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

Saturday, July 04, 2015

JUDGE GEORGE WALTON


Montgomery County Jurist Declares Our
Independence

Philadelphia, PA, July 2, 1776 - There was a meeting going on!  A revolution!  Freedom, the unalienable endowment of our Creator, was the solitary topic of discussion.  Over in the corner sat a young Savannah lawyer, the youngest in the congregation of the Colonial America’s most elite and erudite professionals, businessmen, and planters.  George Walton and fifty-five other freedom seeking members of the Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring the thirteen colonies of King George’s colony of America be, then and forever independent and free to enjoy the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Walton, in the in the first year of nearly thirty years of public service, would later serve a  term as Judge of the Superior Court of Montgomery and Washington counties, some of whose citizens became Laurens Countians, when a portion of  those counties was annexed into Laurens County in 1811.

George Walton was born in Frederick County in the colony of Virginia in the middle of the 18th Century.  As an orphaned boy, George was sent by his uncle to apprentice under a local carpenter, who being somewhat of a fool and knowing nothing of the young man’s potential, denied the young man the use of a mere candle, which George yearned to have to satisfy his passion for reading and for learning all that he could.  Undaunted by the ignorance of the craftsman, George, in his spare moments when he could slip away, gathered sundry pieces of wood, which he burned in lieu of the forbidden stick of wax.

When he attained the age of majority, George removed himself from his native land and set out to study the law, a subject which then attracted the most intelligent men in the colonies. Walton, still a teenager by the calendar, began to study law under Henry Young, a prominent Savannah barrister. In four years or so, Walton had become proficient in the understanding the laws of the colony and was admitted to the practice of law in the general courts of the state.

Savannah, the southernmost port city of the American colonies, was rapidly becoming a “hot bed” of those who favored liberty from the tyrannical acts of King George.  In the summer of 1774, Walton allied himself with “The Liberty Boys,” a group of men who held a bitter, deep and unceasing  hatred for the King of England for his numerous and continuous acts of repression he had heaped among the colonists of America.   Some of the Liberty Boys gathered at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah to discuss a plan of action to bring a halt to the oppression. A year later, on July 4, 1775, in a meeting held in Tondee’s Long Room, Walton was elected Secretary of the Provincial Congress of Georgia.  By December, Walton was elevated to the position of President of the Council of Safety, which governed the colony in the absence of and contrary to any British authority in the area.  Walton was the last President of the council before it became equated with being governor of the state - Archibald Bulloch would hold that distinction.

In the winter of 1776, Walton was honored by his colleagues with his election as a delegate to the Continental Congress to be held the following summer in Philadelphia.  Joining Walton as delegates were: Lyman Hall, Archibald Bulloch, John Houston, John J. Zubly, and Wimberly Jones.  Walton arrived near the end of June, just before the deliberation on a resolution, which would change the history of the World forever.  Walton took his seat in the hall on the 1st day of July, the day in which Thomas Jefferson presented his draft of the Declaration of Independence.  The following day, the delegates officially adopted a resolution sponsored by Richard Henry Lee and John Adams, which declared independence from the Crown.

       Technically, but not officially nor traditionally, July 2nd, was the date of our “Declaration of Independence.”  For the better part of two days, the delegates debated, discussed and edited Jefferson’s words, an act which Jefferson saw as a personal insult to his intellect and beliefs.  Late in the afternoon on the fourth day of July, twelve of the thirteen colonial delegations voted to adopt Jefferson’s document - the New Yorkers did note vote because of an unavoidable technicality.

     The following day, a cool day for July in Philadelphia, Jefferson and his committee  began the process of printing the declaration for signing by all of the delegates, Walton being the last of the Georgia delegates to sign. Lyman Hall and Button Gwinett subscribed their names first.

George Walton remained in Congress until the fall of 1777, when he returned to Georgia to a more active role in governing the affairs of the state and protecting the citizens from the British Army.  After receiving a commission as a Colonel, Walton took command of the First Regiment of the Georgia Militia.  Despite the best efforts of Walton, John Laurens, Count Casimir Pulaski and others under the overall command of General Robert Howe, the city of Savannah fell into the hands
of the British just after Christmas in 1778.  Col. Walton, seriously wounded but fortunately in the care of skilled British physicians, was taken south to Sunbury, where he was held as a prisoner of war until he was exchanged for a British naval officer in October of 1779.

Walton wasted very little time in returning to the rebel government.   Walton traveled to the isolated areas of Georgia north of Augusta encouraging the citizens to keep up the fight.   In November, he was elected Governor by the State Assembly.  He served only two months.  Walton found himself embroiled in a bitter battle between two factions in Georgia politics. He sided with Lachlan McIntosh, who eventually killed his opponent, Button Gwinett, Walton’s co-signer of the
Declaration of Independence, in the most celebrated duel in the history of Georgia. For his role in the affair, Walton was censured by the Georgia legislature.

Walton returned to Congress in the dark days of the Revolution in 1780.  Things were not going well.  The British had control of the South and defeat seemed eminent. With the aid of the French government, Washington’s forces were able to defeat Lord Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown, which inevitably led to the defeat of the British in the South.  Walton left the Congress in 1783 and returned to Georgia to spend the last twenty years of his life.  Walton, thought of as a highly superior lawyer, was appointed Chief Justice of the State.  He remained in the judicial branch of government until 1789, when he was elected Governor of Georgia, serving only a portion of year when Georgia’s government was re-organized.  In that same year, he was sent to capital city of New York as a delegate to the first Electoral College, which elected George Washington as our nation’s first president, under our current constitution that is.  John Hansen was technically our country’s first president, under the previous government based on the Articles of Confederation.  In 1795, Walton returned to New York to fill an unexpired term of James Jackson in the United States Senate.

Walton failed to win reelection to the Senate and returned to Augusta to engage in farming. But, Walton had one more duty of public service to perform.  On January 17, 1799, he was sworn in a Judge of the Middle Circuit of Georgia, which had jurisdiction of a wide area ranging from Warren, Richmond, and Columbia counties on the northeast and Washington and Montgomery counties on the
southwest.  Judge Walton remained in office until his death on February 2, 1804.

     In 1848, his remains were re-interred in Augusta as a part of the monument to the
signers of our “Declaration of Independence.”

GEORGE ELLIOTT LUCK


The Right Stuff


George Luck died as he lived.  From an early age when he accompanied his uncle on his first ride in an airplane, George decided that he wanted to be a pilot when he grew up.  This is his story.  It is a story of a baby born in Dublin and raised in Wrightsville, Georgia who became one of the military’s top test pilots during the Vietnam War Era.

It was on November 5, 1934 when Ettie Lee Drake Luck and James Miles Luck became the parents of their son George, who was born in a Dublin hospital. Ettie and James lived their remainder of their lives in Wrightsville.  James, a postal carrier, died in 1982 while Ettie, a daughter of George and Ellen E. Drake, died in 1983 in Dublin. Both are buried in Westview Cemetery in Wrightsville.

“My father decided to become a pilot after an uncle took him flying at a young age,” said George’s son Mike.

Following his graduation from Wrightsville High School, George, the second Johnson County boy to earn the Eagle Scout Award,  received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, but left after his first year.  He returned home to Georgia, where he enrolled at Georgia Tech to study aeronautical engineering.  Once again, Luck transferred, this time to fill his appointment to the nation’s newest military academy, the United States Air Force Academy, in its only second year of existence.

“He was a mentor for the younger cadets,” recalled Andi Biancur, the president of
the academy’s Class of 1960.

After graduation, Lt. Luck enrolled in the Air Force’s Test Pilot school, where he was put through mentally and physically strenuous tests to design and fly new planes, faster and higher than jet aircraft had flown before.

“His  job was to test new planes and new designs — pushing them to their limits, landing them safely and recording the results, Mike Luck said.

“Early in George's illustrious Air Force career he flew the B-52 out of Kincheloe AFB,  including many tense missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He then graduated from Air Force Test Pilot School and was stationed at Edwards and Wright-Patterson Air Force Bases. As a test pilot George flew cutting edge missions in the B-52 mothership, zoom flights in the F-104 to extremely high altitudes, many varieties and alterations of the KC-135, and C-5 galaxy tests, among other things. His test pilot duties were interrupted by the war in Southeast Asia where George flew combat missions in the A-1 and A-26. George was later responsible for training bomber and tanker pilots, and instructors, while Deputy Director of Operations of Castle Air Force base in California,” his obituary writer wrote.

In 1969, Luck was deployed to South East Asia on duty with a Special Ops unit in Thailand.  His wife, Carolyn, tagged along and performed missionary work there to stay close to her husband.

“In 1968-69, I served as a test pilot in the Directorate of Flight Test at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. One of my projects was to fly a B-57 test bed airplane in the development of a new IR sensor for the RF-4C. Another project was to fly and evaluate the prototype B-57G with a low light level television sensor. Both programs involved many nights on the Eglin AFB photo resolution range; and both programs were successful and were deployed to SEA.

“During the summer of 1969, I was assigned to the 609th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) (call sign: Nimrod) as a pilot to fly the Douglas A-26 Counter Invader. The two-month crew training was conducted at Hurlbert Field at Ft. Walton Beach, FL. Hurlbert was the home of Air Force Special Operations. After transition flying, formation and dive bomb, skip bomb, rocket and strafe patterns, we switched to night operations. First striking above the flares, then attacking under the flares and finally attacking in total darkness using Navy sea markers.

I arrived in Nakhom Phanom RTAFB Thailand. Our mission was to interdict the trail complex in Laos and to provide air support for the Royal Lao Forces in their fight against the Pathet Lao and NVA. After two months of night operations, the A-26s were deactivated along with the B-57s, F-100s and U-10s. Ten of the A-26s were flown to Tucson, AZ for storage; the remaining five were given to the VNAF. I led a flight of three on the ferry trip back to the bone yard. We flew the old Pan Am Clipper route: Bangkok, Clark, Anderson, Wake, Midway, Hickham, McClellan and D-M.

The crew members were then up for grabs. I took an assignment in the 56th Special Operations Wing as a flying safety officer. This assignment required me to check out in another airplane. For me, it was the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. I was attached to the 602 SOS (call sign: Firefly). During my check flight on my fifth A-1 mission, I was shot down by ground fire over the Plain of Jars in northern Laos. I got to ride the Stanley Aviations Yankee rocket extraction system. It worked like a charm. My right seater and instructor was shot and critically wounded as he parachuted down. After an hour on the Plain, we were rescued by two Air America helicopter crews. I completed the assignment flying 80 combat missions and investigating numerous accidents and incidents. When I arrived at NKP, we had 100 Skyraiders, but after one year, we had lost 40, and after two more years, the numbers dwindled down to only a handful.

My next assignment was to Test Ops at Edwards. I was the project pilot for the RC-135U. It had phase array radar antennas on the nose, tail and each wing tip. It was to be used for triangulating SAM radar sites in SEA,” wrote Luck of his career in the Vietnam War.

Luck ended his career training pilots to fly and flying a desk in the Pentagon with the office of Joint Chiefs of Staff.  During the remainder of his Air Force career, Luck trained pilots and served at the Pentagon twice — once with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After a quarter of a century of service to the Air Force and his country, Col. Luck retired and went to work for Boeing Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas and Everett, Washington.   Luck continued to fly for recreation and once again to serve his country as a pilot with United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Air Division.

Hailed by his peers, George Luck was chosen as the Washington Pilot’s Association Pilot of the year 1996.  Just after his 80th birthday last year, Luck was inducted into the United Flying Octogenarians, a group of active pilots over the age of 80.  In 2011, he was given a Wright Brothers “Master Pilot“ award from the Federal Aviation Administration for 50 years of “outstanding contributions that further the cause of aviation safety.”

“George was one of the legends in our community, and perhaps one of the legends in the aviation community at large,” said Steve Dame, a fellow pilot. “Despite being fairly senior, (Mr. Luck) had a sound mind and judgment and flying skills,” Dame said. “He was just one of those guys that had the right stuff,” Dame concluded.

Known as a mentor for Boy Scouts and aspiring pilots, George Luck was killed on June 10, 2015 in a plane crash in Everett, Washington,  when a Beechcraft Bonanza crashed during a flying lesson after taking off from Paine Field. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A COLOSSAL COUSIN


MORE LAURENS COUNTY CONNECTIONS

A Colossal Cousin

 Bobby Davis, it has often been said, was the biggest baby ever born in Bowie County in the great state of Texas. Weighing fourteen pounds at birth, Bobby tipped the century mark on the scales before he started school. When he became a teenager, the scales began to strain as the needle hit the two hundred pound mark. As a grown man, Bobby grew to at least three hundred pounds. What, you may ask yourself, does this large behemoth of a man have to do with the history of Laurens County? 

Well, first we will need to turn back the clock some two hundred years or so. Don't read ahead, please don't. You might spoil your surprise. Young Keen, son of John, came to Laurens County with his widowed mother when Laurens County was still in her infancy. Keen fathered sixteen children by three wives. Kindred Lawrence Keen, a son through his Young’s wife Margaret Jones, joined the Troup Volunteers, Company B of the 57th Georgia Infantry. Keen, who played the fife in the regimental band, surrendered with nearly all the Confederate forces entrenched in and around Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863. Unlike many of his comrades, Keen escaped injury - a result which will play prominently in this story.

After the war, Keen and his wife, Mary Alice Chipley, decided to pull up their stakes and go to Texas to find a new, and hopefully better, life. Before they left, the Keens were blessed with their first daughter, Mary Alice Robena Keen. Lawrence, a mechanic by trade, landed in Navarro County and later removed himself and his family over to Erath County. Lawrence, as he was known to his family and friends, got the calling to become a Baptist minister in Palo Pinto County. He had been a deacon in Bethlehem Baptist Church in Condor in eastern Laurens County before moving to the Lone Star State.

Being a minister, Rev. Keen and his family moved around quite a bit. Keen possessed a great talent for singing and taught school kids how to sing, for a small fee of course. He died in 1906. His body lies in an old grave in the Garland Cemetery, south of Annona. Mary Keen married a Davis and they had a daughter who they lovingly named Mary Arizona Davis. Mary Davis married Ora.

I can't give you Ora's last name right now because the identity of the mysterious cousin would become instantly obvious. Mary and Ora's second child and first son was born in Bowie County, Texas fifteen days before Christmas in 1928. Bobby, always big for his age or any age for that matter, claims he got his size from his mama's side of the family. When he was six, his family moved to O'Donnell, Texas where Ora worked on farms and eventually bought and operated his own grocery store, a handy thing to own with a son like Bobby who devoured everything on his plate. By the age of thirteen, Bobby could carry a hundred pound sack of feed, fertilizer or flour under each arm to load on his daddy's customer's trucks.

