Old News Stories
Reign of kuklux, 1895
From The Atlanta Constitution
Jan. 13, 1899
REIGN OF THE KUKLUX IN NORTH GEORGIA
Here is the story of the Murray county whitecapping as it comes from the men now in the Fulton county jail, charged with killing Henry Worley.
INTERVIEWED IN PRISON.
Three are now twelve men in the jail. The story they tell is a highly interesting one. One of the main features of it is the sensational charges which they bring against Mr. E. O. Stafford.
Two Moonshiners Write an Interesting Letter for Publication.
The Home of the kuklux.
Occupying a narrow cell in the Fulton county jail, at the head of the stairway heading up from the main corridor, Sanse Morrison has enjoyed the luxury of a prisoner's life at the jail since the verdict of the jury went against him a few weeks ago in the Roper trial.
His fellow prisoners are old man Bud Morrison and Wash Red, who were both convicted at the same time. The other two members of the gang, Will Morrison and Payne Duncan, are now in the Ohio Penitentiary.
The two Morrisons and Wash Red are detained from going into winter quarters on account of certain information which they possess bearing upon the Worley trial.
Sanse Morrison was seated on his bunk, holding a document in his hand, at the time the visitor entered his cell.
He shoved the document aside and partially arose from his seat to offer the visitor his hand in the brusque though friendly style of the mountaineer.
"I am glad to see you, pard," said he. "Have a seat over there and make yourself at home, if you can do that in jail."
In the dim, uncertain light of the afternoon, as it struggled through the grated window of the cell, it was difficult to obtain a clear view of the prisoner or his surroundings.
In his personal appearance, Sanse Morrison is rather good-looking. He has a slight mustache on his upper lip that partially conceals the good humor that is wont to single out that feature for its best expression, but his eyes atone for this deficiency by giving to the other features of his rugged face a bright and cheerful illumination. He was dressed in the typical style of the moonshiner, and his clothes fitted him in such a way as to resent the imputation of elegance or fashion, and to stoutly insist upon their durability. He had no hat on his head, in deference to his cell, no doubt, and his hair was rather closely shingled, as if the jail barber had recently paid him a visit. His shirt was made of the rough texture worn by trhe mountaineer.
Four bunks constituted the sleeping accommodation of the cell. These were arranged after the manner of a sleeping car, overlooking a few minor details. The window of the cell faced the open door and admitted a shaft of light between the bunks.
"This is not like being at home on the mountains," said Sanse Morrison, with a dreamy, distant look in his eyes that reflected the light of the old fields in which he grew up. "I'd like to be home today instead of in this jail, but I'm in for it now, and there's no use grieving."
"Did you know Henry Worley?" asked the visitor.
"Did he ever belong to the kuklux?"
"Yes, he was a member at one time, and then played false to his friends by going back on them."
"Were you in the party that tried to hang him?"
"Yes, I told Colonel James that I was at the hanging, but I had nothing to do with the killing. I was not in that crowd."
"Why did the members of the kuklux want to kill him?"
"It was because he played them false, I suppose. This was one reason and the other was because he was mean to his wife and children and treated them shamefully."
"The moonshiners have no use for a man who mistreats his wife, have they?"
"No sir, they hate him like a rattlesnake. Worley was not a true man. He betrayed the men who had been his friends and went about over the country exposing them to the officers of the law. I was not at his killing but I think he deserved it."
The moonshiner was reluctant to go into the details of the conspiracy. He refused to give any names or to make any statement in regard to the hanging further than to say he was in the crowd.
"We all met together on Sugar creek," said he, "at a place agreed upon and started for Worley's house in our disguises. We found him at home and dragged him out and strapped him to a mule. On reaching the tree we strung him up and left him there. That is all I know or care to say about it."
Just at this point old man Bud Morrison came to the door of the cell and whispered a word in Sanse Morrison's ear. It was briefly to the effect that he must not talk too freely as it was not a wise or proper thing to do.
Old man Bud Morrison is a unique character. He is six feet tall and bends over in quite a decided stoop. The buttons on the back of his coat strike him just under the shoulder blades, and his sensitive pantaloons seem to shrink instinctively from his shoe tops and to seek the higher latitudes of his upper limbs. He is much older than either Sanse or Wash Red and his tone of voice suggests a much more settled maturity, although his fellowship with younger spirits scarcely acquits him of a bold and restless disposition.
After this brief interview with the elder Morrison Sanse returned to his cot.
"I hope you will not say anything about this in the papers," said he. "I'm afraid it might make the boys mad. Perhaps I ought not to have said anything at all."
There was a brief silence for the space of two or three seconds, after which the moonshiner picked up the document at his side and proceeded to glance over it.
"Here is something that Wash Red wants you to publish. It was written by him, although both of us signed it together."
Wash Red, on hearing his name called, entered the cell. A peculiarity about Red, that betrayed him on the night Roper was thrown into the pit, is a stammer in his speech. It is a difficult matter for him to talk and his impediment seems to impart itself to every muscle in his body whenever the flow of his conversation is thus interrupted. In his general make-up he is described by the same characteristics as those that mark Sanse Morrison, although his face is not quite so prepossessing.
"I want you to read the paper out loud and let me see if it sounds all right," said Red. "I may want to make a few corrections."
The contents of the document were read and the necessary alterations were made, after which it was declared to be satisfactory.
It was the purpose of the document to implicate Dr. Stafford in the kuklux organization and to answer the card of that gentleman which appeared in The Constitution a few days ago.
"I tell you old Stafford is a deep rascal, and he is mixed up in this thing as much as any of us," said Red. "He is a bad character and ought to be exposed. He has been a member of the kuklux organization for years and it is useless for him to deny it."
In order to make the contents of the letter plain it may be well to review a portion of Dr. Stafford's card. In his card Dr. Stafford makes a comparison between the old kuklux organization in which he was a leader and the present gang. He says the first one was organized to protect the virtue of southern women from the ravages of the negro race just after the war, while the second one was based on illicit traffic and was largely composed of members of the people's party. He aims a missile at the head of Judge Edmondson in the following pointed paragraph:
"While the purest patriotism and sound statesmanship of the north and south were concentrated on the smoking battlefield, fighting and contending manfully for what each believed in his heart to be right, in order to escape the fields of carnage there was an unusual scramble for the civil offices at home from congressman down to "the judgeship of the Inferior county court.'"
Referring to the recent kuklux organiztion, he continued:
"When, where and for what purpose were they organized?
"They were organized here about eight or ten years ago by the illicit whisky dealers, and we suppose something like it sprang up at different periods and under different names perhaps almost everywhere.
Where the illicit traffic was wont to be engaged in, but with different modes of procedure on the part of those engaged in it to cheat, defraud, and swindle the government out of the tax on whisky seemed to be its sole purpose at first. But now it is used for all manner of evil conduct, making the night hideous by the firing of pistols and their unearthly yells and beating informers unmercifully and falling upon suspected informers, beating them almost to death, often making mistakes and beating persons who knew nothing about their business until it has culminated in repeated murders, rapes, arson and all manner of crime known to the calendar of the courts, under their disguise sparing neither age nor sex in their brutal beatings. It is a school of drunkenness and perjury in which the young boys of the country are being rapidly ruined. It goes for nothing to say that the law is wrong; it is the law of the land and should be obeyed. We believe that the law is unwise and should be repealed, but that it should be enforced the more rigidly until it is repealed. Don't prate to me any longer about a man having the right to manage his products as he pleased. I was born a state's rights democrat and rocked in a cradle made of the same timber and have always been a great stickler over state's rights, but I have had a good deal of it knocked out of me right here in Murray county in the last few years.
"A man has no right to so use his products as to injure all of his neighbors around him and to the hurt of the entire community in which he lives. Does state rights, individual rights, human rights or any other rights give a man any such wide range of privilege as that? But I digress.
"How does the comparison of the sixties and nineties look, I would like to hear one of these fellows explain the meaning of the mystic letters M. P. J. C. And apply it to the conduct of this order.
"These letters adorned the lodge of every true member of the order in the sixties."
"The air is full now of bush-whacking, burning, etc., because some of the law-abiding citizens were called by the courts to Atlanta and did not swear them out. The truth of the matter is, they brought this trouble on themselves and then gave each other away. The bushwhacking had better be let alone. The courts have uncovered the matter sufficient so tht the leaders are known and they will be held responsible for the conduct of those whom they have deceived and led into their crime.
"There is nothing more than any sensible man might have known would have come sooner or later. Your truly,
"E. O. STAFFORD.'
This vigorous letter from Dr. Stafford is a patriotic and well-written document and its sentiment is strikingly in contrast with the spirit and temper of the following letter written by the moonshiners in jail. It is written on coarse paper in a rther clear and legible handwriting and the pages before they were separated by the printer were stitched together with a piece of thread.
Here is the full text of the letter:
"Fulton County Jail, January 10. Editor Constitution: Will you kindly allow us the privilege of a few lines of your most valuable paper to answer the card written by Mr. E. O. Stafford, of Murray county.
