Friday, February 3, 2012

The Stanford Cheek Family (Part 2)

Now that you know a bit about the family of Stanford Cheek and his wife Mary Polly Williams Cheek I wish to relate the remarkable tale from the unlikely source that confirmed some few facts I had and opened up much of what I just related.  As I said, I had hoped to verify the information with copies of the original documents, but hours of operation of the Georgia Archives are severely reduced because of budget constraints, such that we face the very real prospect that the Archives may close to the public altogether.  Alas for our state, and its history, and its reputation.

In any case, I’m lucky that someone else uncovered these documents.  As I said, a Google search turned up my first clues.  I was researching my third great grandfather John Farthing.  I had traced him back as far as 1860 in Jasper County, and was entering various combinations of his name and the counties in which he had lived, with and without enclosing phrases in quotes, hoping for that odd bit of luck that would turn up an historical reference.  One search turned up the phrase “the harassment of his father, his brother-in-law (John Farthing) and himself” and clicking on the link opened a Word document entitled Homicides of Adults in Jasper County, Georgia, to 1900.  It was a long 500+ page document, so I searched for Farthing and got a hit.  More than that, I found a new branch of the family, confirmed the maiden name of John Farthing wife independently of the Farthing family history I have a copy of, and uncovered a fascinating and forgotten bit of family history.

First, I must give credit to my source for this tale.  The document mentioned above is from the website of the Historical Violence Database, a project of the Criminal Justice Research Center (CJRC) of the Department of Sociology, Ohio State University (  The other pages of the project website make fascinating reading, but I was specifically concerned with the results reported in this paper, part of the study “Homicide among Adults in Georgia and South Carolina, 1785-1900.“  The particular sections of the document that concern the Cheek family draw on the papers of Governor Rufus Brown Bullock, the Reconstruction-era Republican Governor of Georgia from 1868-1871.  While the study has some extensive quotes of the original source material, it is nevertheless a transcription, with all the potential flaws inherent in the transcription process.  Unfortunately, though, as noted above it is all I have to rely on for the time being.  I am grateful that the CJRC has made this study available on the internet.  Please see the section on Creative Commons license and Fair Use here on the CJRC website for information on distribution of this content.  All of the quotes are from pages 222-227, covering the sections "HOM:  Walter N. Cheek m. Jarret McGinnis" and "HOM:  unk. white men [prob. Elbert J. Campbell, Richard S. Campbell, William Parker, and ___ McGinnes] m. Malory L. Cheek.”

There are in the papers of Governor Bullock three letters dated 15 May 1870, 22 May 1870 and 24 August 1870 (Papers of Governor Rufus Brown Bullock, 1868-1871.  Record Group 1-1-5, Ga. Dept. of Hist. & Archives.  Box 58:  2740-13; cited in Homicides of Adults in Jasper County, Georgia, to 1900 [hereafter Homicides], pp 223-224).  The letters were written to the Governor by “John W. Cheek, formerly of Jasper Co., now in Yorkville, S.C.”  On 15 May 1870 John Cheek “writes about the harassment of his father, his brother-in-law (John Farthing) and himself & of the murder of his brother, Malory L. Cheek, in 1868.”  According to the letters, John & Mallory (or Malory) were "attending to our own business" as farmers during 1868.  Various “Democratic clubs” and early KKK organizations were out agitating and trying to force white farmers to join them in harassing the newly-freed blacks in an attempt to influence the outcome of election.  John says that “At last they were threatened with violence if they did not join, esp. [Mallory], ‘who had openly denounced the So called KuKlux.’”   As might be expected, this did not go over well with the agitators.

Mallory tried to hide from the group, but they continued to pursue him.
until the Ku Klux raided his house at night & broke into the house & went into the bedroom with guns cocked & ordered his brother's wife out of the bed (in only her nightclothes), but found he had escaped.  Then they went to “our brother in law” (John Farthing) & entered his house in the same manner, terrifying his wife & children.  Then went to their aged parents' house [age 70] & searched the house with guns drawn.  Then came to JWC's house & made the same threats & search.
“JWC” is John W Cheek. 

Finally, at 3am on 30 November 1868, they caught up with Mallory, “called [him] to the door of his house & shot him through the body & head.”  John reports that his brother died instantly.

In his letters of 22 May and 24 August 1870, John expands on his charges somewhat, and repeatedly names names, calling out brothers Elbert and Richard Campbell and William Parker, all of Jasper County, who he says “have never been law abiding citizens”, and that they “engaged in illicit Disstilling for two years previous to October 1868 at which time I was forced to seek safety by leaving my home.”  They local trio was joined in this crime and the ongoing agitation and harassment by a man who claimed to be an ex-Confederate officer from Tennessee, a Captain McGinnes, “who was at the time loafing about the country and who acted as one of the Ringleaders of the band" but has since moved to Bastrop P.O. in Bastrop Co., Texas.”  According to Homicides, the May 15th letter states that the murder occurred on the 30th of November and that John left the state shortly afterwards, yet here in the May 22nd letter he is saying he left the state the month before (in October 1868), and in the letter of August 24th he states that “It will be 2 yrs next Sept. when the crime was committed” (i.e., September 1868).  So unless there is a transcription error in the letter of May 15th, the dates are slightly out of synch.  But it seems clear that the basic truth of the murder and the approximate time appear factual.

John Cheek is writing to appeal to the Governor to send in troops to effect an arrest because he believes the civil authority in Jasper County is sympathetic to the political goals of the murderers.

This is all interesting stuff, so I searched the Homicides document for more mentions of the Farthings and Cheeks.  There was only one other section mentioning the Cheek family, and it’s immediately before the one on the murder of Mallory Cheek.  Interestingly, it is the murder of a man named “Jarret McGinnis” by Mallory’s brother Walter Cheek.  This murder took place on 31 May 1868, and apparently was the result of a duel between Walter and this Jarret McGinnis, arising from some slight wherein Walter thought that Jarret had insulted him or Jarret thought Walter had insulted him or both.  I think that there is far too much coincidence in the name of the victim is this earlier murder “Jarret McGinnis” and “Captain McGinnes” who was a ringleader in the murder of Mallory Cheek.  It certainly bears further investigation and research, and has been added to my “to do” list.

That’s about it for now.

Later y’all,

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