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Willis Aaron Hodges was born in Tattnall Co., Georgia, Aug. l, 1812, son of William Hodges. He and his brother William R. Hodges came to Camden County as young men and married there (in the portion made into Charlton County in 1858). Willis A. married Feb. 23, 1843, in Camden County to Mehalia Johns, born 1827 in Camden County, daughter of George Johns and his wife Anna. They had fifteen children.
The first wife died about 1880, Mr. Hodges married Mrs. Bathsheba Gainey, said to be a Cherokee Indian, born Jan.10, 1845, in Ware County, died in Charlton County, Nov. 3, 1931. Two children were born by her. She was listed in 1860 census of Charlton County as Bathsheby Heath, age 18 years, also Rachel M. Heath, age 6 years, Henry Heath, age 3 years, and John Heath, age 10 months; all living in the household of Henry Gainey with wife Olive, ages 50 and 56 years respectively. She later married Henry Gainey, Jr., born1840 and who was killed in battle of Sottsylvania, Va. May 1864.
In the 1860 Federal Census, Charlton County, Georgia, Willis A. Hodges was listed living at Traders Hill. In the 1880 Federal Census, CharltonCo., Georgia, he was listed as a farmer, and it listed his father as being born in Virginia and his mother born in Georgia. Mr. Hodges, an Indian fighter, served several enlistment's in the Indian War, as follows:
Private in Capt. William Haddock's Company of Florida militia, June 19 to Dec.18, 1837; Private under Willis Aaron Hodges is the ancestor of most all of the Hodges descendants living in Nassau County, Florida today. The history found on his life portrays him as a "rough and ready" frontier man. He served in the Indian war under Capt. William C. Newbern's company of Georgia Militia, Nov. 1, 1937 to Jan. 25, 1938; 2nd Sgt. under Capt. Daniel N. Cone's Company of Georgia militia, July 5th to Sept. 14, 1838; 2nd Lieut. under Capt. H.E.W. Clark's Company, Camden County Militia, Sept. 24,1840, to May 29, 1841. Mr. Hodges was cut out of Camden into Charlton County in its formation in 1854, and lived near the St. Mary's River in the Moniac section, which is situated on the border of Nassau County, Florida. The 1860 census shows his lands were valued at $600.00 and his personal property at $3,875.00, which made him among the wealthier in his county in that day.
On September 6, 1858, an interesting document revealing the methods of the early Charlton County Vigilantes" was signed by 107 citizens of Charlton County and surrounding county, Willis Aaron Hodges name being one of them, who participated in the "first legal", or "near legal" hanging in Charlton County, Georgia. They were members of the "citizens court" that condemned to death and executed two Negro slaves, who, the document reveals, were self-confessed, brutal murderers. The story and the names of the citizens who took part in this is found in the book, "History of Charlton County" by Alex. S. McQueen, on page 42. Many of our local family names are mentioned as participating in this gruesome incident.
Willis Aaron Hodges died Aug. 7, 1886, age 74 years, only a few months after the birth of his 17th child. He was buried in Canaday Cemetery near Moniac, Georgia. In 1890, his widow married David Rowell, 1824 - 1902. She had one son, Spencer M. Rowell, b. 1891, by David Rowell. She died Nov. 3, 1931, and was buried by Mr. Rowell in Emmeus Cemetery near St.George, Georgia.
His seventeen children settled in Charlton County, Georgia and much of the Hilliard and Callahan, Nassau County section of Florida and beyond.
Last Updated: May 31, 2013
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