"We wish to denounce Mr. Stafford as a traitor and an underhanded liar of the worst type. What will the public opinion be of a man when his true character is brought to light. Mr. Stafford, who has been a leader of a band of kluklux for the past seven or eight year and now that the United States government officials are hunting them down like dogs, taking men away from their homes, leaving their families fatherless, penniless and in a state of starvation, he becomes a traitor to his band for the small fee to which is entitled by the government for information. He has other reasons besides these for acting traitor to his band–to save himself from being brought to justice and punished likewise as his followers. We wish the public to know his true character and hidden secrets, as we know them to be facts. He reorganized his band himself in the Yellow creek swamp, about seven years ago, under the same "by-laws" and the same oath as the kluklux klan of the sixties and has since been our most efficient leader. There is now in his possession the names of the members enrolled at that time and those who have enlisted up to the present date, in a book kept for that purpose, if he has not destroyed it. Stafford stated to the members at the time of the reorganization of the klan that the south and the section known as Murray county could not be progressive in the future without the existence of this band. At a meeting recently, when the government officials began invading Murray county and contrived to break up illicit distilling, who was it that made a speech to the effect and even swore that he would shoulder his gun and lead a band of men, and also declared tht he would help kill all marshals of the United States government and the informers of illicit distillers? It was our most efficient leader, E. O. Stafford. In late years he has frequently made threats against the late Henry Worley. It is understood that Worley and himself were bitter enemies. At the announcement of Worley's death he was very cheerful, indeed, over it. We know this man's character to be of the worst, and if sifted down to fine sand, the public of Murray county, or any county in the state of Georgia, cannot find a more dishonorable citizen residing among them. What did Stafford do the night that Gus Pierce was looking for a still that was running in the mountain near his place? He jumped on his horse and rode at top speed and informed the men of their coming and that night Pierce was fired upon by a posse of men at the back of Stafford's house before daybreak. We can procure affidavits to substantiate this, and will be sworn to by United States Deputy Marshall Gus Pierce, and we dare E. O. Stafford to deny them. He stated in his card that Colonel James and Colonel Rucker knew their business too well to let us influence them with any such rottenness. We do not deny, and never have denied, the fact that Colonel James and Colonel Rucker are upright and honest men; we have no earthly reason to believe them dishonest and unqualified gentlemen. We have not tried to influence them in any manner. The only man who is trying to influence the government to any extent is Stafford, and what with? Politics. He states in his card that we all belong to the populist party. That is an unfounded lie. We all belong to the democratic party and, as far as politics is concerned in this case, we are the strongest democrats in Murray county. What can the public opinion be of such a traitor, liar and a professed-to-be citizen of this county. A man that lives the life of a traitor is worse than a dog, let alone a man who now living a life of adultery. Such a man should be punished severely and the results of the Worley case are not too good to apply to this scoundrel. What have the very men on whom he has now informed and who are locked up in prison, with their families suffering from the cold breezes of winter? We have built you up in the world financially. What did you have when you came to Murray county? Nothing; hardly a place to lay your head. You came penniless as a rabbit that comes from his hidden place in the bushes. A fugitive of justice from Tennessee, he comes to where he is unknown, like a wild animal seeks the uninhabitated regions, and so that he may not be disturbed by the officials of justice, and to where he thinks his past record is unknown. We hope that the good citizens of Murray county will take immediate action on this man, and we also make a wish of the New Year of 1895 that United States officials will bring this scoundrel to justice and administer it as fully on him as they have on his followers heretofore. This is his true life, or the greatest part of it, since he came to Murray county. We can procure affidavits signed by the best citizens of the country to prove his true character and his citizenship. Hoping that this card may reach E. O. Stafford in safety, and not only to him exclusively, but to the government officials also, we are yours very truly.
"J. W. RED
"J. M. MORRISON."
"We wish to extend our most esteemed thanks to Hon. C. N. King, of Murray, for the kindness he has shown us while in confinement."
This letter was folded and given to The Constitution's representative for publication. After a few words in regard to the jail life of the prisoners the interview ended.
Along the stairway leading down to the lowere floor a number of prisoners were collected. They made the air melodious with a number of gospel hymns and seemed to be in rather jubilant spirits. It struck the correspondent's ear with a ridiculous sense of incongruity to hear these gospel hymns in the mouth of these jailbirds, who cared as little for their redemption as they did for the man in the moon.
