Updated information at https://uwharrieroots.blogspot.com/2018/11/i-found-your-daddy-william-buck-marks.html
Be sure to read ZACHARIAH THOMAS MARKS - Part 1 of 3 By: Sharon Marks
By December of 1902, there had been no trace found of Zach who was charged with the murder of Charles Ellen. Governor Charles B Aycock of North Carolina posted a $200 reward for the apprehension and delivery of Zach Marks to the Sheriff of Harnett County in Lillington.
Santa Rosa County, FL
Some reports say that Zach spent several years in other states but drifted to Santa Rosa County, where he settled and lived unmolested for six years. Another source says he showed up in 1902 penniless in the turpentine camps. He adopted the alias of Thomas Z Gattis and started as a day laborer. “Years passed and he was not recognized. He felt safe and seeing the opportunities in the turpentine business he leased a small tract and began operating independently (For consistency, I will refer to Zach as Tomas Z Gattis or T. Z.).
Amazingly enough, for a man on the run, he did very well for himself. He started his own Naval Stores business, created the village of Gattis, was postmaster, deputy sheriff and it’s said that he amassed a fortune estimated at $500,000 by 1911!
Thomas Z Gattis became the postmaster at Gattis in Santa Rosa County Florida on July 22, 1907. There were a number of post offices that were established at turpentine villages throughout the area.
The Post Office was located on the west side of Live Oak Creek about a mile north of the present bridge on the creek. After the demise of the turpentine industry, the area was converted into a sheep ranch. The fork of Live Oak and Turtle Creeks is still called Gattis Fork.
The PO 1907-11 was established in 1907 and discontinued in 1911. Gattis itself was in existence from 1910 to 1920. I’ve found mention of the town in papers as early as May of 1907.
He now felt it safe to have his wife Stella and stepdaughter Leah join him in his new life. Another marriage was preformed on September 4, 1907 in Santa Rosa County Florida using his new alias T. Z. Gattis and S. A. Small.
Like many papers, The Pensacola Journal would run news on the various out laying towns and during 1909; Gattis Florida was one of them. Stringing the article together, we get a picture of what T. Z.’s life was like.
Tom would often make weeklong trips to Pensacola and Milton on business, “T. Z. Gattis is hauling supplies for his turpentine still. He expects to have it in operation in the near future”.
The news from Gattis was full of reports of the Gattis family entertaining people at their home. Among the visitors was a member of the forest service looking over government lands and homesteads. Another time it was the Santa Rosa County's tax collector and Tax Assessor.
One article went into more detail: "Mr and Mrs T. Z. Gattis and daughter, Miss Leah, Bessie Browne and brother, Alex and wrier attended Sunday school at Green Bay last Sunday. After Sunday school we all went home with Prof Mooney and wife and after enjoying a sumptuous dinner, which was already prepared by the amiable hostess, Prof Mooney treated us to some choice music and singing. The professor is an accomplished musician on all the leading instruments. In the evening we returned home by the way of Uncle Billie Vavis's. Professor and Mrs. Mooney carried us to the head of the bayou on their new launch Fina. The day was an enjoyable one”.
The Magnolia Springs School opened with a good number of pupils on January 25, 1909 and Bessie Brown of Laurel Hill was engaged as the teacher. In March T. Z. made a weeklong trip to Pensacola. On the way back, he stopped in Milton he secured many necessities for the school. T. Z. and Rev G.M. Spivey put up some new desks in the school.
In May it was commented that T. Z. has the finest cane and watermelons in this section of the country. He had some carpentry skill as he was doing some work for a man over in Garnier.
T. Z. enjoyed deer hunting, one article exclaimed: "Heck Gattis, the champion deer hound, has been giving the deer some hot races this past week". A latter article said; “E.A. Mooney, of Garniers, I. T. Baker of Pensacola, John Patterson and T. Z. Gattis, of Gattis, enjoyed a fine deer hunt on Monday and Tuesday of this week. They were very successful in finding the deer, but quite unfortunate in losing Mr. Gattis’s two fine deer hound puppies. They got after a deer and chased him off, but the little dogs never returned.
In March of 1909, timber was being hauled in for the building of a new bridge across Live Oak Creek about a quarter mile from the old one. O.L. Weekly has opened up a first class boarding house at the Gattis turpentine quarters near Green Pond.
Then in August the “men are clearing out Live Oak creek with the expectation o running a launch from East Bay up to the sand banks near W.R. White’s. This will serve as a wonderful convenience to our community”.
In a listing of election inspectors and judges for 1910, we find T. Z. Gattis listed as a clerk for Precinct 26, Howell, Santa Rosa County, Florida.
Ironically, T. Z. held the position of the Deputy Sheriff of Gattis. Newspaper reports from 1909 show:
• April 26: "Deputy Sheriff T. Z. Gattis returned from Milton and Pensacola Thursday night. He arrested Andrew Lodkin, of Faircloth's still and carried him to Milton Wednesday. Lodkin was charged with carrying concealed weapons".
• May 25: "Mattie O. Streeter was arrested by Deputy Sheriff Thursday, and tried in Justice J.M. Ewing's court. She was charged with assault and battery on Phoebe Sheppard and given a fine of
• $10 and all the costs and 30 days in the county jail, but by immediate payment of the cost and fine the jail sentence was suspended. Both parties implicated were colored".
• July 21: “Deputy Sheriff Gattis had a Negro under arrest one day last week for striking another Negro with an axe while engaged in a crap game. Squire Ewing bound the accused over to the grand jury and for want of bail was taken to Milton and lodged in the county jail.
• July 24: “Shep Walker, colored, was arrested Monday morning by Deputy Gattis and brought before Judge Wiggins at Milton for trial. The charge was having repeating arms in his possession without license. Walker pleaded not guilty and was released until August 6 by Hugh Ray going on his bond.
• July 27: “Cupe Overstreet, alias George Green, who escaped from the chain gang at Bainbridge, GA Five years ago, was arrested by Deputy Sheriff Gattis and carried to Milton Monday, where he was delivered to the sheriff of Decatur county, Georgia”.
1910 for Gattis, Santa Rosa, Florida
This area of the county was filled with Turpentine Camps, most of which no longer exist. Gattis was small, consisting of the workers and their families. Tom Z Gattis (41) is listed as a Naval Stores owner who owns a farm free of mortgage. His wife, Stella (32) and daughter Leah (15) are also listed. It’s interesting that he told the census taker that they had been married 16 years, which would give the appearance that Leah was his natural daughter.
Gattis Turpentine Company (1909 - 1920)
Tom became a prominent and a rather wealthy turpentine operator. T. Z. prospered and a town sprang up and was christened Gattis. The Milton Gazette reported that T. Z. Gattis had a business license for a turpentine still for October 1, 1909 to October 1, 1910.
• A Deed of Trust dated November 16, 1909 from the Santa Rosa Courthouse states that the Union Naval Stores Company, a corporation of West Virginia purchased property from T. Z. Gattis for $12,000.00, which was to be paid in installments over the next year starting in June of 1910. The Gattis Turpentine Company continued to work the land until the following March when the prowess of turning the property over to the new owners would occur. They expected to cut 2 crops of virgin boxes and keep the crude gum and manufactured spirits turpentine and rosin. The sale was comprised of one 20-barrel turpentine still, 3 dwelling houses, 32 shanties, I commissary building, 1 barn and lot, 9 mules, 3 horses, 1 oxen, 5 wagons, 5 sets harness, 3 saddles, 120 Pat isp barrel, 1 steam pump, 5 hand pump, 1 copper shop and tools, 1 buggies and harness, 1 warehouse, one gasoline pump and generally all articles used in said turpentine business (turpentine boxes, etc). The property consisted of sections: 17 (except NW half of NE half), 19, 21, 23, 25, 29, 31, 33, 16 (2N), 31, 33, 35 and part of section 34 (the N half of the NE half, 1 N Rge 24 W). The property consisted of 9 crops of virgin boxes; 7 crops of third year boxes; 10 of fourth year boxes. Totaling to 11,240 acres.
• Tom Gattis formed the Gattis Turpentine Company, Incorporated under the laws of the State of South Dakota on January 4, 1909. Based on the land transfers below, it looks like the company began operation in 1911.
• In 1911 William F and Sallie Golson conveyed by deed the Northeast quarter of section 26, Twp 2 South, Range 24 West, containing 159 acres, to the Gattis Turpentine Company for $725 (Deed Book A-10, pg 37; Official Records Santa Rosa County, FL).
• September 27, 1911, T. Z. and Stella Gattis sold to Garniers Naval Stores Company, a corporation, a homestead containing 160 acres described as follow: The NW Quarter of the NE Quarter, the North Half of the NW Quarter and the SW Quarter of the NW Quarter of Section 14, Twp 1 S, Range 25 West (Ibid, pg 1).
• On October 13, 1911, Joseph Helms of Milligan, FL, sold to the Gattis Turpentine Company the following land for $900: The NW Quarter of Section 36, Township 2 North, Range 24 West, containing 160 acres. Witnesses were W.W. Flowers and L.L. Small. Small notarized the instrument (Ibid, pg 94).
• In 1911 James and Abbie Freeman sold to the Gattis Turpentine Company the NE Quarter of Section 24, Twp 2 North, Range 24 West, containing 160acres, except house and enclosed field about 4 acres (Ibid, pg 230).
• November 21, 1911, James and Alice Bush conveyed to the Gattis Turpentine Company for $900, the East half of the SW Quarter and the West Half of the SE Quarter of Section 8, Twp 1 N.R. 24 W (Ibid, pg 193).
• George and Frances Taylor sold to the Gattis Turpentine Company for $850, the SW Quarter of Section 4, Twp 1 South, Range 24 West, containing 160 acres (Ibid, pg 335).
Life in a Turpentine Camp
Products of the naval stores industry are oils, resins or gums and tars of the longleaf pine trees, which are distilled into turpentine and rosin. During the peak of the turpentine industry in 1912 there were 140 turpentine stills in Northwest Florida, and 24 in the Choctawhatchee National Forest, which is now Eglin AFB.
Pine management and turpentine was messy, hot, and physically difficult work done in camps consisting of shanty houses set in the woods by the pine resources. Typically everyone rose by 4 a. m. to begin preparing food and mule wagons. Children hauled water, women cooked and packed meals, and men prepared their animals and tools. Women tended kitchen gardens containing sweet potatoes, greens, and beans of various types.
Woodsmen hunted squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and gophers to add meat to their family tables. Everyday clothes were made of flour sacks that had to be boiled routinely to remove pine gum stains. Some turpentine factory owners built a one-room primary school for the turpentine workers' children and sometimes doubled as a church where lay preachers would hold services. Often children did not finish school because, by seven to ten years old, they were needed to help their parents with turpentine production.
Food, clothing, work tools, tobacco, matches, and lamp oil were sold at the turpentine camp commissary where workers purchased items with the tokens or credit chits that constituted their daily pay. Workers rarely were paid in cash unless their commissary account was fully paid off. Most camps were so isolated that workers would have been unable to reach a public store in any case. Often turpentine workers and their families were destined to remain perpetually in debt to their boss through inevitable commissary purchases.
Sometimes bosses used alcohol as a reward for extra work, contributing to occasional lawlessness and violence in the camps. Moonshine was made to drink and to supplement income, in the beginning. It was usually sold around turpentine camps and local bars. The term bootlegger emerged when it was hauled out of the county, first by horse and wagon, river travel, or on horseback.
While visiting the Santa Rosa County area the we made arrangements to met up with Carroll Butler author of “Treasures of the Longleaf Pines: Naval Stores”. When we arrived, we were very surprised at the amount of information he had on display for us. He said that he had given many educational talks on the subject over the years and had amassed many artifacts and photos. He gave us a very informative talk about turpentine production in the area.
“Wealthy Man Is Accused Of Murder”
Family life seemed to become increasingly difficult Stella and the children throughout 1910. Stella said that Zach began to mistreat his stepdaughter, then other members of his family. The situation became unbearable and she feared for the safety of her child.
She and Leah went to attorney Holman’s home and told him the whole story and asked for his protection. He advised her to bring charges of criminal assault against Zach and swear out a warrant for his arrest. He then informed Sheriff J. H. Collins about the warrant and the murder charge up in North Carolina.