When he really wanted to show off, said old friend Bob Clark, "Bobby lifted his car by its rear axles." Bobby never tried to be a Hercules. He tried his hand at boxing, but gave up after one round with a professional fighter over in Odessa. Bobby attend Texas Military Institute. In 1946, he was named the vice president of the class and lauded as the most popular and best natured member of his class, probably because he was fond of practical jokes, good natured ones, not the cruel kind.

In college, Bobby planned to major in the social sciences and physical education. In his senior year at Sul Ross, Bobby was bitten by the acting bug and graduated with a degree in drama. Shortly after graduation, Bobby was promoted to a sergeant in the 45th Oklahoma Division during the Korean War. As soon as he was discharged, and as fast he could get back home to Texas, Bobby married the love of his life, Dolphia Lee Parker, his college sweetheart. Inside his humongous human physique was the astute mind of a scholar. With a framed master's degree hanging on his wall, Bobby Davis taught grade school in Senora, Texas and in Carlsbad before he and his family moved to Glendale, California, where he planned to work on his Ph.D. degree at the University of California at Los Angeles.

While studying at UCLA, Bobby was a substitute teacher to help pay the bills. He always wanted a career in education, but he loved to act too. One day in 1956, Bobby was invited to appear on Gunsmoke, the granddaddy of all western television shows. And as they say, the rest was history.

 In 1959, the producers of a new show tabbed Bobby to play the role of "Eric" in a new western. Don't get ahead of me yet. Eric was one of a group of half brothers who lived with their father on a Nevada ranch. If you ever watched a western on television, I think you know who I am talking about. But if you never heard of Eric, you missed the one show in which his real name was revealed. Named for his maternal Swedish grandfather, Eric was known by one of the most enduring terms of endearment ever penned on any television character.













 You see, this mountain of man, who always wanted to be a school teacher and grew tired of acting, was fondly known on the show and to the hundreds of millions of viewers as "Hoss" Cartwright. Bobby's given name was Bobby Dan Davis Blocker, who played the affable character for thirteen seasons on NBC.

Though his career as "Hoss Cartwright" was nearly over in the early 1970s, Blocker had become an astute businessman as the owner of Bonanza steakhouses across the country. Because of his superior people skills and intellect, which he displayed weekly on television, and his passion for politics,

Dan was often asked to run for governor, senator or congress. In one of the most tragic cases of celebrities who died all too young, Dan Blocker died after a clot formed in his body following gall bladder surgery on May 13, 1972. 


He was only forty-three years old. Which brings up two philosophical questions. What would have happened if Dan Blocker's great grandfather had been killed or wounded at the Battle of Baker's Creek along with dozens of his fellow Laurens Countains? What would have happened if his grandmother never moved to Texas with her family?

The answer is quite simple. We would have never loved and admired this man whose ancestral roots run deep into Laurens County and who as "Hoss," carried the heart of a lamb and the brilliant mind of professor inside the frame of grizzly bear.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

MERLE BARWICK - In the Hands of a Savior


A Good Friday Indeed


As it began, the day was like any other early spring Friday in Central Georgia.  It was Good Friday and Easter was only two days away.  It was such a nice day that Mrs. Merle Barwick decided to take her class on a field trip around the still young Cochran airport on Airport Road, some four to five miles northeast of the center of the town of Cochran.  As it unfolded, the day turned dark and violent.  As it ended, this Good Friday turned out as a triumph in the face of tragedy - all to the credit of a couple of Bleckley County school teachers.
Mrs. Merle Barwick had been teaching the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic to her students for many years.   It was said that "Miss Merle," as she was known by her students, was so enthusiastic about her teaching position that she spent most of her summer vacation preparing for the opening of the next school term.   As two Army fliers would soon learn, it was the non-basic lessons which Mrs. Merle learned which saved their lives.

All of a sudden, Mrs. Barwick and her students noticed a plane in trouble.  In those days, teachers and students, as well as almost every American, paid close attention to low flying airplanes in the skies.   With a war starting in Europe and raging in the Pacific, nearly everyone kept their eyes upward when they heard the roar of propellers above.  

Two planes were flying on a northwesterly course from Savannah, presumably to Cochran Field near Macon.  Not to be confused with Cochran's Airport, Cochran Field was a air base south of Macon, which was initially used for the training of Royal British Air Force cadets    

Mrs. Barwick, then a 42-year-old elementary school teacher, at first thought nothing of two American planes flying overhead.  Soon, she perceived that something was wrong as one of the planes began to break from its tandem formation.  Barwick  heard the crashing  of the United States Army twin engine bomber, as it slammed nose-first into the sandy soil.  Sensing a grave situation, the Samaritan sprinted two hundred yards to the scene of the crash.  

Initially, it appeared that the plane intended to land, but overshot the runway.  When  the pilot attempted to pull the plane up, the engines stalled and it crashed to the ground after clipping the tops of the trees along its perilous path. 

As she approached the crash scene, Mrs. Barwick quickly analyzed the situation, looking for the most severely wounded among the crew.  The teacher, turned medic, treated Lieutenant Lee Scott, the plane's pilot, who appeared to be the most critically injured.  

Using the first aid skills she had learned in Red Cross classes, Mrs. Barwick applied pressure to the wounds of  Lt. Scott, whose head had  slammed into the cockpit controls crushing his skull.  Barwick never left her patient until more experienced medical personnel came to his aid.

It was just about that time when Ned Smith, a salesman from Dublin, and Marshall Wining, the instructor at the aviation school at the nearby airport, came to their aid and pulled the injured men from the plane.  

Teacher Barwick's assistant, Miss Mary Will Morgan, knew first aid.  She too had taken classes in life saving, just in case she came upon a drowning person or an injured passenger in a car wreck.  Mary Will never dreamed that she would be treating a downed airman on Bleckley County soil.

Miss Mary Will found Sergeant Fred Mangold was writhing in excruciating pain.  His leg, bleeding in multiple places, suffered compound breaks in the three places.  Mary Will, too, never left her patient.  She put together a makeshift tourniquet.  Concerned for his safety and bound to stay by Sergeant Mangold's side,  Mary Will volunteered to go along for the wild  ride in a speeding car bound for the base hospital at Cochran Field.  Mrs. Barwick, too, volunteered to escort her patient to the hospital, more than a half hour away.

Two other crewmen were aboard. Private C.B. Wood was also taken to the base hospital with unknown, but apparently minor injuries.  A fourth crewman, known only as Johnson, was positioned in the nose of the plane and only endured a few minor scratches and cuts. Luckily, the plane did not burn upon its head on collision with the ground and remained virtually intact. 

The crash would be the first time that the Bleckley County State Guards (Unit 99) would be called into action during the war.  The unit, under the command of Captain Harry L. Daniel, took over the duties of guarding the plane from curiosity seekers and souvenir hunters until military police officers arrived on the scene.  Bystanders obeyed the guards and not a single person attempted to cross the line during the night and early morning which followed. 

Flying aboard the second plane was Sergeant Mangold's brother, whose plane turned around and landed to give aid to their fellow airmen.

