These are the stories included in this blog. They are listed in order of latest to earliest added. You can either enter a search in the provided space, or scroll to the bottom to find the earlier posts. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy researching and writing about this aspect of our local history.

Murder on South Palafox
Workplace violence in 1905
The Tragic Death of Big Ed Morris
Fight at a Fatal Fish Fry
The Curious Killing of Charles Sudmall
Successful Russian Businessman killed in town
Tale of a Lynching
Prisoner J.C. Evans, left dead on the side of the road
Sheriff McDaniel of Jackson County
Shootout in his Driveway
The 1915 Wyman Murders
Home invasion and killing of Elderly Couple
The Kidnapping of Mrs. Phelps
Holmes County 77 year old widow kidnapped and beaten.
The Mulat Murders
Murder of Julian, and Mae Edwards
Bank of Jay Part II
Were the robbers Pensacola Police Officers?
The Jay Bank Robbery
January 1963 Bank Heist
Killing in Crestview

Was there really Justice for Lester Wilson's death?

The Phantom Ghoul of Whitmire

Grave desecration at the Roberts, and Whitmire cemeteries

Tragedy Near McLellan

The murder of Daisy Locklin Padgett

The Turpentine Feud of 1911

The Cooley family ambush and events leading up to it.

The Allen-Whitmire Shootout

Articles about the shootout at the L&N Depot in Milton

The Acreman Family Murder

The murders and arson of an entire family near Allentown

Retired School Teacher Kills Three Police Officers

Happened in Ocala, Florida

Unsolved Pensacola Axe Murder

Family attacked as they slept

Unsolved Murder of Henry Hicks Moore

Pensacola Lovers lane murder

Unsolved Hinote/Byers Murder

Young couple killed

The Short Life and Fast Times of Frank Penton

Chief Deputy and local Gunslinger

The Fate of Judge Trueman

Killed in Ogden, Utah

The Killing of John Wesley Penton

Shot down in the street in Milton

The Trial of C. B. Penton

Suspected of killing S.G. "Babe" Collins

The 1931 Pursuit and Capture of Criminals Near Milton

Captured in Mulat swamp

The Gainer/Collins Murders

More to come on this one

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Murder on South Palafox

Workplace violence in 1905

John White, owner of the John White Store on South Palafox St. in Pensacola, was sitting near the entrance to his store reading the afternoon newspaper. His 17-year-old son, Eddie, was standing about four feet from him. A clerk named William Fletcher Williams, who worked for Mr. White, walked into the store, passed by the seated owner, turned around quickly and shot him twice. Eddie later testified that Williams said, “I don’t give a damn for any of you.”
Williams then turned and shot James White, also a son of John who was the manager of the store. He then turned and shot Edwin Dansby, manager of Furnishing department, in the neck. Dansby collapsed immediately. Williams then shot at fellow clerk, James Nix, missing him as he dodged behind a counter.

Williams fired five shots, only missing when he shot at Nix. He ejected the empty cartridges and was attempting to reload when he was tackled by James White, covered in blood from a chest wound. Entering the store at this time was Constable Charles Bobe who heard the shots from the sidewalk, Robert McLellan, and Cuyler McMillan. James White yelled, “Take him, Mr. Cuyler, I don’t know whether he has killed me, or not.” McMillan grasped Williams around the arms, and body and Constable Bobe, and Mr. McLellan wrestled the gun away from him.

At the time Williams began shooting, John White was seated with Eddie standing nearby. James White was standing back, and to the left of his father. Dansby was showing clothing to a customer a little farther back. James Nix was showing a lady customer goods on the other side of the store. Ernest W. Elliott, and Chris Hendricks, also employees were closer to the rear of the store, and took cover.

Williams was taken directly to the county jail by Constable Bobe, and Mr. McLellan. As they crossed the Plaza, they met Deputy Sheriff Sanders. When they informed Sanders that Williams had just shot and killed Mr. White, Williams said, “Me, killed John White? I don’t remember anything about it.”
James White was helped to the office of Dr. D’Alemberte where he was examined and sent to the hospital. Edwin Dansby was taken directly to the hospital, where he was not expected to live, and died on July 22 about 4 am. He was later buried at St. John’s cemetery.  John White’s body was taken to an undertaker, then to his residence at 423 East Gregory Street.
A Coroner’s Jury was assembled by Judge Landrum consisting of, D. Hale Wilson, W.W. Watson, Charles F. Steward, W.C. Walker, Eddie Forchiemer, and William A. Bond. The Jury examined the evidence at the crime scene and interviewed witnesses. Williams was then charged with First Degree Murder.