Gattis was arrested in Pensacola on in June of 1911. A call to the Pensacola police station was made, asking that he be taken in custody. Officer Ray knew Gattis and started out on the search finally finding him on Palafox Street. T. Z. accompanied the officer back to the station and he was charged with attempting criminal assault on a relative of his wife. He was described as being about 40 years of dark, deep black hair, which he keeps in a disheveled condition. He was still clad in his everyday working apparel when he was carried through the city and wore a grimy black hat, considerably out of shape.
Those residents with whom he had become acquainted over the years insisted that a mistake had been made and that Gattis could not be guilty of such an offense. He was taken to Milton the day following and there it developed that he had been going under an assumed name and that he was none other than the long sought for Zach Marks. After evading arrest for nine years and a reward on his head, Zach Marks had now surfaced and news of the arrest made national news shocked the panhandle.
Sheriff J. B. Lanier (paid $102. by NC for this service) was sent down from Lillington, North Carolina to take the prisoner back to face a jury on the charges of murder. In Jacksonville there was a layover of several hours between trains and the prisoner was taken to police headquarters. Here, he declined to talk when asked for a statement. Finally, however, he went into the details of the killing all through he claimed that the dead man was the aggressor in a Jacksonville Times-Union interview.
“I went to neighbor’s house on a short call and carried my brother (Joe), who was about 12 years of age the, along with me. Shortly after we arrived this man Eylln came in also and told the man we were visiting that that he wanted a bowl of blackberry wine”.
“That boy has no business with that wine. Don’t give it to him. I said, and this made Ellyn mad. I did not even know his name at that time. He came forward and cursed me in the vilest manner possible. Left the door and he followed. I went back into the room and he followed me still”.
Then describing the manner I which he claims Ellyn came at him, by a string across the cell floor, Mark stated that he fired four bullets into he body of Ellyn. “The last thing he said was a vile oath, just as he cut my coat with a knife, and after I had backed away perhaps thirty feet to avoid him”.
Charlie Ellyn was reported in the papers as being a young farmer living in Harnett living not far from the farm of Marks. He is said to have been like Marks, rather prone to midnight celebrations on horseback, and given to gratifying his taste to some of the beverages that once made North Carolina famous. On the other hand it is said that he was of a genial and peaceable disposition.
Sheriff Lanier stated “From the present allegations in the case I can’t see anything in it but cold blooded murder”. “One witness says that Marks kept calling to Ellyn, ‘You have a knife, you have a knife,’ and with this fired upon him. The witness claims that Ellyn had no knife ad that the room was light enough for anybody to see that he had none”. Lanier stated also that Marks immediately left the scenes of his old home and nothing was ever heard of him, although he hoped month by month to find some trace of him.
Zach served as his own lawyer and Emma recalls that he had commented that he could run circles around those yahoos. He had a big fight on his hands claiming self-defense but was successful in defending himself and was acquitted, as reported in the Pensacola Journal.
While in jail and awaiting a preliminary hearing Zach commented that he “has no fear about coming clear of the charge”. This is one of the most important cases that has been in the courts of Harnett County in many years. Mr. Marks is connected with a good family and one that is highly respected in the county.
The attorney for the defense, Baggett and Baggett and E. F. Young were expected to put up a strong defense. The H. E. Norris of Raleigh and R. L. Godwin prosecuted for the State.
The defense called Zach’s brother Joe Marks who was an eyewitness to the homicide and attempted to prove by him the killing was justifiable.
The defense proved by William Hockaday that the knife was found on the scene of the murder, which occurred in front of the door of a wine shop. The defense says they have testimony to prove the knife was found on the scene and handed to Mr. McLeod, who is a State witness. Upon this evidence the jury is supposed to have found their verdict.
R. T. Stewart testified that Ellen was attempting to cut Marks when he shot him.
The State attempted to prove by two of the eyewitnesses, Thomas J Collins testified he wanted to close the store and asked the group of men to leave. As they were going out, Marks is said to have called to Ellen to drop his knife. Ellen said he had no knife and held up his open hands and Marks pulled his pistol and shot Ellen twice, caught him by the arm and shot twice more, Ellen died immediately.
Daniel J McLeod In his testimony said that Ellen declared when accused of having a knife; “I have no knife, I am not afraid of you or your pistol”. While saying this Ellen was holding up his hands, with the palms open, the defendant then shot him four times in rapid succession. He left immediately, Ellen lay on the ground till nearly day. Other witnesses also offered testimony.
The defendant went on the stand in his own defense went explained to the jury and court that the killing was justifiable. He admitted to shooting Ellen, but he was a stronger man than he, and with knife in his hand was cutting him, and showed there were several gashes in his coat. Marks went on to say that he had a knife in his sleeve and approached him in the dark and without notice.
Marks was acquitted of the murder charge for lack of evidence, but was held in the Harnett jail to await another charge back in Florida. In his remarks to the jury in discharging them Judge Peebles said they had let go unpunished a remarkably guilty man and ordered that Marks give justified bond in the sum of $500 for his appearance at the next term of Harnett Superior Court to answer the charge of carrying a concealed weapon. It was further ordered that he be held in Raleigh for the sheriff of Santa Rosa County, Florida. Where he is charged with having unlawful relations with his stepdaughter.
While awaiting transport back to Florida, Zach was very talkative and did not mind discussing the murder charge. He said that his wife gave him away in the murder case and brought the later charge involving her daughter. He said that his wife eloped with another man and when he threatened to have her arrested she told the sheriff that he was charged with the murder of one Charlie Ellen in North Carolina and that his real name was Zach Marks. Marks assumed the name of Gattis, being a family name on his other’s side.
It had been reported that much of his wealth in the turpentine business if Florida, he was asked what was the amount of his fortune. He replied; “Bradstreet and Dunn rate me at $50,000 but I am worth only $10,000”.
Marks said the Florida charges were false and that he would be proved innocent. Marks said “it is a put up job by the woman”. He said that he had a brother in Portsmouth (Walter) worth $73,000 and that he had gone to Florida to arrange for his trial.
Stella and Zach Part Ways
Stella did begin divorce proceedings according to the court books the attorney was J. T. Wiggins and it was Stella A. Gattis vs T. Z. Gattis – Divorce, but no action was ever taken and it was never completed
Zach was held by the officers and delivered to the sheriff of Santa Rosa County to answer to the charge brought against him in that county of alleged relations with his young stepdaughter Leah, who was about sixteen years of age at the time. He gave bond on September 26th and the trail was set for October 4th. His wife was to be the principle witness against him, she was described as a highly respected, educated and refine woman.
The Fairhope Courier (Alabama) reported on October 20, 1911 that “Mr. J. Marks. Wife and daughter of North Carolina have move in and will take charge of the store recently owned by C. F. Davison. We wish them much success with the work”.
Apparently, Zach and Stella came to some sort of agreement and stayed together long enough to tie up business in Florida and perhaps they divorced to Alabama. She and did not appear in court for the charges pending against Zack. Marks did appeared before the Grand Jury on the October 4, 1911 and a continuance was requested and granted and he posted a $500.00 bond.
November 21, 1911, James Bush and Alice Bush conveyed to the Gattis Turpentine Company for $900.00, the East Half of the Southwest Quarter and the West Half of the Southeast Quarter of Section 8, Twp. 1 N. R. 24 W.
George W Taylor and Frances Taylor, formerly Frances F Weekly, sold to the Gattis Turpentine Company for $850.00, the Southwest Quarter of Section Four, Township One South, Range 24 West, containing 160 acres. It was signed by "X" marks of George and Frances Taylor.
The dates of the above conveyances are an indication that the Gattis Turpentine Company began operation in 1911.
Stella and Leah Move to Canton, NY
It’s obvious that Stella remained in contact with her father and stepmother (Braxton and Mary McGuinn Mull). They had been engage in a successful venture of ranching and stock rising in Wyoming and in October of 1903, decided to scale back and move to Mary’s hometown of Canton in St Lawrence County, New York. There, they purchased a large farm west of the village and a house in town, where they resided. It was here that Stella and Leah remade their lives. Stella reverted her name back to Small and Leah now seems to be going by the name of Ruth L Small.
