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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


As the year 1909 came to an end, Dublin and Laurens County were on the apex of a tsunami. The county and her capital were among the ten largest in the state in population. Times were good, although within another decade, the unfettered growth would come to a screeching halt.

Though cotton acreage was being reduced because of the lack of money, low prices for cotton and high cost of mules, good things were happening. Some of them were important and some were merely trivial. Here are a few of the highlights for the final year of the first decade of the 20th Century.

W.B. Rice purchased a 30-horse power Cadillac car, the most powerful in Dublin, from Miller Brothers.

H.H. Smith hired the Rev. George C. Thompson to design a five-story building on the northwest corner of N. Jackson and N. Jefferson Streets. Smith offered to pay thirty-thousand dollars of the cost and try to raise another thirty-five thousand to erect the building which was supposed to house the Laurens Banking Company on its first floor. The project never got off the ground.

Hardy Ellington, who lived on the plantation of E.W. Fordham, owned a hen which laid half pound eggs.

Members of the Catholic Church purchased a lot from the Dublin Real Estate Company on the corner of Elm and Stonewall Streets for the erection of a new church. The plan was abandoned when Victoire Stubbs, widow of the late Col. John M. Stubbs, donated a portion of her land on North Church Street for the erection of the new church, which ceased to be used as a Catholic Church on this past Christmas Day.

In 1909, pedestrians in Dublin were finally able to walk on concrete sidewalks, ones which were manufactured by the Georgia Hydraulic Stone Company. The company used quality sand from ancient sand dunes just off the current Nathaniel Drive in East Dublin to manufacture its hexangol pavers.

Frank McCall was struck by lightning and killed in the cemetery near the home of Anderson Whitehead some three and one half miles west of Dublin. He was attending the funeral of Eliza Taylor. Dr. B.D. Perry was present and pronounced McCall dead of a broken neck. McCall was returned to town in the same funeral wagon which brought out the body of Mrs. Taylor.

Some irritated citizens objected to straw (hay) rides. It seemed that they believed the participants thought that they must sing and laugh so loud that they could be heard from one end of the block to the other.

Preparations were made for a race from Dublin to Atlanta. Entry fees were set at $10.00. The prize for first place was 30 percent of the pool. The second place finisher garnered 20 percent, while the 3rd place finisher took 10 percent. The next eight took the remaining 40 percent.

Dixie Cotton Co. moved from Sandersville to Dublin. The company had 25 offices in Georgia. H.M. Carrere, secretary and treasurer, announced that the company would absorb the Bashinski brother's business, which was located in the Georgia Warehouse and Cotton Compress building. J.R. Powel of that company remained with the new venture. E.A. Lovett of Wrightsville was a director, along with J.R. Powel, W.G.S. Rowe, and Izzie Bashinski of Dublin. More than fifty-four thousand bales of cotton were processed at the Georgia Warehouse and Cotton Compress Company during the year ending 8/31/1909.

A debate society was organized at the library. Its first officers were President Peter S. Twitty, Vice President Jule B Green, and Secretary C.B Heidt.

An application for a charter of the Bank of Rentz was made by H.D. Barron, B.P. Wynn, W.E. Bedingfield, R.C. Coleman, B.A. Moye, M.R. Mackey, I.S. Knight, and T.J. Taylor. The bank's initial capital stock was $25,000.00. Mr. F.M. Kirkpatrick of Adel was hired as the cashier. Messers H.D. Barron, B.P. Wynn, W.E. Bedingfield, R.C. Coleman, B.A. Moye, M.R. Mackey, I.S. Knight and T.J. Taylor were among those asking for the charter, although many other citizens of Rentz and its vicinity are among the list of stockholders. The success of the bank was certain. The bank's backers believed the men behind it were the most enterprising in the county, and Rentz would soon have one of the best banking institutions in the state. The bank eventually merged with Citizens and Southern Bank, a six decades later.

L.B. Holt and G.C. Wood of Sandersville, and H.C. Coleman, Jr., W.H. Mullis, Sr., J.A. Burch, H.C. Burch, H.R. Bedingfield, A. McCook, H.C. Stonecypher, and W.B. Coleman, all of Cadwell, petitioned for charter for Cadwell Banking Company, which began business with an initial capital of $25,000.00.

The name of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was changed to the Oconee Chapter. The new club's officers were President Mrs. J.A. Thomas, First Vice-President Mrs. L.R. Reinhart, Second Vice President Mrs. T.J. Pritchett, Secretary, Mamie New, Corresponding Secretary Lily Hightower, Treasurer Mrs. Miller, Historian Mrs. V.L. Stanley, and Assistant Historian Mrs. L.W. Miller.

Harris M. "Hal" Stanley, a Dublin newspaper man, was elected as Grand Outer Guard of the Georgia Knights of Pythias.

A petition for the incorporation of Ebenezer High School in Dudley was made by M.M. Hobbs, T. Bright, and Otto Daniel. The trustees of Ebenezer School were Chairman W.T. Haskins, Treasurer J.A. Hogan, along with F. Bobbitt; R.S. Shiver, and W.W. Grant.

To the surprise of all who heard and those few who saw, Hayden Lowery walked into a local newspaper office and presented the stunned onlookers a mess of watermelons fresh from his patch on Christmas Day.

So, as I complete my thirteenth year of bringing you Pieces of Our Past, I wish all of you a healthy, prosperous and happy new year. I thank all of you for your encouragement for me to keep on writing. Moreover, to the thousands of you whose prayers helped me to survive my critical cardiac moment, I thank you for the bottom of my newly repaired heart.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


(Dublin's Christmas tree - Dublin Museum, 2002)

If you think that Americans invented the Christmas tree, you would be wrong. That honor goes to the Germans, who began decorating their native trees way back in the 15th Century. Americans can, however, take pride in that we took the German tannenbaum to a new level. We put lights on them. We make them out of plastic. We make them spin, dance and even play music. Although tannenbaums are supposed to be green - it says so in the words of the song - we paint them blue, white, red, yellow and even pink, Pink! This is the story of our first city Christmas tree and its role in the history of Christmas in Georgia.

The Christmas tree first came into vogue in England during the reign of Queen Victoria through her relationship to Germany. On this side of the Atlantic, some ministers in the United States believed that the tree was an abomination and a pagan symbol.

The ladies of Macon sent out a request in December 1861 for contributions of gifts and money to have a tree decorated with tinsel, hand made paper decorations and gift cards. The promoters charged a small fee for entrance to the Christmas Eve party to help fund the relief of the beloved soldiers who were enduring their first Christmas away from home during the Civil War.

The first mention of a Christmas tree in the Dublin papers was the time when Capt. Rollin A. Stanley and Rev. T.W. Johnson, superintendents of the Baptist and Methodist Sunday schools, planned a Christmas party for the little children at the Troup House on South Jefferson Street on Christmas night in 1879. The children were entertained with music, food, and plenty of fireworks. Though the night was cold and the crowd too big for the hotel, everyone went home satisfied.

Edward H. Johnson, a Thomas Edison associate, is generally credited with creating the first electrically illuminated Christmas tree with eighty red, white and blue pecan size light bulbs at his home in New York during the 1882 Christmas season. San Diego, California holds the honor of having the first municipal Christmas tree. Further up the West Coast, Pasadena joined the list in 1909. New York's lighted tree was turned on in 1912.

The Christmas season of 1913 was a nightmare for the law-abiding citizens and merchants of Dublin. Firework shooters were out of control. Fire fighters along with cotton merchants, and especially their insurance agents, were horrified at the thought of a stray roman candle or rocket landing in a bale of cotton lying beside a wooden warehouse building.

