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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The Death of Officer George Crawford

"Moonshine kills," or so they used to say. Prohibitionists believed that it was a spirit brewed by the Devil himself. Poisoned swigs often killed their consumers. In the spring of 1921, the Devil's brew led to the deaths of three people, two of the men made it, and one of tried to stop them and wipe away the demon rum from the face of the Earth, or at least from Laurens County.

George Crawford was a law man. He was a son of a lawman. His daddy, a county sheriff, was slain while attempting to apprehend a prisoner. Before this day, May 21, 1921, was over, George too would take his last breath in the performance of his duty.

Folks in Laurens County who obeyed the law and what the Bible told them so had no taste for moonshine or any other spiritous liquors. Whiskey making was illegal in Laurens County and in the entire country under the eighteenth amendment to the United States Constitution.

Laurens County's commissioners hired their own policeman to enforce the state law against moonshining. Sometimes these officers conducted raids in conjunction with state and federal officers. This time, county policeman George Crawford and his deputy, E.M. Osborn, set off to look for a still, which they believed was operated by one Math Holsey or his daddy, ol' man Green Holsey, way down in the lower extremities of Burch's District.

When the officers approached the back door of the Holsey's shanty of a house, they were greeted by the old man's wife and daughter. Crawford told the old woman that they were there to raid the place. Mrs. Holsey reached for a cow hide-bottomed chair, picked it up, and tried to smash it across the soft side of Crawford's skull.

Crawford and Osborn knocked the woman to the ground and ran down the hall, which extended the entire length of the dog trot shack up to the front door.

Ol' man Holsey burst into the breeze way brandishing a shotgun. Crawford instinctively wrestled hm to the ground and took his gun. Osborn, out of the corner of his best eye, noticed the senior Holsey reaching behind a crookedly hung picture frame and pull out an object. At first, he did know exactly what the old man had in his hand. He was about to found out soon, and frighteningly soon.

Crawford and Holsey fiercely fought for control of the weapon. Deputy Osborn ran around to the other side of the scrum and beckoned to George, "What's he got George?" Crawford screamed out, "He's got a gun!"

Osborn then turned and noticed Math Holsey, the old man's son, standing in the middle of the dim hallway. Just as the officer noticed the younger Holsey, the miscreant bootlegger raised his rifle and fired a single and instantly fatal round into the body of policeman Crawford, who loosened his grip on his opponent and fell backward to the floor.

Green Holsey righted himself and took his aim at Osborn, who was standing some two or three feet away. The deputy quickly turned and shot point blank first, just as he was trained to do, instantly killing the old man, who was by then six feet away. Math winced and started toward the front door. As Holsey ran, the deputy fired two more shots, both of which he believed to be fatal. It was determined later that two of the deputy's bullets had lodged in Holsey's hip and calf. Osborn quickly returned to his comrade to render aid. "George was still breathing, but he never spoke and he died in two or three minutes," Osborn recalled.

Deputy Osborn sprinted across the field to find deputies Art Sapp and John Renfroe, who were raiding yet another still. The three law enforcement officers returned to the house and the yard to look for any signs of Math Holsey or drops of his blood trailing toward the woods. Math Holsey had vanished. Only a pool of blood confirmed Osborn's belief that his shots had indeed been mortal.

The officers found a phone at a nearby house and sent out a distress call and a summons for a posse. They placed a similar call to the sheriff in Alamo, some ten air line miles closer than the courthouse in Dublin.

Tracking bloodhounds searched the piney woods and oaky swamps in hopes of finding the fleeing felon. Not a hint of Holsey's location was found until the posse appeared at home of Holsey's brother. There, some two miles away from Math's house, the searchers found still another pool of Matt's rapidly diminishing blood supply. A little girl confirmed that a bleeding man had been in the house and that he had fled into the nearby brush. The dogs were put back on the trail and found Holsey in short order.

While the dogs held the fugitive at bay, Deputy Sheriff Singleton apprehended Holsey, urging him to surrender. And, it appeared that he did give himself up. Singleton promised Math that he would not hurt him. Math sat down in apparent submission. All of a sudden, Math drew his rifle and began firing at Singleton.

Instantly a massive volley of rifle and shotgun fire of the posse struck Math. In the ensuing few minutes, Holsey's already dead body was so badly riddled with bullets that it was difficult to move him in one piece. Math Holsey's shattered and broken corpse was returned to the scene of the crime, where it was unceremoniously dumped beside the decaying cadaver of his dead father, just where he had fallen earlier in the day.

Crawford, described as a fearless officer, had been a Laurens County policeman for two years. This acclamation was attested to by the fact that during the entire clash with Green Holsey that he did not draw his gun, not once. When the morticians were preparing his body for the funeral, they found Crawford's leather billy still secured in his pocket.

George Crawford was known to have been a policeman who fervently sought out makers of illegal moonshine. It cost him his life and the eternal misery of his widow, his eight children and a host of friends. But, no murder of a law enforcement officer would stop the fight to end crimes, whenever and wherever they occur. The county commissioners recognized the magnitude of the moonshine problem. So, they appointed not one, but two, officers to carry on the battle. Within two weeks of George Crawford's tragic death in the performance of his duty, Judson L. Jackson and J.K. Rowland stepped in and picked up the torch of justice to carry on the fight the rid the county of the evil demon rum.

Saturday, July 25, 2009



The lands lying between the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers and generally south of Interstate Highway 16 was the focal point of the largest land title litigation in the history of Georgia. Most of the land was filled with virgin long leaf and yellow pines. The lands were granted through a lottery system in the Land Lottery of 1807. Grants were made in lots of 202.5 acres with some fractional land lots running along the rivers or land district boundaries. Many of the lots were extremely isolated from the populated areas around Dublin, Hawkinsville, and Jacksonsville. The residents, mainly farmers, put little or no value to the trees. Peter J. Williams of Milledgeville sought out and purchased many of the lots from dissatisfied owners. Many other lots to which the grants had lapsed were purchased by Williams from the State of Georgia.

