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The first murder trials in Forsyth county which resulted in guilty verdict's and hanging took place in Cumming in 1859 and 1860. Five men were indicted for the murder by knifing of Claiborn Vaughn. The five were Isaac Freeland, Jacob Pettyjohn, Levi Q.C.McGinnis, William Brannon and James McGinnis. The murder took place in "Wildcat" while all were drunk on 7 Aug 1858. Isaac Freeland was tried for first degree murder and found guilty on 26 February 1859. He was sentenced to hang and that sentence was carried out on 15 April 1859. Jacob Pettyjohn went on trial on 16 April 1859 for second degree murder and on 23 April 1859 was found guilty of murder in the second degree. He was sentenced to hang on 24 June 1859.Pettyjohn won a stay of execution on 21 May 1859. The case was appealed to the Supreme court of Georgia and on 18 Aug 1859 the court issued a decision that the lower court verdict be reversed and a new trial be granted. Meanwhile, Pettyjohn, who was free on bond left the county. He failed to appear in court August 1859 or February 1860. Finally on 19 April 1860 all witnesses in the case were dismissed. ( It should be noted that Pettyjohn had been previously elected Constable of district 795 and had served with distinction) It was rumored that Pettyjohn had escaped to Texas. When the Civil war started the case was forgotten. More than a decade passed then the state initated action to bring him back to Georgia for another trial. Col. Hiram P. Bell appealed to Govenor Colquitt and the motion for extradition was dropped. It was first thought that Pettyjohn had served his country heroically during the Civil war as a high ranking Confederate officer. We now know that he served as a Pvt. (More on Jacob Pettyjohn later). Bill Brannon and Jim McGinnis were tried jointly. They were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to three years hard labor. Levi Q.C.McGinnis was tried and found guilty of second degree murder and on April 21 1860 was sentenced to hang on 15 Jun 1860. Levi's case was appealed but it was not overturned so he was executed on 15 March 1861.The murder and following murder trials rocked the entire county and tore apart the lives of all concerned which included the families, neighbors and friends. Recently new information has been uncovered concerning Jacob Pettyjohn. He was found on the 1860 Clay Co, Texas census and shown as being a member of an elite Company of the Texas Rangers. It was verified with Texas state archives that he served under Capt William C. Dalrymple during the period of 23 January 1860 thru 13 October 1860 in the Mounted Texas Rangers on the Texas frontier. Pettyjohn is next found in Webberville, Texas where on 16 April 1861 he joined Company "A" of McCullough"s 1st Texas Cavalry Regiment, mounted Rifles for one year. Numerous Pettyjohn's served with distinction during the Civil war, some giving their lives. This article will be updated as facts are presented. Some of the information found here was taken from the "Pioneer History of Forsyth County Georgia" compiled and edited by Don L. Shadburn 1981.For further information or to provide additional information on any of the men mentioned above, contact Sam Anderson-Email

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