The Murder

For Birdie's birthday, a friend gave her the travel size game of "Clue." She loves to play it at night with Bennie and the 'rents. Of course, a parent has to help Bennie who is pretty much clueless {pun not intended}, but she enjoys participating and Fuzzy loves running in circles around the coffee table and making quite a mess of things. Husband and I lose patience with Fuzzy but try to be active participants in the game without cheating. Ya know, like looking at those cards the kids have flipped up or the ones they show us when they are asking questions about Colonel Mustard and if his favorite condiment is ketchup.

It's not, we have decided. He likes honey mustard.

In addition to playing Clue, I have been listening to Unsolved Murders, a podcast about, well.... unsolved murders. Let's combine this podcast and Clue playing with my research loving historically inclined self.

A few days ago I was digging through the archives of the hometown newspaper. This is one of my favorite pastimes and I enjoy seeing how things evolve. As I gather an understanding of people from long ago, it becomes clearer why I see their names on buildings and land parcels that they donated to the city. It's hard to be in Hometown and not hear the meaningless names of the Waltons, the Hickmans, Berckmans, Stearns, Reynolds, and the Phinizys; to realize that these were people. These were families- boys and girls who became men and women and had children of their own.

Many of these prominent families remain within the city limits five generations later.

I digress.

So, a few days ago- I was digging through the archives looking for.... something... I can't remember now. And, BOY- did I get sidetracked. We were watching TV and I told Husband, "Be right back, I just need to print this off..." an hour and a half later, Husband comes around the corner, "Ya mad at me?"

NO! Why?

You've been in here... for a while.

I look up and realize that, yes.... yes I have.

Y'all. I am down the deep end of Turbo Nerd. There was a murder in 1910 and I am fascinated about it. 

It's getting to be an obsession and kinda embarrassing. My friend, Katie, asks me all the time-- How do you have time to research a, ahem, murder from 1910?"

I give the kids iPads and close the door, duh.

Kidding. It's nap time and I adore nap time.

As I have a lull in my home record research, I continue to fall down the rabbit hole, looking for clues in the newspapers and wondering where I can garner more information about this case? this story? this murder? this.... whatever this is, because- to me... this is fascinating.

Heads up, spoiler alert: early in my research, I don't think he did it.

"Who did WHAT?" you're probably asking.

Before I say that, I need to disclaimer something: Negro is not a word in my repertoire. There are other words out there that I don't say that start with "N" and I put both of these words in the same derogatory category that should go the way of spoken Latin- seen and known, but not said. They are just... mean. I say that to say this: I am going to tell the story of Dr. Hickman as I learn it and am going to share quotes from the archives. There are many words used back in 1910 that people in polite society don't say today, thankyaJesus.

Disclaimer aside:

I don't think the {negro} [sic] killed the prominent and illustrious Dr. Charles W. Hickman as he walked down the sidewalk of Sand Hills/Summerville back in February 1910.

PSHEW. I said it. Who knows, maybe I'll eat my words and learn that my initial reaction was wrong and the man did kill Dr. Hickman. We shall see.

The header that caught my attention:


One of the Most Prominent Physicians and Most Beloved of Augustans Victim of Bullet of Ambushed Assassin.

It kinda grips you, right? Who is this guy? What makes him so prominent? Clearly, this is who Hickman Park is named after.

Truth Moment: The park is older than the man. Mental note: find out more about Hickman Park when I finish this.

see that "est. c. 1859"... that means it was established 51 years before Dr. Hickman died

The names that occur in the story are family members of kids I grew up with. The locations are places I went and played at or in when we were kids. Maybe that is part of why it is a story I found and I find interesting. Hang tight with this history nerd for a few more blogs. If it gets boring [to me], I'll stop.

Give me insight and places to dig!

Put a pin in this. Got some kids starting to wake up.


Dr Charles W Hickman and Miss Blanche G. Walton were married on a Wednesday afternoon at the Church of the Good Shepherd-- allow me to quote:

....The scene of a beautiful ceremony in which the society of that elegant suburb was considerably interested and which furnished a pleasing episode to the midsummer record. At six o'clock that beautiful churched commenced to fill with white dresses and black coats and to brighten with expectation, while the suggestive sweep of vehicles around the carriage walk anticipated the happy tendency of the evening's service. The church lamps burned low in the twilight and sweet music stole softly through the aisles, wound among the flowers and seemed to form wavelets about the marriage bell. At half past six the bridal party entered the church....

