This story comes from Hugh Harrington's "Remembering Milledgeville" available from History Press (Historypress.net) and published in 2005.
In 1887, in Baldwin County near Milledgeville, a family of eleven were dead or deathly ill after they enjoyed a meal together. The father, John Harris, together with his wife and nine children all became sick after eating a meal together. Before dying, they became so sick that they were unconscious. A local physician, druggist, and college professor were called to the scene. They examined the bodies, and immediately posion was suspected.
According to Harrington, "The story gets even more interesting as it was said that John Harris had a dispute with his brother-in-law, Jim Bonner." It was said that Jim Bonner was a "practitioner of voodoo." It was reported that Jim Bonner said that since John Harris did not believe in voodoo and its power, that his whole family would meet the grim reaper within one month. After the death of four of his children and his wife, John Harris became quite ill, a maniac, according to Harrington. He was thrown in the State Lunatic Asylum.
Jim Bonner was arrested by local police upon suspicion for murder. Rumor had it that he was a practitioner of voodoo, using medicinal plants and roots that he gathered in nearby swamps and such. Although he was kept in jail for a time, he had to be released because there was no real evidence against him. He and his wife eventually left Milledgeville and went to Putnam County. After a few days at the asylum, John Harris died in convulsions. The stomach of Mrs. Harris had been sent to Athens to be examined for possible poisoning. However, there was no evidence of poison, and the results of the examination did nothing to solve the mystery. The possibility of spoiled food was mentioned, but no proof offered.
Noone knows for sure what killed John Harris, his wife, and four of his children. As Hugh Harrington writes in his book, "Bonner may have been entirely innocent or perhaps he had committted the perfect crime through the use of voodoo. Who can say for sure?"
This is a very interesting story. I find it very odd that so many of the family died around the same time after eating the same meal. Wouldn't their mother and father be smart enough to have spotted spoiled food before they ate it? Who knows? But this case is very weird. Was it the work of a voodoo doctor, or just pure coincidence?
I highly encourage buying a copy of "Remembering Milledgeville." There are quite a few stories in the book about murders and other local mysteries from Milledgeville and Baldwin County. You can also check out Hugh and his wife's work that they have done out at Memory Hill Cemetery in downtown Milledgeville. (or nearby, rather)