Here’s an interesting tax resistance example that hadn’t come to my attention before. I found it in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin Leader of , and though the dateline is from Georgia there is no mention of which wire service it came from (I assume the Leader didn’t have its own reporter in Georgia; another paper credits a similar dispatch to the Associated Press).
Negroes Refuse to Pay Tax; Fight Posse
Byronville, Ga., . — Two negroes were killed, four others wounded, and L.C. Davis of Somerville, N.J., perhaps fatally wounded in a clash between twenty negroes and a sheriff’s posse near here . Twenty negroes have been arrested and taken to Vienna, in Dooley county, for safe keeping.
According to the county attorney, the negroes barricaded themselves in a house on a farm near here after the chief of police had sought to collect city taxes from one of them. Sheriff Vinson deputized a posse and undertook to arrest the negroes. The negroes were said to have opened fire as the officers approached, Davis falling with eight wounds.
Threats to fire the house caused the negroes to leave their retreat and they soon were rounded up after two had been killed and four hurt.
A later article names Rass Cobb and Fate Chapman as two of the resisters, who were being charged with the murder of Davis. That article doesn’t mention the tax angle, but calls it “a racial clash between negroes and whites” and says that of the 20 arrested, six were given life sentences and one a five-year sentence; 10 were acquitted; another was “still at large.”
Another article, in the Pickens, South Carolina Keowee Courier, described the battle much differently (though it also does not mention a tax angle):
According to reports received here [Cordele, Georgia] the trouble started when Marshal Cunningham, of Byronville, shot a negro he was trying to take into custody. In the excitement following Davis is said to have fired into a crowd of negroes with a shotgun, wounding several, two of them fatally.
The Georgia Supreme court heard an appeal of the murder case, and in its ruling they recapitulated the event as it was heard in the courts:
Buddie Wall and nineteen other negroes were jointly indicted for the murder of Robert Davis, a white man, in Dooly county, on . The evidence was as follows: On , W.D. Cunningham, the marshal of Byromville, went to the home of Fate Chapman, a negro, to collect a tax fi. fa. for $1.75, in favor of that town, or, in default of its payment, to levy the same. Chapman said the fi. fa. wasn’t just, and refused to pay it. The marshal then told him he would levy the fi. fa. on one of his mules in his lot. Chapman said he should not go into his lot for that purpose. They got into a tussle, when Chapman’s wife came out. and said she would pay the tax. The marshal said that was all right, but that he would have to take Chapman to town because he had resisted the marshal in the execution of this process. Chapman told the marshal that the latter could not take him to town. The marshal said he would. The marshal then seized Chapman, and the latter grabbed the marshal, who was pushed back into the yard. Chapman got the marshal’s pistol, but the marshal recovered it. In the struggle which ensued, the marshal shot Chapman in the leg. Chapman went into his home and told the marshal to wait until he came out. The marshal got behind a tree, waited a second or so for Chapman to come out, and, when Chapman did not come out, returned to town. Later in the day the marshal went back to Chapman’s to arrest him on the charge of resisting an officer. When he got there a doctor, attending Chapman, informed the marshal that Chapman was not able to go or be taken to town. Thereupon the marshal told Chapman that he would come back in the afternoon or next morning, and that Chapman could give a fifty-dollar bond for his appearance to answer the said charge. Chapman said that would be all right, “We will arrange it all right, Mr. Cunningham.”
Ben Byrom testified that on the afternoon of , he saw Lawyer West, who told him that the police had shot Fate Chapman about taxes. The witness told West that Chapman ought to have paid his taxes. West said, “There ought to be something done about it.” On the afternoon of , Sam Byrom was passing the home of Ras Cobb, when the latter said to the former, “I expect that I will need you to-night about dark; if I do, I will let you know, and if you come I want you to bring your gun.” That morning, after Chapman was shot, Sam Byrom, Lee Adams, Chess Lewis, Jim Bennefield, and Rich Davis, with others, were at Fate Chapman’s house. On Lee Adams was at the home of Ras Cobb, and told him that he wanted him (Ras Cobb) to come down there that night and be with them at Fate Chapman’s; that he thought there was a crowd coming in on him there. Buddie Wall, Zolly West, and Jim Bennefield were at the store of Ras Cobb . Chess Lewis was at Fate Chapman’s at the time he had the trouble with the marshal. He told Fate if he was him he would get a gun and shoot the son of a bitch, referring to the marshal. On the same day Luke West bought from R.W. Espy, a hardware merchant at Montezuma, a box of twenty-five buckshot shell. On , Rich Davis and Jim Bennefield went to Fate Chapman’s house. Bennefield carried a single-barrel shotgun with him. When they got there Lee Adams was there. Rich Davis and Jim Bennefield soon left, and went and took a seat on a bench in front of Lee Adams’ house. Bennefield had his gun with him. There they met Ras Cobb, who had his gun. After awhile Lee Adams came down there with his gun. Causey Chapman came from around towards Fate’s, with a double-barrel gun. After a little Buddie Wall came there. He had a big black pistol. Finally came Chess Lewis, who had a little bright-looking pistol, and J.T. Davis had a double-barrel shotgun. After they all got together Ras Cobb said, “Let’s go back behind the hall somewhere and shoot, so the white folks will come;” and Lee Adams said, “Well. I can do as much shooting as anybody.” They then went on down there, and shot off their guns. How many shots were fired is uncertain. There was volley after volley. One witness says they shot twelve or fifteen times. One witness says there were 100 or 150 shots fired.
