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

Monday, May 31, 2010


Singing Praises unto The Lord

For all of his eighty-nine years, Mosie Lister has loved the Lord and music. This is the story of how a tone deaf Cochran, Georgia native grew up to become one of the greatest songwriters and performers in the history of Southern Gospel music.

Thomas Mosie Lister was born in Empire,  Georgia on September 8, 1921. His parents, Willis U. Lister, a farmer and barber, and Pearl Hobbs Lister a farm housewife, made sure that music was heard and made in their farm home in the Empire District of Dodge County. When his parents tried to teach Mosie how to sing, they discovered that he could not distinguish sounds. Through his studies of piano, guitar and violin, Mosie's tone deafness improved. Lister spent hours studying song writing and musical theories in his early years. With his musical impediments behind him, Mosie gave his life to God when he was seventeen years old.  Just before his graduation, Mosie won $10.00 as the second place finisher in a fiddling contest at the Macon City Auditorium.

Mosie graduated with honors from Chester High School in the spring of 1940. Not too long after that his family moved to 312 Dykes Street in Cochran.  Naturally his two loves merged into one, singing and writing praises unto the Lord. He attended singing schools, studying under the guidance of Gospel legends Adger Pace and G.T. "Dad" Speer.

Lister once said, "One of my weaknesses is my love of various styles of music, but one of my strengths is that I've always been able to recognize that God made it all. It's not bad unless we make it bad."

Mosie enrolled in the Vaughan School of Music in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee just as he began singing in gospel groups. One of Lister's first professional singing appearances came as a member of the Sunny South Quartet, which included Jim "Big Chief" Wetherington.

Though his singing career was just beginning, Mosie left the music world and joined the Navy in 1942. He served in Norfolk, Virginia, Key West, Florida and North Africa. he served as a soundsman second class.   Mosie came home in 1944 on furlough and did what he did best participate in a local gospel singing event.

Mosie lost his only brother, W.O. Lister, who went down with the U.S.S. Juneau, when she sank on November 13 1942.  

 After returning from World War II, Mosie studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but never gave up his dream of becoming a musician. Mosie returned to Cochran and enrolled in Middle Georgia College, where he studied English and music. He rejoined the Sunny South Quartet, but soon left with Wetherington to form the Melody Masters. The gig didn't work out when Lister decided that his future was not in touring the nation's churches, gymnasiums and concert halls.

Mosie Lister turned to song writing. What followed was Southern Gospel music history. To help pay his bills, Lister opened a music store and tuned pianos. That's when an ironic twist of fate, or a blessing of God, changed Mosie's life forever.

Hovie Lister, who claimed no family relationship with Mosie, was scouting the Atlanta area to find the right three members to form a new Gospel quartet. So, when the time came, Hovie invited Mosie to be the group's lead singer. Mosie accepted. And, the Statesmen Quartet was born.

In the beginning, the Statesmen included Mosie as the group's lead signer. Gordon Hill sang bass with Bervin Kendrick singing baritone and Bobby Strickland vocalizing the tenor parts. The Statesmen made their radio debut on WCON in Atlanta in October 1948.

A bout with pneumonia forced Mosie to retire because of damage to his throat. Hovie Lister reorganized the group in 1952 by bringing in Denver Crumpler to replace Bobby Strickland on tenor. Jake Hess succeeded Mosie. Doy Ott followed Bervin Kendrick. Mosie's old friend, "Big Chief" Wetherington was the group's new bass singer. Hovie stepped to the front, emceed, and played piano.

Hurriedly, Mosie wrote words and music and arranged old tunes for the new quartet. Mosie would never return to the group, which in the opinion of many was the greatest of all Southern Gospel groups.

Mosie didn't leave the Statesmen, but continued to work as the group's arranger and songwriter. Soon his songs were chosen by top Gospel groups of the day, including the Blackwood Brothers, the Jordanaires, and the LeFevres.

Over the years, Mosie Lister's top tunes included "I'm Feeling Fine," "Then I Met the Master," "How Long Has It Been," "Til the Storm Passes By," and "While Ages Roll."

Those songs and many more were recorded by artists including Jimmy Dean, George Beverly Shea, Floyd Cramer, B.J. Thomas, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard.

Mosie's lyrics and music and the Statesmen's distinctive sound had a profound influence on the early career of Elvis Presley. The King of Rock and Roll is often overlooked for his work in the Gospel field. In 1960, Presley recorded his first Gospel album with two of Mosie's songs, "He Knows Just What I Need" and "His Hand in Mine," the title track which garnered Elvis his first and only Grammy award.

Mosie moved to Tampa, Florida in the mid 1950s, where he managed his own music publishing company, The Mosie Lister Publishing Company, which later merged into Lillenas Publishing.