Lieutenant Scott and Sergeant Mangold were stabilized and sent to another hospital in Middle Georgia.  Scott, from Jackson, Mississippi,  was somewhat restless over the Easter weekend, but counted his blessings that he was alive, thanks to the acts of his savior, Mrs. Barwick.  Mangold, from Indianapolis, Indiana, rested comfortably under the intensive care of his doctors. 

Both men, through the loving hands of their saviors,  survived their wounds, It  is not known to this writer how they fared after they left their loving hands.  What is known is that these two school teachers, turned angels through the grace of God,  just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

The whole experience led to a boom in the teaching of Red Cross first aid and life saving techniques in Bleckley County schools and Middle Georgia.  And, guess who became the instructor of first aid at Limestone School?  You got, it, Mrs. Merle Barwick. 

Merle Barwick, daughter of long time Bleckley County School Superitendent, I.A. Willis, was born in the early years of the 20th Century.  While she had no children of her own, "Miss Merle" was beloved by her students during her seventeen years as principal of Union Hill School and her many years as a 7th grade teacher at Cochran Junior High School.  Among her peers, Mrs. Barwick was considered a leader in the field of education in Georgia. 

Merle Barwick, who molded the lives of several hundreds of school teachers and saved the lives of two Army fliers, died on August 21, 1957.  She is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Cochran beside her parents. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MAELSTROM ON THE YORKTOWN


Seventy Three Years Ago At Midway Island 


 It has been called the greatest naval battle in the history of the World and the turning point of World War II in the Pacific. The United States Navy, still reeling from a near mortal blow at Pearl Harbor and severe blows inflicted on the fleet in the Battle of the Coral Sea, was looking for a victory, a victory which would turn the tide of the war by diminishing the air power of the Japanese. On June 4, 1942, sixty years ago today, the U.S. Navy, culminating weeks of brilliant strategic planning, code breaking, and sheer luck, got its chance. The place; Midway Island. The result: a decisive victory. The cost; the loss of too many men and one of the greatest carriers in the fleet, the U.S.S. Yorktown. Aboard the legendary carrier were Jack Thigpen and Hubert Wilkes, two young men from Laurens County, Georgia.


The Yorktown had suffered a serious damage during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of 1942. The navy ordered the ship to return to port for a three-month overhaul. On the 27th of May, the Yorktown arrived at Pearl Harbor. Navy intelligence was able to crack the codes of the Japanese Navy and determined that a major portion of the enemy fleet was headed toward Midway Island. There was no time for an overhaul. There was very little time for repairs. Working around the clock, the Navy Yard did the best they could in a short time to get the ship repaired and ready to sail again. Basically, a piece of metal was welded over the hull area hit hardest by the bomb. The Yorktown restocked its depleted inventory of provisions. Hubert Wilkes remembered counting seven refrigerated freight cars lined up to resupply the refrigerators and freezers on board the Yorktown. On the 30th of May 1942, the Yorktown, still not a full ready battle shape, left Pearl Harbor headed west-southwest toward Johnson Island.

 The day was June 4th, 1942. Admiral Chester Nimitz knew exactly where the Japanese fleet was. Their destination was Midway Island. His men had set the trap and Admiral Nagumo’s fleet was taking the bait. The battle started the day before and the results were not what Nimitz had expected. Initial assaults by Japanese fighters inflicted a near mortal blow on the first American defenders. By fifteen minutes after ten o’clock on the morning of the 4th, the Japanese Navy was winning the battle.
Within a few minutes, the tide began to turn. American dive bombers began to strike the surprised Japanese carriers, eventually sinking four of them and one heavy cruiser. Hubert Wilkes recalled, “ Things were going smoothly for awhile, then the action picked up.” There was no time for lunch that day. Eighteen dive bombers from the Japanese aircraft carrier, Hiryu, were detected by radar on several minutes before noon on June 4th, and combat air patrol was vectored to intercept. The enemy flight commander spotted the Yorktown, which was struck by three bombs. The first exploded on the flight deck opening a gash and killing and wounding gun crews around its perimeter. Fire crews rushed to put out the ensuing fires. A second bomb hit the Yorktown's forward elevator, causing only moderate damage. The third, and most effective bomb rammed through the flight deck, destroying the boiler room uptakes and smokestack. The Yorktown was dead in the water.

 “The ship was by now listing badly,” Wilkes recalled. The Captain issued orders to abandon ship. Turmoil was the order of the minute. Hubert was on the fourth deck. He managed to scramble up to the hangar deck and onto a ladder on the high side of the ship. “Every rung was full of sailors. The sailor on the bottom rung was afraid to turn loose. Since the ship was listing badly, it was about fifteen to twenty feet from the end of the ladder to the water on that side of the ship,” Herbert remembered.

 Hubert heard a sailor that he knew, but not very well, talking to the chaplain, who had on two life jackets. The sailor told the chaplain that he couldn’t swim and needed the extra life jacket the chaplain was wearing. The chaplain refused to give up his second life jacket. Hubert was furious. Knowing he could manage to swim without a jacket, Hubert gave the sailor his life jacket, stripped off all his clothing down to his undershorts, and started down toward the treacherous waters. He told the sailor to go down the ladder even if he had to step on someone to get down. Both Hubert and the other sailor he had assisted went down the side of the ladder. As they got to the bottom rung, the man didn’t want to turn loose. 

Hubert pushed the man off the ladder and then followed him into the water. After reaching the safety of the port, Hubert learned what type of man he had rescued, a liar. He had given up his jacket to a man to had lied to the authorities about his rating. Once the men managed to get off the ship and into the water, the danger was not over. They remained for nearly two hours in water permeated with the Yorktown’s oil and stained with the blood of their fellow sailors. Wounded men were floating, trying to stay alive. Hubert kept one eye out for Japanese fighters who might strafe the survivors. The other eye was trained downward for any signs of the fins of sharks, who might be lurking for a mid afternoon snack.

To say the least Hubert said “we were uncomfortable.” “I was thankful that God was on my side,” Hubert remembered as he was being rescued. After climbing up onto a destroyer sent to rescue the survivors, Hubert asked one of the men aboard just how deep the water the water was. Even though he knew he could drown in six feet of water, he took no comfort in the fact that a recent depth sounding revealed that the water where the Yorktown was attacked was twenty thousand feet or nearly four miles deep.

The survivors remained on the destroyer overnight, before transferring to a cruiser, where they got a chance to take a real bath and clean up. A sub tender took them back to Pearl Harbor, where it finally occurred to Hubert the true devastation he had suffered. Although he had emerged from the ordeal with his life, he lost all of his money, clothing, records, and personal belongings when the ship went down. Especially distressing was the loss of sixteen pairs of white uniforms and a baker’s dozen of cartons of cigarettes, which he hoarded for a future assignment in San Diego.

 The Yorktown herself was not as fortunate. A Japanese submarine, which had continued the attack on the Yorktown after nightfall, fired two torpedoes into the disabled carrier as she was being towed back to Pearl Harbor. The great Yorktown did not die in vain. The battle changed the outcome of the war in the Pacific. The Americans lost one carrier, three hundred seven men, and one hundred forty-seven planes.

The Japanese navy, while at the high water mark of its dominance of the Pacific waters, lost four carriers, three hundred thirty planes, and thirty five-hundred men, including an inordinate amount of their best fighter pilots. Jack Thigpen and Hubert Wilkes made it home.

