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Diskin H. Witcher -b- 1814
--And His Wives--
Salley Brooks & Florabell Freeman
As I was researching Carroll County, Georgia, deed books, I came across several very interesting property transactions for Diskin H. Witcher, who lived his last years as a resident of Carroll County, Georgia. These unpublished records left behind valuable clues about where Diskin lived, who he was married to, who his children were, and finally, when he died.
Diskin H. Witcher was born to James and Tempy Witcher on September 4th, 1814. Click here to see this birth record. The 1850 federal census lists the place of birth for Diskin as North Carolina, and other records indicate he probably was born in Surry County, North Carolina.
For a record of the lineage of James and Tempy, the parents of Diskin H. Witcher, click here.
In 1837 a marriage license was issued in Paulding County, Georgia, to Diskin Witcher and Salley Brooks. On September 28, 1837, John Y Allgood officiated over the marriage ceremony for these two. John Y Allgood was a Justice of the Peace for Paulding County. Diskin would have been around twenty-three years of age when he married Salley.
The 1840 federal census places D.H. Witcher in Paulding County, Georgia. Living in his household was a woman, age given as between thirty and forty years. I presume this was Diskin’s wife Salley, and that she was closer to thirty years of age when the census was taken.
Only a couple of years pass before Diskin moved from Paulding County to nearby Carroll County, Georgia. An 1842 Carroll County Tax Digest indicates that D.H. Witcher was delinquent on his taxes. In the same tax record, Diskin’s older brother, Benjamin Madison and cousin AJ (Ambrose) Witcher were also listed as delinquent taxpayers of the county.
Benjamin Madison Witcher had married Candis Adaline Brooks in 1841. I suspect Candis was a close relative of Diskin’s new wife Salley Brooks. Perhaps Candis and Salley Brooks were sisters.
In 1843 Diskin H. Witcher is found in the court records of Surry County, North Carolina. He is given power of attorney to act on his father’s behalf in the affair of the estate of Ephraim Witcher. Click here to read about this estate battle.
From deed book 3, page 313, here is a portion of that record; “Diskin H Witcher of the state of Georgia, and county of Carroll acting under a power of attorney made to him by his father James Witcher….” The record goes on to clarify that Asa Pryor paid Diskin H. Witcher $336 dollars for, “His father’s interest in his mother’s estate.” The deed record had the header, “Asa Prior from D.H. Witcher atty.” This clarifies that DH and Diskin are one and the same individual. The record also indicates that Diskin was at that time employed as an attorney.
I do not know if Diskin was a full time lawyer or just knew his way around a courtroom. However, there is some evidence that he may have practiced law. It would make sense, because it appears his father, James Witcher, was a judge in Georgia during the 1820s and 30s. As we will show later, Diskin did have a storefront and land in Villa Rica, which at that time was a bustling community in Carroll County.
Ten years after his marriage to Salley Brooks, great sadness struck Diskin’s household, in December of 1847.
On Christmas Day of that year, a family bible record states that John Witcher passed away. John was Diskin’s uncle, who at the end of his life was suffering from dementia. John Witcher was living in Carroll County, apparently with his son and legal guardian, Bushrod W. Witcher.
Then, one day later, on December 26, 1847, at thirty-two years and five months of age, Diskin’s wife “Sarah Witcher” died. This information is archived in an 1848 issue of The Southern Christian Advocate publication, which further reported that, “She left a husband and 6 small children.” Those six children are listed a little more than two years later in the 1850 federal census.
The disparity between the name Salley, found on the 1837 marriage license, and the Sarah in the death record, can be easily explained by the fact that those two names have been known to be used interchangeably. One absolute example of this is found with the daughter of Ephraim Witcher, who was married to Asa Prior, and was called both Sally and Sarah in the records.
Furthermore, the 1837 marriage record indicates that Diskin Witcher would have been married to Sarah (Salley) for a little over ten years when she died, an adequate and appropriate space of time for six children to have been born to one woman.
