HE CAME, HE KILLED, HE GOT BLOWN UP
James Jackson Runs Amuck
COCHRAN, GA. - July 14, 1915 - No one alive knows why James Jackson ran amuck and killed a deputy, an overseer, and a young farmer. Those who did know what happened, could not or would not tell the whole story of James Jackson and why he killed three men and then was shot at and later blown up by a staggering posse.
The sun was scorching the fields of W.O. Peacock in Bleckley County, some three statute miles from the county seat of Cochran. James Jackson got on the very bad side of his field boss, Mr. Lem W. Sanders. Boss Sanders reprimanded Jackson and sent him back to his quarters in not too good of a mood. Hearsay repeaters swore that Sanders told Jackson that he would have to start working or quit his job on the farm. The rumor mongers consistently maintained that Sanders slapped Jackson, who stomped off in a huff. Some say he went back to get a gun, but the pervasive account is somewhat different.
It was nearly pitch dark when Sanders went to the Negro quarters to deliver some medicine to one of his sick workers. Sanders just happened to pass by Jackson's shack. After a long hard day in the hot fields, Sanders took a seat on the side of Jackson's front porch. Sitting with his back toward Jackson, Sanders' pistol was visible in his back hip pocket in the dim porch light.
Suddenly, and with no warning, Jackson sprang from his seat, grabbed his boss's gun, and pointed it point blank at his antagonist. Sanders, according to Hollis Blackshear, an occupant of the house, begged Jackson not to shoot him. Jackson grabbed Sanders by the arm and held him with one hand. And, with two shots into his heart, killed Lem Sanders dead with the other. Noticing that Blackshear had witnessed the murder, Jackson turned toward the trembling Blackshear and pulled his pistol trigger three times, all misfires. Jackson then fled to the home of one Peter Fambrough.
Fambrough took Jackson to the home of Jackson's brother, who lived near about three crow fly miles from Hawkinsville. When word got out that overseer Sanders had been shot, a small, but highly incensed, posse was organized by night marshal, W. Sumpter "Sump" Hogg. Oscar Lawson, a young farmer, went along with Sump Hogg up to the house to convince Jackson to give himself up.
Marshal Hogg approached a window of the shack and demanded the fleeing felon give himself up. Oscar Lawson went around to the back of the house. Jackson fired an instantly mortal rifle shot straight into the marshal's chest. Jackson walked across the interior of the house and fired a second mortal shot into an eye of Oscar Lawson, who never knew what killed him. Another member of the posse returned fire and temporarily disabled Jackson.
It was about that time when Bleckley County Sheriffs J.A. Floyd and Pulaski County Sheriff J. R. Rogers arrived with a very large posse of law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens. One of the officers grabbed Peter Fambrough and through the most persuasive acts of coercion, forced the terrified accomplice to go to the house and remove the corpses of Jackson's victims. All the while, Jackson kept up his fire from the inside of the embattled abode.
After dragging the dead men out of the line of fire, Fambrough was compelled to crawl under the house with a bundle of dynamite, which had been rushed in from a Hawkinsville store. When it appeared that Jackson was never going to give himself up voluntarily, the dynamite was ignited and Jackson's fortress was blown into various sized smithereens. The posse swarmed the shattered shanty, firing as thy approached. The point men found Jackson dead. Despite reports to the contrary, the Cochran Journal reported that James Jackson's death came at the hands of legally authorized law enforcement authors and not a lynch mob. Some reports suggested that Jackson was dragged from the splintered ruins of the flattened fortress and strung up in a tree by a vengeful mob of as many as six hundred men.
In the passion of the moment, Peter Fambrough and Jackson's brother were also killed when they resisted arrest. One published report maintained that the men had a shot gun, a pistol, and plenty of ammunition.
Lem Sanders, W.O. Peacock's 42-year-old trusted overseer, was buried with honors by the Woodmen of the World the next afternoon. Young Lawson was laid to rest in the cemetery at Antioch Church the next morning. Sump Hogg was known as one of the best officers of Bleckley County, whose sole fault was that he was too careless with his own safety. Mrs. Ludie Hogg and her three children sobbed as her husband was buried in the Weeping Pine Cemetery that afternoon.
Reports of the tragic events were often contradictory. Names of the principals were often misspelled or interchanged. One thing was for certain. Six men were dead. And, many Bleckley Countians were grieving as they closed their business houses for the three funerals.
Although there appeared to be no connection to the killings, the Bleckley County Sheriff announced his resignation within days after Marshal Hogg was killed. Sheriff Floyd stated that he could no longer perform his duties because he was unable to stand the financial strain. "During my first term, I wore out a good horse and buggy and a good automobile in the service of the county, and so far as I could determine, without any adequate financial return," the sheriff wrote.
Floyd maintained that his fees were based on sixty year old costs of operating the jail. He enjoyed his term as sheriff but urged the county to develop a more equitable form of salaries for sheriffs.
The exploding of a desperado by Bleckley County lawmen wasn't confined to James Jackson. Just four days before Christmas, some two and one half years later, Frank Hall was killed by Pomp Wiley. Hall reportedly attempted to break up a fight between Wiley and another man. Enraged at Hall's interference with his business, Wiley fired three true pistol shots into Hall's heart, killing him instantly.
Sheriff Jones and a band of fifty citizens located the accused felon, who had barricaded himself in the home of his brother-in-law. As soon as the posse came into the range of his weapon, Wiley opened fire, striking and wounding Vicar Meadows and Dewitt Morris.
While the main force kept a steady fire in Wiley's direction, a small group of men snuck around to the rear of the house. Sheriff Jones directed the men to place a charge of dynamite under the house just as his predecessor had done to keep James Jackson from killing any more people. And, not surprisingly, the plan worked with similar results - Pomp Wiley was blown up and would never, ever kill again.