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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Written by my son, Scott B. Thompson, Jr. for a student project at Georgia College and State University, June 2010.

The front door to Doctor J.Roy Rowland’s house in Dublin opens, and there stands an elderly gentleman. A soft female voice calls out.

“J.Roy, did you get the paper yet?”

“Nope. Just about to.”

“It’s hot out there,” the eighty-four year old doctor and former Congressman tells his wife in a gentle Southern drawl, almost Jimmy Carter-like in timbre, as he re-enters the air-conditioned home. He walks down a long hallway, its walls laced with family photos taken over the years. Rowland stops just short of the end of the hallway and turns left into a home office of sorts that he calls “his room”. The wall decorations in this room include metals that he won during his time in the United States Army and in the Second World War. There’s one for valor, another for conduct.

“I was a good boy,” Rowland chuckles as he examines the six awards encased in glass.

The rest of the walls are covered with pictures of Rowland from his time in Washington. There are pictures of him with presidents, vice presidents, cabinet members, first ladies and fellow congressmen. Their faces are easy to recognize: Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, Tip O’Neil, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Reagan among others, all prominent faces on the national political scene during Rowland’s tenure.

But on one end of the wall, there are six framed pieces of legislation authored by Rowland and signed by presidents, with one of the pens used to sign them accompanying each. These are relics of Rowland’s biggest achievements as a Congressman.

“Washington was a different place in those days,” says Rowland.


James Roy Rowland Jr. was born on February 3, 1926 in Wrightsville, a small, rural South Georgia town roughly twenty miles east of Dublin. He was the older of two children of James Roy Rowland Sr. and Jerridine Brinson Rowland. Almost everyone on his mother’s side of the family was involved in medicine, either as pharmacists or physicians. He spent most of his childhood in his grandfather’s drugstore in Wrightsville, and it was there that he gained his interest in medicine that would later lead to his medical career. His father’s side of the family consisted of lawyers. The older Rowland was a solicitor general, nowadays known as a district attorney, and eventually a Superior Court judge. Rowland also had uncles and cousins who had served in the state legislature as well as his grandfather. Furthermore, his younger brother Joe practiced law in Wrightsville and served as a Magistrate Court judge for fifty-six years. Consequently, politics was always a big topic of conversation among the Rowland men, something that would fuel J. Roy to enter public office later in life.

Rowland graduated from Wrightsville High School in 1943, where he played football and was a member of the Beta Club. He enrolled at Emory College at Oxford for two quarters in the fall of 1943. By that time, it was the height of World War II, and most of his friends had entered the military and gone off to fight. Rowland convinced his parents to allow him to join the Army. He had initially planned to join a specialized training and reserve program while continuing to go to school, but wound up, however, going to an infantry basic camping center in Florida, where he was placed in the Thirteenth Armored Division of the Armored Infantry.

Rowland’s infantry regiment arrived in Europe in January of 1945. He participated in two campaigns in and around Central Europe as a machine gunner, where he received a badge for valor for his service. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, and Rowland’s division returned home in July. From there, he married his longtime childhood sweetheart, Luella Price, on August 3. Rowland was immediately called back into action, with his division scheduled to land on the island of Japan on August 5. The United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6 and another one on Nagasaki a few days later, effectively ending the war. Rowland remained in the Army for a few more months before being discharged in 1946. He was twenty years old.

After the War

Upon returning home, Rowland worked as a city mail carrier in Wrightsville for a few months before being accepted to South Georgia College in Douglas. After a couple of quarters there, he went to the University of Georgia for two years. In 1948, Rowland was accepted to the Medical College of Georgia. After taking some aptitude tests, he was advised he most likely would not make it through, and if he did, he would finish in the lower third of his class. J. Roy Rowland graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in 1952, sixth out of a class of seventy-eight, one of the proudest moments of his life according to him.

From there, Rowland went to Macon, where he interned and did a residency in a family practice. He then moved to Swainsboro for six months as a doctor, and in 1954, he came to Dublin, where he has remained ever since. Rowland practiced family medicine in Dublin for twenty-eight years.

New Horizons

It was 1976, and while Jimmy Carter was making his ascension to the Presidency, the fifty-year Rowland began to develop an internal fire of his own. He wanted to go into politics. After all, the topic had been present throughout his family history. And with little to no presence of medical professionals in the state legislature, he could be relevant and significant early on. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives as a Democrat, where he served three terms. But his political career was only getting started.

In 1982, Rowland had grander sights in store. United States Representative Billy Lee Evans was immensely unpopular in Rowland’s district. He saw an opportunity and decided to take a gamble by challenging Evans for the Democratic nomination, an effort he was successful in. He liked politics and had begun to experience some burnout from the twenty-eight years of medical practice. He was fifty-six and wanted to make a change.

