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Jim Winsness

If you read the newsletters for February and March 2003 (use the links provided below), you can see more of the trial documentation.

Feb. newsletter is: http://www.lrwma.com/news2003/0302/0302.htm

March newsletter is: http://www.lrwma.com/news2003/0303/0303.htm

The documentation there tells who was tried and found guilty - I will paste that here, but read the next post for a real twist to the story!

March 2003 Newsletter: "4 men, J. C. Watkins, H. D. Scroggs, M. S. Vinson, and Cliff Robinson pleaded not guilty at their trial on March 13, 1917 to the murder of Joseph W. Cash.

The result of the trial was a verdict of guilty and all 4 were sentenced to life imprisonment.

A year after they went to jail, one of the 4 stated that he only committed the murder – three were released by the court and declared not-guilty on August 19, 1918

I have not figured out which one admitted guilt. I have a document stating J. C. Watkins was not guilty but I have no document saying the same for the others."

Jim Winsness

Email from James Whiteway and Beryle Macias provided more information that they said I could post here.

I believe some if not all of the 4 who were sentenced to life imprisonment escaped! I am sure that at least James C. Watkins escaped to South Carolina where he lived under the alias of Sam Kennedy. Not long after the escape, someone confessed to being the one who committed the killing but I am not able to determine who that was at this point. In any case, James C. Watkins was no longer even wanted for the escape and killing but he did not know of this fact.

About 30 years later he returned to Georgia to the amazement of the family.

James advises me of another relative that we are trying to contact, however, here is what James adds to the story concerning this relative:
The James C. Watkins in the orchard story was her uncle. And she remembers him coming home in the early 50's and all the excitement it created when he showed up. He had been living in South Carolina for most of those years that he was gone and decided to come home to Georgia. He didn't tell his wife (brought his S.C. family with him) his real name ( had been using Sam Kennedy all those years) until he got into Habersham County. It was a suprise for everyone!!

When we hear from that relative we will post what she tells us.

Doris Simmons

Hello Mr. Winsness,
I received your email requesting information about James Watkins. He was my uncle, my father's brother. My father's name was Herman. My father was 11 years old when Joseph Cash was killed. When James (we've always called him uncle Jim) ran away he used the name Sam Kenedy. James parents names are Jobe & Missouri Watkins. They died before I was born so I didn't know them. I know that my grandmother Missouri was half indian. I don't know who my great grandparents were.

When James was in jail, James mother gave him a new testament. Before James ran away he gave the new testament to my father. In the back pages the name Sam Kenedy was stamped. I think he was trying to give a clue as to what his new identity was going to be. My father couldn't read, but my mother would read the testament and she asked him who was Sam Kenedy, because his name was in the testament. He didn't know who it was. I now have that testament and it is very fragile. There is also another name stamped in the testament ,it is Flornce Kenedy.

When James came back it was in the late 50's. I was about 14 years old, I remember it like it was yesterday, we were so excited. My uncle William would not believe it was James until he felt a scar on James face under his long white beard that he had gotten as a child. The story went, James was angry with his family, so he said I don't have to live here, I have family in Georgia. He lived in Columbia S C . So a car load of family came to Georgia, They came to Georgia expecting to find Kenedy's, James didn't tell them until they were in Baldwin Ga. that he was a Watkins. They stayed the night at our house,and stayed up talking until way in the night.

James had a wife & 2 daughters in Georgia that he left behind. The wife's name was Icie & daughters were Bessie & Bertha. He decided to come back to his first wife Icie. He stayed with her about a month then decided to go back to his wife in Columbia. The wife in Columbia was named Ivy. They had several children. I haven't heard about any of them in years ,I wonder if they are still living. They came to visit 2 or3 times a year until James got unable to travel. I was young and was not interested in family history so I don't remember much.

I have a picture of James ,it's just a copy of a copy so it's not very good. I'm sending you a copy of the picture and also a copy of the names in the new testament. I hope you can make sense of all this, I'm not very good on computers. I hope everything comes through all right.

I hope that I have helped you. If I can help further let me know.

Doris

Doris Simmons

Dorris answered questions about the other men with the following:

Hi Jim,
You wanted to know what happened to the three other men. I don't know anything about Cliff Robison, but my uncles Sam Vinson, Harley Scroggs were always around when I was growing up. We visited them and their familes often.

I remember my father saying that after James had been gone for many years a man that knew James came and told my father that he saw James on the street in S C. My father didn't believe him because he believed James was dead. When James came back daddy told James about the man and James said he remembered seeing the man (I don't know his name) but he was afraid to speak to him because he didn't know that he was a free man.

Doris

Beryle Macias

Beryle reports in with incredible new information tonight. We hope to meet with her in Clarkesville next week to see these documents. Her email:

Hi Jim,
It's amazing what one finds when questions pop up. I did a little searching this thursday at the library. I found a few articles in the newspapers on microfilm.

