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Tracing the first known generations that planted in the Northern Neck when Jamestown was young


Many unrelated Martin families in Halifax County, Virginia, existed at the time of the Revolutionary War, but few can be traced


Residents of the Glade District of Hall County joined the reserves and many survived the worst battles of the Civil War


How did families from an ancient English town of weavers and sawyers end up in America


Some Cherokee families remained in Georgia after the Trail of Tears, but the questions are how many, and how, and why


The frontier forts stood alone against attackers, surviving only if supplies arrived in time


The father of many Hall County, Georgia, families is mostly forgotten


Some of the children of Margaret Martin were Winston County Unionists while others fought for the South


These fighting frontier Presbyterians carved out a settlement, a history and a nation


Tragedy at the 1897 Soldier’s Day Reunion

When the Confederate Army mustered out at the end of the American Civil War, the remaining members of the militia Company I, the Glade Guard Volunteer Rifles, returned to their families in the Glade District of Hall County, Georgia. Over the following years, the veterans with still-familiar names like Martin, Poole, Hawkins, and Cape raised families, worked their businesses and grew crops in this small community. Compared to the violence of war, everything was relatively peaceful.

Andrew J. Poole, a brigadier general in Hall County’s general militia, formed the unit in 1863 after all the other regular Georgia regiments were mustered and more soldiers were needed. He informed the governor of Georgia that he could scrape together enough men in the area for one more militia company, and that he should be put in charge. The governor agreed. Commissioned a captain in the Confederate army, Poole drilled the volunteers on the grounds of the Bethlehem Baptist Church near Lula, Georgia, and led them into war.

The Poole family organized an annual reunion for the men of company I on Soldiers’ Day. Over time it became a day-long event, including exercises, speeches and a basket dinner, and it attracked family members, spectators and veterans. Old soldiers from other Confederate units, and even ex-Federals, were invited to join the group. As with all small communities, occassional agruments between families would erupt, but on Soldiers’ Day all differences were forgotten.

The men of company I demonstrated their old drills in the churchyard. A speech was made by Col. J.H. Hudgins, and Rev. Noah Martin, a wounded veteran of company I, gave the sermon, old business was despensed with, a group photo was taken, and everyone retired to their wives’ large dinner. The reunion held in 1897 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, where it all started thirty four years earlier, was a grand affair. Almost.

A year earlier, a shouting match broke out at the Dunagan Chapel reunion on Soldiers’ Day between the sons of two neighbors and veterans of company I, Marion Cape and William H. Poole, one of Andrew Poole’s sons. Powell Cape made advances to “Babe” Martin which angered her cousin, Jim Poole, but nothing more happened at the former reunion after Poole told him to stay away from his cousin. Poole was a widower with two childern and his interest in Babe is not clear.

James J. Poole, 34 at the time, spent months working in Ducktown, Tennessee, and returned home a week before the Bethlehem reunion after being informed that his sister died (being born after 1880 her name is not yet known). According to the Gainesville Eagle on 26 August 1897, during Poole’s absence “Cape had renewed his attentions to Miss Martin, and rumor has it they are engaged to be married.” It was little wonder that Jim Poole personally escorted Babe to the Bethlehem church on Soldiers’ Day that year.

Around three o’clock as everything was winding down, Poole watched as Powell Cape, 27, hitched a mule to his buggy, but then saw Babe sitting inside. He quickly approached the buggy and asked Powell to join him in the road to talk. Once off the church property, the smaller and younger Powell Cape turned and attacked Jim Poole according to news accounts, grabbing him by the throat (“or collar”) and hitting him. Poole responded and got the better of Powell as Babe looked on. With no way he could win, Powell pulled a knife.

Thirty minutes later, Jim Poole bled to death on the side of the road as the families looked on. His body was taken to the home of Richard Martin in Lula where a coroner’s inquest determined the cause to be voluntary manslaughter. Powell Cape was arrested and taken to jail in Gainesville. He had cut Poole in the back several times and fatally stabbed him in the chest. He claimed it was self defense.

The trial of William Powell Cape for the murder of James J. Pool began in the Superior Court of Hall County, Georgia, Wednesday morning, January 26, 1898. A jury was picked from a panel of 48 neighbors. Many witnesses were questioned, including Babe Martin. Powell Cape explained what happened, that Poole attacked him and he regretted killing Poole. The trial concluded the following morning, and after four hours of deliberating the jury decided Cape was not guilty of anything.

Two years later, Powell Cape married Arey Martin, 27 in 1899, the daughter of Pinkney M. Martin, my great great grand uncle. It isn’t verified if Arey was the now-mysterious Miss Babe Martin, over whom her cousin was killed, but Arey was a cousin of Jim Poole by marriage. No other know Martin fits the profile.

Not far apart in Timber Ridge Baptist Church cemetery are two gravestones: one for J. J. Pool and his wife Sallie, and the
other is for W. P. Cape and his wife Arey. 


Bethlehem Baptist Church, where Powell Cape killed James Pool in 1897, is just a few miles away on Highway 52. James’ wife, Sarah Hawkins Poole, died six years before James’s killing, leaving him to raise two small children alone. Aery Martin Cape died ten years into her marriage, leaving Powell to raise two small children alone.

The animosity between families outlasted the memories of the tragedy.

Sources: Media reports of the reunion and murder trial, vital records and historical documents

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The Murder of Edward Biggs

On the cold evening of 11 December 1832, Edward Biggs ventured out to find his seventeen-year-old son, Richard, and bring him home safely. He crossed the Town Bridge over the Stour River and headed for the Bull Ring. No teenager should be in town at nine o’clock on a dangerous night like this.

