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Randolph L. Mott

Prominent Unionist of Columbus, Ga.

 

Randolph Mott and famous home

Randolph Lawler Mott was born on August 9, 1799 in Farquier County Virginia. In his youth, he apprenticed as a tailor in North Carolina and was acquainted with Andrew Johnson, the future president, who was similarly employed. Mott moved to Augusta, Georgia in 1819, then to Milledgeville where he met and married Mary Jeter in 1830. Mary's sister Julia married John L. Mustain the next year. The two brothers-in-law formed a business partnership that lasted many decades.

The Motts and Mustains moved to Macon where the partners ran the Hotel Washington. Mustain also owned the Macon Race Course. The hotel and race course were sold and the partners went into the stage coach business. Mott moved to Columbus in 1843. In 1845 Mustain was elected to the state legislature and Mott took over all the business operations. Mott became involved in the railroad business first as a stockholder around 1847 and later as a director of the Muscogee Railroad Company. Mott also began buying real estate in and around Columbus at this time.

Mott's business interests were many and varied. In 1857 Mott started purchasing shares of the Palace Mills. He eventually owned over 80% of mill and became its president in 1859. He also owned a large plantation (up to 1,800 acres) in Russell County, Alabama. He gave his occupation as "planter" in the 1860 census and owned 22 slaves at the time.

He was indicted in 1860, along with Charles A. L. Lamar in the Wanderer affair. Mott, Lamar and some other business associates brought slaves over from Africa aboard the ship Wanderer in violation of the fifty-year-old slave importation ban. This was the last time African slaves were landed in the U.S.

Although he was a slave owner, Mott was also a Unionist. In April 1865 he welcomed Major General James Harrison Wilson into home after Wilson's Cavalry Corps captured Columbus. Mott told Wilson that his property had never left the Union and that an American flag had flown inside his home throughout the War. Wilson had all the warehouses in Columbus burned except for Mott's.

After the Civil War, Mott continued in his business and civic affairs. He was mayor pro tem of Columbus and the former slaveholder became a trustee of the Freedman's Bureau. He was also a trustee of the insane asylum in Milledgeville. In July of 1881 he traveled to Atlanta to report to the government on the asylum. After conducting his business, he headed home. At the train station he met a terrible fate under the wheels of train. The accident was described in gruesome detail in both the Atlanta and Columbus papers. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus. Why he is buried in an unmarked grave is open to speculation. He was, however, known as a frugal man.

The following appeared on the front page of the July 21, 1881 Daily Enquirer-Sun.

Funeral of Col. R. L. Mott

The remains of Col. R. L. Mott reached the city from Atlanta yesterday morning at 11:10 o'clock. They were brought down under the care of Mr. Cliff B. Grimes, of this city, and Mr. D. W. Appler, of Atlanta. It is a singular coincidence that the engine John L. Mustain drew the train which brought the remains from Opelika. A large number of friends and citizens me them at the depot and escorted them to is residence. At five o'clock in the afternoon the funeral took place and was largely attended. Rev W. C. Lovett, pastor of St. Paul church, conducted the exercises. The following gentlemen were the pall bearers: W. I. Clark, J. M. Frazer, J. A. Fraze, I. G. Strupper, L. T. Downing, Amory Dexter, D. W. Appler, Cliff B. Grimes, Oliver McIlheney and W. H. Johnson.

Thus ends the last chapter in the history of a prominent and aged citizen, who fell victim to a most unfortunate and horrible accident. His remains were followed to their last resting place by a large concourse of friends, and among them many of the best and most prominent men in the city. May the sod rest lightly over his grave.

 

Compiled by Daniel A. Bellware (2006)

Sources:

Daily Constitution, Atlanta, GA, July 20, 1881

Daily Enquirer, Columbus, GA, July 20, 1881

Dodd, David, Randolph Lawler Mott, Muscogiana Vol. 8, Nos. 3&4

Swift, Charles, The Last Battle of the Civil War, 1913, Gilbert.

Wells, Tom Henderson, The Slave Ship Wanderer, 1970, University of Georgia Press