still in town and pursuing their own leads in their own way. At the arrest of Mathis, there was no "concert of action" between the Pinkertons and the police department. The newspaper felt compelled to note, twice, "there is no friction" between the two parties. "They are on the best of terms both professionally and personally..."


There is but one hint in the newspaper about these "minute" details that need to be tied down. A small piece in the newspaper asks: "Shortly after the crime was committed some one informed the chief of police that he or she had seen on the night of the assassination a person standing at the Gould corner in attire apparently the working clothing of a machinist. The police chief requests that the person who gave him this information again get in communication with him as as early an hour as possible."


Below is a picture from 1905. On the left is the Gould house. The fence is gone, but the pillar at the corner remains today. This is where the person was seen in machinist clothing.

Machinist wear coveralls-- was this worn to cover clothing of high class lady or gentleman or was it truly a machinist? Gould's Corner is close to both the murder scene, Tracy Hickman's house, the Bon Air hotel, and Dr. Hickman's home.

Dr. Hickman had been at the Bon Air hotel just a few hours before- he left there and went to his brother's house... did I not already mention that?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

April 3, 1910

April in Augusta-- it is hard to think of anything besides The Masters. Yet, in 1910, the first Masters Champion, Horton Smith will be turning 2 years old. 1934 is still 24 years and hundreds of golf games away.

April 3rd is a Sunday and families are waking up to a spring day. The weather forecast is "fair. Winds variable." 

The first page of the newspaper is an advertisement for J.B. White's. Any Augustan reading this is smiling right now at the memory of the old department store. In typical modern fashion, the department store building downtown fell into disrepair, housed whatever was out there before meth dens, and has since been purchased and renovated into condos where you can't buy sofas and furniture anymore, rather- you can place your sofa and furniture in your yuppy downtown loft.

I have to dig past articles titled things like:

Asheville Lady Killed by Lightening

Oratorical Contest in Laurens Co.

Ireland to have Aviation Meet

... the kiddy page...

... the poetry corner...

The Washington DC Society column

Past all these and then some, all the way to page 10 is the first mention of this ground breaking, earth shattering, life chaining information that there has been an actual arrest based on real evidence. Next to the Want Ads and an advertisement looking for a laundress at Steam Co. is the article that proves justice can be served, sorta.

"I have Dr. C.W. Hickman's Watch," the only statement which Chief of Police Elliott would make. 
James Mathis, Col., negro [sic] who offered watch for pawn

And this, fair readers, is where we really to get to the point of all this. We have real live evidence that can actually be used in court in front of a judge. Again...Sorta.

When first arrested negro [sic] said he had bought the watch at the Georgia-Carolina Fair months before Dr. Hickman was assassinated- Warrants sworn out for negro woman-- negro woman underwent "sweating" process by police chief-- all night investigation at the barracks-- after examination of hours, negro [sic] put in county jail


So, my kids didn't want to nap today. They voted it down, so you're just going to have to wait. My sincerest apologies.

While  you are waiting, have you ever thought about clicking on any of those advertisements on the right hand side? I get paid when you do that. Especially when you buy something. It's not much, a few pennies here and there, but it adds up. 

Consider supporting our sponsors. You don't have to, but it'll help pass the time until tomorrow's nap time. If you really want to support the sponsors, go to the "EVER" link and check out the skincare. It's good stuff. I use it and love it. That really helps a gal out. Okay, that's it for my shameless plug.

Until tomorrow, fair readers! Until then... 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

More Evidence

So often throughout this research I have been doing, I can't help but think about Atticus and Boo Radley. More so, the details of To Kill a Mockingbird and the symbology therein. I think about something Mr. Buckley, our esteemed Lit teacher, told us as we were reading the trial scenes:

It didn't matter how poor of a white man you were in the 1930s, it was still better than being a black man.


I digress.

An eye witness has miraculously been found but hardly mentioned. I only read about him once, in one article, found below the fold on the first page. He was less than 150 yards from the murder- that is about the length of a football field and a half. In my mind, that does not seem so big.

At night.

On a 33% moon.

Without any street lights.

My eye witness sounds a bit more like an "ear" witness. Better still, I looked at my map from 1920 and marked where 450 feet would be for the radius of this eye witness... (forgive my circle, I drew the line at nerdiness when it came to the use of a protractor.)

Don't worry about those names just yet-- focus on the blue box in the middle. That's where the murder took place. That diamond looking circle is the 450 foot radius of where the eye witness was. It's safe to say that a 

The eye witness, Dennis Wigfall, was a negro [sic] boy just 15 years old. He actually saw two of the shots being fired-- the muzzle blast for those that don't know much about guns. (FYI: MIT did a study on sight several years ago and it was determined that the human eye can see a candle flickering up to 30 miles away in the right conditions) Dennis also stated that he saw no one crossing the street. 

Rev. Johnson passed the scene preceded by the negro [sic] about 40 seconds before Dr. Hickman was killed. The negro [sic] was returning when he saw two of the flashes from the pistol, fired directly from the grove or thicket across the sidewalk. These details are pulled from an article called "Agreed that Lone Foot Pad Killed Him to Rob Him."

Also, it was determined that at least two people passed the area where Dr. Hickman was murdered before the murder occurred at the edge of the Mr. A. DeWitte Cochrane property. The henchman laid in wait for Dr. Hickman.

After the murder, the perpetrator took off through the vacant lot, hopping the back fence into Tracy Hickman's backyard. On the fence, a tape line was found dangling. It was the sort usually used by carpenters or plumbers. 

What was the tape line doing? Why was it there?

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday in the coroner's report was that Dr. Hickman was not assaulted from behind, rather he saw and faced his attacker head on- falling backward. His clothing was only dirty on the back, not the front.

For Dr. Hickman's funeral, Mrs. Charles Harper of Garden City, Long Island came into town as well as Mrs. T. P. Hager of Savannah- sisters of the late doctor.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Coroner's Report

Dr. James Rufus Littleton, known by most as JR, was the coroner in 1910. When researching his life in 1910- I find that he was coroner on several cases. The last two:

Negro Infant Found in Cotton Field, Dead (September 26, 1910)

Alcohol Poison caused her death (December 16, 1910)
     Mrs. Nancy Anderson did not die from blow to head, Anderson states he did not strike her
             **sidenote: the only witness to this crime was the young daughter of the couple- no more than six years old. Bless that child and the woman she became.**

JR was a very busy man in 1910 as these are only 2 of the dozen plus deaths reported in the Augusta Chronicle for the year. Fast forward six years and JR will be elected mayor of the consolidated Summerville and Augusta. JR ran unopposed and followed the mayorship of Thomas Barrett, sr.-- the mayor during the time of Dr. Hickman's death.

Sometimes, you have to ask... who benefits the most from the death of a man.

Dr. Littleton died in 1925 and was a Master Mason (read: top of the Mason Food Chain). HIs funeral was carried out with Masonic burial rites as well as the rites performed by the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Pause. Did I just say KKK? Yes. Yes, I did. When I saw this, I took a screen shot of the death announcement and sent it to a friend; editor if you will. And said, "WHY DO I FIND THIS SO DISTURBING??" As if, in my mind, people who upheld the law and oversaw things like life and death were above racism. Foolish me. No one is above anything, be it 1910, 1925, or 2017.

Littleton was survived by his parents, wife, two sons, one daughter, and two sisters: Mrs. Mamie L. Harison [sic], and Mrs. H.I. Niven.

But, we aren't here to read about JR, rather we are here to look at the coroner's report.


Let's start with what we know:

Dr. Hickman is still very, very dead on February 4, 1910 when the report is released.


Now, let's look at what the coroner's report says:

When Dr. Littleton was called to receive the remains, he found Dr. Hickman lying with a bullet hole extending from the back part of the head through the front. After checking the box of "Yes, he is dead and there's a bullet hole," He returned home.

Solicitor Reynolds requested that Littleton go with the undertaker and make further examination. Off he goes to Platt's Undertaker Parlors where he decided to actually look into the case slightly further.

He removed the scalp and examined the external parts of the skull.  Above the eye and under the skin was a small, round wound. In the bone was an opening of five-eighths to half an inch. Said another way, those measurements are .625 to .5 of an inch.

Calibers of bullets are measured in decimals of inches. Remember that.

In the back of Dr. Hickman's skull is an elongated wound looking as if it had been torn, known as speculum of the bone. In the front, the bone seemed to stick inward toward the brain. In the back, the inside of the wound was smooth, round hole while on the outside bones stuck out.

The skull was cracked on the left side of the head extending irregularly toward the back. This caused Littleton to conclude that he was struck after he was shot, probably with a sandbag. This is purely  hypothetical and is only the opinion of Dr. Littleton. Following this, he further examined the left hemisphere of the brain. Using a probe, careful not to disturb the course, he found that there was a clear wound entirely through the brain. The line of the bullet was exactly perpendicular.

When asked if it were possible that the bullet going through the skull caused the cracks, he said it was possible and that it has happened before- but it is his opinion that Dr. Hickman's skull was cracked by a blow and not the result of the pistol ball or of the fall following the gunshot.

Littleton was strongly of the opinion that Hickman had been shot by a professional thug operating under the theory of 'dead men tell no tales' and needed to confirm that the job was complete.

On the right side of the frontal bone (read: forehead) a bruise which perhaps had significance in the same direction or may have been caused in falling. In addition, there was a fresh abrasion on the back of the right hand, which led Littleton to believe that the body might have been dragged or moved. This theory is exacerbated by several new scratches on the gold band ring which Dr. Hickman wore on his right hand. {this also could have been caused by trying to remove the ring}

There were no powered burns on the body or around the wound, which indicates that the shots were fired farther than five feet away. After removing the vest from the body, the little clasp used to hold a watch fob in place was found- but the watch was gone.