In the 1830s a group of New England land speculators became interested in the land. Williams sold the land, about the size of the state of Delaware, to Stephen Chase of Maine, Abram Colby of New Hampshire, and Samuel Crocker of Maine on February 28, 1834. The Georgia Lumber Company was created by an act of the Georgia Legislature on December 17, 1834. Three weeks later the three men sold the land, measuring 296,055 acres, to the Georgia Lumber Company on January 5, 1835 for the sum of $5.00. The property was sold to the State of Indiana for a quarter of a million dollars in settlement of lawsuit over the dissolution of the company. At the time of that sale in September, 1842, Elisha B. Strong was the president of the company.

During the 1840s and early 1850s some of the land was sold by local sheriffs to satisfy property tax liens. These lots were purchased by local people who immediately moved onto the land and improved it. On December 1, 1849 Gov. Paris C. Duning of Indiana quitclaimed the lands to Martin Green of Indiana in settlement of a $240,000.00 note involving the state, the lumber company, and the Bank of Western New York. Green then sold a 7/16 share for 9,187 dollars to Amos Davis of New York on June 12, 1850. Green then sold another 7/16 share to Samuel Brooks of New York for the same amount two years later. Green sold the remaining share to William Chauncey of New York on the same day. Davis then divided his interest selling to William Chauncey, Charles Illins of New York City, Edmund Munroe of Boston, and Charles Peabody of New York City. Samuel Brooks divided his interest selling to Randolph Martin of New York City, Joseph M. Sanderson of New York, and Joseph Bolesier of New York.

During the height of reconstruction William Pitt Eastman of New York City began buying all of the shares of the lands. Eastman sold the property to Anson G. Phelps Dodge on June 8, 1870. Dodge then transferred the lands to a new company, the Georgia Land and Lumber Company. On February 6, 1877 George E. Dodge purchased the property from the company and appointed Anson G. Phelps Dodge as his attorney in fact to manage the affairs of the business in Georgia. The Dodge family, especially the Rev. Anson Dodge, Jr., were central characters in Eugenia Prices's "Beloved Invader."

By the mid 1880s much of the land lying along the Macon and Brunswick Railroad had been stripped of timber. In 1884 a federal government study revealed that there was a billion board feet of virgin pine timber still standing in southern Laurens County alone. That is enough lumber to build a 4 inch by inch plank all the way to the moon and back or to build a seven foot wall around the circumference of the Earth. George E. Dodge sold the land to Norman W. Dodge in June of 1888. As more and more railroads were cut through the area, more and more timber was cut. The choice heart pine timber was shipped all over the world. Timbers from the area were used in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

For the most part the timber lands had been kept intact by the owners for nearly a half century. Norman W. Dodge immediately began selling off tracts on which the timber had been cut. As the area became more attractive to settlers many squatters and bona fide settlers claimed land belonging to Dodge. The area was subjected to a small war in which nearly three dozen people were assassinated. After nearly all of the good timber was gone Norman W. Dodge filed a suit in the Federal court to quiet title to the lands.

The suit was tried in a Georgia Federal Court and a decision was rendered giving Dodge title to some of lands outright and to others upon the payment of money. Other lots were decreed to be the property of the defendants outright or upon the payment of money to Dodge. Norman Dodge died shortly after Judge Emory Speer rendered his opinion on December 2, 1902. Eventually all of Dodge's lands were sold by his heirs ending one of the most bitter and most fascinating times in the history of northern Wiregrass Georgia.

The lands covered in this lawsuit lie in current day Laurens, Dodge, Wheeler, Telfair, Pulaski, and Bleckley Counties.

LOTS 65, 98, 109, 120, and 211.

LOTS 4, 8, 37, 39, 40, 42-46, 48-50, 81, 120, 122, 125-27, 163-66, 170, 209-10, 217, 447-8, 450-2, 489, and 496.

LOTS 11, 16-8, 22, 23, 26-8, 56, 59, 62, 65, 68, 71, 74, 96-9, 106-8, 133, 138, 152-3, 186-9, 192, 224-5, 263, 267, 268-9, 271, 296, 299, 301-3, 327, 329, 331, 333, and 360.

LOTS 1-3, 7, 10-13, 17-9, 22, 24-5, 29, 31, 33, 35-7, 44, 46, 55, 56, 60, 63, 67-70, 75, 83, 92-3, 99-100, 108-110, 116, 118, 123, 125-7, 133, 135, 137-8, 140-1, 143, 147, 149-51, 158, 160, 162, 168-9, 171, 173-6, 178, 183-185, 192, 199, 205, 208, 211, 213-5, 223, 225, 228, 234, 236, 239-40, 242-45, 247, 253-58, 263-65, 267-8, 276, 280-1, and 283.

LOTS 4, 7, 8-10, 14, 17-8, 20-4, 27, 28, 30-1, 34, 39, 41-2, 46, 58-63, 66-7, 75, 77, 83, 86, 88, 90, 91, 94-100, 109, 111, 114-118, 120, 123, 126, 130, 133, 135-7, 139-41, 145, 152, 159, 161, 165, 167-9, 171, 178, 181-2, 191-2, 197, 206-9, 213-5, 225, 229, 239, 265, 267, 275, 278, 280, 282-4, 290-5, 297-99, 301-3, 306-8, 310, 311, 316, 319, 324-7, 336-8, 340, 352-55, 357, and 360.

LOTS 9, 10, 13-17, 27, 28, 31, 37, 44, 47, 57, 76, 82, 84-7, 89, 93-5, 97-9, 106, 111, 113, 114, 116-8, 121-2, 124, 125, 126, 129, 132, 140, 141, 143-7, 149, 152, 156-61, 165-7, 169-71, 174, 176, 177, 179-81, 183, 188-90, 201, 204, 207, 224, 239, 244, 263, 268, 272, 275, and 291.

LOTS 13-4, 20-22, 26-7, 29, 32, 33, 36, 39-42, 49, 52, 54-7, 60, 63, 64, 65, 67, 70, 72-3, 75-7, 78-80, 84, 85, 88-91, 93, 98, 100, 102-4, 106-10, 113-4, 116-7, 119-25, 129-30, 132, 134, 136-8, 140, 145-6, 150-1, 153, 164-5, 179-81, 189-91, 195, 198, 200, 231-334,
236, 242, 246, 250-2, 258-62, 265-70, 273, 276, 282-3, and 290.