“Lots of people want to make a change at that age,” Rowland says. “The incumbent wasn’t doing a very good job, and the people were genuinely ready for someone else. I just wanted to get involved. It appealed to me.”

Rowland won the general election for Georgia’s Eighth Congressional District, representing Dublin and cities such as Macon, Valdosta, Albany and later Warner Robins. Some of his notable fellow freshmen members included John McCain from Arizona, who would later be elected to the Senate and become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008, and Harry Reid, who currently is the Majority Leader in the Senate.


Rowland was active on several issues over the course of his time on Capitol Hill. These included issues in transportation, education, agriculture, defense, the environment, foreign affairs, veterans affairs, and, more than anything else, healthcare and medical issues.

He got to work on health quickly, sponsoring legislation to take a drug called Quaalude off the market, an effort he had been successful with in the Georgia Legislature. Quaaludes, also known as the Love Drug, Disco Biscuits, Vitamin Q, and Ludes among other names, had first been introduced in the United States in 1965. It was a Central Nervous System depressant, designed to help people with insomnia sleep.

Rowland prescribed the drug to patients for six months, before noticing that his patients were coming back more and more. They had become psychologically and physically dependent on the highly addictive drug, which had become the top abused drug by teenagers throughout the country. He pushed for Quaaludes to be removed from the shelves and placed on the most restrictive drug lists along with cocaine and heroin. He had done so in Georgia, which had become a case study for the illegal distribution through black markets. Rowland’s bill was passed and signed into law by President Reagan. The legislation hangs on Rowland’s wall in his room, and he points to it proudly.

Rowland was one of only two doctors in the Congress for the majority of his time there. One, Larry McDonald of Marietta, was killed in a plane crash not long after Rowland’s arrival, and the other, Ron Paul of Texas ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate, leaving Rowland as the only doctor in Congress for a period of four years.

Rowland thought that his expertise in the field of healthcare would aid him in being a prominent voice on health issues. With this in mind, he lobbied for a spot on the health subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce committee in the House. It was like running for office all over again according to Rowland, who found out that such assignment decisions could be based on purely ideological lines. He was viewed as a moderate to conservative Democrat, much more so than the liberal leadership of his party in the House. And he was a member of the Conservative Democratic Caucus, known today as the Blue Dog Coalition. This led to Rowland being denied a seat on the subcommittee for some time. He did get a seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, where he was the chairman of the healthcare subcommittee, where he helped get the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Dublin’s name changed to the Carl Vinson Medical Center, named after the longtime Milledgeville Congressman. He also helped establish an outpatient clinic for the hospital.

Eventually Rowland finally earned the health subcommittee spot he had sought on the Energy and Commerce Committee. He had helped the Democratic leadership with legislation regarding the contras in Central America, and he had been instrumental in creating a national commission on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This in turn had increased his favor in the eyes of the leadership, and he was rewarded with the spot.

In his eyes, Rowland’s greatest achievement in Washington would turn out to be his greatest disappointment. As Bill Clinton came into the Presidency, rising healthcare costs were a chief concern. In most ways healthcare reform had become the most critical issue in the country at the time. Rowland was one of five Democrats and five Republicans who put together a healthcare bill in 1994 designed to fix many of the problems without making drastic changes to the system. Mike Billirakis from Florida was the chief co-sponsor on the Republican side. According to Rowland, the problems were in large part the same was they are today.

“I thought we needed to do some things like insurance reform, where insurance companies wouldn’t be exempt from antitrust, and where they would be able to sell insurance across state lines,” Rowland says. “I think there needed to be and still needs to be some malpractice reform done, and the Democrats were and are very weak on that. Litigation is one of the things that really drives up the costs of care.”

Rowland also provided a way that, according to him, would get medical care to everyone who couldn’t afford it.

“My idea was to establish a network of community health centers throughout the country that would be operated by federal, state and local governments. And there would be citizen groups who would have local boards in the communities and run these,” Rowland says. “They would provide care to people who could not afford to pay. That would provide all the outpatient care that was needed.”

At the same time, the Democratic leadership was touting more comprehensive reform legislation aimed at providing universal health coverage being pushed by First Lady Hillary Clinton, and as a result, Rowland and his co-sponsors were never given a hearing on their bill.

Rowland believes his bill would have passed if it had gotten to the floor. In fact there were more than 100 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisles, and according to Rowland, several members had committed to vote for it if it could get to the floor. However, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee told Rowland that he would never let it out of committee.

“It was pure politics, and that’s the way so much of what happens is now,” Rowland says with a tone of resignation.

