Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Federal Investigator Frank Loransey Souther

Frank Loransey Souther
(04/30/1881 - 07/13/1937)
U. S. Marshall - 1920-1937

The career Frank Loransey Souther chose was fraught with danger and he eventually lost his life in the line of duty. Maybe he thought, “Somebody has to do this; why not I?” He no doubt was propelled by a sense of duty to stop some of the illicit manufacture and trade of alcohol in the mountain counties of Georgia and thereby prevent some of the suffering alcoholism brought to innocent victims.

He was an investigator from 1920 until his death in 1937 for the U. S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tax Unit. The common name mountaineers used for Ransey Souther’s job was “Revenue Officer,” and his aim was to find moonshine stills and bring their owners to justice.

Born April 30, 1881 and reared in the Choestoe District of Union County, Frank Loransey Souther was the first child of seven born to William Albert Souther (1856-1945) and Elizabeth Dyer Souther (1859-1902). Soon this son’s name was shortened to Ransey. The family lived in the Town Creek section of Choestoe District. The highest mountain in Georgia, Brasstown Bald, towered in the distance above the “Bill Albert” Souther family farm where Ransey grew up. As a lad, he would have learned of the moonshine stills hidden away in coves and hollows beside mountain creeks. He could have seen the smoke rising slowly from a hidden still as the moonshiners plied their trade. But a sad impression grew as he saw the devastation that over-use of the moonshine could bring to families as men became addicted to its use and women and children suffered abuse.

On December 15, 1904, Frank Loransey Souther married Nancy Elizabeth Johnson (1886-1969). To them were born three children. Ethel Lee Souther (1907-1998) married John Prescott Davenport (1901-1949); Evia Mae Souther (1911-1997) married Charles Swinfield Jenkins (1904-1993); and Rudolph Souther who lived only from October 15, 1915 to January 16, 1916.

Frank Loransey Souther, US Marshall, is pictured front center beside a copper moonshine still he took as evidence in a case against "moonshiners." To his right is Jake Burton Kelly, a deputy marshall, and seated at the wheel of the car is Grayson Souther, brother to Frank Loransey Souther. The other men in the picture are unidentified. Frank Loransey Souther was a revenue officer from 1920 until his death in 1937.

Frank Loransey Souther began his work with the U. S. Treasury’s Department Alcohol and Tax Unit on December 20, 1920. Before he took the job, he knew that he might have to report some neighbors or even kin who plied their trade deep within the ivy hollows of the north Georgia mountains. He soon gained the reputation of being a “fearless, fair and square lawman,” Well known over the counties assigned to him, he had an easy, friendly way with people and soon gained their confidence. It was said that he never carried a gun on his raids of a moonshine still. Strong and agile, he depended on his physical prowess to out-run and catch the distiller as he tried to escape through the mountains. Had he kept a journal or if the records of his “finds” and “break-ups” could be added to this story, it would give insight into his seventeen years as a respected lawman. He met his death in the line of duty on July 13, 1937. His wife, daughters, their families, his father William Albert and scores of relatives and friends were left to mourn his passing.

A resolution by the Federal Grand Jury in Atlanta on August 23, 1937, Honorable Marvin Underwood, Judge, was passed and a copy sent to the family. The statement shows the regard in which Mr. Souther was held:

“We have learned of the passing of Mr. F. L. Souther, investigator of the Tax Alcohol Unit.

“Whereas: By his great courage, his clear wisdom and his remarkable patience and unusual thoroughness, he established a fine reputation among his fellow officers and was held in high esteem by the citizens of Union and surrounding counties. Those whom he arrested respected him and placed implicit confidence in his statements to them concerning their guilt or innocence.

“He died in the line of duty.

“Therefore, be it resolved, that the deepest sympathy of every member of the Federal Grand Jury be extended to his family.”

The document was signed by George West, Foreman, Benjamin S. Barker, Secretary, and eighteen members of the Federal Grand Jury.

Another letter of significance was from R. E. Tuttle of the U. S. Treasury Department, addressed to the Honorable Tom Candler, U. S. Commissioner at Blairsville, (later judge) dated July 14, 1937 and shared with the family. This letter is reproduced on page 56 of The Heritage of Union County, 1832-1994. Those with the county history book may read the letter in its entirety there. I quote from the letter:

“The nemesis of the moonshiner and a friend of all law-abiding people who knew him, he cannot be replaced in the territory which he served. The hills and valleys of White, Rabun and Habersham will see his coming no more and be the sadder for his absence. His feet have trod every path known to the human habitants of that section. He had explored every branch from mouth to source until he knew his bearings in the night time as well as in the day - could sense the location of a moonshine still with greater ease than any officer I ever saw in action.”

The letter also noted: “Souther derived his greatest pleasure in the performance of his duty and did not relinquish the pursuit of that duty as long as his body held out. I know, of my personal knowledge, that for the last year of his service his fast-weakening body was driven and motivated by an untiring and unrelenting spirit.”

Frank Loransey Souther was buried at Old Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery, Town Creek, in the community he called home during his earthly life. His beloved wife, Nancy Elizabeth, better known as “Doan”, lived for thirty-two more years after Ransey’s death. She died June 4, 1969 and was interred beside her husband. Descendants of this couple are still making their distinctive contributions as solid, contributing citizens, “motivated by an untiring and unrelenting spirit” as was their ancestor, Frank Loransey Souther.

The life and times of Ransey Souther who died at age 56 were challenging. He bravely did his part to implement law and order and bring justice to those whose way of life infringed upon the laws of the land.

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 8, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment