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

Monday, December 31, 2012


If you could go back in time a hundred years ago, you would find the City of Dublin resting on a pinnacle.  The meteoric growth of the stagnant, lawless, village to one of the leading cities of the State of Georgia was nothing less than astonishing, to say the least.

The decision by city leaders to clean out the illegal and the legal sale of alcohol in the city along with the infusion of money and jobs with the location of four railroads converging in the heart of the Emerald City ignited a spark which took Dublin from a population of 200 to a population of nearly 5,000 in twenty-five years.

Ideally suited in the center of the state, Dublin became a favorite location for gathering of state leaders.  During that year,  eight associations held their state conventions in the city. The members of the Al Sihah Mystic Temple of the Shrine, the State  Sunday School Association, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Georgia Banker's Association, the Weekly Press Association, the State Agricultural Society, the Macon Presbytery, and the Hotel Keepers of Georgia gathered in the Emerald City for business meetings and pleasurable activities. 

With an eye on future, there was very little, if any, celebration or mention of centennial of Dublin in 1912.

The crowning jewels of the Emerald City were completed and started in 1912.  In August, the  city's modern post office was opened on East Madison Street.  For the first time ever, the citizens of Dublin had,  in reality, the city's first permanent post office building.  And, what a building it was.  The two-story building was recently renovated by Jeff Davis, IV as a testament to that generation of dreamers and doers who built the city into a crown jewel of Georgia. 

A. Ten Eyck Brown of Atlanta was selected as the architect for the First National Bank building.  He was engaged with Morgan and Dillon and had designed the then new Fulton County Courthouse.  Brown designed many notable bank buildings in the South.  The building featured  a marble front on the first floor with the remaining facade of brick.  The foundation was laid on October 12, 1912.  The work on the six-story building was completed within six months. 

It was also a year of great plans and unrealized dreams.  The Columbian Woodmen of the World planned to erect a four-story office building.  W.W. Robinson proposed to build a two-story opera house next to the Robinson Hardware Company a basement and a café.  A street car line  from the end of Bellevue never materialized. 

Dr. E. New  considered building a seven-story building on the corner of W. Jackson Street and Monroe Street with stores on first  floor, a café on the top floor and apartments in between.  Architect RB McGeckin included a  children's playground and garden on the roof.  

Elks Club members bought a lot for three-story building from the Georgia Warehouse and Compress Company at the southeast corner of East Madison and South Franklin Streets a project which never got off the ground.  

An application for the incorporation of the Jacksonville, McRae and Northern Railroad was filed.  It began at Barrow's Bluff on the Altamaha River and was to run north through McRae and Cedar Grove on to Dublin, giving Dublin a direct route to Jacksonville, Fla.  Future Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge was an incorporator of the failed project. 

One of the most highly contested presidential elections ever took place on November 5, 1912. It was the only time in the history of the country when three presidents, all serving consecutive terms, were on the same presidential ballot.  Woodrow Wilson, formerly of Augusta, easily won the race in Laurens County, with 83% of the vote.  The Bull Moose candidate, Teddy Roosevelt, came in second with 15%.  Republican William Howard Taft, with support from only a handful of blacks who were allowed to vote, finished a distant third.  Eugene Debs, the socialist candidate, received two votes in the Reedy Springs District.  Election results were received over a rented wire in the Elk's Lodge and flashed on the canvas on the front of Baynard's Store by the use of a stereopticon.  

It was a year to celebrate the courage and the bravery of the grand old Army of the South.  Under the auspices of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a thirty-five foot, ninety-thousand pound marble statue was erected on the lawn of the Carnegie Library at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Academy Avenue.  After a four-year dispute when the statue remained veiled, the monument to the Confederate soldier was dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day in 1912. 

Hundreds of people from Dublin, including the Dublin Brass Band, traveled by rail to Macon to celebrate the National Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans in May.

It was a sad day in the town when one of those Boys in Gray, the universally beloved, Capt. Hardy B. Smith, died in his home on West Gaines Street on December 6.  

Laurens County's industries included a cotton mill, two cotton oil mills, several fertilizer plants, phosphate works, veneering mills, lumber mills, a variety works, an ice factory, brick plants, machine shops, hydraulic stone works, marble works, large buggy and wagon factories, bottling works, a disinfectant and chemical plant, naval stores manufactory, an oil heater plant, wood working plants, a cotton compress  and numerous  cotton gins.

With four banks with a total capital surplus over  than six hundred thousand dollars and deposits well more than a million dollars in the city and thirteen banks in Laurens County carrying over 1 and 1/4 million dollars in deposits, Laurens County became the regional banking center for East Central Georgia. 