It was Dr. Littleton's opinion that the bullet which killed Dr. Hickman was fired from a revolver not smaller than a .38 caliber.

Great, we have a bunch of words that amount to, what, exactly?

Dr. Hickman was shot facing his assailant above his left eye. The bullet entered through the front and exited out the back of his skull. There is a wound perpendicular to the path the bullet took. This is on the left side of his skull, which is further cracked. The bruise over his right eye is peri-mortem (happened immediately preceding death) and is of an unknown origin. The bullet made a hole that is equal to a caliber of .625 to .5, double the size of .38. It is believed that a sandbag was used after he was shot to confirm that the good Doctor is, in fact, actually dead. He was shot at a distance greater than five feet as there was no gun powder on his person or surrounding the wound.

Allow me to regale you with my master drawing abilities. 

On the top of his right hand is a small abrasion- no deeper than the skin- and there are new scratches on the gold band he wore on his right hand. Based on these two facts, it is thought that he was moved or the small possibility that these are caused by trying to remove the ring. The only thing taken from Dr. Hickman was his watch.


And that, fair readers, is the coroner's report.

I find it interesting that they said he was hit with a sandbag. When talking to my dad about this, his first question was, "Where's the sandbag? Why would he have grabbed it?"

Of all the things taken from Dr. Hickman, why would the watch be it? Why would the watch, a gold monogrammed object be taken? It is identifiable and unique to Dr. Hickman, with his initials engraved on the side. Me? I'm going for the chain and the cash. Maybe the glasses if they were gold. You can keep the thing that has his name on it.

Was this a hit and proof of death was needed? The watch was on his vest and not something that would have been easily accessible.

Have you ever heard the expression that the building can be no taller than the crane? The same is true for bullet holes- if the bullet hole is 1/2 an inch, a 3/4 inch bullet cannot make that hole. On the other hand, depending on speed and distance- a smaller bullet, say a .38 cal can make a hole twice the size. But, it has to be traveling awfully fast and from an awfully far distance.

Two more things to note:
.38 cal handguns are accurate at about 5 yards, max. This was a kill shot, expertly made.
.38 cal guns were also the gun of choice for police officers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Who's Lt. Stone?

Hindsight is 20/20, right? As I read through the articles, I can only think of those cartoon characters from Bugs Bunny. Bugs would pop up from his rabbit hole (see what I did there?) and all his fans would run to him pulling dust up along the way. He'd drop down and back up again somewhere else and the fans would move thusly. If you're too young for Bugs Bunny, think Whack-A-Mole.

If you're too young to know what Whack-A-Mole is, go away. You're too young to be here. Come back when middle school is complete.


We are at February 12th, 1910 right now. Dr. Hickman is still dead, vagrants have been cleared from the city, and every negro [sic] in town is a hot suspect. Five arrests have been made and then withdrawn. Five African American Men had to find an alibi satisfactory to the witch hunt. Innocent until proven guilty is getting pretty questionable.

But, suddenly- the tides are turning. Things are looking up for the justice that Dr. Hickman is so well-deserved of. After all, he is a ... what was it... right.... ministering angel in physician's guise. The police have a legit suspect.

Like totally legit.

So legit, he is a certified lunatic. Like CER-TEE-FRIED.

Woah. This is Augusta in 1910, not Milledgeville. Ain't no loonies here. The state Asylum is 90 miles up the road.

sidenote: did you know that 2 U.S. Senators tried to abolish the word 'lunatic' from the English language in 2012? No kidding. Lunatic will be replaced by 'mentally insane' in the 1940s as 'lunatic' connotes someone who is spontaneous and dangerous. Also known as any 19 year old in college.

Who is this certified lunatic? What makes him a legit suspect besides the fact he has his papers.

Aiken, 20 miles over the river in South Carolina arrested an insane man suspected for having murdered Dr. Hickman. The warrant was issued by Chief of Police George P. Elliott. FYI: Chief of Police Elliott, seen below is the chief of police of... Augusta... Georgia. Not Aiken... South Carolina.

The warrant was issued as a precaution. [article dated 2/12/1910]

"His actions having been somewhat suspicious and that his retention under the charge of murder upon arrest by warrant is an action to prevent officers from the sanitarium in Maryland from which he escaped taking him out o the reach of the local authorities until he has been actually dismissed as a probably factor in the case. This is not an extraordinary step to have been taken when it is considered that the local authorities, and the special detectives employed in the case, have been working persistently upon ever clue, report and suspect in the neighborhood since the commission of the crime."

Long story short: They heard about a crazy guy who was in town and went ahead and arrested him so that he can't be swooped back to Maryland for a lobotomy.

First Lieutenant William C. Stone was 33 years old at the time of his arrest. Conflicting reports say he was either of the Philippine army while another says he saw service in the Philippines, Cuba, and Alaska. In 1906 he was serving in Alaska and displayed symptoms of paranoia. He was sent to Washington where he was judged to be insane and committed to the Government hospital. He was there until about 1909 and was paroled after showing signs of improvement. Released less than six months, he again showed "symptoms of insanity" and was removed to the Gundry Sanitarium at Catonsville, Maryland [Baltimore county] in August on 1909. Lasting just five months, he escaped on January 23. Dr. Gundry, head physician of the sanitarium, stated that Stone gave him no trouble and does not believe him to be associated with the Hickman murder.

Aiken police arrested poor Lt. Stone but were quoted as saying, "Stone is being held as a dummy." Over the river, ya know, back where the crime was actually committed, the opinion was that he is merely a demented man who happened to be in the neighborhood at the time of the crime.

Pause: Aiken is a forty five minute drive from where I am sitting at this exact moment. That's with the interstate and a nice fancy car with air-conditioned seats. Would you like to guess how many times I have been to Aiken in my life? Three times. Un-Pause.

It would be discovered that Lt. Stone was in Lexington, South Carolina on the night of February 2nd and February 3rd. Chief of Police, Jacob Taylor of Lexington started to place the man under arrest and later regretted not doing so. Stone came into town on foot about 9pm on February 2,1910 . First stop: Kaufmann Drug Co. where he asked where he could buy some rolls. He took this information and did not use it, rather walking in a different direction. His actions were "not right" and Policeman Taylor was thusly notified. Stone was collected by the police and questioned fully. When Stone was asked his name, he said, "That makes no difference, I'm only a friend."

In response to the question of his occupation, Stone stated he was an "organizer from the north and being short of money decided to walk around the country." Taylor asked Stone if there was any kind of money in that line of work. His response?

"Not in this country; the people were too ____ settled."

From an article dated 2/13/1910, it concludes: "He said he walked into town and was invited to walk out as soon as possible. He asked the way to the station and left whistling a soft melody. About an hour later, a freight came along and it is the opinion of the officer that Stone beat it on down the road."

When Chief Elliott was asked about the arrest, he stated that he was holding Stone for reasons best known only to himself.

Working in chorus with the police, but certainly not in conjunction, were the private investigators- the Pinkertons- hired by the family. They did not feel the arrest was of sufficient importance, thus they did not report it to the family.

There went that lead... Onward!

Apologies, I did it again

My bad. Listen, sometimes I am going to make mistakes and I need to know when I make them. Those grammatical things- comma splices being my #1 faux pas and grammar errors (then? than? and that dastardly apostrophe 's' that makes me question myself every single time) being a top 2nd can stay under your hat-- but facts? FACTS are all I have. When something is wrong, tell me!

Back to my factual error. The last blog came off the top of my head and pulled directly from memory. If you haven't pick up yet, there's a lot of detail in this murder and a heck of a lot of people. This paragraph is where the problem lies:

And herein lies my problem, I know why he was on Milledge- I just found out. But, do I tell you, fair readers, why he was there or do I let it unfold chronologically? When I tell you, do I go ahead and drop the fact that this was under suspicious circumstances? The fact that one of the officers of the Kings' Mill had a bullet hole through his door- where do I drop this little tidbit in the conversation? The Kings' Mill where, I'll have to double check my notes, T.I. Hickman- the good doctor's baby brother- is president in 1910.

 I got my mills mixed up. Shockingly, there were quite a few back then and were all within the throw of a stone. T.I. was not president of the KINGS' Mill, rather he was president of the Graniteville Mill. Tracy and Charles' father, H. H. Hickman, was president from 1867-1899 following the death of the founder- William Gregg. Tracy took over in 1899 by a unanimous vote of the board of directors. Tracy added a second mill, Hickman Mill and was forced out in 1915 when the mill went into receivership. At this point, Jacob Phinizy took over and after a few quick years was able to pull it out of receivership.

Hickman Memorial Hall- Hickman Mill is the red brick building in the background

One of the biggest things I have learned while researching this murder, as with most things, there is always more going on than the story being told.

Yesterday, Husband and I went over the coroner's report and he explained to me what some of the terms meant. As I made notes and drawings on a brain, he would look across the table and correct my errors. It was fascinating to watch his brain turn as he knows many, many things that I don't even have a clue about. Take the medical knowledge out of it. As an avid lover of hunting and guns- he was quick to call some things to my attention that brushed right by me.

Phinizy, that's not a very common name, is it?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

So, where are we?

In the past several days, I have given you the very beginnings of the information that they police and the newspaper had to give. Dr. Hickman was buried on February 4th and by that time, thousands of dollars had been generated in reward money. Governor Joseph M. Brown issued the maximum amount the state could offer towards a reward for the arrest and evidence of the culprit: $200 in 1910, which is about $5,000 in today's money.

The police have identified various nefarious characters, interrogated them before finally deeming and granting their innocence of this crime.

So now-- here we are: I have more pieces to provide, but am unsure as to how to provide them. Do I state my questions? Do I rewrite articles in verbatim? Do I list the characters and follow their trail? Do I do this whole thing chronologically? And, I have to be honest-- there is a lot of fluff in these news articles. Dr. Hickman was, apparently, a little like Jesus in the way he is described and it gives me pause- was he really as good as these articles make him out to be?

