Revitalizing a once forgotten cemetery in Lumpkin County, GA

Posted by | June 17, 2014

as told by Barbara J. Butler, member of Shady Grove Cemetery Dahlonega, LLC.

The first of John Frank and Sarah Saine’s children was William Evan “Will” Saine and the fourth was George Tate Saine. According to family legend, they were both mean and wild and always took matters into their own hands to settle any disagreement they might have had with others. Farm animals were allowed to roam free and fights were constantly breaking out over stealing another’s animal and claiming it for their own or liquor deals. Basically, they just had a dislike for their neighbors, and killings were a common thing.

Will Saine

Will Saine

Thus, I begin with the story ‘Tragedy in the Mountains’. The article was taken from the Dahlonega Nugget; W. P. Townsend was editor in chief at the time. He had a way with words that I could not possibly do justice. Will Saine was my grandfather and George Tate Saine was my uncle. I do not remember Tate Saine at all and barely remember Grandpa Saine. By all accounts, he was a mean and selfish man who owned 120 acres of beautiful property, but could not see fit to give any to his 6 children, nor sell them any.

February 20, 1914: Tragedy in the mountains of North Georgia: Written by W. P. Townsend, Editor in Chief of the Dahlonega Nugget.

Last Sunday afternoon, February 15, 1914, a crowd of men, including Coon Lee, Joe Edmondson, Tate and Will Saine, Will Beard and Ephriam Crane, assembled in the road up in the Hightower District, near the foot of the Blue Ridge, where a dispute arose about some liquor, resulting in Coon Lee and Joe Edmondson being killed. Coon Lee [ed. – Jacob Coonie Lee was his full name, his nickname was “Coon”, born in 1885 and married Manervia McDouglad 11-12-1905] was shot to death and Joe Edmondson was cut to death with knives in a most horrible manner. The particulars of these murders as we have been informed are as follows:

Joe Edmondson had lost some liquor a year or more ago. The news had reached the ears of Coon Lee that Joe had accused him of stealing it. So Coon Lee asked Joe if he had said this. His reply was “No”, when one of the Saines remarked that he had heard Joe accuse Coon of the theft. Edmondson was sitting down on the side of the road. As Coon Lee began to approach him, Joe Edmondson pulled out his pistol and shot, the ball entering Coon Lee’s head just above the left eye.

Then Will and Tate Saine got into the conflict. Edmondson hit Tate Saine with his pistol. When the weapon dropped from his hand and he broke off in a run. The Saine brothers followed him out of sight. Will Beard undertook to stop the Saines from going after Joe, but Ephriam Crane hit him over the head with his pistol, which stopped Beard’s efforts to check the Saine brothers.

Joe Edmondson (l) and Coon Lee.

Joe Edmondson (l) and Coon Lee.

This occurred late in the afternoon, and as night came on and Joe Edmondson didn’t return home to his father’s as usual, the next morning a search was begun and it was not long until Joe’s overcoat was found in the woods and the rails of the fence. A short distance from the fence was found the lifeless form of Joe Edmondson lying in the water of the Hightower River with his throat cut, nearly severing his head from his body, and twenty one stab and gashes marking his neck, breast and back.

The wounded Coon Lee was carried home and lived until Tuesday afternoon. For a while before Lee died he would speak when spoken to, but said he did not remember having any trouble, he just complained of a headache.

Later: Joe Edmondson’s father came in last Tuesday and put up a hundred dollars reward for the arrest of the Saine brothers and promised to add more money to that amount later on, so we are informed.

On Friday afternoon Lewis Edmondson, the father of the young man who was killed on the 15th of February came to this office and swore out a warrant for Ephriam Crane, charging him with being accessory to the crime. That night Sheriff Ray went up to the mountains, arrested the defendant and brought him to prison.

