The little city of Grovetown was shaken from center to circumference.
– The Augusta Chronicle, 1914
One minute I’m sitting there looking up at the new calendar and the next I’m looking back into history.
Here’s what I found.
The big story in The Chronicle 100 years ago dealt with tragedy, gunplay, murder, insanity and heroism. And it started with Claude Jordan, the man who “terrorized Grovetown.”
Chronicle reporter Earle Braswell described the scene that New Year’s Day:
“Securely barricaded within the walls of a four-room cabin … Claude Jordan … held at bay an armed posse of fifty frenzied though powerless citizens from noon yesterday until 5 o’clock in the afternoon, when the mob broke down the door to find Jordan stretched upon the floor with a hole in his right temple – the work of his own hand.
“As terrible was this spectacle that first greeted the entrants into Jordan’s home, in the next room awaited the most gruesome sight many of them had ever beheld …”
Reporter Braswell goes on to describe in pretty graphic terms the late Mrs. Jordan.
The good news in all this bad business were the two Jordan children, girls ages 6 and 3, who had avoided danger, it was said, by hiding under a stove. The newspaper attributed their deliverance to Providence.
What set Claude Jordan off? Insanity, the newspaper speculated. He had, after all, spent considerable time in the asylum at Milledgeville. He also had a drinking problem. One or the other or both flared up that New Year’s, when Claude rode a mule into downtown Grovetown, excitedly announcing he had killed a man.
His brother Benjamin Jordan, a Grovetown merchant and Columbia County school commissioner, tried to calm him down, but failed. Another friend, J.E. Beale, tried also, but was shot in the neck, although not killed.
A posse formed and headed to Jordan’s cabin but decided to wait outside.
Finally, a man identified as J.J. Zachry, of Harlem, expressed concern about the little girls. With what was described as “rare bravery and admirable nerve” he approached the house and called for the children to come out. They did, and told Zachry the adults inside were dead.
The posse, however, suspected a trick and decided to shoot up the house. Finally, Zachry rushed through the door and found the bodies.
The children were taken to relatives, and a coroner’s inquest was scheduled. The unfortunate Jordans were removed and the cabin locked up.
I’m sure that most everyone went home that first day of 1914 hoping the year ahead would see better times.
It would almost have to, wouldn’t it?