|October 21, 2009||SARA PERKINS||no comments|
|October 07, 2009||A FALL EVENING ON HUNGER AND HARDSHIP CREEK||9 comments|
|October 07, 2009||OLD GLORY AND THE FULL MOON||2 comments|
|October 07, 2009||MAYOR JIM PETERSON, Exposing the Klan||no comments|
|September 29, 2009||WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, GEORGE WERLEY?||1 comments|
|September 22, 2009||MEANWHILE IN DRY BRANCH||1 comments|
|September 18, 2009||HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAXON HEIGHTS!||no comments|
|September 13, 2009||GREAT BLUE HERON TAKING A SUNBATH||1 comments|
|September 12, 2009||CON WEDDINGTON - The Great Debater||no comments|
|September 05, 2009||GOVERNOR JOHN S. BARRY||no comments|
In God She Trusted
Sara Perkins trusted God. During times of tumult, tempest and trial in her life, Sara could always trust in the Almighty. During her terms as a political prisoner in China, God was the only one she could trust to get her through the quagmire of confinement to believe that one day she would breathe the air of freedom.
Sara Emily Perkins was born in Tennille, Georgia on the 23rd day of January 1892. Orphaned at an early age, Sara lived with her married sister. In her early years, Sara wanted to become a musician. She attended the College of Music in Washington, D.C. and taught piano in Shanghai, China in a school for children of American missionaries. After two years, Sara knew that teaching music was not what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Everywhere she looked, Sara saw poverty, disease and ignorance. She wanted to help change that, so she embarked on a course in the study of medicine half way around the world, where she began her studies of nursing at Peking Medical College. As a registered nurse, Perkins performed mission work for a year before returning to the U.S. to work as a public health care nurse in Charleston, S.C..
Learning the Chinese language was the first order of business after Sara's return to China as she was assigned to train Chinese nurses. It wasn't very long after she arrived back in China when the Japanese army invaded the country in 1937. During the early months of the fighting, Sara worked in the war relief efforts before she was taken as a prisoner by the Japanese. As an American, she was treated somewhat better than prisoners of other nationalities. In 1940, Perkins was granted a furlough and was sent to the United States. Knowing that her place was back in China, Sara returned to the war ravaged country, just six weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was only after the Japanese government learned that Japanese Americans were being interned in the United States that Sara and her fellow medical workers and missionaries were also confined in camps until an exchange of prisoners was completed in 1943. Sara returned to America on a ten-week trip on a slow boat from China. As she and her colleagues entered New York harbor, they began to sing The Star Spangled Banner. Tears streamed down their faces.
After the end of World War II, once again Sara left South Carolina and returned to her adopted homeland in 1946 on a 47 day trip aboard a Norwegian freighter. Once again, war returned to the Chinese mainland when the Chinese Communists launched a bid to take over the government. Sara had paid little attention to the Communists before, thinking of them not as a mighty force but a maladroit band of malcontents and fanatics. Sara and her colleagues heard reports of the Communists coming into their city and began to hide all their medical equipment. When the Chinese Nationals abandoned the city, the Communists conducted an orderly take over and for the second time in a dozen years, Sara once again found herself as a political prisoner.
Conditions in the prison camp slowly began to deteriorate. There was little contact with the outside world. When the captors were not around, Sara and her fellow prisoners listened to a homemade radio on a radio station in Hong Kong to keep up with the happenings in the war in Korea.
Sara recalled, "March 2, 1951, was a cold night. I had a little wood-burning stove in my room, and in order to conserve the heat, I had encircled it with chairs draped with various garments. Behind the chairs I placed a little tin tub and in it I took my last 'tub bath' for the next four and one half years." That's when things got worse. The guards came into her room and removed nearly all of her possessions. With little clothes to wear, Sara spent most of her days in bed. She was allowed to keep four copies of the Gospel of John, although her Bible was confiscated. She gave away three copies of her gospel tracts and kept the other close to her at all times.
The American prisoners were taken to Ku Kong prison, a dark dank moldy dungeon. To help pass the time and keep their sanity, Sara and the others recited Bible verses and played mind games with each other through their cell walls. Her room was furnished with a saw horse, which she used for a table, and two saw horses, which she planks on and used for a bed.
This was a time when Sara's faith took over and kept her going from day to day. She began to sing verses of This is My Father's World as she combated rats, mosquitos and oppressive heat.
In early 1952, Sara was taken to a larger prison in Canton, China. There, and especially on Sundays, Sara and the others were subjected to loud Chinese music and propaganda. Though she rated the prison food as "good and sufficient," the sight of a spider on the top of big bowl of rice never left the back of her mind.
It was in June 1954, when Sara began to have contact with her family. Her first letter and care package from her sister came on New Year's Eve. The Chinese took the good things and left her with the insignificant contents, though they were highly significant to Sara.
