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Murder in May of a minstrel and a woman

Jacob Bembry: Greene Publishing, Inc.

As the lazy month of May began to skip, instead of dragging itself, into the month of June and the summer months, the news during its final week was not all good. In fact, two murders, at opposite ends of the county, were reported in the June 1, 1905 edition of The New Enterprise.

One of the murders happened at the eastern end of the county in Ellaville. An African American woman named Annie Fields was shot and killed on Sunday, May 28. Her assailant was a black man who worked in the turpentine stills, who was known as “Big Boy” in the turpentine community and whose birth name was Hays Burgess. The still where he worked was owned by Horton, West, and Company.

Justice Lammons held an inquest and determined that the preponderance of evidence showed murder without the slightest provocation, and that whiskey had been the cause for the shooting.

Burgess escaped, fleeing justice, while the search was still on for him five days later.

The other murder was more mysterious than the murder of Annie Fields. The body of Will Amos, an African American man, was found also on Sunday, May 28, in the early morning hours. The body was found in a blind alley in the quarters where blacks lived near the Mosely Pond.

Amos was identified as one of two “wandering minstrels,” who had arrived in town Saturday and roamed the streets and the saloons in the area the night before, singing and playing.

A jury of inquest was empaneled by Judge Martin. The jury consisted of R.D. Rowe, T.W. Millinor, J.L. Morrow, W.M. Taylor, Walter Bunting, and J.C. Horne.

Upon examination of the body, a small amount of money, half a pint of whisky and other items which were not of much value were found, along with Amos’ violin, which he had fallen upon and broken. It was determined that Amos had died from a pistol shot wound in the back of the neck, “the ball ranging upward and coming out in the mouth.”

The jury of inquest surmised that the shot had been fired from one of the houses in the quarters, which seemed to bear “an unsavory reputation.”

The New Enterprise reporter wrote, “The whole matter is one of mystery, not yet solved, but it is hoped by the coroner and jury that evidence will be forthcoming which will result in bringing to justice the murderer.”

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