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

Monday, July 26, 2010


Crossing the Line

Isaac Brown, Jr. lived in fear of Indians for most of his life. He had reason to be afraid. A group of unfriendly Indians killed his father. They tried to kill his mother. They even tried to kill Isaac, too. So, when Isaac got a chance to save another woman from the hands of barbaric captors, Isaac remembered the blood curdling terror in his mother's eyes, the day they crossed the line.

After the Treaty of Augusta was signed in 1783, the State of Georgia began to carve her pristine lands into new counties. The largest of these was Washington County, named in honor of the nation's greatest hero, General George Washington. Almost from the beginning, Indian leaders began to have second thoughts about the treaty. Alexander McGillivray, the half-Scottish chief of the Creeks, repudiated the treaty and opted instead to negotiate with Spain over the title to the lands along the Oconee River.

The treaty defined the line between the land of the Creeks and the land of the State of Georgia as the Oconee River with the east side belonging to Georgia and the west side to the Indian tribes. Despite the treaty, isolated groups of the Creeks ventured over the line into homesteads granted to former soldiers of the American Revolution. Some of these forays often resulted in violent attacks on the settlers or their unwelcome visitors.

Despite the fact that Chief McGillivray, upon the enticement of President Washington, reversed his position and signed the treaty of New York in 1790, violent encounters along the Oconee resumed and did not reach a climax until 1796. In order to prevent attacks upon her citizens, Georgia established a series of forts along the lower Oconee River. The main fort was established at Fort Fidius, southeast of present day Milledgeville. Next was a fortress at Long Bluff, west of present day Oconee, Georgia at the point where the Central of Georgia Railroad now crosses the Oconee. Some twenty miles to the south, Fort Telfair was established at Carr's Bluff, opposite today's Dublin Country Club. The last in a series of forts was built in 1793 on Berryhill's Bluff, west of current day Lothair in Treutlen County. These forts, placed at all too distant intervals, proved woefully ineffective in preventing the Creeks from crossing the line to the eastern banks of the Oconee.

Isaac Brown, Sr. decided that he would venture across the dividing line and build a home for his family on the west side of the river on lands still held by the Creeks. The home, located some two miles from Long Bluff, was a modest affair with no additional fortifications beyond the usual thick walls and iron locks. Brown hoped to capitalize on the virgin grasslands to raise cattle.

Brown, known as a man without fear, always maintained a stock of loaded guns just in case his family was attacked. As a means of maintaining an early warning system, Brown kept a pack of fine hunting dogs around to alert him of anyone approaching his home.

Although many thought the highly celebrated retaliation against Creeks led by Benjamin Harrison at Carr's Bluff some six months earlier would have prevented the Creeks from crossing the Oconee, river valley dwellers still lived in constant fear of the Creeks, who usually respected the treaty and remained on their side of the river.

On an early morning in May 1797, all of that changed. And, so did the life of Isaac Brown and his family forever. This time it was a white family who crossed the line. The senior Brown heard his dogs barking. When he opened his door to see what the matter was, he was immediately shot dead by an Indian hiding just outside the door.

The attackers, said a report in The Eastern Herald to number ten, began to yell and hoop. Mrs. Brown managed to drag her husband's corpse into the house. She then gathered all of the rifles she could and fired at anything that moved. Initially she succeeded, fending off the assault. But soon, the attackers returned.

All of sudden, Mrs. Brown noticed that her board shelter adjoining the home was on fire. Quickly and as calmly as she could, Mrs. Brown climbed the wall on the inside and extinguished the fire with a big bowl of milk. While she was pouring the milk onto the flames, her exposed arm was shot and broken by a rifle bullet.

The determined lady persevered. And, with the help of a young boy, a son of one James Harrison, she managed once again to ward off the attackers. Mrs. Brown, the Harrison boy and Isaac, Jr. were able to escape back across the river to safety in Washington County. A company of men were dispatched to the scene to investigate Mrs. Brown's claims. There they found Brown's body in the house. Not too far from the house were the bodies of two dead Creek braves, who had unsuccessfully attempted to treat their wounds.

Two decades later, Isaac Brown, Jr. was living with his mother in Twiggs County. Thomas Woodward, who had been appointed by General Andrew Jackson to collect as many Indians as he could and join him at Fort Scott, called upon Isaac to go with him to Florida to end the troubles in the newly acquired territory.

Before they left, Mrs. Brown pleaded to her son, "Isaac, my son, the Indians killed your father and may kill you, but I had rather hear of your being killed than to hear that my son was a coward," as she remembered the day she and a young boy beat back ten Indians by themselves in what Woodward described as "no sham fight."

Isaac had no horse, so both men set out on foot and made their way to Fort Early, where they obtained mounts. The men joined the army of Gen. William McIntosh, another half-Scottish Chief of the Creeks and a first cousin of U.S. Senator George M. Troup of Laurens County, to seek out and destroy Seminole strongholds.

Dressed like Indians, Brown and Woodward came upon a band of Seminoles, which included Billy Powell, the future and powerful Osceola, Chief of the Seminoles. There they found and rescued Mrs. Stuart, who had been captured a year or so before in an attack on Fort Scott. Brown remembered how his own mother had nearly been killed by Indians. Mrs. Stuart was much more fortunate, having been treated kindly by Yellow Hair, an old Indian in the camp. He rejoiced in that he was able to save yet another woman from harm.

Some thirty five years after the Treaty of Augusta established the Oconee River as the border between the Creeks and the whites, the people along the eastern Oconee River would finally rest with no fear of being attacked by those who would cross the line.

Monday, July 19, 2010


The Changing of the Guard

Today we vote. Whom we vote for, or should I say whom we elect, will determine who we are, not just for the next four years, but for decades and perhaps centuries to come. So, when you vote, consider who is the best candidate who will work the hardest to make our county and our state a better to place to live, not only in the years to come, but well into the 22nd Century.

The 1960 Laurens County Democratic Primary (there were no Republicans to be seen, much less on the ballot) was unique in our county's two hundred plus year election process. It represented the old versus the new, the World War II veterans against their fathers' generation. There were no women, they weren't allowed to play the political game. There were no black candidates, they weren't allowed to play either. Fifty-four candidates qualified to run for eighteen posts.
In the South in the mid decades of the 1900s, the most important offices were the sheriff, the judge, and the county commission. Each of these positions held a different degree of power. The county commissioners had the most effect on the daily lives of rural Laurens Countians, seeing primarily to the maintenance of public roads and bridges in the area, which today would be considered primitive. Judges were supposed to be devoid of politics, but that indomitable monster seemed to always loom over their heads, seeking to seize any opportunity to denigrate the way the courts seek justice.

One race in particular consumed the rumor makers, mud slingers and truth tellers. Never in the history of Laurens County had allegations, condemnations, and tell tale facts been so widely published and spoken during a local election. By far, the most celebrated and most highly contested race of 1960 election was the race for Sheriff of Laurens County. Four men wanted the job. Only one would be elected. The incumbent sheriff and the odds on favorite was Carlus Gay (above). Gay, the epitome of a southern sheriff, was known as a tough, no nonsense law enforcement officer who fought crime with unbridled zeal and hated labor unions with an endless passion. His opponents were veterinarian Dr. W. R. "Rock" Bussell, Gay's top deputy Charlie Powell, and Ray Camp.

Sheriff Gay touted his experience and dependability, sixteen years in all, in the fight against the dangerous activities going on in the South. Pointing directly to union activities, Gay promised to get rid of foreign rebel rousers who were attempting to exert their communistic influences on the people of Laurens County. "It could happen here, but it won't if you elect me sheriff," Gay proclaimed. The sheriff took pride in his efforts to rid the county of illegal liquor, citing 937 cases he made and the destruction of 84 stills in the previous four years.

