Monday, November 27, 2017

Emanuel Studstill (1825-1896)

On the 11th of June 1825, During John Quincy Adams's presidential administration, Emanuel Studstill was born to Hustus Studstill and Rachel Sirmans Studstill, residents of Bulloch County, Georgia. Emanuel was the grandson of Captain Hustus Studstill Senior, veteran of the Revolution.

Hustus and his family moved From Bulloch County to Early County, Georgia by 1830; when Emanuel was about 5 years old. By 1835, the family was in Russell County, Alabama. It was here that Hustus would sadly pass away. Rachel decided that life as a widow would be easier if family was near, so she packed up her kids and belongings and moved to Lowndes County, Georgia.

Kindred Roots, Lowndes County Home
Early Lowndes County Home

Lowndes County

Lowndes County was on the Florida Georgia line and was originally inhabited by the Creek Indians. Settlers began moving in and pushing the natives out in the early 1820's. Skirmishes were fought between the natives and the settlers over the next few years. This led to President Andrew Jackson to sign the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

By doing so, President Jackson had hoped to settle the skirmishes between the natives and settlers by giving the natives land west of the Mississippi River. This, however, did not settle well with the Creeks, Cherokee, and Seminole; and so began the Indian Wars.

While some natives peacefully left their homeland and took their families to the unknown wilderness, others were not willing to give up their land without a fight. Militias were formed to protect settlers and to eradicate any native that did not abide by the rules set forth in President Jackson's Indian Removal Act. Many settler's lived in fear from retaliation from the natives. This is the environment that Emanuel was raised in.

Between the years 1838 and 1839, the militias were rounded up in Lowndes County numerous times to quell the invading Indians. By 1840, most of the natives either moved west or formed alliances with the Seminole in Florida.

Lowndes County Georgia 1836

Trouble for the Studstill Brothers

On the 7th of September 1843, Emanuel and his brother, Jonathan, were meeting with their friend to make plans to go hunting. Emanuel had brought an antiquated rifle to the meetup. Jonathan and their friend, Samuel Mattox, were poking fun at Emanuel's rifle saying it couldn't hit the side of a barn. The thought must have come across his mind. The rifle had certainly had better days. Off in the distance they saw a horse and rider attending to some grazing cows. They called out to the rider, but received no response. The next few moments greatly impacted the three boys and would eventually seal the fate of one.

Whether it was to get the riders attention, to scare him or his cattle, one could only speculate. Samuel Mattox proceeded to take Emanuel's rusty rifle and aim it towards the rider. One of the Studstill boys told Mattox to shoot, and without thinking twice, the trigger was pulled. In an instant, immediately following the thunderous bang, the rider fell to the ground.

They ran towards the fallen rider. They must have thought the gunshot scared him off his horse, for surely the old rusty rifle couldn't have hit a target at nearly a quarter mile away. They reached the fallen rider to see if he was alright and needed any help. What they saw horrified them. There on the ground lay 15 year old, William Slaughter.

The boys ran to get some help for him, but there was nothing anyone could do as there was a hole in his head from the musket ball. The boys came up with the story of young William falling off of his horse after his horse was spooked from a random gunshot. The story continued that the Slaughter boy had hit his head on a protruding stick which caused the gash in his head. His nearly lifeless body was taken back home where he would soon succumb to his injury. The story the boys told was accepted throughout the community, but a clue would be discovered that would change this view and ultimately lead to charges of murder.

Moses Slaughter, the father of the late William, was mourning his son and took down his son's hat that was hanging on the wall of their home. It was at this time, he noticed a hole in the hat that was perfectly round and undoubtedly made by a musket ball. A suspicion arose in the father's mind that the Mattox and Studstill boys had  not been truthful with their story. The grave of William Slaughter was dug up and the body was removed so an autopsy could be performed. Moses Slaughter's suspicions were correct. A musket ball was found embedded in the skull of the deceased boy.

Samuel Mattox was arrested and detained in the Troupville jail. His cellmates were notorious local bad boys, Tarlton Swain and John Strickland. Swain and Strickland formulated a plan to escape from the jail with Mattox. Their plan was successful, and the men were wanted fugitives.

Mattox's freedom was short-lived, however, and he was once again incarcerated. His trial was held in Troupville where on the 24th of June, 1844, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

The Studstill brothers were not out of the water yet. Four years after the hanging of Samuel Mattox, Jonathan and Emanuel Studstill were charged with murder in the second degree for their involvement in the crime. Their trials were to be separate and Jonathan was to be tried first.