Stella reverted back to the surname of Small and Leah was now calling herself Ruth L Small. In 1912, Braxon’s daughter, Stella and granddaughter, Leah settle in with them in Canton. Leah/Ruth married a farmer named Stanley James Law in 1914 and Stella married once more to John Newby in 1924. It seems like they wanted to erase the whole marriage with Zach and lead a much happier life in Canton.
On February 25, 1915, Leah (a.k.a. Ruth) married a local farmer, Stanley James Law. It seems they resided in the Mull home for another year and then moved into his parent’s home on Governor Street along with Stella. Stanley and Ruth never had children of their own, but had a foster child, Walter V Woods who was the son of William & Anna (Kidd) Woods, who where neighbors.
John Newby’s wife past away in 1922, two years later he married Mrs. Stella Mull Small who was 24 years his junior. Dr James M Payson of the First Universalist church preformed the ceremony. This union was a happy one for both.
John had been a successful cattleman in Duel County, South Dakota and well respected by his neighbors who elected him to the state senate. In 1915, he and his wife, Mary Jackson moved to Canton where he purchased the Jackson residence on State St and it was there John did a large sales stable business, shipping in horses from the west for sale to St Lawrence county farmers. He made an average of 3 to 4 trips west each year. He became a director of the St Lawrence County Agricultural Society for over twenty years. He was a Master of Morley Grange before transferring to the Silas Wright Grange and was twice elected to the village board of trustees.
In May of 1930, John and Stella along with her daughter, Ruth and her husband Stanley made a road trip West first stopping at Niagara Falls. From there they crossed into Canada and on to Windsor, Detroit and visited a cousin in Cambridge Nebraska and in Cheyenne Wyoming they visited friends and relatives and decorated graves of their dear departed ones. From there, they went to Colorado Springs. Among the sights visited were Royal Gorge, the Garden of the Gods, the Balanced Rock, the Cliff Dwellers and the Cave of the Winds.
John began to suffer poor health by 1931, brought on by heart trouble. Stella remained devoted to his care and after eleven years of marriage, he past away. Many people attended his funeral and Stella carried out all his wishes. After John past, Stella decided to make her home with her daughter's family. She auctioned off all of the household furnishings and put their residence at 15 State St up for rent along with a separate ad to rent the barn for storage. They also had a 234-acre dairy farm in Lisbon up for sale along with 44 head of cattle.
Stella then moved in with Stanley and Ruth, Stella ran ads in the local paper that she would repair or remodel fur. By 1937 she was calling herself a furrier and ran an ad "Le'Gove-Paris Fur Fashions", inviting the public to see stylish fur neckwear. Collarettes, Fox Scarves, Jacquette, Swaggeretts, Strollers and Capes along with a few forerunners in fur coats for the 1937-38 season.
Both Ruth Law and Stella were active members of the Sias Wright Grange. Stella held the position of Historian. In 1938, she was on the committee to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Grange. Ruth was also a member of the New York State and National Holstein-Association.
The only other references I have found concerning Stella was a cataract operation on her left eye in 1946 and her passing at the Cedars Nursing Home, where she had been a patient for one week in 1967.
Ruth died on July 9, 1970 at 2:00am at Edward John Noble Hospital, where she had been two days. The funeral was at the Lawrence Funeral Home with the Rev. Max Coots, pastor of, officiating and she was buried in Fairview Cemetery.
Back in Gattis
As reported in the Milton Gazette on October 7, 1913 the Gattis Turpentine Company received a business license for a still and merchandise in Santa Rosa County for October 1, 1912 to October 1, 1913.
On April 19, 1912 Zach purchased from George & Francis Taylor 160 acres of land containing uncultivated pines and a homestead house which Zach then lived in (the SW quarter of Section 4, Township One South, of Range 24 West). The deed was signed on April 23, 1912. Apparently Taylor, despite protest was cupping and guttering the pine timber for turpentine purposes, which would greatly injure the value of the property. So on January 6, 1913 the Gattis Turpentine Company brought a suit against Garniers Naval Stores Company, a Corporation, to restrain the Corp from trespassing or working the pines in any manor.
Where is Gattis now?
Post a Comment