Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When will I ever learn

It started out quite innocently.  I was scanning and entering the information from the death certificate of William Nathaniel Fountain [1].  He was a farm overseer and was stabbed to death by a disgruntled farm worker.  All I was trying to do was figure out if William and his wife lived in Richmond or Burke County.

The death certificate stated that he and his wife lived on Keysville Road, 2 miles from Blythe.  Blythe proper is in Burke County.  He died at University Hospital in Augusta, Richmond County.  The death certificate was stamped non-resident which on the surface would make you think he lived in Burke County.  Keysville Road is in both counties and 2 miles from Blythe could easily be in Richmond.

So, I turn to the newspaper accounts of the stabbing.  The stabbing occurred on the John Turner farm “at Blythe.”[2]  William was the farm overseer so he either lived on the farm or very nearby.  This still isn’t conclusive evidence that he lived in Burke County.  The farm could have just as easily been in Richmond. 

The person in charge of the investigation was Sheriff J. T. Plunkett.  Knowing that law enforcement is pretty territorial, especially when it involves a homicide,  finding out which county Plunkett was sheriff of would answer my question. 

I did a Google search on Sheriff J. T. Plunkett and I immediately found that he was in fact the sheriff of Richmond County so there is my answer.  However, this is where I got into trouble.  It started out with a Georgia Supreme Court Case [Delaney et. al. v. J. T. Plunkett, sheriff of Richmond County].  Of course I had to read the entire account.  Then I wanted to know more about Plunkett and I spent an hour reading about him in old Augusta Chronicle newspapers on GenealogyBank.

I found that J. T.’s mother died on my birthday in 1920. From her obituary I  was able to put together a simple Family Group Sheet in my head.[3]  While I was searching, I found that there were TWO Sheriff Plunketts.  My J. T. had a son that also became sheriff who died unexpectantly on 07 February 1962.[4]  I found J. T.’s wife’s obituary as well.  She died 30 May 1958.[5]  I finally found J. T.’s obituary.  His full name was James Thomas Plunkett and he died on 08 April 1930.[6]  His obituary was very telling.  He apparently was very well-liked.  His funeral was described as “probably the largest ever held in Augusta.”   I was secretly hoping that one of the names in the list of survivors in one of the obituaries would be familiar to me so that I could just plug the entire family into my tree but no such luck. 

In the meantime, the stack of obituaries that I still need to scan/enter into the computer is still sitting on my desk.



Fountain, William death certificate 1922

[2] “Mr.. W. N. Fountain stabbed to death” The Augusta Chronicle, 19 November 1922, p. 14, col. 1… “Negro slayer of Blythe man now in Richmond jail,” The Augusta Chronicle, 20 November 1922, p. 2, col. 3.

[3] “Mrs. M. J. Plunkett called to beyond,” The Augusta Chronicle, 30 November 1920, p. 5, col. 5.

[4] “Officials consider action to fill term of Sheriff Plunkett,” The Augusta Chronicle, 08 February 1962, p.1, col. 1.

[5] “Death claims Mrs. Plunkett; rites Sunday,” The Augusta Chronicle, 31 May 1958, p. 13, col. 1.

[6] “Thousands pay sheriff tribute,” The Augusta Chronicle, 11 April 1930, p. 3, col. 2.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. That is such a familiar scenario! Thanks for the laugh. :)

  2. This cracked me up! Sometimes other people's ancestors are just more interesting then mine. So glad I am in good company..

  3. Oh those distractions lol. Yesterday I was going over my great-grandfather's death certificate and I saw that the doctor's surname was the same as the my great-grandmother's mother. So what did I do? Went off exploring who he was to see if he is related to her. When I should be focusing on completing great-grandfather's family history story tsk tsk.

  4. Yes, oh yes! So familiar. I've found some good stories along the way, just not my family's stories. I tell myself it's good exercise in developing my research skills. Really enjoy your postings.