A couple of years ago I was searching through depression era “John Doe” coroner’s inquests in Bartow County Georgia seeking information for a male ancestor allegedly found dead and seemingly for whom there was no paper trail. However, the dust yielded a story that day much more intriguing and sad than ours…
On May 9, 1935 a body was spotted from a Southbound train near Emerson Georgia. Upon arrival in town a search party was sent to retrieve the body along with Bartow County coroner G.W. Hendricks. The boy, body mangled, was described as approximately 14 or 15 years of age, 5 feet 4 inches tall, brown hair, blue eyes, with a “wealth” of freckles on his face and neck. Time of death was estimated to be the day before discovery, May 8, 1935. On his person was a horseshoe nail ring and a miniature photograph of a baby girl about 3 years of age. He wore a brown suede jacket over two shirts one blue and one brown and blue-gray checked trousers.
Coroner Hendricks ordered the body be taken to Cummings-Long-Owen funeral home. It was there a coroner’s jury composed of Dr. Stanford, W.D. Ross, L.R. Brown, J.B. Lewis, Smith Mansfield and C.G. Darnell ruled the young man died as a result of falling from the train.
According to The Tribune News an appeal was made to broadcasting stations in Rome and Atlanta seeking relatives of the boy. The consensus was the boy had not been traveling long because the clothes were not dirty or worn. Also disclosed in this article is acknowledgment that a boy fitting this description disappeared and was being sought by authorities in Knoxville, Tennessee. The poor lad’s body laid in state at the funeral home approximately three weeks, viewed by hundreds, while Joe Owen and Pope Weems assisted G.W. Hendricks’ attempt to locate relatives though unsuccessfully. Citizens of Cartersville generously provided for a funeral for the boy with interment in Oak Hill Cemetery.
On June 4, 1935 Cash W. Boatright of Bacon County Georgia arrived in Cartersville with two of his brothers requesting disinterment of the boy explaining to G.W. Hendricks he believed the boy to be his son Cloney Boatright, age 20, who had been at a work farm in Milledgeville which is stated in an affidavit in Superior Court. Hendricks granted the disinterment at Boatright’s expense. Both Cash W. Boatright and his brother, Riley J. Boatright positively identified the boy as Cloney Putram Boatright based on a scar on the bottom of the boy’s foot, purportedly an old wound from a turpentine can and a shirt Cash Boatright said he purchased. Hendricks released the boy to Cash Boatright on June 5, 1935. An article was printed in the Thursday, June 6, 1935 edition of The Tribune News notifying the public that the unknown “youth” was exhumed and positively identified as the son of Cash W. Boatright and he had left home only a few days prior to his death. Here the recorded documents and the newspaper articles are completely contradictory in regard to when and from where Cloney Boatright went missing.
Attached to the coroner’s inquest was a letter from G.W. Hendricks to Cash W. Boatright dated June 6, 1935, written the same day as the printing of the joyous news the lad’s family had been found advising Boatright that since turning the boy over to him many who saw the boy did not believe the child appeared to be old enough to be his son. Further, Hendricks requested Boatright locate someone with a typewriter and respond to the following questions: 1.) In what cemetery was the child buried? 2.) Where was he buried? 3.) Did his wife recognize him as her own son? 4.) Were the people in the community generally satisfied the boy was his son? A prompt reply was requested.
Boatright reciprocated with a letter dated June 11, 1935 typewritten on letterhead of Memory and Memory, Attorneys at Law in Blackshear Georgia; however, the letter was strictly from and signed by Cash W. Boatright. The response indicated C.P. Boatright was buried June 6 at Wesley Chapel Church cemetery about eight miles from Coffee, Georgia. He was positively identified by scars one being on the instep of his foot, a thumb crushed on his right hand “some” years ago, a scar on the back of his head and various other scars and marks and by the shirt bought for him in Jesup, Georgia. Mrs. Boatright positively identified him by scars and the shirt, satisfied that he was her boy. Also, R.J. Boatright, his uncle, of Coffee Georgia and Mrs. Ira Crosby of Coffee and “various others” positively identified him. Because of his condition it was difficult to identify him without looking closely at scars. Boatright further stated, “It is true a good many persons who saw him are not satisfied that it was my boy.”
To recap, the young man died May 8 and lay in state until the day of his burial Tuesday, May 21 (13 days) in Oak Hill Cemetery in Cartersville. He was disinterred June 5, 1935 (15 days later) per the affidavit recorded in the Clerk’s office. Personally, I can’t fathom identification by scars could be possible; perhaps in the throws of grief they convinced themselves.
The night of my discovery sleep was impossible as I played this story over in my mind so I spent the night in research. Cloney P. Boatright (Photo), son of Cashier W. Boatright and Mattie Hughes Boatright, born 1912 in Georgia died in Duval County, Florida June 26, 1970 and is buried in Carters Chapel Cemetery in Bacon County, Georgia (Grave) as are his immediate family members which begs the question, WHO is buried at Wesley Chapel? Did this young boy have parents who went to their grave never knowing what happened to him, was the little girl in the picture a sibling possibly still living and wondering, or is a niece or nephew in search of what became of him? Though this incident was 78 years ago it is not inconceivable that family, somewhere, still wonders about him.
I also wonder if Hendricks presented the ring and picture of the little girl for identification to Boatright for neither were mentioned anywhere save the initial article in The Tribune News. I would think identification of the girl in the metal case would have been crucial in positively identifying this young man.
I disclose what I have found in this story for the benefit of the true family of the unknown boy now laid to rest in two graves not his own.
The Tribune News, Cartersville GA, Thursday May 9 1935, Link to article
The Tribune News, Cartersville GA, Thursday June 6 1935, Link to article
Bartow County Georgia Superior Court, Affidavit of Identification from Cash W. Boatright, Riley J. Boatright, and G.W. Hendricks dated June 5 1935
Letter from G.W. Hendricks to Cash W. Boatright dated June 6 1935
Letter from Cash W. Boatright to G.W. Hendricks dated June 11 1935
Findagrave.com, Grave of Cloney Boatright, Memorial # 84511305
boatrightgenealogy.com, photograph of Cloney Boatright
Ancestry.com, Florida Death Index 1877-1998 Cloney P Boatright, June 26 1970, Duval Florida
Ancestry.com, 1940 United States Federal Census, Rockingham, Bacon, Georgia, Sheet 6A, Enumerated April 19, 1940, Household of Cloney Boatright