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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sheriff Charles Leonedas Hill

The Civil War had been over a little more than a year when young Charles Leonedas Hill decided to run for sheriff of Union County, Georgia. He and his family lived in Ivy Log, a district in the county bordering on the North Carolina line.

The Hill family had moved from Cherokee County, North Carolina in the 1860's during the war years. Charles's parents were Felix Walker Hill (08-07-1806 - 08-24-1883) and Elizabeth Cooper Hill (10-29-1811 - 11-15-1896). Three of Charles's brothers served with distinction in the Civil War. They were Napoleon Bonaparte Hill, Abel Hill and Noah Hill. They had all enlisted in Company A, 29th Regiment of the North Carolina Infantry, Confederate States of America. Napoleon became a Second Lieutenant, and later, when the unit reorganized as Company H, he advanced to Major.

But this story is not about the war, or Charles Hill's brothers. Their stories can wait for another time. Felix W. Hill and his wife Elizabeth and their family had established a farm along Reece Creek in Ivy Log, Union County, Georgia. In addition to being a farmer, Felix Hill had been a traveling peddler where the family had lived in South and North Carolina before moving to Georgia. Whether the elder Hill continued this trade route in Union County is unknown.

Charles Hill ran on the Democratic ticket and was elected sheriff of Union County in November of 1866. Evidently the first few months of his term in service passed with the ordinary duties of keeping the law.

Six months into his service, in May, 1867, an incident requiring attention came about. A certain William Campbell, who lived in a mountain cabin just over the Towns County line committed a crime in Union County. Reportedly, he robbed a poor widow of all that she had.

Since the robbery took place in Union County, and Sheriff Hill was pledged to protecting and bringing justice for Union citizens, he endeavored to find Campbell and arrest him.

Taking his deputies with him, Sheriff Hill made his way through Gum Log and to the cabin on Crane Creek in western Towns County, close by the Union County line.

The story goes that he asked his deputies to remain on the mountain, in close proximity, as the sheriff himself, unarmed and walking, approached the cabin where Campbell was living.

Evidently the sheriff intended to persuade Campbell to surrender and stand trial for the crime of theft. Reportedly, the man was accused of other thefts in the area, not just the one when he had robbed the poor widow.

But surrender was not in the mind of Will Campbell. Two stories have been told of the incident. One version is that Sheriff Hill tried to talk Campbell into surrendering, but when he did not come out of hiding, Hill took an axe from a woodpile in the yard and began to cut the door open. That is when Campbell aimed at Hill and shot him.

Another version is that Campbell himself opened the door a crack, just enough to put the barrel of his pistol in the opening and aim at the advancing sheriff.

The deputies waiting on the mountainside heard the shot and went immediately to the scene. They found Sheriff Hill with a gunshot wound to the stomach, losing blood and in great pain. They borrowed a wagon in which to haul the wounded sheriff back to his parents' home in Ivy Log. It was a torturous trip, at best, over a road not much better than a forest trail, bumpy and rough. Reports are that Sheriff Hill went in and out of consciousness. He was nursed by his parents and others, but his life ebbed out, with the bullet still in his stomach. His date of death was May 17, 1867. Born August 21, 1839, this brave young man's span of life on earth was twenty-seven years and eight months.

On his tombstone at the Antioch Baptist Church Cemetery is this inscription, declaring his faith and his hope in the resurrection from the dead: "God my redeemer lives, and ever from the skies, Looks down and watches my dust till He shall bid it rise."

William Campbell fled from the deputies after he shot the sheriff and reportedly "went west." He was never heard from again. The indictment against Campbell in Towns County stated that he "feloniously, willfully, and of his malice aforethought" shot Sheriff Charles Hill with "a certain pistol of the value of $10.00" and put "a leaden ball into the belly of" Charles L. Hill, "near the navel." The mortal wound was described as "the breadth of one inch and of the depth ten inches." From this wound, he "languished and lingering and did afterwards" die. (Quoted from "The Murder of Sheriff Charles Hill" by Roxanne Powell in "A North Georgia Journal of History, Volume II" compiled by Olin Jackson, Legacy Communications, 1991, pages 296-297).

Young, brave and daring, Sheriff Charles Leonedas Hill paid the highest price for public service: he gave his life. Later, two of his brothers would seek and win the office of high sheriff of their counties. Abel Hill was sheriff in adjoining county, Cherokee, in North Carolina from 1872-1876, and Napoleon Bonaparte Hill was sheriff in Union County, Georgia in 1876.

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 21, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserve

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