Hearing these shots in the direction of the negro churches, which stand near the home of Fate Chapman, in the city limits, the marshal went down to investigate. He got as far as the house of the section foreman, who told him that he shot after the other shooting had happened, right at his home, to bluff them off and not let them come and shoot into his home. The marshal did not go as far as Chapman’s home. After getting as far as Sarah Prince’s house, and seeing or hearing nothing, he returned to the depot in town. Some boys had been down to Chapman’s home and reported that his yard was full of negroes with guns, who cursed them. In about thirty minutes the sheriff reached the depot where a crowd of about twenty-five men had collected. He had been called to Byromville, and told they had been having some trouble. The sheriff said, “Let’s go to Fate’s home and arrest those who have done the shooting.” The sheriff and a posse of about sixteen went to Fate Chapman’s home. When they got there they surrounded this house. The sheriff stopped in front of the house. Some went to the rear. Some went around to the left. Cleveland Thorpe and the deceased went into the yard. According to the testimony of the marshal, up to that time not a word was said to these negroes; the sheriff had not said anything to them, and had not commanded them to surrender.
W.C. Kitchens, the justice of the peace, testified, that when they first got to the house of Fate Chapman, the sheriff told them to lay down their guns, come out from under and in the house, hold up their hands, come to him, and there should not be a man hurt. The sheriff testified he told those negroes to come out from in there, and they would not be hurt; and that he was the sheriff of Dooly county. T.T. Thombley, a witness for the State, testified, that he did not remember that anything was said to the occupants of the home, before they separated and surrounded the home. If the sheriff had made that statement in his presence, before they separated, loud enough to be heard a hundred and fifty yards, he sure would have heard it.
The sheriff and his posse, including the deceased, went to Fate Chapman’s house to arrest these negroes for that shooting. The State admitted that they had no warrant for their arrest. Cleveland Thorpe arrested the defendant, brought him to the fence, turned him over to the marshal, who handcuffed him, carried him to Mr. Middleton, and told the latter to take him up town and lock him up. When Chess Lewis came out of the yard T.T. Thombley, one of the sheriff’s posse, halted him, told him to hold up his hands and come there. He didn’t come until they holloed to him the second time, and told him if he didn’t put up his hands and come they would shoot him. He then threw up his hands and came walking to them. When searched, a little thirty-two pistol was found upon him. They chained Chess Lewis to a part of an old wagon-wheel. Up to that time no shots had been fired by the negroes or by the sheriff and his posse. Shortly after the arrest of the defendant a pistol shot was fired from under the front of the house, and flashed around towards the northwest corner of the house. This pistol was fired from three to five times before any other gun fired. Then a shotgun fired several times. The first shot fired from the shotgun went to the northwest of the house in the direction of the deceased. The latter did not fall at the first crack of the shotgun, but fell at the second shot from the shotgun. From this wound the deceased died. Up to the time of the second shot from the shotgun the deceased had not fired a shot, but was in the yard with a shotgun in his hand. No member of the sheriff’s posse had fired a shot before the shot was fired from under the house. When the shots came from under the house the members of the posse began to shoot generally. Chess Lewis and Buddie Wall were in the yard before the shooting started. Lawyer West came out of the back yard, and was shot. When asked how he came there, he said his father, Luke West, sent him there. When asked “Whose gun is that?” he said it belonged to Luke, that Luke gave him the gun and shells, and told him to come there and protect Fate Chapman.
Jim Bennefield was shot down in the lot that night by the justice of the peace, who testified that Bennefield had been shooting at him with a pistol. Who fired the first pistol shots and the first gun shots from under the house is not disclosed by the evidence. Lawyer West came out of the yard. It looked as if he raised up right out from under the corner of the house, and raised shooting. A big army pistol was found under the edge of the house. Lawyer West had a big long shotgun when he fell, which was taken from him that night. One came from the kitchen of Fate Chapman’s house, and one from between the mattresses of his bed. Ammunition from the house, from the rifles and from the pockets of the negroes was exhibited.
After the affair Chess Lewis gave the sheriff the names of all the parties who were there, told the sheriff that he went down to Lilly after Willie Chapman, that Causey sent him down there to tell Willie to come up there and bring his gun. He said that J.T. Davis went with him to get Willie Chapman. When Chess was arrested he was brought to the sheriff, and while there punched the sheriff a time or two. The sheriff asked him what he wanted, and he said the home back there was full of negroes. The sheriff asked him who lived there, and he said Lee Adams. The sheriff asked him where Lee was, and he said he was over there under Fate Chapman’s house.
The sheriff shot and killed Willie Chapman the next morning. Some one informed the sheriff that there was a fellow shot through the head at Lilly. The sheriff drove down there to see about him, and found Willie Chapman about fifty yards from the corner of his house. When the sheriff drove up and got out of his car, Chapman ran around to get back in the house. The sheriff commanded him several times to stop, he didn’t stop, and the sheriff shot and killed him. He was unarmed.
(The supreme court found that there had been many errors made by the trial court in the case, and ordered a new trial.)