Agricultural production dominated the local economy.  For the second year in a row, Laurens County led the state in cotton production.  Despite that fact, the beginning of the end of the county's position as the Queen of Cotton in Georgia would take place in the following years.

The year 1912 was the pinnacle of the explosive growth of Dublin, its surrounding sister towns and the unincorporated countryside.  Nearly a half century would pass before Laurens County would regain it dominant economic position she held in 1912, a century ago.

Monday, December 24, 2012



  Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year.  It is day that I wait for all year long.  It is day to be with those you love and  to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord.  I wrote this poem, with all apologies to the poet, Robert Barrett Browning with whom I share a birthday (and that's about all).  The poem is in remembrance of the Christmas Eves I spent in Adrian, Georgia from the late 1950s to the late 1970s.  My grandfather, Henry "Gran" Thompson and my grandmother, Claudie "Gommie" Thompson, operated a country store on U.S. Highway 80 east of Adrian, just past the "Hoopee" River bridge and next to the Nazarene Campground. "Pig" was a man who lived across the road.  His real name was Hubert Hackle Moore.  Sometimes he couldn't hear it thunder, due to an injury he received during the war.

Hurry up, it's off to Gommie and Gran's we go.
Get in the car and don't drive slow.
By the drive-in and the empty farms,
with loads of presents in our arms.
On through Scott and by the old tracks,
look over the hill, I see Aunt Jack's.

Blow the horn Daddy, waving as we went by,
As the sun's last rays scattered across the sky.
Adrian was settling down for the night,
'round the curve and up the hill, it's almost in sight.
Who could see it, with anticipation we almost burst.
"I see it," "No I do," " No I saw it first!"

Stop the car at the store, we'll be at the house soon,
through the 'Hoopee oaks peeked a near full moon.
Nehi's, Mary Janes, and strawberry Kits by the pack,
Tootsie rolls, peanuts, and crackers crammed in a little brown sack.
"Throwing rocks in the pond, I had no control.
Every once in a while I would hit that light pole."

Behind the counter was a friendly old man,
to many he was Henry, to us, just "Gran."
Always with a smile and chewing gum in his hand,
Oh!  How lucky, a grandfather who is a walking candy stand.
People stopped to get a drink, gas, or just to say, "hello."
The dim lights hung down with their special yellow glow.

On the bench sat old "Pig" with a story to tell,
"I'm thirsty." "Beat you to the well!"
Time to go the house, a three-way race,
One to win.  One to show. One to place.
An arch of Christmas lights over the door.
"Don't slam the screen!" I had heard it many times before.

The warmth of the gas heater just drew me in,
To a hug from Aunt Georgia and from Uncle Don, a grin.
"Hey Donna! Hey Damaris! Merry Christmas to All!"
"I'm starving and I've got no time to stall."
I'll always remember that wonderful smell,
Daphne, Jack, and Jane, fixin and fixin without a spell.

The family's giant little lady, Gommie, was our heart,
"Say the blessing y'all, it's time to start."
A stack of hot biscuits on a light blue plate,
Grab a couple and don't be late.
Corn, peas, dumplins, and pecan pie,
So good, they still bring a tear to my eye.

"You younguns go outside and play some more,
And don't you slam that screen door!"
Nicky is lighting Black Cat firecrackers, oh what a noise!
"Cut out the racket all you boys!"
"Jump the ditch," that was Ricky's bet,
"Oh that water was cold and it sure was wet!"

"Jane, it's a quarter to eight,
Let's gather up, before it gets late."
One last stop at the Alfonso Christmas tree,
Exchanging gifts, "I can't wait to see."
"So long everybody, we got to get going,
Cause it will soon be Christmas morning."

Gazing out the window of the old Mercury car,
to catch a glimpse of the wonderful Christmas star,
"If it's flashing, that is because,
it's the reindeer pulling Santa Claus."
Those gran' times seem so far away,
but will remain in my heart to my very last day.

As you guessed, I never made it across that ditch, I hit the water every time. Cherish every day with your family, but especially these two days.   Christmas is and always will be a special part of my past and I suspect a special part of yours, too.   Merry Christmas, Gran!  Merry Christmas, Gommie!  Merry Christmas, Daddy!  And to you Aunt Daphne, Uncle Don, Aunt Jack, Ricky, and Aunt Georgia!  Merry Christmas to all, on this Holy night!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


These are some of the things I am thankful for.

     No one, and I mean "no one" gives thanks in words like Ed Grisamore of the Macon Telegraph. For years now I have been reading his Thanksgiving columns listing several of his many blessings during the year. With so much turmoil printed in the papers, broadcast on television and posted all over the Internet these days, it is time for all us to reflect back on the year 2012, the year in which the world did not end when the Mayans said that it would. 

     So, on this Christmas Eve, I will attempt to do the same. They are just a few of some of my personal blessings, some of which we all share in common. 

     The late Charles Kuralt said, "I could tell you which writer's rhythms I am imitating. It's not exactly plagiarism, it's falling in love with good language and trying to imitate it." So, Ed, with all humility to your unparalleled way with words, here are some of the things I am thankful for during the past year. 

     I am happy that Tracy Cranford''s dog, "Bones," after all of its trials and tribulations,  made it back home where it belongs. And, for kids like Maleik Carr, who saved his 5-year-old sister from a big, bad dog. 

     I am grateful for first places and second chances. 

    We are all grateful to Dublin Fire Chief Robert Drew for putting out the fires for fifty-three years. 

     I am thankful for the cooking of Jeanelle Lamb Smith, who never cooked a bad meal. 

    I am blessed to have known, two true, first class Southern ladies, Evelyn Hogan Livingston and Barbara Hogan McLees and three fine Southern gentlemen, John Vaughn, Kline Scarborough and Marshall Lord, all of whom who left us this year. 

     I never met Parnell Ruark. My barber, Thurston Branch, swears that he was one of the best players and managers ever in the history of minor league baseball in Dublin. And, everyone knows that Thurston always tells the truth. Mr. Ruark now manages and plays on his heavenly field of dreams. 

     I never met former Dubliner, Bishop Imogene Bigham Stewart. The Lord took her home this year. She left behind a legacy of caring for the downtrodden and the poor while proudly waiving the American flag, all at the same time. You can do both. 

     I am grateful I got to write about the late Jimmy Bivins, a native of Dry Branch, Georgia. He was one of the greatest boxers you never heard of. Many old timers would tell you that if he had gotten a chance, he could have been a real contender. 

     No one had a better time than me dancing to the memorable music of the Dukes of York and the Ancestors, who played together for the first time in four decades at a spring dance at the Dublin Country Club. 

     I am grateful for real green Christmas trees. And for ruby red sunsets, puffy white clouds and clear blue skies. 

     Mayberry, North Carolina will never be the same with Andy and Goober having moved upstairs to join Barney, Aunt Bea and Floyd. I'll miss Andy Williams, Robin Gibb, Dick Clark and Don Cornelious, who gave us the music of our lives. And you too, Davy Jones. You made us all daydream believers. 

     When I look at the full moon, I will always see Neil Armstrong's giant leap for mankind. I'll also the remember the smiling laugh of Ernest Borgnine and the twang of the Queen of Country music, Kitty Wells, both of whom performed here in their early days. I'll even miss the bad guys, Jonathan "Barnabus Collins" Frid and Larry "J.R. Ewing" Hagman. And another bad buy, at least to the guilty in front of his camera, Mike Wallace.  No one ever conducted a hard-hitting television interview any better. 

    I am grateful for a Saturday afternoon ride around Goose Hollow farm with Roy Malone. Oh, how I wish that I could fly back in time with him aboard his P-51 fighter. 

    Let us all be grateful for the newly created jobs in town by our new European friends and the ones of our old friends at Southeast Paper which were saved. 

   I am grateful that my mother said "no" to my father becoming Judge of the Southern District of Georgia, which allowed the Hon. Dudley Bowen to be appointed instead. Thanks to Judge Bowen for leading the fight to save our Federal courthouse. 

    We are all blessed that we have ladies like Gail Yates, whose dream to feed the hungry at Christmas time still lives on. 

    Thanks Zoie Sangster, for giving away your shoes to the shoeless.  And, thanks to Dr. Marie Hooks, who retired from education this year after touching the hearts of thousands of school children. 

   And, thanks to my friend Ben Tarpley, who gave up on his dream walking the Appalachian Trail up and back to rebuild the dreams of the homeless of tornado ravaged Joplin, Missouri. 

     And, congratulations to the newly wed, Jonathan Goode, who never stops believing in the eternal power of love and the everlasting power of Jesus in our lives. 

   I am grateful for hot biscuits on a plate and cold nights by the fireplace.

   Not too many knew that Larry Morris, a Georgia Tech football icon and a member of the 1960s All Decade NFL team,  spent some of his vacation days in our community.  Larry died just before Christmas, succumbing to the ravages of the beatings he took on the gridiron. 

    Happy 200th Birthday Dublin, the land I love! And, Happy 50th Birthday to the Shamrock Bowl, the place where memories are made and dreams do come true. 

   Congratulations to Terry Evans for never giving up on his dream of playing major league baseball. And, Godspeed in his newest mission to spread the words of hope, faith and love. 

  And, congratulations to referee Sally Bell for joining a Hall of Fame filled mostly with men, who cursed the umpires and the referees for most of their careers. 