Two men were killed on that day, and when young Edmondson shot his man down and ran off, and the two Saine brothers started to follow. Will Beard undertook to stop them when Ephriam Crane knocked him down with a pistol. The Saines ran after Joe Edmondson, out of sight, and the next morning Edmondson was found cut to death. Had Beard not been foiled in his attempt to stop the Saine brothers by Ephriam Crane, maybe Edmondson would have been alive today and the Saine brothers not hiding out now charged with murder. Crane waived examination last Monday and was committed to jail until the grand jury acted on the case.


Dahlonega Nugget, March 6, 1914

On Tuesday after Joe Edmondson was murdered in this county, two men supposed to be Tate and Will Saine were arrested on a train in Blue Ridge, Georgia. As there was no description of the Saine brothers, they were turned loose and both slid off the car and have not been seen over there since. Afterward a man came up who knew the Saines, and upon being given a description of the strangers, said they were the right men and the ones wanted, but too late then. They were gone.


George Tate Saine

George Tate Saine

Information from family members says that somewhere between the years of 1881 and 1890, George Wentworth Saine, brother to John Frank Saine and uncle to Will and Tate Saine, left Lumpkin County and wound up living in Drumright Creek, Oklahoma.

It is also said when Will and Tate Saine became wanted for the murder of Joe Edmondson, they hightailed it out to Oklahoma where they hid out for a while. They finally returned to Lumpkin County and surrendered. Both Will and Tate Saine were convicted of murder at the 1916 May term of the Superior Court of Lumpkin County, Georgia and sentenced to life.

After serving approximately six years both Tate and Will Saine came up for parole June 22, 1921. Will Saine was granted a parole but Georgia’s Governor Dorsey refused Tate Saine a parole at that time. On August 3, 1922, Will Saine said that his wife, Nettie Dangler Saine wrote the Governor asking him to pardon Will Saine because she needed her husband’s help in raising the kids and on the farm, and he didn’t actually do the killing: it was Tate Saine.

The above killings took place in and around Shady Grove Cemetery. Forty-two years before on May 10, 1872, my 2nd great grandfather, Jacob Saine deeded two acres of land to help his community start The Methodist Episcopal Church South. The log cabin/school was called Shady Grove Cemetery and Grave Yard. A number of my ancestors are buried there including Grandpa Will Saine, Jacob Saine and his wife, Sarah.

Since 2008, family members have been fighting the battle to get ownership of Shady Grove away from The United Methodist Conference of Gainesville, Ga. This was accomplished after 5 years of fighting The Conference, neighbors, and lots of other people who stuck their nose where it should not have gone. Family members had to form an LLC in order to get the deed changed, but it was accomplished on March 6, 2013.

It has still not been without some neighborly problems but all has been resolved now. We are working towards bringing Shady Grove into the future, which includes having a cleared cemetery with a nice fence to prevent further encroachment, as the property is now down to 1 acre.

Who doesn’t love a battle? Close relatives were ready to throw in the towel and leave it as is. Not this one! I do not quit. I do not walk away from a battle until it is over. I attribute that to my Cherokee heritage (without the war paint and the horses, although it has almost come to that).

On June 7th, Shady Grove Cemetery had a fundraiser/silent auction/singing to raise money. We hope to remove more trees and clear the land to make room for more burial spaces. This will sustain the cemetery on into the future. The fundraiser did not do that well. People will not respond to a plain ole cemetery as well as they will for other projects in our county.

So onward we go. Most of our money has come from some family members and others donating money for the cause. Notice I said ‘some’ family members. Yes, there are those who have large numbers of people buried at Shady Grove and have not contributed a single penny for the upkeep. Do they think the money will just magically appear from the heavens?

I have tried grants and everyone tells me the cemetery does not fall into their category for grant monies. I know there are people out there with deep pockets who care about projects like this but as yet I have been unable to locate them.

We appreciate any donations. If you think this is a noble cause, a cemetery worth preserving and protecting, you can find us on FB (Shady Grove Cemetery Dahlonega) and our website:

Barbara J. Butler
44 Locust Road, Dahlonega, Georgia 30533

One Response

  • Kathy A. Armijo says:

    Tate Saine was my grandfather.

    He died many years ago when I was 10 years old. He was a very loving and gentle grandfather to me and I loved him very much. There is so much more to this story than was told here. Coon Lee was Tate and Will Saine’s first cousin. Coon’s mother Julia Saine Lee was Will and Tate’s aunt.

    Coon, Will, and Tate had been raised around each other and Coon was more like a brother than a cousin. I agree with the fact that all of the men involved in the tragedy were wild, drank a lot, and were known to settle their differences with violence. If after witnessing the murder of Coon, Tate and Will had killed Joe at the scene, the outcome of their trial may have been very different.

    However, according to all witnesses both Tate and Will chased after Joe Edmondson after he shot Coon Lee. According to what my Grandpa Tate Saine told before his death, he and Will caught up with Joe and they both took out their knives. Joe , knowing that he was going to be killed took out his own knife to defend himself. Tate and Will overpowered him and took the knife away. Tate said that Joe looked at him and said, “You boys ain’t gonna kill me are you, please don’t”, to which Tate replied, “It’s to d*** late for that and started to stab him. Will helped to stab and cut Joe up, but Tate always said that it was he that cut Joe’s throat and finished him off.

    According to the coroner’s jury Joe was stabbed over 20 times before his throat was cut. If he wasn’t dead already he was most certainly dying when Tate cut his throat. Tate and Will ran away for awhile, came back and turned themselves in, and then stood trial. They were both found guilty. According to court records I have obtained, there was a recommendation for mercy before sentencing took place. The sentence if I remember correctly was for Life. According to my mother, my great grandfather John Saine had tried many times to get an attorney to help get his sons out of prison on parole.

    One day according to what Tate Saine told himself, he was sitting at a table and an attorney had been to visit another man who was a client. After the attorney had finished with his client he stood up to leave and walked directly by my grandfather. He quickly leaded down and whispered, “You will be out of here in a few weeks”. Tate Saine doubted what he actually heard. Could the man have REALLY said that he would be released shortly? He always said that he thought “that lawyer was an old fool who didn’t know what he was talking about”.

    That is until he was actually released and realized that the attorney had been working for his father and had somehow gotten him paroled. The story of Will’s wife Nettie writing the governor I’m sure is true and may have helped their case. Even though Will was as guilty as Tate and had participated in the murder but would never admit it and always blamed Tate solely even though all the evidence and witnesses proved otherwise. Tate on the other hand was guilty and admitted exactly what he did. I would like to say that although I understand that Coon Lee had been a relative and the his murder was a horrible thing for his cousins to have witnessed that still did not give them the right to take the law into their own hands and commit murder. I don’t feel that a life sentence was fair though.

    Tate Saine did tell his children many times through out his life that when he went into prison he was illiterate and a man by the name of Plez taught him how to read. He learned to read the bible and was eventually saved by God’s grace and accepted Christ as his Savior. The story he told was that not long after being saved he was standing outside in the rain and as the water ran down his face and neck he thought about how he would never be baptised.

    He said he lowered his head and prayed, “Dear Lord, if I never get out of this place, let this be my baptism please”. He told his children that if it hadn’t been for his going to prison he would never had learned to read and never accepted Christ as his personal saviour. After being released from prison, Tate couldn’t seem to get his life straightened out. Hanging around with the same crowd and doing the same things kept him in trouble. He made a promise to the Lord that he would leave Georgia and never return. He kept that promise. He moved to North Carolina in the 1930’s and never set foot in Georgia again. The Tate saine I knew was calm and soft spoken, gentle, and kind.

    I can still see him sitting on his front porch reading his bible and telling me bible stories. He was known through out his community as a hard working and honest man and was well respected by all who knew him. He kept to himself and never bothered a living soul. His wild days were way past. If it weren’t for the Grace of God who knows where or what any of us would be. God can change us and when he does it’s from the inside out. I’m thankful Tate saine was my grandfather and that he was a living example of the grace bestowed upon all of us by a loving and forgiving heavenly Father.

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