 Hubert graduated from Auburn University in 1951 with a degree in Agricultural Education. He later earned a master’s degree in Agricultural Education and his 6-year Degree in Supervision and Administration. Hubert worked in the public school system for more than thirty years.

Hubert died on June 19, 2015 and is buried in the Blue Springs Baptist Church cemetery,

My thanks to Johnnie Faye Taylor for her interview of Hubert Wilkes)

Friday, June 19, 2015

ALANSON BRYAN


The Sailing Surgeon


When Captain A.L. Bryan came to Dublin on Maundy Thursday in April 1944, he was on a mission.  During his naval career, Bryan had sailed all but three of the seven seas. There was still a war raging in Europe and the Pacific.  It would be two more months before the Allied armies would invad the Normandy coast.  Captain Bryan was ordered to report to Dublin, Georgia to establish  a naval hospital, a large facility situated more than one hundred miles from the nearest ocean.  It would be a hospital to treat the flood of expected casualties of a war which seemingly had no end.  This is his story.

Born on April 4, 1892 in the tiny East Iowa farming community of Dixon,  Alanson Leroy Bryan was a son of telegraph operator Lindsey Bryan and his Norwegian born bride Mary.  Before Alanson and his twin sister Alice reached the age of ten, his family moved north to Anoka, Minnesota on the Mississippi River above Minneapolis.

At the age of twenty-four, Alanson Bryan graduated from the prestigious medical school at Vanderbilt University in 1916.   Dr. Bryan began his internship with the United States Public Health Service following his graduation.   As President Woodrow Wilson was considering asking Congress for a declaration of war in Europe, Bryan entered the United States Navy when he was commissioned a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the Naval Reserve on February 1, 1917.  

Following the entrance of the United States into World War I, Lt. Bryan traveled to the nation’s capital where he entered the Navy’s Medical School and was commissioned a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the regular Navy.

Lt. Bryan’s first assignment came in Boston, Massachusetts to serve as a lieutenant aboard the USS Vestal and the USS Supply, an 1873 iron steamer, until the summer of 1919. As a first lieutenant, Bryan served the next three years aboard the U.S.S. Fulton and the U.S.S. Eagle. 

Bryan returned to shore duty taking courses at a New York University and serving at a Boston hospital from 1922 to 1924.   Around Christmas,  Bryan reported for duty to oversee the fitting of the U.S.S. Memphis, a light cruiser which sailed both the Atlantic and Pacific during Bryan’s 14-month stint.  After eight months aboard the USS Procyn, Bryan received his first assignment in a hospital, the Navy’s premier hospital in San Diego, California, where he served until the fall of 1930.

After a nine-month stint aboard the USS Chaumont and the USS Medina, Commander Bryan, trained in eye, ear, nose and throat surgery and specialized as a general surgeon,  began to settle down to shore duty at Mare Island, The Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor and back to San Diego where he served until the end of the 1930s.   The commander returned to Pearl Harbor as the tumultuous decade of the 1940s began to serve aboard the U.S.S. Maryland. Bryan was reassigned stateside in the spring of 1941, but the Maryland remained at her base, where she was severely damaged on December 7, 1941.

Commander Bryan’s first experience in establishing a naval hospital from the ground up came in Jacksonville, Florida, where he served as the Chief of Surgical Service during the hospital’s first six months of operation.  

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bryan’s skills and expertise were needed to assist the Navy in converting older ships into virtual sailing hospitals.  Bryan worked aboard the French ship Normandie, which was converted to the U.S.S. Lafayette. Working with Bethlehem Steel, Captain Bryan oversaw the construction of the U.S.S. Massachusetts, a Dakota Class battleship, which was engaged in the Battle of Casablanca in November 1942. 

From December 5, 1942 until March 6, 1944, Bryan, a slender, sandy-haired, sailing surgeon,  served as Senior Medical Officer of the U.S.S. Relief, a base hospital ship of the Atlantic Fleet based in Charleston, South Carolina. In the winter of 1943, the Relief set sail for Boston in preparation for the duty in the South Pacific, where she saw duty in the engagements around the Solomon,  Gilbert and Marshall Islands, including Tarawa and Kwajalein.



Dr. Bryan’s staff of surgeons, nurses and orderlies took on the unenviable task of treating massive numbers of Marines many of whom had been gravely battered on the beaches of the paradise islands of the South Pacific as the island hopping campaign slowly began it’s deadly swing toward their main destination of the island of Japan.

Captain Bryan left the horrific fighting in the South Pacific for a new and completely different assignment.  His mission was to travel to rural east-central Georgia to serve as the Navy’s Prospective Officer in Command of its new hospital in Dublin, Georgia.

  When Captain Bryan arrived in Dublin, he brought with him his wife, the former Margaret Grady of New York and his daughter Mary Anne, who enrolled in Dublin High School.  His sons were following in his footsteps.  John Dennis was serving as an ensign in the South Pacific and Alanson, Jr. who was serving a surgeon in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  The Bryans lived in spacious brick home on the hospital grounds. Bryan and his wife immediately became involved in the community affairs of Dublin. Captain Bryan joined the Rotary Club.  
Bryan’s red-letter day came on a rainy Monday, January 22, 1945 with the dedication of the $10,000,000.00 dollar Naval Hospital.  Bryan worked closely with Commander Louis Dozier, in charge of the building of the hospital, the contractor Beers Construction Company and his executive officer, Commander A.J. Delaney.

During his early months in the completed hospital, Captain Bryan arranged for the visits of Helen Keller and World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker to the hospital to help raise the spirits of the patients at the hospitals.   Bryan was also instrumental in convincing some of the country’s greatest bands to stop by the hospital during their cross country travels to play unscheduled performances for his patients. 

Within four years of his departure from the Naval Hospital, Captain Bryan died on October 5, 1950 at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, where he has spent many years during his thirty plus year career in the Navy.  He is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, some 2300 miles down the road from where he oversaw the establishment of Dublin Naval Hospital.  





Wednesday, June 17, 2015

THE EMERALD CITY LEPRECHAUN MARATHON

THE EMERALD CITY LEPRECHAUN MARATHON
The Early Years
                                   
     What makes someone want to get up early in the morning and run ten thousand
meters?  For some, it is the spirit of competition.  For others, it's the exhilaration. 
And, for many, it's the comradery, friendships and bonds that runners share.  That's
what Dublin physician Dr. J.Y. Jones had in his mind in 1977 when he orchestrated
the Emerald City Leprechaun Marathon race on the Super Saturday of the Dublin
Saint Patrick's Festival.

     A small crowd of runners, both amateur and semi-professionals, gathered at the
starting line.  Vicki Davis, Richard Johnson and Ann McCaskill fired the starter's
pistols and they were off toward the finish line.  There were actually two races, the
main10K marathon and a mini two-mile run.  Tom Childers, Mike Cadwell, and
Chris Thibodeau were there.  These guys ran marathons on a regular basis in the
Southeast.  Clint Harrelson, a former tackle and catcher for Dublin High School, was
there also.  Though catchers and tackles aren't generally known for their speed,
Harrelson desperately wanted to win the first marathon.  The outcome was never in
doubt from the start.  The three outsiders finished in the top three positions. 
Harrelson became the first Dubliner to cross the finish line with a respectable time
of 47 minutes and 48 seconds, just about ten minutes behind the race winner
Childers.   Tom Fagan, III, the youngest runner in the race, finished in 63 minutes. 
In the mini marathon, Linda Jones, wife of Dr. J.Y. Jones was the first woman to
finish.  Frank Adams, of Dublin, finished first with a time of 12 minutes and 44
seconds.

     Word of the new race began to spread and in 1978 scores of runners from around
the Southeast signed up to participate.   Tom Childers was back again as the first
seed.  He didn't disappoint.   Besting his previous year's mark by more than seven
minutes, Dr. Childers defeated Thomas Crom of North Carolina to garner his second
consecutive trophy, presented to him by former Dubliner and television and movie
star Cassie Yates, who was back in her hometown to serve as the grand marshal of
the parade.    Janice Gage, of Florida, was the first woman to finish. Lu Ann Durant
was the first local female runner to finish.  Back again was Harrelson whose time of
37:11 gave him the best time of a local racer.  Ironically, Harrelson's time in his
second effort would have won the previous year's race.  Jack Crofton, 64, and
Kenneth Gonzalez, 8, were the race's oldest and youngest participants.  Dr. Jones,
the race organizer, posted his best time to date.

     Larry Reeves, a former track star at Dublin, won the mini marathon in his first
attempt. Thirteen-year-old Randall Daniel, a seventh grader at Southwest Laurens
Elementary, came in second.    There was a distinguished man in the crowd. 
Someone handed him a running suit and some shoes and said "come on, run."  He
put his new clothes on and ran, finishing with a respectable time of 14:36, a mark
good enough to earn him the best time in the forty and over category.  Because he
was not a native of Laurens County, the man wasn't eligible to win the official award,
though Dr. Jones did present the man, a native of Houston County, with an official
t-shirt signifying that he, United States Senator Sam Nunn, had participated in the
second Leprechaun Mini-Marathon.  Emory Palmer, 8, and Dr. John Bell, 67, were
the youngest and oldest participants.  Edwina Wicker, a fourteen-year-old Dublin
student, was the fastest woman in the two-mile race.

     In 1979, the race went national when runners from more than fourteen states
joined to participate in the event.  Though two-time defending champion Childers
would not return as a result of an injury, race organizers and sponsor American
Color and Chemical Corporation secured the presence of Bill Rodgers and Jeff
Galloway.  Rodgers won both the Boston and New York Marathon races of 26. miles
four times each between 1975 and 1980.  At two times, this 1976 Olympic
marathoner  held the record for the fastest American in the marathon.  Galloway was
the founder of the legendary Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, which annually
attracted tens of thousand of runners.  

     It wasn't even close.  Rodgers dusted the field with a time of 3o minutes and 16
seconds  to set a course record.  Galloway, suffering with a nagging injury, failed to
challenge Rodgers and  finished tenth.  The first Dubliner to cross the finish line was
-you guessed it- Clint Harrelson, who improved his time again and led the local
runners for the third year in a row in a triumph for all former catchers and tackles. 
 Floridian Kris Powers led the ladies.  Chuck Briscoe, a six-year old, became the
youngest runner ever to finish the race.   Local notables in the race were Mickey
Register, a former All SEC University of Georgia baseballer, Dublin accountant and
long time runner Frank Seaton, Jr. and future congressman Dr. J. Roy Rowland, Jr. 

     In the mini marathon, Edwina Wicker led the females for the second consecutive
year.  Willie Reed overcame Larry Blash and former winner Larry Reeves to win the
trophy for the fastest male in the shorter race.  The youngest finisher was
eight-year-old Spence Mullis.  James Wilbanks, at the age of sixty, led all of the
runners in his age bracket.  The most conspicuous runner that day was Jim Walker,
who towered above the pack in both races. 

     The 1980 marathon was one of the most competitive ever.  With strong
competition from Olympic hopeful, Atlantan Benji Durden, Rodgers bested his own
course record by posting a 28 minute 57 second jaunt ahead of an even five hundred
finishers.   Ellison Goodall, a legendary Duke track star, was the fastest woman in the
race.  Jeff Kibler, of Dublin, broke Boyd Anderson's course record for the two-mile
run, finishing just ahead of Willie Reed and Ben Canady, the latter being on leave
from a tour of duty with the Army in Germany.  Edie Brantley outran most of the
males in the race to capture the women's crown in the mini marathon.

     In 1981, for the third year in a row, Bill Rodgers won the Leprechaun Marathon. 
Finishing thirty two seconds ahead of Louis Kenny and Ronnie Carroll, two full
blooded Irish runners, Rodgers yet again set another course record with a 28 minute
40 second mark, just four seconds behind Rodgers' career best in the 10K run. 
Ellison Goodall was once again the top female finisher in the pack.  Jeff Kibler was
the top local finisher in the 10K and for the second consecutive year, was first in the
two-mile run.  Edwina Wicker, a high school junior led all females in the
mini-marathon.  Once again, James Wilbanks and Jim Walker led the senior citizens
in the main race.

     Bill Rodgers' string of victories came to an end in 1982, when he was defeated by
Dean Matthews in a field of world class runners in stifling hot weather.  Ellison
Goodall captured her third straight women's championship.  Kibler captured the
mini-marathon for the third straight year and was the top local finisher in the 10K. 
Ramona O'neal, of East Laurens High School, won the two-mile race among females.

     Dean Matthews won his second straight trophy in 1983 and broke Bill Rodgers'
course record with a 6.2 mile run of 28 minutes and 33 seconds.  Francie
Larrieu-Lutz, an Olympic runner, US Champion and member of the Track and Field
Hall of Fame, was the fastest female in the race.  Larry Dutwiler and Edwina Wicker
won the two-mile run.

     The all time course record of 28 minutes 4 seconds is held by Jim Cooper, a world
class runner, who won the all the races from 1984 to 1989.  John Tuttle, a 1984
Olympian, won nine consecutive races after that.  Joan Nesbitt holds the record for
women with a 32 minute 45 second mark in 1988.  Sherman Eller and Kathy
Woodard hold the record for the local runners.     

     In the early years of the Leprechaun Marathon, Dublin hosted some of the best
long distance runners across the country and Europe.   Though the numbers are
down, the race is still held on the morning of Super Saturday and it remains a
testament to the dedication of the race's founders and participants to keep running,
running for the record and running just for the fun of it.  For more information, go
to www.leprechaun.active.com/history

DOWN ON THE FARM

DOWN ON THE FARM
200 Years of Laurens County Agriculture

From its inception as a county and for every day of the last two hundred years
and for two thousand years before, Laurens County has been home to the farmer.
A love of the land and its bounty coupled with a desire to just survive made farming
the main occupation of Laurens Countians for most of our two hundred years.
Nearly every one of us descend from a dirt farmer, which is a good thing.  Farming,
often seen by non-farmers as  somewhat mundane lifestyle, is quite the opposite.  It
is occupation that involves faith, in yourself and nature, good agricultural skills,
unabated determination and a whole lot of pure old fashioned luck.

Just a few more centuries than two thousand years ago, the Native Americans
who lived in this area, abandoned their hunting and gathering methods of acquiring
foodstuffs and established a more sedentary lifestyle.  They established somewhat
permanent villages under the governance of a chief.  New methods of planting and
nurturing native plants supplemented the wild game and randomly gathered fruits
in their diets.