The year 1955 would be the last year she would be confined. As summer came to an end, Sara wrote in her autobiography, Red China Prisoner, "The bolt was slipped back and my cell door swung open to admit the messenger of my release. I was told to prepare to leave quickly. The admonition was unnecessary, my things had been ready for days." Sara's Chinese captors had kept her possessions intact, albeit her clothes were mildewed and currency was rotted. Her last meal was rice and chicken, but after eating rice twice a day for four and one half years, she ate the chicken and left the rice for the birds. As she rode through the Chinese countryside, Sara looked out the window of her train coach to see how much the landscape had changed. The train stopped at bridge. As she walked across the bridge toward the British guards on the other side, Sara saw no water, just the vision of freedom as she felt the hand of God helping her to walk.
On October 9, 1955, Sara boarded the President Cleveland for the long awaited trip back home. She knew she could never return to China and accepted her banishment as God's will as she recalled, "The night was glorious and I went up on deck to see the harbor of Hong Kong for the last time. It was beautiful in the starlight and I felt that I was standing between two worlds. The one I was leaving behind had been filled with an amazing adventure with God. The one toward which I was moving, though very different, would be filled with a continuation of that adventure, but the wonder of it would be measured by my faith."
I took this picture of Hunger and Hardship Creek from the bridge on Greenwood Drive on the evening of October 7, 2009.
I took this shot of a full moon and the flag over Home Depot in Dublin, Georgia on the evening of October 3, 2009.
MAYOR JIM PETERSON
Exposing the Ku Klux Klan
Mayor Jim Peterson of Soperton, Georgia may have lost some old friends, but he gained some new ones when he ripped off the hoods of three members of the Ku Klux Klan and exposed them to the world. His actions, which would later turn out to be futile at best, signaled a new movement around the South and the nation to rid the country of the white robed villains.
It was a relatively calm Saturday night in Soperton, Georgia on the evening of May 21, 1949. A frantic phone call came in reporting that there were women who were being frightened by hooded and masked men roaming the streets of the turpentine town. Klan activity in the Treutlen County seat had been relatively quiet, according to the mayor, who said, "A few crosses have been burned in Soperton, the latest one a month ago, but we haven't had any serious trouble from the Klan."
When the mayor arrived on the scene near his own home, he noticed two hooded men skulking around in the uniformed regalia of the Ku Klux Klan. Peterson, a popular mayor in his ninth term and brother of Congressman Hugh Peterson, approached and challenged the duo to identify themselves. When they refused, Peterson snatched off the hoods of Malcom Braddy and Joe Greene, a woolen mill worker. Peterson reported that during the scuffle, Braddy, an automobile mechanic for Henry Motor Co., struck him and knocked off his glasses.
Mayor Peterson enlisted the aid of Chief of Police M.D. Ware to investigate the commotion. The mayor and chief took Braddy and Greene back to the city jail and then drove around the neighborhood looking for more hooded suspects. They saw three more Klansmen and proceeded to arrest them as well. Peterson approached John Edge, a night watchman for the Georgia Highway department, and ripped off his hood. The other two partners fled as Chief Ware sent a fusillade of bullets into their flight into the darkness.
Braddy, Greene and Edge were placed in jail but quickly freed on a hundred-dollar bond each on the charges of disorderly conduct. The men were summoned to appear in City Court on Monday morning to answer the charges against them. According to law, it was the duty of the Mayor of Soperton to act as the judge in the absence of the recently deceased recorder. The hearing was rescheduled for June 13.
In the meanwhile, Peterson and his family traveled to Annapolis, Maryland to attend the graduation of his son, Ensign William C. Peterson, from the United States Naval Academy. While he was there, the mayor received a call from a government official in the area, who once challenged the Klan himself. Peterson couldn't turn down the man's offer to discuss the situation. That man was none other than Harry S. Truman, President of the United States. The men met in the White House for about an hour, but neither of them disclosed the points they discussed. Truman congratulated Peterson on his stand, and encouraged others to fight the Klan wherever and whenever possible.
Another recent and prominent Soperton graduate came to the defense of Mayor Peterson. He was Bill Bates, editor of the University of Georgia newspaper, The Red and Black, and the valedictorian of the Class of 1949. Bates, who would serve a short term as editor of the Soperton News before entering a successful journalistic career, called the mayor's actions "a smashing blow for decency," as he proclaimed his pride for his hometown mayor.
