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

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.