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

Friday, July 29, 2011


A River Cruise

I often think if I had a time machine, the dial would be set first to the mid 1890s, location Dublin, Georgia, at the wharves along the banks of the Oconee River. The intention of my adventure would be a ride down the Oconee and Altamaha Rivers to Darien on the Atlantic coast. A warm winter's day, or perhaps a crisp autumn one when the crimson and gold leaves of the sweet gum and the oak would adorn my prolonged trek to the sea, would be my first choices.

I stepped inside the strange contraption and set the dial for November 13, 1893. All of a sudden, the cylindrical sphere began to wildly rotate. The centrifugal force flung me against the wall. When the spinning subsided, the time dial indicated May 15, 1894. It was a typical mid spring day, kind of warm, but at least it wasn't raining. Though the number of houses and buildings were scant, I did manage to recognize the lay of the land. Toward the east, I spotted what appeared to be the heart of the town, glowing in the rays of the setting sun. A place to sleep and a good meal were the first order of my itinerary.

Upon the crest of a small hill I saw what I believed to be "Liberty Hall," the residence of Col. John M. Stubbs. Stubbs was a well known and highly skilled attorney, but was also known as one of the men who brought river boating and the railroads to Dublin some dozen or fifteen years prior. Col. Stubbs, as I surmised he would be, was in his study going over plans for his gardens and orchards, another of the things he was most famous for. I introduced myself as a fellow Maconite, who was looking to chronicle a ride on a river boat down to Darien. He smiled and said, "son, you are in luck. There's a boat leaving before sunup in the morning. I am supposed to be aboard, but I have a trial in Eastman in two days and the judge refuses to grant me a continuance. Go up to the hotel across from the courthouse and Mr. Hooks will take care of you."

All around me were new residences going up. When I reached the bottom of the hill, I could see the main business district. Off to my left was a new brick church for the Methodists coming up from the sandy ground. As the sun sank behind the trees, Jackson Street fell into near complete darkness. I forgot, the electric light bulb hadn't come to Dublin yet. Everyone I met was friendly, overly friendly. It seemed as if they were having a contest to see who could be the friendliest to the new stranger in town.

As I approached the center of town, I could make out the outline of a two-story wooden structure on what I knew to have been on the courthouse square. Though I had seen photographs of it after it had been removed to another location, it seemed smaller than I thought it was. Across the street was a handsome hotel building, not the typical home modified to accommodate itinerant travelers, but a substantial two-story brick structure with towers on each side of its front edifice. I walked in and found Mr. Gabriel S. Hooks, the innkeeper, behind the desk, just where the Colonel told me he would be. I told the affable young gentleman that Col. Stubbs had sent me to his establishment. Mr. Hooks replied, "yes, I know, Mr. Stubbs sent his servant the back way and your accommodations are ready for you."

At Mr. Hooks insistence, I sat down at a large table in a much brighter adjoining room. Before I knew it, Mrs. Hooks was bringing out a large blue plate. More like a platter, there were several meats and a half-dozen servings of vegetables heaped on it. The charming lady brought out a tray with a large piping hot loaf of bread wrapped inside a red and white checkered cloth. I ate what I could and just a bite or two more.

Not wanting to miss a chance on getting in on a little history research, I began to interrogate Mr. Hooks on the doings in Dublin. He told me that there were plans to build a new courthouse, a large brick one, sometime next year. Hooks and all of Dublin were extremely proud of the new artesian well on the courthouse square.

We discussed river boats. He said, "young man, Dublin's got three boats in service now and we're going to have two fine new ones very soon." "We've got three railroads in town and more on the way," the innkeeper added. Hooks told me that I would be riding with members of the Forest and Stream Club. This group of forty-five men formed a club to hunt and fish along the shores and swamps of the Oconee, Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers.

The group hired Capt. J.W. Miller of Dublin to supervise the construction of the Gypsy, a river boat with forty state rooms and pilot the boat down the river from the club's headquarters in Dublin to Darien on the Georgia coast. Each of the Gypsy's state rooms were outfitted with all of the necessary appurtenances and accouterments for the hunter and the fisherman. Among the club's charter members from Dublin were Col. John M. Stubbs, Blanton Nance, J.T. Wright and E.M. Whitehead. Judge Emory Speer of Macon, Dudley Hughes of Danville and E.L. Dennard of Houston County were among the most erudite members of the club. The group's membership extended to members as far away as Birmingham, Chicago, Kansas City and Topeka.