The ushers and bridesmaids have names I see again and again in the newspaper: Mr. Willet, Mr. Berckmans, Mr. Gibson, and Mr. Stovall; Miss Turpin, Miss Walton, Miss Cuthbert, Miss Walton, Miss Adams, and Miss Connelly.

...Two dainty little ladies of honor, Miss Margie Wood and Miss Sarah Harper who held open the floral gates while Mr. Thomas C. Walton escorted the bride, his sister, Miss Blanche G. Walton to the altar. There they were met by the groom, Dr. C.W. Hickman, who was with his brother, Mr. Tracy I. Hickman, was standing ready to receive them...

...The picture of the fair young girls kneeling about the altar where the path of the maiden had merged into the life of the wife was touching and suggestive....

Hold the phone. I am quoting excerpts from the newspaper announcement of their wedding and they have used the word "suggestive" twice. TWICE! Once in regards to fair young girls kneeling-- seriously?! I digress...

A reception was held at her parent's house, near Summerville.

... The daughter of Mr. Robert Walton, and is a charming and accomplished representative of one of the oldest an best families of the State. She is the favorite of her relatives and friends, and unites many graces of person and disposition to bright qualities of mind and heart. Few young ladies in our midst have as many friends...

Yo. Whoever wrote this really like Blanche.

...Dr. Hickman is a useful and particularly gifted member of the medical profession in Augusta. He is a graduate of one of the best medical schools of Germany, and is an acknowledged authority upon the specialities of his practice in which he has been so singularly successful in Augusta. He is a genial, popular gentleman and deserves the success and happiness which his position and recent good fortune will command for him...

Two thoughts: (1) the person writing this has no idea what kind of doctor Dr. Hickman is. (2) The author likes Blanche more than Charles.

Maybe three thoughts:

(3) Has anyone else ever read old wedding announcements? They crack me up. Sometimes, I wonder what was written about the really mean people that get married. Of course not every person who married way back when was "gracious" or "lovely," some of those women had to be just plain brats. Who did Mama bribe to say "congenial" or that they were "the most popular of the social youth."

My other thought about old wedding announcements: What was said of those that, ahem, had to get married due to a dalliance. "Mary and John met at the Officer's Club about eight weeks ago and it was love at first sight... literally. Mary wore a loose fitting gauzy white A-line off-shoulder and carried her flowers low..."

Wrapping up:

...The bridal party left last evening for Old Point, Virginia, and other resorts of the old Dominion, where they will spend the summer.

Chas and "Honey" as her friends called her were married July 18, 1883. Pause: Can we take a moment and talk about how HOT that church would have been come about 7pm? Average highs in July crest 90+. Unpause.

These two crazy kids were not kids by the standards of 1883; she was practically a spinster with her 26 years of life under her belt. Chas was 31. I am allowed to say things like "spinster" because I, too, was 26 years into my life when Husband and I were married. A year later, their only child that would see adulthood would be conceived on their anniversary and born the 18th of April, 1885.


I started to write more about the Hickman couple, but am digging too deep in their past right now and don't want to be hurried and leave things out.


Sorry, This is going to take some time as I am trying to compile more information about Charles' backstory and those archives are not very searchable. Is searchable a word?

I have names and dates and locations of people and places. Currently, this novice detective is trying to pinpoint his exact route that led to his demise. Today, I took the kids to the Summerville Cemetery to find the Hickman graves. His father, H.H. Hickman, has about the largest grave in practically the middle of the cemetery. He was easy to spot.

The kids were with me. The kids are always with me and I can already my sister-in-law saying, "What is it with you and graveyards?" I pulled up a picture of Dr. & Mrs. Hickman's gravestones and showed them to Birdie. Those hawk eyes looked up and said, "There it is, Mommy!" And off we ran.

Chas, his wife- Blanche, and spinster daughter- Gladys are buried on a slightly smaller plot than his father's- northwest from H.H; directly west/adjacent of Chas' plot is the plot of his brother, Tracy.

Tracy, his wife and also spinster daughter are buried there with a different style but equally as extravagant gravestone.

What does the burial have to do with the marriage? Not a lot, honestly. BUT- I think it speaks to the camaraderie between the brothers; that they wanted to be neighbors in both life and death. I don't read anything into the brothers not being buried on their father's large plot. There were other people buried on H.H.'s plot that weren't Hickman by name- probably Hickman by blood, though.