John White

He was 58 years old, born in Austria, and lived in Pensacola for 36 years. He started selling tobacco, and articles used in the seafaring trades on the street. He was successful, and over the years expanded until he established the John White Store on South Palafox. It was the largest store of its type in the city. He was married and had four children. He had a son, Mario who was in New York; his son James who was managing the store, and two younger sons, Eddie, 17, and Tommy 14. He is buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery.

The Cause of the Shooting
Over a period of time, it was determined that stock was missing from the store. Edwin Dansby received a letter from a friend of his stating that a brother of Williams named Archie was selling goods with John White markings at a store he owned in the town of Century, in the northern part of the county. Mr. White asked Constable Charles Bobe to investigate. Bobe, Dansby took the train north to Century and found the items being sold in the store. Later, when confronted, William F. Williams denied the items were stolen and with no further evidence, and feeling a bit sorry for Williams, Mr. White dropped the matter.

The other employees, however, were keeping an eye on Williams. Williams felt the not-so-subtle surveillance and began brooding about the situation. He also began drinking, and the day of the shooting had been drinking steadily. Shortly before the shooting he was sorting and rearranging stock with fellow clerk James Nix. He then left the store for about five minutes. When he returned, he began shooting.

Jailhouse Interview

Williams lived at 1101 West Government Street. His mother lived on West Gregory and recently opened a boarding house there. He was about 24 years old. About 30 minutes after the shooting, in his cell, he was interviewed by a Journal reporter named Percy S. Hayes. Hayes later said that Williams was very drunk, and had vomited in his cell. He asked Hayes if John White was dead. When convinced that was the truth, he said, “Well, some people thought me soft, but they found out different. If I die for this, I will die honestly, and will be like a man. John White was the best friend I ever had. He helped me out of trouble. If he had kept other people out of his business, and not listened to them I never would have done it. It is not him I was after; it was other parties. They drove me to it. I won’t say who they are. They have dollars where I haven’t even got cents. They are the ones who are the cause of it all. Just because I tried to build myself up, they tried to pull me down. I started digging roots and built myself up to what I am today. My only fault was that I drank some. Yes, I may hang for this, but John White was surely my friend. He was the best man in Pensacola, but then he brought it upon himself. If he had done right, he would be alive today.”

On August 2, James White was moved to his home on East Gregory Street from St. Anthony’s Hospital. He recuperated quickly, and was able to provide testimony at both murder trials.
A month from the day of the shooting, Williams was found guilty of first-degree murder with a recommendation for mercy. This meant he was going to receive a life-sentence. There was general disgust in the city that he did not get the death penalty. When it was announced that he would be tried in Marianna for the murder of Ed Dansby, it was felt that maybe a jury there would give him hanged. It was not to be, however. The trial in Marianna produced the same result. The jury voted 7-5 for a mercy recommendation resulting in a second life-sentence. The total costs for both trials was $6000. Williams was brought back to Pensacola to wait until it was decided where the state was going to put him. His father-in-law brought him meals while he was in the Pensacola jail.

It was generally felt that Williams had come from a good family. He was one of ten children of William Julian Williams, and Lucretia Brown. He was the oldest boy, born in August of 1882. His father worked as a Sawyer at a lumber mill in Muscogee, and in 1900, the family was living on West Government Street. In Mr. Williams 1932 obituary, it states that he was well thought of in the Muscogee area. The article lists some of his children, but doesn’t mention the one who created all the havoc on South Palafox in 1905. Archie Williams later operated a market on East Garden street and died in 1950.

The End of Mr. Williams

In the 1910 census, William Fletcher Williams is listed as an inmate at a State Prison in Tallahassee, but by August of 1911 he was a trustee at the T.W. Shands Company convict camp near Belmore, Florida. This was part of the controversial state convict lease program. There were numerous camps across Florida where the State would lease prisoners to privately owned turpentine camps, logging camps, and even railroad construction. These companies paid the state for the use of prisoners with no compensation going to the men performing the labor. It was basically legally sanctioned slave-labor. It was quite profitable for the state.

As a “trustee”, Williams had more freedom of movement, and on August 11, he rode away from the camp. Green Cove Springs is about 16 miles northeast of Belmore. Williams rode a horse into the yard of Mrs. Jessie Meeks with the intention of robbing the place. Mrs. Meeks’ husband was away visiting a sick brother, and when she heard someone outside, she assumed it was her husband returning home. She opened the door and Williams shot, and killed her. Her 16-year-old son Walter Meeks, ran toward the door and Williams shot him in the leg. Walter secured a shotgun, and returned fire, hitting Williams in the leg. Williams turned to flee, and young Mr. Meeks shot him in the back. Williams collapsed in the roadway, and lay there until he died the next morning. I assume the house was isolated, which is probably why Williams selected it as a target. Meeks did not leave the house and apparently no one happened to pass by until the next day.

