|November 29, 2011||JUDGE KENDRICK J. HAWKINS||no comments|
|November 29, 2011||CAPTAIN T.J. JAMES||no comments|
|November 09, 2011||JIM "FLASH" FORDHAM||no comments|
|November 09, 2011||OUR FIRST FALL FAIR||no comments|
|November 09, 2011||SOME SPECIAL ELECTIONS||no comments|
|November 04, 2011||UP THE CREEK WITH A NAME||no comments|
|October 12, 2011||MARSHALL CHAPMAN||no comments|
|October 03, 2011||A LANDMARK OF CHRISTIANITY||no comments|
|October 03, 2011||HE CAME, HE KILLED, HE GOT BLOWN UP||no comments|
|October 03, 2011||THE RICHLAND TRADITION||no comments|
EXTRA, EXTRA READ ALL ABOUT IT!
Editor Becomes a Judge
Kendrick J. Hawkins spent most of his early adult life writing about judges, their rulings, their faults, their pedigrees and their deeds of public charity. A century ago, the attorney and former editor of the Dublin Times, became the first judge of the newly created Dublin Judicial Circuit.
Kendrick Hawkins was born on July 11, 1870 in neighboring Washington County. His father, William A. Hawkins, served the Confederate States of America during the late war and bore the scars of a grievous wound he suffered at the horrific battle at Chickamauga. His mother, Mary Mayo Hawkins, was a native of the south Georgia county of Dougherty. The Hawkins left Washington County in the mid 1870s, and moved northward to Hancock County.
Kendrick Hawkins' family could hardly be called wealthy. At the age of fourteen, Kendrick was forced to drop out of school and take a job as a printer's devil. That fortuitous happenstance led to his removal to Warrenton, Georgia and later on to nearby Gibson, Georgia, where Hawkins entered the newspaper business at the age of seventeen, making him one of the youngest editors in the history of the State of Georgia.
In one of his earliest assignments, Hawkins became the co-editor of the Tennille Enterprise. By mid-spring of 1890, Hawkins was selected as the sole owner and editor of his native county's second largest paper. Within three months, Hawkins returned to Gibson to take the position as the editor of the Gibson Enterprise-Record. Hawkins' affable personality and ability led to his election as the Mayor of Gibson, one of the city's youngest mayors.
By 1895, Hawkins yearned to expand his horizons. He studied law under Judge B.F. Walker of the Toombs Judicial Circuit of northeast Georgia. His experience as a newspaper writer and editor immensely aided the driven young man to stand before the bar for examination in two short years. Hawkins practiced law in Gibson for some half-dozen years before making a life altering decision to move to the rapidly grown metropolis of Dublin, hanging out his shingle in front of the Pritchett Building, some two years after marrying his bride, Mary Leola McNair.
Hawkins, a hard worker, established a substantial law practice. One biographer wrote, "He had a good reputation as a lawyer. His arguments were always forceful, and his treatment of his cases was so clear and simple that he was seldom involved in useless technicalities." Hawkins returned to his first love when he founded the Dublin Times in 1904.
One tell tale sign of his success came in the 1906 trial of Gus Tarbutton and Joseph Fluker. Hawkins was hired along with Peyton Wade and J.B. Hicks by the State of Georgia to assist the Circuit Solicitor in the prosecution of the defendants for the murder of Letcher Tyre. In those days, state prosecutors were forced to hire highly regarded private assistants to compete against the high priced attorneys hired by wealthy defendants. Mostly assistant solicitors were hired to keep those highly regarded assistants from joining the defense case. The 1906 case eventually died a slow death when the Laurens-Johnson county line was shifted to change the venue to Johnson County court, where the prosecutors and the jurors were more sympathetic to one of their own citizens.
Hawkins' continued success and outstanding reputation among other lawyers led to his appointment as Judge of the City Court of Dublin in December 1908. Hawkins continued to practice law as well as devoting time to his civic duties as an officer of the Citizens League and the Dublin Chapter, Royal Arcanum. Hawkins was also a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, and the Woodmen of the World. Judge Hawkins saw many opportunities to cash in on the many business opportunities which arose during the zenith of the Emerald City's unparalleled business boom of the 20th Century's first decade. Hawkins invested in the Union Grocery, one of the city's largest groceries. He personally formed the Garage Equipment Company as its founding president in 1909. Ironically, while riding in an EMF roadster, Hawkins and three prominent men were nearly killed when their car flipped over in the sandy road bed of Bellevue Avenue in front of the current Chamber of Commerce building.
In the spring of 1911, Hawkins announced that he would become a candidate of the Oconee Judicial Circuit. Just four months later, his plans were changed when the act creating the Dublin Judicial Circuit was approved by the Georgia legislature on August 18, 1911.
The circuit was originally composed of four counties; Laurens, Wilkinson, Twiggs and Johnson. The circuit would be officially formed on January 1, 1912. But, by the end of the first year, Wilkinson County would ask and receive permission to join the Ocmulgee Circuit. Treutlen County was moved from the Oconee Circuit to the Dublin Circuit in 1958 to compose the circuit's current configuration.
In one of Judge Hawkins' most controversial grand jury charges, the member of the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks charged the Laurens County Grand Jury to abolish the Elk's Locker, which he deemed to be a place where whiskey was illegally sold and consumed. Judge Hawkins, a staunch prohibitionist, asked the Grand Jury to indict his fellow Elks for their crimes citing that four of five crimes can be directly traced to the demon rum. The charge drew cheers from sincere church folk and the liquor loathing ladies of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. In confounding his friends, Judge Hawkins stated, "It is just as illegal to sell whiskey in a fashionable club room as in the back alley, and that the law was no respector of persons and should be enforced all alike."
In a case of first impression in Georgia, Judge Hawkins was asked to rule on the issue of whether or not a woman may remarry after a divorce and still seek alimony against her former husband. While it was the generally accepted practice to terminate support to a former wife upon her remarriage, the issue had not been directly addressed in state statutes or in common law precedents. In the case of Emma Tharpe vs. C.A. Tharpe, both Twiggs County, Mrs. Tharpe took her ex-husband back to court to force the continuation of her monthly, twenty-five dollar supplements following her remarriage. With no precedents to guide his decision, Judge Hawkins exercised his "common sense" belief that no man should support another man's wife.
On the morning of July 11, 1914, Judge Hawkins was leaving the business section of town. He wasn't feeling all that well. His brother, W.M. Hawkins had just been buried in Atlanta a few days before. In discussing the death of his brother, Judge Hawkins told friends, "I wish when the time should come to cross into the Great Divide; that I go suddenly and without suffering a long period of illness.
It was his 44th birthday and the judge wanted to spend it catching up on some of his reading. All of a sudden, the Judge slumped in his chair. His family rushed to his side. Neighbors futilely came to his aid, but to no avail. He died in just five minutes.
