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The Lynching Project: Macon County

Macon County Overview:

Macon County was founded on December 14, 1837, from parts of Houston and Marion Counties. It was named for North Carolina Revolutionary War General, Nathaniel Macon. Located in Central Georgia, Macon County’s earliest inhabitants were Cherokee, Muskogee, and Uchee Indians. Agriculture is extremely important to the county’s economy, as they are known for their production of peaches, and more milk is produced there than any other county in Georgia.

Macon County was the site of three lynchings between the years of 1887 and 1910, creating an average of one lynching every 7.6 years.

March 12, 1887: Peter Reynolds

            18-year-old, Peter Reynolds, was lynched in the spring of 1887 after being accused of the murder of townsman, Hamp Nixon. Nixon had been fishing in the Flint River when Reynolds supposedly robbed him of the cash in his pockets and the watch from his wrist. After the robbery, Reynolds was accused of shooting Nixon and throwing his body in the river, where it was discovered just a few days later. When he was arrested, Reynolds was in possession of Nixon’s watch, and it is said that he fully confessed to the killing after being taken to jail. A few days later, he was lynched for these crimes he was accused of committing.

November 8, 1910: John Walker and William Barnes

            Farm laborer and Civil War Veteran, John Walker, and William Barnes, were both lynched in November of 1910 after being accused of murdering policeman, Charlie Bush. Officer Bush had been given the assignment of arresting Walker and Barnes for gambling but was killed in his efforts.

            William Barnes was the first of the two arrested. After five weeks as a fugitive, Barnes sought shelter in the barn of an African American man named William Jones. When Jones discovered Barnes, Barnes confided in him and told him the whole story of how he went about killing the local policeman. After hearing the story, Jones went into town and found Thomas Brown who returned to the house and aided in Barnes’ arrest. After being taken to jail, Barnes confessed to the killing, but he also named John Walker as a participant. This was a believable claim, as two different sized bullets were found in Officer Bush’s body. He was taken by an angry mob and lynched for this crime.

            John Walker served in the 2ndGeorgia Regiment during the Civil War. In his discharge, it says the he “Served until he was turned loose”. After his friend had been arrested and killed for the murder of Officer Bush, Walker, too, was arrested and taken to the local jail. He, however never confessed to this crime. He perhaps never got the chance. Soon after his arrival in the jail, the same mob that had lynched Barnes stormed the jail and took Walker with them. He was lynched to the same pole that Barnes’ body still hung to. According to reports, neither of them died quickly after being hung, and the official cause of death for both men was listed as pistol shots.