The first was dated 8-14-1917, Clarkesville Advertizer; " YOUTH GIVES HIMSELF UP AS CONVICTED MURDERER" --- Cliff Robinson Walks into Atlanta Police Station After Breaking Jail--- then it continues with the story. The second dated 8-21-1917, Clarkesville Adertizer, " SAM KENNEDY INDICTED FOR MURDER ----- The death of Rufus M. Harris, in April, Charged to Sam Kennedy. Third DATED 3-12-1918, Clarkesville Advertizer;" SAM KENNEDY FOUND GUILTY and last but not least on 7-9-1918, Clarkesville advertizer 7 BREAK JAIL.

It appears that Sam Kennedy was in prison/jail the same time as our four friends and family were. So it is possible the bible came from Sam Kennedy himself even though it has not been proven.

I plan to go back in the newspaper and look up the Sam Kennedy Murder case because it might be the other case I was looking for. The article said he lived on the mountain. But at that time most of the area was mountain.

I will also check out 1910, and 1920 census to see if I can round up Sam and the lady listed in the bible.

My dad also said that his uncle Jim Watkins had two families and he lives in South Carolina until he came back home.

I will let you know if I find anything else.

Beryle

Jim Winsness

I was looking for census records for a Sam Kenedy or Kennedy and only find a Samuel J. Kennedy, born 1890 married to Mamie (?) born 1893 in the 1910 census living in Gwinett, GA.

Interestingly, there is a Missouri Kennedy (1890) married to H. J. Kennedy (1881) with children Martha, Annnie(?), Sallie.

Also Robert J Kenedy (1856) married Janie (1875) all on the same page of census.

That was found by searching all census records for Sam Kennedy born 1892 +-2 years.

Will look more later but to see the name Missouri is interesting as didn't one of these families have a woman with that first name or am I mixing that up with another.

Jim


Also,

Doris Simmons

Hi Jim and others,

This is really getting interesting. I really don't know who confessed to the murder, and to make it all the more confusing I have always heard that old man Edwards confessed on his death bed that he killed Cash.But I'm just repeating rumors I've always heard. I wonder if anyone else has ever heard that .

I went to the blog and it's great. I wonder if you could find some of James children or grandchildren in S C. They would really be able to tell the story.

Doris

Jim Winsness

Review of old newspapers on microfilm (mostly those identified by Beryle), it is interesting to put this together chronologically as follows:

1/6/1917: On January 6, 1917, Joseph W. Cash was shot and killed in the orchard that in the trial was called “Wheeler Orchard” operated by a Mr. Edwards.

3/13/1917: Four men, J.C. Watkins, H.D. Scroggs, M.S. Vinson and Cliff Robinson pleaded not guilty at their trial on March 13, 1917 to the murder of Joseph W. Cash. The result of the trial was a verdict of guilty and all four were sentenced to life imprisonment.

8/14/1917: Clarkesville Advertiser “Youth Gives Himself Up as Conicted Murder” Cliff Robinson walks into Atlanta Police Station after Breaking Habersham Jail. This is also reported in the Toccoa Record on 8/16/1917. The articles say Cliff said he was not guilty and that he had tried to enlist in the army in Atlanta and Chattanoga and was “dejected.” He was turned over to the sheriff of Habersham County.

8/21/1917: Clarkesville Advertiser: “Sam Kennedy Indicted for Murder: The Death of Mr. Rufus M. Harris, in April, Charged to Sam Kennedy. Sam Kennedy, who was laced in the county jail on Saturday, Aug. 11, under suspicion as the murderer of his father-in-law, Mr. Rufus M. Harris, has been indicted as his assailant. It is reported that the murder was committed in the horse lot on Mr. Harris’ farm, and the body was carried from there and placed on the side of the mountain some distance from his home to make it appear that he was killed in the mountains while on a turkey hunt. The case will be taken up Wenesday morning and it now appears that it will develop one of the most sensational and bloody crimes ever committed in Habersham county.”

8/30/1917: Toccoa Record: “Mistrial in Kennedy Case. In the case against Sam Kennedy, charged with the murder of his father-in-law, Mr. Rufus Harris, which was tried in the Habersham Superior Court last week, a mistrial resulted. The jury is said to have stood 8 for conviction and 4 for acquittal.”

3/12/1918: Clarkesville Advertiser: “Sam Kennedy Found Guilty… Sam was placed on trial Tuesday and the case was finished at 10 o’clock that night. Wednesday morning, the jury returned a verdict of guilty and recommendation for life imprisonment. He was sentenced to the penitentiary at hard labor for life. The article also says “The cases against the four men charged with the murder of Joel W. Cash in Jan. 1916, near Mt. Airy, were continued until next court.” This is quite an interesting comment as they were found guilty a year earlier so we have to go see what was brought to court in March or April of 1918.

