Sunday, June 25, 2017

Riverside Cemetery turns 190 years old

The old section of historic Riverside Cemetery in Marianna.
Riverside Cemetery is a historic burial ground in the southeast corner of the charming old city of Marianna, Florida. It turns 190 years old this year.

Riverside was laid out by Robert and Anna Beveridge in 1827. They new that their soon to be developed town would need a public burial ground. They selected a spot on a separate hill just beyond their planned community.

The Beveridges had come down to Florida from Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Beveridge was a successful merchant and with his wife possessed strong political connections. Their investors included many prominent allies of Andrew Jackson.

Grave of Arthur Lewis
Killed in the Battle of Marianna
Sadly, one of the first people to be buried in the cemetery was Mrs. Beveridge herself. She was only 24 years old but already the mother of three children when she came down with the fever and died on March 24, 1830.

She was buried in Riverside Cemetery, but the location of her grave site has been lost to time. It is certainly possible that she is buried in one of the ancient brick crypts in the oldest part of the cemetery.

The section includes some of the oldest oak trees in Marianna.

The former area where both slaves and free African Americans were buried is just downhill from the crypts and markers of Marianna's earliest white settlers. The wooden markers that once designated the burial places of early African American residents have long since rotted away, although indentations in the ground still mark their graves in the southwest corner of the oldest part of the cemetery.

Burial trenches of Confederate soldiers at Riverside Cemetery.
Two burial trenches contain the remains Confederate soldiers who died at the Marianna Post Hospital in 1863-1865. Most of these men were the victims of illness or infections and their graves are marked by small headstones. Near them rest several of the local citizens and soldiers who died in the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864.

Separated from the area of oldest graves is a single monument to a Union soldier, Lt. Isaac Adams of the 2nd Maine Cavalry. He was mortally wounded in the Battle of Marianna.

Adams no longer rests at Riverside, but his monument remains.  He and other Union dead from the battle were exhumed during the late 1800s and their remains taken to Barrancas National Cemetery near Pensacola.

Monument to Lt. Isaac Adams, 2nd Maine Cavalry
The lieutenant's grave played a key role in the Reconstruction era confrontations that rocked Jackson County. Several young girls - relatives of men and boys killed in the Battle of Marianna - removed the flowers from Lt. Adams' grave and scattered them in the dirt. They were hauled before a military court, but showed up with backing from almost the entire community.

The Carpetbagger officials who ruled Marianna after the War Between the States (or Civil War) backed down in the face of this show of support and released the girls. The incident is remembered today as the "Battle of the Flowers" and was the beginning of the local uprising that eventually drove out the occupying force that controlled Jackson County from 1865-1876.

Riverside Cemetery is a peaceful and beautiful place. The azaleas and dogwoods bloom each spring, giving the cemetery a surreal charm.

A stroll through its acres and acres of stones and graves offers you the chance to walk not just through the history of Marianna and Jackson County, but through the history of Florida, the South and the Nation.

The main entrances to the oldest part of the cemetery are on Franklin Street, two blocks south of Jackson Street, in Marianna, Florida. It is open to the public during daylight hours.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ghosts of Aycock: Was 1905 fire the largest mass murder in Jackson County history?

An Aycock Brothers locomotive on the tracks at Aycock,
Florida. This may have been the locomotive that brought the
bodies from the logging camp back to the sawmill town.
Aycock was a prosperous lumber mill town that once stood along the L&N railroad between Cottondale and Chipley.

The town took its name from the Aycock, timber and naval stores barons from Georgia. They secured a massive timber tract in western Jackson and eastern Washington Counties in 1904 and expanded existing sawmills on the railroad near today's intersection of Aycock Road and Historic U.S. 90. A mill town soon grew around this operation.

Little remains of Aycock today, but an incident associated with the town gives it special significance in U.S. history.

The following is excerpted from my book, The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge: 10 Ghosts & Monsters from Jackson County, Florida.


A stand of longleaf pines in the Florida
Panhandle. Aycock was in the business
of turning hundreds of thousands of
such trees into lumber.
N OCTOBER OF 1905, NEWSPAPER READERS ACROSS THE NATION learned with horror that one of the largest mass murders in Florida history had been enacted at a logging camp just west of the Jackson County community of Steele City
. The incident claimed the lives of eight county inmates and a man employed to stand watch over them. 
On visiting the site of the camp today, it is difficult to imagine the horror once enacted there. The surrounding scene is one of farms and woods, with no visible trace remaining of the camp where the crime took place. Few people in the vicinity know the horrible history associated with the site or of the ghostly figures long said to haunt the woods there. Truth be told, however, if there is any place in Jackson County with the tragic potential for a real mass haunting, this is it.

