Murder. Is the propensity for taking the life of another embedded in the DNA of a man’s genetic code? One could argue that environment or circumstance or just plain bad luck be reason enough to place a man in the position of making a split second decision to pull a trigger and end a life.
What follows is a tale of the two Mize brothers who chose the path leading to the murders of two men, and the story of the two Fowler women who married the Mize men.
Solomon Mize was born circa 1821 in Union County, South Carolina. He married Nancy Dodd (b. 1832) and their first child, Mary Ann Mize, was born in 1848. Four sons were to follow — Thomas Mize in 1850, John Mize in 1853, Elliot Mize in 1857, and James Monroe Mize in 1859.
Mary Ann Mize married Benson Petty; Thomas Mize married Mary Carolina Vandiver; and Elliot Mize died a young boy. Their stories, their lives….. while filled with joyful events and human suffering…… lend little to the telling of the lives of their brothers John and James Monroe Mize.
Brothers John Mize and James Monroe Mize had more in common than shared parents. They both married Fowler women; they each pulled a trigger and were arrested for killing a man.
And as murder often goes, the two victims were related to their killers by marriage: John Mize ended the life of his wife’s cousin, and James Monroe Mize took the life of the man married to his daughter.
Enter Desdamona Fowler, the daughter of James Fowler and Caroline Hodge, both descended from the same Fowler family, endowing their daughter a double dose of Fowler DNA as well as a beautiful name.
James Fowler (1832–1862) was the son of William Fowler and Rhoda Moseley. This particular William Fowler was most likely the son of John Fowler “the Elder” (d. 1818) and his wife Fannie. Forthcoming DNA testing will confirm this, or not.
Caroline Hodge (1830-1912) was the daughter of John Jackson Hodge (1802-1882) and Martha Patsy Fowler (1809-1872). Womack Fowler (1785-1949) was the father of Martha Patsy Fowler, and of course, Henry Ellis Fowler (1746-1808) was the father of Womack. Martha Patsy Fowler’s mother was Susannah Moseley (1792-1878). DNA testing has already proven these relationships.
In 1860, six year old Desdamona Fowler lived in the household with her parents and two younger brothers. Her paternal grandmother Rhoda Fowler lived in the household next door.
Desdamona’s father, James Fowler, died before the 1870 census. She still lived in the household with her mother and siblings.
John Mize, age six, and his brother James Monroe Mize, age 4 months, lived in the household with parents Solomon Mize and Nancy Dodd in 1860. Mary Ann, Thomas, and Eliot Mize were the other children of Soloman and Nancy.
The Solomon Mize household remained the same size in 1870.
Shortly after the 1870 census was taken — and shortly could mean weeks or months or even a year or two — Desdamona Fowler, daughter of James, married John Mize, son of Solomon. Their first child was born circa 1872. Three more children followed in rapid succession. Then, trouble struck — John Mize killed a man.
Who was this man, John Lipsey?
John Lipsey was born in 1841 in Union County, SC. He was the son of Ricketson Lipsey (b. 1806) and Frances Fowler (b. 1815). He was married to Mary Burgess (1843-1915) and the father of John (b. 1864), Anna (b. 1868), Sallie (b. 1872), Silas (b. 1873), and Bobby (b. 1875). John Lipsey was also Desdamona Fowler’s second cousin.
John Lipsey’s mother Frances Fowler (b. 1815) was the daughter of Mark Fowler (1785-1862), son of John Fowler (d. 1818) and Fannie.
Desdamona Fowler’s father James Fowler was the son of William Fowler (17. -1800), son of John Fowler (d. 1818) and Fannie.
The spiderwebbed story of cousins and sons-in-law and murder gets way more complicated than this; but not to worry, there will be the familiar chart at the end of the article to help explain the twists and turns of this tale.
John Mize went to jail for the killing of John Lipsey. Both the 1880 census and the 1880 schedule for Inhabitants in Prison bear this out.
In 1880, the Solomon Mize household included Solomon, wife Nancy, daughter-in-law Desda (Fowler), and the four children of Desda and her “missing” husband John Mize: Charles, Martha, John, and baby Thomas.
John Mize was not in the 1880 census record with his wife and children, but he was found in the schedule below. In the Union County Jail. For murder.
John Mize was recorded in 1880 as one of three prisoners in the county jail.
Desdamona was not the only woman who had moved back into a household with parents; Mary Burgess Lipsey, now a widow, and her four fatherless children moved into her parents’ household, headed by her father Silas Burgess.
Poor dead John Lipsey was not forgotten. He was listed in a schedule in 1880 as well:
It’s difficult to read, but it states that 35 year old John Lipsey died in October 1879 of a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Good news for John Mize came in 1880. He was found not guilty of the murder of John Lipsey. The two articles below are somewhat conflicting in the reasons John Mize was set free.
Did the jury return a verdict of not guilty or did they fail to agree upon a verdict? Either way, John Mize was a free man.