Judge Hawkins was succeeded by William W. Larsen, Sr., who eventually did run against and win the Congressional seat Hawkins once eyed. At the age of forty-four, Kendrick J. Hawkins was a rising star in the judicial ranks. His judicial ability and temperament were ideal for advancement outside the limits of his district. He was going to be a giant in the judicial and political ranks of Georgia.
CAPTAIN T.J. JAMES
The Founder of Adrian
In the last twenty-five years of his life, Thomas Jefferson James was known as a builder of railroads. At the turn of the 20th Century, Captain James, as he was dubbed by all those who admired him, built a small metropolis in the wiregrass fields of East-Central Georgia. James died in Atlanta one hundred years ago on November 28, 1911. This is his story.
Thomas Jefferson James was in the northeast Central Georgia county of Jones on June 20, 1846. His mother, the former Miss Druscilla Lyles, died just before Thomas' fourth birthday. His father, Benjamin Jones, while visiting his elder sons in the Confederate Army fell victim to a fatal case of pneumonia and died on September 11, 1861.
Thomas was sixteen, strong, and eager to join his brothers, Abel and William. He traveled to Caroline County, Virginia, where on the 2nd day of June 1863, Private Thomas James subscribed his name before J.N. Beall on the enlistment roll of Company B, 12th Georgia Regiment, known as the Jones Volunteers. A single month later, Thomas James would witness the greatest carnage in the history of North American warfare. Serving in the brigade of George P. Doles, of Milledgeville, James's regiment attacked from the north into the town of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Luckily, the regiment was not heavily engaged and casualties during the three-day epic battle were relatively light.
Things wouldn't be so easy at Spotsylvania Court House on the 10th of May 1864. The 12th regiment was overrun by Union forces at the Mule Shoe salient. Nearly all of Company B's soldiers still in action were captured, including James and his brothers Abel and William. They were taken prisoners and imprisoned at Point Lookout Prison in Maryland. The James boys were then transferred to the den of death, Elmira, New York, where Confederate prisoners died at a rate equal to or greater than their Union counterparts in Andersonville, Georgia.
By the end of October the number of prisoners crammed into an inefficacious facility designed for three thousand men had swollen to more than ten thousand prisoners. Decades after his imprisonment, T.J. James told of the horrors of his internment at Elmira. T.J. James recovered from a severe bout of measles. William succumbed to Typhoid pneumonia on October 1, 1864. To pass their time, the James brothers learned how to make gutta percha rings made from silver or pearl with thirteen stars representing the Confederate states. They sold them to the Yankees for a few dollars each. Abel and Thomas along with another prisoner used spoons and case knives to dig a tunnel under the house sixteen feet under the outer wall. Their escape was foiled, probably by a camp snitch.
Some five weeks after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Thomas James told his captors that he would sign an oath of allegiance to the United States, because all he wanted was to go home. Finally, a month later in the middle of June and after eleven months in prison, Abel and James began their long trek home.
When Thomas James returned home, he found his homeland decimated, barren, and burned. He returned to farming, going to school when he could. By the age of twenty-five, Thomas James's future began to be apparent. In 1868, James went to work as a common laborer on the Macon and Augusta Railway. He saved his scant salary until the "Panic of '73" tolled railroad construction in the state. James went to work for the contracting firm of J.T. and W.D. Grant on the Chattachoochee River. The firm purchased the 4,060- acre, $100,000-dollar, Old Town Plantation just below Louisville, Georgia in Jefferson County. James bought out the Grants in 1884 with other partners, including U.S. Senator and Civil War Governor of Georgia, Joseph E. Brown.
After the economy rebounded, Thomas James bought out his partners and began the practice of leasing convicts from the State of Georgia. Within fourteen months, James' gang of convicts, reportedly numbering as many as three thousand men, built more than 225 miles of railroads across the state. Capt. James, as he was known then, joined a large saw milling operation under the name of the Southern Lumber Company. When the company faltered, James purchased the assets and transformed the ailing company into a profitable operation.
Capt. T.J. James built his own railroad, the Wadley and Mt. Vernon, which ran from its terminus in Jefferson County, southwesterly through Kite, Adrian and Rockledge. The railroad never made it to Mt. Vernon, but did run another line into Emanuel County and operated at the Wadley Southern Railroad.
James expanded his operations to include timber and farming. He was one of the largest planters in the state and certainly the largest in East Central Georgia. His operated gristmills, sawmills, and cane syrup plants on his farm and timberlands which encompassed 38,000 acres.
Thomas James moved his headquarters to the western corner of Emanuel County in a small community named Adrian. James personally made improvements to the infrastructure of the fledgling town, furnishing the town with water from his well east of town on the Ohoopee River and his electric light plant. He owned James Mercantile Company and the Farmers Bank of Adrian.
Captain James was always looking for ways to improve his railroads. In the early spring of 1899, he traveled to Atlanta to put in a bid for the trains of an insolvent traveling circus company. There he met George V. Gress, who was solely there to acquire the circus animals. James and Gress discussed their wants, entered a joint bid of $4,485.00, and walked off with their respective prizes. James took his train cars back to Adrian. Gress offered the animals to the city of Atlanta. The city council accepted. Gress, a lumber dealer, built a building and cages, which became the Atlanta Zoo.
On June 30, 1881, Mr. James was united in marriage to Miss Alice Cheatham, of Jefferson county and a direct descendant of Gov. David Emmanuel, America's first Jewish born governor. They had six children, Thomas Jefferson, Jr., Alice N., Arthur Emanuel, Frank C., Albert H. and Annie M. James.
James told biographer A.B. Caldwell, that he found relaxation in horseback riding and musical evenings spent at home. James credited his success to his parents and the "habits of industry and frugality" that they taught him, along with private study and contact with business men. To the young he commended, "truthfulness, honesty, careful calculations and thoughtful execution, regular and temperate habits."
James held few political offices, but he did serve on the town council of Adrian. He was so loved and so admired that during the "new county" movement of the early 20th Century, residents of the area nearly succeeded in garnering a new county, James County, with its seat in Adrian, Georgia.
It was in 1909 at the height of his business career when Capt. James' health began to fail. He moved to Atlanta in hopes of better medical care. He died in an Atlanta hospital just before 2:oo o'clock, p.m. on November 28, 1911.
Capt. Thomas J. James left his footprints across East Central Georgia. Along the 680 miles of railroads his crews built grew the small towns which are the roots of our area's long and rich heritage, all of which ended one hundred ago.
The Fastest Man on the Field
The folks of the twin cities of Graymont and Summit didn't call their star running back "Flash" for nothing. Jim Fordham could fly up and down the gridiron with ease. And, he was big and strong too. He may have been one the greatest University of Georgia running backs that you never heard of. And, I will bet you that you didn't know he was only the second Georgia Bulldog running back to be drafted into the National Football League.