The remains of William Fletcher Williams were brought back to Pensacola, and later buried at the Pine Barren Cemetery, north of the city.

James Anicetta White, died March 5, 1943 and is buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Pensacola.
Ironically, both James White, and William F. Williams were born in August 1882.

All pictures from the Pensacola News Journal July 1905.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Tragic Death of Big Ed Morris

Big Ed Morris got into a fight one night on the bank of Little Escambia creek, and died in the hospital in Century, Fl three days later. This is his story.

            Walter Edward Morris was born in Foshee, Alabama on 7 December 1899. His mother was Ella Morris, and it is believed that his father was a sawmill operator known as Captain Fuller. The 1900 census for Owen, Escambia Co, Alabama does list a Levander Fuller, born in North Carolina in 1859. Ella, and her two children, Edward, and Stella were living with her mother, Cornelia Morris, who kept a boarding house, and her four brothers. In the 1910, and 1920 census, Ella and her children were still living in Owen. There is no more sign of Mr. Fuller.

In the 1920 census Ed is listed as a laborer but he already had a reputation as a talented up and coming pitcher on the local baseball scene. In 1919 and part of 1920 he played for the Bagdad team, and was pitching for the Century, Fla. Town club when he was signed by the Class-D Bradenton Growers of the Florida State League.

The Bagdad Baseball Club 1919, 1920

Morris toiled in the minor leagues until 1928, with only a brief call -up to the Chicago Cubs in 1922, where he got 12 innings of work.  In the spring training of 1925, he got a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds but was returned to the Nashville team with a sore arm. Ed had developed the reputation for being a hard drinker, who really made no effort at conditioning, or taking care of himself.

In 1928, Morris got his big break with the hapless Boston Red Sox. He took full advantage of his opportunity, and won his first start on May 3 with a 4-hit victory over the Philadelphia Athletics. Through the 25th of August his record was 17-11 with an era of 3.13. Steller numbers for sure, but possibly the length of the season wore him down. He finished 19-15 with a 3.53 era.  He also had pitched 257 innings. His record was still the best among rookie pitchers, and his 19 victories accounted for a third of the Red Sox wins that year.

In 1929, Morris suffered arm problems and other nagging injuries that resulted in a season record of 14 wins and 14 losses. He pitched 208 innings and had a 4.45 era. During the winter before the season, Morris had traveled to the Panama Canal region, and found a team that wanted to hire him to pitch. Morris wired Baseball Commissioner, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis for permission to pitch. Landis wired back that permission could not be granted due to rules prohibiting major league ballplayers from playing for money during the offseason. Morris pitched a couple of games anyway, defeating the Navy fleet team 4-3, and becoming a hero in the Canal Zone. In March during spring training Landis fined him $250. It was considered lucky that Morris was not also handed a suspension. There is one notable game from 1929. On 26 May, Morris pitched against the Yankees. The game ended in a 15-4 blowout for the victorious Yanks, and Morris was largely ineffective. He gave up a three-run homer to Yankee catcher Bill Dickey, and a double to Lou Gehrig, but in the fifth inning Big Ed Morris hit a home run off of Waite Hoyt to tie the game 3-3. At the conclusion of the inning Hoyt was walking toward the Yankee dugout and said something to the umpire, and got ejected from the game. It was Morris’ only major league home run.

The 1930 season started with spring training at Pensacola’s Legion Field, with the players staying at the San Carlos Hotel. Morris was a hold out for a short time demanding a raise. He settled for a $500 raise to a season salary of $8000. The Red Sox considered Morris to be the Ace of their pitching staff for the upcoming season. The New York Yankees had made a strong effort to obtain Morris during the offseason. Once again, he developed arm problems and missed the second half of the season. His record was 4-9 with a 4.13 era.

After the 1930 season, Morris had a house built in Flomaton, Alabama, and moved his family there from Mobile. He had a wife, Beryl, and two sons, Edward, and Mortimer by this time, and they lived there until his death.