The Gypsy was constructed in Savannah under the careful scrutinizing eye of Capt. Miller. The captain hired his old friend W.T. Walton to serve as the boat's engineer. J.W. Grantham, the Gypsy's master machinist, was the best of his kind in the state. Norman McCall, an experienced river pilot and an African Baptist minister, took the helm. McCall, a man of enormous proportions, once saved his cargo by swimming with fifty-pound sacks of fertilizer under his arms and carrying them to the river banks.

The hour was late and I was desperately trying to memorize every utterance I could remember. "You better go on to bed. You'll need to be down at the river by four o'clock in the morning," Mr. Hooks warned me. Despite the comfortable bed, solemn slumber was not in order that night. Just in case I did fall asleep, I asked for a early morning "wake up knock" on my door.

And though my room was more like a Pullman railroad compartment, I didn't mind it all. The brilliance of a waxing gibbous moon illuminated my room through a small, yet well placed, window overlooking the quiescent courthouse square. I thought I saw an army of apparitions drifting across the lawn. “Old Bill, a kind black man who came in earlier to clean up my room, told me the place was haunted. “Yas, sir!. This place is got ghosts. There’s folks buried under the north tower of this here hotel,” he said as he shook and studdered to get out his words. I questioned Bill if he seen any ghosts. “I’s afraid of ghosts sir. I once saw two of them in front of Mr. Maddox’s hardware store over yonder. It must be old man Sam Coleman’s grand daddy. He’s buried right under the store,” the old servant added. I scanned the landscape and saw no ghosts that night, but I did see nine gaping holes in the ground where “Old Bill” said some important rich folks was buried.

Beside my somewhat comfortable bed, I found the most recent issue of the "Dublin Post," edited by Lucien Quincy Stubbs, a brilliant man of many talents and a credit to his father, and my new friend, Col. J.M. Stubbs. I tried to read the news of the town with the additional aid of an oil burning lamp, but decided to pack it away to analyze every word during the quiet moments of the ride down the river.

Right on schedule at four o'clock on the dot, "Big Norman" tugged the whistle of the "Gypsy" and interrupted a most tranquil morning. Fireman Hardy Perry stoked the boiler. I purchased my ticket for a three quarters of a dollar and walked timidly along a wobbling plank to the safety of the floor of the river steamer. Despite the early hour, the boat was filled with passengers, all seeking a pleasureful cruise down the river.

Around daylight we reached Berryhill's Bluff in what we know now as Treutlen County. That's when it happened again. Dutiful black servants began to bring out the bounty of the land, the best that farms, forests and streams could render. I met Capt. Isaac Hardeman and Joseph Miller, who was headed toward his home in Montgomery County. Sam Yopp, E.J. Willingham and E.J. Dupree boarded the boat after a more than successful hunting trip. The morning air was delightfully cool and made the breakfast one of the most satisfactory I have ever experienced. Some of the passengers expressed a desire to have delayed their feast until the fresh game could be added to the serving table.

The day passed pleasantly, but all too quickly. The few women on the boat congregated in the stern area as far away from the bow, where the men were comparing their marksmanship skills. Any bird, whether perched or airborne, was marked for instant death. All eyes scanned the banks for a the glimpse of the prize victim of the day, the villainous alligator.

The crew dropped the Gypsy's anchor at the Devil's Elbow, a bend in the river which was hailed as the best resort for hunting and fishing anywhere on the Oconee River and situated just three miles above the confluence of the Oconee and the Ocmulgee and a mere ten crow-fly miles from Lumber City. The lakes there were the most beautiful I had ever seen. My yells echoed throughout the lush forest. The bream and trout jumped so freely and often, I thought they were going to jump into my hands.

After a fulfilling feast of the hunter's bounty, we enjoyed an convivial evening of vocal entertainment and several games of whist and euchre. Around 11:00 o'clock, the sound of a small gong reverberated throughout the boat. It was time to retire to our staterooms.

The enticing aroma of coffee and biscuits holding real cow butter inside them brought me springing out of my bed. While the men alighted from the boat for more hunting thrills, I remained behind and partook of another half dozen or so of the best biscuits I ever ate. Remember, I am still unborn and calories don't count yet. The hunters returned around nine for the real breakfast of the morning replete with fish and game. They had to eat their meats alone, because the biscuits were gone. I did manage to part with a few of them, dividing them among seven starving servants. I also shared a couple of them and a day- long delightful conversation with Mrs. Mary and Miss Hennilu Hughes, the wife and daughter of Dudley M Hughes. He doesn't know it yet, but in twenty years, Col. Hughes will become one of Georgia's leading congressmen and co-author a bill to establish vocational education in public schools of the United States.

