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Pieces of Our Past by scottbthompsonsr
Stories of the History of Dublin, Laurens County and East Central Georgia
Mar 09, 2011 | 386203 views | 0 0 comments | 941 941 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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by scottbthompsonsr
Oct 03, 2011 | 10337 views | 0 0 comments | 1387 1387 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Rev. J.B. McGehee
Rev. J.B. McGehee


The Reverend McGehees

 It was a week when there were more Methodist preachers who appeared in Dublin than in a Key and Flanders family reunion.  John B. McGehee and Edward McGehee, two of the longest serving Methodist ministers in the history of the South Georgia conference, were in town for a homecoming at the First Methodist Church.

 It was during the last week of September 1911,  one hundred years ago, when the members of the First Methodist Church invited all of their living former ministers to return to Dublin to celebrate the renovation of the church's new facility.  Amazingly, all but one of the ministers accepted the invitation. Rev. W.N. Ainsworth, was busy with his duties as Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.  The only other former Dublin Methodist minister missing was the Rev. Peter S. Twitty, who died a decade before.

 The featured speaker and the hardest to get to come to the event was the Rev. John Boykin McGehee, who at the age of seventy-nine, was the oldest member of the South Georgia Conference of ministers.  Rev. McGehee was also the first official minister of the First Methodist Church way back in 1854.  During his sixty-five years in the ministry, Rev. McGehee served dozens of churches as well as many terms as a district superintendent.

 John Boykin McGehee was born in the Henderson community, near Perry in Houston County, Georgia, on September  6, 1833.  The son of Rev. Edward T. McGehee and Clara Apperson Owens,  McGehee grew up in Houston County, where his father practiced medicine and dabbled at farming before entering the ministry. 

 It was only after his attendance at Emory College and his graduation from Franklin College that John McGehee found his place as a minister of the Gospel.  McGehee was attending a revival at Wiley Chapel Methodist Church.  He later wrote that he paid no attention to the services and in fact he resented what was happening around him.  It was only when McGehee started across the street when he experienced an epiphany.  From that moment on, the young man knew that he was called to preach.

 It was on the morning of November 7, 1852, when the Rev. McGehee was admitted as a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  His first assignment came in the Vienna circuit, although some written records indicate that he may have come to Dublin to preach on an irregular basis.  In his second year in the ministry, McGehee was assigned to the Sandersville District and in particular the Methodist Church in Jeffersonville.

 In his autobiography, published in 1915, the Rev. John B. McGehee wrote, "My home was in Dublin, at that time a small village. Then it didn't own a church building.  Our Baptist brethren kindly gave us the use of their house of worship.  Mine was no small circuit.  Parts of four counties, Laurens, Washington, Montgomery and Pulaski claimed my oversight.  Indeed churches were so numerous, riding  so long, territory so large, that it was difficult to suppress the idea that I needed a traveling companion - an idea which was not suppressed."

 Rev. McGehee remembered the main families of his congregations, the Guytons, Blackshears, Sanders, Flanders, Hicks, Holmes, and Arlines.  While he lived in Dublin, the twenty-one-year-old minister boarded with Tom and Elvira Guyton.  Rev. McGehee, still lacking confidence in his abilities, remembered the Dashers, the Rowes and Cochrans in the Dublin church who helped "the young shepherd ofa  small Methodist flock."     

 In his years spent in Dublin, McGehee met many people who had a profound influence on his life in the ministry.  He cited George Smith, who attended Snell's Bridge Church, as "one of the best men I ever knew."  He remembered several members of the Flanders family, long hailed as leaders of the Methodist movement in our area, including Frank Flanders, Fred Flanders and W.J. Flanders. 

 In describing the loneliness of his circuit riding days, McGehee told the story of a trip to Lowery Church, "Finding a bridge down, I plunged into a creek deeper than Jordan and reached the bank in safety. For two hours, I pursued the trail without seeing a man, animal or bird, and began to  decide how I would imitate the heroism of the fathers.  At sunset, I found a driver and an ox cart," McGehee recalled.  He told the driver he didn't know where he was going and confessed he was lost.  He finally reached a home where the occupants were gone. Their new son-in-law turned the stranger away.  McGehee  spoke as eloquently as he could to convince the young man to allow him to stay for the night.  Finally, he told the man, "I am sent to preach to you and will go no farther."  Moved by the moment, the preacher was invited inside where he enjoyed a "sweet sleep."

 It was in that "dark country" of southern Laurens County which McGehee described as having "an atmosphere from that section drawn largely from ponds and well charged with malaria, mosquitos and chills" as the place where he began to suffer from malaria for four years.

 Just after his tenure in Dublin, John McGehee met the love of his life.  The lonely days on the road made him think about what kind of woman he would like to marry.  After months of deliberation, McGehee narrowed down his bride's qualifications to a few.  More than sixty years after his marriage, the parson wrote that  she must be a Methodist, and that she be strong,  tall, smart, attractive, well read, and well reared.  He found a match in Lucretia Lane.  The couple married on the day after Christmas in 1854. He was twenty-one years old and his bride was only three months beyond her fifteenth birthday.  

 After leaving Dublin, McGehee served in several churches before becoming the president of Andrew College, a Methodist post secondary school in Cuthbert. At the age of forty, McGehee became a highly sought after Presiding Elder, serving in Columbus, Fort Valley, Thomasville, Savannah, Macon, and McRae.  After more than 57 years in the ministry, McGehee finally returned to the pulpit in 1909 in Talbotton, where he died on July 22, 1917.

 The younger McGehee, Edward Augustus McGehee (1839-1920), entered the Methodist ministry in 1859.  Edward served as the minister of Dublin's First Methodist Church from 1904-1905 during the decades when the local church was one of the most important churches in the state.

 The McGehee brothers' record of slightly more than one hundred twenty-five years of combined service to the Church has been surpassed  by current and former Dublin residents, Jack and Billy Key, to whom I dedicate this column.  The Brothers Key, who began their ministerial careers before World War II,  have been brothers in Christ for well  more than one hundred and thirty years.  Their profession of their faith and their devotion to the Gospel of the Lord  have been a blessing to all those who have been touched by the comfort of their words of "faith, hope and love."   


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by scottbthompsonsr
Oct 03, 2011 | 10109 views | 0 0 comments | 598 598 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink


King of the Cowboys. 

 In the days when movies were silent and the Twenties roared, Tom Mix was a movie star.  Not just any movie star in the days when John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry were little boys, Thomas Edwin Mix was the most popular  cowboy movie star in the world.  It was on a September Saturday   some seventy-five years ago when Tom Mix came to Dublin and the  people of Dublin saw their cowboy hero up close and in person. 

 Tom Mix began his movie career in 1910 at the age of thirty.  Over the next quarter of a century, Mix was reported to have appeared in more than 330 movies. All but a handful of those movies were talking pictures.  At the height of his silent movie career, Mix was appearing in more than fifteen movies every year.   As his career in motion pictures began to wane, Mix launched a transcontinental tour in what was billed as the largest motorized circus in the world.

 The four-million-dollar circus began its tour  in Compton, California and featured  the  new and improved 150-foot round top.  The equipment and animals were transported by night convoys of  no less than sixty new semi trucks with beautifully painted  red, white, and blue trailers.  The walls, marquee, and curtains were striped in red and white.

 After performances in Athens and Macon, the three-ring circus arrived just before daylight in Dublin on the morning of September 26, 1936.  The event was held on the old 12th District Fairgrounds at the corner of Telfair Street and Troup Street.  Crowds gathered around the fairgrounds in the early morning to witness the erection of the circus city, a show in of itself.    A matinee performance took place at 2:00 followed the grand finale during the evening show at 8:00.