I have some excerpts from the coroner's report. When do I introduce this information? Dr. J.R. Littleton was very thorough and opened a whole new box of worms when it came to how he died, even using the expression, "Dead men tell no tales."

Only today, I read an "intimate sketch" of the distinguished physician and learned that we share the same alma mater as the majority of fellow Augustans, The Academy of Richmond County. Granted, I was in the class of 1999 and he had to have been somewhere along 1870ish as he was born in 1852. We are only 130 years apart; so close. Didn't people graduate from high school earlier back "in the day?"

The sketch of his life says that the tourists who visited the city for the season would seek him out for his counsel and knowledge... "and to those who had not the money to recompense him for his service he was a ministering angel in physician's guise."

Really? A ministering angel in physician's guise? I mean, don't get me wrong-- I think a lot of my husband and say very, very nice things about him. I put him on a pedestal, even. But, my pediatric intensive care husband, who has saved many... many lives has never been called a "ministering angel in physician's guise," at least to my knowledge. Honey, let me know if that changes, um-kay?

And then the question begs- what was he doing on Milledge Road? How did he get there? WHY did he go there? And where exactly was he murdered?

And herein lies my problem, I know why he was on Milledge- I just found out. But, do I tell you, fair readers, why he was there or do I let it unfold chronologically? When I tell you, do I go ahead and drop the fact that this was under suspicious circumstances? The fact that one of the officers of the Kings' Mill had a bullet hole through his door- where do I drop this little tidbit in the conversation? The Kings' Mill where, I'll have to double check my notes, T.I. Hickman- the good doctor's baby brother- is president in 1910.

Or, since I did not get to the conclusion faster, has everyone lost interest and I need to get back to pretty pictures of my kids?

All these questions...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dr. C.W. Hickman Laid at Rest

In an article dated February 5th, 1910:

Dr. C.W. Hickman Laid at Rest

Funeral Exercises at Church of Good Shepherd-- Touching Tribute to Beloved Dead.

The saddest funeral ever witnessed in Augusta was the yesterday afternoon of Dr. Charles W. Hickman; and never in the history of the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd was so large a crowd gathered to pay tribute to the beloved dead. Every pew in the church was filled to its full capacity; chairs were placed in the aisles and still many people were compelled to remain standing as there was no room to seat them. Even the belfry space was closely packed with sorrowing friends who wished to dignify their grief in the last and only possible manner.

Long before the appointed hour groups of quiet men and women entered the dim church and sadly took their seats; loving hands in silence brought in the beautiful flowers, placing them about the altar space. There were so many that there was scare room to place them without marring their freshness; and their beauty and sweetness intensified by contrast the atmosphere of heavy grief that lay like a palpable influence over the church.

The deep stillness was broken by the slow sound of the minister's voice as he recited the Episcopal service of the dead. The minister, the Rev. William Johnson, preceded the funeral procession up the long aisle of the church; and following him came the honorary pall-bearers, Dr. W.H. Doughty, Judge William F. Eve, Dr. W.H. Harrison, Dr. Thomas R. Wright, Dr. G.A. Wilcox, Dr. J.E. Bransford, General Alfred Cumming, Major Cumming, Major W.E. McCoy, Mr. Paul H. Langdon Sr., Mr. J.W. Dickey, and Mr. Fred Cuthbert.

As the organ sent forth the solemn notes of the funeral dirge the casket borne up the aisle by Mr. L.A. Berckmans, Mr. E.S. Johnson, Mr. George R. Sterns, Dr. L.W. Fargo, Mr. Paul Langdon Jr., and Mr. John M. Adams; and by their tender, reverent hands was placed in the midst of the fragrant flowers.

The casket was literally covered with a pall of blossoms, for white carnations, roses, sweet peas, lilies-of-the-valley, ferns and soft pink carnations drooped like a richly embroidered veil over the coffin's blackness, hiding all but the dull silver handles. To many present the magnificently beautiful covering suggested a thought of the light and flory of the life eternal into whose brightness the immortal Christian spirit had passed from the darkness of his tragic mortal death, and as the sorrowful music filled the church the tears gathered in many eyes and dropped slowly, one by one, while the minister read the prayers for the dead.

At the close of his service the choir sang, "Abide with Me," and their voices were tremendous with deep grieving that was beyond control. As the sad cortege passed from the church all remained standing until the music ceased. Then all went to the cemetery.

The long line of carriages was equalled by the two long processionals of people the passed along the street on either side; and at the cemetery everyone who had been at the church was gathered in a circle about the open grave.

The Rev. William Johnson read the burial service for the dead and at the conclusion the Rev. Ashby Jones in a low voice, that yet was distinctly audible, in the quiet City of the Dead, made a short and beautiful prayer. Then, as the last rays of the descending sun flooded the western skies with glory, a flat covering of flowers was laid over the gentle physician's last resting place, and pale-faced women began to place the innumerable offerings to the dead.