After three decades of singing Gospel music, Mosie Lister, songwriter, singer, arranger, became the Rev. Mosie Lister, an ordained Baptist minister. In 1976, Mosie Lister was inducted to the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. Twenty one years later, he joined the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

At the age of eighty, Mosie was still writing songs, putting together some of his best works into a compilation he calls, "The Light of the World." Today he still lives, waking each day realizing that God still has great plans for his eternal life. Long after Mosie meets the Master, people who can sing and even those of us who can't sing very well, will be singing his classic words and music as they praise the Lord.

Mosie Lister went to see his Father in Heaven on February 12, 2015. He is buired in Spring Hill Cemetery in Maury County, Tennessee. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


A Son's Search

Ben Tarpley wants to know more about his father. So do I. Ben knew that his father had been a prisoner of war in Germany. Few men, especially those who have faced that unspeakable horror, the brutal beatings, unbearable cold and ceaseless hunger of the German stalags, did talk. William B. Tarpley was one of those men. And now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and modern technology, Ben will know a lot more about the man he called "Daddy" and what he did in the war. And, thanks to Ben's patience after all these years, you will find out at the same time.

William Benjamin Tarpley was born in Wilkinson County, Georgia on November 29, 1912. A son of William Benjamin Tarpley and Georgia Dominy Tarpley, William came to Dublin with his family in the early 1920s. In the years before World War II, William Tarpley opened a service station, one strategically located across from the Fred Roberts Hotel on the heavily traveled and newly opened U.S. Highway 80.

When the war broke out, William was nearly thirty years old and generally regarded as too old to serve in the Army, a role primarily assigned to late teens and men in their early twenties. On January 18, 1944, William Benjamin Tarpley was inducted into the U.S. Army. Three weeks later on February 8, Tarpley left his wife behind in their Hightower apartment home and officially reported for duty at Fort McPherson, Georgia near Atlanta. At the time, he was 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 166 lbs., and had brown eyes and black hair.

Pvt. First Class William B. Tarpley was assigned to duty as a military policeman attached to Co. D of the 109th Infantry Reg. The 109th was originally organized from local National Guard companies across the state of Pennsylvania. Although Dublin had its own companies in the 121st Regiment, the Army often assigned soldiers to companies far away from their homes.

William joined his regiment just a week before it triumphantly marched through the liberated streets of Paris on August 29, 1944. Just two weeks later, the regiment was credited with being the first regiment to cross the Ziegfried Line. Arriving about the same time as Tarpley was one Eddie Slovik, who disappeared right after his arrival but returned to his unit. He was later executed by the Army when he again deserted. Slovik was the only American executed for desertion since the Civil War.

As a part of the 28th Division, known by its members as "The Bloody Bucket," the 109th participated in brutal fighting in Normandy, North France and the Rhineland campaigns. The blood flowed without end during the campaign to drive the strongly entrenched German army from the dark and bloody Huertgen Forest.

The Allied push into western Germany, though bloody and hampered by bitterly cold weather, seemed to be going well. Then on December 16, 1944, the unexpected happened. At 5:30 a.m., German artillery launched a massive barrage upon the 109th which was positioned two miles west of Stolzembourg on the Our River, the border of Luxembourg and Germany. As paratroopers of the 14th German Paratroop Infantry swarmed across the Our River, Tarpley's battalion retreated to the south some ten miles to Diekirch on the banks of the Sure River.

The Battle of the Bulge began. The German army's final and desperate push to stop the Allied onslaught first appeared to have been successful, but with a lot of luck and American determination to keep on fighting, elements of the 28th aided the successful drive to block the German advance.

William Tarpley was not so lucky. He sought shelter in a barn, but after locals alerted the Germans of his location, Tarpley was captured and taken prisoner on the third day of the battle.

Fortunately, Tarpley's captor was a soldier who had been schooled in America. The soldier allowed Tarpley to keep his wedding ring and a picture of his wife, the former Miss Doris Braddy. A month later, he wrote a letter to Doris of his capture. But it would take nearly three months for the long awaited message to make it back home.

Tarpley and nearly 7,500 others were taken to Stalag IV B at Muhlberg in Brandenburg, east of the Elbe River and some 30 miles north of Dresden in East Germany, far from the western front. The camp rapidly became one of the largest in Germany. One of his fellow prisoners was a member of the 106th Infantry. Drawing on his experiences in the camp, the young man authored Slaughterhouse Five. The author, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., became one of the more popular writers of the second half of the 20th Century.

During his stay in the prison, which included both British and Russian prisoners, William Tarpley was subjected to brutal weather conditions and the lack of food. Often, German guards gave them only scraps of food to eat.

Near the end of April, it was suddenly quiet, strangely quiet. After a night of battle sounds, the camp was empty. The Germans were gone. That's when the Russian Cossacks showed up, drinking, laughing and shooting the locks open on the gates. Tens of thousands of prisoners streamed out yelling, "We're free!" Apparently, William Tarpley was one of those who made his way back to American lines. Some, however, stayed and were actually taken prisoner by their Russian liberators. They were eventually freed.