Some time later, Capt. Miller hoisted a forty-four star flag and ordered the anchor raised. As pilot McCall began to guide the boat downstream, some of the hunters appeared to be missing. But, the Gypsy kept on gliding through the smooth as silk waters. Coming to a stop in a grove of willows, the Captain patiently waited for the exasperated malingerers to catch up in their rowboats. Everyone laughed at the men, tired and exhausted from their trip, everyone except me. If there hadn't been any biscuits left, I would have gone along on the hunt, just to see what the fuss was all about.

On the 18th of May at high noon, the Gypsy reached it first milestone destination, the confluence of the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers, which is the beginning of the Altamaha River. Though we had heard the boasts before, "The Forks" had boundless numbers of turkey and deer, just waiting for the hunters to come and place them on their dinner tables. The boat headed to Bell's Ferry, one of the first ferries ever established in that part of Georgia. William Chambers, who was about to enter his twenty fourth year as the ferryman, kindled a fire and began to fry a fine mess of fish. I took a small bream and a bowl full of hushpuppies over by a cool spring shaded by a virescent canopy of virgin pines. I sat there and soaked in the aura of the ancient landmark. By seven o'clock in the evening, we had arrived at White Bluff near the confluence of the Altamaha and the Great Ohoopee River, some one hundred miles distant from our departure point in Dublin.

After a brief pause, the Gypsy moved down river to the Seven Sisters, a series of bluffs crowned by large magnolia trees in full bloom. With nothing alive to shoot, the itchy trigger fingered riflemen began firing at the fragrant blossoms, which exploded upon contact with their bullets. The evening cruise continued until we reached Gypsy Lake. Named by the club members in honor of their club boat, the six-mile-long lake was teeming with wild game. Some of the men managed to capture two broods of young turkeys, but decided to release them hoping that soon they would be hefty toms and hens. Here we spent three days of feasting and more feasting, interspersed with hunting and merrymaking. The camp ground was enveloped by a rim of oak, ash and elm carpeted with a blanket of snowy white sand.

We traveled a half day until we reached London Bluff, where Col. Dudley M. Hughes, his wife and his daughter, along with Messers Dupree, Oliphant, Budd, Yopp and Shannon left our company for a rail trip back to their homes. A trip of five more miles down the rapidly rising river found us at Doctor Town. For the first time I observed the magnificent 800 yard long iron bridge, one of a few of its kind over the Altamaha. Fifteen miles from Darien, we found another one where the Florida Central trains crossed the mighty river on their route from Florida to the land where the Yankees used to live nearly year round. Once again the Winchesters were pulled from their cases, much to the dismay of the gators along the banks.

Captain Miller slowed the pace as the water was wide, but way too shallow to allow rapid passage. On the 29th of May, some thirteen days after we left the docks in Dublin, the Gypsy pulled into Darien. One of Georgia's most ancient towns, Darien was populated by some four thousand people; three-fourths of them were black, descendants of an honorable people who farmed the coastal granges for more than a quarter of a millennium. I saw one large live oak which, I was told, shaded an entire acre of the sandy ground.

After all the passengers debarked, Capt. Miller and his crew turned the boat around for the return trip to Dublin. Many of the party lingered along the coast for a few more weeks of relaxation and revelry. Captain Miller invited me to return the following October for another trip. Hospitably acknowledging my thanks for a wonderful trip, but owing to the fact that I had other places to visit, I politely declined his offer. T.C. Keenan, Isaac Hardeman, E.J. Willingham and I were driven through the countryside to Barington, where we boarded a Florida Central northbound train. On the last day of the month in the mid afternoon I returned to Macon, ready for another adventure. While there I decided I might as well hang around for a year or so to see my great grandparents meet, fall in love and get married.

Note: This is the first column written in a new style. The story which you have just read is nearly all true. Of course, I didn't really get in a time machine, but I certainly would if I could. In future columns I hope to inform and entertain you with first person eyewitness accounts of more pieces of our past.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The Noah of the Oconee River

"No one in the State of Georgia," the old timers said, "built a better light draught river boat steamer than John Graham." In his twenty-five plus years as a builder of river boats, John M. Graham built more than forty boats and rebuilt at least half that number. John Graham never built an ark. But, if had he received such a mission, one could be comfortable that it would have been as good an ark as had ever been built, with all apologies to Noah himself.

John M. Graham was born in northeastern Laurens County, Georgia on January 31, 1844. His father, John Graham, married Nancy Daniell, daughter of George W. Daniell. His great, great-grandfather was General Robert Howe, the commanding general of the Colonial Army in the South during the American Revolution.