Fans of the Emanuel County Institute's football team back in the mid 1930s knew Jimmy Fordham could run, block and tackle. His opponents couldn't stop him as he galloped up and down the gridiron on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Fordham's senior season at E.C.I. came in 1935. That year, the boys from Twin City easily defeated their opponents, including their intra county rivals from Swainsboro, whom they beat twice.
In the first game with Swainsboro, half back Fordham came into the game, broken arm and all, and was responsible for the winning score. In one of Fordham's most outstanding games, he scored seven touchdowns to lead his team to a 50-0 shutout of rival Millen High. Standing on the sidelines, salivating at the sight of future college running back, was University of Georgia coach, the legendary Vernon "Catfish" Smith.
A rematch with Swainsboro was played on Thanksgiving afternoon. A large crowd was hoping for another upset like the city boys put on the highly touted eleven under the tutelage of Coach George Hagans. Once again, the E.C.I. team left the field as the champions of Emanuel County.
In the days before Georgia high school teams competed for true state championships, the pinnacle of success was the winning of the District Championship. Teams within each congressional district competed each against other regardless of the size of their student bodies.
The First District championship was settled on the afternoon of December 6, 1935. The team from Vidalia, which had not lost a conference game in three years, squared off against Fordham and E.C.I. After a twenty-yard run, "Flash" Fordham snagged a "bullet pass" from Tommy Vandiver. Fordham caught the ball and did what he did best, run. Fordham's 40-yard touchdown reception led to the only score of the game. Fordham, in his last game in high school, once again was the deciding factor in the game. Oh, by the way, Fordham played the entire game with a sprained ligament in one of his legs.
Jim Fordham chose the University of Georgia to continue his love for the game of football. After playing for the freshman team in 1936, Fordham lettered in the 1937 season as an understudy to Bill Hartman, Georgia's first NFL player and an All-American. Fordham's Bulldogs finished a respectable 6-3-2 under Coach Harry Mehre in the last of his ten-year tenure at the helm of the Bulldogs. Mehre was proud of his three sophomore backs, Jimmy Fordham, Vassa Cate and Oliver Hunnicutt, all of whom were known far and wide for their tremendous speed.
Jim Fordham started at fullback and the spinner back position in the single wing formation during the 1938 season. Georgia coach Joel Hunt, in his first and only season as a head college football coach, had Georgia headed in the right direction. After wins against smaller schools, Georgia was 5-1 after a victory over Florida. They never won another game that season, losing to Tulane, Auburn and Miami and enduring a 0-0, sister-kissing tie with Georgia Tech to finish 5-4-1.
Fordham's third head coach in three years was Wally Butts, the legendary Georgia coach, who coached the team to its first national championship three years later in 1942. Despite the swift running of Fordham and Vassa Cate, the Bulldogs fell to a losing record of 5-6. The season ended on a high note with a victory over Miami, a game in which Fordham scored a touchdown. Fordham ended his collegiate career as a member of the Gray (South) team in the annual Blue-Gray game.
Jim Fordham was drafted 67th by the Chicago Bears in the 7th pick in the 8th round of the 1940 NFL draft. Fordham, the second Georgia Bulldog back ever to be drafted into the NFL, followed by his former mentor, Bill Hartman, who was drafted in 1938. Despite being drafted, Fordham left football during the early years of World War II.
Fordham finally joined the Bears in 1944. With their legendary coach, George Halas serving in the armed forces, the "Monsters of the Midway" fell from the top of the NFL ranks. In his first season, Fordham running out the fullback position, played behind future Hall of Famers, quarterback Sid Luckman and center Clyde "Bulldog" Turner. Fordham, playing in eight of ten games, scored four touchdowns on the ground. Fordham pounded out a respectable average of 4.5 yards per carry. The former Bulldog returned two kickoffs for an average of 21 yards per return.
Under temporary coach, Hunk Anderson, Fordham and the Bears finished a respectable 6-3-1. Among the memorable highlights of the year was the Bears 21-0 shut out of their bitter rivals, the Green Bay Packers. In a match against the team's other bitter rival, the Bears lost to the Detroit Lions. Playing for the Lions that day was none other than Frank Sinkwich, the University of Georgia's first Heisman Trophy winner. Fordham did right by his Bulldogs with one of his best games of the season by carrying the ball 13 times for 82 yards, not bad for a man who was primarily used as a blocker and runner on short yardage situations.
Fordham's last season in football came at the end of World War II. With many of the league's veteran players coming back to the game after the end of the war, players like Fordham found themselves out of a job. In his last season, Jim carried the ball 45 times for 153 yards. He managed to score one touchdown that year.
In one of the more odd records, Fordham tied a record held by a few, but not by many. In a game where few people ever win their last games, Fordham's teams won his last game in high school, college, and the pros.
Sadly, I could not find much at all about the life of Jim Fordham after football. Maybe someone out there will come forward and I will tell the rest of the story of the man they called "Flash," the fastest man on the field.
When you think of fall, you think of cool nights, turning leaves and fairs. Our first fair in the fall (I still can't believe our English teachers taught us not to capitalize the seasons) came in the last week of October 1911. That first fair was a prelude to the 12th Congressional District Fair which came a year later. But for a premier autumn event, the fair was a tremendous success, much of which was due to its sponsor, Daniel W. Gilbert.
Technically it wasn't the first fair held in Dublin, but it was the first county wide fair. The first known fair was staged in early October 1905 when the Colored Agricultural Fair was held at the City Pavilion on lower East Madison Street. There were prizes for agricultural products with ball playing and riding every day. The Acme State Brass Band of Macon provided the musicial entertainment.
The people of Laurens County had good reason to take a few days after the end of the harvest to celebrate in 1911. In the early years of county fairs, agriculture and home economics dominated the exhibition halls. The cotton farmers of the county had produced more than thirty million pounds of cotton, more than any other county in the history of the State of Georgia. And, the local cotton crop that year, not counting farmers who took their cotton to gins in other counties, was larger than that of the entire state of Missouri.
Daniel W. Gilbert, proprietor of Gilbert Hardware Company, wanted to promote agriculture in the county through a fair, even if he had to do it all by himself or with a lot of help from the youngsters of the Boys' and Girls' Farm Life Club. With no large lot to stage his fair on, Gilbert cleared out his massive hardware store at 123 W. Jackson Street, a building which would become the center of Farmers and Merchants Bank.
Gilbert invited every farmer in the county to bring an exhibit to show his best crops and livestock. To ensure the crowds would be big, Gilbert enlisted the aid of the young ladies of the Poplar Springs Industrial School and Bethsaida Baptist Church to serve free lunches every day during the six-day fair, which began on Monday, October 23 and ended on Saturday, October 28.
Free food wasn't good enough, the people of that day were addicted to speeches. Any time there was someone who would stand up and speak about politics, better agricultural methods and good roads, a crowd would gather.