After receiving medical treatment and delicious and hot food in France, Tarpley and the largest group of liberated Georgians arrived on May 12 in Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts. William made his way to Ft. McPherson where his career in the Army began. There waiting on him was his wife, his brother O.T, and his sister Lorene Minton.

Tarpley returned back to Dublin on May 18, 1945. He told a Courier Herald reporter, "All the things you read in the paper about the atrocities in the German camps are true, and things are even worse if you can imagine that. I suppose I was fortunate because I only went hungry, having just some kind of watery soup and little bread, was exposed in bad weather and forced to march on long, hard marches. Others suffered much worse than that."

Pvt. Tarpley, in a camp filled with thousands, didn't see anyone he knew until his liberation when he spotted Arthur Wood, who lived on the Glenwood Road in Laurens County.

Tarpley told the Courier Herald, "I lost about 54 pounds while I was in the camp, but have gained most of it back now since I have had food. I will be all right now that I am home, able to rest, eat and be with my family and friends."

William B. Tarpley was officially discharged from the Army on Dec. 6, 1945, given $300.00 and an additional $8.25 in travel pay. But he was home. Home!

So on this Memorial Day, let us remember William B. Tarpley and all of those who have served our country so that we may be free.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The Space Shuttle, The End of An American Era

First you see it. Then you hear it. And, then you feel it. The sight is heart pumping. The sound is ear deafening. The shock waves are earth shaking.

When I was five, I had a dream. I wanted to fly in a rocket ship. An Alan Shepard, John Glenn, or Gordon Cooper is whom I wanted to be. For nearly a half century I longed to see a rocket lift off from Cape Kennedy. On Friday, May 14, at 2:20:09 p.m., my dream came true. I was there. I saw the billowing orange and white smoke. I saw the blinding fire. I heard the distant rumble and then the crackling roar. Tweeters tweeted. Cameras clicked. Crowds cheered.

After securing my press credentials from a 1960s style office from a sweet lady named Mrs. Woodard, whose husband came from of all places, Eastman, Georgia, I toured the area on the day before the launch.

I saw the areas where in the old days they launched the Mercury and Gemini missions. I remembered my friend Bert Thigpen, who lives on the Old Savannah Road. As a young man, Bert worked on radar systems up and down the East Coast from New York to Cape Canaveral, as they called it back in the early 1960s. Bert was invited by NASA officials to come into the bunkers and watch some of the events. He fondly remembered Shorty Powers, who loved the last minute holds. He's the guy who coined the phrase, "a-ok." Thigpen remembered the time he was invited to ascend the gantry tower for one of the Gemini space missions. "I was amazed at how thin the aluminum door of the capsule was. The seats were smaller than a pickup truck. They invited me to climb in and see the inside, but I was scared to close the door," Bert remembered. My how things have changed. There was a good ol' country boy from Laurens County climbing in a space capsule as if were a friend's new car.

They took us to get a close up view of the shuttle. It didn’t seem to matter that it was only a mile away. I wanted to spend the night there to get the ultimate shot of the launch. But, after surviving a heart attack to save pieces of the old Dublin High School, I wasn’t about to get incinerated if something went terribly wrong. Besides, they wouldn’t let anywhere, except the biggest shots, get anywhere near the pad during liftoff.

I saw the real Apollo 13 capsule, one I was afraid I jinxed when I saw it on the same pad some 40 years before. Then, I touched the moon. Not really, but a small finger worn triangular piece NASA put out for the tourists to touch the bounty of their investment in the space program. I said a prayer for the astronauts of Apollo 1, who were burned on the launch pad in a pre-flight test and the thrills we all had way back in the summer of ’69.

The nice lady back at the badging office told me to get there by 7:30. I did. Then it was hurry up and wait. The sun was blazing, but there was a nice breeze. So for the next five hours, I looked around me. Camera crews were getting ready. There were several shuttle astronauts walking around in their blue jump suits. My son Scotty tells me journalists shouldn't be fans, so I didn't ask them for an autograph.

For most of the morning, I took advantage of the opportunity to watch a few of the300+ birds on Merritt Island, a National Wildlife Refuge. I watched three ospreys flying back and forth to their nest, constructed of twigs and sticks on top of a NASA sign. I spotted one of them flying in with a prized fish. He had already nibbled off the head before he got back to the nest. The AP guy got a photo of three of the ospreys in the nest. But, I got a prize picture of the eagle-like bird gliding into his tailgating perch with a pre-launch meal.

People kept walking around. Most of the media were enjoying just being there, taking pictures of themselves with NASA objects in the background. Speaking of objects in the back ground, the most dominating feature of the complex is the Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB. It is the world’s fourth largest building in volume and you could cram four Empire State Buildings inside of it and still have room to walk around in.

As I looked around on the spot where the largest gathering of journalists in the history of the world came together on July 16, 1969 to chronicle the launch of Apollo 11, I thought of the late Walter Cronkite. I thought of Dr. Robert Shurney, a Dublin native who taught many of the early astronauts how to live in weightlessness. Shurney, considered one of the greatest African-American physicists at NASA, designed lunar rover's tires in addition to designing systems to allow the astronauts to eat easier and even go to the bathroom in the zero gravity of space in the Apollo, Skylab and Shuttle missions.