In the jailer's office sat a quiet, well-dressed man, who was permitted to come into the office for the purpose of being interviewed. His name is John Henry Goble and his home is in Gordon county. He is indicted as one of the conspirators accused of the hanging of Worley.
" I was not present at the hanging," said Goble, "nor at the killing, and why I have been arrested is a puzzle to me. I am kindly treated here but I had rather be at home."
The jailer's office was in good trim and seemed to invite a close inspection. Every thing was neatly arranged and the jailer himself was polite and courteous in extending to his visitor the privileges of the building.
The Scenes Where the Murray County
Band Members Reside.
Between the border line of Tennessee and upper banks of the Etowah river, comprising the counties of Murray, Gordon, Gilmer and Whitfield, lies a region of bold, rugged and picturesque country that far exceeds in natural beauty the famous valley of the Shennandoah and well merits the unique appellation of Georgia's Switzerland.
Judge Edmondson Indicted.
This romantic portion of the state is owned and occupied by a sturdy race of people whose lives are in rugged harmony with their surroundings. They are typical mountaineers–brave, hardy, generous, patriotic and uncompromising. They put before the stranger the best of their mountain cheer and feel offended if he fails to exhibit a hearty appetite. For their hillside homes and fertile lands they evince a fondness that borders closely upon enthusiasm, while they illustrate at the same time, the mountaineer's inherent love of liberty.
About the free and open life of the mountaineer there seems to hover the spirit of a bold and reckless independence that delights in ruffling the calm and placid countenance of justice and that wantonly defies all law in its ruthless love of adventure. No amount of peril has been known to daunt the ringleaders of this section in the prosecution of their fierce enterprises, however imminent the danger threatened or certain the likelihood of death. The better class of the inhabitant have, of course, resisted this atmospheric influence, but even the lawless element, in breathing it freely into their lungs, have illustrated a courage and a daring that touches the public heart with the chivalrous point of romance and awakens in their behalf no slight degree of admiration.
This section of the state has furnished to the current history of the day the familiar character of the "whitecapper." He has taken the place of the original kuklux, who infested the country just after the war, and in the general make-up of his disguise, as well as in the midnight character of his expeditions, he bears a striking resemblance to that weird impersonation of comedy whose mission, however, was one of death and tragedy.
In the coves and recesses of the mountains that guard this remote section of the country the blockade distiller has carried on for a number of years his illicit occupation and the revenue officer has met with but little success in routing him from his stronghold.
Especially is the field invited in Murray county. This guarded domain, unjarred by the screech of the locomotive, is a natural garrison, fortified by the mountains that tower on every hand and belt the region in a vast circle of granite peaks. It was formerly a favorite lurking place of Georgia's prehistoric natives, but it ceased t be the habitation of the red man to become the paradise of the moonshiner.
Before the war it was the privilege of the mountaineer to convert his crop of corn into whisky, if he chose to do so, without the gun of the revenue officer pointed at him through the bushes; and the process of distillation went on as smoothly as the Etowah rippling only in the music of content and harmony.
But the adoption of the internal revenue law brought about a new order of things. The process of making whisky, however, continued in violation of the new law and the distiller merely transferred his paraphernalia to the recesses of the mountains and began to ply his condemned occupation by the light of the moon and the stars that peered at him from the top of the peaks, instead of the bold and garish light of the open day.
To the moonshiner who thus left his cot on the mountains to operate his distillery, while his wife and children were sleeping, it seemed to be a natural right to enjoy the products of his field and to store them away in any manner that pleased him. Tradition was more binding than law. His father made whisky on the same plantation and if it was right in his father's time, how could it ever be wrong? This was the crude philosophy of the moonshiner and no one will deny that he reasoned well in the light of his surroundings; especially in view f the fact that his crop of corn for the year represented his industry and his apparatus for distilling was purchased with his meager, though honestly acquired, earnings.
This explains the situation. During the last few years the officers of the government, in the exercise of the law, have hunted down the moonshiner and dragged him into the federal court. In order to obtain the fees held out by the government a class of informers has arisen and the "betrayal" of the moonshiners by these men, as the giving of this information is called, has led to the existence of the kuklux klans–the organization that has recently caused so much fear and trembling in that portion of the state.
The purpose of this organization is to deal severe and speedy justice–in the moonshiner's definition of that word–to all who give information to revenue officers. Their first method of punishing the tale-bearer is to give him a severe whipping with his clothes removed, and the lash applied to his naked skin. If the offense is repeated the penalty is death and this penalty is executed without fear of consequences. Disguised in strange apparel, they go for their victim in the dead hours of the night. Before morning the gang has dispersed and no one is wiser than he was before except in knowing that a crime has been committed and a hapless victim hurried into eternity.