The story of the Aycock Ghosts begins with the purchase of a vast tract of timberland in the area by the Aycock Brothers of Georgia. Already well-known lumber barons, the Aycocks lived in the city of Moultrie but chartered their Florida operation in nearby Cordele in 1904:

…Application for a charter for the Aycock Bros. Lumber Co., composed of W.E. and T.J. Aycock and Evans Reynolds, has been filed with the county clerk. The capital stock of the proposed corporation is to be $50,000. The main office will be in Cordele, but the principal operations of the company’s manufacturing department will be in Florida.[i]

Aycock Road crosses today's CSX Railroad west of
Cottondale in Jackson County, Florida. The town of Aycock
once stood in this vicinity. The 18-wheeler visible in the
background is on U.S. 90.
Construction began almost immediately on an industrial complex at the small railroad siding of Allie, located four miles due west of Cottondale on the L&N Railroad between that town and Chipley. It was the railroad, in fact, that had drawn the attention of the Aycock Brothers to the site. The trains provided a way for them to get their lumber and rosin out of the woods and to market. By the spring of 1905, construction of the massive plant at Allie was almost finished:

The Aycock Bros. Lumber Co. have now nearly completed their large saw mill at Allie, six miles east of town (i.e. Chipley). This will be one of the largest and most modern saw mills in West Florida with a cutting capacity of one hundred thousand feet per day. With three large brick dry kilns and a big planning mill they will work about 150 hands.[ii]

Even today, an operation of the size and scope of the Aycock mill would be considered impressive. The initial hiring of 150 hands to run the mill and harvest the timber also created the need to house them, preferably on-site. The firm handled this by building one of the largest “company towns” ever constructed in Jackson County. In addition to homes for perhaps 500 people (workers and their families), the community also included stores, a railroad station and a post office as well as the various mills and other facilities associated with the company’s operations.
With the completion of its houses, stores, sawmill, drying kilns, railroad station and planning mill, it was logical that the company owners would stamp their name on the community itself. Allie ceased to exist and on May 31, 1905, the Pensacola Journal reported that, “The Aycock Bros. Lumber Co. have changed the name of the post office and telegraph office and railroad station to Aycock, Fla.”[iii]
Another early 20th century photo of one of the two
locomotives that operated on Aycock's logging railroad.
To support the industrial facilities at Aycock, the company built or acquired a system of logging roads, a naval stores camp and a small railroad that ran south from the L&N tracks for about ten miles through the edge of Washington County and then back into Jackson County again. It carried rosin and timber from the outlying naval stores camp west of Steele City and just north of Alford to the main complex at Aycock.[iv]
Although they hired more than 150 people to run their operation, the Aycock brothers were as interested in securing cheap labor as other timber barons of their day. An opportunity presented itself to them in the form of the convict labor leasing practice then in operation across much of Florida.
The convict leasing system had been initiated in 1877 and allowed counties to lease convicts from their jails to private businesses. The money gained from the practice went into the county Road & Bridge Fund and was a vital source of revenue for local government. The practice also eliminated the need for counties to maintain large jail facilities, since the employers leasing the inmates were responsible for housing and feeding them.
Florida convicts leased as laborers to a timber company. The
victims of the Aycock fire were attired much like these men.
State Archives of Florida
The Aycock brothers entered almost immediately into leasing contracts with the Board of County Commissioners for Jackson County. The use of convict labor may even have been part of their business plan before they ever started building their company town west of Cottondale. To house the inmates turned over to them, they established two convict stockades: one on the grounds of the main operation at Aycock and the other 10 miles south down the logging railroad at the remote naval stores camp. These locations allowed the company to house convicts at both ends of their massive 25,000 acre timber tract. Both stockades, generally described as wood-frame buildings, were finished and in use by the end of the summer of 1905.
The convict leasing system was not without its critics. The early 1900s were a time of great social reform in the nation and newspaper editors and private citizens alike railed against the system, which they equated with slavery. Counties were literally leasing human beings to private companies and these individuals were then worked, often in substandard conditions, with no choice in the matter and receiving no compensation for their labors.
The conditions at the Aycock stockades were far from ideal. Not only were the convicts worked long hours under harsh and dangerous conditions, they were chained inside the stockades at night to eliminate any possibility of escape. It was a recipe for disaster and that is exactly what happened in the early fall of 1905:

On the night of October 7, Aycock Brothers Lumber Co. convict camp burned in Jackson County. In this fire, James Longino, the guard on duty, and eight convicts, were burned to death. Four or five of the bodies were cremated. The only two remaining victims…barely escaped with their lives and are now lying in Aycock’s stockade at Aycock, Florida, in a badly burned condition.[v]

Aycock can be seen on the railroad just west of Cottondale on
this 1909 map of Jackson County, Florida.
One of the two survivors, identified as William McCoy, was so severely injured that there seemed but little chance that he would recover. His escape, and that of his fellow survivor, was gruesome almost beyond imagination:

I remember hearing how some of them climbed as far as their leg chains would let them through the windows and begged witnesses to cut off a foot to free them from their chains and from being burned alive.[vi]

News of the fire stunned people in Jackson and Washington Counties and as the story spread, the nation was equally appalled. The cause was first thought to be accidental, with speculation focusing on the explosion of a faulty oil lamp. The theory was so convincing, in fact, that a coroner’s inquest was considered unnecessary.
Information came to light over the coming days, however, that quickly changed opinions about the fire. Alarmed by the horrible tragedy and undoubtedly concerned over their own liability in the matter, the Aycock brothers hired a private detective from Chipley named Tom Watts to look into the fire.  Watts had established a reputation investigating cases of fraud against the L&N Railroad and quickly became convinced that the fire was not accidental at all, but was “one of the most horrible crimes ever committed in the state.”[vii]
Two railroad spikes from the site of Aycock are among the
artifacts from the town on display at the Washington County
Historical Society Museum in Chipley, Florida.
Watts discovered something that the failure to empanel a coroner’s inquest had prevented from emerging already: the heads of James Longino, the guard over the stockade, and an unidentified convict had been smashed with a blunt object. Sam Jones, a misdemeanor convict who served as the trusty of the camp, told the detective that he had seen a man named Jim Glassco enter the guardroom at the entrance of the stockade. A few seconds later he heard two heavy blows, saw fire suddenly rise up from the building and then watched Glassco come out and run away.[viii]
Convinced that Glassco was involved in starting the fire, Watts arrested him and took him first to the Washington County Jail in Chipley. From there the suspect was carried by rail to the Jackson County Jail in Marianna:

I find the motive for the crime to have been robbery. Longino had on his person $48.10 and the convict had $5. Longino had drawn a gun (for cause) on Glassco the same night of the fire. The weapon used by Glassco was a spike maul, such as commonly used by railroad trackmen.[ix]

A first appearance was held for Glassco at the courthouse in Marianna and the county grand jury was ordered to convene. Although Detective Watts believed that a “strong case was made out” against the suspect, the grand jury did not agree. No indictment was returned against Glassco and the grand jurors instead recommended that the county commission cancel the Aycock Brothers’ contract and do everything possible to bring those responsible to justice..
A sawdust chain from the site of Aycock is now on display at
the Washington County Historical Society Museum in Chipley.
One of the Jackson County Commissioners, J.M. Barnes, went out to the naval stores camp to view the scene of the fire firsthand. After conducting a brief investigation of his own, he determined that “whiskey was very much in evidence.” It was his conclusion that the “guard being drunk probably caused the fire.” Strangely, there is no indication in county records that the Sheriff of Jackson County was ever asked to investigate the matter.[x]
Detective Watts, as might have been expected, vehemently disagreed with Commissioner Barnes. He wrote to Governor N.B. Broward in Tallahassee, calling for a state investigation. Expressing his belief that eyewitness Sam Jones was somehow involved in the crime, the company detective warned that time was of the essence:

The scene of this terrible crime is some ten miles from the railroad in the logging woods of the lumber company. There is much yet to be learned in this case by careful investigation, and I am sure you will appreciate the importance of looking into the matter fully.
The witnesses, some of them, have already scattered off – one of the most important ones now being in Atlanta, Georgia.[xi]

The company detective expressed his view of the incident plainly to Governor Broward, “I regard this as being one of the most horrible crimes ever committed in the state.”