LOTS 2, 4, 5, 16, 23, 27, 28, 31-3, 38, 44-6, 64, 66, 67, 71, 74, 76, 79-82, 84, 86-90, 93, 95, 96, 98, 99, 101-4, 107, 111-2, 116-8, 120-1, 129, 134, 142, 143, 150, 158, 163, 167, 169, 173, 177, 191, 208, 210-11, 214, 215, 200-23, 226, 229, 230, 247, 256, 270, 271, 277, 280, 286, 289, 296, 301, 308, 312, 313, 317-18, 320, 323, 326, 330, 332, 340, 342, 343, 344, 347-8, 351, 352-3, and 355.

LOTS 7-10, 12, 33, 35, 37, 38, 40, 42, 52, 53, 57-8, 63, 64, 67, 71, 74, 83, 86, 88, 94-97, 100, 102, 104, 110, 114-6, 121, 126, 119, 133, 134, 138, 142, 143, 147, 158, 160-63, 166, 170, 172, 175-8, 180, 182, 192-3, and 197.

LOTS 3, 22, 117, 119, 148, 150, 156, 175, 176, and 183.

LOTS 4, 9, 22, 23, 24, 26, 30, 31, 33, 38-9, 55, 56, 59, 60, 64-5, 68-73, 77, 79, 81, 84, 101, 102, 106-7, 110, 121, 125-6, 128, 130, 131, 136, 137, 139, 142, 144, 150, 155, 160, 162, 167, 175, 209, 222, 272, 276, 285-6, 289, 294-6, 298, 303, 305-6, 314-5.

LOTS 1, 2, 5, 6, 12, 26, 35, 37, 50, 57, 62, 75, 81, 87, 89, 90, 93, 94, 96, 104, 107-8, 117, 119, 128, 138, 141-2, 147-8, 150-1, 153, 154, 158,149, 176, 232, 243, 248, and 275.

LOTS 7, 8, 11, 17, 22, 32, 33, 39, 51, 68, 85, 91, 111, 112, 113, and 119.

LOTS 1, 3, 5, 6, 59, 65, 89, 98, 112, 115, 119, 126, 133, 162, 156, 198, 218, 219, 221-2, 229, 234, 238, 240, 241, 243, 245-7, 249, 259, 261, 27-9, 274.

LOTS 46, 69, 80, 94, and 195.

LOTS 53 and 245

The following is a list of the defendants in the Case of Norman W. Dodge vs. L.L. Williams, et al filed on June 25, 1894 in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western Division of the Southern District of Georgia. The courts final decree is filed in Deed Book 22, pages 214, et seq.

