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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1910: A Benchmark Year For Laurens

The year 1910 was a pivotal and notable one in the history of Laurens County. That year ended the first decade of the 20th Century and Laurens County's growth to become one of the state's top six counties in population. In the previous 20 years, the county's population nearly tripled and increased five times since the end of the Civil War.

The county and its seat of Dublin were often the sites of state conventions and gatherings. One of those meetings, the Laymen's Missionary and Christian Worker's Conference, billed as the greatest meeting ever held in Dublin, was held in Dublin during the week of March 15-20, and featured Methodist bishops, W.N. Ainsworth and Warren A. Candler, along with ministers from Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and Illinois.

The Elks Lodge in the city was established on the third floor in the western part of the Brantley Building at the corner of W. Jackson and N. Lawrence Streets. The Elks, led by Exhalted Ruler Thomas R. Ramsay, built rooms for a lodge, billiards, and reading along with a parlor.

The year marked the premier issue of the Laurens County Herald, which in three years would merge with the Dublin Courier as the city's main newspaper.

In the spring, the City of Dublin enjoyed one of the biggest building booms in its history, with more than a third of a million dollars in new buildings in the first three months of the year alone. Among the largest projects was Izzie Bashinski's construction of the five-story Consolidated Phosphate Company. The year also saw major additions to the Methodist Church and the construction of the Catholic Church. Financier A.W. Garrett, built one of the last grand houses on Bellevue Avenue. The New Dublin Hotel, the city's largest, underwent a major expansion and improvements to its existing facilities.

Among the big shows of the year was the appearance of Howe's Great London Circus, one of the country's largest and most popular traveling circuses. Eugene Laurant, one of the country's greatest magicians performed for the Lyceum Course at the Opera House.

Mrs. John M. Stubbs, Mrs. Attys P. Hilton and Lilly Hightower led the formation of the Women's Civic Improvement Club. That same month of March, the wives of the Masons formed the Order of the Eastern Star.

The emergence of the automobile, especially driving them at high speeds became a popular pastime among the wealthier men of the city. The events drew spectators of all economic statuses across the county.

The Farmers and Merchants Bank was established in Brewton by James L. Keen, J.W. Jones, H.T. Bush, F.C. Brantley, B.F. Maddox, F.H. Brantley, N.W. Josey, J.M. Lovett, I.E. Thigpen, O.D. Cobb, J.H. Curl of Brewton, Ga; E.B. Jones of Dublin, Ga; and R.M. Holmes of Scott, Ga.

The Earth passed through Halley's Comet with no damage except some interruption of telegraphic communications. There were a few sunspots and meteors, but not the expected cataclysms.

The funds for the construction of the Federal Courthouse and Post Office were appropriated. The project would take two years to complete.

A new charter for the City of Dublin was adopted the state legislature. Among the notable provisions of the bill were the designation of councilmen as alderman and the moving of the city limits of Dublin to the high water mark on the eastern bank of the Oconee River.

Improvements to the infrastructure of cities and towns throughout the county were hastily being made. In Dublin, Southern Bell, the dominate leader in telephone service, still in its infancy, was making major improvements to its lines and equipment. The City began the use of coal instead of wood to burn for power at the light and water plant. By the end of the year, the city stopped the practice of selling light bulbs to its customers.

Six companies of Laurens County Confederate veterans (50 men) and one company of other veterans (102 men) formed at the courthouse. Judge John H. Martin of Hawkinsville was named Colonel of the Brigade. W.C. Davis was elected Chief of Staff. Hardy Smith commanded the Laurens County Companies and L.A. Matthews the Miscellaneous company. The Dublin Band led the parade down Jackson Street to Church Street and then to the pavilion in Stubbs Park. Major T.D. Smith organized the event.

Doctors H.T. and C.A. Hodges opened a sanitarium, the city's first true hospital, in the J.E. Smith, Jr. house on the corner of Franklin and Columbia Streets.

A bond election was held in December. Voters overwhelmingly approved the issue by a vote of 311-4 for $25,000 for the light and water plant and $5,000 for paving Madison from Lawrence to Franklin Street.

Thomas E. Watson spoke to a large crowd at the Opera House on November 4. Watson, a perennial Populist presidential contender, spoke on the need for better moral and spiritual attitudes. He also spoke on the need for foreign missions. The Dublin Band provided the music. Mr. Watson spent the night at the home of Charles H. Kittrell (at the corner of Academy Ave. and Palmer Streets).

The shooting incident with John, Tal, and Claud Thigpen being killed by Rockledge Marshal Ras Raffield rocked the sleepy county-line community for generations to come.

As I end my fourteenth year of writing Pieces Of Our Past, I want to thank all of you for your interest in the stories I bring to you each week. I encourage you to study your own past and write it down. No one's heritage is more important than any one else. I also encourage you to remember the words of writer David McCullough, who said, "If you think about it, no one ever lived in the past, they lived in the present." Our most important history is yet to be written. It is up to all of us how that history will be written. Let us all use the past as a guide to mold our present into our greatest history, the history of the future.

Friday, December 24, 2010


O Hear the Angels Sing

T'was the morning before Christmas and throughout the town of Rockledge, Georgia, people were scurrying about making last minute preparations for Ole Saint Nick. The day was December 24, 1910. What follows is a story of a tragedy. No one there that day is alive to tell the truth about the story I am about to tell. Witnesses, hearsay hearers, and townsfolk differed as to what really happened and who was truthfully and legally to blame. Townsfolk still differ.

There was trouble in Rockledge, big trouble. One town marshal after another was tucking his tail between his legs and running away. Many blamed the three Thigpen brothers, Claude, Tella, and John, as incessant instigators who were known to have bullied and clubbed former marshal Autry, just the week before. It was alleged that the trio made life miserable for the town's lawmen and forced them to leave town in short order. Claude had been seriously wounded during a violent disagreement with a Mr. Grier only some three months earlier. Rockledge's city leaders hired one Thomas Lee Rastus "Ras" Raffield, known to have been a man with no fear, to stop the rowdiness and bring peace back to the town by cleaning out all of the troublemakers before Christmas. Raffield, also known as Erastus E. Raffield, rushed back from Savannah to accept the mission to restore peace in Rockledge.

It was a Saturday morning. Blustery north winds bowed the bare hardwood branches. Evergreen pines swayed as a cold weather front approached just in time for the much desired chilly Christmas. There is a story, still told by many in the Thigpen family, that Martha Thigpen begged her three sons not to go into town that day or to at least eat their lunch first before they went looking for trouble. One of her boys responded by stating that they may soon be eating their lunch in Hell.

Marshal Ras Raffield, on his first full day on the job, was making his rounds. The Thigpens approached the intrepid Raffield and told him in no uncertain terms to leave the town immediately. Tempers temporarily boiled. Tensions soon dissipated. The quarreling quartet parted ways, albeit momentarily.

As he was standing on the platform at the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad depot, Raffield noticed Claude Thigpen at the top of the steps. Thigpen was engaged in a loud confrontation with a Negro man, whom Thigpen claimed owed him a much disputed debt. Eyewitnesses stated that Thigpen was badgering the man. Raffield, a lifelong carpenter by trade, approached the men and asked Thigpen to leave and go home. He threatened to arrest Thigpen if he failed to comply with his orders.

Thigpen made a sudden move. Raffield attempted to arrest the twenty-four-year-old Claude by grabbing him by the arm. A melee ensued. Thigpen, according to witnesses at the scene, reached for his pistol. Raffield pushed Claude Thigpen from the platform, a flat fall of four to five feet. Thigpen came up from the ground firing his pistol. Raffield fired back simultaneously. Thigpen's first shot nicked Raffield's left pinkie finger. Raffield's first was more effective, striking Thigpen in his neck. Though the bullet lodged in his back and severed his spine, Claude managed to fire a second time.

As the commotion crescendoed, Claude's brothers, John and Tella "Tal" Thigpen, rushed to the scene, only to find their brother staring into the clearing noon day sky, bleeding, lying on the still wet ground, and writhing only from his chest up. Both brothers opened fire. Tal was ten feet from Claude, firing up at Raffield. John ran up the steps and straight toward Raffield. The 31-year-0ld marshal fired back. Raffield's first shot instantly and mortally wounded Tal, a fortnight shy of his 22nd birthday. Raffield, turning in one quick and smooth motion, stopped John dead in his tracks with his second shot. Witnesses reported that John, a thirty-four-year-old Free and Accepted Mason, cried out that he had been killed as he was falling to the ground. There were reports that during the fracas, Raffield suffered a second wound in his left arm.

