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Today in Georgia History
is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.

August 6

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Woolfolk Murders

August 6, 1887 - Macon
Five years before Lizzie Borden and her axe became famous, nine members of the Woolfolk family were killed with an axe at their home near Macon in Georgia's first mass murder.

Richard Woolfolk, his wife Mattie, their six children, and a visiting relative, were all slaughtered as they slept. Suspicion immediately fell on Tom Woolfolk, Richard's 27-year-old son from a previous marriage. Tom was the only family member not killed. He claimed a gang broke in and murdered his family. He had heard the killings, and managed to escape.

Police found no evidence of forced entry. Tom's body bore blood stains. He seemed agitated and nervous. His bloodstained shirt was found down a well. As an angry crowd gathered, the sheriff jailed Tom to save him from a lynching.

The murders shocked Georgia, and made front–page headlines across the nation. After two trials, and two appeals, Tom Woolfolk was convicted and hanged in 1890.

Many questions remain about Georgia's first mass murder, and exactly what happened on that bloody morning, August 6, 1887, Today in Georgia History.

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19th century, murder, lynching, trial, law, violence, Individual Development and Identity

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Fast Fact

Author Carolyn DeLoach has written two books about the Woolfolk murders,The Woolfolk Tragedy: The Murders, the Trials, the Hanging & Now Finally, the Truth! and Shadow Chasers: The Woolfolk Tragedy Revisited.