Dr. Samuel Green, Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, took offense to the mayor's actions against three of his flock. Rumors circulated throughout newspapers around the country that the Klan was going to sue the mayor for what they believed were illegal actions. Green told a writer of the Augusta Chronicle that he would prefer assault and battery charges against Peterson if they warranted. The Grand Dragon personally went to Soperton to investigate the matter. "If I find that these men were Klansmen and were conducting their business peacefully, I shall prefer charges against the mayor for jerking off their masks," promised Green, who told the reporter that under Soperton's ordinances, "The mayor had no more right to jerk of the masks than any stranger would have jerking off your hat while in your office." Peterson hoped that the Klan would not go to court, but was ready to vigorously take them on. The mayor held no grudge against the men who were charged, by citing, "The fellows involved in this incident and their associates for the most part are my friends and neighbors who have been led astray." He called them "well-meaning citizens, whose indiscretions, have been brought about by the strong and selfish leadership of the KKK."
Peterson decided that it was in his best interest and in fairness to the defendants to recuse himself and appoint James Waller, the city's mayor pro tem, in his place. With Mayor Pro-Tem Waller, a turpentine and cotton warehouse operator, presiding, a trial was held in a hot and packed court room in the back of the Bank of Soperton on the morning of June 13. Waller heard evidence from the police chief and Mrs. I. H. Hall, who testified that she was frightened by the three defendants as they lingered in the dark outside her home. Prosecutor N. G. Reeves introduced evidence to show that the defendants were carrying weapons concealed under their robes, but it was stricken from the record since the court had no jurisdiction to hear such charges. Ironically, Mayor Peterson was not called to testify.
Joe Greene was tried first and called to testify in his own defense. Greene alleged that he and the others were directing traffic to their meeting place when Peterson ran up and screamed, "What in the H are you doing here?"
Defense attorney Ross T. Sharpe shouted, "Everybody knows the only reason in the world we are trying this case is because these men were wearing hoods and robes. Are you going to say that of the 391 Klansmen in this county that everyone else, including Henry Wallace and the Communists, are welcome here, but the Klan is not?"
Sharpe continued his rant by asking the court to equate the Klansmen to Shriners and even Christians, who wore white clothing as a symbol of the purity of Christ. He loudly proclaimed that there was no law on the books which prevented the wearing of a hood or being a Klansman as he added, "You can put on your white night gown and walk down the street if you want to."
After the evidence was closed, Waller dismissed the charge for disturbing the peace against Greene by stating, "These men on both sides are all friends of mine. Joe Greene farmed for me for two or three years." His ruling applied to all of the defendants, but he reserved a ruling on the charges of loitering as he explained to the parties that he needed time to deliberate the fate of the defendants, this being his first trial he had ever handled.
On July 8th, James Waller dismissed the remaining charge of loitering and the case was legally over. In the end, Mayor Peterson's unmasking of three Soperton Klansmen was another small step in the eventual end of Klan activity in East Central Georgia just like back in the great state of Missouri, when ol' "Give 'Em Hell Harry" brought about the end to the local Klan.
George Werley grew up in a baseball town during the World War II years. St. Louis was the home of the Cardinals and the Browns, though the latter never proved to be a winner. In three of the four summers of the war, the Cardinals won the National League pennant. When he was growing up in the 1940s, George dreamed of one day playing on the diamond of Sportsman Park or at one of the other fifteen grand parks of the major leagues. That dream came true and sooner than he could have ever imagined.
George William Werley was born in St. Louis, Missouri on September 8, 1938. The six-foot two-inch, one hundred and ninety-six-pound pitcher, just out of high school, made his only appearance in a major league game for the Baltimore Orioles on September 29, 1956, just three weeks after his eighteenth birthday. In one inning of work, George gave up one hit, two bases on balls, and one earned run for a career earned run average of 9.00. He would never set foot on a major league mound after that Saturday afternoon in Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C..
The Orioles offered George, the 1956 Missouri American Legion Player of the Year, a contract. The agreement, which was offered exclusively by the Orioles in an attempt to sign more players, guaranteed that the player would see action in the major leagues in their very first season with the organization. And, sure enough, George signed the contract on September 2 and was playing in the big leagues less than four weeks later.
Baltimore manager Paul Richards called his phenom into the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. He figured there was nothing to lose since the sixth-place Orioles were being shut out 6-0 by Washington, first in the hearts of their country and usually last in the American League. George, wearing his gray #15 road jersey, walked from the bull pen to the mound. Everything was going well in the beginning. George got lead off hitter, the Nationals second baseman Herb Plews, to ground out to the first baseman Bob Hale, who tossed the ball back to George for the first out of the inning. Next up was catcher Ed Fitzgerald, who grounded out to shortstop Billy Gardner. With two out, Werley walked Pete Runnels, a journeyman first baseman. Roy Seivers, the 1949 Rookie of the Year and who played for the St. Louis Browns, the forerunner of the Orioles, also walked, forcing Runnels to second.