When a fourth brother, James, heard of what was happening, he started looking for his gun. His wife Mattie, not wanting another funeral to attend, hid her husband's pistol in the loft of the house, recalled their grandson Jimmy Thigpen as he repeated the account of the tragedy.

Raffield, oblivious to his bleeding wounds, made his way into the depot office to reload his gun. After pulling himself together, Raffield left the depot and went to telegraph Laurens County sheriff James J. Flanders of what had just happened. Raffield told the sheriff to come to Rockledge and place him under arrest. Flanders came down in his automobile and took the shuddering marshal back to Dublin. Fearing for Raffield's safety in the jail, Sheriff Flanders decided to place the marshal under guard and not in a jail cell. On the day after Christmas, a member of the Thigpen family came before a Justice of the Peace and swore out a warrant against Raffield for the murder of his kinsmen.

Raffield issued a statement that he was sorry that the circumstances were such as to force him into the action he took. But, he maintained he shot in self defense while in the performance of his duty as a marshal. A commitment hearing was scheduled on Tuesday, December 27. Judge K.J. Hawkins granted a two-day continuance. On Thursday, the prosecution once again announced it was not ready to proceed. Claude Thigpen was still lingering near death. Dr. Williams, the physician attending Mr. Thigpen and also an eyewitness to the tragedy, was unable to come to court due his attendance to Thigpen's impending mortal wounds. Other witnesses could not be secured for the hearing. Judge Hawkins, after hearing arguments from the lawyers for the defendant and the state, ruled that there were enough witnesses present to present sufficient evidence that the defendant should or should not be bound over for trial for the murders of the John and Tal Thigpen. The state's attorney, fearing that he did not have enough evidence to meet the legal standards and in light of strong public sentiment in favor of Raffield, voluntarily dismissed the case. No new charges were filed against Raffield and no trial was ever had to determine exactly what happened that Christmas Eve morning in Rockledge. Raffield rejoined his wife Eugenia and their children in hopes of salvaging some semblance of Christmas.

The bodies of Tal and John were carried to the Thigpen home where they were washed and cleaned on a kitchen table. "That table remained in the family of their sister Shelly for many years," Jimmy Thigpen remembered. Shelly Thigpen Beacham always had a cloth over the table to cover the blood stains, but never the memories, of her dead brothers.

The event cast a pall over the Rockledge community. Claude Thigpen died on December 29th in an Augusta hospital, just three weeks before his 25th birthday. Ras Raffield never returned to his duties in Rockledge. The three Thigpen brothers, who ironically lost their lives in accomplishing their purported goal of running another marshal out of Rockledge, were buried a little over a mile south of town in the hallowed burying ground of Mt. Zion Methodist Church. Surrounded by the immortal remains of family, friends and loved ones, their granite obelisks, crowned with draped urns, stand high into the air in a sanctuary where they sleep free from pain, grief, and anxious fear.

L-R: Claude, Tal and John Thigpen
Mount Zion Methodist Church Cemetery
Rockledge, Georgia

Lena Graham, of nearby Lollie, Georgia, composed a touching poem about her dear departed friend, John A. Thigpen, a married man and father of two sons, Laron and James. Mrs. Graham wrote:

He is gone but not forgotten,
Never will his memory fade;
Sweetest thoughts will ever linger
Around the grave where he was laid.

A precious one from us has gone,
A voice we loved is stilled;
A place is vacant in our heart
Which never can be filled.

All is said within our dwelling
Lonely are our hearts today;
For the one we loved so dearly
Has forever passed away

It is sad to part with loved ones,
And so hard to see them die;
But we hope some day to meet him
In that home beyond the sky.

‘Tis hard to break the tender chord,
When love has bound the heart;
‘Tis hard, so hard, to speak the word:
We must forever part.

Farewell, dear, but not forever,
There will be a glorious day;
We will meet to part, no never,
On the resurrection morn.

Asleep in Jesus, far from thee,
Thy kindred and thy grave, maybe
But thine is still a blessed sleep,
From which none ever wake to weep.

Dearest, one we must lay thee
In they peaceful grave’s embrace;
Thy memory will be cherished
Till we see thy heavenly face.

Far beyond this world of changes,
Far beyond this world of care;
We hope to find our mission one
in our Father’s mansion so fair.

We hope some day his lovely form
in a glorious robe to behold;
To sing with him in the angel’s songs,
With harps of gold.

Three sons of Melancton Joseph and Martha McLendon Thigpen were dead. Seven brothers and sisters; James, Ennis, William, Joanna, Martha, Jennie, and Shelly were grieving. Joe Thipgen, said to be one of the finest men in the community, had seen his share of killing before as a corporal in the 57th Georgia Infantry in the slaughter at Baker's Creek and in the opening salvos of the Battle of Atlanta. He had seen suffering before as a guard at Andersonville prison and in a Tennessee field hospital where he and his brothers James, Richard and William watched their brother George slowly die of pneumonia. None of these horrors compared to the nightmare of losing three sons in one senseless moment of madness.

There is another story, quite unsubstantiated, in the family that Ennis Thigpen, Claude's twin brother, sought to kill Raffield for the murder of his brothers. Another story comes from an unnamed source that one of the surviving brothers decades after incident was still looking to kill Ras. The source, who has followed the case for most of his life, said that the brother went by a country store on the northeastern outskirts of Adrian and asked the storekeeper for a gun to kill the former marshal. That man refused to give Mr. Thigpen a gun. That man was Henry Thompson. That man was my grandfather.

The tragedy lasted only a few moments. The anguish endured for decades. Newspaper accounts of the tragedy, upon which this story is based, were published in newspapers around the country, even as far away as Reno, Nevada. The story has been told and retold for a hundred years. If there is anyone alive three hundred years from now, the story will still be told.

Ras Raffield, a forty-year-old son of John Winston Raffield and his wife Susan Fordham, returned to his trade as a carpenter. In 1920, Ras and his family were living on Barnard Street off Telfair Square in Savannah. He may have lived in Jenkins County in the 1930s as well. Thomas L. "Ras" Raffield died on May 31, 1938. Those who knew Raffield in his later years, knew him to a broken man following the murder.  "He never was the same after that day," said Javan Garner.  His body is buried in Northview Cemetery in Dublin beside his son Cordie, a World War I veteran, who died two years earlier. His obituary writer ignored his instant of infamy and simply summarized his life by stating, "Mr. Raffield was a native of Dublin and spent his entire life here. He was a carpenter and a farmer and a member of the Methodist Church." Raffield's other children, Atys, Herschel and Thomas, Jr. , moved away from Dublin.

Christmas Eve wasn't the same a century ago in Rockledge. To all it was not a good night. All was not calm. All was not bright. As the cold clear midnight came, angels with their golden harps descended through the cloven skies, through the solemn stillness, down to the mournful and frozen plain. Man, at war with man, heard not the tidings they brought to hush the noise of the men of strife. Those who believed heard the angels sing. And once again, there was peace on the Earth and good will toward men.

Post script:  At twenty minutes to noon on December 24, 2010, one hundred years to the hour after the tragedy in Rockledge unfolded, my son Scotty and I returned to the scene of the moment of madness.  It was indeed ironic that instead of angels flying in the sky above where the old depot once was located, there was a venue of turkey vultures circling looking for their lunch.  There was no ceremony to mark the anniversary.  One man was working in his yard, oblivious to what transpired exactly one hundred years ago in front of his house.  Upon a visit to the Mt. Zion Cemetery, there were no flowers.  Of all of the 730 plus stories I have written, this is one of my favorites.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The Father of the SEC

Now that the Southeastern Conference football champion for 2010 has been crowned and is headed to the national championship game, let me take a few minutes to introduce to you, Dr. H. Boyd McWhorter, who has been called "The Father of the modern day SEC."