From the union of Diskin H. Witcher and Sarah (Brooks) Witcher were born William M. Witcher, Nancy E. Witcher, Amanda Witcher, Chas Witcher, John T. Witcher, and Ellena Witcher.
Tragedy again struck Diskin in 1854. The August, 1854, issue of The Southern Christian Advocate stated that, “John Witcher, son of D.H. and Sarah Witcher, died in Villa Rica, Georgia, in Carroll County, on July 13, 1854; age 8 years and 6 months.”
As sad as this notice may be, it is an important record as it identifies John T. Witcher as the same child listed in the 1850 census for Diskin Witcher’s household. At the time of that census, John T. was four years of age, thus in 1854, at the time of his death, he would have been eight years of age.
The 1850 census not only lists Sarah’s son John T, but also Diskin’s new wife Flora M.Witcher. This lady was previously known as Florabell Freeman, who Harris County, Georgia, records list as the individual who married Diskin Witcher on June 27, 1848. He was approximately thirty-four years old, Florabell was around thirty-three. The minister was E.W. Reynolds.
I assume Florabell was previously married to a Freeman, because four children, Nancy, Thos, Usura, and Mahina, are also listed in the 1850 census of Diskin’s household with the last name Freeman.
Of great interest is an 1855 deed record in which D.H. Witcher is listed as the guardian for the minor children of one “DI Freeman,” then deceased. I assume D.I. Freeman was the biological father of those minors. Children whom I also assume were the four Freemans listed in the 1850 census of Diskin’s household.
As you will see in the transcription of this record, Diskin was selling to himself the children’s inherited Negro slaves, named Henry, Wesley, and Booker. Diskin was acting in behalf of the four Freeman step-children, as their guardian.
Deed book H, Page 619, Carroll County, Georgia.
State of Georgia
Know all men by these presents that I D H Witcher of the county and state aforesaid have bargained and sold unto D H Witcher of the county and state aforesaid guardian for the minor children of D I Freeman deceased three negro men to wit Henry about 30 years old of yellow complexion Wesley about 25 years old of dark complexion Booker 23 years of age of dark complexion the above described negros sold for three thousand dollars paid to the said Diskin H Witcher at and before the sealing and delivery of these presents in witness whereof I have hereunto set my name and affixed my seal this 21st of February 1855. D. H. Witcher
[Witnesses] John T. Slaughter, S C White
personally came before me John T. Slaughter duly sworn and deposeth and saith that he saw Diskin H Witcher sign seal and deliver the within bill of sale for the purpose therein mentioned and that [?] subscribed the same as a witness and saw S C White do so likewise Sworn to and subscribed before me this 20th of March 1858. G M Meden? J. P.
John T. Slaughter
Furthermore, an 1854 Carroll County Tax Digest record lists Diskin and his involvement with the Freeman children. The record is of D. H. Witcher, guardian for orphans of D. G.[I] Freeman. Total acres were 202 in lot number 192. The tax list goes on to list a total of thirteen slaves, and it appears that six of them were Diskin’s and seven belonged to the estate of the minor children.
Diskin Witcher, who it seems was an attorney, apparently was involved in some real estate transactions in Carroll County. One of those deals landed him in a bit of trouble with the courts. Notes from an 1851 deed indicate that a certain individual testified that he was “persuaded and cheated” in a contract with Diskin over a piece of land. Breach of this business contract briefly landed him in jail, at least until Diskin remedied the situation.
In 1852 Diskin was named as a delegate to the Democratic Convention, which was held in Milledgeville, Georgia. The Democratic candidate Franklin Pierce would go on to win the 1852 presidential election.
Villa Rica had been home to Masonic Lodge No. 72 since the early 1800s. Both Diskin and his brother Benjamin Madison Witcher are listed as members of the Lodge during 1854. Diskin was Senior Warden and Benjamin was a Junior Deacon.
