Cooper: Sheriff Ward's fine work


This newspaper article regarding Sheriff Henry Lee Ward appeared in The Atlanta Constitution in January 1888.

Lisa Cooper

Henry Lee Ward was not originally from this area having been born in Meriwether County in 1845. His connection to Douglas County began before the county's birth when he married Mary Elizabeth Conner in 1868. After the Civil War, he took up farming in the Villa Rica area of Douglas County where he also had a grist mill.

Henry Lee Ward served as Douglas County's sheriff from 1885 to 1890 and again from 1893 to 1900. During his time in office he met up with more than a few nefarious criminals along with some who just seemed to be amusing nuisances to the good life here in these parts.

For example, L.T. Skinner was on trial in the spring of 1887 for the charge of seduction. Now, I'm not sure what that particular law stated at that time, but apparently, Mr. Skinner had run afoul of it. I don't know the details of the case, however, Skinner was concerned enough about his fate that he jumped from the courtroom window during a preliminary trial and escaped. "He disappeared from the county and was not heard of for some time." Even so, the trial continued without Mr. Skinner, and he was indicted for the seduction offense.

At some point in early January 1888 Sheriff Ward "learned Skinner had returned to Douglas County and was at his brother's. Sheriff Ward accompanied by Deputy U.S. Marshal Abercrombie proceeded to the house and found the Skinner brothers engaged in a game of cards. Skinner's brother handed him a gun, whereupon Deputy Marshal Abercrombie brought his pistol to a point, and L.T. Skinner yielded. He gave bond in the sum of $750 to answer the charge at the next term of Superior court and the Solicitor General returned home satisfied with Sheriff Ward's work!"

Another fugitive of justice was Luke New. On the night of Sept.19, 1884, New was involved in a robbery at T.A. Lather's (newspaper spelling) store in Villa Rica. "Several gallons of whiskey and other goods were taken out and hidden nearby. (The stolen goods) were soon found by Lather (who decided to watch them). During the night ... Luke New came for the goods but escaped by outrunning Lather, (but not before he admitted two other men were with him when he) committed the burglary."

Luke New was eventually caught and brought to trial. "While the jury was out overnight he thought it best to leave, which he did. The next morning they jury returned a verdict, finding him guilty. His bond was forfeited and nothing was known on him (for some time). However, in late January, 1888 Sheriff Henry Ward traveled to Seddon, Alabama and returned with Luke New as well as Elijah Rodgers, a moonshiner who had fled to Anniston when things got too hot for him here in the county.

One of the more humorous stories regarding a man who got away from Sheriff Ward had to do with D. W. Baker.

On the morning of June 15, 1888, D.W. Baker, a clerk with the Atlanta firm, Stowers, White & Company thought it was just another normal morning, at least until Atlanta patrolmen Starnes and Osborne showed up at the business located on Marietta Street and arrested him in front of his co-workers and boss men.

To say Baker was surprised and perplexed was an understatement. All the officers would tell him was he was being picked up and detained based on a warrant from Douglas County.

"Why?" asked Baker. "I haven't been there in years. What is this for?"

But no one knew the exact reason. A telegram had been sent to Douglas County and soon enough Sheriff Henry Ward walked through the doors, and Baker's questions were soon answered.

It seems six years prior, in 1882, young Baker had thrown a rock at a cow belonging to Sheriff Ward. The poor cow died soon after presumably from the effect of the blow to the side. Mr. Stowers, Baker's employer, soon showed up and paid the young man's bond, and Sheriff Ward returned home.

I have not located the record yet to advise if Baker made restitution for the cow, but it just goes to show that Sheriff Ward was patient and a bit tenacious in getting his man.

Unfortunately, one major criminal case did escape Sheriff Ward's justice. In 1893, Lithia Springs citizen and former marshal and postmaster W.K. Glover was murdered late one night walking home from a night of playing cards at the Bowden home which still stands today.

In fact, though several theories existed at the time and there were various arrests and trials, the murder case remains unsolved and many questions remain to this day.

More on the Glover case later this summer!

Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her book can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art and the Douglasville Welcome Center located at O'Neal Plaza in the former Douglasville Banking Company building.

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