Abbott, Jordan
Adams, Charles D.
Anderson, Robert H.
Andrews, W.H.
Baggett, John R.
Ballew, A.
Barber, J.F.
Barber, Jane F. *
Barron, J.W.
Bass, James
Bass, Joe
Bedingfield, B.J.
Bedingfield, John W. *
Bedingfield, W.A.
Berryhill, J.T.L.
Boney, A.J.
Bowen, A.J. or A.M., admr.
Bowen, M.E.
Branch, Dave
Branch, Thomas
Braswell, K.
Brewer, H.D.
Brown, Jesse
Brown, W.
Browning, Sarah
Bryant, Allen
Burch, Ben
Burch, B.T.
Burch, B.W.
Burch, C.O. *
Burch, D.W.
Burch, Rebecca E.
Burch, R.F.
Burch, W.G.
Burney, Calvin
Burney, Green
Busby, Oliver
Bussey, P.W.
Bussey, W.K.
Byron, John
Cameron, John by W.T.
Yawn, Admr.
Carpenter, Jane
Carter, William
Cates, J.H.
Clark, Elizabeth Ann
Clark, H.M.
Clark, Harlow
Clark, Henry S.
Clark, J.A.
Clark, Jerry
Clark, J.C.
Clark, J.M.
Clark, J.T.
Clark, Newton
Clark, R.N.
Clark, T.A.
Clark, Tom
Clark, W.A., Agent
Clements, J.C.
Clements, Wesley T.
Cobb, Mary L.
Coffee, John B.
Coleman, Amy B.
Coleman, A.T.
Coleman, Sam
Coleman, W.A.
Coleman, William
Coleman, W.R.
Collins, W.C.
Comer, Henry
Conley, Green
Conley, James R.
Conley, William
Corder, Newton *
Couey, Eliza now Saturday
Couey, P.D.
Couey, William
Cravey, D.C., agt. for wife
Cravey, John A.
Cravey, L.M.
Cravey, W.H.
Curry, D.M.
Curry, John F.
Curry, J.T.
Curry, Rebecca, now Ryals
Daniel, A.B.
Daniels, B.
Daniels, J.W.
Daniels, M.
Darsey, Ann
Darsey, Mrs. M.
Davis, Tom
Dent, J.D.
Donaldson, Cynthia A.
Dowdy, Carrie
Dowdy, Elizabeth
Dowdy, John J.
Dowdy, Tom F.
Dowdy, T.I.
Dowdy, W.H., agt for wife
Dowdy, W. Henry
Dumas, Mrs. W.T.
Early, Harriet
Edge, William
Evans, Doc
Evans, Elisha
Evans, Joseph
Evans, J.R.
Evans, Lat
Evans, N.
Evans, N.
Fausett, R.N.
Fielder, J.F.
Floyd, Archie O.
Floyd, Dempsey
Floyd, Mary E.
Floyd, Mary E.
Floyd, Martha
Fordham, J.M.
Fordham, S.W.
Fountain, W.C.
Frizzells, B.M.
Fussell, Jacob agt for wife
Garrison, E.C.
Garrison, W.M.
Gay, A.M., admr. N.F. Gay
Gay, Clem
Gay, Frank
Gay, J.B.
Gay, Joe
Gay, Joseph V.
Gay, Maggie L., widow of R.A.
Gay, N.F. *
Giddings, Bunk, or William B.
Gilder, Freeman
Gilder, John
Gilder, W.M. and his wife
Gillis, Hugh G.
Gillis, Hugh, Sr.
Gillis, John *
Gillis, John N.
Gillis, N.
Graham, A.A.
Graham, D.B.
Graham, Nancy A.
Green, D.I. or D.J.
Green, Frank
Grimes, Jackson
Guest, B.J.
Hall, Joe and as agt.
for wife
Hall, Mary J.
Hall, Morgan
Hall, W.
Hall, W.T.
Hamilton, Joe (colored)
Hand, H.A.
Hardeman, N.H. or Hardin
Hardin, N.H. or Hardeman
Harrell, Charles
Harrell, W.A.
Harrelson, Elizabeth
Harrelson, H.H.
Harrelson, R.R.
Harrelson, Sam
Harrelson, W.O.
Harrison, D.R. and as agt.
for his wife
Hart, John
Hill, Roland
Hobbs, Jordan
Hobbs, Lem
Hobbs, T.J.
Holliday, Fred
Holliday, W.F.
Horne, Lee
Horton, James N.
Hughlett, A.D.
Hughlett, A.J.
Hughlett, D.J.
Hulett, F.E. agt for wife
Hulett, J.J.
Hulett, Lou
Hulett, Mary
Joiner, J.W.
Joiner, Warren
Johns, Mrs. M.J.
Johnson, E.
Johnson, Ed
Jones, J.G.
Jones, Robert
Kelly, D.O.
Kelly, James A.
Kinchen, Mrs. E.E.
Kinchen, James
Kinchen, J.E.
Kinchen, J.T.
Knight, R.G.B.
Knight, W.T.
Knowles, David
Knowles, Reuben
Lamb, Doctor
Lancaster, George
Lancaster, Miles A.
Law, A.J.
Lewis, Sam
Livingston, B.C.
Livingston, W.W.
Lock, J.R. *
Lott, Henry
Lowery, B.L.
Lowery, Cullen
Lowery, Isiah
Lowery, J.H.
Lowery, Mrs. Mathias
Lowery, S.L.
Lowery, W.A.J.
McCranie, Dan
McCranie, D.J.
McCranie, John
McCranie, John, Sr.
or John L.
McCranie, Mary E. now Pope
McCranie, Neal
McCranie, R.G.
McDaniel, A.J.
McDaniel, J.D.
McDaniel, W.R.
McDonald, John
McDuffie, J.E.
McDuffie, W.P.
McDuffie, W.S.
McEachin, Alexander
McGray, Jasper
McLaughlin, Jesse
McLean, John
McLean, Martha
McLendon, Dennis or J.D.
McLendon, Lewis
Mallen, H.
Maloy, E.G.
Martin, James
Melton, Laura J.
Merchant, J.I.
Miller, Lamar *
Miller, S.L.
Morgan, Doctor
Morgan, W.A.
Moore, Tobe
Morrison, D. Frank *
Mullis, Charles F. & Mary
Mullis, J.N.
Mullis, W.H.
Pace, Jim
Parker, J.C.
Parkerson, James
Parkerson, John
Patten, H.W.
Patterson, A.G.
Peacock, L.M., admr.
N. Rawlins
Perry, E.
Perry, J.E.
Perry, L.C.
Pettis, George W. or Pitts
Phillips, Axom
Phillips, Gabe
Phillips, J.W.
Phillips, William
Phillips, Willis
Pitts, George W. or Pettis
Pitts, J.C.
Pitts, William D.
Pope and Ansley
Pope, George W.
Pope, Mary E. fka McCranie
Pope, W.W.
Purvis, D.G.
Purvis, H.M.
Quinn, Mrs. F.A.
Ranew, Margaret J.
Rawlings, A.M.
Rawlings, Callie
Rawlins, D.M.
Rawlins, Isaac
Rawling, N. (Estate)
Register, Charlotte
Register, Elijah
Register, Elizabeth
Register, E.R. and E.P.
Register, J.J.
Register, John
Rivers, J.F.
Roberson, John, agt for
Rogers, Ellen
Rogers, J.E.
Rogers, John
Rogers, Sallie S.
Rogers, William B.
Rogers, Mrs. W.B.
Rogers, Mrs. William
Rose, Carrie
Rose, Robert
Rountree, G.W.
Rountree, R.A. *
Rowe, Thomas H.
Rowe, Wallace
Ryals, John C.
Ryals, M.C.
Ryals, M.J.E. or C.
Ryals, Rebecca fka Curry
Saturday, Bryant
Saturday, Eliza fka Couey
Savannah Naval Stores Co.
Sears, Harrison
Selph, Oliver
Shaw, E.D.
Sheffield, B.
Sheffield, B.F. or B.S.
Shepard, J.R.
Smith, T.J.
Smith, J.D.
Smith, Noah
Studstill, Annie E.
Studstill, G.J.
Studstill, G.T.
Studstill, George T.
Studstill, J.J.
Studstill, J.W. and Nancy
Swinney, W.E.
Taylor, Martha
Taylor, Nancy J. widow of
Bedingfield, W.J.
Taylor, William
Thomas, D.W.
Thomas, Wash
Thompson, John S. *
Thornburg, H.M.
Thornburg, Jennie
Tripp, Boothe
Tripp, G.J.
Tripp, Henry
Tripp, Jack
Turner, J.B.
Ussery, Jerry
Vaughn, J.C.
Vaughn, J.H.
Walker, William
Wallace, Ray or Rowe
Warren, Mrs. Joel
Warren, Joel W. *
Warren, Mrs. Joel W.
Warren, Mrs. J.W.
Warren, W.E.
Warren, Mrs. William
Warren, William J. *
Webb, P.F.A.
Weeks, Thomas
Wells, Newton R.
West, James T.
Westbrook, W.H.
Wheeler, W.W.
White, Berrien W.
White, Bryant
White, Ellen
White, Thomas J.
Whitehead, J.W.
Whitehead, John B.
Wilcox, George R.
Williams, D.J.
Williams, D.S.
Williams, John D.
Williams, Lucius *
Williams, J.M.
Williams, L.L.
Williams, T.J.
Williams, William
Williams, W.H.
Williams, W.M.
Winstead, B.T.
Womble, W.T.
Woodard, J.L.
Wynn, James F.
Wynn, Willis
Yancey, G.W.
Yancey, John
Yancey, Elvin
Yawn, J.W.
Yawn, W.T., admr.
John Cameron
Yerty, Crawford
Yerty, Marion *
Yerty, Mary A.
Yerty, W.F.

* Defendants who died during the pendency of the litigation.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Storm on Hunger and Hardship

The cicada symphony crescendoes.
Thunder rolls from east to west.
Fireflies flitter about the dusk signaling the menacing tempest.

