That headline grabbed the attention of my cousin Charlie while he was doing some research on our family in the Oglethorpe Echo. The Oglethorpe Echo was the local paper in Oglethorpe County. Now since our family is from the Deep South this could mean anything. We have made peace with the different times that our ancestors lived in. We have learned that our family was not immune to some of the atrocities of the era. To judge them through the lens of modern times is to do a grave injustice to how the path of America and our ancestors have evolved into the America we know and love today.
Before I reveal the members of my family that listed in this newspaper article, I wanted to give a short history of White Caps. In the simplest of terms, White Caps were the predecessor of the Ku Klux Klan.
White Caps were citizens of their community that were disgruntled by the immoral behaviors and actions of both whites and blacks in their community and instead of working with the justice system; they took matter into their own hands and ruled with terror and violence. They would write a notice demanding the so-called violators to leave the community, and post the sign in the cover of night. They would sign the notice “White Caps” and they would leave a bundle of hickory switches as a warning. Some of the earliest White Caps were women.
The wives of the community, angry that their menfolk’s attention
had turned away from the hearth, formed a mob to protect their
families and homes. Urged on by several men, the women went to
the dwelling of each prostitute one night and laid bundles of hickory
switches at the front doors with a note telling the occupants to leave
the neighborhood or suffer a beating during a later visit. The messages
were signed “White Caps.”
(Source: Cummings, William)
In the summer of 1890, the small community of Sandy Cross experienced violence from the White Caps. This group threatened white and black folks in the area with their terrorism. Some of the community leaders of Sandy Cross met at Burt’s Chapel. Together they decided among themselves to condemn these actions formally. The images below are from the paper. Most of these men had actually fought in the civil war, yet here they were stating formally they believe the rights granted in Constitution were to be applied to whites and blacks alike. I can’t help but think about the impact these community leaders had on openly condemning this behavior by having it published for all to see. The whole community would know definitively how they felt about the violence and terrorism these groups imposed and how they would not tolerate that in their community.
I am very much aware that things were not all rosy during this time period; but it is nice to see that my ancestors took a stand in regards to the rights of those around them.
Let me introduce you to the key players.
C.A. Stevens, Columbus Augustus Stevens, my second great-grandfather, he was definitely the patriarch of the Stevens Family.
F.M. Mathews, Francis Marion Mathews, my third great uncle, he married Henrietta Tiller.
J.C.G. Stevens, John Cylanus Gibson Stevens, 1st cousin 4 times removed.
Calvin Mathews, this may be my third great uncle, Francis brother, James Calvin Mathews, I am not able to prove that link.
W.M. Tiller, William M. Tiller was the brother of Henrietta.
W.E.Faust, I know he was related by marriage somehow because C.A. Stevens daughter Obie married a Faust.
I know it has been awhile since I have explored backwards, but I had to get a new laptop and some new software. My resolution this year is to get back at it. I want to thank my cousin Charlie for the progress he has made and sharing the fruits of his labors.
Until later, I will be exploring backwards.
Volume 12 UGA Archives, Oglethorpe Echo, Russell Special Collections Library, P. 285.
Cummings, William Joseph, “Community, Violence, and the Nature of Change: Whitecapping in Sevier County, Tennessee, During the 1890’s. ” Master’s Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1988.