Rowland feels that problems in healthcare have not gone away today. With President Obama’s plan to expand Medicaid and health insurance coverage to an additional thirty-five to forty million people, Rowland fears that there are not going to be enough doctors to provide the care. As a member of the Board of Directors for the Medical College of Georgia, he cites the Board of Regents’ struggles to obtain another medical school in the state or at least expand the one in Augusta to Athens.

“There’s just not enough physicians now, so what is going to happen with all of these additional people,” Rowland asks. “There’s not going to be enough personnel to provide the care.”

Even more so among his concerns is the fact that every person that is sixty-five and retired has to go on Medicare, which according to Rowland, does not pay enough to cover the medical expenses, which in turn would lead many doctors less inclined to treat Medicare patients.

“Just like Medicaid, I don’t know where they are going to be able to get the care,” he says, shrugging. “The doctors can’t accept balanced billing. We can’t pay them additional money. If doctors accept what Medicare pays, that’s all they’re going to get. So I think it’s going to be chaos.”

Time to Come Home

By 1994, the fire that had first led Rowland to enter politics was beginning to fade. He was sixty-eight, and the Democrats were on their way to a shellacking in the 1994 Congressional midterms. Another big reason was the vastly changing political climate at the time.

“When I went there, Tip O’Neil was the Speaker and Bob Michel from Ohio was the Minority Leader on the Republican side. They were great friends and there was a lot of goodwill,” Rowland says. “There was a lot of debate, but there was not the acrimony that exists now. That was true for ten years, and then not so much the last two years I was there.”

Rowland had fallen out of touch with the leadership of his party, as he remained on the conservative side and the leadership drifted more and more to the left. He had always been an independent mind, and was a different type of Democrat.

“One thing that distresses me now is I hear the media say there’s no such thing as a moderate Democrat anymore,” Rowland contends. “If you’re going to be a moderate kind of person, then you’ve got to be on the more liberal side if you’re going to remain a Democrat. That’s unfortunate, and I don’t think that’s true.”

The last straw came when Majority Leader Dick Gephardt had, according to Rowland, refused to seek help from Republicans on healthcare reform.

“I felt like we needed Republicans too because they had some bright people,” Rowland says. “It’s the same thing that’s happening today.”

Rowland chose not to seek re-election to his office. He was going home.

The Personal Side

But in addition to the political side of things, there was always a personal side for Rowland as well. There were a number of fellow members in Congress who stood out to Rowland, many of whom he became close friends with. In addition to Billirakis, with whom who he had grown close, especially when writing their healthcare bill, there was Sonny Callahan from Alabama and Jim Cooper from Tennessee. There was Bill Thomas from California and Fred Gandy from “somewhere in the Midwest”. And there was Porter Goss from Florida, who would later become the head of the C.I.A., and Dennis Hastert, who eventually became Speaker of the House. Then there were the ones that Rowland was not so close with like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the latter of whom is currently the Speaker of the House, which has surprised Rowland.

“She came a couple of terms after I did and didn’t seem that aggressive to me,” he says. “As a matter of fact, I went to a town meeting in her district one time, and I knew she was a fairly liberal person, but I didn’t realize that she was as liberal as she is.”

Rowland was also left with impressions of all three presidents who occupied the White House during his time in Congress. He remembers Ronald Reagan as a very affable guy who was easy to talk to. Rowland visited Reagan along with other members several times at the White House, once working closely with the fortieth president on an MX missile plan.

Out of the three, Rowland liked George Bush the most. He was a friend of Sonny Montgomery, a longtime member from Mississippi who had been close friends with Bush for several years. On many occasions, Bush came to the gym and played racquetball with Montgomery, and it was there that Rowland got to know Bush on a more personal level.

Rowland’s outlook on Bill Clinton was a bit different from the previous two commanders-in-chief.

“He was all politician, a very smooth guy. You never did know what he said to you. He’d talk to you, and you’d wonder what he said or meant,” says Rowland.

He recalls an instance that when the healthcare bill was being written in the executive office, the different care providers had been excluded from writing the bill. Rowland questioned Clinton on the matter, saying that he felt the providers should be included.

“After all, if you’re going to reform the judicial system, you wouldn’t deny all the lawyers the right to be a part of that,” Rowland says. “And (Clinton) kind of just shook his head. I thought really that he was deceitful. Very affable guy, but I didn’t believe much of what he said.”


After leaving Washington, he became the medical director on a part time basis for the Department of Medical Assistance, a Medicaid program in Georgia at the time, for two years. In 1999, he began working with the Community of Mental Health of Middle Georgia, where he remains today, just down the street from his home. The Laurens County Courthouse building in downtown Dublin was re-named in his honor.