Gov. Napoleon B. Broward of Florida, for whom
Broward County is named, ignored a request for
a state investigation of the Aycock fire.
State Archives of Florida
The determined detective’s efforts aside, no justice was ever obtained for the nine men who died as a result of the terrible fire at the Aycock Brothers naval stores camp. Their bodies were taken up the logging railroad to the main community of Aycock where they were buried in a now forgotten plot by the L&N (today’s CSX) Railroad. The most any of the fatally injured men ever got from the county or the Aycock company was the money paid to the doctor who amputated their legs in an unsuccessful effort to save their lives after axes had been used to cut off their feet so they could be pulled away from the chains that attached them to the burning building. Dr. J.S. McGeachy of Chipley was paid $624 for “amputating Six Legs, Visits, Dressing.”[xii]
The survivors of the tragedy, along with the family members of some of the dead, brought suit in federal court against Aycock Brothers Lumber Company for their losses. John Bryant, who had lost his feet when they were cut off to free him from his chains, sued the company for $25,000, as did the families of several of the others. After two years, the Aycock Brothers settled with Bryant for $5,000. Of that amount, $1,500 went to the lawyers who represented him. The unfortunate former convict received $3,500, the apparent value that the parties agreed to place on the legs and feet he left behind at the naval stores camp:

Upon a consultation of the counsel for the plantiffs and defendants to these suits a compromise was effected by the company paying to Bryant and the other plaintiffs a sum of $3,500 and bearing the costs of the litigation. The suits were based upon injuries received by Brant and the deaths of a number of convicts in a stockade, which was destroyed by fire a year ago. Relatives of some of the men burned to death in the stockade, brought actions for damages, but settled for very small amounts.[xiii]

At the time the Aycock Brothers paid John Bryant $3,500 for the loss of his feet, their company was worth roughly $500,000. In fact, their mill town four miles west of Cottondale continued to thrive for a number of years, at one point even boasting a jewelry store. The old growth longleaf pines were finally all harvested, though, and Aycock faded into history like so many of the Florida Panhandle’s other sawmill towns. Not a single building stands today.

Aycock may have faded away, but the terrible tragedy enacted 10 miles south of the town lingers. The publicity over the fire helped end the practice of convict leasing in Florida and elsewhere, but no formal law enforcement investigation of the incident ever took place. Was it mass murder, as Detective Watts believed? Or was it a case of drunkenness gone bad, as a Jackson County Commissioner concluded? No one can really say. 
Perhaps it is this lack of concern as to their fate that keeps those unfortunate men lingering close to the place they died. Local legend holds that both the old naval stores camp site, where the tragedy took place, and the cemetery where the unfortunate men lay buried are haunted by their spirits. At the secluded stockade site, it is said that the ghosts of the dead still walk in the night. Shadowy figures have been seen moving through the trees and on certain nights it is said that the moans of dying men can be distinctly heard echoing through the bays and swamps.
At Aycock itself, legend holds that blue lights can be seen in the night at the spot where most of the unfortunate victims were buried. The graves themselves are unmarked, even though the men were the prisoners of Jackson County and under its protection at the time they died. The simple wooden markers placed on the graves by coworkers rotted away long ago.
Some believe that the ghosts appear in two different places because their legs and feet rest in the dirt at the site of the naval stores camp, while the rest of their bodies lay forgotten under the dirt of Aycock itself. Perhaps they continue to appear because justice for them has never been done?

Artifacts from the site of Aycock are on display today at the Washington County Historical Society Museum in Chipley, Florida. The museum is open on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

If you are interested in reading the true stories behind this and other ghost stories from Jackson County, Florida, please consider my book: 

The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge: 10 Ghosts & Monsters from Jackson County, Florida.  

[i] Augusta Chronicle, September 20, 1904, p. 4.
[ii] Pensacola Journal, April 19, 1905, p. 1.
[iii] Pensacola Journal, May 31, 1905.
[iv] E.W. Carswell, Washington: Florida’s Twelfth County, 1991, p. 313.
[v] Tom Watts to Governor Napoleon B. Broward, October 1905, Carswell Collection.
[vi] Gilbert Keener, Washington County Commissioner, 1978, quoted by E.W. Carswell, Washington: Florida’s Twelfth County, p. 313.
[vii] Watts to Broward, October 1905.
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] J.M. Barnes, quoted by E.W. Carswell, Washington: Florida’s Twelfth County, p. 315.
[xi] Tom Watts to Gov. Napoleon B. Broward, Octonber 1905, Carswell Collection.
[xii] Bill of Dr. J.S. McGeachy, November 6, 1905, Jackson County Archives.
[xiii] Montgomery Advertiser, March 14, 1907, p. 5.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hurricane of 1877 at Chattahoochee, Florida

Recreated path of Hurricane #4 in 1877.
Map and data from NOAA.
A hurricane devastated a wide area of Northwest Florida in October 1877. The Chattahoochee area was particularly hard hit by the storm, which researchers have dubbed "Hurricane #4."