An editorial writer described the commotion: "Life and property were in danger, so much that citizens feared to venture on the streets, and plate glass fronts were smashed on all sides. Persons were knocked down and injured by rockets, or had some idiot to burn their clothing with Roman candles, while cannon crackers that endangered windows and doors by the jar when they were exploded half a block off were fired without protest by the police or the city authorities. The police could do little because permission had been given to the 'funmakers' by someone in higher authority, and the result was that the rowdy and the roughnecks went as far as they pleased."

So, the city council decided to take action when the police force would not. A license tax of $1,000.00 was placed on dealers who sold skyrockets and large firecrackers. Merchants who sold other less explosive fireworks, such as Roman candles, sparklers and bomb sticks, paid the usual fee of $10.00. The ordinance seemed to work as no one paid the larger fee.

The mayor and council were serious. Fireworks ordinances were going to be strictly enforced. The council invited the people of the country to come into town, promising them that they would be free of fear and harm.

The ladies of the Women's Christian Temperance Union were serious as well. They knew that the miscreant behavior was due in part to the use of alcohol. In order to divert the attention of the party goers, the ladies planned a caroling from the library to the courthouse on Christmas Eve of 1914.

Leading the committee were minister's wives, Mrs. W.F. Mott, Mrs. T.W. Callaway and Mrs. Whitney Langston. By using children as carolers, the ladies felt sure that no scoundrel would dare shoot a firework in their direction. Once the children arrived at the courthouse, the public was invited inside for an extended program of Christmas music.

The plan worked. There was not a firework fiend in sight on that Holy night. "For the first time in several years, it was possible to walk through the business section without risking life and limb in the saturnalia of fireworks," a Courier Herald writer reported.

With the end of an old tradition, a new tradition began. A large cut tree was placed on the courthouse square. Electrician C.F. Ludwig strung a long string of colored electric lamps around the evergreen tree. On the tree top, Ludwig placed a large star outlined with electric lamps. Ludwig's donation of the material brought forth many favorable opinions.

It would be the first time that Dublin and Laurens County had a municipal Christmas tree. It would also be the first time that a city in Georgia had a lighted tree.

The merchants were also happy. After a few days of acceptable business due to bad weather, storekeepers were delighted that they had more business than they could handle. Most of the large crowd hung around and patronized the soda fountains and engaged in a lot of last-minute Christmas shopping. It was nearly 10 o'clock before the streets began to clear.

Another pleasant aspect of the day actually took place in the courthouse. Laurens County Ordinary W.A. Wood reported a state record of twenty marriage applications were issued on the day before Christmas.

The tradition of a Christmas tree lasted for many years under the direction of the city light and water commission with free help from the electricians and telephone linemen of the city. The large tree, loaded with lights and topped by a brilliant star array, illuminated the entire courthouse square and could be seen from blocks. From time to time it was resurrected, but never on the scale of the 1921 tree, which was reported to be as tall as the courthouse, or the very first time we lit the tannenbaum, ninety-five years ago this Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

1939: The Golden Year of the Movies

The movie critics, whoever they are, say that 1939 was the greatest year in the history of American movies. Led by iconic films Gone With the Wind and the Wizard of Oz, the last year of the 1930s featured many of the movie industry's finest films with an army of Hollywood legends on the screen and directed and produced by many of the world's legendary directors and producers. Most of the year's best films, and there were many of them, were shown in Dublin, but not until years later.

The trouble for Dubliners was that the town only had one theater. Dublin's Ritz Theater, operating in between fires, was a small theater in relatively small town. Only the top movie houses garnered Hollywood's latest films within weeks of their release. So, movie goers had to settle for re-released classics and not so classics with an occasional new release on the screen of the Ritz, which featured six movies a week, one on Monday and Tuesday, a second feature only on Wednesday, and a third on Thursday and Friday. Saturdays were the big days at the motion picture house. A matinee, usually a western or a serial picture, was followed by the evening's feature film. The week's last film was a midnight show, featuring films with adult themes, but no where near what adult films are these days.

The year's two best films, Gone With The Wind and the Wizard of Oz, are arguably two of the best movies ever produced. Both have small connections to Dublin. By now, most of you have read or heard that Karl Slover, a local resident, had four small roles as a Munchkin who helped Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road to see the Wizard of Oz.

When young Margaret Mitchell Marsh began to compose in her mind the characters of her novel Gone With the Wind, she turned to fellow Atlanta Constitution employee and good friend Gladstone Williams. Members of the Williams family have always said that Mitchell modeled the style and demeanor of her character Rhett Butler after the Dublin journalist.

Too far from Tinsel Town and with no hometown movie star, the folks in Dublin knew that they would never have any sort of movie premiere event in the Ritz Theater. So, the downtown merchants decided that they would stage one of their own Hollywood spectacles. They hired one Robert H. Gage to organize the gala event on January 30, 1939.

Gage had staged more than a thousand similar events in cities around the country. The ladies of the Parnassus Club agreed to sponsor the event. They even hired Miss Elaine McKinney, a professional director, to direct the spectacle.

Promoters took out a full page ad promising that Jackson Street would become Hollywood Boulevard and that the Ritz Theater would be transformed into a famous movie palace. Bob Hightower, the affable manager of the Ritz, served as the master of ceremonies for the Hollywood Premiere of 1939.

To capitalize on the downtown crowds, merchants chipped in more advertising dollars by supplying the impersonators with luxurious clothing and accessories. Smith Jewelers provided the jewelry. Jones Barber and Beauty Shop beautified the participants. Swanky automobiles were provided by Peacock Chevrolet and Morris Motor Company. Elegant gowns were displayed in the show windows of Churchwell's, J.C. Penneys, and United Department Stores. Black's Pharmacy furnished cosmetics for the event.

Since no real Hollywood stars could be persuaded to appear, local people posed as real actors in their places. Mrs. Gray Reese portrayed Mae West. Mrs. J.F. Hart appeared as the comedic actress Zasu Pitts. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were impersonated by Dorothy Smith and Mike Harvard. Miss Charlie Mae Davis played the part of Eleanor Powell as a Hawaiian dancer. Thirty stars were scheduled to appear including those who portrayed Shirley Temple and the Marx Brothers.

Large crowds gathered around the theater at 222 W. Jackson Street for the arrival of the stars, who walked on the red carpet and posed for photographs. After the first stage show, the feature film, Always in Trouble, starring Georgia's own comedienne Jane Withers, was shown. Before the festive night ended, the stage show and the movie were performed again.

The event was such a success that seven weeks later a smaller encore stage show was held with Mike Harvard, Dorothy Smith, Helen Fussell, and Doris Mackey singing and dancing their way to the hearts of the audience.

Of the top 15 films of the year, only The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips and Dark Victory made it to the screen of the Ritz in 1939. Other favorites that landmark year were Dodge City, Son of Frankenstein, Stanley and Livingstone, and Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Seventy years ago tonight, Gone With the Wind premiered in Atlanta. The film didn't make it to Dublin in 1939. It would be many months before the legendary film came to Dublin. There were only 300 prints to be shared by thousands of theaters across the country. Those unfortunate enough to make the trip to Atlanta were relegated to a showing of another Jane Withers comedy, the not so classic, Chicken Wagon Family.

Classic literary stories were often shown at the Ritz in 1939. Among the more popular tales were Treasure Island, David Copperfield, Huckleberry Finn, The Three Musketeers, Mutiny on the Bounty, and Beau Geste. Then there were the perennial favorites the Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, the Little Rascals, Marx Brothers, Roy Rogers, Blondie, Gene Autry, Shirley Temple, Andy Hardy, Tarzan, Frankenstein, Dracula and Charlie Chan.

Not only were movies shown at the Ritz, there were highlights of collegiate football games, world championship boxing matches and the World Series. Traveling stage shows were always popular. Among the acts appearing on the Ritz stage were Red & Raymond and the Boys of Old Kentuck and Buck Owens, the Roaring Ranger. The most popular act was a quintet of black children who called themselves "The Cabin Kids." They appeared in more than two dozen movies performing songs and comedy skits.

