Moon River Brewery
1832. Savannah, Georgia. 
Dr. Philip Minis and Thomas Spalding walk into the Old City Hotel, now Moon River Brewery, on Bay street; through the hotel lobby and into the barroom in the back. Hearing that his nemesis, James Jones Stark is upstairs, Minis sends a message up to Stark.  “Minis and Spalding are below and wish to take a drink with you.” At a little past noon, James Stark walks down the steps and into the barroom. Minis immediately  declares: “I pronounce James Jones Stark a coward.” Stark quickly reaches into his pocket as if to draw a pistol and advances toward Minis and draws the object from his pocket. Minis draws his own gun and fires at point blank range. The ball propels through the upper part of Stark’s chest below the neck, exits through his spine, and lodges into the side of the barroom door. Stark falls backwards. He is dead as he hits the floor. Nearby witnesses rush Minis. They scuffle for the gun. Minis -- his hat off, hair disheveled,is pushed about. He still holds his gun and threatens: “I’ll fire at you!”  The pistol holds them off.  “You must give up the pistol!” declares Dr. Richard Arnold, a close friend of Minis. Minis pauses, slowly gives the gun to Spalding, who gives it to Arnold. “You better come away,” Arnold says. Minis in the company of Arnold walks out of the hotel and down to the City Exchange building at Bull and Bay. “Get in my carriage,” Arnold says. Minis steps in and the driver whisks him away to the Minis offices “a few doors west of Christ Church off Johnson Square. Arnold walks the Square. A report goes out that Stark was unarmed. A great crowd gathers in the Square. No pistol, the report says, was found on Stark or about him. What became of the pistol – if indeed there was one? Three quarters of an hour elapse. Minis waits. The Sheriff arrives at the office of Minis. A coroner’s inquest returns a verdict against Minus of deliberate murder. He is arrested and taken to jail to be tried in January of the following year. Stark is buried the next day with military honors by the Savannah Volunteer Guards of which he was a member. His body is followed to the grave by a large crowd. Both men are well known in Savannah. A gloom descends on the city.

Three Months Earlier: Affairs of Honor and “The Code Duello”
The Horsetrack on Savannah’s West Side

Jewish doctor Phillip Minis consults with friends about what to name his horse. James Stark, passing nearby declares: “Name him Shylock,” referring to the infamous Jewish money lender in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and then calls Minis a “damned Israelite.” Minis challenges Stark to a duel. Stark apologizes. The affair slumbers until some of Stark’s friends induce him into retracting his apology. Minis sends another challenge. Stark accepts. Their seconds for the duel disagree about the hour.  Stark’s second, Thomas Wayne, wants them to meet at 5 pm that same day in the dueling ground near Screven’s Ferry on the Carolina shore. Minis insists he doesn’t have time to settle his affairs. He proposes dawn of the next morning or any hour after that they would prefer. The seconds, Wayne and and Thomas Spalding part without coming to an agreement. But Stark and Wayne go to the dueling ground anyway at 5 pm that day. Minis doesn’t show. They return to Savannah and publicly pronounce Minis a coward.

Luddington’s Bar, Savannah

Stark is drunk and is overheard calling Minis “a damned Israelite. He’s not worth the powder and lead to kill him.” Darker language prevails. Word gets back to Minis who is angered, though he considers the source and lets the matter simmer until mid-summer. Robert Habersham, a neighbor of Minis declares that Stark had been a “dissipated young man,” and had “broken his mother’s heart.” By August Minis had had enough.

January, 1833.

Superior Court in Savannah: The Murder Trial

The trial lasts six days. The jury deliberates two hours and returns a verdict: “Not guilty.”



    Chase Anderson is a leader of Savannah walking tours, historian, and professional Storyteller.


    March 2014