What happened to John Mize after his return home from the county jail? He and Desdamona had four more children: Monroe Mimms Mize (b. 1883), Albert Horace Mize (b. 1885), Virginia James Mize (b. 1885), and Mattie Mize (b. 1887).
It must be mentioned that Monroe Mimms Mize and Mattie Mize were absent in the 1900 census within the John Mize household. Mattie Mize was named Mattie Smith on her marriage certificate. I am not totally sure that these two children were, in fact, the biological children of John Mize and Desdamona Fowler. Death certificates and other documents lend support that they were children of the couple, but I do suspect they may have been informally adopted from another family, even another Mize family. Please note that this is mere speculation but I find that things do not add up. More research is forthcoming.
Desdamona died or left the household, for John Mize married Margaret Anna Putnam (b. 1875) in 1891. John and his new wife had four children: Annie (b. 1896), Christopher Columbus (b. 1898), Bessie (b. 1906), and Ruby Estelle (b. 1909).
The John Mize family were in Cooks, Fulton County Georgia in 1900, but later returned to South Carolina, living in Greenville in 1910; and old John Mize, dying there in 1912.
This article is titled Murder: The Mize Brothers and Their Fowler Wives for good reason. I shall now take you down another path to murder with the younger Mize brother, James Monroe Mize.
Enter Harriet Fowler, daughter of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright. Bryant was the son of Stephen Fowler and his first wife, Sarah. Stephen was the son of Ephraim Fowler, son of Henry Ellis Fowler.
Harriet Fowler was a cousin to Desdamona Fowler two ways: through Henry Ellis Fowler, and John Fowler (d. 1818). Harriet was also a cousin to John Lispey.
Harriet Fowler married James Monroe Mize, brother of John Mize and son of Solomon. “Monroe” (as we shall now call him) and Harriet had two children: Logan Mize (b. 1881) and Viola Mize (b. 1884).
Logan Mize married Hattie Strain, daughter of John Strain, in 1902. Logan’s sister Viola Mae married John Gore, exact date unknown. John Gore and Viola were the parents of two living children, Jannie May (b. 1906), and John (b, 1908). Two other children had not survived.
Monroe Mize was a fiddler of local renown. His son-in-law John Gore played the banjo. Trouble was in the air when both men were invited to provide music for a dance to be held at the home place of William “Bill” Reynolds. The night would end with one man dead, and the other in jail. This tragic event took place December 12, 1908.
It is not mentioned in any of the press articles written about that dreadful night of how many patrons attended to watch Bill Reynolds dance. It is known that Logan Mize was there and John Fowler, son of Harriet Fowler Mize’s sister Emma Fowler Wilkins, was there playing a banjo, and very much involved in the events. John proved to be a credible witness at the trial.
It is known that Monroe Mize, Logan Mize, and John Gore stopped by John Fowler’s house to have supper before the dance. It has been reported that all but Monroe indulged in drink. Afterwards, the four men made their way to the home of Bill Reynolds where they continued their drinking.
They eventually made their way into a pasture where they built a fire, danced, cursed and quarreled, and — no doubt — drank. Things got out of hand as Saturday night rolled into Sunday morning. John Gore produced a knife and proceeded to chase old dancing Bill Reynolds out of the pasture. John Gore and Logan Mize got into a scuffle. The party broke up, Monroe and Logan Mize going to the home of Bill Reynolds; John Gore and John Fowler going to the nearby home of John Fowler.
As John Fowler and John Gore were preparing for bed, they heard Monroe and Logan Mize outside in the yard. The air must have been filled with rage for Logan Mize and John Fowler soon got into a fight. The four men were in the house, out in the yard, in the house, out in the yard. John Fowler’s wife, barefoot and in her night clothes, went into the yard, then back into the house. Guns were flashed about, harsh words spoken. It was chaos all around.
By the time the dust settled, Monroe Mize had fired three shots. John Gore lay facedown –dead — on the ground. John Fowler examined the body while the father and son Mize men departed the scene. They went to the home of Emma Fowler Wilkins, a sister of Monroe’s wife Harriet.
There was much written in the newspapers of the time. Both Monroe and Logan Mize were arrested. The trial was held in 1910. Logan Mize received thirty days on the county chaingang for carrying concealed weapons. Monroe Mize was sentenced two years in the penitentiary for manslaughter.
Monroe Mize was — without a doubt — a popular man in his community. I found many articles written about him ranging from stories about cock fighting to petitions trying to free him from the penitentiary. Add a banjo and a very colorful character comes to mind.
Viola Mize Gore married Mr. Cook in 1910 and began another family.
James Monroe Mize died in 1926 of heart and renal failure combined with flu.
Logan Mize was married and working as a blacksmith in 1921 in Charleston, South Carolina. It was reported that he had been making fun of the appearance of one James Slappey who took offense and shot Logan Mize in his legs. The gunshot shattered the bones and his legs were amputated. The shock was too great.
Logan Mize lived by the gun, and died by the gun.