Boyd McWhorter, a native of Cochran, Georgia, was another member of one of the royal families of the University of Georgia athletic programs. Kinsman Bob McWhorter was the first. Bob was the university's first All-American and a four-term mayor of Athens, Georgia. Born on May 8, 1923, Boyd McWhorter graduated from North Georgia College in 1942. McWhorter attended the United States Naval Academy during World War II. During the Korean War, Captain Boyd McWhorter, United States Naval Reserve, was given a leave from his teaching duties to return to the service of his country.

After earning his master's degree in English from the University of Georgia in 1949, McWhorter received his doctorate from the University of Texas in 1960. McWhorter then joined the faculty of the English department at the University of Georgia, where he taught for 22 years. Known more for his work in athletics, McWhorter was known by many of his students as a outstanding teacher. "He enjoyed teaching English in the classroom as much as anything he'd done," said son Hamilton McWhorter.

McWorther served on the university's athletic board from 1963 to 1972. For seven years, he served as faculty chairman. During his tenure at Georgia, McWhorter served as Assistant to the President in 1965 and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1968.

In 1967, McWhorter was elected Secretary of the Southeastern Conference. He was elected by the universities and colleges of the NCAA as the organization's Vice-President for two terms.

The members of the Southeastern Conference named McWhorter as the fifth head of the Conference in 1972. Upon taking office just before the 1972 football season, McWhorter said, "I consider the Southeastern Conference the best and it will be my determination to keep it that way." The new commissioner made it his goal to prevent the abuse of athletics standards by relaxing academic ones. "That's why we call them student-athletes," McWhorter frequently said.

Determined to keep the conference strong, McWhorter was disturbed that most of the attacks on the institutions were a result of those on the inside who were there to protect the conference contributing to the problems.

Commissioner McWhorter retired in 1986 as the second longest serving commissioner in conference history.

Following his retirement due to health reasons in 1986, McWhorter returned to his alma mater as a consultant to the President on issues of academic and athletic affairs following the turmoil created when English professor Jan Kemp was fired for criticizing the university for its favoritism toward athletes and the subsequent trial demanding her reinstatement.

McWhorter was elected to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, along with Tommy Aaron, Zeke Bratkowski and Maxie Baughn.

Boyd McWhorter died on July 23, 1994 and is buried in the Oconee Hill Cemetery in his beloved Athens.

Friend, colleague and sportswriter Loran Smith wrote that one of McWhorter's most distinguishing characteristics was his infectious laughter which would literally turn a dreary mood into one of uplifting gaiety. Of his love of English and the Bulldogs, Smith said, "He could quote the poets, but he could quote from the Georgia media guide - a learned man who appreciated both intellect and smooth athletic talent."

"Boyd McWhorter took his job seriously, but never himself," said Smith, a native of Wrightsville. Smith knew his friend as a bright person who never looked down on another by illustrating the point that McWhorter, who preferred his first name and not doctor, maintained that a PhD was on campus to serve the institution and not the other way around.

"He believed strongly in the value of intercollegiate athletics, but with an underscoring of honesty and integrity. He didn't find fault, he looked for solutions. He carried his own bag, he fixed his own drink. When the joke was on him, he laughed the loudest," Smith concluded in his eulogy to his dear, dear friend.

In his illustrious career, Boyd McWhorter brought the SEC through the first years of integration and into serious contention for national championships in many sports. McWhorter negotiated the conference's first major television contract and rejuvenated the post-season conference basketball championship.

So, when you cheer for your favorite Southeastern Conference team in any sport, remember that the man who brought the universities together and helped to transform them into one of the nation's greatest collegiate athletic conferences, once called Bleckley County, Georgia home.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


And Men Who Don't Have a Clue

Got ants? Want to get rid of them? Are you tired of fleas biting your legs when you walk through the house? Are flies eating your dessert before you do? You can call your local pest control company or log on the Internet and google what you need to do. But, a century ago, folks didn't have the modern day technology to fight insects in the home, so they had to improvise and use what was around to rid their homes of the bothersome bugs.

I recently happened upon the 1920 edition of The Household Dictionary by Winnifred S. Fales. Mrs. Fales meticulously compiled every known trick, cure, and helpful hint she could find to make housekeeping an easier chore. I started reading. I was hooked. And, before I knew it, I read the book from Acid Stains to Zinc to Clean.

Particularly fascinating were the ways to get rid of insects. If you want to get rid of red ants, at night simply smear a plate with lard in a place where ants congregate. All you have to do the next morning is to pick up the plate covered with the irritating insects, immerse it in boiling water, and presto, no more ants. If that doesn't work, sprinkle snuff, red pepper, or a mixture of sugar and borax where the ants crawl. Then, if there are still more ants, saturate a sponge with sugar syrup, squeeze it partly dry, and tie a string to it, and when the ants fill up the sponge, pick it up and dip the sponge into a boiling pot.

Fleas bite dogs, cats, and most of us. You can clean your house, but the best way to get rid of the fleas, other than getting rid of your pet, is to put your pooch in a tub. Put four tablespoons of creolin to the quart and wash the dog throughly. Don't try this with your cat.

Houseflies were the peskiest pests of early 20th Century houses. Fly swatters and sticky fly paper were the weapons of choice. Mrs. Fales suggested making a preparation of half milk and half water with two teaspoons full of the poison formalin. The recipe calls for soaking blotting paper with the mixture and then coating it with brown sugar. Once the devices are spread around the house, out of the reach of hungry children and curious pets, flies swarm to them and their death.

Worse than fleas and houseflies are the irritating mosquitos. Among the preventatives for skeeters was the wiping of screens and doors at twilight with kerosene, a liquid favored throughout the book for killing all sorts of creatures. Fales suggested holding a cup of kerosene attached to a stick just below mosquitoes which alighted on the ceiling. If that doesn't work, try rubbing your face and arms and even your pillow with spirits of camphor. Oil of lavender sprayed throughout the room or hanging a towel saturated with camphor, citronella and cedar oils over your bed might work as well. If these repellants don't work and you began to itch, try washing your bites with moistened toilet soap.

Roaches are particularly annoying, disgusting, and somewhat unhealthy. Most of the measures to rid your house of roaches involving filling your house with all sorts of poisons which will kill the prehistoric pests. A more effective, environmentally friendly method calls for placing pinches of plaster of Paris and wheat flour in equal parts on pieces of cardboard throughout the house beside water-filled saucers. When the roaches eat the mixture, they drink. Then the plaster and the roaches harden into statues. You could also try placing a slice of bread in a well-greased shallow basin. Darken the room for an hour. Go in the room, turn on the light, and then start squirting away with your good ol' bottle of kerosene spray.

If my speaking of roaches and rats makes you nauseated, try chewing on small and frequent doses of cracked ice.

If you happen to get bit by a bee, try rubbing moist clay, bruised plantain leaves or catnip leaves (not available at most pharmacies and grocery stores), ammonia or baking soda. You can also chew some Red Man and apply a poultice to the sting. But remember, don't swallow the juice.

This was my favorite cure. It's not exactly an insect, but if someone gets struck by lightning, try laying the patient flat and dash cold water on his face and chest. Make sure you stay back several feet in case there are too many electrons floating around. If not, apply a mustard poultice to the stomach, rub the body and limbs, and apply hot water bottles to promote circulation. If the patient regains consciousness, then Mrs. Winifred suggests a good cup of hot coffee. Then, if that doesn't work, begin artificial respiration. And if that still doesn't work, you might want to call 911.

If someone is choking on a bone and the Heimlich maneuver doesn't work, try pouring an unbeaten raw egg down the throat. If that doesn't work, see above.

Painful splinters can be easily removed by filling a wide mouthed bottle with scalding hot water and placing the affected finger over the opening. The steam and suction will draw the splinter to the surface of the skin.

If you are around fire often, the homemaker's guide suggests you soak your clothes in a solution of a pound of ammonium phosphate to a gallon of water. The author suggests this will prevent your children's clothes from bursting into flames, especially on the Fourth of July.

Many of you know this, but if something on your stove catches on fire, don't throw water on the flames, try some nearby flour or meal or go outside and grab some handfuls of dirt or a find a nearby potted plant.

On a more pleasing note, if you want to keep your sandwiches fresher longer, wrap them in a dry napkin, then in a towel wrung out of cold water, and put them in the refrigerator or a fireless cooker. If molded cheese is not your thing, wrap your cheese in a cheese cloth wrung out of vinegar. Finally, to keep your cakes fresher longer, put an apple in the cake box, but remove it when it begins to rot. Oh, by the way, if you burn your cake, remove the crust with fine sandpaper.

These are some of things our grandmothers and great grandmothers used to do to make life around the house just a little bit easier in a time when life was a little bit slower and there was no Google or Home and Garden TV.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Keeping Up With the Baptists

Original Methodist Church
prior to 1910 rennovations

Competition is a good thing. In the race to have the biggest sanctuary in the Emerald City, the Methodists won. The Methodists built their first brick church in 1894, some 14 years before the Baptists completed their bigger and better church. Not to be out done and to be the biggest church in Dublin, the Methodist immediately launched a building program which would allow the West Gaines Street sanctuary to be the first choice of mass meetings in the city, not only religious ones, but social, scientific and musical ones as well.

Dublin was a growing city. The city was growing so fast that its backers dubbed it, "Dublin, Georgia, the only city in Georgia which is doublin' all the time." In fact, Dublin was one of the ten largest cities in the state and was often the site of state wide conventions and meetings. The necessity of large meeting facilities was critical to the economic welfare of the city and a large church met the needs of the community as well as the needs of church goers.

First Baptist Church 1910

After the Baptist Church completed a major building program, leaders of the Methodist Church realized the desperate need for more Sunday School class rooms. The contract was let to John A. Kelley on October 25, 1910 for $19,000.00. Kelley was already working on the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception which was located a block away. Kelley agreed to complete the work within four to five months for twice the original cost of the church.

Originally, the church hired a Mr. Lockhart of Columbus to design the additions. But, with the Rev. George C. Thompson, a former pastor and Dublin District Supernumerary, being an architect, church leaders hired Thompson to create a design to revamp the front facade and add Sunday Schools rooms in the rear. Thompson came up with an ingenious idea to accommodate the wishes of those who wanted the largest sanctuary in town. The moonlighting minister designed a movable partition, which, when removed, allowed the congregation of up to 1100 persons to view services in the sanctuary from the Sunday School area.

Nearly from the start Kelley's short completion schedule came into doubt. The main part of the church expansion was the construction of Sunday School rooms to the rear of the steep roofed sanctuary. In digging the foundation for the class rooms, workers discovered human remains in a fine state of preservation. To their amazement, the diggers found the body's skull, arms and legs in nearly perfect condition, only a few ribs had begun to decompose.

At first, workers thought they may have dug into the city cemetery, although they were two hundred feet away. Who the man was and how he got there remained a mystery. Most speculated that he was buried at least a half century before, though the freshness of the body seems to contradict that theory. Others thought the man was killed, but there had been no mysterious deaths since the church was built in 1894 and before then a murderer trying to hide a body would have buried in the thicket behind the cemetery and not in front of it. It wasn't the first time that buried bodies were unearthed during construction of buildings in the city, it being a common practice to bury the dead in the yards of houses, which once occupied many of the lots in the downtown area.

By the end of November, work was progressing nicely. When it came time to lay the first brick, that honor went to Rev. John M. Outler. Outler deferred to his toddler son, Albert to lay the first brick. With a little help from his parents, Albert placed the first brick on the foundation. More than thirty thousand more bricks would be cemented into the new addition.

Little Albert would grow up in his father's footsteps and become a Methodist minister. Actually, Albert Cook Outler would grow up to become one of the greatest Ecumenical Methodist ministers of the 20th Century. Albert's brother, John, Jr., would become a successful chief executive with WSB Radio in Atlanta.

Kelley still believed that he could complete the project before the following spring. But when delays occurred, more than ten more months elapsed before the first services were held in the newly renovated sanctuary.

New Methodist Church, 1911

The unexpected delay gave the members more time to plan a Jubilee to celebrate the opening on September 24, 1911. Every living former minister of the church was invited to attend the seven-day celebration. Only one, Rev. W.A. Ainsworth, the President of Wesleyan College, was unavoidably absent due to the future Bishop's absence from the state.

The festivities began early on Sunday morning with children and adults attending Sunday School in their new rooms, brighter and better than ever with electric lights and concrete walls.

The opening sermon was given by the Rev. Outler, who had headed the building program before being assigned the Thomasville District as it's Presiding Elder. That evening, ministers of other denominations in the city welcomed guests and fellow ministers.

Every day at 3:30 and 7:30, a former minister took to the pulpit and addressed large crowds, the largest ever to attend church services in the city's first century. The highlight of the week came on Tuesday evening when the Rev. John B. McGehee, the church's first minister, spoke. Rev. McGehee, who served the church in 1854, delivered a lecture which compared the Methodist Church in 1911 to the Methodist Church in 1854. McGehee returned to the pulpit the next afternoon with a sermon he dubbed, "Old-fashioned Love Feast."

And, as I honor the 100th anniversary of the construction of the First Methodist Church, both the First Baptist and First Methodist churches are undergoing another rehabilitation of their facilities. Alphonse Karr said it first, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Here's Your Sign

Why did Thomas Cusack paint his name on walls? And, why did he paint his name on one of our walls, far, far away from Cusack's home in Chicago, Illinois. Actually, Cusack didn't paint his name on the wall of a West Madison Street building. One of his legion of sign painters did. In the first two decades of the 20th Century, the Thomas Cusack Company was the leading outdoor advertising firm in the United States of America. And, today if you know where to look, you can find a remnant of the days long ago when billboards adorned the sides of buildings across the country and right here in Dublin, Georgia.

Thomas Cusack was born in County Clare, Ireland. At the age of three, Cusack immigrated to America, just in time for the Civil War. Orphaned at five years of age, Thomas learned how to paint. Determined to make a living at it, Cusack established his own sign painting business when he was only seventeen years old. A couple of years at St. Xavier's College would help him to learn the world of running a business of his own.

Cusack discovered early in his career that he could transform the bare, dead walls of buildings into colorful and enticing signs. And, he could make money, lots of money, too. As one of the couple of outdoor advertising pioneers, Cusack's influence in the city of Chicago rose.

In 1890, Mayor Hempstead Washburne appointed the billboard baron to a seat on the school board. Cusack, a fervent supporter of education for eight years - the last two as Vice-President of the Board, drew the attention of Illinois governor John. P. Altgeld, who named him as an aide-de-camp on his general staff. In 1898, Cusack was elected to his first and only term in the United States Congress from the 4th District of Illinois. Cusack remained active as a Democrat, attending several national conventions as a party delegate.

After only one term, Congressman Cusack decided to return to his outdoor advertising business, which had grown to more than a hundred offices with leases on more than one hundred thousand billboards around the country. His signs brought in more than twenty-three million dollars in gross annual income.

Thomas Cusack was known for his friendly relationships with his employees. He was most proud of the fact that in a city known for its labor union strikes, his workers never walked off the job. In his day as a sign painter himself, Thomas fondly remembered getting $8 a week in wages. When he sold his twenty-five-million dollar business to a New York banking syndicate in 1924, he was proud that he was paying his men, $10 to $15 a day.

At the pinnacle of his successes, Thomas Cusack bought the entire town of Cascade, Colorado at Ute Pass in the Rocky Mountains. The owners' threw in the 80-room Cascade Hotel, the 40-room Ramona Hotel, five cottages, a pavilion, a lake and his own personal waterfall. Cusack hired architects and contractors to transform his property into greatest mountain resort in the world by immediately adding a plush concrete hotel at a cost of more than one hundred thousand dollars. Cusack and his wife moved to their thousand-acre ranch to personally supervise the transformation. While he was in the West, Cusack planned to expand his operations to the West Coast and eventually to Europe.

Thomas Cusack died on November 19, 1926 at the age 0f 68. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois.

And now, the moment you have been waiting for. To find the Cusack Company sign, first find the old 1st National Bank skyscraper. Go west on Madison Street. When you get to Tim Knight's wildlife studio on the south side of the street, look on the west wall of the building. Sadly, the top tw0-thirds of a gorgeous crimson Coca-Cola sign has all but faded away. But, look closely at the lower right-hand corner of the brick billboard. And, there is where you see, still in its brilliant bold colors, "Thos. Cusack Co. Chicago " There's your sign!

Monday, November 22, 2010


In the Beginning

When did Thanksgiving begin? Many claim it began in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621. Proud Virginians have a strong claim that it was on the banks of the James River two years prior when American colonists first celebrated their blessings on a day of Thanksgiving. The Northerners won the Civil War. So, to the victors go the rights to write our history. So, the traditional origin of Thanksgiving features the Pilgrims and Indians of New England. You might be surprised to learn that a Laurens County man was the first to urge the adoption of the holiday in Georgia.

In 1619, a group of English settlers arrived at the Berkeley Plantation on the James River, southeast of present day Richmond, Virginia. Their charter of settlement provided, "We ordain that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for the plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God." That first celebration was held on December 4, 1619.

Nearly two years later in the fall of 1621, the settlers of the Massachusetts colony joined with their Indian friends in celebrating their good fortune during their first year on the North American continent. The holiday was primarily celebrated on an irregular basis. George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving in 1795. It would be nearly another quarter of a century before northeastern states revived the erratic celebrations.

The authorities of Augusta, Georgia proclaimed one of the first local Thanksgiving observations in Georgia on Friday, November 7, 1823. Members of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches joined together for three services to thank God for His tender mercies over all the works and in whose favors, all are partakers.

The origin of Georgia's first official celebration of Thanksgiving Day came in 1826. Governor George M. Troup, in his annual message to the Georgia legislature, asked the assembly to proclaim a statewide celebration of Thanksgiving Day. Troup, a resident of Laurens County, was one of the most powerful and admired chief executives of Georgia in the first half of the 19th Century. Troup urged the legislators to set a day aside to render from time to time homage and adoration so justly due to that Being, who is the donor of all good.

Robert Rea, of Greene County, introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives on November 18, 1826 to set apart a day statewide for prayer and thanksgiving. Madison County Senator Robert Groves introduced a similar resolution five days later in the upper house in acquiescence to the Governor's request. Both houses adopted the resolution on December 4th.

Legislators acknowledged the many undeserved favors bestowed by the hand of providence. In paying honor to the Almighty, the legislature authorized the governor to set forth measures to establish a state wide day of Thanksgiving to be held on the first Thursday of the next year, January 4, 1827.

On the 8th of December, Gov. Troup urged all denominations to assemble in their respective churches and celebrate the day with penitential hearts and uplifted hands to make grateful acknowledgment for the benefactions received from the Universal Parent.

Thanksgiving celebrations continued to be sporadic in Georgia until the 1840s. The corporate authorities of Savannah determined that November 25, 1841 be a day of public Thanksgiving. Daniel Hook, the Mayor of Augusta, proclaimed that the last day of 1841, would be set aside as "A day of Public Thanksgiving to Almighty God for blessing our city with its accustomed good health."

On December 19, 1842, the Georgia legislature officially adopted the first Friday of November in 1843 to be a day of Thanksgiving, to be attended with appropriate religious services in the several churches throughout the state. The statewide observance once again changed in 1845, when Governor George W. Crawford proclaimed the 13th day of February as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, in congratulating the people of Georgia on the introduction of this time-honored custom of the Eastern States. A dozen years later, the legislature determined that the celebration be held on November 26, 1857, the fourth Friday of that month.

Known more for her authorship of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, is more responsible than anyone for the national celebration of Thanksgiving. Mrs. Hale, is probably one of the most unknown successful women of the 19th Century. She was the first to urge equal education for women and the first to start day care nurseries for working women. And, Mrs. Hale was the first woman to serve as an editor of a woman's magazine. It was Mrs. Hale who wrote to urge President Abraham Lincoln to issue his Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863.

It would take another eighty years before the date was made uniform across the nation. Amazingly, the designation of Thanksgiving Day as being the fourth Thursday of November, was not officially adopted by the Federal government until the day after Christmas 1941, two years after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suggested the national holiday as a way of boosting the country's economy.

On this day of Thanksgiving, let us all acknowledge our gratitude for the blessings we have. Celebrate the day with those you love. But remember those who are not as blessed, not only on this Thursday, but all the year long.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Momentary Passion

It mattered not at all to Jackson Terry that he was the first and only member of his race to accomplish a feat in the 203-year history of Laurens County. His lust for money and its evil roots, along with too much of the spirits, led to his undesirable title. Since and before 1840, Jackson Terry was the first and only white man in the history of Laurens County, Georgia to be legally hung by his neck until his death.

Jackson Terry wandered from place to place in search of a way to make a living. He wound up in Virginia, where he met one Captain James Hannah. The captain, a robust man of 60 years of age with tolerably long snow white hair, hired Terry to drive his wagon to Macon, Georgia, where they planned to sell tobacco. Terry had lived in Macon before, so it seemed only natural to take the assignment as a way of getting back to familiar territory and making a good wage in the process.

Terry and Hannah agreed that in compensation for his services, Terry would receive the excess profits of more than fifteen cents per pound for tobacco which would get wet when the wagon crossed creeks and rivers along their path. In his spare time, Terry diligently worked on stripping the damaged leaves. At first, the salvaged tobacco brought a handsome profit of ten cents per pound for Jackson, who expected to be paid at the end of each day. Each night Terry requested his pay. And each night, the Captain refused his demands.

The two men stopped at Steele's Mill on the Pee Dee River in North Carolina, where they purchased a 10-gallon keg of whiskey. Along their way, Terry, at Captain Hannah's request, sold whiskey, which in Terry's words was, "contrary to the laws of the state." They stopped again in Camden, South Carolina, where they refilled the keg and resumed the dispensing of spiritous liquors to any thirsty traveler with money.

At one point in South Carolina, their scheme was nearly discovered by an overseer of a group of slaves. Terry distracted the overseer by telling him that the dog they had with them would bite if the man went near the wagon without him. The ruse worked. Captain Hannah had enough time to hide the keg and the men went on their way. Terry later self servingly explained, "After this, I was determined to sell no more spirits, and on my refusal to do so, Capt. Hannah became vexed." Terry related that Hannah had cursed him although he thought him to be a member of the Methodist Church. The driver continued, "Captain Hannah said he would as soon be at the Devil as to have one in his employment who would not obey his orders." Despite Terry's resolution to stop selling liquor, Capt. Hannah refilled the keg in Augusta.

The relationship between the two travelers began to unravel at their campsite in Louisville, Georgia. Terry started a fire and set out some meat and coffee to cook. Realizing the deluge of rain made it impossible to cook bread, Terry went into town to find a freshly cooked loaf. Upon his return, Jackson found that the Captain had eaten his supper and thrown out the leftovers before retiring for the night. Terry held his tongue. In fact, both men did, well into the next morning. When they began to talk, Terry reported that the Captain used very harsh language against him.

It was still raining the next night when the two-horse wagon pulled into a campsite near Robert Higdon's mill on Hunger and Hardship Creek, just north of the village of Dublin. Terry cooked supper and laid it out on a stool, along with a sufficient cup of whiskey. Instantly, Hannah forbade his driver's attempt to drink any coffee out of a small iron pot. After the Captain finished his meal, Terry took the coffee out of the pot and drank it.

As the next day dawned, Terry and Hannah talked of heading to Clinton in Jones County. "He wanted to go by a circuitous route, and I thought it was out of the way to go by the route he recommended," confessed Terry, who had only promised to go to Macon. Hannah ordered Terry to grease the axles of his wagon, which he did. The discussion became more heated. Hannah threatened to knock Terry in the head with a spike. Terry retorted, "Get me a switch large enough to whip me!" Tempers subsided. When Terry asked Hannah how he wanted a squirrel cooked for breakfast, there was no reply. The squirrel was thrown into the frying pan along with some other victuals. Hannah complained about the food, to which Terry responded, "If you get me some good food, I will cook it." Hannah complained the bread was too thick, so Terry cooked a thinner piece. Hannah asked for a dram of liquor with his coffee. Both men began to imbibe one drink after another.