Charlie Powell, who spent the entire decade of the 1950s working as a deputy under Sheriff Gay, cited his superior experience and promptness in actual law enforcement, while accusing Gay of spending too much time looking after his own personal business interests. Deputy Powell promised to save the county more than $10,000.00 a year by nipping criminal activities in the bud. Powell charged that the job shouldn't necessitate on the job training and promised 24-hour a day service.

Dr. Rock Bussell (left) a successful veterinarian and former member of the Armed Services, entered the race to end what he saw as an absence of honesty and impartiality in the sheriff's office. Bussell promised to end brutality in arrests and rid the county of organized rackets, which he stated were allowed to thrive under Gay's administration. Both Bussell and Powell criticized Gay for not upholding his word in his 1956 promise to accept a salary instead of a more lucrative fee system income and not to run for fifth term in 1960. Bussell also condemned Gay for his suit against the county. Bussell promised to cooperate with attorneys in cases and turn over his business interests to competent employees.

Meanwhile, Charlie Powell continued to hammer Carlus Gay in rallies throughout the county and in newspaper ads. He questioned Gay's acquisition of 1400 acres of land, a $50,000.00 home on Pine Forest Circle, a nice place at Lake-Sinclair, an interest in the Dairy-Queen, ownership of a finance company, and thousands of dollars in stocks in known and unknown companies, all at the expense of tax payers, bond posters, and criminals. Personally Powell liked Rock Bussell, but cited his lack of law enforcement experience, questioned his reasons for leaving a lucrative practice for a lesser salary, and wondered about the need to expend county funds to train him to be the new sheriff.

Powell accused Gay of furnishing duplicate ballots, pre-marked with Gay's name and other ticket candidates, primarily to Negro voters, who were then paid in money and liquor for returning their official unmarked ballots back to Gay's cronies.

Bussell had some strong words of his own. He resented Gay's law suit against the county, his refusal to accept a salary, Gay's support of racketeering, and his personal profiting from surety bonds in criminal cases. Further, Bussell criticized Gay for hiring mentally immature boy deputies. The vet was extremely upset at what he termed Gay's control of too many activities in the county calling them "Gestapo" and citing the inordinate amount of tattletales and spies under Gay's control. "Whip the grip of racketeers! Vote your objection against vice protection" was Bussell's cry.

Ray Camp, who would later be elected to several terms as Probate Court Judge, took a more laid back approach. Never running a single newspaper ad, Camp admitted that he was the illegitimate candidate whom experts said shouldn't be in the race. He implored voters not to be a sidewalk Socrates, always talking about issues, but never doing anything about them. He urged voters not to fear and "to vote like you talk for the way of life you believe in" and that he would be with them every day for the next four years.

On September 14, 1960, a record number of voters turned out to vote in the many highly contested races. Wash Larsen defeated Beverly Hayes in the District Attorney's race to mark a new era in postwar solicitors. Judge Harold Ward defeated N. G. Reeves, Jr. of Soperton, despite his domination of Ward in Johnson, Treutlen, and Twiggs counties. This election marked the first time a World War II veteran would sit as a judge.

Despite Gay's misfortunate emergency appendectomy just weeks before the election, the incumbent sheriff edged Bussell by three percentage points in the primary with 37% of the vote. Powell garnered a quarter of the vote, while Camp didn't top 4%. Gay dominated Dublin and in his ancestral home areas near Cedar Grove. Amazingly, Gay, despite his tenuous relationship with African-Americans, dominated the black vote.

A run-over election was held one week later. Rock Bussell received nearly 58% of the votes with the support of the majority of Powell's and Camp's supporters. The top candidates would slug it out again in 1964 when even more mud was slung. Bussell won that race too and went on to serve as the Sheriff of Laurens County for twenty years.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


After all the "I dos" were said and done, in stepped Mrs. Dailey and said, "No, you don't." She wasn't Mrs. Dailey, the bride, but Mrs. Dailey, the mother. Trouble was, Mrs. Dailey, the bride, and Mrs. Dailey, the mother, were roughly the same age. And, that's where this soap opera gets good.