Ritz manager Bob Hightower was a master showman. When Betty Grable appeared in Million Dollar Legs, Hightower staged a contest to determine who had the most beautiful legs. There were contests for the best fiddler and the best Hawaiian dancer. The first 500 ladies who bought a ticket for The Cowboy and the Lady were given a genuine photograph of Gary Cooper.

In today's world of $7.50 to $8.00 admission prices, admission to the Ritz Theater was 35 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. Oh how I wish I was a kid in 1939. I could have gone to one movie a week and spent less than one movie a year in local theaters today.

Friday, December 11, 2009


I took these pictures of Brewer's blackbirds on Hillcrest Parkway on December 7, 2009.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


A Bicentennial Look Back

December 14th marks the 200th anniversary of the creation of Twiggs County, Georgia. Named for Revolutionary War Hero, General John Twiggs, Twiggs County lies in the geographic center of the State of Georgia. Carved out of the county of Wilkinson, Twiggs County became a central location for businessmen, doctors and lawyers until the westward expansion of Georgia began in the 1820s and climaxed in the 1830s.

Among its natives, Twiggs County counts many important persons of 19the Century, Georgia. Governor James M. Smith (Georgia governor) ,Col. James W. Fannin (martyr of the War for Texas Independence), Dudley M. Hughes (congressman and M.D. &. S. railroad organizer), Bishop James E. Dickey (President of Emory College), General Phillip Cook (Confederate General, Congressman and Georgia Secretary of State), Stephen F. Miller (legal writer and attorney), Thaddeus Oliver (author of All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight), William P. Zuber (early Texas historian), and William Young (father of cotton manufacturing in the South). In the past century, the list of famous Twiggs Countians included Chess "The Goat Man" McCartney (folk icon), Earl Hamrick (one of the nation's longest serving sheriffs), and Chuck Levell (keyboardist for the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton).

The first county officers were Sheriff Edmund Nunn, Inferior Court Justices Francis Powell, John Lawson, Robert Glenn and Arthur Fort, Inferior Court Clerk Edwin Hart, Superior Court Clerk Archibald McIntyre, Tax Receiver Maj. James H. Patton, Surveyor Peter Livingston, Tax Collector James H. Spann, Coroner James Wheeler and Justices of the Peace William Hemphill, William Melton James McCormick, Jonathan Bell, Arthur Fort, and James Vickers. Representative James Johnson and Senator Robert Glenn were the first to represent Twiggs County during the legislative session of 1810.

The first county seat was established at Marion, located within a short distance from the exact center of the state. Named for General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion, South Carolina's hero of the American Revolution, Marion became a focal point for rising professionals. But, with the westward advances into southern, western and northern portions of Georgia, the town of Marion began to fade away.

County officials decided to move the seat of government nearer to the center of the county to Jeffersonville, which had originally been known as Raines' Store. The attempt to remove the courthouse began in the 1850s. Originally the plans were to simply pick up the courthouse and move it to a new site, also to be named Marion. In 1867, the Military government of Georgia called a temporary halt to the removal of the original tw0-story wooden courthouse to Jeffersonville. The move was soon completed. The old courthouse stood in Jeffersonville until a 1901 fire destroyed it. The current courthouse, with some recent and major modifications, is the county's only other court building.

In addition to Jeffersonville and Marion, other Twiggs towns include Adams Park, Asa, Big Oak, Big Sandy, Bullard's, Buzzard Roost, Danville, Dry Branch, Fitzpatrick, Huber, Ripley, Sabine, Tarversville, Twiggsville, and Willis.

Early citizens of Twiggs spent many years in fear of Indian attacks upon homes and outposts along the state's frontier which coincided with the state line, which was the Ocmulgee River. The state militia, under the command of General David Blackshear of Laurens County and locally under Colonel Ezekiel Wimberly, established a series of three forts along the river. From these strategic points, spies under the command of Maj. James Patton, a Twiggs resident serving out of Fort Hawkins at the future site of Macon, reconnoitered across the river to keep the settlers informed of any threats during what later became known as the War of 1812.

Indian problems resumed in 1818. General Andrew Jackson traveled through Twiggs County while marching toward the scene of fighting further to the southwest. In the mid 1830s, troubles with the Indians in southern Georgia and Alabama arose once again. Troops from Twiggs responded once again to protect the borders of Georgia.

The lure of the paradise of Texas was too much for many Twiggs County families to ignore. So, many of them packed up their belongings and headed for the fledgling new republic. When the settlers went to war with Mexico, former Twiggs citizens took up arms in defense of their new homeland.

Unlike their neighbors to the east, Laurens and Wilkinson counties, the citizens of Twiggs voted to secede from the Union in 1860. The men of the county organized The Twiggs County Volunteers (Co. C, 4th Ga.), The Faulk Invicibles (Co. I, 26th Ga.), The Slappey Guards (Co. G, 48th Ga.), and the Twiggs Guards (Co. 9, 6th Ga.) Among the more well known soldiers was Dr. Andrew J. Lamb, who served aboard the C.S.S. Virginia, aka the Merrimac.

One of the last true Civil war battles in Georgia occurred along the northern border of Twiggs County in November 1864. As the right wing of Gen. William T. Sherman's army was proceeding toward Gordon down the Central of Georgia railroad, they were attacked in their rear by militia and reserve units out of Macon. Although the Battle of Griswoldville paled in comparison to the number of combatants, the number of deaths and wounded was comparable to the major slaughters of the war.

In its early years, the county's main resources were thought to have been limited to timber and agriculture. But when kaolin was discovered in abundance, Twiggs County became one of the leading producers of the "white gold" in Georgia. Although supplies of kaolin are slowly dwindling, it remains one of the county's leading industries.

During the Cold War years after World War II, the United States military established a Nike missile base along present day I-16 and the present site of Academy Sports in order to prevent an attack on nearby Warner Robins Air Force Base.

After two hundred years, Twiggs county remains a fine place to live. Convenient to the metropolitan areas of Macon and Warner Robins, Twiggs Countians enjoy a quiet and peaceful rural life. Happy 200th birthday, Twiggs County!

For more reading see: History of Twiggs County by J. Lannette O'Neal Faulk and Billy Jones. Also see Collections of Twiggs Countians, by Kathleen Carswell.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


An American Great Grandmother

I cannot imagine the United States of America without Katherine Banks. You ask, who is Katherine Banks? Katherine lived around three hundred and fifty years ago in 17th Century Virginia. So why is this Virginia lady so significant and what does she have to do with the history of east-central Georgia? Well, she has nothing to do directly with the history of our area, but without her, the face of the history of America, and the world for that matter, would have been vastly different. What did she do? Well, I will tell you.

Katherine Banks was born into a prosperous family in Canterbury, England in County Kent in 1627, the same year the Massachusetts Bay Colony had been chartered to colonize the eastern coast of North America. Her father, Christopher Banks, was one of England's most influential commoners in his position with the Old London Company, which financed the settlement of Jamestown and Virginia.

Sometime in the early 1640s, Katherine journeyed to America, landing in Charles City County, west of Jamestown on the James River. It was not long after her arrival that she married her cousin, Joseph Royall, twice a widower and 27 years her senior. Royall had come to Jamestown aboard the Charitie in July 1622, just after Powhatan Chief Opechancanough had murdered three hundred and forty-seven colonists. Royall survived "the burning fever," which killed even more settlers. By transporting colonists to Virginia, Joseph Royall was able to accumulate a large plantation, which he called "Doghams" after the French river D'Augham, on the James River above Shirley and opposite current day Hopewell, Virginia.