“I have some very fond memories of my time in Washington. The people treated us very well,” Rowland says as he exits his room and heads back down the hallway, past the photos of his parents, ancestors, wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

He finds Luella, his wife of nearly sixty-five years, watching television in the living room, and he looks relaxed, confident that he remained true to himself in more than a decade spent in the nation’s capital, and that he represented the interests of his constituents first and foremost because, after all, “they will send you home if you don’t”.

Rowland knows that as a doctor, treating patients every day is the chief priority. But there always comes a point in the day to leave it and go home. Rowland’s desire to help people through medicine had enticed him to take it a step further, to leave his practice in Dublin behind, and to try to help people at the national level through legislation as a Congressman. It is an experience that Rowland continues to treasure.

“Public service is a very noble service. It’s great that people really put that trust in you and look up to you, and I would encourage everyone to take that opportunity if they get it,” he says.

The front door closes.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


An American Dream

Alice (Craig), Alma, Gus and Majeed Jepeway

Gus Jepeway had a dream. As a young shepherd boy, Gus would sit on the rocks in a grove of olive trees in the valley surrounded by the mountains of Douma, Lebanon and dream about wondrous places. He had seen the Temple of Jupiter across the Bekaa Valley in Baalbek, built by the Romans just after the death of Jesus. Gus once or twice ran fat-tailed sheep through that ancient Roman palace. He would dream of far better places, places where he could be free from the fighting which had ravaged his homeland for thousands of years.

About a century ago, Gus decided to leave his home and all that he had ever known and travel by boat and train a third of the way around the world to join his uncle Mose Jepeway. The sixteen-year-old immigrant boy landed on Ellis Island. “It must have seemed like a different planet,” said his granddaughter, Dr. Marie Craig Hooks. Gus traveled by train to Dublin, where he lived over his uncle’s store on West Jackson Street in a building just to the right of the present day Deano’s Restaurant.

Three years or so later, Gus was joined by his younger brother George. George also made the long voyage without being able to understand only a few words in English. George arrived in Dudley. Not being able to hear and understand the conductor’s announcement, young George left the train thinking that he was in Dublin. Much to his horror, he was not. Imagine not being able to communicate to anyone about who he was or even where he was. George was taken in and boarded by a kind family. The next morning arrangements were made to take him to Dublin. He left his coat as security for his promise to return to repay his first dose of Southern hospitality. As George was coming into Dublin, he noticed his brother and Flannery Pope riding motorcycles. George bolted from the train, dropped his possessions, and ran down the dirt street, waving and yelling in Arabic, “Brother Gus! Brother Gus!”

From the very beginning, Gus found an urgency to become a part of the culture of the United States. He felt that if he was coming to this country, he was going to be an American. He worked hard to understand the vocabulary. But, Gus had a problem. He was nearly stone cold deaf.

Despite his disability, Gus learned to read lips in English. But, Gus never learned to read English. In his culture, words were written and read from right to left. The Arabic characters were also vastly different from the English alphabet. The numbers were the same, but Gus would never in his life be able to read in English, although he spoke it fluently without ever hearing it spoken afer his mid twenties.

Gus eventually married the love of his life, Alma. Alma Samaha came to the United States when she was twelve years old. She was sick during the entire voyage. Alma was introduced to Gus by the Shehan family who lived with the Jepeways above Mose Jepeway’s store. Alma never forgot her days in Lebanon. In the morning, she was allowed to write and speak in Arabic. In the afternoon, the laws of the French controlled area mandated that she write and speak in French. Religious persecution was often the norm as Muslims and
Christians took turns in governing the country. When Alma arrived in America, she took courses in English. It was only when she began to think in English that Alma Jepeway became comfortable with being a true American.

Gus went to work in the livestock business. After World War II, Gus Jepeway formed a partnership with Hugh Craig, who married his daughter Alice. Billed as the Jepeway-Craig Company, the company was one of the largest stock operations in this area of the state. The company also maintained an abattoir to process and slaughter meat for the public. The business closed in 1989 after a series of farm strikes, foreclosures and the plain fact that not many farmers’ kids were going into the cattle business.

Determined to succeed, Gus learned how to communicate with Georgia farmers, although he never heard a single word they said. Unable to hear the auctioneer’s requests for bids during cattle auctions, Gus employed someone to point to the current bid on a chart, a job once held by James Carr.

After a long day at the stockyards, Gus would love to sit down and watch television.  When his favorite show, Gunsmoke, came on, Alma would sit down with Gus and write out the story line so that he could follow along with the action.