1931 was, once again, a season of a sore arm. Morris also missed three weeks in May after being hit on his big toe during batting practice by a line drive hit by outfielder Tom Oliver. He was sent home from Philadelphia to Boston to get treatment. He started to improve late in the season, but finished with 5 wins and 7 losses with a 4.75 era. His dismal record was the result of “injuries, and failure to condition”. His last appearance was a complete game 4-hit victory, 9-2 over the St. Louis Browns. He and the Red Sox were looking forward to 1932 as a come back season.

A Going Away Fish Fry

The 1932 spring training for the Red Sox was to be in Savanah, Georgia. To celebrate the new season, and a new contract for Morris there was to be a fish fry/peanut boil to be held in his honor. This was held on Little Escambia Creek between Flomaton, and Brewton, Alabama on 29 Feb 1932.  At some point during the evening there was an altercation between Morris and a Brewton filling station operator named Joe White. Morris knocked White down, and then he tripped and fell on top of him. White stabbed him twice in the chest with his pocket knife. An L&N railroad employee named Dixon was cut when he was attempting to break up the fight. Morris staggered across the creek and collapsed on the opposite bank. Until then, it was unclear how bad he was hurt. He was taken to the hospital in Century, FL. The knife wounds were very close to his heart, but the doctor felt he would survive. He was concerned however, that infection would set in due to Morris going in the water after he was stabbed. Sure enough, infection set in, and then pneumonia resulting in his death on 3 March.

Ed Morris was buried at the Halls Creek Church cemetery. The Red Sox sent outfielder, and friend Tommy Oliver to the funeral to represent the team. Big Ed’s mother Ella died in 1940, and she was buried next to him.

Thirty-Six-year-old, Joe White was arrested, tried, and found guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to three years, but the conviction was reversed by the Alabama Court of Appeals. There was a retrial in August 1934, in Brewton, Alabama and White was found not guilty.

Ed’s Family
Ed married Beryl Tompkins of Bullock Co., Alabama in 1924. She was born on 10 March 1905, and died 5 June 1985. She is buried at the Pine Crest Cemetery, in Mobile, Alabama.
He had two sons:
 Edward Morris, b. 29 Jun 1925, d. 2 Feb 1991, also buried at the Pine Crest Cem. In Mobile.
Mortimer T. Morris, b. 10 July 1927, d. 30 Mar 2000. He is buried at Serenity Memorial Gardens in Theodore, Mobile Co., Alabama.

Interesting post script about Ed’s wife Beryl.  She got remarried a few months after Ed’s death to Dr. Joseph E. Rose, who was 25 years older than her and had recently divorced his wife, Ida, who he had been married to since 1909. There is a marriage record of a wedding in Desha County, Arkansas on 30 Nov 1932, and a second record in Walton Co., Florida on 15 Dec 1932. Beryl divorced her second husband in Bradford Co., Florida in 1950. He then remarried his first wife Ida. He died in 1958, and is buried at Bayview cemetery in Pensacola.

The Ed Morris Baseball Progression

 1920- Bradenton- Florida State League

1921- Chattanooga- Class A- Southern Association.  Record of 9-21 with 4.48 era.

1922- Chattanooga- 5-19, 4.85 era

            1922- briefly called up to the Chicago Cubs. Pitched 12 innings in relief with an era of 8.25.

1923- Chattanooga, and the Nashville Volunteers. 9-11 with 5.58 era

1925- Spring- Tryout with Cincinnati Reds. Sore arm and sent back to Nashville.
At Nashville he was 17-11 with 4.52 era.
1926- Nashville- 16-13 4.53 era

1927-Mobile Bay Bears- Southern Association- 298 innings pitched. 15-17 3.96 era.

1928- Boston Red Sox- May 3, first victory against the Phil. Athletics. 4-hitter. Through 8/25 his record was 17-11, with 3.13 era. Downhill from there; finished season 19-15 3.53 era, 257 IP. Still good enough to be the best rookie pitcher in the league. Boston was the worst team in the American League.

1929- Arm Problems. 14-14 with 4.45 era. 208 IP, 73K, 95BB.

1930- Salary hold out. Red Sox spring training in Pensacola. Finally signed for $500 raise to $8,000. More arm problems he finished 4-9, 4.13 era.

1931- Pensacola spring training again. Season record 5-7 4.75 era. Though he improved toward the end of the season, and was anticipating a better performance in 1932, his dismal record was the result of “injuries, and failure to condition.”  His last pitching performance was a complete game 4-hit 9-2 victory over the St. Louis Browns. It was his last appearance.