I thought of George English, who lived at the corner of Woodrow and North Elm Streets. English served as a Deputy Director of the Kennedy Space Center in the 1970s during the transition from the moon going Apollo and earth orbiting Shuttle missions.

When the clock struck T-1:20:00, I made my way down to the edge of the river. I noticed the manatee playing in the water and the shore birds skimming the surface for a meal. I heard a loud crash in the water near my bank side seat. Only later did I learn that it was probably a gator which infest the area.

A young graduate student stood next to me. She was busy on her cell phone reading the last minute messages of the flight controllers. Seemed there was a constraint to a launch, not a soft one, but a hard one, which meant I might have come back and do it all over again a month later. But then she found out it was only a missing camera bearing. We were go for launch. At T-0:09:00, the tweeters came running out of their air-conditioned tent like kids on the last day of school.

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, lift off. The Space Shuttle Atlantis was on her final voyage. Only two more flights are scheduled. There is an urban legend that when the shuttle goes up, the alligators come out of the water. One did. So, I got up and left. After 49 years of waiting to get there, it was all over in two minutes.

After a seven-hour ride back to Dublin, I got in my bed and went to sleep, hoping that I just might dream that it was me up there circling the Earth.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The King of Cotton

If he could, Izzie Bashinski would have built the Emerald City of Dublin out of cotton. But, everyone knows you can't make a brick out of the fluffy fibers or boards out of the slender stalks. So, Izzie helped build Dublin and Laurens County into one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas of the state in the first two decades out of the 20th Century. He did it the best way that he knew how. He sold his cotton and the cotton of others to buyers locally, around the state, and around the world. Money meant jobs, which meant more people, which meant even more money. This is the story of Izzie Bashinski, the King of Cotton.

Isadore "Izzie" Bashinski was born on September 6, 1875 to Louis Bashinski, a Prussian native, and his bride, Sarah Long. Izzie graduated from Mercer University, where he roomed with Carl Vinson, a future and long-term and powerful Georgia congressman. He moved to Dublin in 1906 to capitalize on the rapid growth in the markets in Dublin. First, Izzie formed the Yellow Pine Lumber Company and then helped to found the Dublin Navigation Company to aid in the transport of timber into Dublin along the Oconee River. By the end of that year, Izzie married Miss Helen McCall, of Buena Vista, Georgia.

On one of their vacations to Europe, the Bashinskis found and fell in love with the architecture of Italian homes. Upon their return, the couple hired Charles E. Choate, a well-known and prolific Sandersville architect, to design their dream home. The front of their Bellevue Avenue home is one of the most ornate homes along Dublin's grandest avenue. The inside of the home was equally as grand as the exterior. In the rear of the home, the Bashinskis designed a sunken garden area, complete with a water fountain and Lombardi Poplar trees, which thrive in northern Italy. The home was the scene of many grand parties, including a dinner in 1908 to host Georgia Governor Joseph M. Brown, on whose staff Bashinski served. The Bashinskis loved to take European vacations. They once scheduled a trip back to America. At the last moment, they changed their minds. Their reservations were aboard the HMS Titanic.

But more than anything else, Izzie Bashinski was a cotton man. Along with his brother Sam, Izzie established a cotton brokerage company on lower Franklin Street in the headquarters of the former Georgia Warehouse and Cotton Compress Company. In 1909, along with J.R. Powel, Bashinski established and served as president of the Dixie Cotton Company, the largest of its kind in the South, with 25 offices around the state.

Izzie Bashinski believed that the key to success and its corresponding wealth was to diversify. So, in the fall of 1909, Izzie began to plan a new venture, the Consolidated Phosphate Company. He envisioned a warehouse 100x400 and three stories high. He incorporated the company and hired Dublin's master builder, John A. Kelley, to erect the enormous structure. Construction began a century ago on the new facility, to which two floors were added in hopes of storing 30,000 tons of the valuable fertilizer.

Izzie Bashinski was a man of vision. He knew that in order to increase economic development of the rapidly growing nucleus of East Central Georgia, it was important, once and for all, to establish a permanent Chamber of Commerce. In the early spring of 1911, Bashinski was selected to serve on the city's first Chamber, which was formally incorporated in 1912.

Bashinski's other business interests included the Dublin Transfer Company, the Dublin Peanut Company, the Citizens Loan and Guaranty Company, the Oconee Guano Company, and the 12th District Fair Association, a for profit company designed to develop and manage one of the city's biggest tourist and economic events.