Food and speeches still weren't what fair exhibitors were after. They wanted prizes. So Gilbert picked out some of the better items from his store and put them up for prizes. Top prize categories ranged from plows to a cotton stalk with the most open bolls to a corn stalk with the most ears of corn. Swiss razors went to those bringing in the best pecks of wheat or oats. The largest pumpkin or the best half peck of peanuts would bring the winner a choice of any one-dollar item in the store. If you made the best jar of preserved peaches, pears or watermelon rinds, you walked off with a set of teaspoons to eat your prize winning entry.
Animals were on the prize list as well. The best of everything from chickens, to cows, horses, turkeys, ducks and geese all won an award. These prizes were given by the boys and girls themselves.
Wednesday was "Ladies Day." All women were invited to come and see the domestic exhibits. The day turned out to be a far better day than Gilbert had ever hoped for. The Dublin Courier-Dispatch reported, "The exhibits in the main building comprise almost everything ever shown at a county fair. The agricultural exhibit is especially fine and deserves recognition." The reporter especially cited the fine display of canned fruits, vegetables, preserves, and pickles as well as a splendid display of needlework, handmade especially for the fair.
Friday, the next to the last day of the fair, was billed as Education Day. Just as promised by Gilbert, there were speeches. County School Superintendent Zollicoffer Whitehurst, known to those who couldn't spell his first name as "Z. Whitehurst," joined Robert E. Martin, the manager of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, City School Superintendent R.E. Brooks, and Congressman Dudley M. Hughes of Danville on the dias.
Hughes, more than any other local congressman, was the best expert on agricultural and agri-business issues. Dr. Flanders of the Georgia Prison Commission addressed the crowds on the issue of good roads, a hot topic of the day.
Wanting to get in on the action, other businesses offered their facilities to fair goers.
The Dublin Buggy Company on the courthouse square and Ogburn Buggy Company on South Lawrence Street displayed several of their finest buggies on the sidewalks of their stores as well as pens of prime hogs in pens near the rear of their warehouses.
Although Daniel Gilbert received quite a bit of recognition for conducting the fair, the real success of the fair came because of the efforts of his young assistant and secretary, Peter S. Twitty, Jr. Twitty, with the help of an efficient staff, made a name for himself that week. Within six years, the young merchant would be elected Mayor of Dublin. He later became the head of the Georgia Department of Game and Fish.
Sadly, few written accounts of that first fair have survived. Coverage by the Macon Telegraph was nonexistent. Its editors opted instead to cover the more widely popular Georgia State Fair in Macon.
Even more sad is the fact that the days of county fairs disappeared way too long ago. Gone are those good old days when thousands of people left the farms and the homes of the county and gathered in town for a day of fun, food and prizes.
The success of that first fair wasn't at all lost on the movers and shakers of Laurens County and the Emerald City of Dublin. Almost immediately, plans for a fair the next year were being set. Every businessman around the town tried to get in on the planning. The 12th District Fairs in 1912 and 1913 were two of the biggest and most successful fairs ever held in this area of the state. But, it was a century ago when we had our first fair and the days of autumn were all clear, cool and fun.
SOME SPECIAL ELECTIONS
The Voters Speak
Elections come and go. Some things never change. But, every once in awhile, things do change. Special elections are generally held to fill a vacant seat or to decide an urgent issue. Over the years, some elections were truly special. They are the ones that change the way we live.
The presidential election of 1884 changed things in Washington. Not since 1856 had the nation elected a democratic president. The South, still reeling from the effects of Reconstruction, became more solid and with the unlikely support of states like New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, helped to elect New York governor, Grover Cleveland, during a Republican stronghold on the presidency which lasted for fifty-two years.
Cleveland's election led some to fear that blacks in the South would become so enraged over the loss of gains they had made after the Civil War that they would take to the streets and riot. Such was the case on November 16, just 12 days after the election. Somehow reports of a riot in Dublin spread like flames across a dry Kansas wheatfield in headlines of newspapers across the country. Stories of a race war with several persons being killed came out of Atlanta. With Dublin being some forty miles from the nearest telegraphic station, urgent inquiries were made into the extent of the turmoil. At the same time, reports of an incendiary riot in Brunswick were published.
One curious Cochranite rode over to investigate and found "that matters in are entirely peaceful in Dublin." The railroad agent in Toomsboro reported that he had heard nothing of the revolt. Meanwhile in Dublin, the center of the alleged insurrection, the editor of the Dublin Post wrote, "If there has been a riot in our town, our citizens are ignorant of it. Our officers have but little trouble in arresting criminals. We guess the report grew out of the fact that three Negroes gave bond and were released from jail one day last week." In Brunswick, the reports of a devastating conflagration were true. The source of the devastating fire was not the refusal of black citizens and fireman to work to suppress the fire as was reported. In fact, the "colored firemen" were hailed for doing their usual good work.
Women were allowed to vote across the nation with the adoption of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920. Within a month, Maggie New, a Dublin city hall employee, was the first to subscribe her name on the register of voters. Tax Collector M.C. Dominey arranged to have registration books for women at a popular drug store for ten straight days. It would be another half century or so before a woman, Lena Opie, was elected to a city office.
The women of Brewton, Georgia didn't take quite that long. Mrs. H.H. Beall was elected in November 1921. The first female mayor of a Laurens County town promised to work with the council to clean up the town. Mrs. Beall, who succeeded her husband, said, "There a few things that need attention here, and we are going to see that they get it."
Mayor Beall had a lot of support in her crusade to clean up the railroad town. Seven men and five women entered the race for the five seats on the town council. Reportedly only nine votes out of the 250-resident town and all the voters were male. With only nine voters and nine male candidates in the race for mayor and council, only the candidates themselves voted. Mrs. Beall received a majority of the votes in her race while the slate of women candidates received five votes each. Mrs. M.E. Beall even defeated her husband, who only garnered one vote, presumably, but not necessarily, his own. Elected to the council were Mrs. M.E. Brantley, Mrs. F.A. Brantley, Mrs. H.B. Sutton, Mrs. M.F. Beall, and Mrs. C.G. Moye, whose husband was defeated in his bid for mayor. The all female mayor and council proceeded to make plans to hire a female police chief and town clerk.
The 1936 Laurens County election did little to change the way we live, but it did provide some curious and somewhat surprising comments from the unopposed candidate for county surveyor. J. Lester Jackson pledged, "I will do just a little work as I can." Jackson revealed in deciding to run for the office, that he was "persuaded by myself and none one else."
The general election in 1964 had a proposed constitutional amendment which provided for the merger of the Dublin and Laurens County school systems, beginning in the 1965-1966 school year. Voters ratified the local law. But, when the newly created Dublin-Laurens Board of Education failed in the minds of many county residents to rightly show respect to the former Laurens County Superintendent, lawyers found a loophole in the law and succeeded in revoking the merger after one year and keeping the two systems separate, as they remain today.
