Sheriff A .S. Baggett, (Alfred Seawright) served the citizens of Douglas County from 1911 to 1932, a period of over 20 years ranking him as the sheriff who served the longest. He also holds the record for most election victories, since terms were formerly two years instead of the present number.
Born in 1875 in Coweta County, Sheriff Baggett moved to Douglas County with his parents in 1881. The Baggett family would make their home close to where the intersection of Interstate 20 and Chapel Hill Road is today.
Upon taking office in 1911, Sheriff Baggett moved into the Douglas County jail which was then located on Church Street in downtown Douglasville where the covered city parking deck is today. Sheriff Baggett brought along his wife, Coburn (Morris) Baggett and their eight children. The front part of the building served as their home while the back part of the building housed the jail cells.
A couple of historical sources quote then Judge A.L. Bartlett saying to those convicted of breaking the law, "To the Baggett House I commit you, and may the Lord have mercy on your soul."
Through the years, there were many who were committed to the Baggett House including a large number of moonshiners. John Moore who lived out near Villa Rica was just one. In mid-April of 1918 the sheriff arrested Moore after finding three gallons of moonshine in his possession. Moore spent a short time at the "Baggett House" before he was released on bond. Feeling that something wasn't quite right Sheriff Baggett returned to the area and soon "located about two hundred gallons of beer about twenty-five feet down an abandoned shaft of an old sulphur mine where a floor had been installed. Further down was still another floor and evidences of a complete distillery outfit which had been operating in the mine almost three hundred feet under the ground!"
Moonshine operations weren't always located in the rural parts of Douglas County. There are examples of distilleries being found within the city limits, too. Case in point has to do with the property of Bob Cole who lived in the cotton mill village. One Sunday morning in November, 1920 Sheriff Baggett with Deputies Joe Harding and Luther Bartlett along with Douglasville's night watchman John Arrington "took a spin out to the east end of town looking for prey. Their efforts were amply rewarded when they detected a peculiar yet familiar odor over near the old ball field at the Lois Mill."
The lawmen investigated and "located a well-equipped thirty gallon copper still under the home of Bob Cole." The entrance to the distillery was reached through a "trap door in the kitchen floor, covered by a rug, over which stood a dining table." The investigation determined Cole was "using city water in the plying of his unlawful and nefarious business."
The surprise visit netted Sheriff Baggett with five gallons of booze and 200 gallons of beer, but no suspect. An arrest was finally made a couple months later with an arrest and 60 gallons of mash thrown out onto the ground.
I have to wonder if there is a home in the old mill village today that has a trap door.
Moonshiners often gained access to property for their distillery operations without the property owner's knowledge. They would find someone who was an absent owner or someone who owned large sections of land and find the most remote area to locate their distillery. One such case was in November 1922 when Sheriff Baggett along with Deputies Bartlett and Harding and Douglasville Marshal E.L. Hopkins located and destroyed a 60-gallon capacity still on the Alfred Austell Jr. property along the Chattahoochee River. Ten gallons of corn whiskey and nine barrels of beer were poured out, but the moonshiners managed to make their getaway.
One of the most thrilling moonshine raids occurred at the end of April of 1921. A tip was delivered by a phone call one Thursday night stating a car full of whiskey was on its way to Atlanta. Sheriff Baggett along with Deputies Hopkins and Bartlett went out to meet what was described as a green car. About two miles west of town the car passed the lawmen.
The lawmen made a hard turn, the car turned around, and the lawmen gave chase. "The occupants of the green car threw on the gas and with muffler open roared through town in their mad dash to escape. The lawmen were following close behind firing at the tires in an effort to bring them to a stop."
"The whiskey car ... was overhauled near Beulah Church" just outside of town. One of the men jumped out, "but was later captured at Austell. The driver was brought back to town and placed in jail where he was later joined by his companions. All three men were later sent back to Buchanan to await trial in Haralson Superior Court.
The green car remained in Sheriff Baggett's possession until it was sold at public auction that July.
I could go on forever with Sheriff Baggett's moonshine-busting efforts, but they only give me so much space each week. In the next few months I'll try to round up more of Sheriff Baggett's exploits and share them here.
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.