06 July 2018

J. W. Cabaniss: Convicted of Bank Fraud, then Pardoned

cabaniss16229phJoseph Warren Cabaniss was born about 1841 in Forsyth, Monroe County, Georgia. He was one of at least ten children born to Judge Elbridge G. Cabaniss and wife Sarah Ann (Chipman), daughter of a Baptist clergyman from Massachusetts. I note Joseph as the 5th child, and 3rd son, born to this couple.

J. W. was attending Mercer University at Penfield when the Civil War broke out. He enlisted in the Confederate Army immediately, and served until the bitter end. After the war, J. W. settled in Griffin, Spalding County, Georgia. This is where, on 12 November 1868, he married Emily L. "Emie" Winship. She was a daughter of Isaac Winship (1802-1885) and wife Martha Pearson (Cook), daughter of a distinguished soldier of the War of 1812 -- Major Philip Cook (1775-1841).

J. W. and Emmie moved to Macon soon after their marriage, and went on to have six children reach adulthood. They were Isaac Winship (1871-1944), Lila Peeples (1875-1969), Joseph W. Jr. (1878-1903), Emily Winship (1880-1962), Elbridge Gerry (1883-1963), and Emory Winship (1890-1949).

George G. Smith of Macon wrote, in 1904, about Joseph's rise in the banking business:

He was made teller of the Exchange Bank in 1871. In 1878 he was elected cashier, and was Cashier for 18 years. The President of the bank, now grown to be one of the largest and most important in the State, died, and Captain Cabaniss who had managed all of its affairs was elected President, a position he holds at the present time (1903). No man in Macon is more trusted and esteemed than Captain Cabaniss.

AugustaChronicle2May1908Less than five years later, the "largest and most important" Exchange Bank was defunct. And President Cabaniss was charged with embezzlement and fraud. In order to appease some of the bank receivers trying to bring other lawsuits against J. W., he "liquidated his indebtedness to the bank by turning over to the receivers $53,000 worth of securities and real estate property, including his home and some 40 smaller pieces of property" in early May 1908. This was just a few months after the death of his wife Emmie. About this same time, J. W. left Bibb County, and removed to Bolingbroke in Monroe County.

After some delay, a trial focusing on the charge of fraud was finally held. The verdict came on a Saturday night in late May of 1909. Following from the Columbus Daily Enquirer (Georgia):


And a Fine of $500 in Addition -- Verdict Last Night.

Macon, May 29. -- J. W. Cabaniss, president of the defunct Exchange bank, of Macon, who has been on trial here all this week for declaring dividends not earned while president of the bank, was tonight found guilty of a felony, and sentenced to the state farm for one year and to pay a fine of $500.

One of the most dramatic scenes ever witnessed in the Bibb county superior court room occurred this morning when Mr. Cabiniss [sic] made this statement to the jury.

Tears streamed down the eyes of jurors, attorneys and spectators as the aged man, broke in health as a result of the worries and troubles that he has undergone for the past year, faced the jury and began his recital for the first time of his side of the causes which led to the failure of the bank over which he presided for so many years, and with which he had been connected since 1871. [End of article; no further detail given.]

MaconTelegraph16June1910An appeal was made, and another year passed before a higher court "sustained" the ruling. More weeping was the result:

Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
Thursday, 16 June 1910 - pg. 9 [via GenealogyBank]


Men, Women and Children Wept When They Learned Fate Venerable Banker.

BOLINGBROKE, Ga., June 15. -- When it was known through this morning's Telegraph that the court of appeals had sustained the previous sentence of J. W. Cabaniss sorrow fell like a pall upon this entire hamlet.

Men, women and children wept in sympathy for the venerable man, who has already suffered enough even if he were guilty of the charge.

The financial losers in the Exchange Bank failure are most deeply incensed that the affair should end in the tragic robbery of honor from this beloved Christian gentleman.

MaconTelegraph11September1910Yet another year would pass before the saga reached its conclusion. Interestingly, I found no specific mention of J. W. ever serving any part of his prison sentence.

Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
Sunday, 11 September 1911 - pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]


The Executive Order Goes Fully Into a Lucid Explanation of the Case, and Gives the Reasons -- Roland Ellis Brings Pardon.


Are Among the Principal Reasons Given By the Governor for His Action in Rescuing Aged Banker from Sentence On Prison Farm at Milledgeville.

ATLANTA, Ga., Sept. 10. -- Governor Brown today at noon issued a full pardon for J. W. Cabaniss, of Macon, the president of the late defunct Exchange bank of that city, charged with the offense of paying an unearned dividend, contrary to law...

..."Whereas, it appears that the said J. W. Cabaniss is more than 70 years old, and has for more than forty years, in the same community, borne an upright and blameless life, a life that was an example to all who lived and came within the sphere of his influence, and the only offense with which he is charged being only a technical one from which he individually derived practically no benefit; and

"Whereas, numerously signed petitions from the best citizens of this state and the counties of Bibb, Monroe, Jones, Richmond, Laurens, Twiggs, Decatur, Taliaferro, Houston, Sumter, Macon, Jasper, Crisp, Lowndes and other counties, have been presented praying that said sentence should not be executed, and that said J. W. Cabaniss receive at the hands of the executive a full pardon, the said petition including not only men who are stockholders, but depositors of the said Exchange Bank of Macon, and men of every class and walk in the communities from which said petitions came, and also petitions signed by every member of the senate of Georgia and by nearly all of the members of the house of representatives, praying executive clemency...

MaconTelegraph11March1916Some time after 1910 (and likely after the pardon), J. W. returned to Macon. He died there in 1916.

Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
Saturday, 11 May 1916 - pg. 1 [via GenealogyBank]


Was Once of Macon's Most Prominent Citizens.

Joseph Warren Cabaniss died yesterday afternoon at 4:30 o'clock, at his home on Orange street. He was in his seventy-fourth year and has been in ill health for several months. At his bedside were all of his children, Winship, Elbridge G., Emory Winship and Lila P. Cabaniss and Mrs. Emmie Cabaniss Cunningham.

He was the son of Judge E. G. Cabaniss, of Forsyth, and the brother to E. G. Cabaniss, of Savannah, and H. H. Cabaniss, of Atlanta. He was a student of Mercer university at Penfield at the outbreak of the war between the states. He immediately enlisted and served with honor under Lee in Virginia until the surrender. He went to Griffin immediately after the war to live and on November 12, 1868, was married to Emily L. Winship, daughter of Isaac and Martha Cook Winship. They came to Macon in 1869 and since that date had lived in this city.

He was one of Macon's most prominent citizens and a Christian gentleman and had thousands of friends all over the state who will mourn his loss.

Burial was in Rose Hill Cemetery (Central Avenue Division, block 10, lot 4).

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness. What a story. The troubles Mr. Cabaniss endured.


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