When the first white settlers came to our area in the mid 1780s, the most
highly sought after lands were located on the eastern banks of the Oconee River and
its major tributaries.    Once Laurens County was created and more lands were added
to the western side of the river, large plantations began to prosper among the smaller
farms.  These plantations were officially run by the owners, often given the title of
“planter,” a moniker  which designated that their economic status more than their
agrarian skills.  Most of the actual plowing, planting, weeding and harvesting was
done by slave labor or by middle and lower economic class whites.

The plantations and farms primarily produced enough products to become
self sufficient.  When less common items were needed, farmers would trade with the
neighbors  or visit a nearby general store.

Actual farm production figures were revealed for the first time with
compilation of the 1850 Agricultural Census.  Though Laurens County was third
among Georgia counties  in land area, only 18 percent of her lands were improved
with farms and buildings.  A substantial portion of the southern half of the county
and many creek side lands were covered with trees.

The livestock population was composed of  twenty thousand cows, eight
thousand sheep and twenty four thousand pigs and hogs.  While milk cows, working
oxen and sheep were maintained to produce replenishable products, much of the
other cows and swine were slaughtered for food.  Chickens were not counted and
obviously there was a vast consumption of wild fowl and game.    On average, each
sheep produced less than two pounds of wool a year.   The main produce crops were
Indian corn (32.76 bushels per capita less what was feed to livestock,) about eight
thousand bushels of both wheat and oats and surprisingly  nearly nine thousand
pounds of rice.   Potatoes, in particular sweet potatoes, were the staple of the average
Laurens countian’s diet, with each person consuming an average of twenty four
bushels a year.  Very little tobacco was harvested.  With a relatively large slave
population of 45%, ginned cotton bales numbered less than 4000 bales, a small
fraction of the amount produced during the cotton boom at the turn of the 20th
Century.

The third quarter of the Twentieth Century saw many radical changes in the
ways farms and plantations were operated.   Before the war began, cotton and wool
production was rapidly increasing.  The coming of the Civil War caused a virtual halt
in  farming, except of course for growing enough food to keep the people alive.  With
nearly all of the available young farm hands off at war and very little cash available
to operate with, farmers had to curtail their acreage.   The end of the war saw a slow
but moderate recovery.  Those had been slaves before the war, then became tenant
farmers.  By the 1870s, a few former slaves became property owners and operated
their own farms.  Cotton production plummeted in 1869, though the wool industry
continued to surge.

The period after the war the first organizations composed of farmers.   James
Chappel, John M. Stubbs and C.S.  Guyton led Laurens County farmers in the
Georgia Agricultural Society and Farmer’s Granges.    The revitalization of river boat
traffic allowed the transportation of farm products outside of the county to become
more economical.  Likewise, the importation of fertilizers and implements led to
more increases in farm production.    The coming of the railroads in the 1880s and
1890s was the final impetus which would begin to propel Laurens County to the
forefront of cotton and field crop production in the state.  In 1870, there were 520
farms in Laurens County.  Forty years later, Laurens County farms totaled 4,923, the
second highest number in the state.  The total number of farms peaked at more than
5,500 in the early 1920s.

In the  1880s, a new and more powerful farmer’s organization began to spread
across the South and the farm belts of the Mid-West.  The Farmer’s Alliance, locally
led by John W. Green, never really caught on.  The Georgia Alliance actually
disbanded after it’s annual meeting in Dublin in 1891.

Over the next several decades farmers organized under various names.  The
Farmer’s Union was the main organization for most of the first two decades of the
20th Century.   Capt. W.B. Rice of Dublin was one of founding board members of the
Georgia Farm Bureau in 1920.

Laurens County has been home to two commissioners of the Georgia
Department of Agriculture.  James J. Connor, a former Mayor of Dublin, served as
Georgia’s Agricultural Commissioner  from 1912 to 1913   As a member of the
Georgia Legislature, Connor sponsored the bill to establish the agricultural
education department at the University of Georgia.   Thomas “Tom” Linder led the
Department of Agriculture from 1935 to 1937.  Re-elected in 1941 and serving three
four-year  terms, Linder is the second longest head of the Agriculture Department
and the only person ever elected to statewide office who lost a statewide election and
then was re-elected.  


The explosion of cotton production in the last quarter of the 19th Century and
the first  sixteen years of the 20th Century was fueled by the clearing of the virgin
timberlands across the southern part of the county to make room for massive fields,
fertilized by guano fertilizer and the coming of six railroads to the county, which
allowed cotton farmers to ship their “white gold” to all parts of the world.

Agra-businesses flourished.  A cotton compress was built in Dublin in 1895.
The compress allowed a farmer to deliver his cotton on Monday morning and have
it on an ocean bound cargo ship the following afternoon.  By 1911, Laurens County
produced more than three million pounds of cotton, compressed into more than
sixty thousand bales.  That state record stood for nearly ninety years until it was
eclipsed in the late 1990s by large counties in South Georgia where more modern
and technological methods of agriculture
were used.

The villainous boll weevil invaded the county in the years before World War
I. By the end of the 1910s, cotton production plummeted.  Tenant farmers gave up
farming or moved away.  Throughout the 20th Century, farming and farms have
practically disappeared.  Unable to compete with corporate farmers and endless
assets, cheap labor and hefty government programs, the traditional farmer as we
know him as virtually disappeared.  When all of the results of the 2007 Agricultural
Census are tabulated, it is estimated that there will be no more than six hundred
farms left in Laurens County.

Sandy fields which once yielded some of the most bountiful crops of cotton,
corn and sweet potatoes are now planted in trees or covered by new homes.  The
profound impact of agriculture is still present and will always remain so for centuries
to come.  Everything we are as a county - our heritage of who we are and who we will
be - we owe to the men and women, who plant the seeds, gather the crops, feed the
livestock, sweat in the sun, break their backs and take the risks many of us could
never take.  Progress is fine, but  let us take heed of the words of the great Populist
orator William Jennings Bryan, “if you destroy your cities, they will grow back, but
it you destroy your farms, then the grass will grow in every city street in the country.”

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A TRIP BACK IN TIME TO JEWELL, GEORGIA

JEWELL, GEORGIA 


Photos by Scott B.  Thompson, Sr. 

     The village of Jewell exists around an expansive open green defined by a few, widely spaced buildings, and along the Warrenton Road (Georgia Highway 16) on both sides of the Ogeechee River. The village lies in two counties, Warren and Hancock, separated by the Ogeechee River. The site is situated near an old Indian trail from the east to the west which crossed the river about a hundred yasds below the present bridge (on Highway 16). There were many rocks in the river at that point which afforded a crossing over the river even at flood staged The rocks were blasted out of the river in later times. On the West stde of the Ogeechee the town surrounds a green, planted at one time with elms which later died. Today the green is grassed and defined by a dirt road

   Facing the -green are a small two-story frame school house on a granite foundation. Built ca. 1871 by Daniel A. Jewell, it has a gable roof with brackets. The principal facade faces north. The entrance is on the center line of the north elevation; a box return gable pediment is over the door. On each side is a window with 6/6 lights. The second story, north elevation, has one window centered over each of the first-story windows, and a double window in the center with pointed arch lintels. On the interior there was a classroom downstairs with meeting hall over the latter reached by winding steps. The benches, the blackboard, the platform, and old stovepipes are still in place. The present use is as a community house for the two churches. 