Worley still had a chance to get out of his first inning with no damage. With two on and two out, Jim Lemon, a future All Star outfielder for the Senators, singled to right plating Runnels to send the Senators ahead 7-0. George shook off the butterflies and bared down on the next hitter, third baseman Harmon Killebrew, a young struggling slugger and who thirteen years later would be named the American League Most Valuable Player, grounded out to Gardner to end the inning.
Neither George n or the 1,129 or so fans in attendance at the game didn't know it at the time, but his last pitch to the future thirteen time all star would be his last in the major leagues. The Senators held on to win the game, 7-1.
In Orioles history, the game was significant, but not because it was the game in which the youngest Oriole hurler appeared in only a single game. The little noticed milestone came in the final stanza. The Baltimore nine scored their sole run of the game in the top of the ninth when the young third baseman for Birds in only his nineteenth game of his career stroked his first major league home run to break up the shut out of Cuban-born pitcher Evelio Hernandez, who in his fourth appearance in the big leagues won his first and only game of his career. That young third sacker, who played the hot corner better than anyone else in baseball history, was none other than nineteen-year-old Brooks Calvert Robinson, Jr., an American League all star from 1960 to 1974. Brooksy was the 1964 AL MVP and a winner of the Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente Awards.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Werley "nevertheless showed a good fastball and considerable poise in his one-inning trial." George reported to spring training in 1957, but was assigned to the Fitzgerald Pioneers of the Georgia-Florida League, where he pitched in 21 games under the tutelage of player-manager Earl Weaver. George didn't fair well in Fitzgerald with the Orioles posting a 2-4 record and an ERA of 7.95, but he did earn a call up to the Class C team in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he appeared in only two games.
The year 1958 would be George Werley's best season in professional baseball. He rejoined his manager/second baseman Earl Weaver with the Dublin Orioles, a Class D farm club of the Orioles. In Dublin, George had a respectable year going 16-10 in thirty-five appearances. While his ERA was 4.28, he was second on the team in that category among the starters, ahead of Steve Barber, who would later become one of the Oriole's best left-handed pitchers of the 1960s. In the batter's box, George was the team's best hitting pitcher with a mark of .228 for the season.
One of George's highlights of the 1958 season was a 3-2 extra innings victory over the Waycross Braves on May 20th. George went the entire thirteen stanzas to garner a hard-fought victory.
For all of you sports trivia fans, George Werley is the answer to one of the most obscure questions about Dublin minor league baseball. He won the last game ever played by the Orioles in Dublin, a 15-4 victory over the Brunswick Phillies. George also pitched in the first Oriole game ever played in Dublin. He pitched very well, but got a no decision in the opening game loss to the Albany Cardinals. In another bit of trivia, the first Orioles game was umpired by John Kibler and Bill Haller, two long time veteran umpires of the National and American Leagues.
After a promising start in the 1959 season with the Pensecola Dons of the Alabama- Florida League, George was shipped off across the country to the Stockton Posts in California, and back to the Pheasants in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where his professional career ended.
Fifty years after his debut in the major leagues, writers for The Baltimore Sun attempted to contact George to get his feelings on his all too brief major league career. Werley, a Missouri businessman and president of the Wenzel Tent and Sleeping Bag Company, refused to talk, according to the sports department, about the long ago day when he walked to the mound in his first, and only, major league game. So, on the fifty-third anniversary of your making it to the big show, where have you gone, George Werley?
Tales of a Twiggs Town
They call this place Dry Branch, Georgia. There hasn't been a flood here in millions of years since the Atlantic Ocean pulled away from the fall line. But, eight to a dozen decades ago, the liquor flowed freely to the lovers of moonshine, while the teetotalers took no shine to the whiskey at all. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't the only place in Georgia or the country where folks took a drink. Like everywhere else, if they needed a drink, they usually found someone who would be willing, for a fee, to give them a snort of spiritous liquor.
T.J. Butler wanted to a make a living. And that living was selling liquor to all the thirsty throats he could on the outskirts of Dry Branch. On January 6, 1892, he paid his one hundred dollar license fee to the court in Macon believing that his establishment was at least three miles from the nearest church. He was wrong. Though he just made it according to the surveyor's calculations, T.J. Butler came up some sixteen feet as measured along the nearest public dirt road. The decision of the city court judge was clear, "The defendant is ordered to pay the sum of $50.00 for violating the inviolate laws of the state."
There was nothing that T.J. Butler could do about his store, especially the department where he kept his intoxicants. The anti-liquor crowd apparently took matters into their own hands. After much consternation of the part of Dry Branch residents, someone or a group of irate teetotalers set the place on fire. As a result of the midnight blaze, not a shingle was left. Though Butler had his establishment insured, the insurance only covered half of the $3000.00 loss.
