Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mayor's Court

WHAT'S ON THE DOCKET?




I recently came into possession of a docket book from the Mayor's Court of Dublin from 1888 to 1890. The torn and tattered volume documents the four hundred and fifty cases filed against Dublin citizens for low misdemeanor crimes committed at a time when demon rum was being run out of town. For most of the two decades following the Civil War, the abundance of alcohol led to the labeling of the struggling town of Dublin as a wild, rowdy and raucous town. It was only after the temperance crowd marched in and barely managed to ban the legal sale of spiritous liquors and intoxicating ales that crimes in the city began to decline.


Virtually no one was exempt from the dogged enforcement of town ordinances. The very first case in 1888 was made against Lucien Q. Stubbs, who was fined the sum of $5.00 for fighting. Stubbs, who went on to become one of Dublin's most popular mayors by winning four elections, probably paid the fine in lieu of being humiliated by working on the public streets. Judge J.B. Wolfe and W.R. Scarborough were cited for violating an ordinance prohibiting the obstruction of a drainage ditch. Tom Hughes and F.T. Clark paid an equal amount for obstructing the wooden city sidewalk.


John Walker plead guilty to a charge of riding an animal in too fast a manner through the city streets. I assume it was a horse that John Walker was riding, but the joy ride cost old John the sum of $3.00. Richard Nelson's crime was somewhat more vague. Nelson was sentenced to pay only court costs for his conviction of "lurking on the streets at unusual hours," which begs the question, "was it legal to lurk during usual hours?" Mayor David Ware, Jr. sentenced Thomas Reinhardt to pay a fine of $5.00 for "loitering on the streets at unusual hours." Reinhardt's miscue was that he should have been lurking instead of just standing still and loitering.


In the summer of 1888, there was a rash of charges for operating restaurants without a license. In one day, the Mayor fined Paul Hillman and Ben Simmons the minimum sum of $1.00 for skipping the red tape. Rachel Linder, one of the few women cited in the docket, and R. Robinson were inexplicably fined $20.00 for the same act. Maybe their food wasn't as good as Paul and Ben's.


L.Q. Stubbs, who would preside over the court beginning in 1890, was joined by W.J. Hightower, T.M. Hightower, Robert Smith and George Bangs in some type of shooting match inside the city limits. This particular frolic costs the leading businessmen the paltry sum of $1.00. Stephen A. Corker, who son, Frank G. Corker, was soon to be elected Mayor, joined businessmen R.P. Roughton, Dan Green, John Hightower and William Colley in pleading guilty to shooting without permission. Maybe they should have just asked.


Sam Madison's horse broke loose and started running on the streets like breakaway horses generally do. This slip of the knot cost Madison a mere dollar but why was he there in the first place? Shouldn't city court be reserved for those real bad boys, the drunks, the disorderly and the combination thereof? Alex Mitchell went beyond drunk and disorderly, he was pure out drunk and riotous - a charge which landed him a twenty dollar fine.

Christmas and New Year's revelry usually brought out the mandatory arrests for the improper use of fireworks. Richmond Nelson paid two dollars for exploding fireworks without permission. Jessie Bracewell had to pay a $ 5.00 fine for using combustible material without due caution. It remains unclear whether or not Bracewell received permission to combust his material or that he was fined an extra three bucks for doing something stupid.


Jack Stanley was fined by Mayor L.Q. Stubbs for violating the Sabbath. Paul Hillman was found to not have really broken the Sabbath. Remember him? He had gotten of lightly for running a restaurant without a license. Sam Wright, Lewis Tillery and John Hudson each paid $2.00 for riding too fast in town.


Mayor Stubbs' father, the inestimable Col. John M. Stubbs, who led the town's growth out of obscurity into prosperity, had a awful autumn in 1889. In October, he and his brother in law H.V. Johnson, son of former governor, judge and vice-presidential candidate Gov. Herschel V. Johnson, were each fined for fighting. In December, Col. Stubbs returned to face charges of being disorderly.


The moniker of being the "town drunk" easily belonged to one "Pink" Hughes. Pink was twice sentenced in the last half of 1888 for being drunk and disorderly and resisting arrest. But in 1889, Hughes was convicted on seven separate occasions. Hughes contributed nearly $120.00 to the city coffers for his improprieties. He plead guilty once in September and was surprisingly found not guilty later by Mayor Stubbs. Seems like ole' Pink was always tying one on and this time fooled the local constable.


With the elimination of alcohol, crime rates plummeted. In the last half of 1888 alone, there were 294 criminal cases. The following year saw only 177 cases, the majority of which were drunk in the streets or just plain drunk. Many people were disorderly and an equal amount were both drunk and disorderly. Thirty three people were convicted of fighting in 1889, which represented a dramatic decrease from the twenty three persons convicted in the first half of the preceding year.


Obviously there were more crimes committed in the city and throughout the county in those days. High misdemeanors and felonies came under the jurisdiction of the state courts. Of all the more than five hundred cases documented in the book, one case stands out above all the rest. While most of the fines handed down by the mayor were ten dollars or less and few ever exceeded $25.00 per offense, a thirty five dollar fine was levied on James Taylor. What was Taylor's crime? It didn't involve drinking, fighting, or even loud swearing - that cost Brant Gay $2.50 - swearing softly seemed to be legal. No, it was not the twenty five dollars which Taylor paid for fighting which resulted in the court's highest fine. The whopping $35.00 penalty was for insolence towards a lady. If Mayor Phil Best was holding court today, the line of men answering that charge would wind out the door, run down the hall, extend out the door and cover the sidewalk all the way up to the courthouse.

No comments: