31 March 2014

More On the Life and Death of Judge Frank Cone: Stabbed a Man Six Times & Approved His Own Epitaph

The Honorable Francis Hiram Cone, in addition to being a well-respected lawyer and judge, seems to have been quite the character. I found several articles depicting him as such -- with emphasis on his faults as well as good quality traits. Here are a few highlights from three of the items I found. All were viewed online at GenealogyBank.

Article one is from the 25 May 1859 edition of Georgia's Augusta Chronicle, page 2, entitled simply "OBITUARY".
Died at his residence in Greensboro, Ga., on Wednesday, the 18th May, 1859, the Hon. FRANCIS H. CONE, one of the most eminent lawyers of the South.

He was born in the township of East Haddam, in the State of Connecticut, on the 5th day of September, 1797, at the family mansion, where his ancestors had lived for more than one hundred and fifty years. He died the proprietor of his paternal acres, bequeathing them to one of his sons. His father was a soldier in the was of Independence, and participated in several of the sanguinary conflicts of that great struggle. He received his education at Yale College, and graduated with honor in the class of 1818...In 1824 he removed to Greensboro, and there commenced the practice of the law. Unknown and unassisted he came in competition with the talented Bar of that town, then composed of some of Georgia's most gifted sons, among whom stood conspicuous,...William C. Dawson...In January, 1829, he married Miss Jane Cook, orphan of George Cook, of Jefferson county, and ward of the late Judge Dawson, under whose hospitable roof the marriage took place. This happy union was severed by the untimely death of Mrs. Cone, who died in 1840, leaving two sons and a daughter, all of whom still survive.

...For three months, he was confined to his bed of death, yet no murmur or word of complaint escaped him...Calm and resigned to the will of Heaven, he awaited his last summons, and died confidently trusting in the wisdom and mercy of his Creator.
The second article is a favorite because it describes the physical characteristics of Judge Cone. It's from the 14 June 1867 edition of Georgia's Macon Weekly Telegraph, page 1, entitled "Sketches of Georgia Lawyers: Number Five: Francis H. Cone".
Among the able deceased lawyers of this State, this gentleman is entitled to be classed...

...His person was rather remarkable -- of medium height, full habited and heavy. His face was round and rubicund. No one would mistake him for a starveling -- nor yet for a bon vicant...He relished a glass of wine or other like creature comforts, but was by no means a devotee of Bacchus. His large fleshy face was lit up by eyes black and sparkling, the visible testimonials of geniality and genius. He wore, too, a fine head of hair, which he was accustomed to neglect. He had not the presence of majesty. He did not assume the port of Jove, nor emulate the beauty and grace of Apollo. His gait was shuffling and his manners rough -- something uncouth...

...He was a practised marksman, and shot folly on the wing. He had great contempt for snobishness and pretension in all its forms...
Before I move to the last article, followers of historical Southern politics might also remember (or like to know) that Judge Cone is sometimes most remembered for something not even whispered about in these articles -- stabbing future Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens six times in front of an Atlanta hotel in 1848. A very brief overview of the incident is at Wikipedia.

The final article mentions the epitaph and monument placed for Judge Cone. It is from the 17 June 1912 edition of Georgia's Augusta Chronicle, page 4, entitled "Judge Francis H. Cone: Reminiscences".
Judge Frank Cone of Greensboro, Georgia, was one of the most original as well as picturesque characters of his time...

He was a man of most unique personality and a man of infinite jest. There are more laughable anecdotes told of him than almost any other man in Middle Georgia. He was a great friend of United States Senator Josh Hill of Madison, although these two were totally unlike in manner, disposition and temperament.

...When Judge Cone was on his death bed, he sent for his friend Senator Hill and told him his time had come and he wanted him to write his epitaph and bring it to him and let him see it before he died. Senator Hill did so, and read it over to him...

Judge Cone's monument is one of the handsomest and most conspicuous in the cemetery at Greensboro, and on it inscribed the epitaph which Senator Josh Hill wrote and Judge Cone read and approved of before his death...
© 2013-4 S. Lincecum

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