Without a place to sell his spirits, the convicted criminal took issue with the fine and took his case to a higher authority, the legislature of the State of Georgia. On the winter solstice in 1892, the General Assembly voted not to allow him to sell liquor two miles, five thousand two hundred and sixty four feet from the nearest church, but to reimburse him for two-thirds of his license fee.
It seemed that it was illegal in the city of Macon to sell liquor. So, those who wanted their liquor to consume or sell made arrangements with depot agents in surrounding communities, including Dry Branch. Once the whiskey arrived, every night it would be placed on the Bibb County side of the line where the Maconites could come and pick it up. When no one came to pick it up the next morning, the agents were forced to retrieve the barrels of booze and bring them back to the station - a task which worried them much if a revenue agent came snooping around.
It was a cool night on the morning of March 29, 1916, when an ingenious group of whiskey drinkers figured a way to get their hooch without breaking into the depot in Dry Branch. They called under the building, took soundings to locate the barrels, and drilled holes through the floor directly into the whiskey barrels above. The contents were drained into some sort of container until the barrel was empty. The plan worked until it was uncovered by railroad detectives, who put an end to the scheme by exposing the whole brilliant plan.
Reginald Claypole Vanderbilt, son of Cornelious Vanderbilt, one of the world's richest men, came to Dry Branch on Groundhog Day in 1915 to visit P.W. Martin as his country home, "Ashantee," near Dry Branch. The visit was purely social, though the two men were former business partners. Vanderbilt partook of the fruit of the vine too often, dying of liver failure at the age of forty-five after squandering his seven million dollar inheritance. His greatest legacy was his daughter Gloria, who became a successful actress, artist and socialite.
Serpent admirers will love this story. If you don't like snakes, then skip this paragraph. Out on the Martin place, a short distance from Dry Branch, a man and his wife were walking around when he noticed a large Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake coiling his body and preparing to strike. Just as the viper rared back, it was struck with a mortal blow.
For all of the afternoon and most of the next day, the man took the snake all over Dry Branch to show it off. He had reason to be proud of his reptile. Someone laid it on the ground and marked off seven feet and six inches, an insignificant half foot short of an all time record. Curios collectors offered the man as much as $5.00 for the snake which had a girth of a whole foot at its longest.
Rev. Willie Barber had the devil after him. No, not the red horned underworld demon, but a widowed church sister, who had been hoodwinked by the wrong reverend. Barber organized a church in Dry Branch. His charisma charmed the widow so much that an instant bond between them led to the lady giving the pastor the hog and a cow to sell with the understanding that he would return the proceeds to her. Pretty soon, the minister was gone and so were the livestock and the money. After investigating the matter and finding that her trusted clergyman had gone down to form another church near Elberta, Georgia, where she suspected he was gone to swindle some swine from another trusting widow lady. She reported the crime and swore out a warrant for the arrest of the evil evangelist.
Most of us would never imagine a possum hunt would become a social event, but in early 1920s, it was the thing to do on cool Friday night in the fall. The men would forge ahead with their shot guns and dogs. The boys went out to E. Mallary's farm and bagged three fine possums for a supper with their ladies at Ed Loh's Caf‚ on Saturday night. Sometimes, both the ladies and the men would motor out to the woods, eat an early evening picnic and return home in the moonlight.
The clay hills of Dry Branch and its environs often reveal remarkable treasures, such as fossilized shark's teeth and sea animals. Luckier ground lookers have found diamonds and even tiny pieces of gold. Police officer Layfield was out walking when he spotted a good sized unusual stone shimmering in a creek bed. It turns out the object of the officer's eye was a moonstone, a silicate of potassium and aluminum. Layfield was so intrigued by his gemstone that he took it to a jeweler in Macon, who sent it to New York, where it was polished and fashioned into a scarf pin. Layfield's son had it set in a ring, which he wore for many years, not because of it's monetary value, but because moonstones are good luck symbols.
HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY, SAXON HEIGHTS SCHOOL!
For all of the last one hundred years it has been there. Sitting on a hill under the shade of a canopy of mighty oaks, Saxon Heights Elementary School has been the place where children of Dublin have gone to learn their ABCs, reading, writing and arithmetic. This is the story of the early years of one of Georgia's oldest existing elementary schools.
Near the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, Dublin's growth shifted to the southwest along Smith Street in an area known as "Quality Hill." The citizens in the area demanded a school on their side of town. The school board explored two options. One site was on the extreme southern end of town and the other site ,which was chosen, was on a hill along Smith Street, just west of Saxon and Pine Streets. The city council had the final say and opted to purchase the latter site at a savings of five hundred dollars and with the enthusiastic endorsement of school board chairman Frank G. Corker.
In mid September 1908, the acquisition of the land from Captain Thomas H. Rowe was consummated.. The board of education decided to carry on the practice of naming schools after a street on which they fronted. Though commonly called Saxon Street School, the correct name is Saxon Heights School, named for the area in which the historic institution stands. Rowe's second wife was named Emma Saxon Guyton Rowe, who the city honored with the naming of Saxon Street. At the time, Smith Street was not opened to Telfair Street, so the primary approach was along Grady Street to the front of the building, where its prominence could easily be seen from Telfair Street.
Immediately plans were formulated to extend Grady and Palmer Streets to give access to students as far north as Bellevue Avenue. The new building had to be ready to occupy by the beginning of the spring term in order to relieve the overcrowding in the high school building, which already housed an elementary division. Six thousand dollars was set aside for the construction out of the twelve thousand dollars remaining in the bond fund, an earlier version of the current S.P.L.O.S.T. fund.
The plans were changed and C.N. Cooper and his large force of hands didn't begin construction until early May 1909. A fourth entrance was added and the bathrooms were removed to underneath the building. By mid-July, the exterior had been substantially completed. Work on the interior was progressing at a rapid rate.
Though the new building was modeled after Rev. George C. Thompson's design of Johnson Street School, the interior was different and was built at a cost of an additional one thousand dollars. There were four large class rooms on each floor of the two story building. Each story had a large hallway and cloak rooms. Originally heat was provided by stoves, but the building was designed to accommodate a steam or hot air system in the future. A large auditorium was built in the rear of the second floor.
By the first of September, the facility was almost ready to open. City Street Superintendent S.J. Hattaway began the sprucing of the grounds. Trees were trimmed, grass was mowed and grounds were leveled to put the finishing touches on what was billed as the most handsome school in the state. Of course the people of Dublin were slightly prejudiced and rightly proud of their new school.
Exactly at nine o'clock on the morning of September 20, 1909, the doors were opened and the students went to their assigned classrooms before marching upstairs to the auditorium where their parents and school officials were waiting. Professor D.A. Walker, the school's first principal, initiated the opening exercises by leading the congregation in singing All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name.
Mrs. W.E. Harvill was there and reported that a fine talk was made on the importance of good school work. After that, one hundred and five pupils and their parents were given an orientation before the first lessons began in the city's third white elementary school. Two schools, one on North Decatur in the Scottsville neighborhood and another on Taylor Street, housed the black children of the city. Though the opening enrollment was sixty to seventy less than school officials had anticipated, the Superintendent Roland E. Brooks was confident that the actual number would rise as soon as all the crops were harvested from the fields.
Professor Walker taught the seventh grade while not attending to his duties as principal. His staff included Sarah Howard, who taught both the fifth and sixth grades. Minie May Green taught fourth grade, Mrs. C.E. Campbell was in charge of the third grades and Zoe Hightower was the second grade teacher. Alma Carrere was given the assignment of teaching the brand-new students in the first grade. Mary Hicks served as the school's first supernumerary, when and where her services were needed.
After just three months, the seventh grade was dropped. Professor Walker accepted a position at Lanier High in Macon. He was replaced by Mrs. E.C. Campbell, the city's first female principal, who did double duty by teaching the third grade. Though the appointment was supposed to be temporary until a permanent male replacement was hired, Mrs. Campbell served the school well for a number of years. Ida Belle Williams, who would later become one of the state's top teachers, took over the fifth grade. Carrie Shropshire became the new first grade teacher for the 1910-11 year. Schellie Prince was appointed as supernumerary and Mrs. George T. Rowe was assigned to summer school.
Among the other teachers in the early years were Hope Chavous, Ethel Hall, Gertrude Pierce, Florine Deese, Ethel Hall, Nancy Duggan, Dora Belle Shewmake, Mrs. R.Y. Beckham, Ruth Smith, Julia Porter, Nell Johnson, and Josephine Harrison.
Today, school fund raisers realize thousands of dollars with parents selling stuff to their friends and relatives. The parents organized the Saxon Heights School Improvement Club. Nine decades ago the students of Saxon Heights School were trying to raise money for a Victrola. They sold lunches and candy, realizing a nice profit. For fun they put on a "tacky party," minstrel show, and races. The students staged a show featuring impersonations of the faculty. The admission charge was ten cents.
The original building was used until the mid 1950s when it was replaced by a modern brick structure, which was substantially destroyed by a fire in the mid 1970s. The burned building was remodeled and expanded into the current facility.
Today, Saxon Heights Elementary School is recognized as one of the top elementary schools in the State of Georgia for its outstanding programs and the academic achievement of eleven consecutive years of achieving AYP, a mark unsurpassed by any school in the entire State of Georgia. So here's a cheer to the Shooting Stars of Saxon Heights, Happy Birthday! May your second century be even better.
I took this photograph of a Great Blue Heron taking a sunbath on the banks of the pond at Fairview Park Hospital on September 8, 2009.