The National Hurricane Center believes that the storm made landfall somewhere between Apalachicola and present-day Panama City Beach on October 3, 1877. It is believed to have been a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour.

After making landfall, the storm tracked to the northeast across today's Bay, Washington, Calhoun and Jackson Counties until the eye passed over or near Chattahoochee. Damage reports were stunning, as is explained by a letter written from Chattahoochee on October 6, 1877:

The Apalachicola River at Chattahoochee, Florida.
The river was still crossed by ferry in 1877.
...The freshet and gale has done much damage in this section. The gale began on Monday and continued till Wednesday. It was very heavy during Tuesday and Tuesday night. Twelve mills and water gins within a few miles of here have been swept away. There is only one mill, that of Mr. McMillen, standing in twenty miles of here. -  Report from Chattahoochee dated October 6, 1877, Marianna Courier, October 1877. 

The railroad did not yet cross the Apalachicola River into Jackson County, but had reached Chattahoochee by 1877. The storm did so much damage to the tracks and trestles that no trains could reach the city:

...All the bridges are gone, and the railroad is so washed up that we have had no train since Tuesday, and it is not thought that the road and bridges can be repaired under eight or ten days. So we are cut off from all communication with the outside world. - Report from Chattahoochee dated October 6, 1877, Marianna Courier, October 1877.

The Tallahassee newspapers reported that the storm did extensive damage all along the Gulf Coast. A storm tide of 12-feet above normal was reported at St. Marks, a large schooner was driven completely ashore on St. James Island and parts of the wharves and several boats were wrecked at Cedar Key.

The old Apalachicola Arsenal at Chattahoochee as it appeared
when the 1877 hurricane struck the city. The structure at left,
with verandas, remains in use as the Administration building.
The damage around Chattahoochee was even worse. Newspapers reported that roofs were torn from homes and businesses, trees were uprooted and that even the crops of the region were devastated. Cotton plants were literally blown out of the ground in the fields. Farm workers tried to salvage what the could by digging the cotton bolls out of the mud, trying to save enough to make their loan payments:

...The damage to the cotton crop is heavy, having been blown out and beat under the ground by the heavy rain, but with dry weather much of it can be saved. It will be impossible for planters to meet their notes for guano and other supplies, which mostly come due about the 15th. The railroad was quickly repaired. - Report from Chattahoochee dated October 6, 1877, Marianna Courier, October 1877.

The death toll from the storm was not broken down locally so it is difficult to know how many people lost their lives along its path through Florida. Along its total path from the Caribbean up through the Atlantic Coast states of the United States, however, the storm claimed at least 84 lives.

It crossed over Georgia and the Carolinas, its feeder bands reaching into the Atlanta Ocean, and then moved up the coast to the north, causing floods and doing heavy damage all along its path.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A mystery of murder & missing gold on the Ocheesee Road!

This rare 1849 $20 gold piece is at the National Museum of
American History. Could a treasure of similar coins worth
millions of dollars be hidden south of Grand Ridge, Florida?
National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History
The end of the War Between the States (or Civil War) brought with it a time of hunger and starvation for people of all races in the rural counties of the Florida Panhandle. It was also a time when ruthless outlaws, many of them deserters from either the Union or Confederate army, stalked the roads and byways in search of plunder.

It was a time when anyone thought to possess gold or other valuables could quickly become the victim of a robbery or worse. 

A man named S.D. Thom learned this deadly lesson on the night of September 2-3, 1865, when he set off from Ocheesee Landing in Calhoun County to meet up with a man named Luke Lott:

Thom came ashore at Ocheesee Bluff in Calhoun County,
Florida. He traveled west from here to meet with Luke Lott.
From a private letter, written from Chattahoochee on the 6th, we learn that Mr. S.D. Thom, a well-known citizen of Columbus, was found dead, on Sunday, Sept. 3d, on the road between Luke Lott's house and Gregory's saw-mill, in Jackson county, Fla., about fifteen miles from Ocheesee, with nine buckshot in his body. He was buried on the 4th. - Columbus Daily Enquirer, September 19, 1865.

