A History Lesson: Chipley

A History Lesson: Chipley September 24, 2012
Lillian volunteers here. If you get by, tell her I sent you. Give her a hug from me.
I wasn’t all that surprised to learn that the Hunger Games sequel is being filmed in Harris County, Georgia, and surrounding areas. The original was filmed in North Carolina. Harris County is just up the road a’piece from my hometown. I have several good friends who live there, and have spent quite a bit of time in the lovely towns of Hamilton and Pine Mountain (formerly Chipley).
Regular readers of this blog will likely recognize the references to Pine Mountain where my dear friend Lillian Champion lives. Lillian’s daughter Marjorie was killed in the 9-11 attack on the Pentagon. Lillian is a long-time journalist. She wrote the column below about a time gone by. I found it humorous because, of course, we always think of the past as a more genteel time, especially in the south. Pine Mountain is the kind of place people retire to, to escape the crime in the big cities. Lillian sets the record straight…
By Lillian Champion
A history of the Chipley era of Pine Mountain would not be complete without including some of the “wild west” days.  The reputation of the bustling little town was such that passengers traveling through Chipley on the train were warned to hide under their seats to escape the flying bullets.
Research, at the Chipley Historical Center of Pine Mountain, reveals that in 1906 several of the “best men in the area” were shot down on the streets or assassinated in their homes.  There were no convictions in any of the killings.
One incident took place at a gathering at a barbecue in a grove next to the ChipleyBaptist Church. Hoke Smith was there while campaigning in his quest to be governor of Georgia. A local man started an argument with another man over a fifteen-cent debt for moonshine whiskey. One of the men pulled out his pistol and shot  the other, killing him instantly. Several men in the crowd left the candidate’s speech-making and took after the murderer, shooting at him as he ran across the railroad tracks toward the row of stores on West Railroad Avenue. He fell dead from the several bullet wounds. One of the shooters was arrested and charged with murder but was not convicted in a trial held at the Hamilton courthouse.
Chipley was a small town where everybody knew all the residents. The train station was a gathering place, especially on late afternoons when the train arrived from Atlanta.  Shot and killed late one afternoon was a man who had served as mayor of Chipley, was president of the Chipley bank, and a member of the governors staff.
The killer was arrested and locked up in the Chipley “calaboose“.  The sheriff at Hamilton was informed and set out at once to get the prisoner.  When he arrived, he found the cell empty, the door wide open and the lock on the side walk.   No footprints found but there were horse and buggy tracks leading away from the jail.
Another man died as he sat in front of his fireplace reading his newspaper.  It was reported that the killer probably had to crawl underneath the house to get to the one front window without a closed blind. The body of this prominent  businessman in the little town of Chipley was riddled with buckshot.
One night a man rode the train home to Chipley and in the darkness, with no street lights, went to the wrong house.  His house and the one next door were identical and were located about where the super market stands at the present time. He found the door locked, yelled and banged on the door arousing the the man of the house. Thinking that someone was trying to break in, he shot and killed his neighbor.
Back in the early 1970s, a very prominent local lady came to me with some hand-written pages and asked me to help her write the story of her life. She began by telling me that when she was very young her mother died. She was six years old when her father married again. A short time later he came down with TB and went to stay in a cottage at near-by White Sulphur Springs believing that the fresh air and water from the springs would help cure him. Alas, he died  five weeks later, leaving his little girl an orphan.
She went to live with her grandparents. As they grew older and the grandmother died, she went to Hamilton to live with a family that promised to take care of her. While she was in high school she met a young man. They were madly in love. He gave her a ring and they planned to marry when they finished school. In the meantime, the family she lived with decided that she should marry their son. (She said that they knew she would soon acquire her inheritance from her father and grandparents estates).
The lady went on to say that she was coerced her into the marriage and that she was not happy. Her husband was an alcoholic and was always getting into fights. One night in Hamilton he and the town Marshall exchanged words and bullets. They shot each other.  The Marshall died and the lady’s husband was seriously wounded.  He recovered only to be killed later after threatening a man in a drug store.  Customers were ducking under tables to hide from the hail of bullets.
*Story excerpt written by Lillian Champion, who has plans to include this in a book. For information about her previous books, please contact the Chipley Historical Center dot org. 

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