 The Tom Mix Circus followed right on the heels of its main motorized circus competitor, the Downie Brothers - Sparks Circus, which came to the old fairgrounds the week before.  The Downie Brothers hired Jack Hoxie, a silent movie cowboy movie veteran,  to compete with the vastly more popular, Tom Mix.  The Downie circus was much smaller, but drew good crowds wherever it went, even during the dark days of the Great Depression.

 Nearly one hundred and fifty horses and ponies were used in the show.  To make it a well-rounded circus, Mix gathered  monkeys, baboons, lions, deer, and dogs along with three elephants and a zebra for his circus, which  employed more than 500 performers, including  sixty aerialists, sixty riders, and two hundred stars on the floor of the arena. 

 In addition to Mix, the star of the show, the audience was thrilled by acrobatic performers, the Flying Arbaughs and Erma Ward, "The Queen of the Air."  The fabulous Riding Hobsons and Max Gruber's Jungle Oddities rounded out the show.  The Arbaughs teamed with Ward Codona Troup to form the largest flying acrobatic show ever performed.

 Mix personally led the Parade of the Royal Mounted consisting of  more than eighty mounted riders. A Courier Herald writer reported, "Mix was very gracious about signing autographs for  juvenile fans crowded about shyly extending autograph books."  Always by his side was Mix's horse and a crowd favorite, Tony, Jr. - the first Tony having died years before.

  Homer Hobson, Helen Ford and Joe Bowers opened the show with an amusing performance of trained dogs and monkeys.  Along with a requisite corps of circus clowns, the show featured twenty girls performing on swinging ladders.   Next came more female performers, Del Herberto, Mlle Lorenzo, and Ella Davenport and a company of Lady polo riders led by Helen Ford and Company. Charles Arley, who performed a head balancing act on a revolving trapeze,  and Les Cotelettis Troupe of comedic acrobats had the crowed laughing out loud.

 The main center ring event followed with Tom Mix's company of cowboys and horses. Mix demonstrated his riding and marksmanship skills by riding and firing at moving targets.  He climaxed the performance by lying flat on his back and shooting light bulbs in a dome over his head. 

 Other billed acts included Rhoda Royal's Liberty Horses, trapeze artists, Karise Turner and her flying ballet, Johnny Jordan, Albert Powell, and George Arely and the Bell-Jordan-Marks Troupe.

 Among the more well known sideshow acts was Schlitzie, "The Pinhead."  Schlitzie was born with a neurodevelopmental disorder which caused him to have an unusually small brain and a height of four feet.  Schliztie Surtees starred in the 1932 cult film Freaks and was a long time circus side show freak with Barnum and Bailey.  

 After the last performer left the ring and the workers began sweeping the pop corn and peanuts from the abandoned grandstands, several local miscreants got themselves into an affray with a circus employee.  Three men got into an argument with side show workers over money.  Dublin police pulled out their bud nippers and broke up the ruckus, but one of the men went back and retrieved his gun.  Enlisting the aid of two conspirators, the unnamed man confronted the circus employees, cutting one of them in the throat while others fired their guns, none of which struck their targets.  The three young men were arrested, but when circus employees failed to show for a 9:00 a.m. court appearance, the charges were dropped. 

  Within four years, Tom Mix's iconic career would come to a tragic end.  After visiting

with the Pima County, Arizona sheriff, Nix stopped in at the Oracle Junction Inn.  Mix went on his way after talking by phone with his agent.  Mix, reportedly driving at nearly 80 mph through the desert, swerved to avoid hitting a construction barrier which blocked a washed out gully.  A large aluminum suitcase, which contained money, travelers' checks, and jewels, was catapulted forward from the rear of Mix's car and struck him in the back of his head, smashing his skull.  In an instant, the man who was shot at by the bad guys and always survived was killed by his own suitcase.

 It wasn't exactly Barnum and Bailey and The Greatest Show on Earth.  But, it was on that thrilling early autumn day when a  troupe of circus performers gave us a show of a lifetime and the King of The Cowboys came to town.

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by scottbthompsonsr
Sep 11, 2011 | 10196 views | 0 0 comments | 1379 1379 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
BIrdie M. Finn
BIrdie M. Finn


Dublin's Number One Citizen

 J.M. Finn was rightly named "Dublin's Number One Citizen."  Although that honor could be shared by several others during the Golden Age of the Emerald City, Finn's list of contributions to the growth of Dublin from a sleepy railroad village to one of Georgia's most important commercial cities was unparalleled.  And, who else would be a booster of Dublin like Finn, who was one of the cities truest Irishmen that our city ever knew. 

 James Moore Finn was born in Franklin, Kentucky on October 6, 1866.  His father, John A. Finn, was a prominent lawyer and a state representative.  His brother, Gerald,  also practiced law and was honored with a term as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Bluegrass State.  Finn's paternal grandfather, John Finn, emigrated from Galway, Ireland in 1816 directly into Franklin, where he became a successful merchant and politician.

 After attending local schools, Finn began his business career as a clerk in a store in Franklin.  James Finn attended the prestigious Vanderbilt University, where he was an outstanding student and member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity.  After his graduation in 1889, Finn worked in various positions until he migrated to the awakening town of Dublin, Georgia, where he took a position as the  cashier of the Bank of Dublin, the city's first bank.  Before coming to Dublin on the 4th of July 1892, Finn married Hyrell McGoodwin, affectionately known as "Birdie."

  Before Finn's arrival in Dublin, the city was on the verge of an explosive growth.  With the bridging of the Oconee River by the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad, the construction of  a passenger bridge over the river, and the coming of the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad from the west, the once, sleepy, drunken, lawless town of Dublin was about to grow exponentially under an unprecedented boom which would last for a quarter of a century until thwarted by the devilish boll weevil, which all but destroyed the cotton crop.  And, it was James M. Finn who climbed aboard the crest of the tidal wave and rode it all the way to the end of the city's first golden age.

 Right from the beginning, the people of Dublin and Laurens County endeared "Mr. Jim" Finn, and right from the beginning, "Mr. Jim" endeared the people of Dublin and Laurens County.  Once a complete stranger, the voters of Laurens County elected Finn to the Board of County commissioners during his first few years in the county.  It was Finn who lent his financial knowledge to build a new courthouse in 1895 without funding by a bond issue and without any debt.  

 The bank's early success led to Finn's success as well.  He built a handsome residence on the southeast corner of Bellevue Avenue and South Calhoun Street.  The house, which is now owned by Arnold Adams, still stands today.

 First and foremost, James M. Finn was a banker.  After the death of the bank's founder, Capt. R.C. Henry, in 1900,  Finn remained in the position of cashier until the bank merged with its across the street neighbor to form the Dublin-Laurens Banking Company.  Finn became the Active Vice President of the Dublin-Laurens Banking Company.  In 1918, Finn was elected as the Second Vice President of the Southern Exchange Bank, when it acquired the Commercial Bank of Dublin.

 J.M. Finn was highly regarded by his banking colleagues across the state.  In 1910,  Finn was elected chairman of the prestigious "Group Five" of the Georgia Banker's Association, which had previously met in Dublin and were wined and dined by Dublin's best cooks and hospitable citizens.

 It was, at least in part, Finn's banking skills which helped Dublin and Laurens County to place near the top of the state in the number of banking institutions.  In 1917 at the pinnacle of Dublin and Laurens County's growth before the coming of the boll weevil, Dublin had six banks, tying Macon for sixth place in the number of banks among cities in Georgia.  Laurens County, with its 14 banks, was third behind only Fulton and Chatham Counties. 

 The number of local banks began to plummet during World War I.  With the collapse of the cotton crop, all of the county's banks, including the powerful First National Bank, closed.  Only the Bank of Dudley and Farmers and Merchants Bank, remained open.    When the last Dublin bank closed, a new bank, "The Dublin Bank and Trust Company," was organized by the owners of Citizens and Southern Bank on October 31, 1928.  J.M. Finn, George T. Morris, and H.R. Moffett were named to the bank's local board of directors.   