Just after his eighteenth birthday in the mid-spring of 1862, John joined Company C of the 57th Georgia Infantry. Before going off to war, the company trained on muster grounds across the road from Boiling Springs Methodist Church, which was built when John was eight years old. The 57th was assigned to the Army of the Tennessee, which was stationed in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

On May 16, 1863, the 57th Georgia became heavily engaged in battle with Union forces east of Vicksburg in the Battle of Champion's Hill, called Baker's Creek by the victorious Union army. A substantial part of the company was killed and wounded during the fighting before the survivors withdrew back to the last line of defense along the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. After a seven-week long siege, the Confederate Army surrendered to Gen. U.S. Grant on July 4, 1863. The capture of Vicksburg gave the Union Army control of the Mighty Mississippi and signaled the beginning of the end of the war in the lower southern states.

John Graham, along with every other prisoner, was forced to sign an oath of allegiance not to take up arms against the United States. And like most of the other prisoners, John broke his oath and rejoined the 57th, which returned to the Savannah area for coastal duty. When too many of its soldiers felt the urge to return to their homes too frequently, the regiment was assigned to guard duty at Andersonville Prison. Just as it was about to leave for duty in Virginia, the regiment was sent to rejoin the Army of the Tennessee in North Georgia. John fought in one battle after another in the defense of Atlanta.

John's fellow soldiers considered him to be "the bravest of the brave." They remembered a man who "was afraid of nothing except not doing his duty." Graham was acknowledged as being "the life of the camp" by those who fought with and survived him. His comrades recalled that he was a soldier who "was ready at all times to endure any hardship, storm any breastwork, and was as uncomplaining as any soldier in the army."

Two and one half weeks after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Gen. Joseph Johnston surrendered his Army of the Tennessee in North Carolina.

John Graham walked back to Laurens County, returning to a decimated county, where money, and even food, was a luxury. He married Mary Linder Moorman on January 16, 1868. Although it was said that he accepted the outcome of the war, Graham was an active participant in veterans' organizations and was deemed an "unreconstructed rebel."

When he was a child, John rarely saw river boats on the Oconee River. River traffic had all but died away before his birth. It rejuvenation was temporarily tolled during the war. It was in the late 1870s when Col. John M. Stubbs and Capt. R.C. Henry rejuvenated the use of river boats to transport agricultural products up to the Central of Georgia railroad's depot in Oconee and down to the ocean port of Darien. It was about that time when Graham built a home on the northeast corner of West Gaines Street and North Church Street.


Oconee River riverboat

John Graham's involvement in river boats first occurred in June 1887 while serving as the engineer of the steamer Laurens. The Laurens, owned by Capt. Henry, sunk in the Oconee river. Although the boat was a total loss, its pilot, the Rev. Norman McCall - a future minister of First African Baptist Church and a man of great size and strength - was able to save 150 of the 185 barrels of rosin on board.

Just six weeks later, while Graham was sitting on the edge of the Laurens, he inexplicably fell into the water. Capt. Henry desperately tried, but failed, to stop the paddle wheel from swallowing Graham. Graham was pulled from the river in an unconscious state. He survived mostly due to intense efforts on the parts of doctors Melton and Currie.

Katie C.

Among the boats Graham constructed were the Laurens, Gypsy, Annie Garbutt, R.C. Henry, City of Dublin, R.C. Henry No. 2, New Dublin, Katie C., City of Macon, City of Hawkinsville, City of Columbus, Ocmulgee, C.D. Owens, L. McNeil, G.T. Melton, Graham, Two States, Dixie, and R.C. Wilcox. The first nine boats were built in Dublin and the rest were built in other southern states. Capt. Graham also rebuilt, the Annie G., Southland, Oceola, City of Augusta, Nan Elizabeth, and Louisa. Graham also built a new flat boat for Blackshear's Ferry in the summer of 1905.

John Graham formed a partnership with his son-in-law, Capt. W.W. Ward, who was a river boat captain of equal footing in the eastern part of Georgia.

River transportation lived and died on the depths of the water levels of the ever-changing rivers. Rocks and snags presented frequent dangers requiring better buoyancy and maneuverability in the designs by Graham and others.


Most experts of the day considered John M. Graham, a natural mechanic and machinist, as the most talented boat builder in Georgia. It was said that Graham "possessed a bright, analytical mind and rarely made a mistake." All of his talents were self taught and many speculated that he would have gone down in the annals of American boat building history had he received the benefits of a technical education.