I started writing this blog to show the marriage certificate between the Blanche and Charles:

Check. Marriage certificate shown.

Edwin Weed was the rector and makes me wonder if Weed Street, over on the other side of town is named after this guy. But, no, I'm not jumping down that rabbit hole. Let me know what you find out. I've got my own rabbit hole over here.

Speaking of holes...

These are the graves on H.H. Hickman's plot:

There are Harpers, Waltons, Whatleys, Morris, and- of course- Hickmans. I don't know who these people are or if they are even consequential in this moment.


And these are the graves on Tracy I. Hickman's plot:

Anna, wife of Tracy
Ellen, daughter of Tracy
Tracy... self.   


And these are the graves on Dr. Charles W Hickman's plot:   


In all this, I thought I would feel sorry for Gladys, Chas' daughter. I can't imagine what it would be like to have your father ripped from you so suddenly. But, isn't death always sudden? As I dig, the less sympathetic I feel towards Gladys- not like a loathing- but, children are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around. No, the one I really hurt for is Blanche. She lived until she was in her 80s, burying both her husband and then her daughter. Her existence as a widow extended for 34 years, 7 of those surviving after she buried her daughter. Not to mention, that she buried her brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece ... all before she buried herself.

Now, here's something both creepy and interesting. Probably more creepy than interesting. Check this out. Don't worry, no dead bodies. BUT, it could absolutely lead to some accidental crypt removals. 

"The location of the record book is unknown or if it even exists..." At some point, the perpetual care money disappeared and, along with it, the sexton records for the cemetery. One of the finest things my crazy, corrupt city did was take over the care of this cemetery years ago.

What's a sexton record? Excellent question:

All the plots that are sold, available, empty, unmarked, paid for, etc are part of the sexton record. Let that sink in for a minute. Every time they open a grave, they are making a HUGE assumption that it is, well, empty. Otherwise, they're picking up someone's Great Great Dead Aunt Irene accidentally. 

"Sorry Aunt Irene, Let me... just... yeah, ok. Tuck you back in there, where'd your hand go? There it is..... GUYS! We're gonna need another plot!"


February 2, 1910-- 107 years ago. This was Dr. Charles W. Hickman's last day. At this moment, I don't know how he spent those final hours, but I assume it was just a regular day. It was a Thursday. While I cannot confirm the weather for that day, when Dr. Hickman was discovered, face up, on the sidewalk with a gun shot wound through the head, his overcoat was strewn some distance from him.

It's 1910. The Wright Brothers were installing a flight school in Hometown that year. It was 1910 when the Boy Scouts became a national organization. In 1910, we are two years from the HMS Titanic meeting the wrong side of an iceberg and I am pretty sure we only had 47 states at the time. Arizona became the 48th in 1912. And the world did not know what a force Germany could become for another four years.

It's 1910 and The Village of Summerville is a separate entity from the metropolis of Augusta. Summerville had no street lights and when there was a house fire-- people had to run outside and fire a pistol to alert the neighbors. Though it lacked modern luxuries like indoor plumbing, it was still a sought after destination for the wealthy to visit in the summer and the local upper echelon to live year round in ornate homes. 

Dr. Hickman being no exception. 

Dr. Hickman, son of H.H. Hickman grew up on Telfair Street- not the Telfair downtown, rather what you know as Hickman Avenue. HH Hickman's home, 956 Hickman Ave, still stands. I would not recommend knocking on the door, but do a slow drive by and you can get an idea as to his level of wealth. 

H.H. and Sarah had four children, Mary, Fannie, Charles, and Tracy. At the age of 23, Mary was was still unmarried and could not read or write. She would eventually marry, have a daughter, learn these valuable skills and become a widow- returning to her father's house with her daughter in the quick span of about 20 years. 

Fannie married and died early on- she had two children. I don't know much about her yet. 

But the focus of all this is on Charles and Tracy.

Charles, the doctor, kept an office downtown, 761 Broad Street. Tracy was the president of a highly profitable local manufacturing company. What once produced flour and then textiles, now produces medical students and yuppies in downtown warehouse apartments. 

This is the 700 block of Broad Street from 1903 {opposite side of the street from the office}:

My buddy has a third generation optometry office at 767 Broad, Casella Eye Center. 761 Broad is gone, replaced with a 17-story "skyscraper" completed in 1918. 

So, here we are... February 2.... it's a little after 9pm and Tracy tells his brother good night for the last time. Charles tips his hat and off into the night he goes, with mere minutes left to live.

