It’s Halloween and that calls for a scary story. But, only the very best story will do. So, how about we tell you a story of a feud, a taunt, and a murder in cold blood. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? But, what if we told you that this story is 100% true? Our story begins, in picturesque Newborn, Georgia. There is a very grand brick building, right in the center of the town, that’s almost as old as the county itself. Known as the Childs Building, this historic structure houses the Newborn Town Hall and the Newborn Public Library. The library is small but filled to the brim with ancient tomes, fanciful fiction, and historic documents. But, the library holds more than knowledge. It holds the secrets of a murder. We call this tale, The Shoot-Out at the Robert Child’s Store.
There were once two neighbors who began a feud. Like most feuds in small towns, Mr. John Estes and Mr. Clifford Childs had disputed over land lines for many years. Everyone knew of the disagreement and it’s no wonder. In those days, land lines weren’t properly surveyed, which led to property boundaries being marked by a “large rock” or “crooked tree” or “creek bed”. One could see how properties could get confused. But, people assumed to let bygones be bygones and eventually the two would settle their disagreement. How wrong they were. On October 1st, 1916 this small feud took a very large and tragic turn.
Clifford Childs, and his brother Otis Lee, were enjoying a lunch of sardines and crackers, in the Childs’ Store. There was a rumor drifting around that John Estes was back in town and looking for the Childs. Of course, everyone knew where the brothers were. They owned the store, after all. Suddenly, Estes sauntered through the front door and was immediately spotted by Otis Lee. As if on cue, Clifford Childs began defaming Estes in a loud voice, knowing how enraged his nemesis would become.
In a flash, Estes drew his revolver and Clifford Childs whirled, leveling a 9mm German Luger directly at Mr. Estes’ chest. He fired! But the cartridge failed to catch. Now seized with panic, Estes shot directly into the chest of his opponent. The gun went off and found its mark. Estes would go on to unload his pistol into Clifford Childs. When the firing stopped, the air was still as the remnants of powder drifted slowly to the ground.
Although severely wounded, and bleeding profusely Childs tried desperately to fire several more cartridges, in an attempt at return fire. His efforts would be cut short by his wounds, and succumbing, Clifford Childs sank to the floor. Otis Lee, speechless with horror, dropped to his knees, and cradled his stricken brother’s head in his arms, as Estes, his face a pale mask of shock, reeled unsteadily out the back door. As Clifford Childs was carried away to his deathbed (he would die later that evening, in the old Post Office), a witnesses stopped, and picked up the 9mm Luger Childs had dropped. He walked to the back door of the store, pointed the gun at the ground, and pulled the trigger. The gun went off without a hitch. As if it were brand new.
Spooky, huh? John Estes would be later acquitted of the crime, but the stain of the murder would never really leave the Childs Building. The story of the shoot-out would become town lore, being retold several times through-out the years. This story has been adapted from an original telling by Charles McTeirye Gay, Jr., recorded in the 1930’s. If you’d like to learn more, visit the Newborn County Library! The librarians are always there to help you solve this murder for yourself. And, learn more about the fascinating history of the Newborn Library and Town Hall.