John Graham's later life was inextricably tied to the rivers and river boats. He escaped many an accident during his career. It is indeed ironic that his life ended as a result of his work. While working on his last boat in Savannah, John Graham was severely injured. At the age of sixty-five, John Graham never seemed to have recovered from his injuries. Graham died at his home on December 14, 1909. His body is buried in the old City Cemetery at the rear of First United Methodist Church. With his old rebel comrades standing by, the "Noah of the Oconee," was finally laid to rest.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


The Run From Bull Run

They were going to whip the Yankees in a month. Then the war was going to be over before by Christmas. One hundred fifty years ago this week, the South and the North went head to head in the first battle of the War Between the States. The southern army named its battles for the nearest town or land mass - the northern army for the nearest creek or river. The armies clashed near the railroad junction at Manassas, Virginia, near the creek named Bull Run. The Yankees were equally confident. High ranking government officials, their wives, and curious spectators traveled by wagons and buggies the short distance from Washington, D.C. to see the Grand Army of the Republic destroy the upstart rebels. When it was over, both sides were suffering. The Confederates had stood their ground, losing many lives and valuable field leaders along the way. The Federals, stunned and unexpectedly overwhelmed, ran most of the way back to the safety of the fortified capital city.

The 8th Georgia Infantry was there that day. Company G of the 8th Georgia was known as the Pulaski Volunteers. The Volunteers officially organized on May 16, 1861, a little more than a month after the war began at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The company, under the command of Capt. T.D. Lawrence Ryan, was composed primarily of men from Pulaski, Telfair, and Laurens Counties. One of the most intriguing members of the Volunteers was James Argo. Argo was born in 1796 and fought for his country in the War of 1812. He joined the Volunteers at the age of sixty five and served until the close of the war. Laurens County's sole company, the Blackshear Guards, had not yet been fully enaged into Confederate service in Virginia.

A week before the company was officially organized on May 16th, sixty or seventy of the Volunteers traveled to Dublin to train with the Blackshear Guards. After an exhaustive drill, the Guards entertained the Volunteers with a feast. With their stomachs full, the men were in no mood for any intensive activity, and by mid-afternoon headed back for Hawkinsville, stopping on the way at the home of Samuel Yopp, four miles outside of Dublin.

Daniel H. Mason, of Laurens County, was elected as the company's Second Sergeant. Sgt. Mason, the thirty one year old son of William Mason and his wife, the former Margaret Pullen of northeastern Laurens County, was one of the first Laurens Countians to enlist in the Confederate Army.

Around the 10th to the 15th of July, the 8th Georgia was ordered to Martinsburg, Virginia, where Stonewall Jackson's forces were converging with the Federal army. The conflict never materialized, and on the 19th, the Confederate Army marched toward Manassas Junction. The report of cannon fire was heard during the mid morning hours of the 20th. The regiment marched double quick to the sound of the guns. They arrived just before noon and found themselves in an open field and in easy view of Union artillery and riflemen. The volunteers quickly moved to the cover of a pine thicket near the Stone Bridge over Bull Run, where the Federals had crossed earlier in the day.

The 8th Georgia opened fire. The Federals fired back. The slaughter began. The six hundred men of the 8th Georgia held on for forty five minutes, just long enough to delay the enemy until Beauregard and the remainder of Johnston's armies could come up to the lines. In despair and confusion, the Volunteers fell back into a ravine in the rear of the thicket. The Volunteers attempted to rally. The Federals rushed in, nearly surrounding the devastated Pulaski Countians after they managed to get off only one volley of musketry fire. Colonel Francis S. Bartow, a former Georgia Congressman, rode toward the 8th's position. Bartow, who had his horse shot out from underneath him, was escorted by the surviving Volunteers to a more secure position. Col. Bartow sat down to rest. In contemplation of the ongoing tumult, Bartow lamented, "My men are nearly all killed and I can not longer to live. I pray God that a bullet may pierce my heart."

Captain Ryan asked permission for his remaining men to join a South Carolina unit in one last gallant charge. The request was denied and the survivors of the 8th were sent to the rear of the lines out of range of enemy fire. The Confederate lines were collapsing. Col. Bartow, commanding the 7th and 8th Georgia regiments, and Gen. Barnard Bee of South Carolina rushed to the aid of Col. Nathan Evans's men.

Despite the reinforced line, the Confederates began to fall back toward Henry Hill. After a lull in the battle, Gen. Bee attempted to rally his men by yelling the immortal words, " There stands Jackson like a stone wall." Col. Bartow led the 7th Georgia in a charge. His prayer was answered. Bartow received a mortal wound. The dying colonel stated, "They have killed me, boys, but never give up the field." Gen. Bee, too, received a mortal wound. Lt. Col. William Gardner, commanding officer of the 8th Georgia, was severely wounded and removed from the field. The 8th suffered horrific losses.