Due in large part to his efforts to promote the city, including a 12-year term on the Board of Education, Bashinski was elected to the Dublin City Council. When Dublin's young and popular mayor, Peter S. Twitty, Jr., resigned to enter the service in World War I, Izzie Bashkinski was chosen as the city's acting mayor. Bashinski magnanimously volunteered to donate his mayoral salary to the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A. for the duration of the war. In May 1918, he was elected Mayor, but by only a mere two votes over J.E. Burch. Izzie Bashinski volunteered to help the effort to end the war, which was raging in his ancestral homeland, by agreeing to head the Liberty Bond Loan Committee.

In appreciation for his services to the country during World War I, the U.S. government issued a certificate to Bashinski, which in part praised his patriotic services to promote the sale of securities to finance the war. Izzie Bashkinski, who owned his own export company, was often called upon by state organizations and the Federal government to lend advice on better methods of cotton production and marketing. After the war, Izzie traveled to Paris, where he met with U.S. Senator Wm. J. Harris, of Georgia, and European officials to improve cotton production in the old country. Bashinski made numerous return trips and kept urging his government to finance the cotton industry in the South, which had been mortally wounded by the boll weevil before pumping money into the cotton fields of Europe.

Izzie was a skilled telegrapher. He had a teletype machine installed in his home which was connected to Atlanta and New York. Izzie could interpret Morse code messages and at the same time carry on conversations with his family.

Helen Bashinski was a teacher, a lover of history, and was fascinated with genealogy. In 1932, Mrs. Bashinski was elected to head the Georgia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Their children were Horace, a naval officer, Izzie Jr., a highly decorated pilot of "the Flying Tigers" in the Indo-China Theater of World War II, and Helen, a highly successful chemist with the State of Georgia.

In his spare time, Izzie Bashinski loved to play with his children in the back yard of his magnificent home. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, a Mason, a Knight of Pythias and a Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks.

In 1932 in the darkest days of the Great Depression, the Bashinskis lost the home they loved so much. Dr. E.B. Claxton acquired the home where his daughter Irene lives today. The Bashinskis moved to a more modest home on Ramsey Street.

Although Bashinski hated politics, only serving when impressed to do so, he honored his wife's request to help her cousin, Eugene Talmadge, in his campaigns for governor. It was Izzie's job to fire up the crowd when the Governor was in town. Izzie paid farmers five and ten dollars to sit up in the trees around the courthouse and yell "Give them Hell, Gene!"

In 1934, a short while after he was named as Secretary of the Georgia Board of Regents, Izzie suffered a heart attack while on a trip to Douglas, Georgia. Izzie and his wife Helen were entombed in Northview Cemetery in the mausoleum, which he helped to erect. Izzie, although small in stature, was a man who commanded the respect of all. Reserved and cordial, Bashinski was a great listener and conversationalist with a compelling personality. It was men like Izzie Bashinski who built our city into one of the best in the state through unfaltering dedication to working with others to reach a common goal, a goal obtained by cotton, Georgia's "white gold."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010



Schools In Trouble

Baseball's best philosopher, Yogi Berra, once quipped, "It's deja vu all over again." Well folks, what is happening now in the public school systems of our county and our state has happened before. Eighty years ago, county school board officials across the state were in dire straits. Although the amount of state funding cuts were not as massive, the effects were much more devastating. Imagine if you will, closing schools at the end of January. That's exactly what happened in the dead of winter in 1930. And, the money troubles weren't just confined to larger districts in larger cities, it was right here in the one room school houses, which were scattered throughout each community of Laurens County.

Unlike today when a board of five school board members set policies to be carried about by a single superintendent, each of the small county schools was controlled by a board of trustees under the overall control of a single superintendent and the board.

January 29, 1930 was cold, dreary, dark and wet day. County superintendent T.M. Hicks announced that the end of the school week would be the end of the term for all county schools. The startling announcement came at the end of meeting with all of the trustees of the various schools throughout the county. The meeting, originally slated to be held in the courthouse, was moved to Dublin's city hall.

Many teachers, who boarded in the homes of local residents, packed their belongings and headed home. They had no choice. Their pittance of a salary was scarcely enough to survive on. So, they moved back to the homes of their parents and relatives until the summer was over.

Until that day, the county school board and other boards across the state were allowed to borrow operating money based on future appropriations by the State of Georgia.

When appropriations were cut 25% in 1928 and 30% in 1929, banks across the state and the country became skeptical of the district's ability to repay their loans. After all, banks were in trouble too. Sound familiar? Only three banks were operating in the county at that time. Citizens and Southern Bank had just taken over the failed First National Bank. The Bank of Dudley and Farmers and Merchants Bank were hanging on, but just barely.

The death knell came when Merchant's National Bank of Battle of Battle Creek, Michigan and Citizens and Southern Bank wrote letters to the board refusing to extend credit to the Laurens County School system.

Other systems across the state were facing similar problems. Thousands of schools were closed. Banks just didn't want to lend school districts money when the state was increasingly decreasing funding at the state level and placing the burden on local tax payers, who were officially in the "Great Depression." In point of fact, the citizens of the county had been in a depression for a dozen years after the arrival of the boll weevil, which decimated the cotton crop, the life blood of the county's economy.

