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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

1909: THIS AND THAT

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

THE NIGHT THEY LIT THE TANNENBAUM


(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

A BLACKBIRD EVENING


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

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

TWIGGS COUNTY

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

KATHERINE BANKS

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 ancestry.com. 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?