In an effort to help our community grow and prevent apathy among even the most
progressive minded voters, members of the Dublin Civitan Club offered prizes ranging from a piano to a camera to encourage more than a fifty percent turnout in a special election to construct an additional gas line to supply the new industries being established in Dublin in 1966.
The Rev. Bridges Edwards, Sr. was a well beloved former pastor of Washington Street Presbyterian Church in Dublin. His son, Bridges Edwards, Jr., was the first African-American student to attend Dublin Junior High when the school board allowed each student the choice of their own school.
Rev. Edwards, known as a builder of bridges between the races, stated, "Dublin has come a long way in the relationships between the races in the last year," after winning a seat on the Dublin City Council in December 1966. Rev. Bridges garnered some support from the white community, while the black population was close to thirty percent. Lonnie Fuller, a losing candidate, filed a challenge to the election on the grounds that his name was left off the ballot. Despite the fact that Fuller's name was hand written on every ballot, Superior Court Judge Harold E. Ward voided the results and ordered a new election, in which Rev. Edwards was defeated. Several years later, Emory Thomas would become the first African-American council member to sit on the Dublin City Council.
Today, like every other election day, is a critical day in the history and the future of our community. Go out and vote for the candidate of your choice. Whatever you do, vote. When you vote, think of the person whose only agenda is not his own, but one for the greater good of all of the people all of the time.
UP THE CREEK WITH A NAME
Do you wonder what the name of that creek down the road from you is called? And where did it get its name from? Do you know why the Indians who lived in this area centuries ago are called Creeks?
For more than a hundred centuries, Native Americans roamed and lived in the lands we now occupy. With no written language, as we conceive written languages, the Indians who lived here lived and died with no written record of their existence. What we know about their culture are the stories and customs which have passed down from generation to generation and from the study of the archaeology of the Native American cultures of the Southeast. One of the most basic facts about these cultures are that these people were first hunters and gatherers but only in the last thirteen or so centuries did they become more sedentary and agricultural. We do know that those people who lived in our area before we did chose dwelling places which were well drained and were located in proximity to the rivers and creeks where wildlife teemed and clean water was abundant. We don't know what they called themselves because their names have been lost to eternity. So, today we call those Native Americans who lived in this area, the "Creek Indians."
So why is this important? Well since these people were the first to live in this area, naturally they were the first to name the rivers and creeks which flowed through the area. Many of Laurens County's streams retain their Indian names. The Oconee River is named after a tribe of Creek Indians that lived in the area along the river. It has been said that Oconee is the Creek word for "the place of springs" or "the water eyes of the hills." A recent discovery of a study of the a 19th century Hitchitee language study reveals that Oconee is the Hitchitee word for "place of the skunk". The middle portion of the river was known to the Indians as "Ithlobee."
The Creek or Muscogee word for creek is "hatchee." Turkey Creek which rises in Twiggs County and flows through Wilkinson and Laurens Counties is the anglicized name of the Indian word "Pennohachee". A branch of Turkey Creek which is known today as Palmetto Creek was formerly called "Taulohatchee" by the Creek Indians. The name of Ockwalkee Creek, which flows from southern Laurens County through Wheeler County to the Oconee River, is derived from the Creek words meaning "dirty water." The name of Stitchihatchee Creek, which is located in the Dexter area, is derived from the Creek words meaning "red man's creek" or possibly "crossing or fording creek." Another of the major creeks in western Laurens County is Rocky Creek. The Muskogee Indian name for Rocky Creek would have been Chattohachi - "chatto" for stone or rock and "hachi" for stream. One of the branches of Pughes Creek in eastern Laurens County is named Indian Branch. Indian Pots Branch crosses Georgia Highway 117 just inside the county line on the highway between Cadwell and Eastman.
Without a doubt, one of the most intriguing creek names of all Laurens County's creek is Hunger and Hardship. Beginning in northern Laurens County and running south and then southeasterly to empty into the Oconee River just above Dublin, Hunger and Hardship Creek was reportedly home to a tribe of Indians, who, you guessed it, Hunger and Hardship. The name first appears on the 1805 survey of the First Land District of Laurens County. Two of the creek's main branches are Sandy Ford which runs from west of the airport, crossing behind the Dublin Mall to join the main run of the creek behind the Shamrock Bowl and Strawberry Branch which runs through Holly Hills and Kingswood subdivisions until it joins Hunger and Hardship just above the bridge on North Jefferson Street.
Who out there knows the name of the only creek in Dublin which flows north? Most of you don't even think of it as a creek, but most of you travel over it at least once a week. It is the creek which starts in Moore Station Development, flows northward and becomes the pond at Fairview Park, then Lake Leisure at the Carl Vinson VA Center, passes down Hillcrest Parkway beside the VA, crosses under Hwy 80 by Capital City Bank and Hillcrest Parkway in front of the new Dublin High School before emptying into Hunger and Hardship Creek near White Oak Subdivsion. This creek, actually a branch, has unpretentious name of "Bud's Branch."
Out in the Buckeye District just above the Claude Graham place flows San Soucci Creek. Sans Souci is a French term meaning "without care." It is also the name of the summer home of Frederick the Great near Potsdam, near Berlin, Germany.
Laurens County is so large that some creek names are repeated. Most of these carry descriptive names. There are four Big Branches as well as one Big Creek. Flat,Crooked, Rocky and Whitewater Creeks appear twice on maps, as well as two Long and Bay branches. But, there is only one Bluewater and one Dry. There is a Gin and Gin House Branch, named for the cotton processor and not the drink. But there is a Rum Creek. It flows just below the Country Club and was originally named Wommack's Mill Creek, for the man who first dammed it up into a mill pond.
Batson, Bell, Brewton, Collins, Hightower, Hogan, Kellam, Joiner, Pitts, Mercer, Pughes, Renfroe, and Whitley are some of the eponymous early names given to creeks by early settlers. Acutally, Mercer's Creek, which is the line dividing Laurens and Treutlen counties is a derivation of the word, "Messer's," named by an early Montgomery County settler and large landowner, Peter Messer.
Pendleton Creek, a major tributary of the Ohoopee River, begins in southeastern Laurens County. The creek was named for Daniel Pendleton, a Captain of a Connecticut company of Col. Baldwins Regiment of Artificers in the American Revolution. According to D.N. Wilkes, of Reidsville, Pendleton Creek, was named for the captain who commanded a company in a fight with the Indians in the area.
Nearby is Pughes (Pugh's) Creek which is named for Francis Pugh, an early resident and militia leader of Montgomery County.
Long Branch runs along the southern side of Dublin and empties into the Oconee River below Riverview Golf Course. Town Branch runs through Stubbs Park and empties into the Oconee River just above Roche's Farm and Garden store. How many of you know that Roberts Branch or Harrison's Branch begins near the tennis courts on Woodrow Ave. and runs by the Chamber of Commerce, Saxon Heights School, and the Dublin Police Department before emptying into the Oconee? How many of you know that a mostly piped and underground feeder creek of Roberts Branch emanates from beneath a spring underneath the Dublin-Laurens Museum?
