Lavina Westberry


(JAROD2, MOSES1) was born 1853 in Hamiliton Co, Florida, and died in Lowndes Co, Georgia. She met (1) UNKNOWN Abt. 1868. She married (2) WILLIAM STANFILL January 28, 1871. He died Bef. 1878 in Georgia.

Wiregrass Obituaries and Death Notices – Vol. I

Polly, William And Sarah Stanfill – The Valdosta Times – Saturday, February 9, 1878

Arson And Murder.

Polly, William, And Sarah Stanfill Perish In A Burning House. Mrs. Lavina Stanfill; The Mother, Burned, Perhaps, Mortally. The Torch Plied By Her Step Son-In-Law And Step Grandson. One of the most terrible cases of arson and murder was committed near Ocean Pond, in this county, last Sunday night – the house belonging to Mrs. Lavina Stanfill, wife of the late Wm. Stanfill, and the victims being her three little children, aged respectively, nine, seven and four years.
During the night a negro man on the place discovered the dwelling on fire, and hurrying to the scene of the conflagration, arrived just in time to arouse Mrs. S., after considerable effort, from a deep sleep. She awoke to find herself quite cut off by the surrounding flames, and with a desperate plunge for life succeeded in getting out severely burned, from which she will probably never recover. The poor little children were unable to escape, for it was impossible for any one to reach them.

The oldest, a little girl, was seen to clasp the youngest in her arms and make a desperate struggle to escape, but the fire fiend had her entirely surrounded, and she but hastened their end by running into the jaws of a fast approaching and terrible death. She swooned and fell, and naught could be seen but the dim outlines of the two struggling forms in the lake of fire. The other child was unseen, but perished further in the house.
The sympathetic negro carried the suffering woman to his house and then returned to the smoldering ruins to keep vigil over the ashes of the innocent victims of a hand too foul to touch the earth with its pollution.

When the daylight brought relief to the solitary sentinel the neighbors gathered in and a search for the cause of the fire was made, and not in vain. Tracks were found to where a horse and mule had been hitched in the woods near by, and the tracks of the horse and mule led to Mr. Joseph L. Howell’s residence, just across the Florida line, who was a son-in-law of Mr. Stanfill’s – he having married a daughter by Stanfill’s first wife. Mr. H. appeared at the door and at the sight of the men turned pale and trembled. He being out of the State and the party having no authority to arrest they had to leave him.
The news of this harrowing affair having spread like wild fire over the country, and several persons having came forward and testified to numerous threats Howell had made to the effect that he would burn down her house over her head, a party of gentlemen gathered together and crossed the line with the intention of bringing him over at all hazards, but when they went to his house he and his son William had fled for parts unknown.

The difficulty seems to have been this: After Mr. Stanfill’s first wife died he married a Miss Lavina Westberry, a woman whose character was not suppose to be beyond reproach, and his son-in-law, Mr. Howell, and his children by his first wife, were very much embittered by the act, and until the old man’s death they were on anything but amicable terms. After the death of Mr. Stanfill came a bitter contention over the estate; however the liabilities were greater than the amount of his property, and after much litigation and trouble the widow got a dower, and the rest of the property went to the creditors. This was the cause of the trouble.
The evidence before the coroner’s jury gives a better idea of the subsequent plot on the part of Howell and his son to destroy the property and the lives of the second wife and her children; and how they endeavored to get Mr. Miller Clayton, another son-in-law of Mr. Stanfill, by his first wife, and his sons into the foul game.

The reader will agree with us that this is one of the most horrible deeds of the kind on record and let us hope that the hounds of justice will never rest until the guilty parties shall be brought to a just and merited punishment.


i. FERMAN WESTBERRY, b. Abt. 1868.

ii. JANICE WESTBERRY, b. Abt. 1869.


iii. POLLY STANFILL, b. 1869; d. February 03, 1878, Lowndes County, Georgia.

iv. WILLIAM STANFILL, b. 1871; d. February 03, 1878, Lowndes County, Georgia.

v. SARAH STANFILL, b. 1874; d. February 03, 1878, Lowndes County, Georgia.

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