7/9/1918 Clarkesville Advertiser: “7 Break Jail; One Captured…. Early last Saturday morning, 7 men broke out of the county jail at Clarkesville and at the time the Advertiser goes to press only one has been captured.
Escaping were Will and Alex Thomas, two brothers who were in the chain gang and who had been doing some painting on the courthouse, being bup in jail at night while at this work.
Jim Watkins, Harlie Scroggs, Tom Watkins, and Cliff Robertson, being under life sentence for the murder of Joel W. Cash and in jail awaiting a hearing on a mortion for a new trial which Judge J. B. Jones having the motion under consideration. The later was captured in Anderson, S.C. and is now back in Jail in this city.
Tom Watkins, a Negro, was in jail awaiting trial on a minor charge.”
The paper was not correct with the names of the 4 – it had Tom Watkins as one of the 4 and that would have been M. S. Vinson. It is also interesting that Cliff Robertson was captured in Anderson SC as Jim Watkins escaped to Columbia where he lived under the alias of Sam Kennedy. Maybe Cliff Robertson and Jim Watkins were together in Anderson and only one was caught??

We still do not know who turned themselves in as the killer and that most probably is in the Court Records which will be the next research item.

Jim Winsness


Beryl Macias

Beryl has been researching the Sam Kennedy and Florence Kennedy names that were in the Bible left by James C. Watkins when he escaped and lived in GA. She found the following:

FLORENCE KENEDY WAS FLORENCE HARRIS. RUFUS HARRIS DAUGHTER. SHE WAS 12 IN 1910 AND SAMUEL CANIDY WAS 18. FLOENCE WAS LIVING WITH HER FATHER, 1 BROTHER, AND 1 SISTER. MOTHER DECEASED. SAM WAS LIVING WITH MOTHER, FATHER, 3 BROTHERS, AND 4 SISTERS. RUFUS HARRIS IS IN HOUSE NUMBER 22, AND JAMES A CANIDY ARE HOUSE NUMBER 23, DIST. 501 BATESVILLE, HABERSHAM COUNTY GEORGIA..
PLEASE REPLY AS TO WHAT YOU THINK.
BERYLE

Well, it looks like she found who Sam Kennedy was - he murdered Rufus Harris - they were living in adjacent houses based on the census she found! Good detective work Beryle!

Beryle Macias

I ASKED MY UNCLE THIS WEEKEND IF HE COULD TELL ME ABOUT JAMES WATKINS. THIS IS WHAT HE SAID:

WHEN I WAS YOUNG I WENT TO STAY A WEEK WITH HIM AT LEXINGTON SOUTH CAROLINA. HE HAD FOUR MEAN BOYS AND THEY WAS GLAD TO SEE ME GO. ME AND TWO OF THE BOYS STOLE ALL THE CHICKENS AND COOKED THEM AND EAT THEM. HE (JAMES) WENT BY A DIFFERENT NAME BUT NOT SURE WHAT IT WAS. HE(JAMES) CAME BACK TO GEORGIA WHEN HE WAS REALLY OLD. HAD TWO WIVES YOU KNOW GIRL(ME). BIGOMY IS WHAT I THINK THEY CALLED IT. HE(JAMES) MARRIED A SCROGGS WOMEN. I THINK THEY WERE COUSINS. CAN'T REMEMBER THINGS TO GOOD NOW. BUT SHE SAID NO. WHAT DIFFENCE DOES IT MAKE NOW AND SO JAMES WENT BACK TO SOUTH CAROLINA.

MY UNCLE IS JACK MARTIN OF CORNELIA AND JAMES WAS HIS GREAT UNCLE.
BERYLE

Jim Winsness

Bev and I searched for hours in the Habersham Courthouse for any record of who might have admitted the killing of Joseph Cash, but found none of the transcripts, nor did we find any record of anyone else being named as guilty before J. C. Watkins and the others were declared "not guilty."

Then we met for several hours with Beryle Macias. She explained how all except Clif Robinson were related and she even showed us a census where people of each family were living in the same house!

So, what we have is 4 men found not guilty, but no one found guilty. Reading the transcript, all 4 men stated they fired weapons at Cash. So how now are they all not guilty?

We will never know, however, Beryle and I feel that maybe it was decided that without 4 bullets in the body of Cash, how can you hold 4 men guilty of murder? Or, maybe there was a bit of payoff to get them released - she said "they were good-old-boys".

We are going to try to find any "Kennedy" family in Lexington to see if we can give them any information (James C. had 4 boys in Lexington) and we hope to find out what happened to his 2 daughters in Georgia but all that will take time.

Jim

frances S. Hemphill

SOMEONE NEEDS TO WRITE A BOOK!

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! James Whiteway had given me some of the details about James C. Watkins, but I never expected to learn so much.

As you know James C. was a son of Job who was a brother to David G. Watkins - my husband Frank's g-grandfather!

Thanks to blob and all the wonderful researchers and comments.

Jim Winsness

I have sent an email to the Lexington County Chronicle in SC informing them of our interest in finding the descendants of James/Sam and asking if they would consider writing an article about the story.

They were given the link to the blob, and I hope they will agree that there is plenty of information there for a great story!

Lets hope we can find these descendants and give them their history!

Jim

Stacey Wiley

This is certainly very interesting. I believe that Joseph Cash was my 3 X great grandfather on my mother's side.

Jim Winsness

Stacy - I will contact you by email as we have a lot of your ancestry!

Jim

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