Gus and Alma joined the Catholic Church in Dublin. Gus became a member of the Dublin church because he felt more at home with the Roman Catholic faith, which was close to his Maronite upbringing. Because Gus was unable to hear the music and most of the services, he didn’t attend mass on a regular basis, but remained a highly spiritual man reading The Upper Room in Arabic, along with his daily Arabic language newspapers. Alma, however, was an integral part of the early days of the Catholic Church in Dublin, which was composed of a number of Lebanese, Greeks and Eastern Europeans.

The Jepeways enjoyed a grand social life in Dublin with friends and family. Being nearly half way between Washington, D.C. and Miami, Florida, the family’s home was a layover stop along the way. When the families got together, there was fine eating, card playing, and story telling.

Two children, Alice and Majeed, were born to Gus and Alma. Both were highly intelligent and award winning students. The family moved to Miami briefly at the request of family members. Alice remembered the time when a hurricane struck their home and her mother put Majeed’s cradle on top of a table when flood waters rushed in. Gus, who liked Florida not too much, returned quickly with his family back to Dublin. Majeed, a dark and handsome young man like his father, always wanted to be a pilot. But on one tragic day, Majeed cut himself on a rusty nail and died, tearing the heart and soul out of the Jepeways. Alice gave up her dream of going to college to remain with her grieving parents.

From their first days in Dublin, being an American was ingrained in the Jepeway family. Their children were always taught to work hard and do the right thing. That mantra was never more apparent than the time when Gus gave his grandson, Jep Craig, some cows to raise for a year so that he could sell them and buy his first car. When the time came, Gus gave his friend, Charles McMillan, a sum sufficient to buy the cows and pay for the car. Jep found out later, but he learned a valuable lesson.

When Gus Jepeway came to America, he saw vast natural resources and an opportunity to succeed. Appreciating what he had, Jepeway never missed an opportunity to give back to his community.

Dr. Marie Hooks credits and applauds the people of Dublin for accepting her family.  “When you don’t understand someone’s culture, it leads to misinformation, which leads to fear,” said Dr. Hooks. Her grandparents were able to assimilate into the culture despite their darker skin and deep Lebanese accents.

Although, Gus Jepeway lived in Dublin for more than fifty years, he never became a naturalized American citizen. The ship on which he came to Ellis Island later sank. He was never able to prove to the U.S. government when he arrived. So to the government, Gus Jepeway was just a green-card carrying legal alien. But to Gus and those who knew and loved him, his American dream came true. In his heart, Gus Abdullah Jepeway was first and foremost, an American.

So, happy birthday America! May you always continue to be a land where the dreams of a young shepherd boy from faraway places like the mountains of Lebanon can and will always come true.


Photo by Tommy Martin


Photo by Tommy Martin
                                                              Malone's Lake - Late 1960s.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010



We used to hang horse thieves and cattle rustlers. But the question remains, what do you do with a chicken stealer. Times were getting tough after World War I. Actually, times were tough before and after the "War to End All Wars." And quite frankly, they still are. A rash of thefts of chickens began to plague the city of Dublin. The chicken kleptomania reached a pinnacle in the weeks before Christmas in 1920, sending chicken and even turkey owners into a panic. There were many a Dubliner who fancied themselves as breeders of fine chickens. These were the folks who were especially worried about the snatching of a prize rooster or hen. It appeared to police that a gang of chicken coppers conducted planned and systematic raids in all the chicken houses and turkey coops, one section of the city at a time, and with great success. Police were at loss to catch the poultry pluckers as they helped themselves to fine chickens and fat turkeys just in time for Christmas.

One chicken thief went after the best chickens he could steal. Everyone knew that N.G. Bartlett, Secretary of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, had some of the finest Rhode Island Reds anywhere in town. Arthur Davis knew it. And, he was bound and determined to get his hands on the fine fowl, hoping to sell them for a substantial profit.

Davis sold a couple of fine hens to a restaurant keeper at a cheap price. Several days later, Davis reappeared and sold the man some more at a bargain. The restauranteur became suspicious and reported the incident to the police. Baffled as what to do with the hens, the officers decided for their own safety, to put the birds in a jail cell in the woman's section of the city barracks, that is until the identity of their true owner could be determined.