The Dublin City Board of Education needed a music teacher. Their first choice wasn't available, but their second choice came highly recommended by Rev. M.A. Jenkins, the former pastor of the First Baptist Church, which was located just across Bellevue Avenue from the high school. Board members had no reason to suspect the young musician was any less than 21 years of age. After all, his application had been endorsed by Dr. Joe Broughton, Rev. Julien Rogers and a host of well renown Atlanta musicians.

J. Avary Dailey came to Dublin in the winter of 1907 to begin his duties as a music teacher. Along with him came his mother, Mrs. Annie L. Dailey. After Friday classes ended on March 22, Dailey purchased a ticket aboard the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad and made his way to Sandersville. The following day, he met his secret fianc‚, Mrs. Mana Kitchens, the widow of Mr. J.H. Kitchens of Dublin. The couple traveled back to her former home in Sparta, where they were married on Monday morning.

Young Avary Dailey was terrified that his mother would object to his marriage to a much older woman. And, he had good reason to believe that his mother would try to stop the whole thing. Dailey returned to Dublin on Wednesday. Mana Kitchens returned to her home in Sparta to wait out the storm. He tried to get his friends to hide him from his domineering matriarch telling them that he she would never let him leave again. And, he was right.

When Annie Dailey discovered that her son had indeed married, she went to the police station to see what she could do to stop the marriage. The police officer seemed unimpressed that her son may have fallen under the spell of the wicked wife when her son met her while giving music lessons to her 11-year-old daughter Pauline. Annie Dailey left Dublin for Atlanta. She sent a frantic telegram to her son to come home to see her as she was desperately ill. Avary suspected it was only a ruse to get him to leave his bride and fail in his duties as a teacher to complete the term. The following day he received a phone message which stated that his mother was dying in Dublin and needed to see him immediately. He still refused until his mother personally called the music teacher. Mother Dailey told her son that she wanted to see him in her Whitehall Street home in Atlanta to give her blessings to the marriage and say her goodbyes.

The hoodwink worked. The happily ever afters never had a chance. Under the endless domination of his mother's influence, Avary Dailey filed an action for a divorce in Laurens County Superior Court. Annie Dailey was quoted as saying that not more than once or twice in his life had he ever slept other than in the same bed with her.

Avary Dailey's attorney alleged that Mana Dailey did, by reason of superior age and mental ability, induce him to marry her. The complaint further stated to not to do so would cause comment in that they had been seen together in various places. The pleadings further stated that he was suffering from mental aberration and been so afflicted for a number of years, a condition subjected him to spells which affected his mind. Dailey further stated that he was less than eighteen years of age and that his wife was many years older and had five children of her own. In fact, Fred Kitchens, Mana's oldest child, was only three years younger than her husband.

In the days following the hullabaloo, Dublin residents felt sympathy for their young music teacher. The tide turned when the stories of his mother's domination spread throughout the town. Townsfolk felt sorry for the young man whom they thought was desperately trying to break
free from the securely tied strings of his mother's apron.

Then someone contacted Rev. Jenkins to ask him to explain his glowing recommendation. Upon his interrogation, Jenkins admitted that he thought he was recommending someone else for the position. Several Dublin residents had connections to Hancock County. They knew of the jilted bride's outstanding reputation back in Sparta.

Mana Dailey denied any fraud on her part, asserting that "the curly headed boy violinist" was not who his mother claimed him to be. She admitted that she was nearly twice her husband's age, but disclaimed any mental illness on his part, stating that he was of above average intelligence. Mrs. Dailey obtained the services of future judges K.J. Hawkins and John S. Adams to represent her in answering her beloved husband's action. In fact, practically every member of the Dublin bar volunteered to lend their legal knowledge to her attorneys out of sympathy for the poor woman and their disdain for the groom's domineering mother.

The defendant's attorneys fired back, claiming that Dailey was capable of earning at least $150.00 a month and that their client was entitled to temporary alimony.

L-R, Herbert  Dailey,Mrs. Dailey, and Avary Dailey

The people of Dublin were upset that Dailey and his mother consistently averred that he was less than eighteen when the school board members believed, or were led to believe, that the professor was at least twenty-five years old. In fact, Avary would turn nineteen in August.

