Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, December 02, 2016

THE SEMI - SWEET YEAR OF 1916

THE SEMI -  SWEET YEAR OF 1916

All around us, things were changing for the worse.  The ravenous boll weevils were chewing every part of the millions of cotton plants around the county.  The first world war was expanding in Europe while we waited for the destined time when we would go over there to fight the growing menace to world peace and security.  Businesses in Laurens County, even the well established, profitable ones were teetering on the precipice of bankruptcy.  Even the great Four Seasons Department store was forced out of business during the early years of a long economic downturn which lasted throughout more than two decades.

Yet despite it all, the people of Laurens County held on during the 16th year of the 20th Century.  Dublin's population rose to an estimated 7500 plus for the first time.  The number of local banks was still growing and placed third only to those in Fulton and Chatham Counties.  In a matter of less than a dozen years, there would only be two banks left in Laurens County, the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Brewton and the Bank of Dudley in Dudley.

After sustaining massive losses in both cotton production and market prices, local farmers began to diversify as they united and cooperated with each other to find newer, better and expanded markets for their products.  A reinvigorated Chamber of Commerce voted to concentrate on the main needs of the county, including a meat packing plant and more diversified farming along with better railroad rates, improved river traffic and joint freight operations with Ocmulgee River traffic.  The crown jewels would be the location of the 12th Congressional District Agricultural School, a feat which was almost attained.

New and improved roads as well as national highways were being planned to run through the county.  Near the end of the year, H.C. Burch was named President of the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Highway Association.  N.G. Bartlett, the secretary of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce was made the secretary of the organization, whose goal it was to establish a major highway from the coast to the center of the state as a part of a coast to coast highway, first under the moniker of the "Dixie Overland Highway" under the local leadership of J.M. Finn, N.G. Bartlett and E. Ross Jordan.  The new route would later become known as the Highway 80.

Despite the fact that transportation of goods and people were primarily carried out with rail and automobiles, there were those who were not yet ready to give up on river transportation.  In December of 1916, a meeting of the Altamaha River System Association was held in Dublin. Representatives from Dublin, Macon, Abbeville, Milledgville and Fitzgerald were seeking to form a delegation to travel to the nation's capital for improvements to the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers  which converge near Lumber City to form the mighty Altamaha River which empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Darien, Georgia.

The conference was led by Judge C.L. Bartlett of Macon.  The group made a concentrated effort to gather enough supporting data to prove their case that river transportation was still an efficient mode of transportation.  Erratic rainfalls and more efficient trains and automobiles quickly ended continued Federal funding for river transportation in Middle Georgia.  A new wharf, located on the site of the old M.D. & S. Railroad,  was constructed at the boat landing by Oconee Navigation Company, headed by Capt. W.W. Mobley.  The Wrightsville & Tennille Railroad followed suit by repairing its deteriorating wharf.

During the year 1916, Dublin added two banks; the Bank of Dublin under the direction of City Court Sheriff F.C. Tindol, the president, merchant H.V. Westbrook, the vice president, Deputy Sheriff L.F. Watson, as vice president, along with the popular, efficient and veteran cashier, B.M. Lewis who came over from the Southern Exchange Bank.  J.M. Williams, M.H. Blackshear, T.H. Black, A.R. Arnau, F.H. Rowe, H.A. Smith, C.W. Brantley and D.W. Burch came forward to establish the Citizens Bank of Dublin to replace the old City National Bank.  Citizens Bank of Cadwell and Cadwell Banking Company merged into the Cadwell Banking Company.  The officers were: H.R. Bedingfield, President, H.C. Burch, Vice President, and J.A. Burch cashier.

The City of Dublin's, six-man and six-woman,  Park and Playground commission decided to dramatically increase the number of city owned parks, instead of pouring all of its resources into the still relatively new Stubbs Park.  The committee was composed of  Ward 1, Mrs. L.G. Moffett, E.S. McLean; Ward 2, Mrs. Frank Lawson, Rev. T.W. Callaway; Ward 3, Mrs. Harvey Mathis, A.H. Grier; Ward 4, Miss Leonora Starr, H.E. Egan; At large, Mrs. George B. Davis, Mrs. Clyde Sears, L.O. Moseley and Robert H. Hightower.

The city conducted a formal opening of the new Stubbs Park with the installation of additional swings, benches and more electric lights and the removal of objectionable features.

The city passed a $30,000 bond resolution by a 398 to 24 vote of its citizens  to build a new water filtration plant as  soon as possible to use water filtered out of the nearby Oconee River.

The year 1916 was a good year for building new churches.  Both Mount Carmel Baptist and Rockledge Baptist churches announced plans that summer to build new churches. Rockledge Baptist, the youngest Baptist church in the county, was building its first house of worship.  The members of Mount Carmel, which had been around since before the Civil War, wasted no time in moving into their 30x50 foot sanctuary with ten Sunday school rooms in near record time.  From the time the first lumber was cut until the first sermon was preached only seven weeks elapsed - a feat due to the generosity and hard work of its members under the direction of Rev. W.E. Harville and deacons W.A. Witheringon, F.R. Faircloth and F.R. Witherington.

The members of Henry Memorial Presbyterian Church voted to move from their wooden church on North Jefferson Street, now Jefferson Street Baptist Church, to a more elegant house of worship on Bellevue Avenue.

The always community minded members of the New Bethel Community came together, taxed themselves and built a handsome new brick school house in the spring of 1916.  One of the city's first modern hospitals began with a petition for incorporation of the Dublin Sanatorium by E.B. Claxton, J.L. Weddington, William R. Brigham, and T.J. Blackshear. The city's first public pool was assured when the  Young Men's Business League organized.    The organization's  first project was the building of the Dublin Natatorium on lower Church Street.

Despite the valiant effort of the citizens of the city and Laurens County as well, no new measures could stop the onslaught of the boll weevil, the country's entrance into World War I and the massive influenza epidemic at the end of the war, all of which would combine to send the local economy into a severe economic downturn and to an end to the Golden Age of the Emerald City.

IMAGES OF OUR PAST - PILOT CLUB CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING - DUBLIN, GA CA. 2002


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016