Across the swamp, lighting breaks the fading rays of the setting sun.
Ole Mr. Raccoon, who earlier was skulking around the cherry laurels,
has found sanctuary in the hollow of a decaying water oak.

As the darkness envelopes the entire sky,
even the fireflies are seeking shelter from the trickle.
The cool zephyrs sway the canopy of ancient pines and fragrant magnolias.

The lightning frolics with the Devil.
The booming thunder bellows in tune.
Behind the clouds hides the trembling crescent moon.

Raindrops drip down from the leaves.
Slowly at first, then in steady streams.
Saturating the summer scorched sands.

The tumult retreats to the south.
The echoes of thunder wane.
And, the bullfrogs croak once again.

The freshet quenches the Earth’s thirst.
The creatures of Hunger and Hardship settle down for the night.
and sleep in solace ‘til the rosy dawn’s first light.

Scott B. Thompson, Sr.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Crew of Apollo 11. L to R
Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin Aldrin.

Confessions of a Lunatic

It is hard, if not impossible, for me to believe that it has been forty years since man first walked on the moon. If you are over the age of forty-five, you can remember the night when Neil Armstong took a giant leap for mankind. I do. I remember it as if it were yesterday. And it was yesterday, but that was four decades ago.

It was way back in the late 1950s, when I went outside one night to see something in the sky. To this day, I don't remember exactly what it was, but I wasn't alone. As my parents, my sister and I came outside on a warm clear evening, there were many people standing in front of their homes on Stonewall Street. I believe it was some kind of satellite, American or Russian, I really don't know. Judging by what I remember of the number of people looking toward the heavens, I will assume they were patriotically looking for an American object orbiting the earth. Someone spotted the white light as it crossed the sky and yelled "there it is!"

I began to look more at the sky, the stars, the planets, and the Moon. I remember watching Alan Shepard and his rocket on our little black and white television. I remember John Glenn as he orbited the earth. The significance of these flights and the competition with the Russians was lost on me. I was only five to six years old. I had a hard time riding a bicycle, let alone ever thinking about climbing in a capsule and being blasted into space.

It was about 1963 when I came in contact with the space program. Well, not really, but it was close. I was with my family on vacation at Jekyll Island when I had heard my mother and grandmother talking about the fact that Dr. Werner Von Braun and his family were staying at the Buccaneer Motel where we were staying. I only knew he had something to do with the space rockets. I was playing in the kiddie pool with a blonde haired kid I didn't know. He told me that his name was Peter. After having a great time playing with Peter, we heard someone calling his name. We looked up to the penthouse apartment. It was his parents calling him to come up to their room. It never dawned on me until later that I was playing in the pool with the son of the man who practically invented space rocketry. That was the same trip, 46 years ago yesterday, when the moon covered the sun completely across the northern United States. I remember seeing my first eclipse on television. I wanted to go out to the beach and watch it, but my mother said that the sun would burn my eyes. I went outside anyway and squinted to get a quick view of a partial eclipse before my eyes, or at least one of them, got fried.

Every chance I got, I watched the space flights on television. I watched Walter Cronkite on CBS tell me and the rest of the country what the astronauts were doing way up there in the heavens. I read the newspaper articles about the Gemini space flights. I never read anything else in the newspaper unless it was a story about the Dublin Irish football game, the Braves score, or if my name was in the paper. On one of his trips to Washington, D.C., my daddy brought me a N.A.S.A. book showing photographs taken by Gemini astronauts of the earth below. That was it. I was hooked and I wanted to go into space.

The moon has also been a special place to me. Just call me a lunaphile. I never get tired of looking at it as it changes its face every day. I was a teenager when I learned that when the moon was full that the waves at the beach were the best late in the afternoon. There is something special, almost spiritual, about seeing the reflection of the moon shimmering in the water or seeing it peaking out from behind the buttermilk clouds of the night.

As our country was being torn apart by political strife at home and across the world in 1968, it came together if only for a moment on Christmas Eve. My family was making our annual visit to my Thompson grandparents that evening when we walked into the living room. In the corner, I saw that the television was on, tuned to the flight of Apollo 8. I knew what was going on. I had been a space geek since the flight of Apollo 7, when I began to make scrapbooks of each of the Apollo flights, cutting my clippings from newspapers and magazines.

I was only twelve, but I was deeply moved as I listened to Commander Frank Borman read from the first verses of the Book of Genesis. I wanted to be there. I still want to be there. That night, my grandmother presented me with a present. It wasn't in a box, but it came in an envelope. She told me she got it on a trip to Florida, where she and my grandfather once lived and worked to make it through the Great Depression. It was only a piece of paper, but my oh my, what a piece of paper it was. It was a deed. My lawyer daddy told me that a deed meant that you owned land. My eyes bugged. It was deed to a piece of the moon. Though it wasn't a real deed - a fact that I knew - it did say that I, Scott Thompson, owned an acre on the moon. Wow! It would be some thirty-five years later when I actually bought a small speck of lunar dust taken from the equipment brought back by the Apollo 12 astronauts at a much higher cost than what my grandmother paid for my pretend deed.

Then, the big event came. It was a time I had been waiting for a decade. It was an event that man had been waiting for since Adam took a walk on his first evening on the earth. I had seen the launch, recording it on my father's tape recorder so I could listen to it over and over again. A few weeks later that my mother would pick up a souvenir 45 rpm record at Winn Dixie with special audio moments of the entire mission. Later that next year, I built a capsule from a dishwasher box (my mother's first), complete with a tape recorder, television, periscope, and lighted panels fashioned from my mother's blinking Christmas tree lights.

It was a Sunday evening, July 20, 1969. My mother had planned one of her famous theme parties. Guess what the theme was that night. The lunar module Eagle landed just after 3:15 that afternoon. The moon walk was scheduled for later that evening just before 10:00 p.m. I don't remember what I ate that night, just going in and out the door to see what I could see in the sky. It was my mission to watch the moon landing on television and at the same time watch the moon as well. I had enough engineering skills to accomplish my objective for the night, but I still tested my equipment a few times before the company came. This was no easy task since we had only two televisions and only one cable outlet in the family room, too far away from the sliding glass doors to see the moon and the tv at the same time. So, I got some regular electrical cord, stripped the wires on one end and wrapped them around the screws on the back of the main television and peeled back the covering of the other end of the wire and hooked it to the upstairs tv, which I set in a strategic place on the patio just at the spot where the moon peeked through the oaks of Hunger and Hardship Creek swamp.

