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Holcombe's 1870 Liberty Co Census Fiasco

Subject: Holcombe's 1870 Liberty Co Census Fiasco

My Reference No: L-000224-1

Charles R. Holcombe was a carpetbagger.

A short history bite may be needed by those readers who slept through
the lessons on the Civil War, or the War Between the States, or my
favorite euphemism: The War of Yankee Aggression.  :-)  For those who
are really into the name of that conflict, see Groover's "Sweet Land of
Liberty", a history of Liberty County, Georgia, for two contributed
essays, one supporting the practice of calling it the Civil War and the
other (written by my lawyer-cousin Mark Baxter) supporting the term
The War Between the States.  I caution the reader to triple check any
factual information found in Groover's book.  It needs hundreds of
corrections.  But, I digress.

Carpetbaggers were Yankees who moved to the South in the late 1860s to
make their fame and fortune at the expense of the defeated Confederates. 
Okay, out of respect to my late mother, a native of Ohio, I concede that
one or two carpetbaggers may have been virtuous men, but most came to
take advantage of the situation.  Some were outright scoundrels, who
 cheated, lied and bullied themselves into positions of influence and
authority.  Their nickname came from the fact that some arrived with
their personal belongings in a popular-style satchel made of colorful
carpet, hence "carpetbagger".

My friend and cousin, Elmer O. Parker, of Columbia, SC, provided some
information on the 1870 census.  Elmer grew up in present Long Co, GA,
and is related to me twice through the Baxter family.  He spent most of
his adult life as an archivist in the military history section of National
Archives in Washington, DC.  He is also a genealogist.  Elmer told me
that "Yankee transplants" recorded the census of 1870 in numerous
counties throughout the South.  Apparently the administration in
Washington did not trust defeated southerners to do the job correctly.  I
suppose it was also a way to offer work to those they considered worthy.

By his own hand, on 1 Jun 1870, Charles R. Holcombe, listed himself as
head of a household in Liberty Co, with McIntosh, GA his post office. 
He was a 27-year old lawyer, had been born in Maryland.  His real estate
was valued (by himself) at $3,500, his personal property at $2,500. 
Living with him was a female, assumed to have been his wife.  The 1870
census did not specify relationships.  She was called Helen M.
Holcombe.  She was 24 years old, had been born in New Hampshire. 
Her real estate was valued (by Holcombe) at $1,200, her personal
property at $1,000.  [Note: Those personal property values, if accurate
and not Yankee bragging, must have included jewelry, stocks, bonds and
the like.  With slavery over, it was difficult to have so much personal
property without owning such items. -CCG]

When it was determined that the 1870 Census needed to be redone (more
on that below), John E. Martin found the Holcombes living in the home
of J. Axon Girardeau.  Martin made one serious mistake in his census
report, perhaps deliberate in an attempt to insult the Holcombes.  He
listed their place of birth as Georgia.  He called the female Nelly M.
Holcombe, Nelly being a nickname for Helen.  He reduced the value of
Holcombe's personal property to $1,200 and increased the value of
Nelly's real estate to $2,500.  He increased Nelly's age to 25.  Perhaps
she had had a birthday.

As a carpetbagger lawyer, it is likely Holcombe did not have many
clients in Liberty Co.  Whether he was sent there specifically to take the
census or was there when the opportunity arose, I cannot say.  However, I
have been told that the enumerators were paid by the number of lines in
the report they filed.  It was a perfect opportunity for a shyster like
Holcombe to make some additional money.

It angers me to envision the intellectual arrogance that prompted
Holcombe to pad the census by making up names to enlarge some
existing families.  In other cases he made up entire families.  Apparently
he did not think that any local resident would examine the record before
he sent it to Washington, but it is obvious that someone did.  They
recognized the fiasco his census was, reported it, and the authorities
decided that a new census was needed.  Holcombe's last record was
dated in late August, 1870.

I have a mental picture of Holcombe sitting at a table in a tavern,
collecting information from locals as they entered.  If he did visit these
families, his notes must have been so cryptic he could not properly
transcribe them when he got home.  The official census record was
written on huge sheets of paper, perhaps 15 inches by 15 inches.  It is
unlikely that many enumerators took those sheets with them as they rode
about the countryside on horseback.  Rather, they made notes on scraps
of paper and later transcribed them onto the official sheets.  That reading
of short notes presented an opportunity for additional mistakes. 
Sometimes the person writing the actual record was not even the census
taker, but someone with good handwriting.

To illustrate Holcombe's incompetence when he was listing actual
families, I include an incomplete list of the most obvious mistakes made
in naming heads of household.  The first name on each line is
Holcombe's contribution, the second the correct name.
Jackson McDaniel - Jackson Landrum McDonald
G. Turner Dunham - George Troup Dunham
S. Miles Chapman - Sheldon Madison Chapman
Aaron Flowers - Allen Barfield Flowers
Solon S. Martin - Samuel Spencer Martin
Simon G. Baxter - Stephen Godfrey Baxter
Harrison Parker - Hampton Cling Parker
Jonas M. Parker - Jasper Newton Parker
Saunders Hearn - Hendley Solomon Horne
Clarence Groover - Charles A. Groover
Grove & Marcy Knight - George & Mary Knight
W. Burns Dunham - William Bradwell Dunham
Henry F. Horne and Hardy Horner [2 bad entries] - Hendley Foxworth

Most of the above lived in the area that is now the western part of Long
Co.  G. T. Dunham was a prominent merchant.  H. C. Parker and H. F.
Horne were influential plantation owners, Parker having been a member
of the Georgia legislature.  It is shameful that Holcombe did not record
these families correctly.

On 1 November 1870, a crew of six started a recount.  The names of
some residents appear only in the later list because Holcombe was
stopped before he had finished.  Those six were locals, namely John E.
Martin, John Sidney Fleming, John S. Norman, Alexander S.
Quarterman, Robert Quarterman Baker and William S. Norman.

The official census record on microfilm begins with the non-commital
letter copied below.  Unfortunately, not only does the record include
Holcombe's pages, but they were bound into the front of the record.  The
uninformed researcher may find a family in Holcombe's record and
remain unaware that a more nearly correct second record exists later in
the document.

Department of the Interior
Census Office
Washington, D. C., 2 May 1872
Subdivision 78 of Georgia was formerly the entire County of Liberty and
consists of the following 231 pages of Schedule I, and was the first
enumeration of that County.  The Second Enumeration consists of
Subdivisions 167, 177, 178, 179, 180 and 181 and their Schedules I 
follow these for 78.
[s] Lockwood X. May
for Chief of Division of Results

There were 281 pages of Schedule I for Subdivision 78, not 231 pages. 
Note that Mr. May failed to report why there had been a second
enumeration and he failed to warn the researcher that there were serious
problems with the Subdivision 78 (Holcombe's) record.

Surely by now the reader can see that Holcombe's record is worthless
and, worse than that, misleading.  Many who reference this record are not
aware of Holcombe's fiasco, nor are they aware that the census was taken
twice in 1870.

  C. Calder Garrason