The Villa Rica Lodge had from its beginning participated in the educational system of Carroll County. The Lodge developed one of the first schools in the county and supported it, until a consolidated Carroll County school system eventually absorbed the academy into its own school system.
Another deed record, dated February 14, 1857, reveals that Diskin H. Witcher, “For the advancement of science in learning,” donated land to the trustees of the Masonic Lodge and the trustees of the Villa Rica Academy. The conditions for the donation seemed to be that a building was to be erected for the purpose of educating the children of Carroll County. This donation of land was made only months before Diskin passed away.
I have provided a partial transcription of the deed record which memorializes Diskin’s gift. The deed is found in Book H, page 425 and 426. The  indicates my insertion and …. indicates my omission.
This indenture made the 14th day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty seven Between Diskin H Witcher of said county and state of the one part and ….[et al] trustees of Villa Rica Lodge of Ancient York Masons No 72 and their successors in trust for the same place …. [et al] trustees of Villa Rica Academy and their successors in the trust of the same place of the other part witnesses that said Diskin H Witcher for and in consideration of the good intentions of the aforementioned trustees in erecting a building for the advancement of science in learning hath this day given granted and conveyed and by these presents give grant and convey unto the aforementioned trustees and their successors in the trust all that tract or part said of land lying and being in the sixth district of the said county of Carroll agreeable to the original survey being a part of lot known as number one hundred and ninety one said fractional part is described as follows: …. To within twenty five feet of the line dividing Diskin H Witcher’s land from Thomas N Roberts land to the new Van Wert Road for the purpose of an entrance or carriage way to said lot thence south along said dividing to the new Carrollton Road ….
Sealed and delivered in the presence of said Diskin H Witcher 4th of April 1857
Diskin apparently spent time in the new boom town of Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta’s population was around 4,000 in 1850, but by 1860, the frontier town located in Fulton County had swelled to nearly 14,000. It was in this time of economic prosperity that the Fulton House hotel was built. It was in the Fulton House hotel that Diskin H. Witcher would be murdered.
This three story brick building was completed by 1853. It was the fourth hotel built in the city and was located on the southeast corner of Alabama and Pryor streets. No sign of this old hotel remains, but it once stood near the current Old Alabama Street in downtown Atlanta, on the site made famous in Gone With the Wind, where dying Confederate soldiers were treated just before Atlanta surrendered.
Diskin Witcher was murdered in this hotel by his son William M. Witcher at 8:15 PM, presumably on June 26, 1857. This crime was written about in many southern newspapers, including the Columbus Tri-Weekly Enquirer, Vol. III, Issue 92, pg. 2 (June 30, 1857). Here is a transcript of that article.
“In this city, was the theatre of the most awful tradedy that ever occurred in the annals of crime. About a quarter just 8 o'clock, a young man, twenty years of age, named Wm. Witcher, shot his father, Mr. D.H. Witcher -- the ball entering the left by pochondrino [?] with a tendency upward of forty-five degrees, passing through the stomach and left lobe of the liver, lodging near the spine. We were informed that William, after eating supper, drank two glasses of brandy -- his father took him into the room to reprimand him for drinking, when William drew his pistol and deliberately shot his father. We left Mr. Witcher at half past nine -- he was not then dead, but suffering the most excruciating agony. William immediately effected his escape. The police were on his track at ten o'clock. Without further comment we await the result.” ----Atlanta Examiner, June 27th.
Faded archives indicate the Fulton House had among its many occupants a certain “Rev. [----] Wycher,” who was shot and killed in the hotel by his son. I’m sure this old article is referring to Diskin Witcher (Wycher), and reveals that he was a minister. This could explain why he reproved his son for drinking brandy that night.
After the murder, The Atlanta American publication reported that young Witcher [William], “Who killed his father last summer in that place, escaped from the jail of Atlanta a few days since, and is yet at large.”