Four Years of Ed’s Salary

            1928 $3500.                  In 2019 dollars- $51,706
            1929 $7500                                    - $110,799
            1930 $8000                                          - $121,482
            1931 $4000                                            -$66,722

Friday, May 1, 2020

The Curious Killing of Charles Sudmall

Charles E. Sudmall may be remembered locally as the man who built our Exchange Hotel in Milton, and the manager of the West Florida Telephone, and Telegraph company. There is much more to his story, however.

            Sudmall immigrated to the U.S. from Dundag, Russia, (present day, Latvia) in 1895 when he was 20, or 21 years old. The Massachusetts State and Federal Naturalization records state that he arrived on the tenth of June, 1895. He signed a Declaration to denounce Tsar Nicholas of Russia, and become a citizen of the United States. A passport application in 1912 stated that he arrived from Buenos Aires in June of 1895 aboard the ship, Angara. The application stated that he lived in Boston, New Port, Rhode Island, Pensacola, and Milton, residing in the U.S. for 16 years.

            By 1898, he was living in Pensacola on South Palafox, and working as a “bayman”, which is defined as a person who fishes the bay.  In just a few years, however he was living in Milton, and listed his occupation as an electrician.

            By 1906, he was living in Milton and was the manager of the Milton Telephone Exchange, and in September of that year, he was charged with the murder of an attorney named Lawrence N. Ervin. According to newspaper accounts, he and Ervin were having dinner, and Ervin felt insulted over something that was said. He demanded an apology, and Sudmall refused and left the scene to walk over to a livery stable. Ervin followed him and once again demanded an apology. Sudmall again refused and walked away, this time to the phone exchange building, where he went to the second-floor balcony and sat down. About 30 minutes later, Ervin appeared and cursing, once again demanded an apology. This time when Sudmall refused, Ervin produced a knife, and cut Sudmall at least two times. Sudmall then struck Ervin in the face causing him to fall off of the balcony, and fracturing his skull on the street below. Ervin died about 10 days later. (He is buried in DeFuniak Springs).

            Represented by future Attorney-General Thomas F. West, Sudmall was exonerated during a hearing with Judge Holley due to self-defense.

            Sudmall did become a naturalized citizen in Pensacola in June of 1911. His passport application describes him as: 5’9” tall; prominent forehead; hazel eyes; prominent “Greek” nose, medium mouth, and chin; dark hair with olive complexion, and a rather large face. He left the country and went back to Russia to visit his family for a few months.

He registered for the draft in September 1918, showing his occupation as “Telephone Manager”.  In the 1919 publication, The American Telephone Journal, he is described as the General Manager of the Gulf Telephone and Telegraph company at Milton. He had been in the business for 13 years and had 200 subscribers. Before getting into the business he had worked at the Pensacola Navy Yard in the electrical department. He was a member of the Florida Telephone Association.

            Charles Sudmall was a pretty wealthy man by the time the ‘20s rolled around. Not only did he own the Telephone exchange in Milton, but he owned the Marianna Telephone Exchange, the Exchange Hotel, and a hotel in Floridatown. He had no family in the United States. He never married, and seemed focused on his businesses and becoming successful. One of his business partners in Milton was Grover Cleveland (Cleve) Harvell, the son of the former local Sheriff, James Harvell. Cleve Harvell and Sudmall were partners in a garage in town, and Harvell was also an agent for Star Automobiles.  

A Very Suspicious Killing

            On the last morning of his life, Charles Sudmall’s conversation with Cleve Harvell was partially overheard by Mr. Falk, (or maybe, Faulk) who owned the Santa Rosa Hotel. Falk was at the garage to pay a bill and heard Sudmall ask Harvell if he was going to be busy. Harvell said he was going to Pensacola but would see him on his return. Falk later testified that the conversation seemed friendly.

            Culver W. Cobb later testified that he, Harvell, and H.C. Collins took a trip to Pensacola the day of the killing. Harvell had a .32 caliber pistol, and he had fired it from the ferry as they were returning. Cobb said this pistol was the same one found next to Sudmall’s body later that evening.

            About 7:20 pm, Mrs. Hinote, the night operator at the phone exchange received a call from Harvell looking for Sudmall. She transferred the call to the hotel and waited on the line for Sudmall to answer. She heard Harvell say, “Well, I got back.” Sudmall said, “Who is this”? “Cleve.” “I’ll be right down” Sudmall said. He then stopped by his office and got something from his desk and put it in his pocket. Lillie Nelson said she saw him do this 6, or 7 minutes before the shooting.