As long as I live, I will never forget the sight of Neil Armstrong coming down the ladder of the LEM and stepping onto the surface of the moon. I watched astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin late into the night as they walked and hopped around and planted the flag, our American flag, on the surface. I kept on watching the astronauts on the moon until the last lunar flight of Apollo 17. I felt closest to the Apollo 13. Jim Lovell, the commander, was and still is, my favorite astronaut and a true American hero. This was the Saturn V rocket I saw on my first trip to Cape Kennedy on a church choir trip during spring vacation in 1970, just weeks before the fateful flight almost ended in disaster. I spent that weekend with a man who was on the ground crew. He took me back out near the cape to see the illuminated rocket, shining like a beacon in the night.

I never have lost sight of the moon. Every day I see it in my kitchen, perhaps the only kitchen in the country decorated with the "the man in the moon." I did meet moonwalker Buzz Aldrin in Atlanta when I opened the door for him and gave one of my heroes the directions to the autograph show. I could have met John Young when he spoke to the Dublin Rotary Club, but my darling brother didn't invite me as his guest.

On this 40th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, I am anxious to walk on the moon and right now! I know my heart wouldn't hold up to the grueling gravitational forces necessary to escape the Earth's gravity. But, I am ready, so fly me to the moon, please!
P.S. Walter, when I get there, I'll see you at Tranquility Base at the third crater on the left.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009


The New County Movement in East Central Georgia

She was born with eight children. Over the next one hundred and forty-seven years, Georgia added at least one more per year until Peach County became the last Georgia county eighty five years ago this week. When the 20th Century turned, more and more Georgians felt the need to create even more counties to give rural citizens more of a voice in their day to day lives. People in the outlying areas wanted to have the right to determine the governing of schools, maintenance of roads and most of all, the way their county officials spent their tax dollars. In truth, the primary reason for the new county movement was the growing rivalries between small towns throughout the Wiregrass region of South and Central Georgia.

In 1905 and 1906, after a thirty-year respite with no new counties, Georgia added ten more. Fifteen more were added in the next two decades until the total swelled to 159, the second highest in the nation, only behind Texas, the largest state in the continental United States. In our area, Bleckley, Treutlen and Wheeler counties were part of the "new counties" to be created in the first decades of the 20th century. But, more were dreamed of, many more.

The first movement to split off a portion of Laurens County came in 1904, when the citizens of the infant town of Adrian wanted to form a new county. First among them was the extremely influential Capt. T. J. James. James, the founder of the town, was a railroad baron and Agra-businessman. In his effort, James was aided by Captain W.B. Rice of Laurens County, who held extensive farming interests in the area, along with T.A. Cheatam, the town's leading merchant. The new county was to be named for ol' Capt. James himself.

In the winter of 1905, the Laurens County grand jury adopted a presentment calling for an all out effort to kill any bills calling for the taking of any portion of the county to create a new county. The James County plan called for the annexation of both the Carter and Oconee districts of eastern Laurens County into James County.

Meanwhile, the folks down in Alamo were also seeking to have a new county, one without a name, but nevertheless, one that the people of northwestern Montgomery County could control. The initial new county plan called for taking both Burch's and Lowery's District, two of the county's finest agricultural and timber producers, into the new county, since both were somewhat closer to Alamo than Dublin was anyway you traveled.

The effort to establish James County gained momentum at first, but after three or four years, it stalled for lack of support, only some fifty Laurens Countians were in favor of being cut off into a new county. The powerful representatives of Laurens County, one of the top ten largest counties in the state at the time, were able to end all hopes of creating a new county with Adrian at its center.

That is until 1908. Somewhere between one hundred and two hundred white male voters gathered in the summer of 1908 to discuss three new plans to replace the proposed James County. The first idea was to again place Adrian as the county seat, but under the new name of Milledge, in honor of John Milledge, a former U.S. Senator from Georgia and the founder of Athens. This plan had some appeal since the new county wasn't being named for any living individual. The second proposal, and one which drew the most support, was to take portions of Emanuel, Johnson, Laurens and Montgomery counties as Milledge County, but instead making Soperton the county seat, a plan which pleased the leading families and proponents of northern Montgomery County, but one which drew the consternation of the governing bodies of the other three counties. The proponents wanted to honor President Grover Cleveland, the only Democrat to serve as president since the beginning of the Civil War. The third, and least popular, submission was to take even more of Laurens County and place the small village of Scott on the Brewton & Pineora Railroad as the county seat. The backers of the third choice asked that their county be named Blackshear, possibly in an effort to pacify the residents of the Buckeye District of Laurens County, where the venerable War of 1812 hero General David Blackshear hailed from. All three plans failed to get legislative approval before submission to the state's voters for adoption.

Meanwhile, the folks around Soperton, Alamo, and Cochran kept plugging along. Their efforts climaxed in 1912, when J.T. Deese, representing Pulaski County in the Georgia House, was able on June 30, 1912 to create Bleckley County, the first new county in six years, and the first to be carved from a single whole county in many years, mainly because Cochran had grown into a vital commercial and agricultural center and was quite a distance and across the Ocmulgee River from the county seat at Hawkinsville.

Rep. W.B. Kent of Montgomery County proposed that all of Montgomery County west of the Oconee River be carved into a new county, one coincidentally named for himself. Though his plan had some merit, since there were no bridges spanning the river which divided the eastern and western sides of the county, many disliked the notion of naming any county for a sitting politician. A compromise was reached and in August 1912 , the new county was created and named for Confederate cavalry general Joseph Wheeler.

The new counties seemed to put an end to the dream of the Soperton crowd for a county of their own. The proposed Cleveland County failed one hundred years ago this week, primarily from the strong opposition from Laurens and Montgomery counties, which in addition to their own protection saw little need to create more counties when the state led the nation in the number of them and the burden to the state's tax payers for additional services.

In 1914, former proponents of Cleveland County shifted gears and sought approval of a new county named for Colonial Georgia governor, John Treutlen. The measure failed in 1914. Old Adrian supporters resurrected the James County movement, which failed again in 1915. The Soperton congregation persevered and on August 21, 1917, Georgia's 152nd county, Treutlen County was formally established.