Diskin H. Witcher died in late June of 1857 at the hands of his son William. He was preceded in death by his eight year old son John T. and wife Sarah. I believe he was also preceded in death by his young daughter Ellena Witcher, who was not listed in the 1860 census.
From the steps of the Carroll County courthouse, the “administratix” of Diskin’s estate sold his storefront and land in Villa Rica to the highest bidder. Diskin’s wife Flora M. Witcher was listed as the executrix of his estate. A certain C. B. Taylor bought the property for $99.25 cents. I cannot help but wonder if this storefront was Diskin’s law office.
I have transcripted this Carroll County record, which is found in Book I, pages 75-76.
This indenture made and entered into this the first day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty eight between Flora M Witcher of the state and county aforesaid of the one part and duly appointed administratix of the estate of Diskin H Witcher late of said state and county deceased of the one part and C B Taylor the same place of the other part witnesseth that whereas by virtue of an order granted by the court of ordinary of said county previous notice of application having been duly given agreeth to the statute in such cases made and provided and the first Monday in February last past to the said Flora M Witcher administratix as aforesaid to sell a house and ground wherein it stands in the town of Villa Rica in said county between the doctor shop of Doctor Roberts and the storehouse of Newton [?] it being the storehouse in which the said Witcher formerly done business in with rights incumberances appertenances thereunto belonging after the said house and ground was duly advertised in conformity to law the same was put and exposed to sell to the highest bidder at the door of the courthouse at Carrollton in said county wherein the legal means of sale and this the first day of June it being the first Tuesday eighteen hundred and fifty eight by the said Flora M Witcher administratix as aforesaid wherein the said house and ground was auctioned off to said C B Taylor at the price or sum of ninety nine dollars and twenty five cents he being the highest and best bidder now for and consideration of the sum of ninety nine dollars and twenty five cents to the said Flora M Witcher administratix as aforesaid by him the said Taylor at and before the sealing and delivering of these presents the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath granted bargained and sold by these presents doth grant bargain and sell unto the said Taylor his heirs and assigns the said store house and ground wherein it stands in the town of Villa Rica in said county situated between the shop of Doctor Roberts and the store of the said [?] wherein the said D H Witcher formerly done business with all the rights incumberances appurtenances thereunto belonging unto him the said Taylor his heirs executors administrators and assigns to heirs and their own proper use … of the said Flora M Witcher administratix as aforesaid … registered 5th day of June 1858
[Witness] John T. Slaughter
After the death of Diskin, the 1860 federal census lists Flora M. Witcher as then living in Fulton County, Georgia. She was listed as the head of that household. Just as in the 1850 census, this individual is identified as being born around 1815 in the state of Tennessee. I am certain she is the widow of Diskin Witcher, who was also the executrix of his estate.
Listed with her are who I can only assume to be the children of Diskin and Florabell M. Witcher. They are Myra Witcher, age 9, Oscar C Witcher, age 8, Sarah R Witcher, age 7, and Ella E Witcher, age 6. I suppose Ella was named in honor of her deceased half-sister Ellena Witcher, who would have been twelve years of age when the 1860 census was taken.
I can find no census record of Flora M. Witcher after the 1860 census. Further research may reveal that she again remarried or perhaps had died by 1870.
I admit that I hesitated before making the commitment to devote the grand effort needed to research the life of this g-g-great uncle. What few records I originally possessed were so unassuming as to initially lead me to believe Diskin had few if any offspring. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Diskin Witcher had at least ten children from two wives, perhaps eight of them maturing to adulthood. Further research will be needed to discover their eventual outcome. What became of his murderous son William? Did Chas fight or die in the soon to come Civil War? For now I do not know the answer, but I am satisfied with the knowledge that Diskin’s ancestors probably live among us today, even if the sorrows and memory of Diskin H. Witcher has faded away with time. Wayne Witcher.
A Witcher Family Genealogy
These are a couple of images of actual 1843 court records with Diskin Witcher.