 J.M. Finn was also closely associated with the cotton industry.  Finn served as an officer and director of the Georgia Cotton and Compress Company, which once boasted that it could process a farmer's cotton on Monday morning and place it aboard a European bound ocean going vessel on Tuesday afternoon.  It was a century ago when Finn's company, along with other cotton gins in the county, processed more than 30 million pounds of cotton, the largest single county cotton crop in the history of the state, until broken in the late 1900s. 

 Finn, also a cotton farmer, was closely allied with the Dublin Cotton Mills, a somewhat successful cotton mill on the west side of Dublin.  Finn realized that transportation of his cotton was essential and involved himself for more than two decades  as a director of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad, the county's most successful railroad.

 Although laundry lists of a person's activities are often boring,  Finn's short resume of his activities as an officer and director is quite impressive: Dublin Board of Censorship, Dublin Board of Tax Assessors, Dublin Board of Trade, Dublin Chamber of Commerce, Dublin Chamber of Commerce Warehouse Company, Dublin City Board of Education, Dublin City Executive Committee, Dublin Cotton Mills, Dublin Fair Association, Dublin Lumber Company,  Dublin Peanut Company, Dublin Red Cross, Dublin Stockyard Company, Finn, Garrett & Holcomb Real Estate Company, Georgia Cotton and Compress Company, Georgia Mutual Fire Insurance Company, Georgia State Chamber of Commerce, Laurens County Centennial Commission Chairman, Southern Compress Association, Southern Cotton Association,  Southland Veneer and Lumber Company, 12th District Fair Association, War Savings Stamp Board, and Wrightsville & Tennille Railroad.  Finn also served as vice-president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Georgia Highway Commission in its early years. 

 All of Dublin was saddened on July 4,  1936, when J.M. Finn passed away after a long illness. He is buried in Northview Cemetery beside his wife.  Sadly they had no children, to pass along the legacy of being a descendant of the number one citizen of Dublin.


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by scottbthompsonsr
Sep 01, 2011 | 8989 views | 0 0 comments | 601 601 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink



The ground beneath us in East Central Georgia doesn't shake very often. When it does, it is a time to start praying for God's grace. That's exactly what happened on the evening of August 31, 1886, one hundred and twenty five years ago tomorrow night. It was on that night when the most powerful earthquake to ever strike the southeastern United States struck South Carolina, between Charleston and Summerville. The quake, which measured an estimated intensity of seven or higher on the Richter scale, nearly destroyed the ancient port city and its suburban resort neighbor to the west. The quake was so powerful that it was felt as far away as Boston, Chicago and Cuba. And, it shook the ground, buildings and people's souls right here in Dublin.

The massive earthquake didn't come without warning. Just before dawn on Saturday, August 28, an earthquake slightly jarred the city of Augusta, Georgia. Though the rattling was barely perceptible, it was reported that sleeping citizens were suddenly awakened and ran into the streets in fear. The shocks were also felt in Charleston. Around the globe along the Mediterranean Sea, the ancient cities of Rome, Naples, Alexandria, and Athens were jolted by earthquakes.

The Dublin Post reported on Tuesday night at nine o'clock,"houses swayed perceptibly, doors opened, trees trembled and even the Earth was so disturbed that pedestrians found it difficult to travel." The shock was sufficient to evoke a clatter which awoke many who were asleep. Church services were in progress when the quake began. Fearing the "wrath of God" was thrust upon them, the worshipers hastily vacated the sanctuaries. The event was the topic on everyone's mind the following day. Rumors and true accounts of some of the more hilarious details of the commotion, although plentiful, were unfortunately not published in the newspaper. Recent scientific studies have determined that the intensity in Dublin was capable of causing slight damage in ordinary structures, considerable damage in poorly built buildings and moderate damage to chimneys. With the epicenter measuring a 10, the strength felt in Dublin was on a scale of 7.3, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Accounts of the earthquake were reported from all over the region. Though the times vary from as early as 8:52 in Macon to 9:00 in Cochran, where reports of the effects of the phenomenon were similar. Most witnesses stated that the sound which preceded the shaking moved from east to west or northeast to southwest. A second shock occurred less than sixty seconds after the first jolt. In Savannah, which was fairly close to the epicenter of the quake, building damage was moderate. Some loss of life and injuries were reported. It was noted that Lucy Foster was "scared to death." Residents of Tybee Island suffered more damage, including moderate damage to the historic lighthouse on the barrier island. People in Augusta remembered four distinct shocks, followed by more after shocks the following morning.

The quake struck Eastman at 8:55 with "heavy shocks." A couple of a dozen miles to the northwest, bottles were said to have been shaken off the shelves in Hawkinsville during the quake, which lasted 20 to 25 seconds. Cochran residents recounted that the shaking lasted 30 seconds, but consisted of two separate shocks, the second being greater than the first one. In McRae, houses trembled and windows rattled, with little if any damage. Folks ran from their homes in Chauncey during the "violent shake."

Up Highway 441 in Wilkinson County, the members of Red Level Methodist Church, were gathering for an evening to listen to the word of the Lord in what once was billed as one of the county's largest churches. Wilkinson County historian Victor Davidson described the scene best, "The Charleston earthquake of 1886, which frightened nearly everybody to death throughout this county, happened while a protracted meeting was being carried on at this place. The preacher whose name was Green, then living in Irwinton, was a powerful exhorter and as the meeting progressed each day waxed more and more eloquent and this being in the days of shouting Methodists when folks got real religion, the revival was on in earnest. On the night of the earthquake the church was packed to its utmost."

"The preacher had just delivered himself of a fearful sermon dealing with the destruction of the world and judgment day, but somehow or other when he invited sinners to come to the altar few came. Then in the fervor of his emotions the preacher called on the congregation to bow their heads in a word of prayer. He prayed to "God that if it was necessary to bring the sinners to repentance to send an earthquake and convince them of the wrath of an offended God. It is affirmed that he had scarcely uttered these words than a shudder ran through the earth as the first shock of the quake came, the house beginning to crack in every corner and the walls swaying from side to side. The prayer ceased in the middle of a sentence and every one raised his bowed head to see if the wind was blowing."

" Just at that moment came the second shock of the quake and pandemonium broke loose. Amidst the cracking of the walls the neighing of the frightened horses, the shrieks of the women and children, with the freshly reminded visions of the destruction of the earth by fire, and the eternal tortures of the lost before their minds, they made a dash for the doors. It is said that the preacher went out the window and only a blind man remained on the inside. Once on the outside and no more shocks coming, one old man, after looking up and seeing that the stars were in their accustomed places, assured them that it was nothing but an earthquake and that there was no danger. It is said that the crowd then with one accord returned into the church and there was one of the biggest revivals that night any church ever did have."

R.L. Hunter, editor of Milledgeville's Union Recorder, was sitting in his home when he heard a dull roar resembling the sound of a coal locomotive in the distance. Hunter wrote, "The idea at once occurred to us that it was an earthquake and we went to the door in a short time to hear a more distinct roaring sound." After going out into the street, Hunter heard a loud screaming in one direction along with shouts and cries coming from various directions.

After comforting a couple of terrified ladies who lived next door, Hunter returned to his home, where he began to chronicle the five ensuing aftershocks, which came about eight to fifteen minutes apart for an hour. A sixth one trembled after midnight, while still more perceptible rumblings continued throughout the next day until the following Sunday night, five days after the initial shock. Hunter also reported minor damages to older Milledgeville structures, including the old statehouse building.

