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Bulloch History by Roger Allen
Bulloch eludes Primrose path
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    Beginning in the late 1790s, a group of wealthy Northeasterners tried to lead the people of Bulloch County down their own “Primrose” path.
    Headed by Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution, this group of wealthy speculators, including John Nicholson and James Greenleaf, gathered up titles to some 4 million acres of land, most of it scattered throughout Georgia.
    This was the largest land trust in the United States, and was led in part by the efforts of former United States Attorney General John M. Berrien. They planned on seizing a very large tract of land from the current owners by use of fraudulent titles, some of which had ties to the Yazoo Fraud and the Pine Barren Scandals.
    These “land jobbers,” as they were known, had exceedingly high hopes for the new acquisitions. Morris sent his sons to England, France and Switzerland with titles to thousands of acres, which he hoped to sell to Europe’s landed gentry as their new homes away from home in the New World. Unfortunately for him, the Europeans were not interested.
    Their agents arrived, armed with titles to 1.5 million acres in Washington County, 320,000 acres in Franklin County, 432,000 acres in Greene County and 108,000 acres in Camden County.
    Some of this land they bought from other speculators, who had realized that these “Pine Barrens” were relatively useless. This time, the investors lost their money and Morris and the leaders went bankrupt.
    In late mid- to late 1830s, more of these “land jobbers” came down to Bulloch County with some of the same fraudulent titles to land that had been included in the new Bulloch County. They first went to the Clerk of Courts office.
    Here, their representatives met with him and presented him with certified copies of their surveying notes, which they hoped would be sufficient legal proof of their ownership of the lands in question. A message was sent out to the people whose land was being discussed, and the men of those households quickly arrived at the Clerk’s office.
    A large group of indignant citizens soon assembled.
    Remembering the cry of the Georgia legislators when they burned the Yazoo titles earlier, an unknown person or persons shouted that “these papers must be destroyed by fire from heaven” and, after seizing them from the Primrose agents, they proceeded to set them afire with a sunglass and a tinder box.
    The Primrose people quickly left town. Unbelievably, they showed up in Bulloch County again in the mid-1850s, when they then accosted the Bulloch Clerk of Court David Beasley. Handing him a “writ of mandamus,” essentially an order from a higher court to a court official to do what they were asked, they demanded he file their certified survey papers.
    Beasley, not wanting to do what they asked, simply chose to immediately resign his office. The Primrose people then went and tracked down Sheriff Erastus Waters, and presented him with the writs. He also handed them back, took off his badge, and after ushering them out of the building, locked the doors and nailed them shut and then went home.
    When Judge William Bennett Fleming arrived for the next scheduled Superior Court of Bulloch County, he was surprised by the same representatives, who had been laying in wait for someone in a position of legal authority to accept their writ. He found an empty Court House, with no employees in sight.
    Almost immediately a large and angry crowd assembled, and they told Judge Fleming that they promised to “resist this claim even to the point of shedding blood.” Judge Fleming, being no fool, knew what to do: He informed everyone that court could not be held, as there were no court officers, and then promptly departed from Statesboro.
    At this, the Primrose people departed for the last time, never to return. The claims disappeared, never to resurface again. In relatively short order, Sheriff Waters, Clerk Beasley, and several other county officials were reinstalled in their positions with some fanfare and many expressions of gratitude.

    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger
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