The creation of Bleckley and Wheeler County seemed to have quieted all talk of creating a new county out of Southwestern Laurens County. But, hold it right there. Just one year later, enthusiastic citizens of the Dexter community, led by Mayor Jerome Kennedy called for a new county with his rapidly booming and successful agricultural center being the county seat. The new county of Northern,named for Gov. William J. Northern, would have included Cadwell, Rentz and Chester and would have included 200,000 of the finest farm land in Georgia. With vigorous opposition from Dublin and other towns in Laurens County the plan never got the ground. Neither did the proposal to create Hughes County centered in Montrose and named for the founder of the M.D. & S. Railroad, Col. Dudley M.Hughes of Danville.

Although Peach County was the last county created in Georgia in 1924, W.B. Kent, of Wheeler County, and Earnest Clark, of Laurens County, believed it was best to whittle down a portion of one of the state's largest counties by either reviving the Northern County proposal or in the alternative giving the southern part of Laurens to Wheeler County which could use the extra tax revenue ending the mass and nearly hysterical movement to create new counties in the state.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

VINCENT MAHONEY - The Day The Words Died

Words were the music of Vince Mahoney's life. He brilliantly composed them, thoughtfully analyzed them, and wove them into stories of the most glamorous movie stars of the early sound motion pictures to analyses of the most complex political issues of his day. Sixty years ago this Sunday, Vincent Mahoney, a widely recognized journalist, and a dozen of his distinguished colleagues were returning from a fact-finding mission in Indonesia. The pilot of their airliner fought desperately against a torrential monsoon to no avail. The plane crashed. There were no survivors. It was "The Day The Words Died."

Michael Vincent Mahoney, Jr. was born in Dublin on July 1, 1902. His father was a railroad man, working many a decade as a freight and passenger agent of the Wrightsville & Tennille Railroad. His mother, the former Miss Lynette Hightower, kept the family household on South Calhoun Street, a home which was razed a baker's dozen years ago to make room for the parking lot of Capital City Bank.

Of all of Vince's friends, and he had many of them, Don Joiner was perhaps his closest and dearest friend, especially in their younger years in Dublin. Joiner described his friend as "a hard drinking Irishman who loved life." "He had more personality than anyone I have ever known and he was liked by everyone," Joiner recalled.

Don remembered the good times when Vince came to his house to visit. There were the wonderful times when the duo joined together to form a dance band, which played on Saturday nights in the club house of the original Dublin Country Club, which was located on Hillcrest Parkway between Brookhaven and Claxton Dairy Road.

When his parents thought Vince was having a little too much fun, they sent him off to a Catholic school near New Orleans. After a year of expulsion from his home, Vince entered college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.. Though some say he graduated from the prestigious institution, Don Joiner recalled that Vince never finished his education at Georgetown. He did add, "Vince could do more with words than any other journalist I have ever known or read."

Mahoney's journalistic skills led to stints with the Associated Press, New York News, United Press, The Los Angeles News and Time Magazine before the onset of World War II.In the mid 1930s, Vince reported stories for the AP and UPI in Hollywood, California at the beginning of its glorious era of talking pictures and iconic movie stars, all the time the earth shaking underneath him at any minute. It was in Los Angles where Vince met and married his wife, Virginia Nissen of Glendale, California.

During the war, Vince took a job as Chief of the Bureau of Intelligence in the War Information Office supervising the Pacific Theater of Operations.

Vince Mahoney loved the Pacific and California. In April 1945 as the war was climaxing, he took a job as a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle as an editorial writer. Mahoney began to develop a keen interest in the politics of Southeast Asia, and in Indonesia in particular.

Fifteen of America's leading journalists, including Vince and two Pulitzer Prize awardees, were invited by the government of the Netherlands to investigate the political upheavals in the southeastern Asia country of Indonesia in the spring of 1949. The Dutch government promised the reporters freedom from censorship and unrestricted access to interview Republican officials, who were leading a political war against the colonial Dutch controlled government.

On July 12, 1949, after a six week long stay, tour director Lynn Mahan gathered the writers together for the long flight home. William Matthews and Dorothy Brandon chose to stay behind. Matthews decided simply to return home on his own. Brandon feared the plane might be sabotaged by insurgents. After all, the same type of plane on which they were boarding had crashed some three weeks earlier.

Although Indian Prime Minister Nehru, in a move of sympathy toward his neighboring country's plight against a European colonial government, banned the landing of Dutch planes on Indian soil, special permission to land in India on the return flight was granted by Indian air controllers. The pilot of the Dutch KLM struggled to keep his craft in a circular orbit around the Bombay Airport. A blinding monsoon made his task more difficult, if not impossible. No one saw the 800-foot high peak of Ghatkopar Hill, four miles east from a safe landing, until it was too late. The four engine Constellation slammed into the mound, incinerating all of the Americans, Britons, Dutch, and Chinese aboard.

Strewn and scattered over the muddy ground, were broken pieces of typewriters, cans of food, packs of cigarettes ( some smoked and others not), and torn luggage filled with uncleaned laundry. Not a living soul was found among the disintegrated remnants of the aircraft.

The people of the Netherlands honored the memory of the unlucky thirteen journalists who perished in the crash with the establishment of the "William the Silent Award." A plaque bearing the names of the fallen was placed in the American embassy in Amsterdam to "those who gave their lives for a free press." A permanent national memorial to all fallen journalists was established in 2001 on the campus of Cal State at Northridge. Mahoney was honored a third time by the Freedom Forums Newseum Journalists Memorial.

In the early fall of 1949, Vince's ashes were returned to New York City. From there, they were sent home to the family, who buried them in the family plot in Northview Cemetery.

The typewriters were all broken. And the thirteen admired most, their phrases spoke to the ghosts, to the fallen we drink a rousing toast, the day the words died.

Friday, July 03, 2009


The Story of Will Schley Howard

On television, Andy Griffith played Ben Matlock, a sly, brilliant Georgia trial lawyer who defended accused murders, mostly innocent ones, although occasionally he did represent the true killer. In real life, Schley Howard played a sly, brilliant Georgia trial lawyer who defended accused murderers, prosecuted them and represented all of us in the halls of the United States Congress. In his fifty-year plus legal career, Howard defended more than five hundred persons accused of murder, more than anyone in the entire United States. For one brief period in his illustrious career, Howard practiced law in Johnson and Laurens Counties.