The ancient village of Kidderminster, England, was facing the Industrial Revolution and all of its problems. Progress was causing too much change. Finding new tools to increase productivity was eliminating more and more good jobs. Cutting quality for efficiency was increasing wealth for a few and draining the life away from many others. And it was time for an election.

The boy spent that Wednesday attending the hustings where political candidates stumped, and enthralled or enraged voters on the day of the big vote. The hustings was often the match that lit the fuse for the rioting that accompanied almost every election. And the public houses provided the fuel; lots of fuel.

The Black Horse Inn sat one hundred yards away from the Bull Ring, with the Town Bridge between the two. The Fox Public House sat at the other end of the ring on Swan Street. These were just two of the many local taverns in the depressed factory town of Kidderminster in Worcestershire, England, not far from Birmingham.

The town was known as a center for carpet weaving, and employed an entire industry of independent weavers. They were now being replaced by factories run by a few wealthy carpet masters who controlled jobs and wages. The proud weavers tended to want their families fed and clothed, and at times brought it to someone’s attention.

Elections were often violent anyway, but the people of Kidderminster were electing its first Member of Parliament since 1294. The failure of the Great Strike of 1828, just three years earlier, divided the town into two very emotional camps. It was not safe that night.

The Black Horse was the headquarters of George Phillips, a candidate for MP and an opponent of the more popular Robert Godson. Godson gained hero status for his role in defending the organizers of the 1828 strike. Only one went to prison, and that was one year for libeling the color of a carpet master’s front door.

Edward Biggs, 46, was a local sawyer, a specialized timber cutter, with a pregnant wife, Ann, and a family of ten. One child was still an infant, and the Biggs lost one son already. He was not about to lose another. He came to town with a single purpose and carried nothing with him. As soon as he found the boy, they started for home. They would cross the bridge again before passing the Black Horse Inn where some were said to be fighting with the constables.

Special Constable Charles Johnson, 32, rushed into the Fox Public House on Swan Street about that time and shouted, “All hands to the Black Horse.” About a half dozen men and one woman joined Johnson as he raced through the Bull Ring toward George Phillips’ headquarters.

About a dozen townspeople were on or near the bridge, but witnesses said there was no threat of rioting here. Special Constable Peter Meredith, 23, was at the bridge, and claimed that the people ignored the young temporary deputy when he told them to move along.

As Johnson and his supporters reached the bridge on their way to the pub, they heard Richard and Edward, who were already there, shout, “Godson forever!” Meredith rushed across the street to confront the father and his son. He fired back at the boy, “What’s that you say?” When the boy answered, Meredith immediately bludgeoned Richard across the face, knocking him to the ground and leaving him unconscious.

The unarmed father reacted, but Meredith swung back at Edward, smashing him in the right temple and eye. Edward fell to the ground, dazed and bloody. Then witnesses
watched in horror as Johnson and a third Special Constable, Henry Haywood, 23, kicked and pummeled the injured man as he coiled on the ground.


The Bull Ring was Kidderminster’s heart; a medieval marketplace in the center of town. In 1832 it was still a major intersection of Church, Swan and Vicar Streets. It was home to the imposing white statue of the town’s famous English minister, Richard Baxter.

Edward rose up to the crowd and tried to cry, “Murder,” but Meredith brought his heavy club down onto the back of Edward’s head and silenced his victim. The people on the bridge were too unconcerned or too scared to intervene. Nobody tried to help Edward or his son.

Richard woke to find his father lying face down in the dirt as the crowd walked away. He helped Edward stand up, and supported his father as they stumbled home. Edward’s left side was limp and he couldn’t speak. Meredith and the others beat the Biggs as if to prove that disruption would not be tolerated by the temporary, untrained officers of the law.

The older Johnson was an experienced town watchman. Meredith and Haywood were simply young carpet weavers, just two of the 400 citizens deputized as Special Constables that day to carry clubs and keep the peace during this one election. This was a thug’s dream since they were allowed to use the clubs whenever they decided things were out of hand.

As Meredith and the others walked away, witnesses overheard him say, “Damn him. I floored the bastard and made a skylight of his skull.” None of the constables did anything to help. Doctors were called to the Biggs home two days later and tried to help, but Edward died in bed the following Monday of severe brain injury.

A year later, Peter Meredith was brought up on the charge of murdering my great great great grandfather, and Henry Haywood and Charles Johnson for Aiding & Abetting. Most of the witnesses testified to the beating by Haywood and Johnson, and the doctors proved multiple bruising about the neck and chest, but the two were acquitted as fine, upstanding citizens.

The Judge interrupted the proceeding and told the Jury that he didn’t believe it to be murder. He said they should only find Meredith guilty of manslaughter, so they did.  An earlier two-day Coroner's Inquest decided to call it manslaughter so the judge saw no reason to consider a change to that opinion.

Even though Meredith brutally clubbed Biggs on the ground so hard that it broke the skull into pieces, Meridith only served one year in prison, and according to the Judge, only as a warning to other untrained deputies who might decide to overstep their authority.

The trial of Peter Meredith received media coverage from newspapers as far away as the London Times. Because of trials like these, interference by judges began to wane in 1830s England, and attorneys started controlling more equal and more lawful proceedings.

Richard Godson won the election that day, but proved to be more aligned with the carpet masters. He lost the next election to George Phillips. 

Edward’s widow, Ann, raised ten children by herself and died alone in her Cement Row home in 1859. The job of sawyer died away as well. Most of the sons and daughters of Edward and Ann Biggs found their way to America looking for a better life than they suffered in 1800s Kidderminster.

Sources: Media reports of the murder trial, vital records and historical documents



© 2016, Bill Draper. All Rights Reserved.

UPDATED: January 9, 2016