All of those who gathered voted to close schools until the end of the spring term. The vote was nearly unanimous. Those who dissented couldn't come to terms with the cataclysm they were facing. Fortunately, there were some schools which remained open. These were schools who were given the authority to tax the residents of their districts.

Members of the school board were confident that they had made the right decision, hoping that a four-month furlough would put the district into a better financial position to start the 1930-31 school year. They also hoped to avoid a similar situation which occurred in the mid-1920s when county checks were considered worth less than the paper they were printed on.

On the last day of school, a check from the Georgia Department of Revenue arrived from Atlanta. The $1,666.66 payment from the equalization fund fell well short of the $16,000.00 a month that county schools needed to keep their doors open.

Professor J.E.Leger and Board Chairman H.C. Burch weren't about to close their school. The mothers of the Cadwell P.T.A. rushed into action. Fund-raising events were planned. Prof. Leger reported, "patrons of the school have generously volunteered to board teachers in their home free of charge and citizens have come forward with donations already and more are expected. The people of our city have shown that they intend to do everything possible to keep their schools open, and I feel sure that they will succeed."

A few days later, Supt. Hicks stated, "When a people go to sleep, chloroformed by less important issues than the welfare of their own offspring, it is not surprising that the offspring suffer."

More than half of the thirty-six Laurens County schools were affected. Mt. Carmel, Cadwell, Pine Forest, Rentz, Bethsaida, Lovett, New Bethel, White Springs, Moore, Poplar Springs, New Evergreeen, Montrose, Cedar Grove, Chapel's Mill, Dudley, Centerville, Baker, New Salem, Pine Grove and Minter, all independently financed schools, remained open. Some Negro schools also announced their intentions to remain open as long as possible.

As one might expect, citizens of the county disagreed over the cause of the financial crisis. G.C. Bidgood criticized the board for going into debt in the past as the reason for the failure of the banks to lend the funds to keep the schools open. J.B. Bedingfield praised the board and turned his wrath to state officials. State Rep. Bedingfield, who was not seeking reelection, blasted Georgia governor L.G. Hardman for his stooping and nagging of his political enemies instead of cooperating with the state's school board. Supt. Hicks cited that it appeared that the governor was more interested in building roads and promoting fishing and hunting than in the children of the state and in particular the five thousand students in Laurens County. Have you heard that lately?

The Laurens County school system, aided by the generous people of the county, survived the financial crisis of 1930. Eventually state funding was restored under succeeding administrations.

The noted French philosopher Alphonse Karr once said, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose," or for those who don't speak French, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I think Alphonse and Yogi were both right.

Monday, May 10, 2010



It was only natural that we had them. With all of our trees in Laurens County, millions of them, John M. Simmons saw the need for establishing a mill to make veneer to ornament his furniture before it was shipped around the country.

Simmons established his first veneer mill in the summer of 1902 under the name of The Simmons Manufacturing Company. His plan was to use the veneer from the mill in conjunction with his Dublin Furniture Manufacturing Company, located only a quarter of a mile or so to the northwest in the Scottsville community. On January 30, 1909, the company, which changed its name to the Southland Lumber Company, suffered the complete and uninsured loss of the mill in a fire. The company, under the leadership of Z. Clark Thwing, had no choice but to rebuild, since it had some 5000 acres of timber lands under lease.

Simmons sold the company to a new group of investors in 1909. Locally, the incorporators of the Southland Veneer and Lumber Company were J.M. Finn, J.E. Smith, Jr., J.B. Burch, W.B. Stubbs, D.S. Brandon, J.R. Broadhurst, J.R. Kelley, Emanuel Dryer, W.B. Rogers, and D.L. Emerson. After many years of economic struggles, prolonged court battles, and fires, the Southland Veneer and Lumber Company closed its doors.

In the summer of 1916, the operation was taken over by hardware store baron H.G. Stevens and C.T. Alexander & Sons. The Alexanders, originally from Ohio, had gained valuable experience in the veneer business in Virginia and North Carolina. Paul Alexander took over the duties of vice-president. Brothers Jed and Lloyd worked in the mill as well.

The Alexanders bought a new tug boat to ferry timbers to the riverside plant from their base lumber camp, some six miles up river from Dublin. C.T. Alexander, who had been associated with the Georgia Veneer and Lumber Company, modestly claimed no credit for the company's renewed success, giving the credit to the needs of the country's effort to win World War I.

Veneer was of critical importance to the war effort. When the government found out that Paul Alexander was headed over seas to fight the Germans, his orders were immediately rescinded. Alexander was ordered to return home to keep the plant going. Military officials desperately wanted the Alexanders to continue providing high quality veneer which would be fashioned into airplane propellers. Skilled plant workers were also exempted from military duty. The Alexanders tried to keep up with the ever increasing demand. They invested more money in equipment to improve the mill, which was the only one of its kind in South Georgia.