The Great Earthquake of 1886 stands alone as the strongest in the recorded history of the southeastern United States. It can happen again. Earthquakes, of more minute scales, occur almost daily in the United States. And, they do occur in our area. Just four months ago on May 3, 2011, a magnitude 2.6 earthquake struck near Gibson, Georgia, only some fifty crow-fly miles away from Dublin. And, if that doesn't make you wonder, think about the folks of tiny Mineral, Virginia, who were violently shaken by a 5.9 earthquake last Tuesday and the people in our nation's capital, many miles away, as our capitol building shook right before our very eyes.


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by scottbthompsonsr
Aug 23, 2011 | 10591 views | 0 0 comments | 603 603 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Paul Anderson, "The World's Strongest Man"
Paul Anderson, "The World's Strongest Man"


 HEY YOU, UP IN THE CLOUDS, PULL OVER!  - Sheriff Carlus Gay had arrested many drunk drivers during his twenty plus year career in law enforcement.  But, he never dreamed one might come out of the sky.  J.B. Daniel, a 40-year-old resident of Swainsboro, landed his private plane on Georgia Highway 29.  Daniel then taxied his plane down for two miles down  the highway to the Cile Cook Home at the junction of the highway with the Old Savannah Road.  Gay could smell the scent of liquor on the breath of the pilot, whom he promptly arrested for flying under the influence.  Augusta Chronicle, April 14, 1958.

 THE POWER OF PRAYER -  Brammer Cecil, of Mt. Airy, North Carolina, was 

driving his truck through Laurens County carrying a heavy load of glass.  When the glass shifted, Cecil's truck overturned.  Cecil was buried under many slabs of heavy glass.  Pinned, cut, and bleeding, Cecil had no hope of being extracted from the cab of his truck.  The Rev. J.S. Wetzel, of Century Methodist Church, was the first motorist to arrive on the scene.  Rev. Wetzel tried and tried to remove the glass.  Then he prayed to God for the strength to get the man out.  Cecil was praying too.  Then, that's when another motorist, a resident of Toccoa, showed up.  With the young man's help, Wetzel managed to free Cecil from the crushed truck.  You see,  the young man was no ordinary man.  He had garnered world wide fame for his ability to lift heavy weights.  That young man, you may have guessed, was none other than Paul Anderson, the reigning Olympic champion weightlifter - who was forever billed as the "Strongest Man in the World."  Augusta Chronicle, March 14, 1960.

 SHINE ON - Charlie Williams enjoyed a good shoe shine business in Dublin.  Lots of men lined up to get their shoes looking like they were new.  Trouble was that Charlie's real shine was not the shoe shine, but moonshine, which he kept in a five-gallon bucket next to his stand.  Those customers who knew what was up ordered a "double shine" until law enforcement officers busted the money making operation.  Augusta Chronicle, October 24, 1954.

 "COURIER HERALD" GOES WORLD WIDE - Bernard Geeslin was walking along the seawall in Manilla in May of 1945 when he saw a Filipino sitting on his heels in the curve of the wall reading a newspaper.  He took a closer look, and to his utter amazement, it was a December 14, 1944 issue of "The Courier Herald."  The headline read "Nazis Smash American Lines."  Geeslin was unable to ascertain the subscriber of the paper or what the reader thought of it. Dublin Courier Herald, May 25, 1945, p. 3.

 THE OTHER LIBRARY - Did you know that the first Laurens County Library was established in 1938.  The Carnegie Library in Dublin gave free service to only city residents at the time.  The ladies of the Parnassus Club sponsored a library for county residents.  The library was located in the county office building on East Madison Street, which served formerly as the post office from 1912 until 1936.  Virginia Graves served as the first and only librarian.  After a few months the Laurens County Library merged with the Carnegie Library.  Countywide service began with the help of the W.P.A. which funded a traveling librarian.   Dublin Courier Herald, 8/6/1938, Laurens Co. History, 1807-1941, p. 239, 248.

 PSYCHIC FUND RAISER - One of the first fund raising events for the new Carnegie Library was held at the high school auditorium.  Professor William Irving Fayssoux displayed his talents as a clairvoyant and psychic.  The proceeds from the event went to the book fund of the new library.  At three o'clock, Fayssoux blindfolded himself.  He then drove madly and daringly over the main streets of Dublin.  He promised the crowd that he could find a letter which had been hidden by a prominent Dublinite. Dublin Times, October 15, 1904, p. 1.

 THE COTTON KING - Roswell King, a Connecticut native, left his home for Darien, Georgia, in 1788.  King served in a variety of public offices including surveyor, justice of the peace, justice of the Inferior Court, and state representative.  In 1802, King was hired as Major Pierce Butler's overseer on his plantations on Butler Island and at Woodville on the Altamaha River and Hampton plantation on St. Simons Island.  During the next 36 years, King developed efficient methods in the cultivation of rice and sea island cotton.  In 1816 Roswell King purchased a building on the northwest corner of the courthouse square in Dublin.  In 1829, King sold the building which may have burned.  In the 1830s, King was sent to Dahlonega to establish a branch of the Bank of Darien. King was much impressed with the beauty of the woodlands.  He returned to North Georgia and purchased a large tract of woodlands.  He dammed Vickery Creek and operated a large cotton mill.  King named the new community after himself, and the community of Roswell was born. King appreciated the value of industry in the South, the lack of which led to the loss of the Civil War.  Dictionary of Georgia Biography, Kenneth Coleman, Vol. 2, page 579; Deed Book G, page 192, Deed Book I, page 201, Laurens County Records.

 SPICING UP OUR INDUSTRIES  -    The Dublin-Laurens Chamber of Commerce from its inception has sought out new industries and businesses for the county.  In the spring of 1941 the Chamber worked with state officials and private industries in an experimental new crop in the Laurens County agricultural community.  The new crop came from central Europe with the plants being donated from spice making firms.  The new crop was a mild European pepper which when ground up would become a popular spice known as paprika. Dublin Courier Herald, May 3, May 14, 1941, p. 1.

 THE LAST OF THE ONE ROOM SCHOOL HOUSES - A 130-year-old educational practice came to an end on September 9, 1937.  The Laurens County Board of Education voted to close Burch's Academy, the last of the one room - one teacher schools.  The school was located at the southern end of the county on the south side of Alligator Creek.  The students of the grammar school were transferred to Cedar Grove School.  Cedar Grove was the second largest county school with 11 grades. Dublin Courier Herald, September 10, 1937, p. 1.

 THE THREE-SEATER BABY CARRIAGE - D.S. Brandon was one of Dublin's leading wholesale grocers.  His wife was of the northern persuasion, a Yankee.  She often ridiculed the women of the South for having so many children.  Mrs. Brandon compared the high number of children to litters of puppies.  The women of Dublin had the last laugh when Mrs. Brandon gave birth to triplets in 1909.  The Brandon triplets were heralded in this area as much as the Dionne Quintuplets of the 1930s.  Mr. Brandon was reading a newspaper when he saw an article about Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Robinson of Griffin, Georgia. The new parents of triplets were in need of help to pay the cost of caring for the babies.  Brandon made arrangements to ship the custom made three-seater baby carriage to the Robinsons, for which the new parents were eternally grateful. Dublin Courier Herald, June 4, 1914, p. 1.


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by scottbthompsonsr
Aug 18, 2011 | 14406 views | 1 1 comments | 608 608 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Harold Barrentine
Harold Barrentine

Two Bright Spots In the Nighttime

 There was a time long ago in the days of Jim Crow  when evil  men pulled robes over their heads and skulked through the darkness with meanness on their minds.   Such was the case on a frosty Thursday evening in the Mount Airy Community of Dodge County on March 2, 1950.  Out of the brilliance of a near full moon lit night  appeared two shining stars of good and right, who liberated an innocent man from the wrongful vengeance of a miscreant mob.