   Baptist Church: 1871 Norman Gothic style. Faces north. Main entrance through tower (north) end. Pilasters and pointed windows (some double like the schoolhouse). Present use: church. Condition: good. ..

   Methodist Church: ca. 1841-45. Original location at Rock Mills Community, moved to Jewel! in 1894. Wooden, Gothic style. Five-side south end. Square steeple, pointed windows. Present use: church. Condition: good. 

   Ashley Jewell Residence: Wood, Victorian Queen Anne, Gingerbreadstyle house. Faces west. Late 19th Century. Two stories and attic. Fishscale trim. Present use: residence. Condition: good.


Baptist Church, Jewell ca. 1870





Methodist Church, Baptist Church, School 






Rosemont Store




Ashley Jewell House




Rock Mill Methodist Church. ca. 1841









School/Meeting Hall 






The district of Jewell, Georgia, is significant as, the remains of an early Georgia mill village. Its architectural features-date from the 1840s to the latter half of the 19th Century. Nearby are the sites of a textile mill, grist mill, and an iron,foundry. The town of Jewell is located on an old Indian trail, which crossed the Ogeechee River a few hundred yards from the present bridge. 

The town of Jewell has been known by various names. In the early days of its development, it was owned by the Shivers family and tradition has it that it was called "Shivers." The Shivers family, headed by Jonas Shivers, came to Georgia from Virginia and lived in Hancock and Warren counties, Georgia, in the late 18th Century. 

Jonas' son, William Shivers (1783-1852), was the proprietor, not only of the site where Jewell is located, but of Rock Mills, about a mile and a half north, on the Ogeechee, where the William Shivers home place (known as Rock Mill) still remains. One site was also known as Shivers,Mills, 1826-1835. Mr. Shivers had a grist mill at the Rock Mills, and later built a thread mill, as well as a large store to supply the mill workers and their families, at Shivers. 

After William Shivers' death in 1852, his administrator sold the Rock Mill Factory (known in public advertisements simply as the "cotton factory") at Shivers to Thomas Neal of Warren County in November, 1853. This tract included nine acres surrounding the mill site on the Warren County side of the river. Neal sold the same to Thomas Windsor on July 15, 1856, and on February 20, 1857, Windsor, of Baldwin County, sold the site and nine acres jointly to Daniel Ashley Jewel! (late of Massachusetts and New Hampshire) and Simeon C. Bodfish (late of Connecticut) for $3,500. In April, 1857, Jewell and Bodfish bought 105 acres across the Ogeechee in Hancock County to add to their enterprise. A year later, June 15, 1858, Bodfish sold his half interest in both locations to Jewell, and the firm was dissolved. Jewell then became sole owner of the Rock Manufacturing Company. 



In 1858, Jewell and Bodfish (and after July 6th, Jewell alone) had advertised that they had repaired and added new machinery at the mill and that cotton and wool manufacturing was once again underway. They could supply yarns, wool and cloth.

Under the sole operation of Daniel A. Jewell (1822-1896), the community became a burgeoning textile center. A two-story school house was built on the green by Jewell about 1871. During his ownership, homes were built, many on the highlands on both sides of the river, continuing the standard mill houses, built of heart pine and mortised-and-pegged construction, which had been built for the mill workers beginning in the 1840s. 

The Walter Dickson house is an example and is one of the two oldest houses standing in Jewell. D.A. Jewell, a Massachusetts native, had come at age 25 (ca. 1847) to Milledgeville, Georgia, the state capitol, and had married there in 1849 Mary Ann Shea. In the mid-1850s, he operated D.A. Jewell and Company, a wool-manufacturing firm, and this was his occupation just prior to the purchase of the Rock Factory. He moved to Jewell (then called Rock Factory) by 1859, for he was living there in 1860. 

During the War Between the States, while the town was still known as Rock Factory, a company known as the "Ogeechee Minute Men," was formed in 1863, with Jewel! himself, a Northerner, asking the state's adjutant general for weapons. Tradition has it that federal soldiers came through the town in 1864 after reaching Shoals on the Ogeechee, a few miles to the south, but did not burn the mills or the town due to seeing the masonic symbol on the mill's chimney. (This stone was later salvaged and is now located at Call away Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia.) 

The William P. Haynes Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons had been formed at Rock Factory in 1864 and was chartered in 1865, shortly after the end of the war. It was dissolved in 1946. A Baptist church was organized there in 1869 and the brick edifice was built ca. 1871 on the green, also sponsored by Mr. Jewell. It is the oldest brick church building in the Washington Baptist Association. 

The wooden Methodist church was built about 1841-1845 at Rock Mills, and was moved to Jewell in 1894. It had been previously known as the Rock Mills Church. Today it stands on the northwest side of the green. The name of the town remained Rock Factory until approximately 1869-1870. 

An act of the legislature in 1872 incorporated the town as Jewell's Mills, and maps after this date are the first to show the new name. Later, the name became Jewell 's, and later Jewell, as it remains today. The U.S. Post Office at Jewel!'s was established in 1873 with Mr. Jewell as the postmaster, later to be succeeded by his son.

During the first decade after the Civil War (1866-1876), the mill resumed operations, as evidenced by the surviving Factory Accounts book for the entire period. The mill operated six days a week except for holidays (usually Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes July 4th), or when the water was exceedingly high or low, thus hampering production. 

Changes in equipment also caused several down days during this decade. Produced during these years were jerseys, jeans, and yarn. By 1876, jerseys were being made in cotton and wool. In 1876, the mill complex also included flour and saw mills, and by 1880, there were 3,000 spindles for cotton and 150 for wool, with 50,000 pounds of cotton being processed per month. D.A. Jewell died in 1896 and was buried in the town that not only bore his name, but bore the results of his hard work and benevolence. His wife, who died the year before, is buried there also. 

The town of Jewell has been connected with a number of the South's great textile families. Fuller E. Call away, later president of the Call away Mills of LaGrange, Georgia, married Jewell's granddaughter, Ida Cason (for whom Callaway Garden was later named) and eventually helped members of the Jewell family to move to Chickamauga, Georgia, where their descendants are still involved with the cotton mills. 

D.A. Jewell, Sr.'s sole ownership of the mil! continued until 1875, when his son-in-law, Colonel W.L. Bowen, acquired partnership with him and the name was changed to Bowen-Jewell Company. Metal "coins" were minted for use by mill workers during this period. 

Eventually, D.A. Jewell, Jr. (1860-1935) became the family partner with Colonel Bowen. Sales were made in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Jewell, Jr., built a bag plant there, alternating weeks supervising the plants at Jewell and Chattanooga. Gordon Lee of Chickamauga, Georgia, began developing springs in his area and sold land to Jewell, Jr., for a mill, where ca. 1902 he built a finishing plant. 

After several decades of dual mills, Jewell, Jr., sold the Georgia site around 1922 to the Gant Brothers, who ran the Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina. In 1927 the mills at Jewell were completely destroyed by fire. Today only the mill's foundation remains on the banks of the Ogeechee. 

A street of mill houses, known as "Smut Row," paralleling the Warrenton Road, were cleared in the 1960s to make pastureland. Many of the present-day residents of Jewel! are descendants of the original mill families. They have carefully preserved the remaining houses and are interested in seeing that the character of the town remain unchanged. 

Historical material from National Register of Historic Places Inventory Form.