The Lynching Project: Miller County
Page written by Mackenzie Tilton
The Lynching of Harry Bradley, Reuben Robinson, and Joe Fulford
Joe Fulford was a white man known around the town of Colquitt, Georgia for his drunken rage and his ill, bed-ridden wife, Mattie Fulford. On the night of August 10th, 1883, while he returned to the Fulford house on foot from his father's home, Joe allegedly recruited two black passers-by to aid him in killing his wife, who he saw as a burden due to her illness. One of the men, Harry Bradley, was said to have beaten Mattie Fulford with a club while she lay in her bed, while the other man, Reuben Robinson, stood watch at the front door of the house. After this supposed beating, Fulford stomped on Mattie's chest and throat in order to ensure she was dead. It was claimed that the men then placed her body on an ox cart and transported her to Spring Creek in Colquitt, GA (pictured above). Her body and the cart were sunk into the water, and her bonnet was placed on a nearby tree limb in order to make the authorities believe that it was a suicide.
The next morning, Joe Fulford began to express concern to his neighbors about his wife's whereabouts, leading a search party all over town. When he began to fervently steer the search party away from Spring Creek, the townspeople began to suspect that he was guilty of her disappearance. She was found under two feet of water in the creek, and Fulford was arrested, commenting "I would not have had it happen for $5." Several community members then claimed they heard Harry Bradley and Reuben Robinson making "suspicious" comments about Mattie Fulford. The two were subsequently taken into jail and charged with involvement in the crime. Hearing news of the sensational crime, hundreds of people from neighboring counties came to see the suspects and, presumably, participate in the lynch mob which formed on the night of August 11th. Bradley and Fulford were forcibly taken from jail, hanged from a tree limb over Spring Creek, and riddled with bullets. Robinson was seized later that night and fatally shot by the mob. The Weekly Constitution claimed that it was a just ending to the series of events and that the lynching of these men before a trial was necessary, as the law can be "slow, tedious, and uncertain." As a result of this deprivation of legal justice, we may never know what truly occurred on the night Mattie Fulford died.
The Brunswick Paper, in its August 18th, 1883 report on the story, stated that “Judge Lynch held court between 10 and 12 o’clock that night.” This judge was no legal authority, but, rather, the mob that forcibly took Fulford, Bradley, and Robinson from their jail cells and hanged them at Spring Creek without a fair trial. A statement such as this reflects the deep and inherent bias in newspaper reports on lynching events written and published by white southerners in this time period. The journalists who wrote such stories showed no value for due process, nor did they acknowledge their responsibility to accurately report the news without adding their own perceptions and biases into their articles. This clear slant shows how biased reporting added another layer of cruelty to lynching in the South, as it denied the right of the victims to fair treatment and due process, even in death.
Sources: The Savannah Morning News (August 13th, 1883), The Brunswick Paper (August 18th, 1883), and The Weekly Constitution (August 21st, 1883)
The Lynching of Frank Fountain and Lewis Warren
On the night of August 26th, 1883, it is alleged that two young black men, Lewis Warren (17) and Frank Fountain (21), entered the home of a prominent Miller county family. Upon entering, the woman of the household, whose husband was absent, claimed the men attempted to rape her while she slept. The woman, however, had a pistol under her pillow and fired at the two men as they approached her bed. As they fled, she recognized them as two of the laborers who lived and worked on her family’s property. The next day, the woman organized a search party to find them. The search party quickly morphed into a lynch mob as it apprehended Lewis Warren, who was arrested, brought to the Colquitt jail, and shot dozens of times by the mob in his cell. Frank Fountain was reportedly still at large. 18 days later on September 4th, the headless body of Frank Fountain was found by hunters in the Chattahoochee River. It is presumed that, after killing Warren on the 26th, the lynch mob located Fountain, killed him, and threw his body into the river.
The only testimony of what happened on the night of the 26th came from the unnamed woman. There was no one else to corroborate what she claimed, and the accounts told by Warren and Fountain likely went unheard and unbelieved. In this era and often times in the present, the testimony of one white person is valued more by the public than the testimony of several African-Americans. Because of the lack of a thorough investigation into what may or may not have taken place the night before Frank Fountain and Lewis Warren were killed, the truth may never come to light.
Sources: The Weekly Constitution (September 4th, 1883) and The Banner-Watchman (August 28th, 1883)
The Lynching of Sam Long
Sam Long, also known as Tom Reece, was a twenty year old African-American man living and working on the property of the Reagan family in Colquitt, GA. He was accused of raping Mrs. Reagan in December of 1887, when the woman alleged that he lured her out into the fields to check on a sick horse. Mrs. Reagan claimed that, once she and Long were far enough from the house, Long threw her to the ground, raped her, and then tried to force poison into her mouth. He then escaped Miller County and left the state, not to be seen again until the summer of the following year. On September 4th, 1888, a man named G.H Montgomery recognized Long in Randolph County, GA. He notified authorities, who tracked Long down in Eufala, AL. He was arrested there and transported back to Colquitt, GA in Miller County. There, Long was met by a lynch mob and taken from the sherriff. The mob removed his genitals, hanged him from a limb, and riddled with bullets at 4 o'clock in the afternoon of September 4th.