The Daileys were divorced. Life went on. Avary Dailey returned to Atlanta to live with his mother and his brother, Herbert. Avary continued to teach music and play the violin in the symphony and opera halls of Atlanta. By 1920, Jay Avary Dailey was no longer living under his mother's roof. Hopefully he got away, but I suspect he may have died for he doesn't appear in the 1920 and 1930 censuses.

As for the deserted bride, she seems to have moved to Washington County where she and her daughter Ruth boarded in the home of J.A. Ray in 1910. Her daughter Ola was married in 1921 when Mana was residing in Devereaux, Georgia in Washington County. Her trail seems to disappear after that, although in 1959, an 85-year-old Mana Kitchens died in Stephens County. Was this the Mana Kitchens who was ditched by a wimpy husband who succumbed to the clinging demands of her overbearing mother-in-law and lived a long and hopefully happy life ever after? I would like to think so. After all, mother always knows best.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


A Salute to the Men and Women of the 148th

Cars pass by. The usual flags fly. No one knows their name. Though their families love them just the same. Copeland, Horne, Ashley, Rivera, some new guys, old ones been there before and done that. St. Patrick and Santa Claus watchers were gone to the beach. The faithful with flags in hand and in their hearts, stood by, waived and cheered, while too many others found too many better things to do on a hot Saturday morn. Politicians praised. Patriots applauded. Wives, mothers and children smiled.

Hotdogs, hamburgers cooking on the grill. Little boys, little girls, on the jumpers for a thrill.

Maybe it will be the last time to welcome them home. And, maybe many more will be there the next time.

But for now, let us pray that when they leave again, there will many more of those they fight for there, waving a flag, cheering out loud, and saying a prayer.

Monday, July 05, 2010


Myth, Legend, or Fact

For half a century, the belled buzzard was the object of headlines throughout the Southeastern United States and the subject of fascination, speculation and doubt. Was this scavenging bird real? News accounts always refer to "the belled buzzard" and rarely to "a belled buzzard." The question still looms, was there more than one of these creatures? And, if not, why were so many of them spotted for more than fifty years when the average buzzard lives just past the age of twenty years? Why were so many of them killed or captured? Why were they seen on succeeding days far, far away from where they were observed the day before?

First of all, let's clear up one fact. What we call a buzzard is not really a buzzard at all. The black birds we see soaring in the sky are in reality known as "turkey vultures." Now, where does the name "belled buzzard" come from? No one really knows. Apparently someone, or some ones, got the idea of tying bells around the necks of the ugly black birds.

One legend states that the bell around the buzzard's neck tolls to signal the upcoming death of a notable person. One account of the origin of the belled buzzard goes back to the latter years of the Civil War when "a group of jolly boys" belled the bird and released it into the wild. The first reported sighting of a belled buzzard in Georgia came in the winter of 1877 when the vulture was spotted over Cartersville. Seven years later over in nearby Taylorsville, a belled buzzard caused one field hand to flee in terror as he believed the sight was an omen of a deadly tornado. Another story claimed that in 1882, the bird was a pet belonging to a farmer Freeman in Paulding County. One day, one of his children attached a sheep bell to one of its legs. When it tinkled, the bird was so afraid that it flew away. The first night into his flight, the vulture landed on the roof a sharecropper's cabin. When the inhabitants heard the ringing, they ran out to see what the matter was. Seeing the black specter and hearing its haunting ring, they fled into the darkness fearing that the end of the world was at hand.

S.R. Bishop saw it over his cornfield in May 1885. The belled creature was spotted again in Georgia in McDuffie County in the winter of 1886. A year later, it was spotted in Tunis, Texas. By the end of the 1887, the bird had returned to Georgia, where it was eating the remains of a dead dog on the Rabun Hall place near Sandersville.

Alex Johnson, of Tennessee, claimed to have shot and killed the belled buzzard in the spring of 1888. A closer look at the bird's corpse revealed a bell three inches in diameter around its neck. Scratched on the bell were the words, "C.W. Moore, Alabama 1863." However, the clapper was gone, which seemed to explain why no one had heard the ringing in several months.