When Bartlett heard that there was a pair of laying hens locked up in the jail, he immediately went to investigate the suspect for himself. After being hit three times in two weeks, Bartlett discovered that Davis' shoe was approximately the same size as the footprints left outside of his coop. The police verified Bartlett's finding and quickly set out to the restaurant before any more stolen chickens were fried, filleted or boiled. At the eating establishment they found Bartlett's pet chicken along with several other of Bartlett's prize poultry who were about to be put on the menu. Macon Telegraph, March 26, 1919, March 20, 1920, Dec. 12, 1920,


In 1882 all the children born in Dublin were boys. The following year all the new born babies were girls. "Colman's Rural World, Jan. 3, 1884"


George Griffin was proud of his produce. At Christmas time in 1882, Griffin brought some of it into the store of L.C. Perry & Co. What was unusual about this fruit was that they were bananas. And they were fresh. That's right! Seems Griffin had planted his banana plant some four years prior and protected it from the cold winters. The four-foot-tall bush produced about a baker's dozen or so of the yellow delicacies, which were almost as sweet and delicious as the imported variety. "Southern Cultivator, January, 1883"


When William Sugge of Dublin fired his gun, it blew off his hand. It appeared as if chimney swifts filled the barrel with clay. "Saturday Evening Post, Dec. 3, 1881"


John Doe, a twenty-one-year-old Dublin resident, woke up after a long night's slumber. He noticed he couldn't hear a sound and when he spoke no sound came from his mouth. The young man, who remained nameless, was said to have been in his early twenties, was very intelligent, and was a general favorite of everyone. "National Police Gazette, Sept. 18, 1880, Macon Telegraph, August 11, 1880"


Ed Outlaw and Billie Martin were working on the same stack of timber near Condor. Neither man realized how close they were until Outlaw's axe split Martin's nose in two. "Dublin Post, January 8, 1879"


Mary McDermott, of the United Kingdom, thought she had the record. Her three whoppers weighed twenty-four pounds. The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed her astonishing feat. What Guinness' record keepers don't know was that in the late winter of 1888, Mrs. C.I. Howell, of the Buckeye District of Laurens County, had her three whoppers. They topped the scales at an average weight of ten pounds a piece. No, these whoppers weren't large mouth bass or pumpkins, these prizes were three brand new bouncing babies. The triplets, described by the Dublin Gazette as "as a fine and healthy looking babies as can be found anywhere," weighed a total of thirty pounds.


Anyone who saw her couldn't help but pity poor Mrs. Milly Gibson. With no one to care for her, Milly was relegated to be an inmate of the Laurens County Almshouse. It was truly a shame. Here was a woman whose skull bones had been for years gradually gaping open at both the longitudinal and transverse sutures. Only the skin of her head kept her brains from oozing out of her skull. Puzzled physicians could take her pulse by placing their fingers in the fissures.

To keep her brain inside her head, Mrs. Gibson kept a kerchief tightly bound around her head fearing that it would burst open when the band was removed, even for a short time. In spite of her problems, she was considered to be as nimble as a cricket.

By the summer of 1880, Mrs. Gibson began to fail. On the 4th of July, she was still cooking a mess of vittles with the best of any cook in the county. Dr. Harrison reported to the Dublin Gazette that Milly "was drawn into a semicircle and cannot stand at all, and she can lie only about two hours in twenty-four." The 90-year-old woman did not weigh more than forty or fifty pounds, the approximate weight of her worn skin and crumbling bones, all of which were plainly visible. Her skull crevices continued to widen, causing blindness and bleeding through her nose. Mrs. Gibson told Dr. Harrison that she felt as if every bone in her body was broken.

On September 11, 1880, the torture mercifully ended. Mrs. Gibson was probably buried in the poor farm cemetery on the grounds of the Southern Pines Complex. Finally at peace, Milly Gibson was characterized as a 50-year opium eater, a 73-year inveterate smoker, and a 70-year member of the Methodist Church. Dublin Post, Sept. 10, 1879, Sept. 15, 1880, Macon Telegraph, Aug. 8, 11, 13, 1880.

Monday, June 14, 2010


If you are afraid of flying in a passenger jet, then you should be afraid of going outside, or even staying inside, during a thunderstorm. The odds of dying of one or the other are roughly the same. Lightning kills. It has killed some of us for hundreds and thousands of years. Here are some of the more remarkable stories of the bolts of fire, fire in the sky.

It was a muggy hot day on the afternoon of June 25, 1909. A large crowd of mourners gathered near the home of Anderson Whitehead some three and one-half crow-fly miles south of town on Honeysuckle Road. Some stayed inside the Whitehead School fearing that the storm out toward the west was coming all too soon. The preacher spoke the last words over the body of Mrs. Eliza Taylor. The men in black had just laid the boards over her coffin and the mourners bent down to scoop up some sandy loam to fill in her immortal grave. Frank McCall, a Negro man respected by all he knew, was standing in the cooling shade of an old tree, some ten feet from the grave. Charley Gardner, Will Simmons and others were seeking relief from the scorching sun, but it was McCall who was resting one hand on the tree and another on a wire fence.

