Historical Society seeking documents about 1904 tragedies
Book to spotlight Hodges family murder, subsequent lynchings
January 31, 2016
The Bulloch County Historical Society is in the process of gathering factual information to be published in a book about the 1904 Hodges family murders and the lynching of Paul Reed and Will Cato, two of the most horrible episodes in Bulloch history.
The basis of the book will be the more than 40 years of research and writings of Georgia Southern professor emeritus of history Dr. Charlton Moseley. Moseley’s first published writings on the subject appeared in 1981 in the “Georgia Historical Quarterly” and in 1985, he presented his paper to a meeting of the Southern Historical Society in Houston, Texas.
The Historical Society has asked Jenny Foss, editor of Statesboro Magazine, to serve as editor for the project.
“We hope to add pertinent legal documents, photographs, court transcripts, letters, and other supporting documentation to the original text, expanding on Dr. Moseley’s work on the subject,” Foss said.
In the introduction to the transcript Moseley stated:
“One hundred and twelve years ago, in 1904, two related incidents of great horror occurred in Bulloch County. The first of these involved the murder of a family of five and the burning of their rural home near Colfax in the western area of the county. The second horror saw the lynching of the two men held accountable for the crime, Paul Reed and Will Cato, by burning alive. Both the murders and the lynching were sensationalized locally and nationally. Few incidents in Bulloch County history have held a greater fascination than these two incidents of human atrocity and suffering.”
Moseley, the author of this paper, is a native of Bulloch County and for many years had heard stories handed down by word of mouth about the killing of the Henry Hodges family and the subsequent lynching of the two murderers, itinerant workers on the farms of two prominent citizens in the remote western part of the county.
“About 1972, I made a decision to investigate these crimes and as accurately as possible try to ascertain the basic facts about what really happened during those hot and frightening weeks of July and August, 1904 in Bulloch County,” Moseley said.
“As a historian primarily interested in local history I learned early on that there are often folks who believe that unpleasant history should not be exposed but rather kept under cover,” he said. “Indeed, in 1972 when I made a public appeal for information on those sordid events in our history involving murder and lynching, a prominent county leader tried to dissuade me from the task on the grounds that it would bring embarrassment to the community. I chose to ignore the suggestion and found that there were large numbers of people who supported my efforts and many brought pertinent information to my attention.
“While murder and lynching are not ‘good’ history, nevertheless such subjects are still history and must be examined and considered along with those things in our past which are praiseworthy and which bring us pride and pleasure. May we examine all of our past activities as a community, good and bad, and may we learn to profit from all of them! It is with this sentiment in mind that this paper is offered to the members of the Bulloch County Historical Society.”
The Historical Society will honor Moseley’s vision by continuing to research all aspects of the tragedy that unfolded in the summer of 1904, expanding on his original investigation. Community participation is invited.
“We’re looking for supporting documentation that will help us tell the story of what led up to the tragedy at the Hodges home, the search for suspects, the apprehension of the defendants, the court trial, the mob’s actions, and the impact on the community overall,” said Joe McGlamery, Historical Society. “While examining such terrible events from our past is painful, we believe it is necessary to tell the bad with the good to get a true historical perspective on life in Bulloch County during that time.”
Anyone who would like to share family history, photographs, or related documents from the incidents is asked to contact Foss firstname.lastname@example.org; McGlamery email@example.com; or Moseley at firstname.lastname@example.org.