Thom, as the above excerpt notes, was a prominent businessman in Columbus, Georgia. He had gone down the Chattahoochee River from that city in a small boat and stayed with a friend named A.D. Bull on the night of August 26th:

...[H]e showed a bag which he said contained $800 in gold, and told his host that he was going to see Mr. Luke Lott, whom he knew, and whom he had promised a visit, if he ever came to Florida, to buy bacon. He left the next morning in a bateaux, a negro being with him, for Lott's place. - Columbus Daily Enquirer, September 19, 1865.

Calhoun County as it appeared in 1860
when it still extended all the way to the
Gulf of Mexico. Ocheesee is at the top left.
The mention that Thom had gone to Florida to "buy bacon" means that he was planning to purchase a large supply of pork. He was engaged in business in Columbus and the amount would have been considerable.

Luke Lott, said by the article to have been an acquaintance of the murdered man, was a fascinating - and deadly - character. 

He lived in northern Calhoun County between the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers, but owned a large plantation that extended well into Jackson County. He had been successful and highly-regarded before and during the war, although there were also rumors that he had murdered one of his slaves. Lott was the captain of the Calhoun County Home Guard unit and military records indicate that he was a friend of Governor John Milton. 

He was a pro-secession "fire eater" - to use the terminology of the day - and became a bitter enemy of the "Carpetbaggers" (Northerners who moved South) and "Scalawags" (Southern political allies of the Carpetbaggers) who controlled Florida during the Reconstruction era. He was, in fact, later accused of becoming an armed assassin.

...The report is that he went to Lott's deposited his money with him, remained a day or two, and was last seen with Lott, going towards Marianna to buy bacon. Report further says that Thom had deposited some $8,000 and $4,000 with Lott, but the writer is confident that he had not exceeding $400. Some friend should examine into the affair. - Columbus Daily Enquirer, September 19, 1865.

The reports of the time do not mention the exact location where Thom's body was found other than to note it was on the road between Luke Lott's home, in Calhoun County, and Gregory's Mill, in Jackson County.

The beautiful old Gregory House at Torreya State Park was
the home of Jason Gregory, the builder of the mill mentioned
in the accounts of S.D. Thom's murder.
Gregory's Mill had been built in around 1850 by Jason Gregory, a well-known resident of Ocheesee, It stood on the headwaters of Carpenter Sink Creek about 1.5 miles west of State Road 69 and about the same distance north of the Calhoun County line. Gregory is primarily remembered today as the builder of the beautiful old Gregory House that once stood at Ocheesee but now can be toured at Torreya State Park.

Lott lived almost due south of the mill in northern Calhoun County, although he had extensive land holdings throughout the area.

Civil law had broken down in the region by the end of the War Between the States, largely due to the capture or killing of so many local authorities during the Battle of Marianna. The U.S. military responded to the reports of the murder and an investigation of sorts followed:

We learn that Mr. LUKE LOTT, a citizen of Calhoun county, well known here, is under arrest in this city charged with the murder of Mr. THOM, of Columbus, Ga. Since his arrest a negro has been taken into custody for the same offence under suspicious circumstances. The case will be tried before a Military Commission. Mr. D.P. Holland is council for the accused. The case of Mr. Lott, we understand, is one of mere suspicion only. - Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, October 25, 1865.

Jackson County as it appeared in 1888 (more or less!). The murder took
place south of Grand Ridge on the Calhoun County line.
D.P. Holland, who served as Lott's attorney during his trial before the military tribunal in Tallahassee, had been a lieutenant colonel and later a colonel in the Confederate service. His legal expertise proved worthwhile and Lott was acquitted of the charges against him. 

The fate of the African American man also charged with the crime is unknown. It is interesting to speculate whether he might have been the same man who accompanied S.D. Thom on his trip down the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, but this is not known with certainty.

The value of the stolen money is difficult to assess because so many different amounts were given by writers at the time. Gold was worth $30 per ounce in 1865 so a rough estimate, based on the range of values given for Thom's bag of coins, would be $16,738.05 to $503,400 at today's gold price of $1,258.50 per ounce.

This estimate is based strictly on the value of the gold itself and does not consider the value of 19th century gold coins to collectors! A single $20 Double Eagle gold piece from 1865 in excellent condition can be worth thousands of dollars today.

In other words, S.D. Thom's lost bag of gold could be worth millions. 

The money was not recovered at the time of his murder and may still be out there today, buried somewhere near the line that divides Jackson and Calhoun Counties.