Tracy I. Hickman

As he walks by a vacant lot with an oak thicket on Milledge Ave a few blocks from his house, he is struck with a sandbag and two shots ring out in the night. A pause, and then a third shot- fatal- breaks the nighttime silence around 9:30. Dr. Hickman will be found about an hour later, face up, on the ground- with his signature hat still in place. He will later be identified not completely by his shattered face, but by the gold initials inside the brim of his hat: C.W.H.

The gun shot wound was slightly less than an inch over his left eye. It penetrated and came out of the upper back part of his head- going through a stiff hat. The hat flew off and rolled beside him while his gold rimmed glasses stayed in place on the bridge of his nose, now covered with dirt and blood.

Hounds would be called in.
Major players in hometown will be heroes and witnesses to facts proven by no more than their good word.
A blood hunt and cries for justice will ensue and Summerville will never be the same.
People will be arrested and released.
Time will pass.

And through it all, Dr. Hickman will remain in the same capacity as when he was found that night-- very, very dead.

Stay with me. I'm just getting started.


Augusta, 1910- before the stock market crashed and ten years before my grandfather was born.

Mr. William Johnson, rector of the Episcopal Church {I assume Good Shepherd Episcopal Church}, is walking towards his home on Milledge as he passes Dr. Hickman on the sidewalk in front of Dr. Harison's home about 9pm. Mr. Johnson remembers that Dr. Hickman was in possession of his overcoat, but it was draped over his arm. Dr. Hickman was walking from the direction of Monte Sano toward the Summerville carline. Not thinking anything of this, Mr. Johnson enters his home and continues with his evening. 

Just after 10pm, Frank Fraser, son of Reverend B. F. Fraser got off the street car at the corner of Milledge Street, walking home on the left side of the street. Halfway down the block, he passed the the Cochrane home and noticed a man lying on the sidewalk. His immediate thought was that this was a man in a drunken stupor. Frank leaned down to arouse the stupored man. Placing his hand on the still man's shoulder, he shook him.


Another shake, nothing.

Frank got down on his knees, took off his hat and put his ear to the man's chest. He found silence in the man's chest and noticed the the body was cold. Looking up, he saw two men coming toward him. Frank stood up and rushed towards what would be Mr. Estes Doremus and Mr. Hamilton Phinizy. Frank told them what was ahead and the three rushed toward the very dead Dr. Hickman. Striking a match, Mr. Doremus quickly identified the victim as Dr. Hickman.

Hamilton stayed with the body as Frank ran immediately to his father's house on the opposite edge of the oak grove to telephone the Augusta police barracks. The Reverend did not hear the gunshots, as he was reading to his children, however the family staying upstairs did hear the three shots. Hoping that medical attention could save him, Estes ran to Dr. W.H. Harison's house, where the good doctor was playing the piano for his family. Dr. Harison ran to the site and saw the body lying toward the edge of the sidewalk. 

Dr. Harison checked first for his pulse and finding none, saw the position of the gun shot wound and knew that there was nothing medical attention could have done to save Dr. Hickman. 

Within an hour the following people were on the scene: 

Acting Coroner Nurnberger
Mr. George Heckle, marshall of Summerville
Solicitor Joseph S. Reynolds
Dr. W.H. Harison
Mr. B.F. Fraser
Mr. A.D. Cochrane
Mr. Landon Thomas
Mr. Paul D. Langdon
Judge William F. Eve
County Commissioner Berckmans

It is in this moment that I feel compelled to share a generalization a friend who drives an ambulance told me about when driving through certain parts of town, "The Terry" if you will. [What's The Terry? We'll get there.] Funnily enough, my friends that are police officers have said the same thing. When there is a gun shot victim in this area, the cops and ambulance are called and you can set your watch to it- all witnesses are either reading the Bible, cooking food for the homeless, or praying with their children. Same with the victim. Nobody is ever doing anything nefarious. Ever.

If you notice some of these names and look back at the wedding announcement, there are a few repeats. 

After Dr. Harison confirmed complete loss of life, Tracy was finally notified. 


Let's put a pin in this for a few, maybe a week?I really hope that is not anymore than that. I hate leaving you hanging, because I am leaving myself hanging. I am so excited, but I need to make sure that I give the most accurate information and need to go to some serious warehouse archives to see if I can find some necessary files. 107 years old... don't hold your breath.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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...


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?


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!


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.


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.


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... 


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?


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.
Landon Thomas home

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.

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