Captain Hannah stood up, picked up a knife, and assaulted the five-foot-tall Terry, who reached for an axe and whacked the Captain across the neck, nearly severing his head. Jackson panicked. He called to the Captain by name. There was no answer. He ran down to the mill pond and filled his bucket with clean water. Terrified and regretting what he had just done, Terry ran back up the hill, started a lightwood fire and went over to his comrade to check if he was still alive. As he saw blood spuing from Hannah's neck, he realized he had killed his antagonist. Terry stated that he told Hannah that this was his fault and he should have left him alone. Terry rifled through Hannah's belongings, taking about a hundred dollars and some of his papers. He cut the rope tied to one horse and set out to Wilkinson County to the north. He stopped for the night at Mr. King's house before going to Macon.

As the day light illuminated the scene, Captain Hannah's bloody corpse was found. Incensed at the murder, local officials began to investigate. They came up with a description of the murder and word got out as fast as it could. There were no newspapers, phones, or telegraphs around. John M. Higdon and John Spicer offered a reward for the suspect's capture, a man by them as "Terrell." Investigators followed the old dog which had accompanied the men and the other horse, which broke his rope and followed Terry's horse. A few days later, Jackson Terry was arrested at the race track in Macon. Hannah's papers and cash were found on his person.

Jackson Terry was kept in the Laurens County jail until he was indicted by the Grand Jury. A trial was held on June 15, 1840. Judge Carleton Cole was sitting on the bench. Solicitor General William Wiggins called the case to trial. Representing the pauper Terry were Isham Saffold, Thomas C. Sullivan, Augustin Hansell and Peter Early Love, all very prominent attorneys. Hansell and Love, a native of Laurens, were both prominent jurists and statesmen in the latter half of the 20th Century.

After a brief trial, jury foreman Stephen B. Hester read the verdict of guilty. Three days later, Judge Cole ordered that Terry be hung by his neck until his death. On Friday, July 24, 1840 between the appointed hanging times of between ten and two, Jackson Terry walked up the gallows.

When asked, Jackson Terry confessed the story, his story, which you have just read. He concluded his repentance by saying, "I am doomed to die, and today I shall pay the great debt of nature, the only retribution I can offer for my crime - a crime which was committed under the influence of a momentary passion and for which I most seriously repent. And, may the Lord have mercy on my soul. Amen." The trap door dropped - another death on Tobacco Road.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


An American Patriot

Maryan Harris is a patriot. Who else would stuff her stomach with bananas and several quarts of water to qualify to serve her country? It is in her blood, Maryan descends from Hardy Smith of the Revolution and Andrew Pickens, her 4th great-grandfather and South Carolina militia leader, who was the model for Mel Gibson's character in The Patriot. She wanted to serve, but admittedly Maryan joined the Women Accepted for Volunteer Service Emergency Service (W.A.V.E.S) just for the adventure of it.

Maryan Harley Smith was born in 1918. She graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, joining her mother, Annie Pickens Simons Smith, and her grandmother, Mary Pickens Simons as alumnae of the world's first chartered women's college. The oldest daughter of Charles Manly Smith, Maryan obtained her Master's Degree in Social Science Work from the University of Louisville.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Maryan Smith was already serving her country as a teacher in Thomasville, Georgia. After the shock of that day began to wane, Maryan made the decision to join the WAVES. "I had heard about the service organizations for women and I thought I would like to join the WAVES," Harris recalled. She traveled from Greenwood to Columbia to take the entrance examination. "That morning I was a little bit under weight, so I ate lots of bananas and drank lots of water to try to raise my weight a little bit," Harris fondly recalled. She reached her goal, but couldn't stretch her under regulation height enough to meet the requirements. "But they accepted me anyway when they saw I was healthy," Maryan recalled.

It was in the spring of 1943 when Maryan Smith first took her physical and written examinations. At the time of her induction on June 5, 1943, Maryan was sent to Smith College in North Hampton, Massachusetts for four weeks of basic training. "That was a wonderful experience. I had never been in the Northeast. North Hampton was a beautiful old town. We marched everywhere we went. They had a wonderful restaurant that was well known for its delicious food. That's where we had our meals. We had to march from the college to the restaurant every time we ate. The food was wonderful. I really enjoyed that," Smith fondly recollected.

Despite the strenuous requirements of basic training, Smith enjoyed her first days in the WAVES. "We had to learn to keep our rooms in "apple pie" order. I remember mitering the beds. I would bruise my knuckles trying to get the cover tight enough to bounce a dime. They would come around and inspect the room with white gloves. If they found anything wrong, you got a demerit," she reminisced. One trivial incident was still firm in her mind. Maryan recalled the time her unit had an inspection. The inspecting officer said, "There is an article adrift". "We looked everywhere and finally found one little bobby pin in one corner of the room. I guess that was the "article adrift," Maryan recalled.

Maryan and her fellow WAVES studied everything from military history to anything pertaining to the Navy and surface craft. Although she was not trained in communication, Maryan was sent to Miami for her tour of duty in communications. Assigned to the 7th Naval District, Maryan had the very interesting duty of coding and decoding messages. Never able to get used to the graveyard shift of midnight to morning, Maryan stayed awake by drinking gallons of coffee.

"We sent messages to and from the surface ships. The PT boats and destroyer escorts came into Miami to get their supplies. One of Maryan's most memorable moments of her tour of duty came when she and other WAVES took a ride out to the island to watch the filming of the movie, They Were Expendable. "It was about the PT boats and their mission during the war. Robert Taylor and John Wayne were in the movie. That was a lot of fun. I was in that group. I got to see John Wayne and Robert Taylor do their thing," remembered the former Lieutenant Junior Grade. "I never did meet them personally; they didn't want to get that close to the public. On one occasion they took us aboard a destroyer and showed us all around. That was interesting," Mrs. Harris said.

Maryan would often pinch herself and say, "Is this really me?" as she enjoyed the subtropical life of tall palms and blue water in Miami and Coral Gables, where she had the chance to room with her sister Dorothy "Dottie," also a Wesleyan graduate. Life in South Florida was not all fun. She managed to dodge a hurricane, but had to eat all too much spam her sister Dottie had stocked up on in case disaster struck her apartment.

Still wanting adventures, Maryan asked for a transfer to California. Instead, she was sent to the nation's capital for the last ten months of her tour of duty. Although she didn't enjoy Washington as much as Miami, Maryan enjoyed her time there as well.

Life in the WAVES wasn't everything to Maryan. Before the war, she met John Joseph Harris, Jr., who was stationed at Spence Field in Moultrie, a few miles distant from Thomasville. Ironically, Harris was assigned to the 121st Georgia Infantry, which was established in Dublin in 1919 and was composed of many soldiers from Laurens County and around the state of Georgia. While Maryan was stationed in Miami, the couple got to see each other on several occasions before he shipped out to the European Theater in 1944.

Eleven months after the end of the war in Europe, John and Maryan joined hands in marriage. "If I had not met John and wanted to get married, I would have stayed in the service." Maryan was officially discharged about a month after their marriage.

Washington held fond memories for Maryan. "When I was in Washington, they declared VJ Day and everyone poured out of the offices and everybody went downtown singing, waving flags and hugging each other whether you knew them or not. We were all so happy the war was over," she fondly recollected. The Harrises moved to Dublin after John's retirement as a defense analyst. They had one son, John K. Harris.

Maryan Smith Harris went back to serving her community. As a volunteer for the Laurens County Historical Society, and a long time member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and her beloved Christ Episcopal Church, Maryan continued to help others.

On this Veteran's Day, remember those who have served our country in war and peace. And, remember those who still serve, the true American patriots.

This article was based on an interview with Mrs. Harris by Mac Fowler ten years ago.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Dividing America

The opening salvo in the American Civil War may have come in big city and back woods polling places around the country on November 6, 1860, one hundred and fifty years ago this week. Four different candidates, three of them Democrats, vied for the highest office in the land. While the three Democrats garnered more than sixty percent of the popular vote, it was the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, who tallied the most votes in the Electoral College. This election was the lighted match thrown into a highly volatile mix of abolitionists, secessionists, Unionists, and quite frankly, many who cared nothing at all about the issue of slavery.