And, there's Keen's Mill Branch in East Dublin, South Sandy, Little Gut, Walnut, and Scooter Rue Creeks. So who was Scooter Rue? Up in the northwest part of Laurens County above Montrose is the Devil's Branch. It seems there is an old story about a monster who lived along that small creek. Does anybody know that tale? Please let me know if you can name that creek. You know the creek which has no name or least a name that few people know.
STAY JUST A LITTLE BIT LONGER
Marshall A. Chapman
During the mid 1930s, most of the voters of Dublin wanted Marshall A. Chapman to be their mayor. He was a good man and an outstanding servant of the people. One man disagreed. He didn't like something the mayor did. He employed an attorney and found that the mayor was illegally elected for his second two-year term. So he sued. And, he won. That's when a lot of Marshall Chapman's friends stepped forward and found a way to let him stay, just a little bit longer.
In the early months of 1936, John A. Walden filed a petition of quo warranto in the Superior Court of Laurens County requiring Dublin mayor, Marshall A. Chapman, to show the authority he had to act as mayor. A.L. Hatcher and Henry Taylor, the attorneys representing Walden, claimed that city of Dublin's charter, enacted in 1911, prohibited any person from serving as mayor for more than one term unless additional terms came after an interval out of office.
Dublin Judicial District Judge J.L. Kent recused himself because of his relationship to the petitioner. Judge Kent asked Judge Eschol Graham of the Oconee Judicial Circuit to hear the case against the highly popular mayor. Upon the presentation of all the evidence by Hatcher and Taylor, Chapman's attorney, C.C. Crockett attempted to show that his client was qualified and certified by the city clerk as qualified to be mayor and that in fact, the people of Dublin elected him in 1933 for a two-year term and again in 1935 for a second two-year term.
Judge Graham issued a finding that the law of the state was clear in that the city's charter clearly prohibited any person from serving more than one term as mayor, unless the left office for at least one term, before being eligible to qualify for a second term.
Mayor Chapman refused to comment to the media on the judge's ruling, but directed his attorney to announce that he would immediately appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia.
After hearing the case, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on October 14, 1936, seventy five years ago this week. In holding for the petitioner, Chief Justice Richard B. Russell, Sr., father of long time U.S. Senator from Georgia, issued the opinion for the court. The Chief Justice discounted Crockett's argument that his client was his own successor since no one else qualified for the 1935 city election.
Crockett reiterated his argument in the trial court that in the previous quarter of a century, that the restriction buried in the city charter had been previously ignored. Herbert Moffett was elected in 1923 and served two consecutive terms. Even Chapman's predecessor, T.C. Keen, held office for two terms from 1930 to 1933. The justices held that argument without merit, holding that the law was the law and variances from it do not constitute a repeal of the city's charter and state law in a unanimous decision.
Chapman's one saving grace was that Judge Graham did not require him to leave office immediately. In fact, Judge Graham's order allowed Chapman to stay in office until a special election could be held.
Crockett immediately filed a motion for a rehearing which the Supreme Court denied in mid-December. Because of the holiday season, no city council meetings were scheduled to be held until early January.
At the first city council meeting of 1937, city attorney, W.W. Larsen, Jr. recommended that the council schedule a special election to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling.
No council member seemed to be ready to call for a special election. If a majority of the council voted to do so, then it would take at least forty-five days before a new election could be held. Still presiding over the council session, Mayor Chapman issued a brief comment. "It is mob psychology to kick a man when he is down," said the mayor.
By then, Chapman was already half way through his second term. No action could be taken any earlier than January 18. Meanwhile, Mayor Chapman went about his duties by appointing council members to committees.
And, it was about that time when Mayor Chapman's friends decided to make an end run around the court's decision. State Representatives W.A. Dampier and W.W. Larsen, Jr. introduced a bill to repeal the clause of the 1911 charter to allow Dublin's mayor to serve two consecutive terms.
Smelling a rat, Walden filed a mandamus to require the city council to call a special election. The council reluctantly decided to discuss the matter on February 1, five days before Judge Graham was to hear Walden's petition. The judge issued a summons to councilmen M.Z. Claxton, Dee Sessions, E.B. Mackey, C.A. Hodges, R.L. Tindol, E.F. Moxley, and F.C. Hutchinson to show cause why they shouldn't be ordered to schedule a new election to replace Mayor Chapman.
Rep. Dampier introduced a bill to allow Mayor Chapman to remain in office until the expiration of his term for which he was elected. The bill expressly prohibited Chapman from qualifying for the special election as well as any candidate from seeking an additional term beyond New Year's Eve. Rep. Larsen initially announced his opposition to Dampier's bill.
Meanwhile, the council was still debating if and how to legally schedule a special election. The issue became moot. For on the 4th of February, two days before Judge Graham was scheduled to hear the petition for a mandamus, the Georgia legislature unanimously passed local legislation to allow Dublin's mayors to succeed themselves for unlimited terms.
Mayor Chapman returned to the mayor's office in 1944 and served a single two-year term, making him the second longest serving mayor until that time, only behind Lucien Quincy Stubbs, who served five two-year terms around the turn of the 20th Century. The tradition of four years as mayor continued until Bobby Cochran, Albert Franks and Bob Walker each served as mayor for eight years. Phil Best, the current mayor, is now the longest serving mayor completing his twelfth year as the Mayor of the Emerald City.
A LANDMARK OF CHRISTIANITY
Richland Baptist Church
On a perfect early autumn Sunday they came. They have been coming to this spot for the last two hundred years. They came this incredible day to celebrate two centuries of worship at a "Landmark of Christianity," Richland Baptist Church in southern Twiggs County, Georgia. They came to celebrate Christ. And, they came to celebrate their heritage, a heritage which keeps them coming back, year after year.
Nancy Faulk Herrington led the congregation in an uplifting version of Holy, Holy, Holy. The Rev. Steve Smith, pastor of Old Richland's successor church, New Richland Baptist Church, gave the opening sermon.
Susan Faulk Burford, President of the Richland Restoration League, Inc., welcomed those present as she presided over the day's ceremonies. The Civil Folks Singers, dressed in 19th Century clothing, serenaded the congregation under the direction of the Rev. Frank Hendrix, Living History Chair of the Restoration League. The league was organized in 1948 to restore the historic church to its holy grandeur.
Glenn Faulk, one of the many descendants of Mark Faulk who gathered at their family church, recognized the pioneer families of the ancient church, which was constituted two centuries ago on October 5, 1811. Faulk said, "This is a special moment in our history, a time we came together as a family." Located near the original county seat of Marion, the commercial and legal center in East Central Georgia from its location in the geographical center of the state during the 1810s through the 1820s.
