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MURRAY COUNTY CHARACTERS
William Roper

Abraham Lincoln once said, "To sin by silence makes cowards of men." William Roper took this statement literally and decided to take a stand against some unlawful activity that was happening in Murray County. He decided to report some Murray County moonshiners to the deputy United States Marshals. This brave stand ultimately cost him a run-in with the Ku Klux Klan and Roper almost lost his life in the process.

This story begins around midnight on the evening of June 11, 1894. William Roper was at the home of Henry Brown. He had come there to rest for the night after cutting wheat all day at the home of J.C. Barksdale. Payne Duncan, Wash Redd and Bud Morrison showed up at Mr. Brown's door around 12 o'clock and forced Roper to go with them. Waiting outside for them was Will Morrison and Samps Morrison. These five men were known members of the Ku Klux Klan in Murray County. The men took their prisoner up to the Cohutta Mountains to an open pit. After taking Mr. Roper's watch and the $6.52 that he had in his pocket, the group shot him in both the head and body and pushed him into the pit leaving him for dead. The pit was between fifty and sixty feet deep and Roper was left there for dead. He languished for five days lapsing at times into unconsciousness. He stayed there from Monday night until Saturday when he was rescued.

Mr. Roper was rescued from the pit by a Mr. Springfield, who heard Roper's cries while he was hunting in the area. He was taken to the home of Mr. Japs Reed to recover from his wounds. Because of the severity of his injuries a small bone had to be removed from Roper's skull and the skin grew over the wound. After he recovered, Mr. Roper came to Atlanta to face his captors at their trial.

The trial of the five Klansmen, which occurred in November, 1894 was considered at the time to be one of the most sensational trials ever to take place in north Georgia. Before the trial officially began, two of the defendants, Will R. Morrison and Payne Duncan chose to plead guilty. The remaining defendants were represented by Colonel T. R. Jones of Dalton and Colonel W.C. Glenn of Atlanta. During the trial, that lasted approximately one week, William Roper took the stand to give his testimony.

At the end of the trial, Roper's attackers were sentenced. Will R. Morrison who had entered a guilty plea at the beginning of the trial received eight years of hard labor and was ordered to pay a fine of $500. The remaining defendants were each sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary and fined $1000 each.

It is not known what happened to Roper after this encounter with the Klan. No record of any Ropers is found in the 1900 Federal census for Murray County.



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