New and fresh Confederate units smashed the Federal flank. After the firing had slowed to a smattering, the Pulaski Volunteers made their way to an elevated position overlooking the village of Centerville. David G. Fleming of the Volunteers recalled, " Men, carts, wagons, carriages, artillery, horses, and everything rushing frantically and 'topsy-turvy' over each other, and all running for dear life." Soldiers and spectators fled in mass confusion all the way home to Washington. Victory overcame the sting of death, if only briefly. The Volunteers greeted Gen. Beauregard as he came up to salute their efforts. The Confederates whipped the Yankees just like they said they would, but at a cost which was more dear than they ever imagined. Both sides learned that day that the war would not be a quick one. More than a half million more men would die before peace would come.

There was one more task to do before the end of the day. It was not a pleasant one, but it had to be done. The men knew that they had to return to the thicket. Their comrades were there, some wounded, some dying, and some already dead. Alvey Goodson, John Lowery, J.W. Carruthers, and Jesse Scarborough were dead. Thomas Boatright was dying. W.N. Bowen, A.R. Coley, J.E. Floyd, A. McClelland, and Isaac Rains were severely wounded. Sgt. Daniel Mason was there too, blood gushing from a wound in his arm. Bowen, McLelland, and Rains soon died. Fleming pondered, "On viewing the small pines, and remembering how thick the bullets came, our wonder was how any of us escaped, except by protection of an unseen hand."

Sgt. Mason was taken to a primitive field hospital and later transported to Charlottesville, Virginia, where a Confederate surgeon amputated his arm. David Fleming, Mason's dear friend and messmate, described the sergeant as "a most excellent soldier." Mason, like many amputees of the day, didn't make it. After a few weeks of lingering in constant agony, Mason died. He is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Charlottesville. Sgt. Daniel Mason was Laurens County's first victim of that long and eternally tragic war, the War Between the States, which began in earnest with all of its death and horror, one hundred and fifty years ago this week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Chess McCartney, without a doubt, is the most famous 20th Century folk icon of Middle Georgia and perhaps even the Southeast. For decades the wandering evangelist traveled with his tribe of goats all over the country, spreading the word of God and earning a meager living in the process. For all of us who lived along Highway 80, McCartney, known simply as "The Goat Man," we were privileged to see him on a regular basis. The really lucky ones got to talk to him and pet his goats.

Many people have read about "The Goat Man" in books and magazines. So, when I set out to tell his story, I enlisted the aid of my Facebook friends. These are their memories of the heavily bearded man who lived in a kudzu-covered ravine near the village of Fitzpatrick in northwestern Twiggs County and who walked along the highways and towns of America, including right here in Dublin.

When Barbara Lewis Barroso was five, she remembered hearing that the "Goat Man" was coming down Highway 80 near the VA. "All the kids on my block would run across the alley between our houses and through the yards of the houses behind us, cross the street and go to the edge of the highway," Barbara recalled. "I remember all the pots and pans hanging down from his wagon. I remember him talking to us, but don't remember anything he said." she added. He was a man ruff in appearance with his scruffy beard and clothes, but he had this magical charisma that charmed and delighted us. Those of us that had that experience were lucky that we lived in such a place and time that we were worry free. I think kids today would be afraid of him and run the other way. Tommy Martin remembered the pots and pan too, "He came down Mincey St. on a fairly regular basis with his old wagon, pots and pans hanging thereon, and of course, a herd of goats. We actually bought things from him from time to time."

Barbara's sister, Mary, recalled the time the "Goat Man" stopped at a gas station near their Highland Ave. home. "He and Mr. Brown were arguing because he wanted his goats to use the bathroom. It was memorable because two grownups were arguing and there were all these goats, and they were pooping all over his station," an amused Mary remembered.