There were Faulks, Wimberlys, Asbells, Bunns, Minters, Shines, Densons, Glovers, Vaughns and Fitzpatricks. One by one and family by family they stood and proudly recited their descent from their great, greats..., the founding and leading members of the time-honored church.
Robert Schultz remembered coming to the enduring church as a five-year-old boy. Schultz remembered the day in 1948 when the Restoration League first met and he was sitting in the front pew when he called upon to read a scripture. Since that day, Schultz make regular return trips to honor his family and to worship in the circa 1845 church.
And, there was George Faulk sitting in the "Amen Corner." Faulk, a veteran of World War II, was the oldest member of the congregation. Faulk, at ninety four, was born six years after the church closed its doors in 1911.
The descendants of Marmaduke Hart were there too, taking up a good portion of the center sections of the beautifully restored wooden church, at least the ones not filled with Faulks and Wimberlys. It was Marmaduke Hart who gave the land near his springs in the 1820s for the church's second structure.
Earl Hicks and his family were there too. Mr. Hicks recalled the relationship between his family and the Faulk and Wimberly families over the last two centuries, harking back to the day when both whites and blacks worshiped together in the two-story church.
Special musical entertainment was provided by The Wesleyannes, a choral group from Wesleyan University from Macon. Wesleyan is celebrating its 175th year as the world's oldest university for women.
The featured speaker for the day was the Rev. Francis Wilson. Rev. Wilson, a graduate of Cochran High School and Mercer University, spoke of his honor to preach from the pulpit where his grandfather, Rev. F. Bartow Asbell, who gave the last regular sermon in October, 1911 when the church ceased to conduct regular services. Rev. Wilson, a resident of New Mexico, spoke of the honor of having his family and knowing Jesus Christ, but ranked the honor to preach the Gospel standing in the footprints of his grandfather as one of his greatest blessings.
After the benediction of the service by the Rev. Gary Walker, the congregation adjourned to the well-kept grounds of the antebellum church for an old-fashioned dinner on the ground, complete with all kinds of scrumptious foods, including a tasty roasted pig, cooked by Satterfields of Macon.
If you would like more information on the church and the Richland Restoration League, contact Susan Burford at email@example.com, Glenn Faulk at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the league's website at www.historicrichlandchurch.org.
The League will sponsor its annual "Keeping Christmas at Richland Church" on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 4:00 p.m.
HE CAME, HE KILLED, HE GOT BLOWN UP
James Jackson Runs Amuck
COCHRAN, GA. - July 14, 1915 - No one alive knows why James Jackson ran amuck and killed a deputy, an overseer, and a young farmer. Those who did know what happened, could not or would not tell the whole story of James Jackson and why he killed three men and then was shot at and later blown up by a staggering posse.
The sun was scorching the fields of W.O. Peacock in Bleckley County, some three statute miles from the county seat of Cochran. James Jackson got on the very bad side of his field boss, Mr. Lem W. Sanders. Boss Sanders reprimanded Jackson and sent him back to his quarters in not too good of a mood. Hearsay repeaters swore that Sanders told Jackson that he would have to start working or quit his job on the farm. The rumor mongers consistently maintained that Sanders slapped Jackson, who stomped off in a huff. Some say he went back to get a gun, but the pervasive account is somewhat different.
It was nearly pitch dark when Sanders went to the Negro quarters to deliver some medicine to one of his sick workers. Sanders just happened to pass by Jackson's shack. After a long hard day in the hot fields, Sanders took a seat on the side of Jackson's front porch. Sitting with his back toward Jackson, Sanders' pistol was visible in his back hip pocket in the dim porch light.
Suddenly, and with no warning, Jackson sprang from his seat, grabbed his boss's gun, and pointed it point blank at his antagonist. Sanders, according to Hollis Blackshear, an occupant of the house, begged Jackson not to shoot him. Jackson grabbed Sanders by the arm and held him with one hand. And, with two shots into his heart, killed Lem Sanders dead with the other. Noticing that Blackshear had witnessed the murder, Jackson turned toward the trembling Blackshear and pulled his pistol trigger three times, all misfires. Jackson then fled to the home of one Peter Fambrough.
Fambrough took Jackson to the home of Jackson's brother, who lived near about three crow fly miles from Hawkinsville. When word got out that overseer Sanders had been shot, a small, but highly incensed, posse was organized by night marshal, W. Sumpter "Sump" Hogg. Oscar Lawson, a young farmer, went along with Sump Hogg up to the house to convince Jackson to give himself up.
Marshal Hogg approached a window of the shack and demanded the fleeing felon give himself up. Oscar Lawson went around to the back of the house. Jackson fired an instantly mortal rifle shot straight into the marshal's chest. Jackson walked across the interior of the house and fired a second mortal shot into an eye of Oscar Lawson, who never knew what killed him. Another member of the posse returned fire and temporarily disabled Jackson.
It was about that time when Bleckley County Sheriffs J.A. Floyd and Pulaski County Sheriff J. R. Rogers arrived with a very large posse of law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens. One of the officers grabbed Peter Fambrough and through the most persuasive acts of coercion, forced the terrified accomplice to go to the house and remove the corpses of Jackson's victims. All the while, Jackson kept up his fire from the inside of the embattled abode.
After dragging the dead men out of the line of fire, Fambrough was compelled to crawl under the house with a bundle of dynamite, which had been rushed in from a Hawkinsville store. When it appeared that Jackson was never going to give himself up voluntarily, the dynamite was ignited and Jackson's fortress was blown into various sized smithereens. The posse swarmed the shattered shanty, firing as thy approached. The point men found Jackson dead. Despite reports to the contrary, the Cochran Journal reported that James Jackson's death came at the hands of legally authorized law enforcement authors and not a lynch mob. Some reports suggested that Jackson was dragged from the splintered ruins of the flattened fortress and strung up in a tree by a vengeful mob of as many as six hundred men.
In the passion of the moment, Peter Fambrough and Jackson's brother were also killed when they resisted arrest. One published report maintained that the men had a shot gun, a pistol, and plenty of ammunition.
Lem Sanders, W.O. Peacock's 42-year-old trusted overseer, was buried with honors by the Woodmen of the World the next afternoon. Young Lawson was laid to rest in the cemetery at Antioch Church the next morning. Sump Hogg was known as one of the best officers of Bleckley County, whose sole fault was that he was too careless with his own safety. Mrs. Ludie Hogg and her three children sobbed as her husband was buried in the Weeping Pine Cemetery that afternoon.
Reports of the tragic events were often contradictory. Names of the principals were often misspelled or interchanged. One thing was for certain. Six men were dead. And, many Bleckley Countians were grieving as they closed their business houses for the three funerals.
Although there appeared to be no connection to the killings, the Bleckley County Sheriff announced his resignation within days after Marshal Hogg was killed. Sheriff Floyd stated that he could no longer perform his duties because he was unable to stand the financial strain. "During my first term, I wore out a good horse and buggy and a good automobile in the service of the county, and so far as I could determine, without any adequate financial return," the sheriff wrote.
