Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Another Account of the Killing of Maggie McClellan

Jackson County Courthouse, late 19th Century.
A few days ago I posted a moving account of the 1869 murder of a young woman named Maggie McClellan in Jackson County. Please click here to read that post.

She was sitting on the porch of Mrs. Caroline Attaway's boarding house with her father, Col. James F. McClellan, two of her friends and a friend of her fathers, Col. James P. Coker. The men were smoking and the group was enjoying the cool of the evening and chatting after dinner.

Two shots rang out from the dark. One struck Col. McClellan in the shoulder. The other hit Maggie in the center of her chest. She slumped into her father's arms and died just a minute or two later.

Downtown Marianna Today
The incident was one of the most notorious of the Reconstruction War in Jackson County. It was a time of violence - how much violence is debatable - and the death of the young woman sent shockwaves through a county that was already tense and on the verge of all out war against the Carpetbaggers and Scalawags then in control of virtually all aspects of life there.

It was generally believed that the county constable, Calvin Rogers, was responsible for the shooting and, in fact, he was indicted on murder charges. Rogers disappeared at the time of Maggie's killing, however, and despite a widespread search could not be found. A second man, Alex Dickens, was arrested and charged with accessory to murder after the fact for helping Rogers to escape and hide. He was put on trial in 1870 and the newly discovered records of that trial reveal much about the shooting of the young woman and subsequent events.

John Q. Dickinson
Clerk of Court, 1871
One of the more interesting pieces of testimony found in the long lost case fill is that of Col. James P. Coker, who was a few feet from Maggie when she was shot:

...Was present at the time Miss McClellan was shot - was within two or three feet of her. I saw Calvin Rogers a few minutes before the shooting occurred. He was passing the house at the time.... Rogers soon returned by the house and turned his head toward the house passing up the street and very soon after the shooting occurred, not more than two or three minutes afterwards. I am positive it was Calvin Rogers. It was after dark. He was gone some thirty seconds. I heard a word but not distinctly. There were two reports - very nearly at the same time.... It is hard to deceive me with the gait or carriage of anybody in town. I can personally tell them. I recognized him  by his appearance - his carriage and gait - No one was with him. - Col. James F. McClellan, Testimony recorded on May 21, 1870.

I will post more about the Reconstruction War in my next post. It will include an overview of what the war was about, how long it lasted and how violent the situation became. Be sure to check back soon for a look inside the legend to learn about this horrible time in Jackson County history.

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