The Whipple sisters, Suzanne Hagan and Jennifer Whiddon, had fond closeup memories of McCartney. Their father, Lucian, would take his family to see "Goat Man" whenever he was in town. Lucian, a prolific photographer, took many pictures. His son, Miles, took some and made them into a scrapbook. Whipple, also an adept conversationalist, talked to the folk icon as if he were just an ordinary person. Jennifer has never forgotten the banging noises of his clanging pots, which to her was as exciting as the ice cream man coming down the street. Suzanne had a more up close experience. "When I was in my first year of nursing school, about 35 years ago, I was assigned to him as a student nurse," she remembered. Weak and frail, Chess required delicate personal care. "When we were learning basic nursing cares such as giving a patient a bed-bath, I remember drawing up his bedside basin and I set it next to him on the table beside his bed. I explained to him that I was going to give him a bath. Well, he very distinctly told me that he didn't need a bath that day and refused it stating that he never bathed on any kind of regular schedule. My nursing instructor wanted me to be a little more assertive in this matter. Well, I tried again but he refused and that was that. However, he was very kind and friendly but simply was not interested in being bathed. Now, he could have used a clean bath as he had a long white beard and looked very rugged and smelled like his goats but in the end he won and did not have to take a bath that day."

Kim McCoy Wyatt also encountered McCartney in a Macon hospital. While visiting her aunt, Kim went down the hall to look for something. "I bounced right back into her room I thought!. There I was face to face with the Goat Man... I knew it was him the minute I saw him. Long white beard & hair.... I will never forget it. We were eye to eye... I said, 'I'm sorry. I'm in the wrong room.'He was very nice and sweetly said, 'that's all right child & smiled."

Dwight Stewart used to go by his house to hear him preach. " I went in the house and stood. I didn't want to sit down. His goats came in and out of the house as they wanted too," Dwight reminisced. Leaving the house and its pretty strong odor behind, Preacher McCartney got his Bible and from his podium preached a sermon to Stewart and his friend. To pay his bills, McCartney sold postcards to his admirers. "I bought two of them. I still have them." Stewart fondly remembered.

Kim Kirz and her family traveled from Dublin to Macon every Sunday for Sunday school. Whenever possible, the Kirz family would stop and visit. "The goat nursery under his wagon was our favorite thing to check out," Kim said. Lynn Alligood begged her daddy to stop by the "Goat Man's" school bus house every time they came back from Macon. Lynn also remembered seeing him across from the old drive-in theater. "People were lined up to get their pictures made with him," Alligood remarked. Jan Stanley Edwards also remembered the clanging pots and thought to herself that when she grew up, she wanted to be like the "Goat Man." Marilyn Freeman Dailey also visited the "Goat Man" at his home, but also remembered seeing him during a vacation on U.S. Highway 1 near Daytona.

Cindy S. Brown's daddy was in a bank in Dublin one day when the "Goat Man" came in to cash a check back in the early to mid 50's. "The 'Goat Man's check was for $500, a good bit of money back then. The banker called Macon to verify that the check was good and was told that his check is good up to fifty thousand dollars," Cindy recollected.

Connie Dominy wrote, "He used to camp out on 80 in the area right across from where Bank of America is. There is a car dealership there now. We use to go up and hang out with him. His wagon had car tags from different states all over it. He also had other things, like pots and pans hanging off the side. I remember he would straddle a goat, milk it and then turn the mason jar up and drink it. He would offer us kids some. Underneath the wagon was his nursery area for a better word. That is where the babies and sometimes the mama's would ride. He and the goats would sleep in the wagon. He would make a campfire and cook beans and stuff. He was a preacher and would always preach some. He was a gentle man and would take time with us kids. He would let us hold the little baby goats and of course pet the others. He would sit on an old bucket while talking to us. He had about eight goats that pulled his wagon and would tie others up to walk behind the wagon. I remember the look and smell. Once his son was with him. I remember the son went into the woods and came out smelling like baby powder. Every time he came through and stopped up there, we would all go up and hang out with him. As a kid, I was not afraid of him at all. He was so gentle. He used to tell us about places he had traveled. I also remember going up 80 and stopping at his house outside Jeffersonville. And his house had a school bus and little church on the grounds."

As for me, I wish I had the writing bug thirty five years ago, for I could kick myself all the times I drove by him as I was coming home from college. Let that be a lesson to us all.

If you have memories of the man we called, "The Goat Man," please email them to me at

Monday, July 04, 2011


Barbecue and the Fourth of July

A Fourth of July without a barbecue is like Thanksgiving without a turkey. For more than two centuries, the advertisement of a barbecue, especially a free one, has been used to attract customers, visitors, voters and most especially friends, who come to taste the scrumptious swine, savory chicken, and grilled hamburgers, not to mention the potato salad, pork-n-beans, potato chips, slaw, and the decadent desserts which we cram into our mouths on America's birthday, all in the celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

In the spring of 1794, Augustus Elholm, Georgia's Adjutant General, called for a remonstrance to the House and Senate of Georgia to establish a jubilee throughout the state, annually on the 4th of July, consisting of a barbecue and home distilled spirits, furnished by the government to each battalion and every citizen within its limits, with an arrangement for shooting matches. Let's hope the men shot before they imbibed the spirits.

