Here is what I found when recently searching for J.M. Dobbs, Sr. in Google Books. Google has a vast collection of old books scanned and indexed from public and private libraries throughout the country. I had thought that when my great-grandfather took a presidential appointment and left Atlanta, Georgia, for Valparaiso, Chile, in the spring of 1893, he had sold his share of a lumber company in Atlanta. That narrative has been corrected upon finding an entry in a journal documenting cases before the Georgia Supreme Court during the March and October terms of 1895 – The Dobbs Lumber Company v. Appling.
I keep trying to slice through all the legal mumbo-jumbo in Justice C.J. Simmons’s opinion; however, I cannot figure out what this case is about. It appears that someone named Appling filed a lawsuit against three men and a company in which my grandfather had a controlling share. One of the men was a younger cousin of my great-grandfather. His name was Walter E Dobbs (b. 1873). He was as close as kin as one could come. Walter’s paternal grandfather, Jesse Dobbs, was my great-grandfather’s great-uncle on his father’s side, and Walter’s paternal grandmother, Mary Prothro, was my great-grandfather’s great-aunt on his mother’s side.
The law firm that represented the Dobbs Lumber Company, Candler & Thomson, was the most powerful in the city of Atlanta. Another younger cousin of James was Samuel Candler Dobbs, who later became the chairman of the Coca-Cola Company in the 1920s.
The case before the Superior Court of Fulton County was decided in favor of Appling. Then the Dobbs Lumber Company appealed the case to the state Supreme Court. The case was settled for the plaintiffs in error, meaning that the Dobbs Lumber Company won the judgment. Despite my lack of comprehension, I can pick out the juicy parts of the decision. The takeaways from my reading of the opinion are that my great-grandfather made a fortune working for the railroad in Panama – at least enough to become the principal investor in an Atlanta Lumber Company. Also, when he was around the mill, he did not do any actual work. But as to how any of that is relevant is beyond me.
I read in the opinion that on the eighth day of November 1889, J.M. Dobbs and W.E. Dobbs signed a 10-year lease for the property in Fulton County to establish a lumber mill. James M Dobbs “made affidavit that he was a member and owned the principal interest in a partnership doing business under the firm name of Dobbs Lumber Company and that the half interest levied upon was not the property of W.E. Dobbs but was the property of the Dobbs Lumber Company.“
In the next part, I cannot tell why this information is pertinent to the case; nevertheless, during the trial before the Superior Court, someone (Appling?) testified: “at the date of the levy, James M and W.E. Dobbs were in possession of the property levied upon. I saw W.E. Dobbs frequently about the place seem to the business, and at one time bought from him a bill of lumber.
“I do not remember the particular thing I saw James M Dobbs doing, but he was about the mill.
“There was a wooden shed on the lot under which the machinery was placed. The machinery was attached to the floor in the building. There was lathing machinery and the belting for running the machinery. There was a dry kiln also upon the lot. The business carried on was that of planning lumber, buying and selling lumber, and building houses. The value of the machinery and the houses, I think, was $2500, and I think the property was worth for rent about $300 a year. I saw on the premise printed the name ‘Dobbs Lumber Company.’ There were quite a number of others besides W.E. and J.M. Dobbs working about the mill, but W.E. Dobbs seemed to be directing the work. I did not see J.M. Dobbs doing other work than that done by W.E. Dobbs.“
The Dobbs Lumber Company was represented in court by the law firm of Candler & Thomson. At some point in the preceding, the lawyer for the plaintiffs explained to the judge that J.M. Dobbs was in Chile and has been since shortly after Pres. Cleveland went into the office and appointed him consul at Valparaiso, Chile.
As for Cousin Walter, the lawyer said: “[he] is not in the city. When the case was called for trial. I suppose he was, but upon inquiry found he had left a day or two before, and his employer, for whom he was traveling, could not tell where he was; and being without witness, we withdrew the claim.” I think the lawyer is referring to another claim made against the lease with a second party also named in the suit filed by Appling in the Superior Court.
Here is a link to Dobbs Lumber Company v. Appling at Google Books.