Jim Cooper and his son, George Washington Cooper, operated the dry goods store that faced the railroad in Holts, as it was still called then, in 1915.
A part of the building was rented as a drugstore and soft drink bottling operation operated by Will and Bob Blackwell. The two men standing on the right side of the photograph above are believed to be the Blackwell brothers who were convicted of murdering Marius “Bud” and Nancy Davis one hundred years ago in March 1917.
Will opened the drug store around 1912. In 1916, he sold the store and moved to Crestview. Bob moved to Sylacauga, Ala., where he worked in cotton milling until Will’s plan to get his hands on some “fast cash.” Unfortunately, that plan ended with the death of the Davises during the home invasion. “Uncle Bud” and “Aunt Nancy,” an elderly couple who lived approximately 15 miles north of Camp Walton (in today’s town of Wright), were found by their son and daughter who heard the gunshots. The Blackwells were hunted, captured and indicted for the double murder.
The brothers were tried in Crestview before the new courthouse building was completed. At the end of the first trial day, Will slipped his handcuffs and escaped from the sheriff as the prisoners were being transported back to jail in DeFuniak Springs. Will was captured three weeks later hiding in an old smokehouse on a farm belonging to Henry Williams near Holts. Their second trial ended with both men convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced by the judge “to be “hung by the neck until dead, dead, dead.”
An appeal was filed, but before there was a ruling, both men escaped the Escambia County jail where they were being held, and were on the run for two weeks before being recaptured. The appeal was granted; however a second trial found them guilty and again sentenced them to death.
A number of people from Holts testified against the Blackwell brothers at both trials.
Will, 32 years old, died in prison in January 1919 of tuberculosis before his execution date. Bob, 40, was publicly hanged at the Okaloosa County courthouse in Crestview in 1920. This was the first murder trial, death sentence and hanging in the county since it was established in 1915.
Editor’s Note: If you have a photo of an old Holt memory, send it to Holt Enterprise News for Throwback Thursday at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to include what the photo is about.