 Flogging of both black and white people had been on the rise in the early months of 1950.  Johnny Graham, white, and Riley Dykes, black, were beaten by persons unknown.  Little or no efforts were made by local law enforcement to apprehend the perpetrators.

 Sixteen-year-old Harold Barrentine, who later would become a Dublin accountant and businessman, was on his way to a party near his home.  He had heard the rumors about  floggings, but paid no mind to them as he had more important thoughts like any sixteen- year-old boy would.  While he was attending the party, Harold fortunately  noticed a caravan of vehicles  carrying some twenty-five or more hooded men who were  headed toward the farm house of Jesse Lee Goodman, a farm hand  who worked for Otho Wiggins.  Harold ran as fast as he could to warn Mr. Wiggins of his fears about Jesse Lee.

 Meanwhile, a hooded squad of scoundrels forced open the lock on the front door of the Goodman home and burst into the first bedroom, where they found Clydie Mae Goodman and her two children shivering in fear for their lives.  Then the  horde descended upon another bedroom where they found Goodman and another child asleep.    Allowing Goodman to put on only a few clothes, the fiendish throng drug him into the  wintry woods.

 Goodman remembered the leader, whom he called "the King."  "He had a large red shoulder patch and a big cross or star on his sleeve," Goodman testified.  "He was the boss. He gave the orders," Jesse Lee told law enforcement officers.  Jesse went on to tell how the leader asked about some oil he had.  Goodman told his captors that he had gotten the oil from his boss, Mr. Otho Wiggins.    Without any regard for the truthfulness of Goodman's statements, the assaulters began to mercilessly beat and flog ol' Jesse.  After a momentary pause, the whipping was about to resume.

 That's when Otho Wiggins showed up.

 Otho loaded his .22 caliber rifle, dismounted his truck, and focused his spotlight on the source of the  commotion.  Seeing cars and some people he thought he recognized and with full comprehension of what was unfolding before his eyes, Wiggins opened fire and kept on discharging his rifle until its chamber was empty.  He reloaded and began firing  again, some sixteen shots in all.  Cowering  behind Fords and Chevrolets, a few poltroons fired back without hitting their marks. 

 "When Mr. Otho started shootin' the man next to me shoved me in a car and jumped in on top of me," Goodman recalled.  "Then he made me get in the seat and stay down low," Jesse stated before his antagonists dumped him out of the car and fled the scene.  Goodman told authorities that his captors promised that they would seek revenge against Wiggins.

Wiggins would later say,  "When I began firing, both men and cars took off in every direction."

 N.A. Barrentine, Harold's father, accompanied Wiggins to report the incident to Dodge County Sheriff, O.B. Peacock.  Apparently afraid of the Klan's retribution against himself, Sheriff Peacock stated the matter was none of his business and that they should  report the case to the F.B.I.   Peacock later jokingly told the editor of the Eastman Times-Journal, "I don't want the Klan getting after me. Otho didn't ask me to go. He just told me about it."

 Editor Edwin T. Methvin, a long time opponent of the Ku Klux Klan, blasted Sheriff Peacock for his apathetic handling of the matter.  Methvin, in cooperation with the F.B.I., launched a personal crusade to rid the county of the barbarian organization.  Methvin did praise Wiggins in an editorial by stating, "We regret the marksmanship of Otho Wiggins was not better and that he succeeded in only dispersing the mob of hooded and robed men that attacked his Negro farm hand in Dodge County the other night.  Mr. Wiggins made a gallant try, though, he deserves congratulations."

 Also incensed with the violent acts was Superior Court Judge Eschol Graham, who called the Grand Jury into a special session to deal with the Klan, bootlegging and some problems with the local school board, the former two not being related to the latter.   Wiggins, Goodman, and Barrentine all testified about what they saw and heard that night.

 Harold Barrentine in identifying a 1939 Chevrolet belonging to  Alfred Crumbley testified, "I see those cars almost every day and I would know them anywhere."  Jesse Lee identified a 1949 pickup owned by Theo Lewis.  Otho Wiggins confirmed the testimony  of Barrentine and Goodman that the culprits were Klansmen  by saying, "We saw the white robes and they had hoods over their heads."  Their testimony led to the arrest of Crumbley, Lewis and a third suspect, one F.M. Smith.

 Overnight, Otho Wiggins and Harold Barrentine became heroes to many.  Sadly, they became  scoundrels to others.  Their fear of reprisals was real and warranted.

 Otho Wiggins, who never had a single moment of remorse for his actions, wrote a letter to editor Methvin, which he promptly published to bolster his crusade.  In thanking the members of the hooded order Wiggins wrote, "Since you have become the ones who have taken the law into your own hands, I don't suppose your wives and children will suffer nervousness or loss of sleep from such an occurrence."  Otho sarcastically complimented the bravery of a mob of white men who would go into a person's house, regardless of race or creed, and drag him from his bed and beat him.    Wiggins concluded his mocking missive by apologizing, "I extend to you loyal members of the hooded brotherhood my humble apology for being such a poor shot with my rifle.  Hope to see you soon.  Signed Your neighbor, Otho Wiggins."

 It was on that cold, cold night more than sixty years ago when Jim Crow flew away into the starry skies where Otho Wiggins and Harold Barrentine shined as the brightest spots of mercy and kindness in the Dodge County nighttime. 

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Rose W Brantley
October 01, 2011
Otho was my father. I remember this even though I was very young. I am very proud that he had the courage to do this. Thank you for publishing this article. Rose Brantley

by scottbthompsonsr
Aug 14, 2011 | 13015 views | 1 1 comments | 600 600 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The Jaycees' Swimming Pool

 For about fifteen years, it was one of the best places to be when the weather was hot and you needed cooling down.  Sixty years ago this summer, the Dublin Junior Chamber of Commerce, known as the Jaycees, opened a pool at the western end of Stubbs Park.  Beginning on July 7, 1951 and ending about the year 1966, when social conditions in Dublin and around the South precipitated its closing, the Jaycees' Pool was a place where fond memories were made.

 One of the first operators of the pool was Dublin High football coach, Tom Stewart, and his wife Peggy, who ran the concession stands. "In the summer when my daddy ran the pool, he hired life guards, taught swimming lessons, and drained, cleaned, and refilled it once a week," recalled Karen Stewart Haggard.  "It took all night to refill it and I loved to go with him to check on it as he would let me get in the half full pool," Haggard remembered.  Barbara Smith recalled the times she helped Mrs. Stewart in the concession stand where you could buy a drink and a snack for less than a quarter.

 Among the first lifeguards who Coach Stewart hired were Billy Eberhardt and Donnie Hooks in the summers of 1956, 1957 and 1958.    Of one of Hooks' most distinct memories was the 60 feet by 120 feet pool itself. (Now covered by a thinning layer of a black asphalted, abandoned tennis court)  "It did not have a filtration system," Hooks said in commenting on why the water had to be replaced every week.  "We would open the valves on Wednesday night.  On Thursday night when it was refilling, we would throw 10 to 20 chlorine tablets in the pool and then had to check the chlorine levels during the week," Hooks mentioned.  "It usually took four or five of us to clean and the helpers got to swim for the next week free. I would call the city water department to let them know that we were going to fill the pool. They would have to turn on additional pumps to refill the big water tank that was behind the gym. We would swim sometime when the pool was refilling. The pipe that came into the pool would shoot water almost across the width of the pool," the former lifeguard fondly reminisced.

 Dr. Nelson Carswell was one of the lifeguards on the first day of the pool's operation.  Glenn Carswell always thought the lifeguards were cute.  In fact, she married one, Dr. Carswell's brother "Tunk."