By 1920, the company, the county's largest employer with more than 200 hands, was shipping its products to Michigan, Illinois and other Midwest states, even into Canada. The lathes turned twenty four hours a day. Times were never better. Louis Alexander, a son of Paul, remembered, "Daddy was probably the highest paid man in Dublin making about $100 a week, when many people were making $10 a week. Alexander joked, "My grandfather C.T. Alexander knew how to make money, but he knew how to spend it better."

The company's annual production of more than twenty million feet was drawn from the red gums, oaks, pines, poplars, cypress and hickory trees thirty miles north and south of Dublin on the river and within a 10 to 15 miles radius by truck. In 1922, C.T. Alexander announced that the company was increasing production by 78 per cent by adding a new drying machine which enabled the plant to ship seven car loads per week.

Louis Alexander, now 87 years old, has vivid and fond memories of the mill in the 1920s. "I can remember when Daddy went off and bought a dry kiln. Before that, all of the veneer had to be sun dried on clothes lines running from the river all the way up to Hub Dudley's mortuary. Where the Dairy Queen and Roche's is now - all of that was part of the mill. They hung that stuff up in the morning and it would warp one way and when the sun hit it on the other side, it would straighten back out," Louis said. Alexander remembered riding a car with only the right rear wheel powered by a single chain. "It would get stuck in the sand quickly and we'd have to jump up and down to get it going," Alexander recalled.

Winter rains often caused many problems for the Alexanders. Located on the edge of the Oconee River, the veneer mill was often flooded. Louis remembers the water crossing the road between where the Ford and Chevrolet places are today. He began working at the mill in the early 1930s and remembers going under the floor of the mill when the flood waters were seeping under it. "We had to be real careful not to make waves. We would tie a string along the water level as a plumb to tell us how to align the shafts which protruded downward from the main floor of the mill," Alexander recalled.

The mill was erected on the river for a reason. Alexander said, "They used to cut logs up there all the way to Oconee and around Big Sandy especially. They would pile up logs on the side of a bluff and then dry them out. Then, they would cut a piece of ironwood, which grew wild up there, and drive it into the cypress trees to make a hook which they could tie the big cypresses together. Daddy said, 'a cypress doesn't know when it's dead - just wet it and it will grow.'" He added, " We had a great big flat boat and they'd take it up to Big Sandy and pull the logs down. Four or five men would stay with the logs to keep them away from the shore."

Louis, vividly remembering one of the biggest cypress trees that he ever saw, said "My brother Charles and I went inside of it. It was hollow and was as big as my dining room. We saw all kinds of ashes where people had been camping inside. When they cut it down, they cut off the hollow part. The rest of the tree was so big that it barely fit on the back of the truck. When they brought it to Dublin, some men used a hand auger and drove some holes into the tree. They placed dynamite in them and blew it up. Cypress is good about splitting."

The Great Depression of 1929, which was even greater in 1931, led to the economic downfall of the Dublin Veneer Company in 1932. The company was sent into receivership when the debts outweighed the company's income. The company was forced into involuntary bankruptcy, the assets were sold, and the doors were closed, albeit temporarily.

C.T. Alexander and his sons lost nearly everything they had. Paul went to work with his brother-in-law, Teddy Moffett, who had formed one of the first commercial freight hauling businesses in the area. Although they were no longer in the veneer business, C.T. Alexander and Sons remained in the timber business. In 1941, with a new war about ready to begin, the company made statewide headlines by purchasing 1.5 million board feet of virgin pine timber from the J.L.A. Perry estate north of Dublin.

The facility was taken over by a new company, The Georgia Plywood Company, which operated on the site for more than forty years before being forced out of business by newer and more efficient mills across the country and around the world. After nearly seventy-five years, the milling of veneer in Dublin came to a quiet and unheralded end.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


A Friend in Need

"Gentlemen of the jury, Kirk is not a bad man. He takes his grog and will fight. Many have been sent away and carried off. He is as good as Bill Smallwood, the great drunkard. And, as sorry a fellow as Kirk is, ya'll know he has done some good things and Bill has never done anything good," so said James Kirkpatrick as he personally plead his case to the trial jury assembled to determine his guilt or innocence after he took a butcher knife and tried to cut Bill Smallwood's clean off.

James A. "Kirk" Kirkpatrick was a veteran of "The Oconee Grays," known as Co. K, 5th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A., during the late war, known to some around these parts as "The Late Great Unpleasantness." The deciders of his fate were made up primarily of men with whom he had fought the Yankees. So, when the alcoholic veteran asked permission to address his peers, they listened to see what ol' Kirk would tell them that would make them change the conclusions they had after the close of the evidence. Prosecutor Fleming Jordan had made out a prima facie case for Kirk's guilt. Everyone in the court room knew ol' Kirk had done it. After all, Kirk's lawyer M.N. Murphy put up no defense to the charges. With the court's permission, Kirk asked leave to make a statement in his own defense.

"Dick Hatfield, do you remember the night after the Battle of Baker's Creek? Kirk took your gun and stood at your post while you stood aside to eat corn. When you dropped the corn, a picket fired nearly hitting Kirk when it should have been you instead of Kirk. Remember when you were in a tight? Remember Kirk is in a tight. He wants you to stick, he does," Kirkpatrick added.

"Seaborn Fountain, you remember when you were marching to Corinth after Shiloh and you remember how hungry and foot sore we all were, asked Kirk. You told me you were starved and I gave you a chew of tobacco, my last piece, to chew on. Kirk had been saving it all day so that he could lay on his back and enjoy it. You looked around so pitiful and begged me for it so hard, you did, until I gave it you and went without myself. You said you'd remember me. You were in a fight and Kirk stuck. Now Kirk wants you to stick," Kirk concluded.

"Jim Jones, remember when we camped in the winter of '63? You went broke in a card game and you begged me for a stake and Kirk loaned you one. You remember you said that loan done more good than any favor you ever received and you'd always remember Kirk for it. Now Jim, you were in a tight then and broke and Kirk stuck. Remember Kirk is in tight and he wants you to stick sure," Kirkpatrick ended.

"Joe Johnson, remember the night when the army was driven from Missionary Ridge, you do and you had run out and lost your hat and was bareheaded and shivering from the cold. You came to Kirk and said you never wanted a drink so bad in your life. You told Kirk that you not only would pay him back, but you will stand by him to last. You said it Joe. Kirk handed his whole canteen and you came near to drinking the bulk of my quart. You did Joe. I didn't charge you nothing. Remember Kirk is in a tight now and he wants you to stick Joe," Kirk pleaded.

"Alfred Hall, you were always a good praying fellow and you and Kirk did not run together only when a fight was on. You remember the night after the battle of Resaca you came to Kirk afer our line had fallen back, and said, 'Kirk my brother is left behind, either wounded or killed.' You were wounded so that you could not go and you requested me to do you a favor, to go back and look after your brother. Then it was Kirk who told you he would do it. At the risk of his own life, Kirk went out and found him and he was mortally wounded, and took him on his shoulder and carried him for a mile or more, brought him into our lines, laid him down and saw him die. Now Alfred, you thanked Kirk then for his kindness and said you always remember him for it, and if you could ever do him a favor you would. Alfred, now Kirk's in a tight and he wants you to stick," Kirk begged.

"Bart Stevens, you remember the army fell back at Kennesaw Mountain across the Chattahoochee River. You was sick and begged Kirk to stay with you and take care of you, you did. Kirk did so and carried your gun and knapsack all night for you. The next morning you told the Captain what he had done for you and promised that you would always stick to Kirk, you did. Now Bart, the time is at hand to stick for Kirk and if you think well of what he has done for you, stick," commanded Kirk.

"Sam Hatfield, you remember the Battle of Atlanta. You got wounded, you did. We had to fall back and form a new line and you called to me, 'Kirk help me, don't leave me alone, the Yankees will get me.' I will do it. He took you on his back and carried you to a place of safety. You thanked him and said, 'If I can be of any service to you, call me.' Kirk doesn't remember whether he ever called on you before, but understand he is calling you now. He is in a tight and needs you to stick," Kirk shouted!

"Jesse Arrington you remember me on the return after the bloody battle of Nashville in 1865. It was sleeting and snowing and freezing and you were barefoot. You were. It was a terrible day, you and another soldier of some other command got in a scrap over a pair of shoes lying on the roadside. The other fellow was about to get the best of you when Kirk showed up. Jesse, Kirk reinforced you and you held on to the shoes. You sat down and put them on, and said 'Kirk, these shoes make my feet feel so much better and if it had not been for you that fellow would have defeated me and they would be on his feet. I assure you that I appreciate your assistance and whenever an opportunity is offered, I certainly will stand by you.' Now Jess, Kirk has never called on you before, and begorra, he wants you to stick," Kirk exclaimed!

James Kirkpatrick turned to the remaining four members of the Wilkinson County jury, the names of whom he did not remember, and said, "If I have not been of service to you, don't blame Kirk, for it was only the want of opportunity and your misfortune for not being with Kirk, for he certainly would have divided his last chew with you, and his only drink with you, had a chance came and a way to have done so. Kirk is nothing but a dirty drunk old Irishman who has lost all the caste blood and family gave him, but he carries a big heart and forgiving spirit. He loves mercy. It is only when he lost his head from drink that he is vicious and wants to fight. He is sorry that his neighbor was hurt, but it was not Kirk that hurt him, it was the grog he was carrying that he ran up against and got hurt. Now, if you gentlemen of the jury who know Kirk and for whom he has done something are willing to stick to him and relieve him and his good kin folks, and above all his bright little fellow from disgrace, then stand for Kirk and stick for him."

Kirkpatrick returned to his chair and sat down. Judge George T. Bartlett instructed the jury to retire to the jury room and deliberate the case of assault against Kirkpatrick. Within a few minutes, the jury returned and announced their verdict of "not guilty!"