General Assembly's pardon of Jonathan Studstill
After a somewhat lengthy trial, Jonathan Studstill was found guilty in June of 1849. His guilty conviction would not last. He was completely pardoned by the General Assembly after a large number of citizens petitioned for his release. Because of Jonathan's pardon, the prosecution decided to drop the charges on Emanuel.

One of Emanuel Studstill's Land Patents


It was about this time that Emanuel married Rachael Letitia Shaw and moved to Florida. Perhaps he was leaving the drama following the trial, or maybe he was looking for an adventure by settling in an area that had never been inhabited before. Nevertheless, by 1850, he and his bride moved to Levy County, Florida. It wasn't long before he briefly enlisted in the Captain Joseph J. Knight's Mounted Militia during the Florida War against the Seminoles. This short stint in the militia would prove beneficial to Emanuel as veterans of the Florida War were granted tracts of land in Florida for their service. By 1860, Emanuel had amassed at least 360 acres of land in Levy County. It was on his land, in 1860, that iron ore was discovered on top of the soil. Iron was not a common commodity in Florida, so it's discovery on the Studstill farm had the potential to be prosperous for the pioneer. 

The East Floridian
22 March 1860

In 1861, war broke out between the North and South as Southern states seceded from the Union. In January of that year, Florida became one of the first six states to secede. As men were leaving their homes and enlisting in the Army, Emanuel was unsure whether he should serve or not. By this time he and Rachael had five children. Most of the battles were being fought hundreds of miles north of Florida. One of Florida's roles in the war was to provide food for the Confederate soldiers on the front lines of battle. This mainly consisted of beef and salt. As the Union blockaded the ports in Florida and prevented shipping of supplies, it was up to cowboys to herd the cattle northward for the soldiers.

There were no main roads or railroads to move the cattle. It was all up to men who had experience herding cattle to push them across the Florida wilderness. As the herds were moved northward, a new threat had emerged. Deserters. To the soldiers that deserted their commands and could not return home for fear of arrest; these free range cows became the perfect food source. 

A special battalion was organized for the main purpose of herding the cattle northward and preventing asset loss for the Confederates. They would become the 1st Florida Special Cavalry otherwise known as the "Cow Cavalry." Without these cowboys, it would have been near impossible to feed the Confederate soldiers.

As Cedar Key in Levy County was taken over and burned by the Federal Troops, Emanuel Studstill realized the war had come too close to his home to not do anything about it. He enlisted in Lutterloh's Battalion of the "Cow Cavalry."  

The iron that was discovered on the Studstill farm was extremely beneficial to the Florida troops as they could make artillery from it locally. This was especially helpful with the supply chain being hindered by the blockade. Private Emanuel Studstill and the rest of his company were stationed on the Studstill farm mining the iron and forging cannonballs out of the ore. 
Reenactment of the skirmish in Levy County, Florida
Emanuel was captured during this skirmish.

In February of 1865, Union troops from Cedar Key began to march inland plundering local farms for food and supplies. Emanuel and other's from his company were sent to spy and report back as to the whereabouts, movements, and activities of the Yankees. Emanuel did not report back. He was wounded, captured, and taken prisoner. Four days later, Lutterloh's small battalion was able to force the Yankees back to the island of Cedar Key in what was known as the Battle of Station Four
Emanuel Studstill was imprisoned at Fort Jefferson in the Florida Keys until General Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April of 1865. Upon his arrival home, he was welcomed into Rachael's arms.


After the war, Emanuel settled down on his land and worked the farm along with his family. He and Rachael had a total of nine children. He would see his wife die at the tender age of 58 in 1885. He would see family and friends suffer during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1888. Land around him would be settled and cleared for farming. The town of Levyville would rise and fall as the county seat was moved to the town of Bronson. Levyville would become a ghost town in the early 20th century. Near the beginning of a new century, Emanuel Studstill was welcomed to heaven on Christmas Eve of 1896. His eyes witnessed Indian Wars, Civil War, settling new land in two states, murder, prison, and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. His remains are buried in Levyville Cemetery, in Levy County, Fl. And so remains... a true pioneer.

Grave of Emanuel Studstill
Levyville Cemetery, Levy County, Florida

For further reading on the Studstill brothers' trial, please check out RayCityHistory blog. It contains a very detailed narrative of the murder and trials that followed.

The following video was taken at Levyville Cemetery where Emanuel is buried:

For another blog post about another ancestor who was a prisoner of war, click here

For more Levy County Florida history, click here

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  1. Amazing history! Very interesting reading. What a fascinating life they had, so full of danger, tragedy and fortitude, not necessarily in that order. It would make a good movie.

  2. Thank you for the stories of my ancestors.