 Stephanie Miller remembered the good times at the summer camp held in and around the pool and the Shanty across the creek.  "Dublin teens taught us to swim in the old pool and we did crafts and all kinds of fun stuff," Miller recollected.  Mary Lewis  and Barbara Lewis Barroso looked back to the Frank Lewis method of swimming lessons when their father threw them into the deep end and watched them swim back, reaching out to the protection of the side of the pool.  There's even a surviving home movie to prove it.

 There were some unpleasant memories too.  Barbara Bussell Kawulich, as a younger child, was scared of the big pool. She preferred the "kiddie pool" located a few hundred yards to the east in the heart of Stubbs Park.  She was not too happy when she was told that she was too big for the little pool.  Barbara also remembered when her infant sister Bonny Bedingfield fell into the deep end.  Her mother, Hazel Bussell, couldn't swim. But, when she saw her daughter about to drown, she jumped right in.  Coming to the rescue was June Adams and other ladies to help Mrs. Bussell and Bonny out of danger.

 Without a doubt, Tricia Fleming had the darkest tan of all the regular pool goers. Lavern Wright remembered lifeguard Gary King, whose father managed the pool,  having the darkest tan she ever saw.  "He told us he put crisco on his skin," Lavern recalled.

 Donna Hall Wilder remembered the large bags of crushed ice for the ice house that her mom, Fonnie Hall, and her dad, Andrew Hall, would pick up before opening the pool during their tenure as managers. "I remember loving the smell of the chlorine they used every night after they closed. At night when the pool was open, bats would be chasing bugs from the lights and diving for water from the pool, A couple of times the bats would get caught in the guys shirts when they were diving," Donna remembered.

 Andy Hall went swimming every day. He  remembered Tricia Fleming's tan too. So did Lawrence Hall, who spent most of his swimming days in the colder water at Rock Springs near his home.  Andy cherished the times that he spent with his fellow teens hanging out at the pool. "There was a concession stand to pay as you entered. You could buy drinks in a cup, candy, cookies and chips. There was a juke box. Some would do the "Peppermint Twist" to the music," Andy said.


 Gene Hall Pope, who worked as a life guard during her parents tenure along with Cooter Ballard and Louie Blue, most distinct memories were the cute boys who came to the pool.

 As for the best diver, the consensus number one choice was the late George Walker.  Andy Hall recalled, "George Walker could do a triple flip off the diving board. The most I could do was a cannon ball, jack knife, or a belly flop." Randy Hester fondly recalled the time that he, George Walker, and  a bus load of kids went from the pool to Warner Robins Air Force Base to participate in a swim meet. "I must have been 10 or 11 and didn't even tell my mom I was going. I lived behind Central Elementary School and had walked down to the pool and they asked me to go so I went! She thought I was at the pool all day, but back then you didn't worry about the kids until after dark because everybody looked after everybody."

 Roy Hall, no close relation to the Hall family who operated the pool in the 1960s, counts as his most vivid recollection of the pool was going with his grandmother, who frequently took a mess of peas or butterbeans to shell as Roy swam and played in the cool, blue-tinted water. Roy loved the slides and the diving boards, but was terrified of being sucked into any one of the two square drains at the bottom of the deep end.  "It was the sound of kids laughing and playing and sight of water splashing all around that made those days we spent in the warm sunshine so wonderful and carefree," Hall recalled.

 Then. about 45 years ago, like most good things, it all came to end.  Suddenly it was gone, leaving us to find another pool to swim in.  Things were never quite the same as they were those fifteen or so summers and they never will be.   It was a time of love and hate, a time of war and peace, and a time when we were all true to our pool.  It was a time when our music and  most people  were good.  It was a time when both Elvis and the Beatles were still kids, and a time when we walked everywhere or rode our bicycles. Yes, we cruised through the hamburger stands, raced down long, dark roads, and danced until midnight.  Even some us went to the library without telling our daddies.

 Lately, some of my Facebook friends and I have been thinking that all our fun was all through now.   But, we still have our fond memories of the days when the skies were all sunshine, the water was so, so cool and clear, and friends were all around us.  It was our party  and  we had fun, fun, fun, until they took our swimming pool away. 

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Louie Blue
April 30, 2015
Loved the 2 years I was a lifeguard there. It was a fill and draw pool so on Wednesdays we started draining the pool about six p.m. About midnight all the water was out and we scrubbed the pool from one end to the other with chlorine and sometime bleach. The we rinsed it out with a hose and started filling it up with fresh water....cold water. About dawn it would finally be full and we would go home.....sleep a little while a come back at 10 when the pool opened or at 1 when it opened after lunch. Saw some fine looking young ladies in bathing suits......Ah those were the days!

by scottbthompsonsr
Aug 06, 2011 | 10110 views | 0 0 comments | 602 602 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The Great Escapee

D.C. Black couldn’t stay in one place for very long, especially behind the iron bars of a cramped, dank and dark jail cell. So from the very first moment he was captured by Laurens County authorities, D.C. Black began to plot his escape from the Laurens County jail. Sure enough, just as he had done many times before, this fleeing felon escaped his captors in short order. This time, his freedom was ephemeral when he was recaptured by two state patrolmen and a Georgia National Guard colonel.


D.C. Black, already known as an "elusive escapee," participated in a mass unauthorized exodus of at least twenty-eight others from the state prison near Reidsville on April 16, 1943. Black joined his compatriot and fellow escape artist, Leland Harvey, on a crime rampage. Within ten days, all but four of the escaped prisoners had been recaptured. Black and Harvey, two of the most illustrious felons anywhere in Georgia, were captured in Arkwright, near Macon, on April 25. Both men were asleep in their car and did not resist their arrest.


Just two days later, Black, who was serving one to twenty years on robbery charges, was on the lamb again. Harvey and Black, dressed in civilian clothes, easily overwhelmed a Bibb County deputy, calmly took the elevator down from the fifth story jail in the courthouse, quietly stole a car, and westwardly raced at speeds of more than 85 mph toward Vineville. Black and Harvey’s easy escape was blamed on woefully ineffective and possibly corrupt Bibb County deputies.


On May 12, the skipping scoundrel was encountered by a pair of Atlanta detectives who sprayed his path with warning rounds toward the back of the barn where he was hiding just outside of Morrow, Georgia. Not chancing another escape from a less than secure county jail, Black was returned to the state penitentiary in Reidsville for a long tenure on the chain gang.


Black was serving a 41 to 45-year sentence in a Ware prison, when he staged yet another in a long string of escapes. Black attempted to rob a hotel in Macon on Thursday, May 10, 1956. Within a few hours, he was spotted by six alert Dublinites, who recognized the tag number while they were returning from work at Warner Robins Air Force Base. One of the men called the State Patrol. Meanwhile the others tailed the suspect until patrolmen arrested him, but not before Black attempted to wreck their cars. A shootout took place behind the Shamrock Court Motel, which was situated across Highway 80 from the Dublin VA Center.


After an intense interrogation, Black finally admitted that his name was not A.J. Allen and that he was wanted on outstanding robbery charges. Almost proud of his crimes, the running rascal admitted that he stole a few items on his flight from Macon.


Just about eight o’clock on Saturday morning, county jailer Art Sapp went into the cell area and opened the door. Suddenly, the strongly built Black grabbed Sapp and wrested his gun away and forced the jailer into the cell. Black ran behind the Speed Oil Company and then across East Jackson Street. After stealing Carl Allen’s 1954 Chevrolet with a quarter of tank of gas in it, Black headed west along Highway 80 before turning southeast through a maze of dirt roads. The car took the skipping scoundrel as far as a wooded area northeast of Rentz, where it was reported found by Highway Patrol Sergeant, B.A. Snipes. Then the departing dastard set out on foot.


