William Spicer, Jailer

William Spicer 1729-1822 > James Spicer 1765-1820 > William Spicer 1802-1852

William Spicer and his brother Rowan moved to Georgia from North Carolina before 1830, and became planters in Monroe County, 40 miles southeast of Atlanta. In addition to farming, William was half owner of a grocery store, served as postmaster, and was the jailer in the Forsyth city jail.

Josiah Hudgins (1792-1847) was another Monroe County planter. On June 5, 1845, he killed his overseer John Anderson, and was charged with murder.

AlbanyPatriot 11Jun1845
Albany Patriot Jun 11, 1845

Witnesses testified at his trial:

In May, Hudgins had spent a day drinking with his neighbor Walter Rogers, and angrily told him “If he did not kill John Anderson, goddamn his soul.” Walking home, he said again “If he did not kill John Anderson, goddamn his soul to hell, for he had insulted his wife and family. He would load his gun and shoot him, goddamn him.”

Anderson was at work in the cotton field on June 5 when Hudgins shot and killed Anderson’s old dog. Hudgins’ children dragged the dog’s body to the field; Anderson told them that he would beat Hudgins into the earth, dropped his hoe and ran towards the house.

As he approached the house, Hudgins shot him in the chest when he was 3 steps away, and as he fell struck him in the face with his gun so hard that the gun broke in half.

Anderson’s wife heard the gunshot and came to the scene, where Hudgins told her that “he did not give a damn for killing Anderson” because he had enough money to get away with it. She ran away out of fear that Hudgins would kill her also.

Hudgins was tried for murder and convicted. He appealed and was granted a new trial, where he was convicted again and sentenced to death. He appealed his second conviction, but the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the verdict. In their ruling, the justices found that his drunken threats established his malice and implacable hatred towards Anderson:

There is truth in wine; it extracts secrets from the locked-up bosom, and puts not only the reserved, but even the habitual liar off his guard. All men, when sober, go more or less masked. Hence the bitter sarcasm, that language is intended to conceal our thoughts instead of being the legitimate vehicle to communicate them. The most perfect man living would tremble, to have every thought revealed to open day which passes through his breast. Were the exposition to take place universally, society would be dissolved. Drunkeness tears off this mask, and makes bare the inmost soul.

On the night of March 17, 1847, awaiting execution, Josiah escaped from the Forsyth jail. William Spicer said that he and his wife were threatened by armed men unless he let Josiah free. The local judges were immediately suspicious that William had allowed Josiah to escape.

Charleston SC Southern Patriot 3-22-1847
Southern Patriot March 22, 1847

William was arrested, and had to pledge $800 bail ($26,000 in current value) to stay out of jail prior to his trial. Rowan had to countersign the bail, and William mortgaged his property to Rowan.

Days later Sheriff Rufus Pinkard recaptured Josiah at his brother’s house near Stone Mountain.

GeorgiaMessinger 1Apr1847
Georgia Messinger Apr 1, 1847

Josiah was hanged in Forsyth on April 30, 1847. Fifty years later, Daniel Proctor remembered the event in an interview in the Georgia Messenger; he had been part of the Grand Jury which indicted Hudgins. No one liked Josiah, and more than 5000 people came from neighboring counties and other states to watch his execution.

Josiah Hudgins Federal Union May 11 1847
Federal Union May 11, 1847

Williams’s trial was approaching. After their daughter Sallie was born in December 1847, he fled with his wife and 6 children to Texas. Escaping the law was a common reason to go; it was impolite for a Texan to ask someone why they came.

They settled in Titus County in northeast Texas. Starting over, William borrowed $1000 from Gibson Myers and Jesse Hale in June 1851. He died sometime before June 1853 with the debt unpaid, and the resulting case against his co-signers went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.


His wife Caroline died sometime before 1880, and his surviving descendants are scattered over Texas, and all the way to New Zealand.

Rowan was stuck with the bail and legal expenses, and it bankrupted him. He couldn’t afford to pay a $6 tax bill, so the Macon City Marshall seized and sold one of his slaves to pay it. He sued William in absentia to foreclose on the mortgaged properties.

By 1860 he had recovered financially and was farming in Schley County, owning 13 slaves (there were 219 slave owners in the county, with 2268 slaves). In 1861 he moved his family and slaves to Alabama, where he died in 1865.

2 Replies to “William Spicer, Jailer”

  1. I am curious about the names and dates at the beginning of this article. From where did you get the names and dates? I am trying to determine if these are in my direct line, bur cannot locate concrete information.

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