In the bat of an eyelash it came. Traveling at half the speed of light, the 3000 degree hot bolt struck McCall instantly breaking his neck. Gardner, Simmons, and others were stunned but not hurt. Gardner, standing the closest to McCall, was immediately tended to by Dr. B.D. Perry, who was there to pay homage to the wife of his good friend, Mr. Jim Taylor. After carrying Gardner out of the enclosed plot, Dr. Perry examined and treated several stunned and terrified children who had been standing just outside the fence. It was only then that the doctor discovered McCall was dead. Mrs. Taylor's pall bearers picked up his lifeless body and carefully laid it on the funeral wagon. His body was buried several days later in the old Scottsville Cemetery in northeastern Dublin.

August 7, 1913 was another hot day in Dublin. Harry and John Stanley, sons of Georgia Commissioner of Commerce and Labor, Hal M. Stanley, were out rabbit hunting in the fields and woods north of Bellevue Avenue. The boys had been visiting their aunt and uncle while their parents were on vacation in New York. Harry noticed a bad looking thunder cloud coming up from the west and ran back to the home of his aunt, Mrs. William Pritchett, He reached shelter just before the bottom dropped out. Thirteen-year-old John stayed looking to bag one more rabbit. After the torrent diminished to a drizzle, a man stopped by the Pritchett's home to report that he had found a dead body in the field north of the house.

As Pritchett and the man approached the body, they noticed a couple of hunting dogs standing guard over John's motionless body. Harry, who followed a short distance behind, went into shock when he saw that his brother was dead. An examination of the body revealed little, if any, outward evidence of a lightning strike. A single small spot was burned into the back of his neck. His internal organs, however, were so twisted and disfigured that embalming became impossible. Owing to that fact, the body had to be buried immediately in the family plot in Northview Cemetery, while his grieving parents made their way back home to Dublin to comfort their grieving son.

A year before little John Stanley was savagely killed by lightning, John Purvis and Jim Myers were enjoying a leisurely Sunday evening sitting on the front porch of the Lovett home of Purvis' brother, H.A. Purvis. The men felt safe under cover from the cooling breeze which began to swell into a savage lightning storm. It was just after dinner. Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Purvis were cleaning the kitchen, while their daughter went out to play on the porch.

All of sudden, lightning struck the chimney, splitting it into two portions. Broken bricks crashed into the roof. Flames swept through down through the cracked boards into the kitchen. Another fork of the bolt traveled down the porch post and saturated the veranda with a deadly flow of electrons. Purvis, stunned and dazed, rushed to aid his wife, who was screaming that the house was on fire. After putting out the fire, Purvis ran to the front of the house to check on his daughter and his guests.

He found his brother and friend dead, still sitting upright in their chairs and bearing only a few black streaks on their legs as the only indication that they had been electrocuted. Shock turned into sheer terror when Purvis saw his daughter's lifeless body lying between the two men. With the aid of neighbors, who had rushed to the scene, Purvis put his brother and daughter in the bed. Mr. Purvis prayed. Mrs. Purvis cried. In a few minutes, the little girl rose out of her death bed into her mother's protecting arms.

Turner F. Schaufele was one of the three sons of Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Schaufele who were serving their country in World War I. Pvt. Schaufele was stationed at Camp Harris in Macon, Georgia. Shortly after 2:00 in the afternoon of July 18, 1916, the clerk of the Machine Gun Company of the 2nd Division was on sentry duty talking to his friend, Andrew Key of Augusta. They were there to warn pedestrians to stay away from a tent where George Ford was suffering from a bad case of contagious measles. When the rain began to come down in buckets, Schaufele ran to the Salvation Army tent, where he left his pistol to protect it from ruin. He spotted Key across the street and called to him to seek shelter so that they could both perform their duties in the perceived safety of tents. Key walked over to the Dublin boy to form a plan of action.

At that very instant, lightning came down striking the top of the forward tent pole. Traveling along a guy rope, the lethal electrical charge entered Key's head, killing him instantly. It appeared that the current sought out and found metallic objects, and in particular, the tip of Key's scabbard. Turner Schaufele never saw what hit him. He fell to the ground. When he tried to right himself, Schaufele leaned one elbow on Key's body, causing it to topple over onto him and pin him to the ground. Rescuers rushed in and carefully separated the men, fearing that their bodies contained a deadly electrical charge, which was gratefully an unscientific myth. Col. J.A. Thomas, a former Dublin resident, set his own speed record in coming to the aid of his dazed and stunned soldiers.

There are many stories like this. And, I will tell you about them at another time. For now and during this summer and throughout the year beware of the fire in the sky. The hauntingly beautiful streaks which light up the afternoon summer skies and turn the night skies into daytime are deadly. They electrocute. They don't discriminate. They incinerate. They kill.