The Bainbridge Democrat stated that "Miller's best citizens" lynched Sam Long "without mask or disguise in broad day light." The use of phrases like these represent the view that white southerners and white law enforcement had of lynching during this time period. They believed that lynching was an act of justice and that there was honor in participating in the mob. Law enforcement officers had this same perspective on lynching, as they let it occur without impedement on the grounds that they believed it was an alternate route to the official justice process. Through this type of thinking, they systematically denied legal justice and due process to African-Americans, depriving the legal rights of black Americans and substituting it with mob rule and, thus, swift, biased, and uninformed judgments .
Source: The Bainbridge Democrat (September 6th, 1888)
The Lynching of an Unknown Individual near Colquitt, GA
It was alleged that on May 21st, 1894 near Colquitt, GA, an unidentified, knife-and-pistol-wielding African-American man raped the 16 year old daughter of Mr. Wash Smith, a prominent man in Miller County. The girl stated that, after she attempted to resist, the man cut her with his knife. Hearing her screams, her father happened to pass by at that moment and ran to his daughter's side. As Mr. Wash Smith began to fight the man, the man shot Smith several times and critically wounded him. The girl ran for help and asked for the assistance of Mr. Pickerin and Mr. Pridgen, nearby homeowners. Pickerin and Pridgen located the unknown man and apprehended him. They took him to the Colquitt County Jail, where they were met by a mob of 50 Miller County residents. The lynch mob pried open the jail cell's bars and hanged the suspect at Spring Creek, riddling his body with bullets. Not much is known about the man, other than that he was supposedly a newcomer to Colquitt from Dooley County, having moved to the town to work on the turpentine farm of Mr. J.W. Cowart. His last words before being lynched were said to be "if they would put a Winchester rifle into my hands, I would make blood flow down the streets of Colquitt before they got through with me."
These last words are particularly striking, as they represent a final but firm message on behalf of the unidentified man. Lynching inherently takes away the agency and voice of the victim, yet this man was able to reclaim his voice in his last moments. His words carry the weight of all those who died as he did but were unable to speak their rage or their hurt at the tragic situation that took their lives. They represent a foil to the white insistence on justice at the hands of the rifle or noose, asserting a black resistance that puts the weapons in the hands of black Americans rather than white. Though his name remains unknown, his words offer a testimony to who he was.
Source: The Bainbridge Democrat (May 24th, 1894)
The Lynching of Ike Raney
Ike Raney (also reported to be named Ike Harden, Isaac Rainey, Ike Moore, or Ike Radney) was accused of assaulting a white woman in Colquitt, GA on Saturday, August 10th, 1918. After being apprehended the following day in conjunction with the alleged crime, the Miller County Sheriff recommended transferring Raney to Albany, GA for "safe-keeping" after threats of lynching were made against him. En route to Albany, however, Raney and the Sheriff were met with an armed posse at the Baker County Line. The posse took Raney from the Sheriff, transported him back to Miller County, and hanged him 10 miles east of Colquitt on August 11th. They riddled his body with bullets after Raney allegedly confessed to the crime.
This case is curious in that the Sheriff made attempts to keep the accused safe from the lynch mob, and it is puzzling how Raney was apprehended so easily by the posse even after having received police protection. While it may seem as though the Sheriff may have been on the side of legal justice, it is likely that he was attempted to maintain the illusion of being opposed to lynch mob rule while still allowing the crime to occur. Law enforcement officials in areas where lynching was common received occasional criticism from northern or urban newspapers, such as the Atlanta Weekly Constitution. These papers saw lynching as proof of a lack of law and order in the rural south. By publicly claiming a desire to protect Raney while ultimately allowing the mob to lynch him, the Sheriff was able to give the people of Colquitt their desired outcome while saving face for his police department.
Source: The Daily Times-Enterprise (August 13th, 1918)
The Lynching of Jake Davis
Jake Davis, also known as Shake Davis or Jacob Davis, was hanged and shot in Colquitt, GA on July 14th, 1922 after being accused of fathering a child with a white woman. This is all that is known about Davis. The lack of reporting on his death indicates a white indifference to the suffering of black people, as the local news did not bother investigating the causes or circumstances of Davis' death. Additionally, it is important to note that it was not recorded that the child he allegedly fathered was a product of rape, or that there were any repercussions from the community for the white woman involved. This shows a profound racial bias amongst whites in which the mere existence of a mixed-race child, even as a result of a consensual relationship, is seen as a crime for which the black parent bore all of the consequences. This way of thinking helps modern observerers understand just how deep racism ran (and in many cases, still runs) through the veins of the American South.
Source: Monroe Work Today