            Apparently, when Sudmall reached the garage, there was an immediate sound of gunfire. Cleve Harvell, and Walton C. Rhoades, (sometime referred to as Walter), were the only ones in the garage when Sudmall entered. C.W. Cobb claimed that he and another man were the first to reach the garage after the shooting, and were let into the building by Rhoades. He testified that a pistol found next to Sudmall’s body was the same one Harvell was displaying earlier in the day. He also claimed that Harvell walked him to the back of the garage, and requested that he not identify the pistol as belonging to him.

            Luther Fisher, undertaker, examined Sudmall’s body later that evening. He found eight bullet wounds; five in the body, one in the leg, and two in the arm. He testified that Harvell, who was a close friend of his, admitted that both he and Rhoades had shot Sudmall. Fisher said the killing was planned and premeditated. Rhoades was instructed to hide in the corner and shoot Sudmall as soon as he entered the garage. Rhoades missed the first two shots, but then hit him three times. Harvell hit him with five shots. Harvell then claimed that Sudmall was his best friend in Milton and that Rhoades had killed him. He asked Fisher to say that the body only had five bullet wounds. L. Douglas Wolfe, an assistant of Fisher’s, (and later owner of the Wolfe Funeral Home), testified that while he was preparing Sudmall’s body and sewing up the bullet holes, someone asked how many bullet holes there were and Harvell spoke up and said, “There ain’t more than five, are there?” and winked his eyes at Wolfe. Supposedly Harvell was drunk at the time, but other witnesses claimed he was sober.

            State Attorney Thompson’s case was that:

·           Harvell, and Sudmall were in business together.
·           Harvell called Sudmall over the phone to come to the garage.
·           Sudmall was shot as he entered the building.
·           Sudmall’s body had two different kinds of bullets in it.
·           Eight bullets entered his body.
·           Only Rhoades, and Harvell were waiting in the garage.
              The pistol found by Sudmall belonged to Harvell.

The defense claimed self-defense, and Rhoades took all the blame for the killing. The first trial of the two in the spring ended in a mistrial. After the mistrial, attorneys for Harvell, and Rhoades filed a writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court and got them released on $5000 bail until they were retried.  On October 3, 1924, after a retrial, Harvell was acquitted and Rhoades was “Nol Prossed”. They dropped prosecution on Rhoades.

This whole case stinks. Remember, Charles Sudmall was a very wealthy, successful man with no family ties in the United States. In December 1923, County Judge H. W. Thompson, appointed Culver W. Cobb, (yes, the same one who testified at the Harvell trial), as Curator of Sudmall’s estate. Sudmall’s Last Will and Testament had been written and witnessed in May of 1910. The original executor that Sudmall requested had passed away, so the vacancy was filled by Cobb. I believe Thompson is the same State Attorney who led the prosecution of Harvell, and Rhoades.

Listed in the inventory of Sudmall’s possessions were seven automobiles:

·           Ford Touring Car 1917 model
·           Ford Touring Car 1923 model
·           Cole Eight Touring car
·           Willys-Knight Touring car, model 64. Serial #28860, motor #76600
·           New Overland Red Bird Car model 92, Ser #11065, motor #92-16419
·           New Overland Touring car model 91, Ser # 49460, motor #52367
·           Another Overland Touring car model 91, Ser # 49372, motor# 52708

I am thinking the cars were part of the inventory for sale in the business Sudmall owned with Harvell. I would like to know, but so far haven’t been able to find out, what happened to the cars. Supposedly they were to be sold with the proceeds going to the estate. I wonder who ended up with them, and at what price.

Culver W. Cobb was born in April 1890, and his father was Farrar H. Cobb.  He was a cashier at the First National Bank in Milton.

            After, Sudmall was killed, the West Florida Telephone, and Telegraph Company met in Marianna, and selected a new President. Peter L. Rosasco was made President, and R.A. McGeachy a Director. McGeachy was a Milton Attorney.

            At some point, Peter Rosasco was made Administrator of Sudmall’s estate. In October of 1927, Arthur B. Lule, Solicitor General of Latvia requested Rosasco be removed from his role. The request was granted by Judge McLeod. Mr. Rule was acting at the request of Charles Sudmall’s father Karl and he was charging a “misappropriation, or misapplication of funds.”

            What a tangled web it was. I believe that there was a plot to do away with this foreigner who had become successful in this country, and divide his wealth. Of course, a jury in Santa Rosa County was going to acquit a well-known local boy of killing someone from Russia.

Whatever Happened to….