One of the state's first political barbecues was held in Macon on August 15, 1827, when the Republicans of Macon, Georgia held a free barbecue to honor their candidate for governor of Georgia, Matthew Talbot.

Someone played a mean trick on Mr. John Snellgrove at an 1881 Laurens County barbecue. It seems that Snellgrove prided himself on his ability to eat enormous amounts of food. To prevent eating too much, the big eater placed eight belt holes, each an inch a part. He kept on eating everything in sight until his belt grew too tight. One day he began to eat tripe and other things until the last notch on his belt was reached. He had swelled to the last notch hundreds of times before. But on this occasion a devilish trickster cut another hole. His intestines ruptured and the poor glutton died.

The Boys in Gray gathered for a reunion in July 1887 in a grove of trees near the Burney residence in Dublin. Some say there was 3000 to 4000 people consuming the best food Dublin cooks could prepare. During their three years in the Confederate army, these aging veterans scarcely saw so much fine food for an entire army. Beside food, there were orations, baseball, and dancing. All went home happy, but stuffed, tired and hot.

Perhaps the largest barbecue ever held in Dublin took place in July 1891. The occasion was the arrival of the first train from Macon along the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad. Thousands of persons rambled through ten acres of oak groves eating chicken, pig, mutton, pies, cakes, and peaches and cream.

Turns out that one of the biggest ballyhooed barbecues came exactly one century ago on the nation's birthday in 1911. It was billed as a day of feasting, good music, and rallying for good roads. It was just that and more.

The big celebration was held in the newest amusement park in Dublin. It's owners, the Tindol Brothers, F.C. and W.P., opened the park they called East Lake along the cool waters of Hunger and Hardship Creek. The Tindols established the entrance to East Lake at the point near where North Franklin Street crossed the creek at the new steel bridge, a place therefore only crossed by fording. It was also the place where the Baptists and Methodists gathered to dunk or sprinkle their true believers in the spirit of the Lord.

The whole hullabaloo was sponsored by the newly formed Dublin Chamber of Commerce. It was the chamber's first big function. And, it was a big success. The greatest measure of any barbecue was obviously, the meat on the grill. And, as usual, Major T.D. Smith, a celebrated Confederate veteran and barbeque master, did an outstanding job. In the haste to put on the event, planners forgot to plan for enough help to serve the pork and chicken. By one o'clock when the dinner bells rang, enough volunteers stepped forward and the feast went off without too many hitches.

The Dublin Band didn't disappoint either. The band, fresh off their rave performance at the National United Confederate Veterans Reunion in Little Rock, Arkansas, filled the air with streams of patriotic tunes and toe-tapping melodies.

And, there was a lot of talk about good roads. Why else would Dublin's businessmen donate the food and all the trappings and close their business for several hours in the middle of the day? Good roads were essential to the growth of Dublin and Laurens County. Better road surfaces and more direct routes to other commerce centers were a necessity if the local community was to continue its meteoric growth.

Captain L.Q. Stubbs, a four-time and popular mayor of Dublin, served as the master of ceremonies. Stubbs introduced one of his predecessors, the eloquent orator Thomas B. Felder, Jr. . Felder, then an Atlanta attorney, commented on the growth of Dublin since he had left nearly two decades before. He told the crowd that if had been unconsciously placed in Dublin, he would have not known where he was. In his homecoming address, Col. Felder complimented his fellow Dubliners by saying, "By your energy, industry and enterprise, you have built this city from a village into a metropolis, rivaling its beauty, its population, its culture, refinement, and commercial importance as other older cities of the state."

Felder, a consummate politician and prohibitionist, could not resist launching into a tirade against Gov. Cole Blease of South Carolina.

Perhaps the most famous barbecue to involve Laurens Countians took place not in the county but on the lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. in 1980. Three hundred Laurens Countians, headed by Cecil Passmore and Bennie Mullis, gathered to support President Jimmy Carter in his reelection campaign against Ronald Reagan. But, that's another story for another column in the future.

So, on this 5th day of July when your bellies are filled with barbecue, let us take time to rejoice in the freedoms we were given two hundred and thirty five years ago by a group of fifty-six men, who thankfully didn't gather together to pick the meat off a barbecued pig, but boldly subscribed their names to a declaration of which many of us know the beginning words. I ask you when you think of barbecue and the 4th of July, take a look at their concluding words, "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

In memory of H. Dale Thompson, (April 14, 1923-July 5, 2001).