For more history of Laurens County and East Central Georgia go to the digital edition of the Courier Herald or see my blog at

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


It's Census Time Again

It's that time again, time to fill out the forms or answer the doorbell and be counted. In 1790, the United States Congress began the process of enumerating the number of persons living in the various states. That process has continued for the last 220 years. Now, the time has come to answer the questions of who, what, and where we are so that centuries from now our remote descendants can learn a little bit about who we were. More importantly, the census results determines a wide variety of things, but in the end, it is all about money and politics. Isn't everything?

Unfortunately the first census rolls of Georgia taken in 1790, 1800, and 1810 are lost, thanks to the bloody British, who torched them as they pillaged the government buildings of Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812. Early census takers recorded the names of the heads of household along with notations of age ranges of the inhabitants, broken down to male and female. Slaves were counted by age and sex, but not by name.

A monumental change occurred in 1850, when census takers first recorded the names and nearly exact ages of the persons in each household. Property ownership, occupations, place of nativity, and literacy were recorded for the first time. Another new feature in the 1850 Census were the mortality schedules which listed all persons who died in the previous year. Additionally, planters and farmers' production records were calculated and recorded for the first time. A third new feature were the slave schedules, which recorded the number and ages of slaves along with their owner's name.

In the first census after the Civil War in 1870, African-Americans were listed for the first time. Additional information was added every year. Many of these families chose the surnames of their former masters or persons whom they admired.

Once again in 1890 the nation lost its census records to a fire.

At the turn of the 20th Century, even more information was recorded. Addresses of houses in cities on named streets were recorded for the first time. The last census to be released was the 1930 Census in 2002. In order to protect the privacy of living Americans, Federal law prohibits the public release of records for seventy-two years.

The number of inhabitants were relatively unimportant until politics crept in and made them more than important. Seats in the United States House of Representatives and delegates to the Electoral College are prorated between the states based on the totals of the last decennial census.

In Georgia, the census became more important when the long established county unit system of one county and its one seat in the House of Representatives was abolished and seats were prorated by population in the state's 159 counties.

In the last 50 years, social, economic and racial statistics gathered by census takers have had a direct impact on the distribution of Federal funds, voting districts, school assignments. In today's world, the need for a bigger share of the pie is more important than it ever was.

Although individual names for the Laurens County's first census in 1810 are not available, the county's total counted population was 2210. Slaves accounted for 22.5 percent of the population. That figure would increase every ten years until it peaked in 1850. The addition of new land on the east side of the Oconee River caused the county's population to rise in 1820 by 146 percent. The opening of new lands in southwestern and western Georgia created a stalemate in the county's growth for more than twenty five years. With the rise of the plantation system, the county experienced a 15% growth in the 1840s and a 8.6% rise in the 1850s when the county's total population rose to nearly 8000 (53% white, 47% black.)

In the decades following the Civil War, the county's population continued to rise from 7,834 in 1870 to 10,053 in 1880. That's when the numbers begin to change dramatically. The coming of railroads, the prohibition of barrooms, the clearing of virgin timberlands, and the cultivation of cotton brought about a thirty percent increase during the 1880s. The 1890s were the defining decade in our county's history. In 1890, there were a mere 13,747 souls who were listed on the roles. In a single decade, that population rose to 25,908 for an increase of more than 88%.

The county's explosive growth continued in the first decade of the 20th Century, when the population leapt officially to 39,605 for a mere gain of 37%, but good enough to push Laurens County into sixth place in the population of Georgia's counties, falling only behind Fulton (Atlanta), Chatham (Savannah), Bibb (Macon), Richmond (Augusta,) and Muscogee (Columbus).

Laurens County's rapid growth peaked during the latter years of the 1910s, when a world war and an epidemic of influenza, along with the coming of the boll weevil and the virtual death of the cotton crop ended Laurens County's meteoric population growth. The total population stood at 39,605, a figure which was probably higher in the two previous years. In the first quarter of the 20th Century, Laurens County, the state's largest county in area, was either first or second in the number of farms with approximately five thousand.

Population counts decreased in the 1920s, but stabilized in the 1930s. Black families left in masses seeking better paying jobs in the North. After World War II, the county's total population continued to fall, despite the influx of many new industries and the expansion of the VA hospital. Most of these losses came in the black population, which had fallen from its 1910 level, when black citizens virtually accounted for half of the county's population.

It wasn't until 1990 when the county's population rose beyond it's pre-World War I numbers. Nearly 45,000 people called Laurens County home in 2000. An estimate of the county's population last year was 48,295. State planners believe that the number of inhabitants in this year's count will be 49,125. By the year 2030, it is expected that nearly 64,000 people will live in Laurens County.

The choice is yours. Remember being counted means desperately needed funds to help our community continue to grow and to cope with the increasing problems we face in our daily lives. Stand up and be counted.