Newsletter -- February/March, 2006.

THE TRAGIC DEATH OF ROY HAMMERS

“My uncle Roy Hammers was shot and killed on Kirkland Street Dec. 13, 1926 according to a letter found in a family trunk. He was buried in Oakhill Cemetery on December 17, 1926, and was in Parkview Hospital. We are looking for information about Roy. The family knows little of what happened. The letter in the trunk was Dated Jan. 22, 1927 from Mrs. A. L. Ford, 414 Emmett St., Palatka, Florida. Thank you.”

The above inquiry was received by way of the book inquiry form on the Society’s website. It was so compelling and the information it provided so precise that we had to find out what had happened to Roy Hammers nearly eighty years ago. Hammers’ niece, who had made the inquiry, was able to provide some background information. Roy was the illegitimate son of Tom Yokum and Nancy (Nannie) Hammers. He grew up near Branson, Missouri. Roy’s mother married a man named Cutberth and started a family in Washburn, Missouri. Roy was very fond of his younger step-brother (the inquirer’s father). Around 1923 Roy left home to make his fortune. His efforts took him from Oklahoma to Texas and eventually to Florida. In Palatka he found work with Florida Power & Light. What is known of Hammers’ death comes from surviving issues of the Palatka Times Herald.

At 8:30 PM on Monday December 13, 1926 residents in the area of the intersection of Kirkland and Kirby Streets were alarmed by gun shots and "the screams of a man in distress." Residents found Hammers suffering from a gunshot wound. Local residents Carl Davis and L. D. Philips rushed him to Park View Hospital where it was determined that the bullet had severed an artery near his groin. Although he appeared to be making a recovery Hammers died on the morning of Friday the 17th. Before his death Hammers reported that his attackers were "the Barber boys and Dyess" and that the shooter was Bob Barber. Hammers had been lured from his residence at 414 Emmett Street by a phone call asking him to come to the corner of Kirkland and Emmett Streets. At that location he was met by three masked men who tried to force him into a car. An altercation followed during which he was shot and then ran away while the three men fled in their car. The motive for the attack soon became clear. Hammers was to have been the principal witness against Barber at Barber's trial for illegally selling liquor.

Barber was arrested and charged with "assault with attempt to murder" on the day following the attack and was released on $2,500 bond. On February 11, 1927 the newspaper reported that on the previous day the sheriff's office had arrested Wesley Hall, Ernest Hughes, Calvin Johns, and John Manning in connection with Hammers' murder and that eight more arrests were expected. It reported that Hall had previously been arrested but had been released after several days. A preliminary hearing would take place on Tuesday Feb. 15, 1927. At that time all the defendants waived the preliminary hearing and were bound over in the sum of $2,000 each to await the action of the grand jury at the spring term of the circuit court. The List of defendants included: W. D. and Hamp Douglas, Calvin Johns, Wesley Hall, Wade and R. H. Barber, John Manning, Mark Batty, Ed Whittaker, Sadie Rimmer, and Ernest Hughes.

And there, apparently, the matter ended. Records of the circuit court show no actions taken against any of the named defendants. No further stories about the case appear in the local newspapers . To make matters more puzzling on Tuesday Feb. 1, 1927 the body of Thomas H. Baker, a 31 year old attorney from Palatka, was found in the Ocklawaha River. He had apparently been shot. His hands and feet were tied and his body was tied to heavy pieces of railroad iron. Baker had been missing for two weeks. It was reported in the newspaper that Baker and Hammers "were close friends and had been roommates." The murder of Baker remained unsolved. Hammers’ niece reported that she was in tears when she first read the account of his death that we were able to provide. His death had been a mystery for her family for so long. Unfortunately, as is often the case with historical inquiries the discovery of information surrounding Roy Hammers’ death has lead to more, probably unanswerable, questions.

FEBRUARY MEMBERSHIP MEETING FEATURES ED MUELLER

The February membership meeting of the Putnam County Historical Society will be held on Thursday, February 16th at 7:00 P.M. at the Bronson-Mulholland House, 100 Madison Street, Palatka. The guest speaker for the evening will be Mr. Edward A. Mueller. He will present a lecture and slide show on steamboats on the St. Johns River. He was Florida’s first Secretary of Transportation and has been active in the Florida Engineering Society and the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Mr. Mueller has been curator, president, and executive director of the Jacksonville Maritime Museum. He has spent a lifetime researching and writing about steamship and steamboat history in the east and is acknowledged as the most knowledgeable individual on Florida steamboats.

Mr. Mueller’s most recent work, First Coast Steamboat Days, is a history of travel by steamboat from Georgia and South Carolina to Northeast Florida. The period covered is from the 1820s until 1890. He will have copies of his book available following his presentation.

You won’t want to miss this interesting and informative presentation and we are sure you will want to add Mr. Mueller’s latest work to your library. Please feel free to bring along a friend to this program. Refreshments will be served in the dining room immediately following our program and book signing.

NEW ROOF FOR THE OLD MUSEUM

In case you haven’t been by the Historic Putnam Museum recently you might be interested to know that the old structure is sporting a new red metal roof. Sadly, its predecessor had become too old and worn-out to fulfill its duties of keeping the rain water out. The new roof was paid for by the City of Palatka and was installed by Tilton Roofing, Inc. Tilton Roofing had installed the shingled roof on the Bronson-Mulholland House several years ago. They are also responsible for the intricate green metal roof atop the historic Townsend house located at the north end of Third Street in Palatka.

UPCOMING BOOK MEETINGS OPEN TO ALL

Work is slowly progressing on the Society’s book. Board member Lynda Crabill’s efforts on behalf of the project have been impressive and deserving of much praise as she has given presentations about the project to many civic groups. Mr. David Bice of Heritage Publishing will be joining us in February and April for meetings dealing with the book the Society is to publish about the history of Putnam County. The first meeting will be held at the Crescent City Woman’s Club on February 6th at 7:00 P.M. The second meeting will be held on April 3d at 7:00 P.M. in Palatka (Hammock Hall?). All those interested in contributing a story to the book, wanting more information about the project, or desiring to assist in the project are encouraged to attend.

OFFICERS AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR 2005-2006

At the Society’s annual membership meeting held at the Bronson-Mulholland House on July 23d the election of officers and members of the Board of Directors occurred. George Crawford has retired as Society President after several successful years leading the Society. Thankfully, George has agreed to serve as interim Recording Secretary. Once again, Larry Beaton will lead the Society as President. Major Beaton, a descendant of Florida’s Territorial Governor Robert Raymond Reid, has served our community for decades as a member of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and is well-known in our county for his knowledge of and passion for our local history. Sam Deputy leaves his position as a member of the Board to become Vice-President while Charles Moore and Robert Tindall continue in their positions as Treasurer and Historian, respectively. Sarah Ann Cameron, Lynda Crabill, Rosie Dolinski, Ethelene Odom, George Sanders, Guy Tillis, and Leroy Zetrouer will continue to serve on the Board of Directors. The Society is still in need of volunteers for the positions of Recording Secretary and Corresponding (Membership) Secretary as well as two vacancies on the Board. Perhaps you would be interested in serving your Society?