William Schley Howard was born in the Kirkwood community of DeKalb County, Georgia on June 29, 1875. He was named for William Schley, who was the governor of Georgia from 1835 to 1837. His father, Thomas Coke Howard, was also an attorney. The elder Howard practiced law in Knoxville, Georgia and represented Crawford County in the Georgia Legislature. During the Civil War, Thomas Howard served as the postmaster of Atlanta. His mother, Susan Harris Howard, came from a political family. Isam G. Harris, former U.S. Senator from Tennessee and Governor of Georgia, was an uncle of Mrs. Howard.

Following his graduation from Professor Charles M. Neel’s Academy in Kirkwood, Howard began his study of stenography. With only a grammar school education, the self taught young man got his first taste of politics when he served as a thirteen-year-old page in the Georgia Legislature. He was given a position as the private secretary of United States Senator Patrick Walsh, of Augusta. While he was employed by the senator from 1893 to 1894, Howard decided to join his father in the practice of law.

With Atlanta full of lawyers, Howard turned his eyes southward to the town of Wrightsville, Georgia. In the years before the turn of the 20th Century, Wrightsville, a progressive community in East Central Georgia, provided Howard with an opportunity to make a name for himself. Howard was fortunate to be given the opportunity to study law under the venerable Alexander F. Daley, of Wrightsville. Daley was President of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad and would later become Judge of the Middle Circuit. Judge Roger Gamble of the Middle Circuit administered the oath of admission to the bar to Schley Howard in September 1896. Howard began practicing law in Johnson, Emanuel, and Jefferson Counties in the Middle Circuit, as well as in Laurens County.

In the Summer of 1898, when the United States declared war with Spain, Howard left his practice in Wrightsville and Dublin and enlisted in the Third Georgia Volunteer Regiment. Howard’s hour-long patriotic speech held a large crowd of volunteers and Wrightsville citizens spell bound and ready to join up on the spot. After many petitions to the governor to appoint him as colonel of the regiment, Howard was made a sergeant following his enlistment, but his term of service was cut short when the war ended in a few weeks.

Instead of returning to Wrightsville, Howard chose to return closer to home and became associated with the firm of Westmoreland and Westmoreland in Atlanta. In 1901, Howard entered the race for a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives from DeKalb County. After serving one term in the Legislature, Howard made himself a candidate for the office of Solicitor-General of the Stone Mountain Circuit. Howard won the election in 1904 and took office on January 1, 1905. He was reelected in 1908. As Solicitor-General of the Stone Mountain Circuit, Howard prosecuted defendants in the Superior Courts of Clayton, DeKalb, Newton, Rockdale, and Campbell Counties.

Howard’s success as a Solicitor-General led to his decision to run for the seat of the Fifth Congressional District of Georgia. Howard won the election and took his seat as a member of the Sixty-second Congress on March 4, 1911. Congressman Howard served four terms before making an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the United States Senate. He blamed his loss on President Woodrow Wilson, who as Howard put it, “committed the most disgraceful double cross in the history of American politics.”

After his retirement from Congress, Schley Howard concentrated on the private practice of law, and in particular, criminal defense work. Howard worked in partnership with James A. Branch, E.L. Tiller and later with his son, Pierre M. Howard, son of his wife, the former Miss Lucia Augusta de Vinage. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once commented that Howard had defended more murder cases than anyone in the history of the country. His son Pierre estimated the total number of cases to be at least half a thousand. Of those, only one of Howard’s clients were ever executed. That abhorrent miscreant was Ted Coggershall, the son of a wealthy Illinois man, who was convicted of the brutal murder of W.C. Wright, a former superintendent of Dublin City Schools.

Schley Howard represented one of the most famous, or infamous depending on what side of the story you believe, murderers in Georgia history. He was one of a battery of attorneys who pled the case for Leo Frank, who was convicted of murdering Mary Phagan and was later lynched for his crime.

Another of Howard’s most famous clients was Robert Burns, whose life story was immortalized in the book and movie, I Was A Fugitive From a Georgia Chain Gang. He represented the escaped prisoner before the Georgia Prison Commission, which included Vivian L. Stanley of Laurens County. When asked of his ability or desire to represent killers, Howard said, “I always assumed that I represented a man who was not guilty, or that there were circumstances in the case which would reduce the sentence to manslaughter. I never had a client to admit that he was guilty of murder.” Commenting further, Howard added, “Some of the finest men in the world are brought into court on murder charges and they have never committed any other offense.”

Former Dublin Tribune editor and legendary Atlanta newspaperman and radio personality Ernest Rogers described Howard as “a lawyer of rare forensic abilities and one of the finest actors I ever saw on or off the stage. If a case began going against him, he could become visibly ill in a matter of minutes. He would turn pale, perspiration would pop out on his forehead, his hands would tremble, and it was a hardhearted judge, indeed, who would not declare a recess at the request of the apparently stricken attorney.”

Rogers remarked, "I covered many trials in which Mr. Howard was the attorney for the defense, and never once did I know him to represent a client whom he had not known from infancy and whose mother wasn’t an honest, God-fearing, Christian woman. It was Mr. Howard’s proud boast that he had defended an even two hundred clients charged with murder, and not one of them had paid the extreme penalty. “One of my clients was sentenced to be hanged,” he would confess apologetically, “but he tried to escape from the jail in which he was being held to await execution, and a guard drilled him with a squirrel gun.” After this confession Mr. Howard would add, with a twinkle in his eyes: “This didn’t do my client any good, but it certainly helped my record.”

Schley Howard’s heart gave out on the night of August 1, 1953. He was 78 years old. His body was buried in the Decatur Cemetery near his home in Decatur, Georgia. He was admired by his colleagues and his constituents for being an outstanding public servant and private attorney. His life was one of service, to his community, to his state, and to his nation.

Howard left a lasting legacy of a family of public servants. His grandson Pierre Howard, Jr. was a lieutenant governor of Georgia. His close cousin, Augustus O. Bacon, was one of Georgia’s most respected congressman and senators of the late 19th Century. Despite his busy court schedule or his frequent hunting and fishing trips, Howard maintained his ties to his brother Thomas’ family who lived in the Harlow and Vincent communities of Laurens County.