Many citizens have been spirited away on these wild mountains and no one has ever been able to tell what became of them. It is supposed that many poor victims have lost their lives by being hurled into the copper shafts on the sides of the Cohuttas. These shafts were dug a number of years ago and extend all the way from Tennessee into Murray county. The story of Roper's wonderful escape from one of these copper shafts, after lying at the bottom of the pit for nearly six days, with his skull broken and his flesh riddled with gunshots, reads like a romance of a Spanish tale of adventure and throws considerable light on the mysterious situation.
The killing of Henry Worley is perhaps the foulest murder ever committed by the kuklux band. At first an unsuccessful effort was made to hang him to a tree. He made good his escape, however, from the noose that secured his neck only to be riddled with bullets a few days later in his corn field. The force of one of them was such that it carried a part of his lip a distance of six feet and lodged it on one of the cornstalks that was standing in the field. A revolting feature of the story is the one that implicated his wife and mother in the frightful transaction. A number of parties have been arrested on the charge of being implicated in this foul conspiracy and are confined for the present in Fulton county jail.
The mysterious disappearance of Jim Chastain has never been accounted for and the indications point to his tragic death at the hands of the whitecappers for giving the first information in regard to the kuklux gang. In this same way the whitecappers have no doubt removed a host of informers from the witness stand, closing their mouths effectually by spreading over their faces the mysterious pallor of death. At least the story goes that more than one citizen of that district has left his home at midnight never to return.
The killing of Hosea Jones and Marshal Keister has also been traced to the bloody hands of the kuklux. The Blankenship flogging and the beating of old man Thurman and his daughter have been fastened upon individuals identified with this gang. Barns have been destroyed and private dwellings burned by the kuklux until the citizens of that part of the country have risen up in protest against the existence of such a nefarious organization. It is charged, however, that numerous influential citizens are connected with it and that every man is bound by an iron-clad oath to stand unflinchingly by the organization; to prevent true bills from being returned by the grand jury against the moonshiner; and to see that every moonshiner is acquitted in the event of his trial.
Such, in brief, are the underlying principles of the whitecap organization. The government is pledged to the extermination of the order if it takes every dollar in the treasury and the district attorney has been admonished to leave no stone unturned and to use every fiber of his brain in bringing about a vigorous and successful prosecution of the band.
He is Charged With Being Implicated in
the Murder of Henry Worley.
The indictment of Judge John L. Edmondson as one of the parties implicated in the murder of Henry Worley and also as being an influential member of the kuklux adds a new feature of interest to one of the most sensational and thrilling stories on record.
How the Rope Failed,
Judge Edmondson is now quite an old man and is one of the most substantial citizens of Murray county. His father was one of the pioneers of that section of the country and the judge has lived among the people of Murray county since the period of his early childhood. The snows that have fallen upon his forehead betoken that he has only a few more years in which measure his acres and then he will sleep in the soil of the low bottom land that listens to the murmur of Holley creek.
On this picturesque little stream Judge Edmondson has a large plantation extending for several miles along the creek. He is the undisputed sovereign of three thousand acres of the richest bottom land in Murray count–and that is equivalent to saying as good as any bottom land in Georgia. Before the war he was quite an extensive slave owner and was one of the very few who continued to hold his vast possessions after the edict of emancipation. In spite of his advanced years, Judge Edmondson is a bluff old gentleman endowed with a good share of worldly wisdom and surrounded by all of those external ministrations that are calculated to make a man contented and happy.
The bulk of the judge's family, including his wife and children, reside at Spring Place, the county seat of Murray county, but the judge prefers the secluded companionship of Holley creek and the quiet, undisturbed autocracy of his little plantation to the gayer and more glaring social life of the county. He has always been a strong political factor in that part of th world and has never failed to name the winning ticket in the county election. In his picturesque and cozy retreat he dispenses hospitality with a lavish hand and his genial, frank, open countenance quickly disarm the stranger of anything like distrust or suspicion.
Judge Edmondson received his title by virtue of an office which he held during the war. He preferred to don the ermine of the inferior court rather than take a part in the war which failed to receive his sanction. He considered it a causeless effusion of blood and one that could have been averted by the exercise of proper statesmanship.
This is the only office that Judge Edmondson ever held, as stated in a recent interview with one of The Constitution's correspondents. He has always been an active political worker, however, and no one has had the hardihood to aspire to office without his friendly support or good will in the campaign.
