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.

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