Joseph Royall died in the mid 1650s. As was the custom in those days, his wife's dower from his estate passed to her during her widowhood. When Katherine married Henry Isham in 1656, Royall's estate passed to Isham, who immediately added another wing to his residence on Bermuda Hundred.

From their luxurious home encircled by tall pines and a extensive English flower garden, the Ishams became leaders of Virginia society. It has been said that Katherine Banks Royall Isham was the wealthiest woman in America. Her father gave her one of the first English coaches to be used in the colonies. It was described as cumbrous and capacious. It held six individuals, three on a seat opposite one another. Two others could sit on stools which faced the doors. Its body was hung high on large springs and was entered by steps. The lining was made of cream-colored cloth. Silver trimmings, cords and tassels accented the exquisite exterior. The driver and the footman sat on the front, while luggage was carried in the rear.

As the fall weather began to cool the shores of the James River, Katherine made out her last will and testament. Three hundred and twenty three years ago today, Joseph Royall, Jr. and Francis Eppes walked into the court of Henrico County to probate her generous and loving testament to her children and grandchildren. Her bequests of exquisite and valuable heirlooms paled in comparison to the true legacy of this little known woman.

By her first husband, Katherine gave birth to six children, Joseph, John, Sarah, Katherine and two other unknown daughters. With Henry, Katherine had Henry, Jr. and Anne. But by far, her most famous child was Mary Isham. Mary was a much courted belle of Virginia. Suitors swarmed to get a glance of this charming young woman, who played the cittern, a three-stringed early version of the mandolin. Mary captured the heart of the wealthy William Randolph of Turkey Island. Over the next three centuries, the couple would come to be known as "the Adam and Eve of Virginia." Now, you will see why.

The Randolphs were the parents of ten children, most notably Isham Randolph. His daughter Jane married Peter Jefferson. They were the parents of President Thomas Jefferson. Elizabeth, daughter of William and Mary Randolph, married Richard Bland. They were the great-great grandparents of the noble and the revered, General Robert Edward Lee. William and Mary's son Thomas was the great-grandfather of John Marshall, the nation's longest serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In point of fact, Katherine's descendants included the wives of both President Jefferson and General Lee. You can see why the Randolphs are the closest thing to royalty that Virginia ever had.

I will dispense with all the begats, the great-greats and the removed cousins and simply say that among the most well known descendants of Katherine Banks Royall Isham are presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, first lady Edith Wilson, authors William Faulkner, Willa Cather, Robert Penn Warren and Ray Badbury. Among the most interesting name on the list is Booker Talieferro Washington, a former slave, who became a highly revered educator, author and political leader. There are many, many more. Their names have not yet been entered in the files of So for now, I will stop here.

Why would anyone care about Katherine Banks? She was never memorialized in the annals of early American history. All she did was live a good life and have children. And, that's just the point. All of us have a purpose on the Earth. As we go about our daily lives, we never stop to imagine that our descendants, close and remote, can play a pivotal role in the history of our country.

Can you imagine the Declaration of Independence written by someone else other than Thomas Jefferson? Can you imagine the Civil War without Robert E. Lee? Can you imagine the emergence of the Supreme Court without Chief Justice John Marshall? I cannot.

Maybe you can conceive of the world of literature without the names of Bradbury, Faulkner, Cather and Warren, but it would have been a far poorer one.

I can't envision the world without the leadership and brilliance of Booker T. Washington. I can't envision the world without John F. Kennedy. Would there have even been a man on the moon? Would Richard Nixon have been elected president in 1960? Would their have ever been a war in Vietnam or the turbulent times of the 1960s?

I can't imagine a world without these exceptional Americans who descended from the forgotten Katherine Banks Royall Isham. You see, I couldn't visualize these thoughts at all if it were not for Katherine, who was my eighth great-grandmother.

Study the history of your family. Learn where you came from so that you can know where you are going. Everyone's families are no more important than any others. It is up to you. Serve your community now. Don't rest of the accolades of your ancestors or wait on the achievements of your remotest descendants. Who knows what they may learn from you?

Monday, November 30, 2009


This photograph was taken of the International Space Station, moving at more than 17,000 miles per hour over Dublin on the evening of November 28, 2009.  From time to time the space station can be spotted in the first hours after sunset or before sunrise.  To find out when the station and other objects such as the space shuttle can be observed, go to

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Taking a Stand in Dixie

Rufus Kelly didn't take too kindly to Yankees. You see, one of them shot him in the leg and it commenced to hurt very powerfully. It got to hurting so badly that the ol' doctor had to cut if clean off. So, when about thirty thousand of the blue coated "Billy Yanks" came stomping down the road toward his native home of Gordon, Georgia, Rufus decided once and for all it was time for him to take his stand to live or die in Dixie.

James Rufus Kelly was born up in Gordon, Georgia in the western part of Wilkinson County in 1845. When he was just a young boy, Rufus, as he was known to his friends, lost his daddy, who was also named Rufus. Young Rufus and his baby sister Elizabeth were raised by their momma, Mrs. Rebecca Kelly. Just as Rufus was about to become a man, the menfolk in his county held an election to decide whether or not they and the rest of the counties in Georgia would leave the Union. They voted to decide if the people in the South could have slaves and if they wanted to fight a war over it or not. The Kellys weren't really rich, though they had more than most folks in Wilkinson County. Rebecca sewed clothes to keep food on their table and to keep Rufus in school. To help her out around the place, Rebecca depended on her twenty-year-old female slave and her three young children.

When the War Between the States started, Rufus was still a young boy. On July 9, 1861, he joined up with his friend and fellow fifteen year old William Bush in the Ramah Guards. William Bush would die more than 91 years later as the oldest Confederate veteran from Georgia. Rufus made it through the baths of blood at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. During General Lee's retrograde move toward Richmond in the spring of 1864, Cadmus Wilcox's rebels ran headlong into Warren's Union Corps at a place they called Jericho Ford on the 23rd day of May 1864.

Rufus' regiment was right in the middle of a hot fight. The regimental commander ordered the men of the 14th to fall back. But, Rufus would have no part of any retreat. He saw his friends running. Instead of running with them, Rufus rushed forward to the front. With his rifle in his left hand and his hat in his right, Kelly tried to rally his boys. But they kept on running like scalded dogs. He saw some other rebels firing at the Yankees and rushed to their side. Just as the fight began to heat up, a stray bullet struck the eighteen-year-old in the leg. He made it back to the field hospital alive, but lost his leg. After he spent some four months in the hospital and a stint as one of the body guards of Belle Boyd, a famous Confederate spy, Rufus was sent home to sit out the rest of the war.

Rufus was never one to quit a fight. Back home in Gordon, he knew the fight was coming his way once again. General William Tecumseh Sherman's Army had taken Atlanta. They were coming south along the railroads with their sights set on Savannah.

By the 21st of November, the Yankees were knocking on the doors of Macon residences with their cannon balls. Instead of taking the city, Sherman's right wing kept on moving down the Central of Georgia Railroad straight for Gordon. Just outside of Macon was the tiny industrial hamlet of Griswoldville, where the Macon defenders were slaughtered in the newly fallen snow.

The next defenders were under the command of General Henry C. Wayne. Wayne's men were composed of some regular militia, boys from Georgia Military Institute and prison guards from the penitentiary in Milledgeville. Ahead of them were thirty thousand Union soldiers.

Kelly learned of the Yankee advance and dashed off toward Griswoldville. Along the way, he met a young Negro girl who was crying. She told him that two Yankees were at Dr. Gibson's house threatening the doctor's wife in his absence. Just then, John Bragg rode up and agreed to accompany Rufus to aid Mrs. Gibson. Upon arriving at the Gibsons, Kelly, alone by then, was attacked by the two Union soldiers inside the home. Kelly was able to seriously wound one of them. Despite his best efforts to save him, the soldier died in a tavern in Gordon.