Floyd maintained that his fees were based on sixty year old costs of operating the jail. He enjoyed his term as sheriff but urged the county to develop a more equitable form of salaries for sheriffs.
The exploding of a desperado by Bleckley County lawmen wasn't confined to James Jackson. Just four days before Christmas, some two and one half years later, Frank Hall was killed by Pomp Wiley. Hall reportedly attempted to break up a fight between Wiley and another man. Enraged at Hall's interference with his business, Wiley fired three true pistol shots into Hall's heart, killing him instantly.
Sheriff Jones and a band of fifty citizens located the accused felon, who had barricaded himself in the home of his brother-in-law. As soon as the posse came into the range of his weapon, Wiley opened fire, striking and wounding Vicar Meadows and Dewitt Morris.
While the main force kept a steady fire in Wiley's direction, a small group of men snuck around to the rear of the house. Sheriff Jones directed the men to place a charge of dynamite under the house just as his predecessor had done to keep James Jackson from killing any more people. And, not surprisingly, the plan worked with similar results - Pomp Wiley was blown up and would never, ever kill again.
THE RICHLAND TRADITION
Two Hundred Years and Counting
For most of the last two hundred years, folks in the southwestern part of Twiggs County have gathered together at Richland Baptist Church to ask the Lord's blessing. And on the first Sunday in October, the members of the Richland Restoration League will once again return to the church which they have lovingly kept from the neglect of the winds of time and total destruction.
Two hundred years ago on October 5, 1811, Richland Meeting House was constituted by the reverends Edmond Talbot, of Jones County and Eden Taylor of Baldwin County. The Rev. Micajah Fulghum was assigned to the pulpit of the church which was first located on the banks of Richland Creek in a log structure. About a decade later, a new structure was constructed near Duke Hart's springs.
The charter members of Richland Church were John Denson, Jacob Ricks, Edward Nix, William Coates, Sarah Denson, Susannah Ricks, Elizabeth Lipham, Elizabeth Truluck, Sally Parrott, Anna Hammock, Sara Glenn, Nancy Powell, and Chloe Hodges, a Negro woman. Jacob Ricks, a founding father of Twiggs County, was named as a commissioner of public buildings at the town of Marion, the county's original county seat, which was located a few miles to the northwest. Ricks also served as one of the first justices of the Inferior Court of Twiggs County. John Denson lived to the ripe old age of 90 and long enough to see the current church built. Edward Nix died just five years after the church. Few records, if any, could be found about the remaining charter members.
Membership continued to rise and by 1840, Richland Church became the largest church in the Ebenezer Baptist Association. During the first five decades of the existence of the church, both white and black members worshipped in the church together. Although the slaves were considered members, they were required to sit in the galleries of the church during church services. In the year 1860, black membership reached a peak of 165 members, representing nearly seventy percent of the total membership. After the Civil War, black members left white churches and formed their own congregations.
One of the most poignant moments in the history of the church came a century and a half ago at the beginning of the Civil War. The ladies of the Richland and Marion communities would meet at the church to sew articles of clothing and make supplies for their boys in gray. Mrs. Isolene Minter Wimberly gave a heart-stirring address from the front steps of the church to the men and boys who were members of Company I of the 6th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, "The Twiggs County Guards." Mrs. Wimberly presented her husband, Frederick Davis Wimberly, the company lieutenant and later captain, a hand made battle flag, which was turned to the flag bearer, Sergeant Warren. The Guards, like many other Southern units, suffered horrific losses while attached to the Army of Northern Virginia.
The current structure, built in about 1845 on the site of New Hope Baptist Church, was located near an old stage road running from Savannah to North Georgia. The Greek Revival style, rectangular church has four simple columns supporting the roof of the portico. The simple front has four doors with the center two leading to the aisles. Traditionally, the ladies of the church entered the right door and took their seats, while the men came through the left door. Both men and women sat in the center section, but were segregated by a wooden partition running down the center. Along the sides of the pulpit, smaller rows of pews were arranged to face the pulpit at right angles to the main pews. Commonly called "Amen corners," these areas were reserved for the hard of hearing and the elderly.
The roll of ministers of Richland Church reads like a "who's who" among prominent Baptist preachers during the antebellum period. Among the most well known ministers who served Richland were George M. McCall, J.H. Campbell, James Kilpatrick, James Cary Solomon, Henry Bunn, Edward J. Coates, C.D. Mallory, James McConnell, James Williamson, Vincent A. Tharpe, Theophilus Pearce, John Ross, Adam Jones, C.A. Tharpe, and Lott Warren, who would also serve as an attorney, judge, and Congressman. During its first 78 years as a member of the Ebenezer Baptist Association, Richland Baptist Church had its minister serve in the highly honored position of Moderator of the Association.
Membership slowly declined after the war after the county seat was moved from Marion to Jeffersonville. With black members leaving to form their own churches and the white population in the area declining, attendance all but ended. After G.W. Faulk, Jr., a leading member and deacon of the church, died in August 1911, the last days of the then century old church were at hand. The church's last, minister, Francs Bartow Asbell resigned almost a century to the date after the church was founded.
For the next 37 years, the grand and once glorious house of worship stood vacant on most Sundays. Then, after the country had come out of the darkness of the Great Depression and two world wars, the descendants of former members and supporters of one of the true treasures of Twiggs County stepped forward with their time, their money and their devoted hearts to stop the deterioration of the century old structure. The league has also been able to preserve the interior of the building and several original items used in worship services more than a century ago.
In 1948, the Richland Restoration League was formed. Mary Faulk Harrison was elected president of the league. Other officers included Irene Wimberly Gleeson, Clara W. Pope, Sara Faulk, and Mrs. H.D. Faulk. These women worked tirelessly to restore the church to its original grandeur. The efforts have continued until the recent past when a $90,000 renovation program was initiated in 2004 to shore up the church's foundation. Through the generosity of contributors, the loan was paid off in seven years.
On Sunday, Oct. 2, the members of the Richland Restoration League will hold a celebration in honor of the church's bicentennial. The featured speaker for the day's festivities will be the Rev. Francis Wilson. Rev Wilson, a former resident of Cochran and a graduate of Mercer University, will address the gathering. Rev. Wilson is a grandson of Rev. F. Barrow Asbell, the last official minister of Richland Baptist Church when it closed one hundred years ago.
The league's trustees invite the members of all Twiggs County and Middle Georgia churches to be a part of this once in a lifetime celebration of their devotion to Richland Church and its service to the Lord. The festivities will begin at noon and will include an old fashioned dinner on the grounds and a performance by Wesleyannes, a choral group from Wesleyan College in Macon.
To get to the church, take the I-16 exit (No. 24) at Ga. Hwy. 96 and turn west next to the Huddle House and onto Richland Church Road and follow the signs for about two miles. For further information, go to www.historicrichlandchurch.org.