It has long been rumored in the county that Judge Edmondson sustained intimate relations to the whitecap organization and rural gossip has even gone to the extent of saying that was an active leader of the gang. Declarations of this kind have been imputed to Dr. E. O. Stafford, but they may not be true, and are simple credited because of the breach of hostility existing between the doctor and Judge Edmondson in the county. Both of them belong to old and respected families and each has a strong and influential following among his friends and social connections in the county.
The faction that support Dr. Stafford and shares to a considerable extent his dislike for Judge Edmondson, holds to the belief that Judge Edmondson is the head of the kuklux organization. On the other hand, the friends of Judge Edmondson go far enough to say that Dr. Stafford is the ring leader of the band; and thus charges are met by counter charges. It is true that Dr. Stafford was a leader in the kuklux movement organized just after the war and this may give rise to the rumors that are now circulating in regard to the attitude of that gentleman. Dr. Stafford prides himself on his connection with the former organization, but deplores the existence of the present klan.
The charges against Judge Edmondson, without assuming their truth, are perhaps more rational. He is the avowed friend of the moonshiner and believes the internal revenue law to be a flagrant and iniquitous oppression. He has always been hard on the officers for dragging the moonshiner away from his wife and children and has frequently been known to explode with profane invectives against the law that even tolerated such brutal inhumanity and made the moonshiner a hermit and a cave dweller in his own land in order to escape the shotgun of the officer whose booty was human flesh and who seemed to make a fiendish delight in pursuing his brother man.
The expression of these views has served to link the judge in sympathy with the whitecap organization. He accuses Dr. Stafford of circulating the false reports in regard to his connection with the order and says that Dr. Stafford is not better, having led the old kuklux organization just after the war. He accuses Dr. Stafford of being a member of the people's party, having become a recent renegade from the democratic camp. He also charges Dr. Stafford with using his influence in trying to have men arrested and will perhaps be able to recognize the fine Italian hand of Dr. Stafford in the recent action of the grand jury. This will only serve to widen the breach between them and the ire of Judge Edmondson will be aroused to such a degree that nothing short of complete satisfaction will be able to appease it.
Judge Edmondson came to Atlanta last Thursday morning and executed a bond for his appearance in the sum of $5,000 after which he returned to his home in Murray county. He heard of the probable action of the grand jury and telegraphed that he preferred to come of his own free will instead of being subjected to the humiliation of being arrested.
The names of the other men indicted under the recent true bills are ex-Marshal Tom Wright, W. A. Hannah, George Terry and Merrill Wood. It was Deputy Marshal Wright who arrested Jim Chastain, the man who gave the first information in regard to the kuklux and was afterwards spirited away. Hannah is the only one of the newly indicted men who has been arrested. He is now in Fulton county jail.
Making It Necessary to Level the
Shotgun on Henry Worley.
The implication of Judge Edmondson and ex-Marshal Wright in the death of Henry Worley is not by any means the only novel feature of this thrilling tragedy.
It was one of the foulest murders ever committed in north Georgia, and the circumstances leading up to it, including the first ineffectual attempt to hang him, the alleged participation of his wife and mother in the foul conspiracy, and his subsequent murder by a detachment of the kuklux gang in his own field, give it a revolting aspect from beginning to end and classify it as the crowning exploit of this dark and blood-thirsty brotherhood.
In the Fulton county jail are quite a number of prisoners implicated in the hanging of Worley.
Among these are J. M. Morrison and J. W. Red, who were recently convicted of making the assault on Roper and of throwing him into the copper shaft on the Cohutta mountains.
Between these prisoners at the jail and the meager informtion received from the district attorney's office, the following complete story of the transaction is given:
Henry Worley lived just across the line in Gilmer county. He belonged to the whitecap organization at one time and was one of the most daring and reckless members of the gang.
Such was his active participation in the dash and deviltry of his associates, that he was jointly indicted by the grand jury of Gilmer county with two other men, James A. McIntyre and John Wilson. He left the state, however, before the time set for their trial and remained for several weeks in the heavy undergrowth of Texas. Haunted by the grim specters of his past life and driven no doubt by the fear of being captured by the officers, he resolved to return to Judge Gober's jurisdiction and make a clean breast of the transaction.
"I am tired of being hunted over the country for what this kuklux gang is doing," said he. "I am going back to Judge Gober's court and tell on every last d—n member of this crowd."
