26 March 2018

A Fatal Decision


Week 12: Misfortune

A Fatal Decision

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley ©2018

If 53-year-old David George Jr. had not gone to a corn-shucking one November night in 1873, he might have lived to see the many grandchildren produced by his numerous children. He had survived the Civil War, having served as a 2nd lieutenant in Confederate Army, worked for years as a blacksmith in Henry County, Georgia; appeared to have a comfortable life — even in the Reconstruction Era. And, then, misfortune struck.

Corn-shuckings were common the South prior to the Civil War, and evidently the tradition carried over into the 1870s and perhaps later, but those were happenings about which I knew nothing. However, genealogical research is a great educator, and a small reference in a book of somewhat unusual records revealed why I had been unable to find David George Jr. in the 1880 census, and perhaps the reason so many of his children left Georgia and went to Texas in the 1870s.

It reads: “On the night of 4 Nov. last in Henry County, David George was murdered by John Walker, colored. Issued 17 Dec. 1873.” (Robert Scott Davis, Jr., The Georgia Black Book: Morbid, Macabre, & Sometimes Disgusting Records of Genealogical Value (Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1982), p. 319. Taken from Executive Minutes 26 October 1870—3 March 1874; Microfilm Reel 171-41; Microfilm Library, Georgia Department of Archives and History, p. 758. This was a governor proclamation for the arrest of unknown felons or felons who had fled justice. The information in the book is abstracted genealogical data found in the proclamations as described in the Georgia Executive Minutes for 1869-1900.

A cousin shared some information she had discovered which revealed a bit more about this event:

“On the night of 4 November last in Henry County David George was murdered by John Walker, Colored, while at a corn shucking near Stockbridge, Georgia. Issued 17 December 1873.”

And in the Georgia Weekly Telegraph on 10 Nov. 1874, it was reported from the Rockdale Register that John Walker (Negro) was conficted [convicted] in Henry County [GA] Superior Court and was to be hung [sic] 18 December 1874.

What really happened at this corn-shucking and why? This “cold case” about David George’s murder remains one of the unsolved mysteries in my family tree. From time-to-time I stumble upon a new clue and continue the search, but always is the hope that I’ll make contact with a cousin who has more information about this misfortunate event.

Obviously, this is why my genealogy is never “done.”

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