The split in the presidential voting in East Central, Georgia became apparent in the 1856 election. Laurens County voters cast 85.3 percent of their votes for the Know-Nothing party candidate, Millard Fillmore. Montgomery voters were even more opposed to the idea of secession in casting 88.57% of their ballots for the former president, who only carried one state, the border state of Maryland. Fillmore carried Jefferson County, the home of Herschel V. Johnson, but barely. The race in Emanuel was very close, with the eventual winner, James Buchanan coming out on top. Buchanan carried the remaining counties in the region by large margins.

The election of 1860 pitted the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois (LEFT), against three Democratic factions headed by John C. Breckinridge (Kentucky) of the Southern Democratic party, John Bell (Tennessee) of the Constitutional Union party, and Stephen Douglas (Illinois) of the Northern Democratic Party, which nominated as its vice-presidential candidate, Gov. Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia, and future judge and namesake of Johnson County, Georgia.

Some political historians have concluded that the turnout in the 1860 election was lower than normal because the outcome was never in doubt. It has been said that most voters accepted the fact that another Democrat would be in the White House and that the total electoral votes of the three Democrats would be consolidated into a compromise winner and Abraham Lincoln would go back to practicing law in Illinois.

The heaviest vote for John Bell (Left) came in Montgomery County. Ironically the once home county of Gov. George M. Troup, the founder of State Rights, was most supportive of the Unionist Democrats. Montgomery was primarily composed of male voters who were of Scottish ancestry. Eight of nine voters, who owned very few slaves and saw hard work on their part as a part of their heritage, wanted no part of secession. The county's delegates to the Secession Convention and the subsequent sessions of the Georgia Legislature consistently voted against the actions of the state's Confederate government. Nevertheless, the county sent 114 men off to fight the Yankees, all but fourteen were killed, wounded, imprisoned or died of disease. Clearly it was not their war. Washington and Emanuel County supported Bell in large numbers.

In Troup's (left)  home county of Laurens, support for Bell soared to more than seventy-two percent, a level slightly higher than in the election of candidates to the convention which was held the following January in the capital at Milledgeville. Breckinridge gathered only 36 of 592 votes, while Douglas only got 21.6 percent of Laurens County voters to mark his name on the ballot.

The highest support for Breckinridge (left) came from voters along the Coastal Plain and in the mountains of Georgia. Locally, voters in Wilcox, Wilkinson Twiggs and Pulaski voted for Breckinridge, though his support waned the closer the counties were to the "Slave Belt." Surprisingly it was in the area where blacks were in the majority, voters overwhelmingly supported Bell and remaining in the Union despite their dependence on slavery.

There appeared no direct relationship between the percentage of slaves among the county populations to their white masters votes for the pro-Union and pro-secession candidates. The highest percentage of a county's slave population was in Twiggs (64.5) and the county's voters (63.1) voted for Breckinridge, the pro-slavery candidate. However, in Jefferson and Washington counties where slaves were more than fifty percent of their populations, white males voted for Bell and Douglas, the more pro-Union parties.

On the other hand, the lowest slave populated counties with less than 1 in 3, (Emanuel, Johnson and Montgomery) were the mostly pro-Union supporters, choosing to stay in the Union to avoid a military and economic war and being content with owning their slaves and uncaring about slaves in the western territories and states.

When the nearly 4.7 million votes were tallied and electoral college delegates appointed, Abraham Lincoln won more than half of the electoral votes and carried more than half of the states in the country, all in the North and the West. Breckinridge carried all of the Southern States, except Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

In Georgia, Breckinridge received nearly half of the 107,000 votes. Bell placed second with 40 percent of the vote, while Douglas (left) , despite Jefferson County's native son's spot on the ticket, only tallied one-tenth of the popular vote.

As the news of Lincoln's election spread first throughout Milledgeville and the state's largest cities and then to the small town around the state, enthusiasm for secession began to swell. Another election was held to choose delegates to a Secession Convention in Milledgeville. More than two-thirds of Laurens County voters remained Unionist, but elected Dr. Nathan Tucker and J.W. Yopp to a split delegation of Unionist and Secessionist sentiments respectively. Washington County, who provided the most men per capita to the Confederate Army , were split at the convention. Johnson and Emanuel County's voters were anti-secession. Montgomery Countians remained steadfastly pro-Union, never giving up on their convictions. Georgia Unionists, led by Herschel Johnson and Alexander Stephens, the future Vice President of the Confederate States of America, held their firm position against leaving the Union at first, but eventually succumbed to the fervent secessionists led by Howell Cobb and Robert Toombs, who convinced Georgia's legislature to vote for leaving the Union in January 1861.

The importance of the national election of 1860 can never be understated. However, every election, either on a national, state or local scale is important. By voting, you can change the history of our future. By not voting, someone else will change your future or your children's future. One thing is certain, if you stay home, your voice won't be heard. So vote.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Notebook: New Faces Hope To Help

Notebook: New Faces Hope To Help: "We talked to longtime Packers fan Erik Walden and big nose tackle Howard Green; plus the latest on who will start at right tackle; more from Thursday."

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Making Montrose Proud

If you were to say that Demaryius "Bay Bay" Thomas was the first native of Montrose, Georgia to play major college football and for a team in the National Football League, you would be wrong. That high honor goes to one Willie Hall, who although he lived only a short time in his native home, was the first from his community to play football on Sundays. In fact, Hall played on many Sundays including the most heralded football Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday.

Willie Charles Hall, according to Wikipedia, was born on the 29th day of September 1949 in Montrose, Georgia. Willie's family moved to New Brittain, Connecticut, where he was a multi-sport star at Pulaski High School, including running out the backfield, throwing the javelin and putting the shot in track. Hall, a talented athlete, did not go to a major college but opted instead to attend Arizona Western. His team lost to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M college in the 1969 National Junior College Championship. Hall became a defensive stalwart and caught the eye of John McKay, coach of the University of Southern California Trojans. The Trojans, led in previous years by running back O.J. Simpson, were considered one of the top teams in the country.

Hall, a small (6'3") but solid (214 pounds), stepped right in and led the staunch Trojan defense. His first game was one of his biggest. The Trojans traveled to Alabama to face the Crimson Tide under the direction of Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. It was the first time in the history of Alabama football that a fully integrated team had played in the state. The Californians triumphed by defeating the Alabamians, 42-21. With no let up in the schedule, the Trojans, minus their usual squad of All-Americans, played well on defense, but failed to live up to their reputation as an offensive powerhouse. Hall's team lost to rival UCLA, but ended the 1970 season on a positive note with a drubbing of national rival Notre Dame to finish the season fifteenth in the national polls at 6-4-1. Hall was named the Player of the Game for his outstanding defensive performance of eight unassisted tackles and in hounding Irish quarterback Joe Theismann all day long.

A revenged loss to Alabama in the Rose Bowl and three straight losses to Oklahoma, Oregon, and Stanford was too much for the Trojans to overcome. In the second half of the season, the team played well with victories over Notre Dame, California, Washington, and Washington State, along with a season-ending, sister-kissing, oh-no tie with U.C.L.A for its second straight 6-4-1 season and a 20th spot in the polls.

In between his two football seasons, Willie was a member of the U.S.C. track team.

Despite his team's lackluster performance, Hall, in his final collegiate season, had one of this best seasons of his football career. As team co-captain and wearing jersey number 83, Hall was chosen as a first team player on the Pacific 8 All-Conference team at linebacker. He was honored by his teammates as the team's most valuable player in addition to his winning the Gloomy Gus Henderson Trophy for most minutes played. Willie Hall's penultimate honor came when he was selected as linebacker on several NCAA Division I All-American teams.

The post season honors continued to pile up for Hall. He was selected to represent the West team in the 1971 East-West Shrine game, the North in the 1972 Senior Bowl game, and the College All-Stars in the once perennial summer preseason game against the NFL's defending World Champions, in this case, the Dallas Cowboys. Because of injuries and circumstances beyond Willie's control, he did not make the last two games.

Hall was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft. The young linebacker's career got off to an inauspicious start. His injury before the All-Star game kept Willie from playing a full schedule of games in his rookie season. But like all good players, Willie Hall shook it off and got right back in the game in his second season with the Saints. He told a reporter for the Times-Picayune, "I suppose I had a bad year last season, if you call getting hurt and not getting to play a bad season." Hall added, "I wasn't expecting a lot of things I found in pro football. I had to rearrange my thinking. The Saints improved in Willie's second season, but only to a five-win, nine-loss mark.