He kept faith with himself and in the course of a few weeks showed up in Gilmer county. He reported several blockade distilleries and in pursuance of this information was summoned to appear as a witness before Commissioner Hamilton in Dalton, Ga. While at Dalton he made a number of threats against the whitecappers and declared that he had fully made up his mind to report every still that came within his observation. He further stated that as soon as the case was called in the Gilmer superior court he was going to turn state's evidence and tell all he knew about the organization. This was in March, 1894.
The attitude of Worley with reference to his late associates was soon noised about over the district and the brows of the klan grew dark as they listened to the narrative of treason. For several days he was shadowed by the members of the gang who were gathering information concerning his movements about the county. Even his neighbors cast a menacing frown at him and his mother refused to acknowledge him as her son, saying that in her veins there was not a drop of blood that did not resent the mention of his name, since he had been guilty of perfidy and treason to his comrades. His wife, too, expressed herself in no doubtful terms concerning her husband's conduct and his own brother, who refused to say anything, gave him a deprecating look and then turned away.
On the 7th of April, shortly after these events, a band of whitecappers met at the residence of one of their members in Murray county for the purpose of putting Worley to sleep, in the grim and ghastly sense of that word. He was getting to be entirely too dangerous and the safety of the organization, as well as the punishment of his own perfidy, called for immediate death. The men all disguised themselves in order to escape recognition and started for Worley's house. They learned that he was not at home, but was likely a certain point on the Coosawattee river. They failed, however, to find him the second time and they dispersed with the understanding that as soon as he was located they would come together and demand his life as the forfeiture of his treason. About a week after this is was ascertained that Worley was at home and for the second time the weird, fantastic cavalcade started in search of its booty.
This time the enterprise was more successful. Worley was aroused from his sleep to find himself in the grasp of strong men. He was a physical match for any one of them, but he not power to resist their combined strength. He realized the situation and knew that the meaning of this strange nocturnal visit was in all likelihood the doom from which all human flesh instinctively recoils. Worley had securely barred the doors of his house the evening before and had given instructions to his wife to admit not caller after dark. It is probably, therefore, that his wife had a part to play in the tragic game and may have unbarred the door for the entrance of the whitecappers, although no evidence has been disclosed bearing upon this supposition.
Having secured their prisoner, they tied his hands behind him and strapped him to a mule that was waiting in front of the house to receive his burden. A mysterious horseman mounted the animal in front of the prisoner and at the proper signal, the procession started. There were perhaps as many as thirty-six mounted men in the cavalcade. On their way to the scene of torture they passed in front of the house of Worley's mother. In order to reach their destination it was necessary to pass through a gate belonging to the property of Vest Worley and not far from the house in which Worley's mother lived. At the sound of their approach this Spartan mother, regardless of the fact that it was past midnight, emerged from the house with a lighted torch in her hand and proceeded to remove the obstruction.
"Do you want to see Henry?" asked one of the men, speaking through his disguise. "It will be the last chance you will ever have on earth."
In the light of the blazing faggot the woman waved her hand and frowned with a look of haughty impression. "I don't want to see him," she replied. "I never want to lay eyes on a traitor. Take him along."
Still holding the torch in hand, she made her way back to the house and the weird procession resumed its fantastic journey.
It was a clear April night and the stillness of the woods on either side of the road was undisturbed by any sound except the clatter of the horses' hoofs and the low, subdued murmur of conversation. The stars gleamed brightly overhead and seemed to be too full of their own beautiful suggestions to take notice of the foul conspiracy that was being enacted along the highway. The prisoner was taken to a district known as "Bloodtown"–a name that was ominously in keeping with the intentions of the gang. Having arrived at the exact spot in the woods they halted. Every thing was hushed in the solemn stillness of the night and it seemed in the darkness that veiled the gloomy recesses of the woods as if the hour of death had arrived. A grave-like silence brooded among the pines and if the actors in this tragic drama had been less resolute or brave they might have quit the scene, leaving their victim to enjoy his liberty. But they were not of this stamp; though engaged in a (illegible) proceeding they had the courage to stand their ground and even to fight the devil if he should appear upon the scene and demand an explanation.
The part of the rope that secured Worley to the animal on which he had ridden to the gibbet was taken from the mule and the prisoner was permitted to sit upright. His hands, however, were tied behind him and a portion of the rope was coiled securely around his body. The other end of the rope was thrown over a high (illegible) limb and, after being drawn over the limb until it ceased to lag, it was securely fastened. All that remained now was to give the mule a kick and make her move from under her prisoner. The kick was given and the desired result immediately followed. Worley was left dangling in the air and his executioners were soon in the deep pall that shrouded the woods.