Cleve Harvell died 12 June 1974, and is buried at Ft. Barrancus National Cemetery. On his WWI draft registration card, it states that he is a Chief Deputy Sheriff.  He served in the U.S. Army from 9 Nov 1917 to 7 Dec 1918. In 1921 he married Ruby Wiggins. In 1925 They live in Tallahassee and he is the Manager of the M.A. Houston Motor Company.

Walton Canvass Rhoades was born in 1879. In the 1910 census for Santa Rosa County he is listed as a Druggist. In the 1909 fire that burned most of downtown Milton, he lost his drug store. Shortly after he reopened in the Wiggins building.

He married Nancy Charity Hilton in Milton on 23 Aug 1903, and in the 1920 census she is listed as a Hotel Proprietor. I was unable to find him listed in 1920. 

In 1929 He, and his wife are living in Miami, and he is in the Produce business.

In 1930 he is living in Pahokee, Palm Beach County, Fl, and listed as a grower, and buyer for fruits and vegetables, while his wife and daughter are in Knoxville, Tenn. Working at the LeConte Hotel.
Walton C. Rhoades
In 1934, Nan is shown as the Manager of the Bay Court Apartments in Miami.

It looks like they stayed in the Miami area until he passed away in 1937, and she died in 1959. They are both buried in the Woodlawn Park North Cemetery in Miami.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tale of a Lynching

Tale of a Lynching

On Sunday night, 3 Oct 1937, J. C. Evans of Port St. Joe was taken from police custody and lynched just north of Ft. Walton Beach.

Santa Rosa County Sheriff Joe T. Allen, and Deputy Aubrey Martin were transporting Evans from Panama City, to Milton. They left Panama City around 10:45 pm for the transfer. Around midnight they reached the highway leading from Ft. Walton Beach to Milton. A car forced them to stop, and 5 men, (some reports say 4 men), wearing black masks got out and leveled 2 shotguns and several handguns at the two officers. “We want that N_____”, one of them said.

Sheriff Allen later said that the men forced him and his prisoner into their car. They drove a mile down the road and letting Allen out, they gave him his car keys. The Sheriff walked the mile back to his car and he and Dep. Martin drove in the direction the five men traveled in. After about three miles they found Evans' body lying on the side of the road riddled with buckshot.  Allen and Martin traveled on to Milton, where Allen called Okaloosa County Sheriff John P. Steele in Crestview, who along with County Judge Wilbur Osborne, summoned a Coroner’s Jury and went to the scene.  Allen said he did not recognize any of the men. Sheriff Allen also insisted that no one in Milton knew of the transfer plans.

Governor Fred P. Cone ordered a complete investigation with full punishment for the guilty parties. State Attorney E. Dixie Beggs, Jr. of Pensacola went to Crestview to investigate.

Evans Crime Spree:  Evans was arrested in Bay County on July 12, on a charge of armed robbery in the hold-up of Joe Ansley, on July 10.

J.C. Evans was arrested at a Panama City downtown garage where he was returning to pick up a car he had left behind for repairs. Sheriff Steele, “true to his reputation”, made the arrest without “firearms on his person”. (Another article claimed the arrest was made by Sheriff Scott of Bay County which would make more sense.) Evans was charged with a weekend crime spree that included the alleged theft of a car from R.B. Strickland, of Parker, which is located near Panama City.  He then flagged down Milton Lumberman Henry C. Wood, four miles west of Navarre, robbed him of $40, and stole his car.  Less than two hours later he robbed 18-year- old Sherman Fortune who was working alone at the Sunset Service Station, four miles east of Milton. Fortune said that Evans had bought some gas and oil, and followed him inside to get some change. Once inside, he made Fortune give him the contents of the cash register, then he drove him two miles down the road before dropping him off.  He was also wanted for criminal assault on a 12-year-old boy, but so far, I haven’t been able to find out anything else on this. His last crime was the robbery of Mr. Ansley. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in Raiford. He was being transferred back to Milton to stand trial for the service station robbery.

Joe Ansley testified at Evan’s trial that he had left Panama City for Crestview when he stopped at Pine Log creek on the Freeport Highway to take a bath. He was bathing under a bridge when he heard a car stop. He looked up and saw an adult black male, (later identified as Evans), looking down at him. Evans made his way down to Ansley and engaged him in conversation. Evans then went back up to his car and returned with a gun. Ansley testified that Evans told him to, “Put my pants over my head”. Evans was searching through his belongings when he noticed that Ansley was watching him. He ran over and hit Ansley on the head with the gun and threatened to, “Knock my brains out”. He then told Ansley to run away into the swamp. Evans pursued him for a short distance and fired one shot. Then he returned to the bridge and taking $39 cash, a new $35 watch, and Ansley’s car, left the scene. Ansley hitchhiked to Vernon and called the Sheriff’s office.  