Following the 1973 season, Willie was let go by the Saints and became a free-agent. The Oakland Raiders picked him up just before the opening of the 1975 season. Finally, Willie was back on a winning team. The Raiders went 11-3, captured the AFC West championship, but lost in the AFC Championship against their new rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Hall saw limited playing time in seven games in his first year with the Raiders.

During the 1976 season, Willie played in all the games for the Raiders, intercepting two passes. The Raiders went 16-1 during the regular season and in the playoffs. And, on January 9, 1977, Willie Jones was back at home in front of 110,000 screaming fans in the Rose Bowl in the biggest game of career, Super Bowl XI. Playing along side Willie were his former U.S.C. teammates, Clarence Davis, Alonzo Thomas, Mike Rae, and John Vella. Hall, starting at right inside linebacker, had a rough day running all over the field trying to keep Minnesota quarterback Fran Tarkenton contained. In the second half when the Vikings were rallying to bring the score within five points, Hall stepped in front of a floating pass, picked it off, rambled for 16 yards, ending the Purple Gang's comeback hopes. "The other halfback was my man but I saw Tarkenton look to the inside and that's where I went," said Hall. "I don't think he saw me coming. He just threw it, and I was there." In the game, Hall stopped another Vikings drive with a fumble recovery at the Oakland 6-yard line. The Raiders, with seven future NFL Hall of Fame members, defeated the Norsemen, in a 32-14 rout.

The Raiders went 12-4 in 1977, but failed to make it past the AFL Championship. But, on December 11th, in a rematch of the Super Bowl, Willie, wearing his silver and black #39 jersey, picked up a fumble on the bounce at the Minnesota 2-yard line and took the ball into the end zone for the first and only touchdown of his career. He also picked up his third career interception that year.

In his final season in the NFL, the Raiders dropped to an uncharacteristic 9-7 record. Hall, playing only in eleven games, picked up his 5th and final career interception and his third fumble recovery.

I am sad to say, I don't know what happened to Willie Hall after he left the NFL. I have met some of his relatives, but regretfully didn't follow up with them on his status. If there is someone out there, who knows more about Willie Hall, Montrose, Georgia's first NFL player, please let me know. But for now, let us all cheer Montrose's newest NFL star, Demaryius Thomas, and hope that he will play at least a hundred Sundays and come back home to Montrose with one or more big fat gold Super Bowl rings on his hands.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


An Intrepid American Hero

Congressional Medals of Honor are shiny and blue. They come in a narrow black box. So, when Sam Coursen was handed one by General Omar Bradley, he really didn't know what was inside. You would have to excuse Sam. He was only fourteen months old. You see, the medal, the nation's highest award for heroism, was given in honor of his father, Lt. Samuel Streit Coursen, Sr., United States Army. If you went to Dublin High School in the mid 1960s, you knew Little Sam. None of you here were lucky enough to have known Big Sam. So, I will tell you his story, the story of an intrepid American hero.

Samuel Streit Coursen, a son of New York accountant Wallace M. Coursen and his wife, Kathleen Howell, was born in Madison, New Jersey on the 4th day of August 1926. Sam was an outstanding athlete at Newark Academy. Sam entered the United States Military Academy in 1945.

Following Sam's graduation from the Point in 1949, he married his sweetheart, Evangeline "Evie" Sprague, a daughter of Captain Albert Sprague, of the United States Naval Depot at Lake Denmark, New Jersey. More than six decades have passed since their marriage. Evie, as she is known to her friends, remembered, "We had only a few years together and only one year of marriage, but it was the loveliest time of my life and was further blessed by the birth of my son Sam." "He was very good looking and was as nice as he was handsome," Evie fondly remembered. Former West Point classmate Philip Feir said, "I don't know when Sam met Evie Sprague. Never have I beheld a more complete happiness than theirs. My mind goes back to Sam coming down the ramp after receiving his diploma. And, there waiting for him at the bottom of the ramp was Evie. I think at that moment they were completely alone in that vast auditorium. Their marriage was . . . a perfect union."

After his early training at Fort Riley, the Coursens moved to Fort Benning, Georgia for a rigorous round of basic training at the Infantry School. After the war in Korea began in June 1950, Sam shipped out to Asia.

By mid September 1950, the forces of the United Nations, under the leadership of the United States, began preparations for the invasion of North Korea. On October 9, 1950, Sam's 1st Cavalry Division set out on the offensive, with his regiment, the 5th Cavalry, on the right flank. Sam was in his third day as commander of a platoon in Company C. The advance of the 5th regiment was stymied by North Korean positions in a trio of hills, fifteen miles northwest of Kaesong on October 12, 1950.

As C Company moved forward to its objective point, Hill 174, Coursen's platoon entered a camouflaged gun emplacement, one which they thought had been abandoned. When Lt. Coursen heard the cry of one of his men as he was ambushed by North Koreans, Coursen rushed to his aid. Without any regard for his personal safety, the six-foot, six-inch-tall West Pointer found himself entangled in a hand to hand fight with a squad of enemy defenders. When the skirmish was over, seven enemy soldiers were found dead, their heads smashed with the butt of Sam's rifle. Sam was dead too. The soldier, who Sam gave his life to save, was found alive. More important than rescuing a sole soldier, Coursen's dauntless actions neutralized the one impediment to the regiment's advance. The Division accomplished its mission by capturing Kumich that afternoon.

The early American successes wouldn't last long. The fighting was brutal, bloody and vicious, lasting until the summer of 1953. Lieutenants were among the first to die, prime targets for enemy sharpshooters as they scurried about attempting to put their men in position. Thirty-seven of Sam's classmates lost their lives in the war, eleven in the previous September alone.

Sam's body was buried with full military honors in the hallowed grounds of the cemetery at the United States Military Academy.

Sam Coursen hasn't been forgotten by his classmates, the Army, and his friends back in New Jersey. A year after his death, the athletic field at Newark Academy was dedicated to the school's war dead and named Coursen Memorial Field. At Fort Benning, Georgia where his son was born, the Infantry School named a rifle range for Sam. It adjoins one named for Gen. George S. Patton. There is a plaque in Cullum Hall at West Point honoring him, and one at Benning, too. The Baltusrol Golf Club at Springfield, New Jersey awards a silver cup, named for Coursen, to younger members who display the fallen hero's outstanding qualities.

The Army, in 1956, christened the Lt. Samuel S. Coursen, to ferry passengers between Manhattan and the First Army headquarters at Fort Jay, Governor's Island, New York. The ferry boat, which is still operating after fifty-four years, has carried the ordinary and the famous, including Queen Elizabeth and Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Sam's roommate, Lt. Philip R. Feir, in a letter to Sam's parents wrote, "One of Sam's finest traits was his splendid sense of humor and optimistic outlook on life. Coupled with his zest for life, Sam had tremendous loyalty and respect for his fellow men."

After Sam's death, Evie remarried to Dr. Wyatt B. Pouncey. Dr. and Mrs. Pouncey moved to Dublin, where Dr. Pouncey practiced medicine at the VA Hospital. They had two daughters, Barbara and Elizabeth.

Some people have called it the Korean War, the "Forgotten War" or the "Unknown War." Too many others dubbed it the "Korean Conflict." Armies stand ready in conflicts. They kill in wars. It is important to remind ourselves, that the killing and dying in Korea should not be forgotten, nor should we ever forget the heroism of Lt. Coursen and thousands of others.

As for little Sam, his father's heroism has inspired him to be the best he can be by leveraging his own talents to become a successful executive with NCR, AT&T, and currently as CIO of Freescale Semiconductor. One of the highlights of his life came in 1999 when his father's classmates invited Sam to come to their 50th class reunion. He heard the stories of the father he never knew and the man whom he has grown to love and admire, the stories of a real American hero.

So, on this anniversary of the gallant death of the father of one of our own, let us all remember that it is well that war is so terrible that we may grow too fond of it. And, when you go to bed tonight, say a prayer for the soul of Lt. Samuel S. Coursen, Sr., who made the ultimate sacrifice for us on a Korean hillside, sixty years ago today.