I published a column in January of 2018 titled “In Search of Walter Nutt.” That story evolved from a visit to Wallace Cemetery, an almost forgotten burial place of several families including my own. While doing research for that story, I found some information in the Dooly County Library that was compiled in 2006 by Davine V. Campbell and Helen S. Hudson.
There were several items in their documentation of cemeteries that I found interesting. One that particularly attracted my attention was about James M. Lindsey, who they listed as being buried at Wallace. I’ve not found a marker for him, but there’s a headstone for James L. M. Lindsey, a child who died March 12, 1892, on his sixth birthday. The inscription says he is the son of J. M. and E. E. Lindsey. I expect his father is nearby, close enough perhaps to touch the concrete lamb that adorns his grave.
The library material referenced a story from The Hawkinsville Dispatch dated March 22, 1888, at which time the Lindsey child would have just turned two. According to the story, James M. Lindsey was shot and killed by a relative, Crawford Lindsey, who worked for him on his farm. Crawford was reportedly drinking and drove some mules too hard. James reprimanded him, then they went their separate ways.
Two witnesses said that James spoke to Crawford again the following day about his mistreatment of the mules, and that Crawford then cursed him. James threatened to knock him in the head with a gun, at which point Crawford “sprang upon him,” pulled his pistol, and shot James in the face. The newspaper reported that Crawford was arrested and placed in a Macon jail. James was born June 18, 1857, and died February 28, 1888, only thirty years old.
The Lindsey story intrigues me because of its similarity to an event in our family. William Washington Joiner was born September 25, 1871. He was the oldest sibling of my grandfather, James Vanderbilt Joiner, who came along ten years later.
Will practiced medicine but also farmed by having an overseer, Mr. Turner, who he considered a friend. Returning home from a medical call one night, Will met his overseer, each of them on horseback. Mr. Turner had been drinking. His horse was exhausted. Will offered to swap horses, but an argument ensued. Harsh words were exchanged. Mr. Turner told Will that he was going to kill him.
As Will was putting his horse in the barn, he told his wife, Annie Calhoun, what had happened. She tried to persuade him to hide but he refused, thinking it would make him appear cowardly. Mr. Turner came to the barn and shot Will in the chest. Quickly sobered by what he had done, he went for help. He told his wife, “I shot the best friend I’ve ever had.”
Will died of gangrene April 24, 1900, at age 28. Exactly four months later, on August 24th, Annie would bear the child she was carrying, Willie James Joiner. Years later a friend of our family reported that Mr. Turner had lived with remorse, that his wife said he never got another good night’s rest. Annie Joiner was probably awake on a lot of those same nights.
Wallace is a small cemetery. It’s odd that it’s connected to two tragic deaths having parallel themes. There are several lessons we can take from their stories. It’s clearly best to not let a drinking man ride your horse. But if you do and he conducts himself poorly, then wait until he’s sober to talk about it. Or maybe instead of a scolding, just don’t let him ride your horse again.
There’s no way of knowing what will happen when whiskey, guns, and horses share the same trail. The silent testimony of Wallace Cemetery shows how badly it can end. Two young men are buried less than 50 feet apart. They each left a widow behind, one with a small child, the other with a baby on the way. Whiskey, guns, and horses don’t mix well together. It’s a proven recipe for grave mistakes.