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Scandal, war undid career of city's namesake

Charlton's Hines grave hasn't been found

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POSTED: September 10, 2012 12:32 p.m.
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Descendants of Charlton Hines have a family portrait made outside the Hines home in downtown Hinesville.

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Charlton Hines was born in North Carolina in 1785 and moved to Effingham County with his parents and siblings before 1790. He and two sisters became permanent residents of Liberty County early in the 19thcentury.

He married Polly Quarterman, Ann Beard Bell and Sarah Jane Way. He was 70 when he married Sarah who was 35. He was a state senator for eight terms between 1828 and 1847 and a justice of the peace. 

In 1860 he owned 22,500 acres of land in Liberty County, a large number of slaves, and the estimated value of his property was $113,000. While he was a state senator in 1836 representing the people of Liberty County, he introduced legislation to have the county seat of Liberty County moved from Riceborough to a place more centrally located and was readily accessible to the Gulf and Western Railroad. The county seat had originally been in Sunbury for 20 years before being moved to Riceborough in 1797 at the persuasion of Gen. Daniel Stewart. The majority of the voters had supported moving it to a place within one mile of the General Parade Ground which had been used by the county militia for drills and musters.

An act of the Georgia General Assembly passed on Dec. 30, 1836, giving the county official authorization for the move to the new site. An appointed board of commissioners chose the 25 acre tract of land on which the town was to be built. An ad was put in a Savannah newspaper in early 1837 advertising 51 lots for sale. By early March all of them had been sold. Two lots near the middle had been reserved for a Methodist church and a school house. 

Charlton Hines bought eight of the choice lots on Market Street (Main Street today) which was across from the Courthouse Square. He paid $61 for Lot #33 on which he built his home. The total he paid for the eight lots was $309.50. Lot #31 was $18.00. After Hines death, the house was occupied by his son and was later used as the Hines Hotel. In 1941 the house was moved from its location on Main Street to its present location and converted into apartments when Camp Stewart arrived. Later it was completely remodeled by Claude Dryden and is used for his offices. The house was originally much larger than it is now and had a piazza across the front. Only the central part of the original house is still standing. An interesting feature of the 1837 interior was a ceiling medallion in the parlor which is no longer there. A historical marker stands in front of the house.

The new courthouse was built immediately. All the county records were moved from Riceborough to the new courthouse on Sept. 12, 1837. The new town was named Hinesville in honor of Charlton Hines.

Hinesville is the home of one of the oldest militia companies in the state, the Liberty Independent Troop of Calvary. It was organized on May 1, 1787, and lays claim to being the oldest cavalry unit in Georgia. Charlton Hines was member of this troop.

In August 1845, Charlton Hines was running for re-election in the state senate. He proclaimed his ardent patriotism in speeches across the county. Hines’ old comrade in the Liberty Independent Troop “blew the whistle” on him. Dr. Raymond Harris, who was practicing medicine in Bryan County at the time, wrote a steaming letter to the “Georgian,” a Savannah paper, asserting that Charlton Hines, a member of the Liberty Independent Troop during the War of 1812, upon receiving his mobilization summons, packed up his family and household goods and left Liberty County for Buckhead Creek in Burke County “for his health.” Burke County is near Augusta.

During the War of 1812, which lasted into 1815, the less bold residents of the coast fled, taking their sterling ware and other valuables with them “into the country.” At the declaration of war, the gold and silver in the banks in Savannah was removed to Augusta.

When the British actually landed on the south coast of Georgia, the governor ordered out the 1stRegiment of Calvary Georgia Militia. The authorities feared the British would move on Savannah so the regiment was ordered to move immediately to “the plains of Darien.” They were to block the anticipated move across the Altamaha at Barrington’s Ferry.

Capt. Joseph Jones was the commander of Liberty Independent Troop and when his orders were received, he went into action. He assigned the summons for active duty to his sergeants to deliver to the troop members. Dr. Raymond Harris was a member of the troop and later reported that all was confusion. On Jan/ 17, 1815, the troop was ordered to move the following day. The men could not be mustered in regularly. The men received no pay and necessarily were housed in private homes in Darien assigned to them upon their arrival there.

After the letter in the paper by Dr. Harris, Sen. Hines publicly denied the accusation. Capt. Jones, who was still alive and lived in Walthourville, confirmed Dr. Harris’ account of Hines’ flight to safety in Burke County. Hines lost his bid for re-election and never held public office again.

The Liberty County grand jury reacted strongly to apparent corruption in Hines’ campaign. It returned a severe presentment against the evils of electioneering in the county. A mass meeting of the citizens on Feb. 2, 1846, composed a strongly-worded denunciation of the corrupt practices there. But Hines retained his grip on Hinesville for years. An account published in July 1850 by an observer described the militia muster in the town. He reported that the town is named for “the boss of the place,” so humorously called it “Bossville.”

According to an article I read, Charlton Hines died at his residence Feb. 20, 1864. Liberty County was in chaos at the time as the Civil War and the invasion of federal troops in the county. There is no account of his death in newspapers, church or known family records. No one seems to know exactly where he was buried. Virginia Fraser Evans was a great granddaughter of Charlton Hines. She never mentioned him as being buried in the Midway Cemetery in her Liberty County history book. In the early 1980s a name plaque appeared on a grave saying it was that of Charlton Hines. She claimed when confronted that he had been buried there and the marker had been destroyed by the Civil War soldiers. She said this had been handed down to her through “oral history.” None of the other family members seemed to have heard it.

Another version: Ned Zoucks was a little boy in Hinesville when Charlton Hines died in his home on courthouse square. He told Ernest Groover, father of historian Robert Groover, that Hines was buried on land he owned just outside of Hinesville. He said family friends found some boards and made a casket, placed him in it and carried him out to the family property just outside of town and buried him. Hines was a staunch supporter of the Hinesville Methodist Church and if he wanted to be buried in a Methodist cemetery, Taylors Creek was only seven miles away.

Charlie Hines, Charlton’s son, specified to the very large oak tree a spot on family property where he wanted to be buried. Ernest Groover was with Charlie during his last hours. When asked why he wanted to be buried in that particular spot, he said “because my father is buried there.” He was buried according to his wishes. His grave was well marked.

The place I am talking about is in the Hines Estates off Flowers Drive. When Buck Home Builders first began clearing the land in 1987 there was a tiny area that was designated as a cemetery at the base of a large live oak. There was a fence around the area. It is 20’ x 20’ and has a right of way of almost 45’ off Hines Street to it. I have a copy of the plat and last year I went to see the spot and talked to the man next door to it. The space is covered with grass and the people on each side share the land as part of their yards. They knew nothing about the cemetery. They did say there was a large tree that a storm had blown over several years ago and they had it all cleaned up and removed. And that a part of something that may have been a coffin handle was dug up in the process.

Charlton Hines had received a land grant during the early years of the 19thcentury that was later to become the Hines Hill Plantation of his son Robert Charlton Hines (Charlie).

In 1866, Charlton Hines’ last will and testament was probated. There was no marker put on his grave because there was no opportunity and probably no money to get one. After the war, his estate included thousands of acres of land, but his many slaves were gone and his Confederate bonds and money were useless. It is a fact that the family he left behind was destitute for years. The years went by and people died until one day everybody was gone and nobody remembered where Charlton Hines’ grave was located.

This is why I constantly remind people to write down their history or it will be forgotten in time.

 

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