Continuing my story from last week regarding the murder of William K. Glover seven different men had been charged and one by one they were all acquitted in preliminary hearings with three seated judges -- Armstead R. Brown, John P. Maxwell, and Franklin Carver who were all Justices of the Peace. Folks were shocked when prominent citizen John M. James became the next suspect to be charged with the crime.
John M. James was the first son of Stephen James, an early pioneer citizen of Campbell County. Three of James' siblings were very prominent in county politics and government going back to October 17, 1870 when the bill that created Douglas County was signed into law. In fact, all four pushed very hard for the formation of Douglas County, and John M. James had served as the county's first tax receiver and later as a judge of the Ordinary Court.
Brothers J.S. James and W.A. James were both well-known attorneys who practiced locally and in Atlanta. Both served as mayors of Douglasville and along with their brother John served on a committee that oversaw the construction of the Georgia Pacific Railroad through Douglasville and into west Georgia. They used some tactics that if used today would land them under the jail, but at that time certain laws didn't exist as they do today. Brother Robert Lee James was also active in county government serving as the Clerk of Superior Court.
Besides being the county's first tax receiver, John M. James had served Lithia Springs as postmaster and operated a grocery store, a saloon, and a legal distillery there in the 1880s.
Besides being prominent for his businesses and government service, John M. James was one of the area's Confederate veterans and much was made of this in the newspaper accounts of the court proceedings. James had lost a leg on the battlefield at Kelly's Ford, Virginia in 1863. He left a piece of his skull there too, and was left on the battlefield for dead. His injuries impacted the remainder of his life until his death. It is said he was ill when the preliminary trial got underway. He was unable to sit up, and he reclined upon a bed in the courtroom surrounded by members of his family and friends. As he lay upon the bed with crutches resting beside him and his empty breeches leg hanging down, he made quite a picture.
The state attorney for Douglas County at that time, John Valentine Edge, attempted to prove that bad blood existed between the murdered man and John M. James, and for that reason James committed the murder.
It came out in court that two or three years before the murder Glover and James' son got into a fight. It seems Glover had gotten into some trouble selling some liquor, and John M. James helped him out of the jam since after all, they were cousins through Glover's wife.
James' son, Wash, a shortened version of Washington, told his father Glover didn't really appreciate the help, and he was throwing his money away. Glover got wind of Wash's remarks and confronted the younger James. Testimony showed Glover was a "mighty good man physically, with a belligerent disposition," while others referred to Glover as a man who considered himself to be the "cock of the walk" and "king bee of the hills of Douglas."
A bitter quarrel ensued and a hard fight followed. Young James proved to be the better man of the two. It was the first thrashing Glover had ever received, and it did not rest gently on his shoulders. He swore that he would have his revenge and from that day to the day of his death Glover and Wash James were bitter enemies. It wasn't long after the fight that Wash James left Georgia for a time to work as a gatekeeper at the World's Fair in Chicago.
The state also brought out a late night fire that occurred at the residence of John M. James in 1892. The family had barely escaped with their lives. Later, it was determined it had been set, but every attempt to ascertain the guilty party was futile and James was compelled to stand his loss. The state also advised that soon after the house fire, John M. James had placed nearly three thousand dollars of insurance on his store and stock of goods. At some point in April 1892 a fire destroyed the store and everything in it.
A few days after the fire it was reported about the county that Wash James had fired the building and that his object in doing so was to secure the insurance money, but on the night of the fire Wash James was in Atlanta and remained there until midnight reaching Lithia Springs after the building had burned down.
The rumors were soon traced back to W.K. Glover, and it was ascertained that Glover was having frequent and lengthy conversation with the insurance agents who had written the risks. He claimed he had evidence that would prove the store fire had been set, and the insurance company was going to deny the claim.
The evidence was stacking up, and things didn't look good for John M. James. Next week I'll wrap up his trial and begin the process of tying up some loose ends and navigate a couple of twists and turns for one of Douglas County's oldest cold cases.
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 books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer's Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.