After his conviction in the Ansley robbery, Sheriff Allen requested to bring Evans to Milton to stand trial for the crimes in Santa Rosa County. Sheriff John Scott of Bay County obtained permission from the state to make the transfer with the stipulation that Evans be returned to state custody regardless of the outcome of the Milton trial.

No one was ever arrested or prosecuted for the lynching of J. C. Evans. Authorities speculated that it was committed by men from the Milton area, but there is no evidence to support that. 

As always, if anyone has any additional information on this case, I would like to hear from you.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Sheriff McDaniel of Jackson County


Around 2 am on 15 Dec 1980, John P. (Pete) McDaniel was murdered at the Sheffield Oil Company gas station just south of the Alabama state line on Hwy 231 in Jackson Co., Fl.  He was beaten and shot in the head during a robbery. Three truck drivers pulled into the station and saw a man standing behind the cash register. By the time they entered the store the man was gone, but McDaniel was lying on the floor bleeding. His wallet was missing, but apparently the robber could not get the register open.

The first officer on the scene was McDaniel’s son, who was the Sheriff-elect of Jackson County, John McDaniel III. The senior McDaniel died a few hours later at the hospital in Dothan, Alabama.

            There were arrests made. A young man named Jesse L. Wilson, 21, and Madie Catherine Russ, 26 of Campbellton, but the murder charges were later dropped. They were prosecuted on other charges.

In 1989, apparently Henry Lee Lucas confessed, then recanted his involvement in the murder. He resisted his extradition to Florida, but him and his longtime partner Ottis Toole were returned for possible trial. Ottis Toole, (the confessed murderer of Adam Walsh), plea-bargained for this murder, and three other murders and received 4 life terms.  Henry Lee Lucas was returned to death row in Texas. Jackson county did not want to spend the money to try Lucas, and provide him with a court-appointed attorney. They said if he ever got out of prison in Texas, they would try him.


On 30 January 2007, Mellie McDaniel, the wife of Sheriff John McDaniel was returning home from the grocery store. She was using one of those direct-connect cell phones to talk to her husband the Sheriff while she was on the way home. He was in Marianna. She was talking to him as she pulled into their driveway, and told him another car had pulled in behind her. The Sheriff told her they were probably salesmen and just to say she didn’t want anything. Then he heard her scream.

As he was speeding toward his home, he put out a radio call for assistance. Deputy Harold Altman, who was only 2 miles away arrived at the house within 2 minutes. The two men, later identified as Lionel Sands, 60, and Daniel Brown, 54, shot and killed both Mrs. McDaniel and Deputy Altman. The Sheriff and two other officers, Capt. Joey Rabon, and Cpl. Billy Dozier arrived. The Sheriff’s weapons were in a bag in the back seat of his Tahoe, and when he got out of his vehicle, unarmed, Sands shot at him with his .38 from about 10 feet away and missed. Rabon, with an AR-15, and Dozier with his .40 Caliber Glock engaged the two gunmen and put them down, both dying at the scene. The Sheriff found the bodies of his wife and Deputy Altman by the back door. The killers had dragged their bodies there after shooting them.

In the car the killers had arrived in were found Latex gloves, Rope, bleach, and vinegar. The motive for the attack was not clear, but speculation was kidnapping.

Sands Investigated for Wife’s Death

In June of 2001, Gail Joanne Sands was found dead in the backyard pool at the Sands residence. She was in about three feet of water with a ladder lying across her back. She was discovered by her husband Lionel, and his buddy Daniel Brown. They said they were cutting grass about a quarter mile away, and found her when they returned to the house.  An autopsy later found that she had suffered blunt force trauma to the head. Mrs. Brown had three life insurance policies totally $500,000. 

Lionel Sands was under suspicion, and being investigated for his wife’s killing. Brown gave him an alibi, and even though Sands was not arrested for murder, the insurance company would not pay the policies unless Sands could prove his innocence. Sands sued the insurance company, but lawyers convinced him to drop the suit because he could be opening himself up to a murder charge.  The day before the shootout, Sands learned he was going to be responsible for $32,000 of legal fees in his insurance case.  Sands felt that the investigation by the county into his wife's death had prevented him from collecting the insurance. He and Brown donned disguises. Sands wore camo, with a wig, and lots of make-up. Brown wore a ponytail and dressed in a suit and tie like one of the Blues Brothers. Brown was armed with a .22 caliber pistol, and Sands had two .38’s.