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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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William Wallace Chisolm

CHISOLM, William Wallace, born in Morgan county, Georgia, 6 December, 1830; died in De Kalb, Niss., 13 May, 1877. In 1847 the family removed to Kemper County, Mississippi In 1851 the father died, leaving William as the head of the family. In 1856 he married Emily, daughter of John W. Mann, of Florida, through whose aid he made good the deficiencies of his early education. In 1858 Mr. Chisolm was elected justice of the peace, and in 1860 probate judge, an office which he filled by successive re-elections till 1867. Until the secession of the slave states became an accomplished fact, Judge Chisolm was a pronounced Union man, and only wavered for a short time during the height of the contagious excitement that prevailed in 1861. During the civil war, although known as a "Whig and a unionist," he was continued in office from term to term, a sure evidence of popular trust. But he was looked upon with suspicion by the Confederate authorities, to whom his unionist sentiments were well known. The local history of the period immediately following the cessation of hostilites embraces a series of violent crimes. The newly enfranchised Negroes naturally fraternized with the few white unionists, to form the nucleus of a republican, or, as it was then known, a "radical" party ; and by their votes Chisolm was elected sheriff. Ills duties often brought him into direct conflict with his political opponents, and his life was constantly in danger. In November, 1873, he was re-elected sheriff for two years, and the county, under his leadership, became the stronghold of the Republican Party in Mississippi. After the expiration of his term as sheriff he was nominated for congress, but was defeated in 1876. In the spring of 1877, John W. Gully, a leading democrat, was shot and killed not far from Judge Chisolm's house, and warrants were issued for Chisolm's arrest, with several of his republican associates, as accessory to the crime. At this time the Ku-klux organization was at the height of its power, and all night preceding the expected arrest armed horsemen rode into the town of De Kalb. On the morning of Sunday, 30 April, 1877, the sheriff served the warrants, and Judge Chisolm's family, consisting of his wife, three sons, and a daughter, insisted upon accompanying him to jail. In the mean time Gilmer, one of the other arrested republicans, had been killed by the mob while on the way to the same jail in charge of a sheriff's deputy. A short time afterward a staunch friend of Chisohn's, Angus NcLellan, who had resolutely guarded the Chisolm party on their way to jail, was in turn shot down as he left the prison, at the sheriff's request, to go to his own house. By this time the guards had withdrawn, leaving the jail undefended, and the mob, excited by the death of the sturdy Scotsman, began to batter in the doors to gain access to the chief victim. Chisolm armed himself with one of the guns left by his faithless guards. As the door gave way, his little son John, a boy of thirteen, threw himself into his father's arms, where he was killed by a shot from the leader of the assailants. Dropping his son's body, Chisolm instantly shot and killed the assassin, and the mob fell back panic-stricken for the time, and fired only 608 CHITTENDEN random shots. Outside the cry was raised, " Burn them out!" and, believing that the jail was on fire, the Chisolm party descended the stairs, the mother and an elder son bearing the body of the boy between them, the father following with his daughter Cornelia, a girl of eighteen, who had already been wounded by chance shots. As soon as Chisolm came within sight of the mob he was fired upon, and fell so severely wounded that he was believed to be dead. The daughter received additional wounds at this time, and, with blood streaming from her face and arms, walked through the crowd, beside her father, who was borne to his house, not far distant, and died in about two weeks, from the effect of his wounds. The daughter died two days later, her wounds proving more serious than was at first supposed. At the September term of the county court the leaders of the mob were indicted, having in the mean time been at large, but none of them were ever punished for their part in these murders. No evidence was ever adduced connecting either Chisolm or his associates with the assassination of Gully ; but the local newspapers repeatedly justified the mob. The commonly accepted explanation of the affair is, that Chisolm had so organized the recently freed and enfranchised Negroes that he controlled the elections in favor of the Republican Party--a state of things to which the democrats of the vicinity refused to submit. In December, 1877, Walter Riley, a Negro, confessed the murder of Gully, and was hanged for the crime, but denied that Judge Chisolm and his associates instigated the act. See "The Chisolm Massacre, a Picture of Home Rule in Mississippi," by James M. Wells (Washington, 1878), giving the Republican view of the case, and "Kemper County Vindicated," giving the Democratic side.

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