The Woolfolk Connection

Did you know?

Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon Georgia has hundreds of stories and legends from the Allman Brothers all the way to past Georgia governors.  There is no shortage of things that spook you out.  One of the more tragic stories to ever come out of Middle Georgia connects Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon to Perry and Hawkinsville.  Have you heard this daunting bit of history that connects them all?

The tragic chain of events begins with the worst mass murder in Georgia history that doesn’t involve a firearm.  In the quiet hours of August 6th 1887, west of Macon Georgia, Tom Woolfolk murdered 9 members of his family with an ax.  Those family members are buried in Rose hill Cemetery.

How does this trickle into Perry and Hawkinsville?  How does this affect those areas today?  The haunted history will shock you.

Tom Woolfolk was convicted of killing 9 of his family members after a 2 year appeal and 2 trials.  The final trial took place in Perry, Houston County. He was sentenced to die the following morning at the “usual place of public execution“.  Some accounts say there were 5000 people at his hanging.  Others say 10,000.  What is known for sure is that in the late 1800s, public execution in Houston County was a family event with food stands and vendors, often selling “possum sandwiches”.

Where was this usual site of public execution?  There are a few clues that helped me find it.   Here’s an excerpt from New Georgia Encyclopedia:

“Woolfolk was hanged in front of a crowd of 10,000 people on Wednesday afternoon, October 29, 1890, in Perry. The site of the hanging was the usual place of public execution in those days in Perry, a natural valley where Big Indian Creek joins the Fanny Gresham Branch, about a quarter mile west of the Houston County Courthouse. While on the scaffold Woolfolk disappointed the crowd by once more professing his innocence.”

The place of public execution was also said to be “surrounded by a natural amphitheater.”  What sits a quarter mile west of the old Houston County Courthouse in a valley where Big Indian Creek joins Fanny Gresham?  The answer is Rotary Centennial Park, Perry.  There have been strange accounts on the trails surrounding the park, but nothing has been proven. 

Woolfolk’s body was interred at Orange Hill Cemetery, Hawkinsville Georgia.  Contrary to popular belief, he is not buried in Rosehill Cemetery near his victims. 

Could Tom or any of the countless souls executed still be around Rotary Centennial Park?  Could he still be around his body, trying to profess his innocence one last time?  As always, you be the judge. There is something much more interesting about this story, however, that is important to discuss:

Many people have speculated whether or not Tom Woolfolk actually committed this crime.  As it stands, this is a solved and shut case, but I encourage you to do some historical research on the subject.  You should especially read “ Shadow Chasers: The Woolfolk Tragedy Revisited” By Carolyn Deloach, along with her other work on the subject.  Maybe, just maybe, your view will change once you do!  Why?  Because the book “Shadow Chasers: The Woolfolk Tragedy Revisited“, lays out the facts about the case.  As I read it, I felt as though I was sitting in that original wooden Perry courthouse in his final trial.

It also sheds light on a lesser known fact;  Tom Woolfolk never confessed and proclaimed his innocence all the way to the gallows.  As mentioned previously, he “disappointed the crowd” when he didn’t take responsibility for his family’s fate before being hanged to death. Again, you should read the book so you can understand the full picture that there was indeed some doubt that he was the culprit that fateful morning.

Finally, there was another weird discrepancy I found.  Some history books state that his punishment was carried out on October 29th, 1890.  Others say October 28th, 1890.  It’s unclear to me why those two dates are switched up, but nonetheless, they are.  Facts are facts, so I’ll will go with what’s on his tombstone.   October 28th.  He was buried in Hawkinsville and lies next to his sister.

Rose Hill Cemetery and Orange Hill Cemetery have suffered desecration and vandalism over the years from trespassers. This should serve as a reminder to NEVER enter, trespass, vandalize or desecrate any property at all, but especially cemeteries. I strongly condemn those actions. You will be arrested. As an example, Rose Hill Cemetery now has cameras with live feedback 24/7. DO NOT DO IT. Never trespass on any location we share for any reason.

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