Is violence a sign of the times?

Although week-after-week violent crimes are reported by media, it’s not anything new.

Burke County is no stranger to violent crime, as this look back in history shows.

He meant to kill him

Waynesboro resident John Rogers, father of Frank Rogers, 19, swore out a warrant charging R.E. Terrell with intent to murder September 4, 1926. Terrell admittedly slashed Frank’s throat with a razor earlier that week. Terrell was the former chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, serving for 12 years. He slashed Frank’s throat for keeping his daughter out until 2 a.m., according to an article in The True Citizen at that time.

“Of course I meant to kill him,” Terrell told Sheriff Thomas. “I didn’t cut as deeply as I meant to.”

Frank and 16-year-old Hester Terrell were walking home across an open field toward her home, when R.E. Terrell met them and without saying a word slashed Frank’s throat with a razor, almost to the jugular vein from the front of the neck to the right ear. Frank didn’t die, but reported to the newspaper that he was lying at his home in Waynesboro in a dazed condition. Dr. J.B. Lewis reported that Frank’s injuries required 10 stitches to the throat.

Deputy Sheriff Clark Wright, who arrived on the scene shortly after the occurrence, said that Terrell told him that he “cut to kill and would have taken pleasure in watching the boy strangle to death on his own blood.”

Witness testimony collaborated Frank’s story that a flat tire delayed him from returning his date to her father’s home on time.

Frightened to death

In another case, Mrs. K.T. Walden, wife of one of the most prominent farmer-merchants in the Grange section about 12 miles west of Wrens, died in October 1925 following a nervous shock from a fright that occurred at her home just three days earlier. The circumstances leading up to Walden’s death were “sensational and of rather an ugly nature”, according to an article in The True Citizen at the time.

Walden was left in charge of her husband’s store when Tobe Willford and his two daughters arrived armed with shotguns and pistols. They informed Walden they had come to kill her husband.

“ Mrs. Walden sent a runner to intercept her husband before he could get to the store, and in the mean time Willford and his two daughters are said to have discharged their firearms and run everybody out of the little town, after which they left,” according to the article.

Later in the night, Willford and his daughters went to the Walden home and called for Mr. Walden to come out. His wife prevailed on him not to go out, and she went on the porch. At her appearance the Willfords again informed her that they were there for the purpose of killing her husband, and then fired their guns. Mrs. Walden was so badly frightened that she suffered a severe nervous shock, which continued until her death.

Sheriff Thomas was sent for, and accompanied by County Warden Stevens, went to the Willfords home and after some struggle succeeded in disarming them, and placed them under arrest. While at the home, they discovered an illegal still.

Mind your own business

Ira Dave Foster was killed at Sardis in 1925. T. M. More, one of the managers at Vestal Lumber Company’s plant, warned Foster about soliciting labor from the plant and to keep away, according to an article published in November of that year. An effort to arrest him ended in failure. Days later, Foster came back to the shop where Moore was at work and made a threatening remark.

“One of us is going to hell today,” he said.

The two men grabbed their weapons. Moore went for his shotgun and Foster after his pistol. Moore fired, killing Foster.

“It seems that Moore ordered Foster to stop and consider himself under arrest, and Foster after securing his pistol, did not stop for the warning given him advanced and Moore used his shotgun, killing him instantly,” the article states.

Coroner Jones held an inquest over the body and a jury gave a verdict of self-defense.

Leave my chickens alone

Burke County authorities searched for W.E. Allsbrook of St. Clair after he shot J.H. Morgan in January 1929. Allsbrook shot Morgan in front of his home following an argument. As Morgan went down after being hit with the charge of the buckshot, he drew a pistol and fired five shots at Allsbrook, all of the bullets missing their mark. Allsbrook fled the scene before authorities were notified.

According to witnesses, Allsbrook had appeared at Morgan’s home and began shooting at chickens which were running about in the yard. Morgan was notified and hurried to the scene. After a short conversation between the two men, Allsbrook leveled his shotgun in Morgan’s direction and fired.

Mrs. Morgan, who was an eye witness to the shooting rushed to her husband, who fell into her arms after he had emptied his revolver at Allsbrook. Buckshot was removed from Morgan’s chest and face and he was in a state of profound shock, the article states.

Postmaster fights back

There was a lot of hustle and bustle on the sunny Saturday morning of October 20, 1883, in McBean. Walter McElmurray arrived at his mercantile store beside the railroad track; where he was not only the local merchant, but also the Postmaster. It was his custom to carry his store ledgers and other important papers, as well as his pistol home with him each night for safekeeping. On this particular morning he laid his papers on the counter and forgot to remove his pistol from his pocket. As Gus Ward walked in the door, McElmurray greeted him. Ward became agitated when McElmurray didn’t jump to retrieve Ward’s mail, but rather told him the clerks would get it when they returned to the front counter.

“I guess you are just mad at me for signing that petition we sent to the Post Office Department to get rid of you and send us a Postmaster that knows how to run a post office,” Ward said.

McElmurray responded to Ward that he and the others who had signed the petition were guilty of a low cowardly act.

Ward had threatened McElmurray many times in the past, but his threats were not taken seriously, even though he knew that years ago Ward had killed a man with his knife. But this time, Ward would not give up. He kept trying to pull McElmurray by the arms out of the store and when they reached the door, McElmurray braced himself against the door. Ward slapped him in the face with an open hand.

Finally, the men stepped outside. After a scuffle, McElmurray pulled out his pistol but changed his mind and started heading back into the store. McElmurray cussed at him and told him he was too much of a coward to use his gun. As McElmurray turned around he saw Ward coming at him with a knife. McElmurray shot one time, hitting Ward in the stomach. Ward’s injuries required surgery and McElmurray offered to pay the medical costs. McElmurray turned himself in and was initially charged with assault with intent to murder. Ward died the next day and McElmurray was charged with murder instead. A jury found McElmurray not guilty after 15 minutes of deliberation.

Burke County crime rates

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s 2020 Summary Report, Burke County’s population in 2020 stood at 22,244 people with a crime density of 20.63 per 1000 people. The statistic is higher than 129 of Georgia’s 159 counties.

The Burke County Archives is located in the Old Burke County Jail, built in 1939. The Burke County Genealogical Society manages the archives, operated in partnership with the Burke County government and local volunteers. The Archives are open on Fridays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-noon and by appointment. More information is available by calling 706-554-2138.

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