When the sorrowful work was finished the flowers lay on the winter gross for several feet on all sides of the grave. Among the many handsome pieces was a great "Gates Ajar," surrounded by a white dove with outspread wings- the offering of the Graniteville Manufacturing Company; and another was a severe wreath of dark palm leaves raised on a stand. The straight and sombre lines of the wreath were lightened by a great cluster of pink carnations caught with tulle and at the base of the stand were the words, "The Graniteville Band." Another tribute was a large sheaf of waxen calla lilies bound with tulle on which in gold letters were the words, "Our Friend." The other tributes represented every phase of the city's population, and never have such magnificent flowers been seen at any grave.

Gates Ajar floral arrangement
popular at the time, but can we just say-- CREEPY?!?

A noticeable feature at the cemetery was the large group of colored people, who stood in a cluster to one side, their faces saddened and their heads bowed.

Yesterday morning the colored nurses went in a body to the Hickman home to express their respectful grief; and their faces were lengthened by sorrow and the eyes of many were reddened.

Never were a man's characteristics, universal kindness, humane charity,and splendid standing so plainly evidenced as in the grief of the varied crowd that stood about the grave of Dr. Charles W. Hickman yesterday afternoon in Summerville Cemetery.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Nefarious Hooligans

Why did I spend so much time talking about "The Terry?" Because- take a moment and think- when has it ever crossed your mind what it would be like to be an African-American in the South in 1910? As my friend put it, "It was fairly legal to lie when discussing blacks in those days."

And he is right. I imagined if there was something about myself that could not be changed- after about thirty seconds, the fact that I am a Catholic woman made me stop. While this is 2017, I am still not at the top of the food chain. There are plenty of derogatory words out there about women, but say one to my face, I have both the right and the ability to be angry. However, a white Catholic woman in 2017 is still not a negro [sic] in Georgia at the turn of the last century. My parents were not emancipated from slavery, rather- they attended college and provided an amazing life for me. I am not the first suspect in much of anything, unless it was who had the last glass of wine.

As a negro though, you were always the first suspect.

1910- William Howard Taft was president and we are less than 50 years past the Civil War. 50 years before 2017 was the conclusion of the Vietnam War.

Excerpts from an article dated February 3, 1910:


"Mr. Paul Langdon wanted the authorities to know that he had previously noted a negro [sic] acting in a very suspicious manner, as if trying to keep out of sight and carrying a suit case, going down the hill toward the Bon Air Hotel. He said that the negro [sic] walk slow as he passed Mr. Langdon, but no sooner had he reached a dark spot in the street, than he moved very horridly and continued to look back."


A more directly suspicious incident, however is related by Mr. W.G. Young, conductor of trolley No. 43 which goes out on the Monte Sano line and returns on the Summerville line. He says that four negro men-- all of them young and none over about 25 years of age-- got on his car at the Bon Air crossing, just one block below the street on which the crime was committed. Mr. Young noticed that the men were all drinking and appeared to be somewhat nervous. His attention was attracted to them, by their having been engaged in dividing silver money; two of the men sitting in a seat on one side of the aisle and the other two in a seat on the opposite side. The money was passed across the aisle by one of the negroes, whom Mr. Young noticed seemed to have a handful of quarter dollar pieces. These negroes road as far down as Marbury street where they left the car and went toward the river.

Fast forward 24 hours, the newspaper and crackerjack police officers announce:

Four Negroes on the Car

Conductor W.G. Young.....told of four nefarious negroes coming down on his car from the Hickman crossing to Marbury Street and their division of money on the car. Their connection with the case, however was set aside by subsequent testimony of Chief of Police Elliott who had thoroughly investigated the whereabouts of these negroes [sic]. He was absolutely satisfied they had no connection whatsoever with the case... 

The negroes who were seen on the street car had been able to show that they were on The Hill serenading the night the crime was committed and in that way had come into possession of the money they were dividing. As a matter of fact, he said, two of them reported to police headquarters themselves, having seen in the morning paper that they were under suspicion. 


Five men were thrown under the mule drawn trolley by nothing more than the color of their skin. Four guys riding a trolley down the hill, dividing up money? Thugs. They could not have made that money themselves, it had to be stolen from a murdered doctor.

Some guy carrying a briefcase was seen by an upstanding citizen who, clearly, had eyes in the back of his head and knew that the man walked fast in the shadows and slow in the light? Murderer. PS- there were no street lights in 1910 and this was the moon cycle, please note 2/3/1910:

A 35% moon and the reminder that Estes Doremus needed to light a match to see Dr. Hickman's face do not equal a man being able to see another man run in the shadows.

This same day, February 4, 1910, Mayor Thomas Barrett Jr. issued a blanket order that the city be cleared of all vagrants. Based on this order, a man was arrested on the charge of vagrancy and held on suspicion as he could not account his means of livelihood for a period of some 60 days in a satisfactory manner. His punishment? Stockade.