Sheriff Carlus Gay issued an order for a countywide man hunt by sheriff’s deputies, Dublin and East Dublin police, State Patrol officers, and GBI agents, which totaled more than one hundred men. Governor Marvin Griffin called in the National Guard for help.


While running through the woods, the vanishing villain got a whiff of Mrs. Millard Coleman’s cooking. After identifying himself as a wanted man, Black demanded that Mrs. Coleman cook him a meal and fix himself some sandwiches in exchange for not hurting her. After Black skedaddled, Mrs. Coleman called family friend and attorney Bill White, who alerted Sheriff Gay.


By the late hours of Monday evening, a pack of bloodhounds and their handlers arrived from Milledgeville to join in the chase. The hunt continued until Tuesday morning when Black was spotted by National Guardsmen Donald Maddox, Pete Wicker, H.T. Lindsey, and Bobby Ennis.


Just before dawn on Tuesday the exhausted escapee, bruised and scraped, fell to the ground. He begged his captors, Corporal W.B. Garr, Trooper J.T. Cauthen, and Col. W.B. Crowley, not to shoot him, indicating that Jailer Sapp’s gun was in his hip pocket of the overalls he had stolen earlier in the day some two and one half miles from the Coleman home. Although his skin was scratched and his clothes torn by briars and brambles, Black was closely shaven, his stolen razor still in his pocket.


Black, always the deserting degenerate, was shackled and brought back to the county jail on the southeast corner of the courthouse square. To make sure Black’s stay was a longer and uneventful one, Sheriff Gay placed the frequent fugitive in the "death cell."


Black commented on his failed escape by stating that the next time he escaped, he would get a taxi and get a hotel room. He told reporters that the officers were so close to him several times that he could hear transmissions over their walkie-talkies. When asked by a Courier Herald reporter how it felt to be hunted for three days, Black responded, "It is about like a rabbit being hunted."


To make things worse for the Sheriff’s deputies while the search for Black was intensifying, nine prisoners escaped from the Public Works Camp on Sunday night and set out on a mass string of robberies and thefts. With little sleep after an all night manhunt, deputies answered a call about a cracker salesman who was robbed in Orianna by persons fitting the description of the escaped prisoners.


Warden Coleman said the nine men simply vanished without a trace. The escapees scattered in all directions and stole cars, one belonging to Dr. Nelson Carswell and another to O.L. Colter. Within four days, more than half of the men were recaptured at various points around the state.


Additional charges of attempted robbery, automobile theft, escape, and breaking and entering were issued against Black. It wouldn’t be the last time Black, alias Allen John Billingsley, would escape. He ran his total escapes to seventeen, including possibly his last one in 1975 , when and his old escaping ally Leland Harvey, both near the age of seventy, walked out of a correctional facility up the road in Hardwick, Georgia, one designed for aged and infirmed criminals. The duo was caught in Mississippi when Black’s stolen Cadillac sideswiped a bridge railing and crashed. But it was here, a mile east of Rentz, Georgia that D.C. Black, the disappearing desperado, saw the end to one of his last great escapes.

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by scottbthompsonsr
Jul 27, 2011 | 10191 views | 0 0 comments | 606 606 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
John M. Graham
John M. Graham
The Katie
The Katie
The Louisa
The Louisa
Oconee River Boat
Oconee River Boat

The Noah of the Oconee River

 "No one in the State of Georgia," the old timers said, "built a better light draught river boat steamer than John Graham."  In his twenty-five plus years as a builder of river boats, John M.  Graham built more than forty boats and rebuilt at least half that number.  John Graham never built an ark.  But, if had he received such a  mission, one could be comfortable that it would have been as good an ark as had ever been built,  with all apologies to Noah himself.

 John M. Graham was born in northeastern Laurens County, Georgia on January 31, 1844.  His father, John Graham, married Nancy Daniell, daughter of George W. Daniell.  His great, great-grandfather was General Robert Howe, the commanding general of the Colonial Army in the South during the American Revolution.

 Just after his eighteenth birthday in the mid-spring of 1862, John joined Company C of the 57th Georgia Infantry.   Before going off to war, the company trained on muster grounds across the road from Boiling Springs Methodist Church, which was built when John was eight years old.   The 57th was assigned to the Army of the Tennessee, which was stationed in Vicksburg, Mississippi. 

 On May 16, 1863, the 57th Georgia became heavily engaged in battle with Union forces east of Vicksburg in the Battle of Champion's Hill, called Baker's Creek by the victorious Union army.  A substantial part of the company was killed and wounded during the fighting before the survivors withdrew back to the last line of defense along the Mississippi River at Vicksburg.  After a seven-week long siege, the Confederate Army surrendered to Gen. U.S. Grant on July 4, 1863.  The capture of Vicksburg gave the Union Army control of the Mighty Mississippi and signaled the beginning of the end of the war in the lower southern states.

 John Graham, along with every other prisoner, was forced to sign an oath of allegiance not to take up arms against the United States.  And like most of the other prisoners, John broke his oath and rejoined the 57th, which returned to the Savannah area for coastal duty.  When too many of its soldiers felt the urge to return to their homes too frequently, the regiment was assigned to guard duty at Andersonville Prison.  Just as it was  about to leave for duty in Virginia, the regiment was sent to rejoin the Army of the Tennessee in North Georgia.    John fought in one battle after another in the defense of Atlanta. 

 John's fellow soldiers considered him to be "the bravest of the brave."  They remembered a man who "was afraid of nothing except not doing his duty."  Graham was acknowledged as being "the life of the camp" by those who fought with and survived him.  His comrades recalled that he was a soldier who "was ready at all times to endure any hardship, storm any breastwork, and was as uncomplaining as any soldier in the army."

 Two and one half weeks after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Gen. Joseph Johnston surrendered his Army of the Tennessee in North Carolina.

John Graham walked back to Laurens County, returning to a decimated county, where money, and even food, was a luxury.  He married Mary Linder Moorman on January 16, 1868.   Although it was said that he accepted the outcome of the war, Graham was an active participant in veterans' organizations and was deemed  an "unreconstructed rebel." 

 When he was a child, John rarely saw river boats on the Oconee River.  River traffic had all but died away before his birth.    It rejuvenation was temporarily tolled during the war.  It was in the late 1870s when Col. John M.  Stubbs and Capt. R.C. Henry  rejuvenated the use of river boats to transport agricultural products up to the Central of Georgia railroad's depot in Oconee and down to the ocean port of Darien.  It was about that time when Graham built a home on the northeast corner of West Gaines Street and North Church Street. 

 John Graham's involvement in river boats first occurred in June 1887  while serving as the engineer of the steamer Laurens.  The Laurens, owned by Capt. Henry, sunk in the Oconee river.  Although the boat was a total loss, its pilot, the Rev. Norman McCall - a future minister of First African Baptist Church and a man of great size and strength -  was able to save 150 of the 185 barrels of rosin on board.

 Just six weeks later, while Graham was sitting on the edge of the Laurens, he inexplicably fell into the water.  Capt. Henry desperately tried, but failed, to stop the paddle  wheel from swallowing Graham.  Graham was pulled from the river in an unconscious state. He survived mostly due to intense efforts on the parts of doctors Melton and Currie.

 Among the boats Graham constructed were the Laurens, Gypsy, Annie Garbutt, R.C. Henry, City of Dublin, R.C. Henry No. 2, New Dublin, Katie C., City of Macon, City of Hawkinsville, City of Columbus, Ocmulgee, C.D. Owens, L. McNeil, G.T. Melton, Graham, Two States, Dixie, and R.C. Wilcox.   The first nine boats were built in Dublin and the rest were built in other southern states.    Capt. Graham also rebuilt, the Annie G., Southland, Oceola, City of Augusta, Nan Elizabeth, and Louisa.  Graham also built a new flat boat for Blackshear's Ferry in the summer of 1905.