But, by the fall of that year, the belled buzzard was back in flight, this time over Dawson, Georgia. Upon seeing the bird, an elderly black woman picking cotton rose to her feet, raised her hands, and exclaimed, "Oh, Lawd!" before she ran for the safety of her home. Some thought the bird scolded her for her sins as the reason she fled for shelter.

Five years elapsed before the next appearance of the vulture in the spring of 1893 in Marietta and Calhoun, Georgia. After that, the next appearance came in Valdosta in 1899. It turned out the bird was not a buzzard at all, but an eagle shot by John M. Bennett.

With a revival of published stories about the legendary bird, there was always someone who would claim credit for putting the chime on the bird in the first place. When R.C. McCallister, of Fort Gaines, Ga., purportedly captured the belled buzzard and put it on display in May 1900, H. Cobb Davis, Jesse L. Jerrell, and George T. Smith, all members of the Echols Light Artillery during the late War Between the States, claimed that they set a sapling trap and captured the bird. Not wishing to kill their prisoner, the men released it with a copper bell attached to its neck with a leather strap.

A decade passed before "The Man from Juliette" saw the bird as it was flying toward Macon. J.E. Ledford claimed to have captured the buzzard near the Marietta Camp Ground in August 1912. Ledford's claim is somewhat doubtful in that he claimed that after he captured the bird, he removed the small brass bell and then set it free. Roger Taylor and several others saw it again a year later in Monroe County. Amazingly, the bell had found its way back onto the vulture's neck. Just after Christmas, the belled bird was spotted in Tifton for a holiday gathering with a wake of buzzards.

The famous flying fowl finally made it to Laurens County in May 1914. The bird was observed flying over the farm of T.J. Blackshear near Orianna by his farm hands, who alerted friends and family. They ran outside to see the bird and the rest of its friends feeding on a rotting carcass. These witnesses claimed that the other buzzards seemed to be afraid of their belled brother. A month later, the creature was spotted in Dallas by rural mail carrier H.Y. Holland near the same spot as it had been seen twenty years prior. W.C. Brown, of Culloden, was sure he saw the big buzzard with a tinkling silver bell as it flew low over his head.

The wandering bird was spotted in Boston, Ackworth, and Rebecca during the World War I years. In the spring of 1920, the Harrodsburg W.Va. Herald published the obituary of the turkey vulture. Members of the W.H. Leach family saw the emaciated bird and were sure its condition was mortal. But somehow the resilient creature, which had been present at all of the country's wars since the War of 1812 and was known to have been more than a century old, appeared in Waycross, still at the point of imminent death.

Like the phoenix, the belled buzzard rose from death to be seen by Messers Sadler and Cain in Thomas County and a week later in nearby Colquitt County in 1922. The bird returned to Middle Georgia when Miss Wilma Lowe of Gresston, Dodge County, said, "While I was in the backyard I was attracted to the tinkling of the bell. It sounded like a cowbell, only not so loud. I soon found that it was a buzzard flying around. I could see the bell plainly and it could be heard as the buzzard circled around me."

The legendary turkey vulture was seen sporadically in Hahira, Marietta, and Comer until W.C. Birchmore, who claimed he shot the bird, which had perplexed Georgians for 44 years. He put the dead animal and its bell on display. The belled buzzard was never heard or seen again. That is until thirty months later when it walked into Atlanta's Wesley Memorial Hospital in the summer of 1927 seeking treatment for its wounds. I'm not lying. This really happened.

Newspaper stories of the belled buzzard ended in August 1933, when the Atlanta Constitution reported that the famous critter, then still a chick, was finally and truly set free by Robert Nash.

Was the belled buzzard a myth, a legend or a fact? What do you think?

P.S. On the day this column was published, I received a call from Charles Taylor who way back about 60 years ago heard the tinkling of the belled buzzard as he was walking from his school to downtown Gillisville, Georgia. Thanks Charles!