Another nefarious hooligan, accosted a prominent physician of similar build to Dr. Hickman on Broad Street and asked for money, using "impressively suspicious language," the very day Dr. Hickman was murdered. Talk about bad timing...

Two men were pulled from cover during the morning hours in Grovetown... another party apprehended but he has not been seen as of "yet." (article dated 2/4/1910) Chief Elliott must have taught NCIS Agent Gibbs everything he knows, because he is quoted as saying, "When I do see him, I will know if he is the man we want."

Trusting the ole' gut is the best kind of police work out there.

Mr. T. S. Wells in North Augusta noted that a white man appeared at his kitchen door, supposedly a tramp but rather well dressed, demanding food. Mrs. Wells and her daughter were in the kitchen and prepared food for the man but he was gone before the police arrived. It is believed that this man might be connected to the murder of Dr. Hickman.

Finally, the one lead that to this novice detective is the most promising gathered the smallest amount of energy. In an article dated April 11, 2010:

In connection with the Hickman case: Shortly after the crime was committed some one informed the chief of Police that he or she had seen on the night of the assassination a person standing at the Gould corner in attire apparently the working clothing of a machinist. The police chief requests that the person who at the time gave hi this information again get in communication with him at as early an hour as possible."

April 11--  that's two months after the crime.

On and on are reports throughout the newspaper of men suspected of being the iniquitous murderer of the Golden Child of Summerville, the good doctor himself.

The first warrant will be issued for the arrest of a man February 11th, but we aren't there yet.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Primer on The Terry

My grandfather was born in Augusta, the corner room of his mother's tea-room back in 1920. It was a boarding house she owned for medical students. The labor went so long that she invited the medical students in to witness the birth of James. Weighing in at over 13 pounds, he was the last baby my great grandmother would birth. And to think he wasn't the heaviest baby; Aunt Helen weighed 14 pounds.

Sometimes I think that my grandfather grew up very, very poor- he would say how he lived in the orphanage for a few years during the Great Depression as his family could not afford to care for him. Other times, I think he was on the wealthier side as he introduced me to his valet, an African-American gentleman who lived in a small house with no air conditioning and a television with bunny rabbit ears in the late 1980s.

This has nothing to do with my grandfather, rather where that tea room was located. On Railroad Avenue, just a step from the railroad tracks- those tracks being the only thing that separated my family from "The Terry." Short for "The Territory" or "The Verdery's Terry" was where the negroes [sic] of this time lived. It was loosely bound by 15th Street, Gwinnett Street and the train tracks. As late as 1938, the streets were still unpaved and there was no electricity. Imagine stepping back in time... and then stepping further back in time.

At the southeast corner of Gwinnett and 11th Street, the church of the Immaculate Conception provided mass for the Black Catholics of the area. My Southern Uncles, Griggs and Billy, were the only white babies to ever be baptized at the Immaculate Conception as that was the closest church to where their mother lived.

Southern Aunts and Uncles are those people called "Aunt" or "Uncle" who were not the parents' siblings. Griggs was my grandfather's nephew. That being said, Griggs' mother- James' oldest sister- raised my grandfather for several years.

I digress...

The Terry was on the southeast side of town and there were many, many churches there. All members of any church had to pay dues to offset funeral expenses of the departed members. Through The Terry, there were signs, misspelled and grammatically poor:

"Ugly but Honest" Grocery
"Char-coal for sail here" 
"Miners for fish bait here" [minnows]

The rank and file negroes [sic] of unskilled labor called "The Terry" home. The homes rented in 1938 for $5-$8.50/month with no electricity, but they did have running water. In the dollars of today, that would be $85-$150/month for running water and a leaky roof.

The last of my grandfather's generation died a few years ago and I wish I could just ask him a few more questions... Reaching out to Griggs, the next oldest family member, he recommended calling his oldest brother's widow, Mary. Mary lives in Pensacola and is 90 years old, making her 17 years younger than the Hickman murder. She's as close as I can get, so I set to call.

"Mary, I doubt you remember me, but please give me a moment and let me explain who I am..."
[your husband's uncle's granddaughter]

"Dahlin', how could I ever forget you and your precious brother? R-A-C-H-E-L. Do you remember that?"

I laugh, remembering the story from years ago-- all 4 years of me telling Mary that I could spell my name.

Mary's grandfather founded the Augusta Herald in the early 1890s. Today, she has 11 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. After some updates on my family, I tell her why I am calling.

"The Terry," a pause, "Oh yes. I know about it."

It was the way she said it that clearly gave me more information about The Terry than any research I could have done.

We went in and out of conversation about The Terry and little reminders of her family. She would say things like, "It ran along D'Antignac Street-- that was an old Augusta name from Colonial times and the American Revolution," "There was a murder almost every week in The Terry. Or maybe there was almost a murder every week? Regardless, we did not go down there."

Mary grew up over on Ellis Street, closer to Sacred Heart Catholic Church and not at the outskirts of The Terry. "Our black people were members of our family. They lived behind our church. They tore those dog trots down off 13th street years ago. Progress or something..." she trails off.