"The Great Debater"
In Con Weddington's day, the sport of debating was usually reserved for only the most promising, brilliant and fine young men. To be a collegiate debater, and a champion one at that, guaranteed that one would rise to the level of most elite of the erudite, if one wasn't already there or thought that wealth equated brilliance. Con Weddington made that leap. His oratorical skills and debating prowess were rarely equaled in his days at the University of Georgia in the late 1800s. When he wasn't engaged in the study of law, philosophy and history, Con was wearing the tools of ignorance, a catcher's uniform for the Georgia Bulldogs baseball team.
Con Weddington was born on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year of 1874 in Douglas County, Georgia, a sleepy farming community west of Atlanta. The son of Charles William Weddington and his wife Virginia, Con was also known as Connie. When formally introduced, he was addressed as Cornelious Alexander Weddington, or simply, "C.A. Weddington," for short.
Charles Weddington was not financially able to send Con to a fine academy, so the young man learned what he could in the county schools. After completing his studies, Weddington returned to those same schools as a teacher.
At the age of 20, Con Weddington entered the University of Georgia on New Years' Day 1895. His life would change forever. Honors seemed to follow Con everywhere he went. He was elected Secretary of the Oratorical Association and in 1898, President. Con was also elected President of the Demosthenian Society.
But it would be in debate and oratory where Connie Weddington would make his greatest mark at Georgia. Weddington was awarded the medal for the university's best freshman and sophomore debater. He won the championship Debater's Medal in a highly publicized and honored debate with Emory University. The winner of the Stevens' Medal in debate, C0n Weddington was selected as speaker of the Junior and Senior Class at graduations.
Perhaps his greatest honor came on January 20, 1896 during an oratorical contest held in the university chapel. Weddington spoke to a capacity crowd, including at least a hundred aging Confederate Veterans. For his speech, "The Spirit of '61," Weddington was awarded the highly coveted Shropshire Medal.
Con Weddington was a pretty fair country baseball player. He joined the team in his freshman year and played all four of his years at Georgia. He began his baseball career as a catcher and ended it at first base. In 1896, his teammates elected him to captain the sophomore squad. While at Georgia, Weddington did his share of duty as a 4th sergeant in the university's military department.
After his graduation in 1898, Con Weddington began his study of the law with the firm of Dorsey, Brewster and Howell in the capital city of Atlanta. He came to Dublin at the dawn of the 20th Century to practice law. He lived with his cousin, Dr. James Weddington. In December 1901, he married the love of his life, Miss Georgia V. Smith, daughter of real estate magnate J.D. Smith. The couple had three children, Virginia, Gladys and Con, Jr.
When he first came to Dublin, Weddington resumed his military career as the captain of the "Dublin Guards," Company A, 2nd Infantry Regiment of the Georgia State Troops. He also resumed his baseball career playing along side James on the city's semi pro baseball team. As the first commander, Weddington helped to establish the first camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 1901. In April of 1903, Weddington joined fellow lawyer Kendrick J. Hawkins in establishing the Dublin Times, a forerunner of the Courier Herald. That same year, Colonel Weddington was honored when he was named attorney for the City of Dublin, a post which he held until 1905.
Active in fraternal organizations, Con Weddington was the first member of the Dublin Elks Club, serving as the club's Exalted Ruler. He was a Mason and a member of the Olivet Commandery of the Knights Templar as well as being a Noble of the Mystic Shrine, Sinah Temple, Macon, Georgia. Weddington held the office of Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias and Grand Master of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows.
In 1913, Weddington was elected Mayor of the City of Dublin, having been a popular and capable Clerk of the Council for many years.
Not soon after his mayoral term ended, the Weddingtons moved to the blooming city of Cochran where he would practice law. In the early 1920s, Weddington was made the acting postmaster of the seat of the newly organized Bleckley County.
The convivial Con Weddington was rarely without a friend nearby. Always affable, his host of faithful friends were suddenly shocked and stupefied when the news spread throughout Cochran that the town's popular postmaster had been arrested for secretly stealing money from the post office. Postmaster Weddington admitted to his guilt, waving a bond hearing and pleading no lo contendere to the felony for which he was sentenced to a humiliating year in a federal prison. After his release, Cornelious A. Weddington seemed to have disappeared from the face of the Earth. His widow Georgia Weddington died in Mt. Vernon, Texas in 1958 and is buried in her father's family plot in Northview Cemetery.
Cornelious Alexander Weddington was a good man. He made a mistake like most people do. No one knows why such as eloquent, educated and brilliant man would ruin his life and legal career by embezzling a relatively paltry sum of eleven hundred dollars. It is not my task to reason why he foolishly took the negative, but it is my endeavor to salute a man who, for most of his life, took the affirmative whenever he could.