But Worley was not doomed to meet his death in mid-air suspended between a tree limb and his native heath.
As if by the interposition of a (illegible) his hands became unloosened as he left the animal's back on his swing. Wrapping his legs about the limb of the tree he ran his hand into his pocket and drew out his knife, which the killers had failed to take from him. With that instrument he severed the rope and fell to the ground. He was slightly stunned by the fall, but this was a much happier ending than the preceding events of the evening portended.
The next morning he appeared in the neighborhood and if a ghost had risen from the grave of one of the old pioneers, their apparition could hardly have produced greater sensation than Worley's flesh and blood.
"Good morning," said he to one of the men whom he recognized as a member of the party who had tried to hang him.
"Good morning," said the man with concealed astonishment and forgetting his painful disguise, he looked at Worleys apparition with a mingled feeling of (illegible) stupidity.
"How did you sleep last night?" inquired Worley with a grim smile.
No reply was made, but the man continued to stare at Worley as if he had suddenly become a monument in the neighborhood of Worley's ghost.
Whatever may be said to Worley credit, he was a brave man and there was not a cowardly drop of blood in him, however tainted it may have been. He made up his mind to stay at home and to face any danger that might (illegible). If he was going to be killed he wanted to die on his own possessions and in the furrows which he had plowed with his own hands.
The moonshiners continued to (illegible) their victim and they vowed that next time they would do their work more successfully. A subsequent meeting was held at which it was decided that a smaller number of men should carry out the next (illegible). This time they decided not to carry him to Gilmer county, but to kill him wherever they might happen to find him. They reached Worley's place at a late hour the night of their next visit and decided to wait on the side of the mountain until the following day. The next morning they learned by a reconnoitering party that Worley was at work in his cornfield and it was decided that three of their number (illegible) unknown to Worley, should cross over the field and ascertain whether or not he carried a pistol concealed on his person. They did not want to lose a single man in any difficulty that might ensure. The committee thus appointed passed over the cornfield.
"Hello," shouted the men, as they approached Worley.
"Hello," replied the ex-moonshiner, looking up from his work and observing three men armed with guns.
"Have you seen any wild turkey this morning?" asked one of the men. (several illegible words) "We are on a little hunting expedition and expect to kill something before we go back." This last remark carried with it a deadly meaning and (illegible) fears of Worley were instinctively aroused.
He replied that he seen not wild turkeys that morning and expressed the opinion that better luck might attend them further on. They left the field and after a short interview with one of Worley's neighbors, they returned to their camp. After a few minutes the neighbor passed over to Worley's field, and after a short conversation, returned to his own furrows. It is supposed the object of his visit was to find if Worley had a pistol. A signal (illegible) and they immediately returned to the field re-enforced. This time they leveled their guns on Worley and asked him to put up his hands.
"D—n you," said he, "if you will only give me a chance I'll whip the last one of you. If you kill me you will kill the bravest man in this county."
They fired their guns and hastily retreated. This time their fatal work was consummated. The bullets penetrated the neck, head and body of their victim. His chin was shattered and a piece of it was carried by the force of the ball a distance of six feet and lodged on a cornstalk that was growing in the field. On the following day Worley was buried in a little country graveyard and the (illegible) of this tragic drama, so far as Worley was concerned, was forever closed.
The officers of the law, however, in a hunt of the perpetrators of the crime have not ceased to sweep the county A large number of moonshiners have been arrested, charged with having committed the crime and these will be given a trial before Judge Newman. The bring of these men to justice means more than the mere satisfaction of one man's death. It mean the maintenance of law and order and restoration of peace and happiness to a troubled section of the commonwealth.
The trial of the Worley case before Judge Newman on the fourth Monday in next months will no doubt shed abundant light on the situation as it exists today in that unhappy and troubled section of th state. The first issue will be that of the hanging and this will be followed by the murder trial. (remaining of this paragraph illegible)
"I intend to leave no stone unturned," said District Attorney Joe James, "until I have convicted the last member of this gang. Colonel Rucker and I have made up our minds to do it if we have to work night and day."
(Final paragraph is mostly illegible. It speaks of "ablest lawyers in north Georgia" and the names "Jones" and "Hammond" can be seen. Another lawyer's name is illegible.) Final sentence appears to read: "This is not simply the question whether or not the prisoners at the bar are guilty, but whether or not the kuklux band will continue to exist as an organization, menacing the peace and happiness of private citizens and outraging the sovereignty of the people as symbolized in the laws of this land!
L. L. Knight.
Old News Stories
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