 John Graham formed a partnership with his son-in-law, Capt. W.W. Ward, who was a river boat captain of equal footing in the eastern part of Georgia. 

 River transportation lived and died on the depths of the water levels of the ever-changing rivers.  Rocks and snags presented frequent dangers requiring better buoyancy and maneuverability in the designs by Graham and others. 

 Most experts of the day  considered John M. Graham, a natural mechanic and machinist,  as the most talented boat builder in Georgia.  It was said that Graham "possessed a bright, analytical mind and rarely made a mistake."  All of his talents were self taught and many speculated that he would have gone down in the annals of American boat building history had he received the benefits of a technical education.

 John Graham's later life was inextricably tied to the rivers and river boats.  He escaped many an accident during his career.  It is indeed ironic that his life ended as a result of his work.  While working on his last boat in Savannah, John Graham was severely injured.  At the age of sixty-five, John Graham never seemed to have recovered from his injuries.  Graham died at his home on December 14, 1909.  His body is buried in the old City Cemetery at the rear of First United Methodist Church.  With his old rebel comrades standing by, the "Noah of the Oconee," was finally laid to rest.


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by scottbthompsonsr
Jul 27, 2011 | 9826 views | 0 0 comments | 604 604 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink


The Run From Bull Run

 They were going to whip the Yankees in a month.  Then the war was going to be over before by Christmas.  One hundred fifty years ago this week, the South and the North went head to head in the first battle of the War Between the States.     The southern army named its battles for the nearest town or land mass - the northern army for the nearest creek or river.  The armies clashed near the railroad junction at Manassas, Virginia, near the creek named Bull Run.  The Yankees were equally confident.  High ranking government officials, their wives, and curious spectators traveled by wagons and buggies the short distance from Washington, D.C. to see the Grand Army of the Republic destroy the upstart rebels.  When it was over, both sides were suffering.  The Confederates had stood their ground, losing many lives and valuable field leaders along the way.  The Federals, stunned and unexpectedly overwhelmed, ran most of the way back to the safety of the fortified capital city.

 The 8th Georgia Infantry was there that day.   Company G of the 8th Georgia was known as the Pulaski Volunteers.  The Volunteers officially organized on May 16, 1861, a little more than a month after the war began at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.  The company, under the command of Capt. T.D. Lawrence Ryan, was composed primarily of men from Pulaski, Telfair, and Laurens Counties.    One of the most intriguing members of the Volunteers was James Argo.  Argo was born in 1796 and fought for his country in the War of 1812.  He joined the Volunteers at the age of sixty five and served until the close of the war.  Laurens County's sole company, the Blackshear Guards, had not yet been fully enaged

into Confederate service in Virginia.


 A week before the company was officially organized on May 16th, sixty or seventy of the Volunteers traveled to Dublin to train with the Blackshear Guards.  After an exhaustive drill, the Guards entertained the Volunteers with a feast.  With their stomachs full, the men were in no mood for any intensive activity, and by mid-afternoon headed back for Hawkinsville, stopping on the way at the home of Samuel Yopp, four miles outside of Dublin.

 Daniel H. Mason, of Laurens County,  was elected as the company's Second Sergeant.  Sgt. Mason, the thirty one year old son of William Mason and his wife, the former Margaret Pullen of northeastern Laurens County, was one of the first Laurens Countians to enlist in the Confederate Army. 

 Around the 10th to the 15th of July, the 8th Georgia was ordered to Martinsburg, Virginia, where Stonewall Jackson's forces were converging with the Federal army.  The conflict never materialized, and on the 19th, the Confederate Army marched toward Manassas Junction.  The report of cannon fire was heard during the mid morning hours of the 20th.  The regiment marched double quick to the sound of the guns.  They arrived just before noon and found themselves in an open field and in easy view of Union artillery and riflemen.  The volunteers quickly moved to the cover of a pine thicket near the Stone Bridge over Bull Run, where the Federals had crossed earlier in the day. 

 The 8th Georgia opened fire.  The Federals fired back.  The slaughter began. The six hundred men of the 8th Georgia held on for forty five minutes, just long enough to delay the enemy until Beauregard and the remainder of Johnston's armies could come up to the lines.  In despair and confusion, the Volunteers fell back into a ravine in the rear of the thicket.  The Volunteers attempted to rally.  The Federals rushed in, nearly surrounding the devastated Pulaski Countians after they managed to get off only one volley of musketry fire.   Colonel Francis S. Bartow, a former Georgia Congressman, rode toward the 8th's position.  Bartow, who had his horse shot out from underneath him, was escorted by the surviving Volunteers to a more secure position.  Col. Bartow sat down to rest.  In contemplation of the ongoing tumult, Bartow lamented, "My men are nearly all killed and I can not longer to live.  I pray God that a bullet may pierce my heart." 

 Captain Ryan asked permission for his remaining men to join a South Carolina unit in one last gallant charge.  The request was denied and the survivors of the 8th were sent to the rear of the lines out of range of enemy fire.  The Confederate lines were collapsing.  Col. Bartow, commanding the 7th and 8th Georgia regiments,  and Gen. Barnard Bee of South Carolina rushed to the aid of Col. Nathan Evans's men. 

 Despite the reinforced line, the Confederates began to fall back toward Henry Hill.  After a lull in the battle, Gen. Bee attempted to rally his men by yelling the immortal words, " There stands Jackson like a stone wall."  Col. Bartow led the 7th Georgia in a charge.  His prayer was answered.   Bartow received a mortal wound.  The dying colonel stated, "They have killed me, boys, but never give up the field."   Gen. Bee, too, received a mortal wound.  Lt. Col. William Gardner, commanding officer of the 8th Georgia, was severely wounded and removed from the field.   The 8th suffered horrific losses.  

 New and fresh Confederate units smashed the Federal flank.  After the firing had slowed to a smattering, the Pulaski Volunteers made their way to an elevated position overlooking the village of Centerville.  David G. Fleming of the Volunteers recalled, " Men, carts, wagons, carriages, artillery, horses, and everything rushing frantically and 'topsy-turvy' over each other, and all running for dear life."  Soldiers and spectators fled in mass confusion all the way home to Washington.  Victory overcame the sting of death, if only briefly.  The Volunteers greeted Gen. Beauregard as he came up to salute their efforts.  The Confederates whipped the Yankees just like they said they would, but at a cost which was more dear than they ever imagined.  Both sides learned that day that the war would not be a quick one.  More than a half million more men would die before peace would come.

 There was one more task to do before the end of the day.  It was not a pleasant one, but it had to be done.  The men knew that they had to return to the thicket.  Their comrades were there, some wounded, some dying, and some already dead.  Alvey Goodson, John Lowery, J.W. Carruthers, and Jesse Scarborough were dead.  Thomas Boatright was dying.  W.N. Bowen, A.R. Coley, J.E. Floyd, A. McClelland, and Isaac Rains were severely wounded.  Sgt. Daniel Mason was there too, blood gushing from a wound in his arm.  Bowen, McLelland, and Rains soon died.  Fleming pondered, "On viewing the small pines, and remembering how thick the bullets came, our wonder was how any of us escaped, except by protection of an unseen hand."

 Sgt. Mason was taken to a primitive field hospital and later transported to Charlottesville, Virginia, where a Confederate surgeon amputated his arm.  David Fleming, Mason's dear friend and messmate, described the sergeant as "a most excellent soldier."   Mason, like many amputees of the day, didn't make it.  After a few weeks of lingering in constant agony, Mason died.  He is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Charlottesville.  Sgt. Daniel Mason was Laurens County's first victim of that long and eternally tragic war, the War Between the States, which began in earnest with all of its death and horror, one hundred and fifty years ago this week. 

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