As we concluded our conversation, she told me that her people didn't say in Augusta and she said the nicest thing, I don't even think she knew what she was saying when she said it: "They could not tough it out like the Brennans did."

Those Brennans-- they're hard as nails and tough as rocks. Just ask any one of them.

Now, you know what I know about "The Terry" and we can get back to 1910 and Dr. Hickman's murder.

Hickman Correction

There will be many corrections, of that I am certain. But, I appreciate all the help and the extra eyes and those that know things I do not- so, please! IF you see an error, let me know!

Speaking of errors, I mentioned the other day that the Summerville Cemetery lost the sexton record and all the perpetual care money. I linked to a website on the Augusta government page as proof and maybe I was hoping somewhere along the way, someone would know something and VOILA! they would have their solution based on the modernness that is the world wide web.

Turns out, that what I said was true: The Summerville Cemetery lost the sexton record and the perpetual care money. But what I did not know is that there are two Summerville cemeteries. Did you know that? A friend in Chicago with rich ties to Augusta contacted me and pointed out my error.

She recommended I drive down Johns Road and it will take a sharp left on Fitten Street. On my right, there will be a graveyard.

And there was.

Twelve African American "Summer Hill" residents bought the 3.15 acres in 1906 for a black cemetery. And there it is, not just in black and white- but granite and marble behind a wrought iron fence. Driving down Fitten Street in my, ahem, really nice car with my two year old son in the backseat, I gawked at the cemetery and noticed the homes on the opposite side, most worth less than the car I was driving.

I hope I am not saying this in a way that makes me sound pretentious, rather I am trying to say it in a way that conveys the pause in me. Looking at the map above, my bearings become clear: the little cemetery is a five iron from the country club. One day, these dilapidated homes will be gone and very expensive homes will replace them, backed up to the golf course. Owners will sip mint juleps and regale guests that this used to be a part of town polite people didn't frequent.

But not today. Today, these homes are barely on the northside of habitable.

So, thanks for the correction! Onward I march!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hickman Murder, still on the scene

It's 1910 and we are on The Hill in the beautiful and tranquil village of Summerville. It is early February and Dr. Hickman has said his last good-bye to his baby brother.  As we sit in 1910, remember this is before electric lights and paved streets found their way to our fair village. 1910, two years after the first Model T Ford came off the assembly line in Michigan and when pneumonia and influenza were the second leading cause of death in the 46 states that comprised the U.S.

As the officials started piling on the scene, George Heckle- marshall for the Village of Summerville- immediately suggested calling in the local blood hounds. The dogs at camp were young and, most likely, not ready. Upon hearing this information, Mr. Berckmans [county commissioner] came in telephone communication with Chairman F B Pope and arranged for an automobile to be dispatched to McBean where the county had well trained dogs.

McBean in about 20 miles away and this is 1910. Google maps tells me that it would take half an hour today if I were to leave Milledge Road right now and head that way. Mr. Pope made the arrangements and the dogs would be in Augusta in three hours' time. Mr. Stringer, Detective Gay and the city detectives let the younger dogs on the scene to try and get the process started.

Was this a horrible mistake? I don't know. What I do know was that at 1:30am, the dogs from McBean arrived but failed to take the scent and the attempt to track the murderer was abandoned around 4am.

Scattered around Dr. Hickman were his silver thermometer and a pill case. Dr. Hickman's vest pockets were turned out as was his right pants pocket. Missing from his person was his gold watch, with the monogram "C.W.H" engraved on the side. The safety pin attaching the chain to his vest was ripped away. His jacket, with the pockets turned out, was picked up by Mr. Denny some fifty yards away in the middle of the vacant lot and handed over to Chief Elliott. Where the jacket was found, so were the footprints of the murderer, providing proof that he was running, of medium height, and average weight.

Those footprints ran to the back of the lot, to the fence at the back of Mr. T.I. Hickman's 'oat-patch.' The murderer jumped the fenced and the tracks showed plainly that he went through the oat patch continuing on to Mr. Burum's place and out to the street where they continue down the hill.

About 12 feet from the fence at the back of the vacant lot were a package of letters which had been taken from Dr. Hickman's pocket. A few feet beyond that another bunch of letters, also of Dr. Hickman's pocket. With this second batch of letters was a manuscript in Dr. Hickman's handwriting of some historical subject.

Hold on.

Did you just say T.I. Hickman? As in.... the brother? The baby brother he said good-bye to just a few minutes before he died?

Yes. Yes, I did.


Nap time is coming to a close in this house, so I have to put a pin in this murder for now. Needless to say, there's much more to discuss and many ancient people will be brought into the spotlight.

I have a few phone calls ahead of me to local historians and 90-something relatives who grew up in Augusta. My little two have school starting next week and am hoping to make my way down to the warehouse of Augusta archives and see what kind of dirt I can find.

Thank you for all the interest!! It's nice to know that I am not a complete nerd on my own, we all carry a little secret nerd in us all.