General Wayne, Major Capers and T.D. Tinsley were sitting on the porch of the general's headquarters at the Old Solomon Hotel when Kelly road up on his horse the next morning. He had his trusty Winchester in hanging from one side of his saddle and a pair of crutches on the other. Kelly offered his services as a scout since he knew the countryside as good as anyone around. The general accepted the offer. The vidette spurred his mare and dashed off in the direction of Griswoldville.

Kelly returned just after noon and reported to Wayne that the Yankees were moving toward Gordon and Miledgeville. Once again he sped off looking for more Yankees. He returned shortly as the Union army was in sight. He found the General and his troops boarding a train headed east for the Oconee River. Kelly asked Wayne, "General what does this mean? Don't we make a stand?" Wayne said, "No, Mr. Kelly, to stay here would be ridiculous to check Sherman's army of one hundred thousand men with a force of seven hundred."

That's when ol' Rufus went crazy. "General, you are a white-livered cur without a drop of red blood in your veins!" he exclaimed. He screamed at the departing soldiers, "You damned band of tuck tails! If you have no manhood left in you, I will defend the women and children of Gordon!" Rufus grabbed his rifle and emptied his rifle at the blue cavalrymen swiftly coming at him. But was he was quickly captured, thrown in a wagon, and court martialed. They said he was guilty of murder. A band paraded around Rufus playing his funeral dirge. Kelly was told that he would be shot at sunrise.

Kelly wasn't shot. In point of supposed fact, he was summoned to appear before "Uncle Billy" Sherman. Kelly told his biographers that the general wanted to know something of the topography and the crops and game available on his path toward Savannah. When Sherman asked Rufus if he knew he was going to be shot, the rebel acknowledged that he did know. He defended his actions not as murder but as self defense. "General, any way, a man can die but once," Rufus said. The "murderer of Georgia" told the guard to take Rufus and see that his sentence was carried out. Rufus was slightly relieved when he saw the General smile as he spoke to the guard. The death march was played again that night and again the next night.

Kelly had enough. He wasn't ready to die, not just yet. When his blue captors weren't looking, Rufus calmed his shattered nerves, slipped out the back of the wagon and crawled into a nearby swamp. He lingered in the swamp for two days. Able to fashion a make shift crutch, the one-legged teenage veteran was able to make his way back from the Ogeechee River swamp to his father's farm near Gordon four days later.

Rufus resumed a long and happy life. He once taught at Turner School, which was three miles south of Gordon.

Of the 99 men who enlisted in Gordon on July 9, 1861, Kelly was the next to last to die. The highly heralded hero died on September 19, 1928 in his home near Danville. The undertaker dressed him in a $13.75 and buried his body in a $25 casket in Liberty Hill Cemetery near Gordon, which he so nobly defended 145 years ago today.

Sunday, November 22, 2009



Georgia Bulldog mascot UGA VII died unexpectedly of heart problems on November 19, 2009 after only two seasons as Georgia' beloved dog mascot.

On Saturday evening, November 21, 2009, Georgia played the University of Kentucky.  It was the first time since 1956 when there was no UGA on the sidelines at the University of Georgia.

One by one, band members, fans, and cheerleaders stepped up to the front of UGA's empty dog house.  Children peered in still thinking that UGA might be there.  Band members put their hats in front of the house and pulled out their cellphone cameras for one final memory.  Other band members posed as they switched out cellphones taking pictures of each other.

When a moving tribute to UGA was played on the scoreboard, there was a large smattering of "woof, woof, woofs, throughout the crowd.

Here are my photographs of the tributes to UGA.
@ Scott B. Thompson, Sr., Courier Herald, University of Georgia.  Can not be used  in any form without written permission. of the University of Georgia.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The State Convention of 1909

The Baptists were coming! The Baptists were coming! It was a grand week in Dublin. Some seven to eight hundred bible toting, hymn singing and money spending Baptist messengers and officials descended on the Emerald City for a week of worship, reaffirmation and business doings. Newspapers asserted that the congregation constituted the greatest gathering of so many distinguished laymen and ministers in the eighty-eight year history of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

In order to handle eight hundred visitors in a city of five thousand people, seemingly impossible arrangements needed to be made. Obviously there weren't enough hotel rooms to accommodate that many people, so the local Baptists enlisted the aid of their Methodist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Christian brethren. Their pleas were met although each host family was required to board and perhaps feed several guests in their homes for at least four nights. That's when an army of ladies sprang into action. They scrubbed their homes, the church, and most of the city clean of trash, dust and filth. Kitchens were busy non-stop for days leading up to the big event.

The owners of the Four Seasons Department Store, the city's largest establishment, rearranged their furniture section and set up a writing room for those who wanted to open their mail and write letters.

The local church was ready. With a new edifice housing one of the finest new churches in the state, the sanctuary was crammed with people. Many of the three hundred and eighty-three voting members stood along the walls and in the rear of the sanctuary.

One of the convention's highlights came before the opening invocation. Special trains arrived during the day on Monday, but late in the afternoon, many had not yet arrived. A chartered train from Macon ran into trouble along the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad at the 18-mile post outside of Macon. When the train's tender car came off the track, the entire train skidded along cross ties for all too long a distance, coming to a halt just before it fell into a deep ravine. Despite the long delay, rail traffic in Dublin during the day was a spectacle within itself. Part of the fanfare was the large crowd of the curious and the criminal. Dr. C.H.S. Jackson had his cherished gold watch and fob, a gift of the faculty of Bessie Tift College, lifted from his pocket as he left his train car.

The convention came to order on the morning of November 16, 1919. Local attorney G.H. Williams issued a cordial welcome to the crowded worship house. Georgia governor Joseph M. Brown was expected to attend, but his name does not appear in the published accounts of the proceedings. Among the dignitaries were Railroad Commissioner George Hillyer, ex-congressman C.L. Moses, future governor Clifford Walker, and an unnamed justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Conspicuously absent were ministers of other local churches. Their absence was not a spurn to a courtesy invitation, but of the five major denominations, only the Methodist position was filled. Even the pulpit of the host church was empty. But, former and well beloved pastor Allen Fort returned to Dublin to host the event.

A second highlight came early in the convention when President William J. Northern asked the assembly to accept his resignation. The former governor of Georgia asked for "new blood" in the organization's leadership. His hearing was not as good as it used to be.

Governor Northern asked and was granted permission to address the Negroes of Dublin, who were engaged in their fall fair across town. It would be the first time in twenty-five years that Northern was absent, albeit temporarily, from the Baptist convention.

Northern may have had a hidden agenda in asking to be excused from the proceedings. The convention's most heated moment came during a discussion of the church's role in including Negroes in their mission work. When he returned, the Governor rose to speak and proposed increases in the spreading of the Gospel to a large proportion of the state's residents. "I would rather see a million Negroes in the South converted than to see the conversion of two million Japanese, Chinese, or savages on some remote island," Northern proclaimed. "It would mean more to God and more to the South," he added. Keeping his speech calm and dignified and fearing that his pleas would fall on deaf ears, Northern beseeched the assembly that "nothing is being done."

Dr. J.J. Bennett, Secretary of the State Board, rose to counter Northern's accusations that the mandates of the previous convention in Valdosta were in fact being carried out. Dr. Bennett responded with an equally dignified, but highly vigorous, rebuttal claiming that Negroes were not being neglected. He attempted to substantiate his claim by pointing out the fact that the highest percentage of Negroes were Baptists.

The temperance question arose as it always did in the convention. There wasn't a drop of controversy on the subject of beer and liquor. As the members had decided in all previous meetings, drinking was a sin. The delegates decided that the drive for near beer was not acceptable under any circumstances.

With the venerable Governor Northern out of contention for the election as the new President, former Georgia governor Joseph M. Terrell and T.J. Lawson were nominated. Rev. Turner Smith, of Dublin, then submitted the name of Dr. S.Y. Jameson of Macon. After Messers Terrell and Lawson withdrew their names, Jameson won the election. Dublin's F.H. Rowe was selected as one of four vice-presidents for the upcoming year.

Rev. O.A. Copeland gave the main sermon of the convention. His topic, "The Purpose of God in the Individual's Life," was well received. Dr. R.J. Willingham, Secretary of the Southern Baptist Conventions Foreign Board of Missions, issued a strong plea for more workers to spread the word of the Gospel. When the more business oriented proceedings were completed, the attendees adjourned for a fine meal before reassembling at the Chautaugua Auditorium at the corner of South Monroe and West Madison streets. The meeting hall, which would house more than a thousand people, afforded the opportunity for local Baptists and the families of the delegates to attend the services.

When new president Jameson's Friday afternoon address ended, the congregation paid their respects to their cordial hosts and made their way through the swarms to board homebound trains.

In hailing the event, a writer for The Christian Index, the official organ of the Southern Baptists, wrote "The beautiful and spacious house of worship and the cordial hospitality of the citizens made Dublin an ideal place for the holding of the convention. The great Chautaugua auditorium afforded the opportunity for the entertainment of large audiences that attended the night services. The hospitality was unbounded."

Sunday, November 15, 2009


     On November 11, 2009, the Laurens County Commissioners officially rededicated the monuments around the Laurens County Courthouse.  The ladies of the Dublin Garden Club and the Erin Garden Club raised more than $8,000.00 to enhance the memorials with pavers and flowers.  The county erected new flag poles on both sides of the courthouse square.

Mary Jane Spivey                                                      Dr. Jack Brown, VA Chaplain

     Laurens County Historical Society President Scott B. Thompson, Sr. addressed the crowd on the history of the monuments.

     Tens of thousands of Laurens Countians have answered the call to serve our nation.

     We come here today to honor those 193 men who have given their lives in the defense of our freedoms.

     The monuments around us honor those who gave their lives during both World Wars and the wars in Korea and Vietnam. A single monument honors Sgt. Dewey Johnson, who was one of eight Americans who died in the failed attempt to rescue Americans held hostage in Iran in 1980.

     Regrettably, there are more. Going way back to the War of 1812 and possibly during the Indian and Mexican wars in which Laurens Countians gave the last full measure of devotion.

     There are many more who have lost their lives during the years between our armed conflicts.

     Perhaps it is fitting and only proper that today, the citizens of our county honor these fallen heroes as well by adding their names to a new monument, a monument to the brave heroes of peace time.

     The process of honoring veterans who lost their lives in military service began in 1921 when the United Daughters of the Confederacy honored the fallen heroes of World War I.

      In 1947, as the last of the bodies of Americans killed in Europe and Asia were being brought back to Laurens County for burial, the members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the many others erected a monument to honor the true heroes of World War II.

     It would be another thirty plus years before the community erected another monument. In the late 1970s, the American Legion Post No. 17, led by its former commanders Wendell Zeigler and H. Dale Thompson, decided it had been too long since the end of the wars in Korea and Vietnam without having a monument to honor those who died in those wars.

Scott B. Thompson, Sr. - President, Laurens County Historical Society

     To show how our community responds to a call to honor these heroic men, my father, Dale Thompson, was able to raise all of the necessary funds to erect this monument with a series of phone calls in a single morning.

     Following the tragic death of Sgt. Dewey Johnson in his attempt to save the lives of others, his memory was honored with a monument which has now joined in line with those servicemen of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

     I along with all of you hope that Dewey Johnson’s name will be the last name inscribed on these monuments on the square. We all know that it won’t. What we do know is that when the time comes and that time is right this minute, there are Laurens Countians around the world protecting our freedoms.

     The price of freedom is a heavy one. More will die. We can not change that. What we can do is to continue to honor these heroes and all veterans, not only on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but on every day of every year until the end of time.

     We can and must pray for the continued safety of our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen.

     And, when the time comes to build another monument and inscribe names upon it, that we do so with no hesitation or reservation.

     I would like to leave you today with the lyrics of a song written by Mac Davis and performed by Gary Puckett. A little more than a year ago I got a chance to talk to Gary, who sold more records in1968 than the Beatles and Elvis Presley. He told me he has to sing this song, adding too many men never came home and those who did, did not receive a proper welcome.

Every night they lie awake

and dream of mama's chocolate cake

And wonder if they'll be a tomorrow

And will they ever see their home and their family

Or will they ever be back home

And boys who never learned to pray

Look to the heavens everyday

And stumble through a simple little prayer

And ask the Lord above

To send them home to the ones they love

Oh God I hope they make it home

And every day some young man dies

And in the night some young girl cries

He'll never hear his baby's laughter

He'll never ever see his home and his family

Or what he's done for you and me

But I guess he's on his way back home

Thursday, November 12, 2009


A Hero Remembered

Lynn Sewell sat by her father's bed. He was dying. His deaf ears could not hear her sobs. For hours she clutched his hands and stared through his blind eyes into her father's soul, remembering the good times they had and trying to imagine the horrors her daddy had suffered through. Owen Collins had many battles in his life, but he never lost sight of what was really important to him, his family and his friends.

On the day after he died, Lynn went back to her father's room to gather his belongings. She rarely saw the children of her father's roommate, who had also been in the latter stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Lynn and the woman began to talk. She mentioned that her father had been a prisoner of war during World War II. The roommate's daughter responded, "So was my father." "My dad was at Moorsburg," Lynn said. Lynn never expected what the lady's response would be. You see, the man who had lived in the same nursing home room for three months with Owen Collins was a prisoner of war, but he was a German soldier imprisoned in an English P.O.W. camp.

Lynn wasn't surprised. For years Owen Collins rarely talked about the war. Although he suffered much in the camps, Collins never held a grudge against his German captors, who were "pretty good" to the prisoners. Though his rations were scant and tasteless, he did say that the guards were older men with young sons of their own and their meals were not much better than his. "He always saw the best in people," Lynn fondly remembered. One sign of his times in the camp came when it was time to feed his dogs. "He always overfed the dogs because he was hungry in the prison camp and he could not stand to think that they may be hungry," Sewell added.

Owen Collins in camp. (4th from left.)

Owen Kitchens Collins, the baby boy of Bryan Lee Collins and Laura Kitchens, was born in Dexter, Georgia on February 28, 1915. The Collins family moved to Sandersville and eventually to Decatur, Georgia, where Owen graduated from high school and went to work for the Standard Coffee Company.

Love came into Owen's life in 1936 when he went on a double date. He fell in love with the other boy's date and married her nearly two years later. They lived a long and happy life together for more than fifty five years.

At the age of 28, Owen enlisted in the United States Army. Leaving his wife and baby boy behind, Collins shipped off to England and prepared to land on the shores of France. As a member of General George S. Patton's Third Army, Owen and his division fought their way through the hedgerows and fortified villages of France in one brutal battle after another.

Collins was carrying a bazooka when the orders came through to take a house filled with Germans. Not knowing the order had been rescinded, Owen continued his advance. Upon reaching the designated objective, Owen realized he was all alone. Deciding that he would be killed or captured if he retreated, he concluded that his only option was to take the whole house, which he did. In doing so, Collins was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action. It would be one of two times that Owen would receive the nation's 3rd highest honor for heroism.

There was nothing different about the morning December 20, 1944. It was cold, unmercifully cold. The Battle of the Bulge was raging about Bastogne. Owen and Frederick Svoboda were busy digging their fox hole when they were captured by a German picket. They were taken to Stalag 7 near Munich. While in prison, Owen was forced to eat a diet mainly of bread filled with sawdust. Always looking to help those in need, Owen would gather potatoes while on work details outside the prison, hide them in his specially designed long johns, and cook them for his friends on a stove which he fashioned from pieces of metal he picked up along the way.

A week before the end of the war, Stalag 7 was liberated by the 14th Armored Division. Owen traded his cigarettes for a Brownie camera. He took pictures of his camp, his fellow prisoners, and the planes as they flew overhead. These pictures can be viewed by going to

The Collins family moved to Blue Ridge in 1947. When Kit, the oldest child, went to school with no electricity, Owen put electricity and a light in his son's classroom. The next year, Owen had the entire school wired with electricity and lights. When anyone needed anything fixed in the neighborhood, Owen was there with tools in his hands and a smile on his face. "He would have given anyone the shirt off of his back if he thought it would help them." Lynn recalled of her fathers unceasing desire to help those in need.

Owen's first heart attack struck him at the age of 38 in 1953. Collins, a top salesman for Beck & Gregg Hardware, was forced to hire a teenage student to carry his heavy catalog when he called on his customers. Thirteen years later, Owen suffered the third attack on his heart. Forced to retire, Owen turned to what he loved best, woodworking, hunting, and fishing. His custom-made gunstocks were prized collector's items and heirlooms. His doll houses, game tables, and refinished furniture were considered works of art.

Whether hunting with his best friend Cliff Wilson or fishing with his entire family, Owen loved the outdoors. There was the time when he and his children were sitting in his boat fishing. The baby girl Jan, three years old at the time, was the only one not to catch a fish. When the appropriate diversion came, Owen secretly reeled her line in, placed a good sized fish securely on the hook, and quickly and discreetly placed it back into the cool mountain lake. "She thought she had caught a fish and was the happiest girl in Blue Ridge," Lynn fondly remembered.

L-R: Kit, Doug, Owen and Lynn Collins (Jan wasn't born yet)

After surviving a war, months in a P.O.W. camp, and three heart attacks, Owen fought the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease for the last twenty years of his life. Giving up the keys to his car wasn't as bad as giving up the keys to his riding lawnmower on which he gave rides around the back yard in its trailer. In his retirement, Owen took in a troubled young man who lived across the street. Years later, the then grown man told Owen's daughter that her father was responsible for turning his life around because of the love and guidance he had given to him.

To his nation and his family Owen Collins was a hero, not just because he was a soldier and a prisoner of war, but because he was a wonderful father, keen businessman and expert craftsman and most of all, a good friend. Like the many members of the "Greatest Generation, " Owen Collins most important contributions to America did not come on the cold muddy battlefields of France or in the fact that he survived the horrors of the stalags. They came from his gifts to his community, his family and his friends.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Well, Almost

It wasn't the circus of P.T. Barnum and James Bailey or that of the Ringling Brothers, but everybody loves a circus. Oh my why not? They have lions, tigers and bears! People, by the thousands, came from far and near to gather under the big top of one of the country's largest circus shows. They came to see wild animals, daring feats, and thrilling performances. Few left disappointed, except one newspaper reporter who had been to too many circuses.

The first known circus came to Dublin in the late 1860s. It was staged at the rear of the Troup House, which is on the site of the public parking lot on the first block of West Madison Street. John Robinson brought his big show into Dublin in 1900 in a time when the city was one of the largest in the state of Georgia. Hagenback and Wallace, the second largest circus in America, came to the Emerald City in 1907.

Robinson's big circus made a return to the city in 1909. Local businesses were booming and there was plenty of pocket money around. So, the promoters expected the crowds to be massive and so did the pick pockets who were slipping into town in the darkness. No one figured that the largest president in the history of the United States was going to appear at the Georgia State Fair in Macon on the very day the circus came to town. Though he was despised by the vast majority of the highly Democratic electorate, William Howard Taft, the three-hundred-pound chief executive, made it difficult for locals to decide whether to go to Macon or remain at home or to go to just another circus, which they had seen here before and would see again.

For one of the first times, the circus grounds were moved to the suburbs of the city. This time the circus grounds were laid out at the corner of Academy Avenue and Elm Street immediately in the rear of the home of R.F. Deese.

The John Robinson Circus, started by the first of four John Robinsons in 1842, finished a performance in Macon and headed down the railroad tracks toward Dublin, where the first of three sections arrived early in the morning of November 4, 1909. While the set up crews were getting the four-ring tent and animal quarters ready for the afternoon and evening shows at one and seven o'clock, the main body of the circus proceeded to deboard at the depot in three separate trains, a spectacle in of itself.

Just before high noon, a whistle blew and a grand parade of circus clowns, acrobats, animals, wagons, and performers passed through the downtown area signaling that the big show was about to begin. Six bands led the free parade of sixty cages, ten tableau wagons and some three hundred and sixty equestrians. Barkers roamed through the enormous crowd, which had been gathering since early in the morning, screaming "follow me to the circus!"

Despite the fact that the President may have upstaged Dublin's big day, five thousand people crammed into the tent for the first show. Seats were hard to find and the opening was delayed to accommodate the late comers. Though some stayed to watch the exhibition for a second time, others went home limiting the attendance to a "good crowd."

Inside the big tent was a hippodrome for the some three hundred horses and sixty ponies, which danced, pranced and raced about the sawdust-covered rings. The show featured, not one, but three, animal menageries, which featured a bloat of hippopotamuses, a crash of rhinoceroses, a sleuth of white bears, a herd of horned horses, a pod of seals, an obstinacy of buffalo, a flock of camels, a zeal of zebras, and the requisite elephant herd, leopard leap, lion pride and tiger swift. A rookery of sea lions mounted a string of three ponies juggling, balancing and throwing balls to each other and through flaming hoops.

Warren Travis, a champion heavyweight lifter, was new to the circus. It was said that Travis could lift an elephant or withstand the weight of a dozen men standing on a platform which rested on his chest. Many left shaking their heads after the strong man survived two Maxwell automobiles driving over his body. Another new act was the high dive, where a man dove from the top of the tent into a shallow pool.

King's Wild West show were advertised to feature cowboys, cowgirls and real live Mexicans and Indians or so that's what they said they were. Two companies of U.S. Cavalry performed thrilling monkey drills and acrobatic feats. The western show featured a stage coach robbery, hanging of a horse thief, a re-enactment of the Battle of Wounded Knee, and every other kind of western sport and pastime of the plains that they had the time or the people to perform.

Somewhat less than the fifty advertised clowns kept the show rolling. Troops of Japanese and Arabs, or people dressed like them, rode horses and displayed their talents to the captive audience. Costello's Riding Act, Tarant's Casting Act and the Minerva Sisters preceded the Iron Jaw Act when the Great Chambora jumped from the ceiling, struck a board and slid down a sixty-foot incline on his head. A high wire walker walked to the top of the tent and then slid down to the ground on one toe and one heal.

According to a writer for the Dublin Courier Dispatch, who thought not much of the highly billed circus, "the band was not up to average, being smaller than Robinson formerly carried." Also disappointing was the quality of the menagerie and the extent of the wild west show. The actual performances were not as wonderful as was billed according to the reporter, who complained that the wild west side show was composed of seven cowboys and a single cowgirl, deeming it more of a tame west show than a wild one. A long season of nearly daily performances had taken its toll on the horses, who were not as sleek as they had been in the past. But where it counted, the crowd enjoyed the festivities and some came back for an encore.

Howe's London Circus and Spark's Circus returned to Dublin the following year. In 1915, the Robinson Shows returned to the city for the final time. Soon the circus became just another event. Circuses meant money to the merchants and money to the coffers of the city treasury. But, they also brought out the con artists and skulkers, ready to relieve the inattentive and the gullible of their cash and valuable in the flicker of a moment.

Dublin's alderman turned a request by Spark's Circus to reduce the license tax from $200.00 and instead voted to double the tax for any circus having more than ten car loads of paraphernalia. Perhaps the final straw came in 1922, when Hagenback and Wallace returned to Dublin for an encore performance. An early morning winter rain flooded the 12th District Fairgrounds forcing a cancellation of the big event. The circus struck their tents and loaded up their animals and left town without a single show. The circus was found liable for its abandoning the children of the city by a court two years after the fact.

Although many circuses have returned to Dublin and still perform here on a regular basis, the grand circuses are gone now. So, the next time you ride down Academy Avenue and you pass by Cordell Lumber Company, look across the street and imagine that day one hundred years ago when the "Greatest Show of Earth," or the closest we ever got, came to town.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Photograph of the soldier atop Laurens County's monument to the Confederate soldier with a waning gibbous moon in the background.  November 8, 2009.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Before moving to the corner of Academy Avenue and Rowe Street, the members of Laurens Lodge No. 75 F & A.M. met in their lodge on the third story of the Brantley Buidling, later and better known as the Lovett and Tharpe Building at 201 W. Jackson St., Dublin, GA.

Here of some photographs of the lodge on the upper right of the third floor.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Memories of a Lifetime

Lois Adams loved life as a young woman growing up in Jeffersonville, Georgia. In the years before her marriage, Lois kept her memories in a scrapbook. Now, thanks to the fine folks at Adams Funeral Home and the members of her family, Lois' scrapbook, which was found neatly packed away in the funeral home started by her husband, has been donated to the Laurens County Historical Society, where visitors can catch a glimpse into the life of talented teenage girl long, long ago.

In the five-inch thick black paper scrapbook you will find everything from Leo Mullis' cigarette butts to her very own candy wrappers (she preferred Whitman's over Nunally's), filled dance cards to great football game tickets, and a real cotton boll to a real tarpon scale. Yes, I said a tarpon scale. There are also empty packets of cigarettes, Camel and Home Run, none of which she smoked. Obligatory family pictures and clippings of wedding, anniversary and funeral notices are in the book too. This child of Jack Shine Vaughn and Susie Elizabeth Johnson Vaughn, pasted all of her important memorabilia so that in a moment she could open the book and reach back in time to when life was grand. I like the menu for ice cream, 15 cents a cup, and fruity ice drinks, 10 cents a cup, which she stole and pasted in a special place in her scrapbook.

One of the first things you will see is a piece of chewing gum, Beechnut, I presume. That in of itself is not unusual since there are many gum wrappers and who gave her the gum. Written underneath this piece of gum is the phrase "You bet I wanted to chew it, but I didn't." And she was right, the gum, or what is left of it, hasn't been chewed in the last ninety years. Lois especially enjoyed a dance where she wore a red corsage and commented, "I was thrilled to a peanut." She glued a red ribbon in her scrapbook and posed the question, "Bet I had a good time, wonder who put this around my neck?"

Music and the arts were the fabric of Lois' young life. Not a recital nor a play was held at Twiggs County High School without her name listed in the program. On the 26th of May 1920, Lois performed a rousing version of Muscadine Gulp on the piano, before singing The Governor with her good friend Dorothy Jones. In addition to her talents as a singer and pianist, Lois was a dancer.

She loved going to musical events in Macon and Atlanta. Sometimes when she was lucky, there were musical artists who passed through Jeffersonville. There was this one evening when Lois and her friends Marin, Ethel and Daisy went to hear the Wesleyan Glee Club. The music was great, but the most memorable part of the evening was that the girls didn't return until to the late hour of one o'clock in the morning. When there was nothing else to do, Lois and her friends and family would go to a womanless wedding. She must have an eye for one of the all male participants whom she thought looked real good. Then there were plays and all sorts of things to do. There was no television in those days, nor was there any radio. Movies in Jeffersonville were rare. You had to go to Macon or Dublin to see the silent movies.

Lois Evelyn Vaughn walked across the graduation stage of the Twiggs County High School auditorium on May 21, 1923 with her friends Gladys and Ruth Califf, Dorothy Jones, Estelle Harris, Wilhelmina Faulk and Carrie Norris. But, three days before then, Lois and her fellow musicians had one last chance to showcase their talents in a program under the direction of Miss Elizabeth Pettus, director of the Expression and Piano Department. Lois closed the evening's thrilling show with her performance of Rachmananoff's Prelude in C Sharp Minor.

Of all of Lois's favorite pastimes, dancing and going to dances was the best. One of the best was a big dance at the Dublin Country Club on July 28, 1926. Tom Wilcox asked her to go, but for some reason, Lois didn't remember why she turned down his invitation. But, she had a good time listening to the music of the Georgians, who performed all the great tunes in the club dance hall, which was then located east of the pond in what is now Saint Andrews subdivision.

With all of her artistic talents, Lois Adams had a talent for athletics. Among her most prized possessions is a scorecard for a basketball game against the Dublin High Whirls. I have to explain here why the girls from Dublin were called "the Whirls." The boys were dubbed the "Green Hurricane." Hence the supposedly meeker girls bore a more inferior team name. What was remarkable about the game, in which Lois said she became a famous basketball player, was that she scored 12 of her teams 24 points in a 24-6 rout of the Dublin girls.

Lois liked football as well. It didn't matter if it was Georgia or Georgia Tech. A good football game in the fall was always a thrill. She went to see Georgia Tech play the Auburn Tigers and the North Carolina Tar Heels in 1928. The following year, right before her marriage, Lois was one of the lucky who went to Georgia's game against Yale, a game which inaugurated play in Sanford Stadium and a game in which the Bulldogs gained national immortality for their stunning 15-0 upset victory over the mighty Bulldogs from Yale.

In the fall of 1926, Lois took an extended trip of Lakeland, Florida. She brought back a black watch fob as a reminder of the good times she had. Before coming home with "Big Boy" Hicks and Bob Pitts, Lois took in a boxing match, actually several of them. The big fight on the card that October 13th was the bout featuring W.L. "Young" Stribling, a future contender for the world championship in the heavyweight division. The Macon boxer still holds the world record for the most fights and knockouts by a heavyweight boxer.

Of all of her dancing partners, Lois found the best one of all in Cordy Adams of Dublin.  Cordy, an up and coming undertaker and a graduate of the Cincinnati College of Embalming, won her hand in marriage. Before settling down, the couple left on a short honeymoon trip to Montgomery, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana. While they were staying in the Jefferson Davis Hotel in Montgomery, the newly married couple decided to go to yet another football game, another Bulldog victory over the hometown favorites, the Crimson Tide. It was the next morning when an invitation was slipped under their hotel room door inviting Mr. and Mrs. Cordy Adams to a fine breakfast. "It was the first time I felt recognized as a Mrs.," Mrs. Adams recalled.

Then the newlyweds were on to New Orleans, where they enjoyed dining, dancing and theater going in "The Big Easy." Although they had a good time, Lois wrote that the three nights in the De Soto Hotel were restless. Maybe it was the bill, a whopping $5.00 a night!

When the couple returned to Dublin, they made their first home in the Fred Roberts Hotel. There's even a note on an unused bar of soap to prove it. Then reality set in. Lois wrote on a bill from R.F. Deese Furniture store, "here is where all my money went." She kept the bill and converted it into a ledger sheet showing the purchase of a $150.00 bed room suite and a $125.00 dollar set of living room furniture and the record of her payments down to a zero balance.

Memories are priceless. Lois Adams kept some of hers. Maybe you should do so. Cherish them, preserve them and record them. Maybe some day someone will care about what was important to you. So on behalf of the Laurens County Historical Society, here's a big thank you to you, Mrs.Adams for preserving your present and keeping your fond memories alive for generations to come.