GOV. JOHN S. BARRY
A Yankee Governor in a Georgia Court
How could a New Hampshire born school teacher and a future Michigan governor wind up teaching public school in Irwinton, Georgia? And, how could he be a member of the bar in a small southern village, where the barristers were all Georgians? John S. Barry did it and here is his story.
John Steward Barry was born in Amherst, New Hampshire on January 29, 1802. When he was big enough to plow, John began working on the farm of his parents, John and Ellen Barry. After completing his secondary studies, John accepted a position as a principal of an academy in the strange and distant land of Middle Georgia in 1824. Barry was given the duty of supervising the academy in Irwinton, Georgia. He brought his new wife, Mary Kidder, with him to his new home in a place unlike any other he had ever lived in.
Barry grew interested in the law. He studied every law book he could get his hands on and was admitted to the bar of Wilkinson County. During his brief tenure in Georgia, John Barry's stature in the legal community rose. He was appointed the governor as a member of his staff. Barry was further honored by his fellow Wilkinson Countians when he was named captain of the local militia company.
Growing tired of the legal profession, John moved his family back to the North, settling in White Pigeon, Michigan, where he went to work in the mercantile business of I.W. Willard in 1831, six years before it became the state's first incorporated village. His legal experience led to his appointment as Justice of the Peace for a four year term. When his partnership with Isaac Willard ended, Barry moved again in 1834 just up the road in Constantine, where he built the village's first frame building and general store in hopes of capitalizing on the trade along the St. Joseph's River.
Barry, representing St. Joseph's County, attended a constitutional convention in Detroit on the second Monday in May 1835. The delegates adopted a new constitution six weeks later. Two years later, Michigan was admitted as the 26th state of the Union. And right in the forefront of the political goings on was John S. Barry, who was elected as one of the Wolverine state's first state senators, serving from 1835 to 1838 and again in 1841.
Barry's colleagues were impressed with his political abilities. But the dynamic young politician's interests were not solely confined to the science of getting votes. Barry developed a burning desire to study the planting of sugar beets. His interest was so keen that he even traveled to Europe to learn more about the sugar rich roots.
John Barry purchased stock in the Michigan Southern Railroad Company. Later he became a director of the company and became actively involved in the management of the western division of the railroad, spending much time in New York and Chicago looking after the road's business dealings.
The Democrats of Michigan gathered for the purpose of choosing a candidate to run for governor in 1841. They enthusiastically nominated the Constantine storekeeper as their man. And, he won, becoming the fourth governor of the state.
Governor Barry faced an immediate crisis when he took office. The state's financial situations were dire, but Barry's strong fiscal policies brought the state out of the economic difficulties. Two years later in 1843, Barry, riding a tidal wave of popularity among Michigan voters, became the first Michigan governor to be re-elected to office.
Among the governor's most notable accomplishments during his first terms was the establishment of the University of Michigan, along with vast improvements to the public school system, an achievement which the former teacher took great pride in.
When the Michigan constitution prohibited a third term in office, Governor Barry stepped down. In one of his last official acts during his first term, Governor Barry served as a presidential elector for fellow Michigander Lewis Cass, who lost the 1848 election to Zachary Taylor. In 1849, Barry made history again when he became the first Michigander to be elected three times as chief executive of the state. Barry continued to focus his efforts on education by establishing the Normal School in Ypsilanti. In 1852, Barry was a member of the winning slate of electors for President Franklin Pierce.
Governor Barry, a solid supporter of the Wilmot Proviso which prohibited slavery in the states acquired from Mexico, was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1853. Looking beyond the halls of state government, Barry set his sights on the tumultuous national legislature in Washington. He lost, though he did, in 1856, represent his party in the Democratic National Convention at Smith & Nixon's Hall in Cincinnati, a raucous gathering which nominated the next president James Buchanan. He returned to the convention in nearby Chicago to re-nominate Abraham Lincoln.
A litany of adjectives describing the character of the late Governor Barry include incorruptible, brilliant, and determined. Though he had little education, it was said, "He mastered both ancient and modern languages and acquired a thorough knowledge of history." Though he was a popular politician, his biographers wrote that he was less than remarkable as a speaker, stating that his speeches were cold, hard, argumentative and totally lacking in rhetorical ornament. Solid is an adjective which defines the dedicated member of the Democratic party.
After leaving the political world, Governor Barry returned home to his mercantile business in Constantine. Mary Barry died on March 30, 1869, leaving John all alone. On January 14, 1870, at the age of 67, John Barry died at his home, leaving a considerable fortune to his brother, nieces and nephews.
Barry was eulogized as "a man who, throughout life, maintained a high character for integrity and fidelity to the trusts bestowed upon him, whether of a public or a private nature, as one of the most efficient and popular Governors the State has ever seen. He was always approachable by the humblest citizen and never carried about him a consciousness of the high position he had occupied."