   Thanks to the Greatest Generation and heroes like Kelso Horne, who parachuted into the predawn darkness on Normandy on D-day and whose name is now and forever linked to our newest highway and one who helped pave the highway to freedom in World War II.  And, following right behind him was Jake Webb, who waded ashore at Utah Beach in the face of horrific rifle fire. He has now joined all his buddies who were left behind that day.

    I am grateful for new friends and old books and to those who can't tell them apart. 

     I am also thankful for the service of Dublin native, the late Jack Lamar Linder, one of the U.S. Air Force's first Senior Master Sergeants. And for the late Rev. Larry Wilkes, who healed bodies as a Navy corpsman and souls as an Episcopalian priest. 

    A great big cheer goes out to Jeff Davis, IV, whose passion for the honorable things of the past and his vision for a greater future is a lesson for all of us. 

  Let us all say a prayer of gratitude for the Rev. Jack Key, who at 90 years old, still manages to preach the Gospel whenever and wherever he can. And to the late Dr. Harold McManus, who taught Christianity at Mercer University for 36 years and pastored sixty years ago at Marie Baptist Church, where his earthly body now lies in the nearby church cemetery. 

    I am grateful for old veterans and new recruits, for Googling nights and days off, and for the so, so sweet smell of honeysuckle, magnolia and mimosa on late evening walks in the spring. 

    It is still most reassuring to know that there are a lot of people out there who really care about the world we live in and who will never forget the lost children of Sandy Hook.

   I am most grateful, the gifts given to me to have the ability to tell you the stories of our past for the last sixteen years. 

   And most of all, I am grateful for Kathy, Scotty, Mandi, Vicki and Lauren, our two cats and five dogs. Welcome Winston, our new foster dog. 

   For the year which follows, there is hope. There must always be hope. It begins within each of us. It begins in our hearts, in our minds, and most of all, in the way we show honor, respect and love toward each other. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012


If I had to summarize that answer into one word, that word would be "we." To me, Dublin is not the place we call Dublin.  It is the people who live and who have lived here and around the surrounding country side of Laurens County.

Yes, we have our special buildings, the ones we have grown to know and to love, and the ones we often take for granted. And, there are those special places, where our memories take us, back to the day when life was a little slower and people were kinder and gentler.

But, the true secret of what is good about Dublin is not the buildings, not the places, but it is the people who have called this place, home.

In the 200 years of our existence, the people of the Dublin area have accomplished a multitude of remarkable achievements.  Yes, I am prejudiced. But, I can honestly say that our people have done more than other communities our size in Georgia.

U.S. Senators, congressmen, governors, attorney generals, and state department officers have called Dublin home.

We have been actors, actresses, singers and musicians of national notoriety. We have performed in Hollywood, in Nashville and on Broadway.

We played in the Super Bowl, the Masters Golf Tournament (yes, we made the green jackets, too.) We have played Major League Baseball and in the NBA.

One of us helped men to walk and ride on the Moon.

We have been generals and admirals and commanded the National Guard.

Three of us were known as Tuskegee Airmen.

We have been judges and justices of Georgia Appellate Courts.

Some of us have been bishops and two of us have headed the Shriners of North America.

Our citizens have been enshrined in the Halls of Fame in sports, music, agriculture, government, newspapers, furniture retailing, pest control, radio and television.

We have influenced the lives of people like Helen Keller and Martin Luther King.

The Congressional Medal of Honor, sixteen Silver Stars, and hundreds of Bronze Stars have been awarded to us.

We have been a Harlem Globetrotter, wrestling champions and Most Valuable Players.

A few of us have been All Americans in major collegiate sports, as well as regional, state, national and world champions.

We have been the writers of hundreds of books, been nationally esteemed journalists and prominent painters.

We have founded the oldest sorority in the world and raced at Daytona.

We were the first African American female to head a major college department, to be the first vice president of CBS Radio, and the first General who came from the Finance Corps.

Our portraits have graced the cover of Life magazine more than once and one of our little boys grew up to be a six time world boxing champion. Another became a great inventor for Ford Motor Company.

We have been one of the very top high school football coaches in Georgia history.

A Dublin cable guy founded MTV and a local school teacher led the National Order of the Eastern Star.

The fastest man in the world and the second President of The Republic of Texas lived here for a time.

We have been President of Georgia Power Company and the youngest female attorney in the history of Georgia.

Famous radio disc jockeys and a trainer of  pro tennis champions sojourned here on their way to the top of their profession.

We have been one of four Georgia Bulldogs to have their jersey retired.  Had Herschel Walker's mother not had pre natal problems and traveled to Augusta to give birth to him, you could make that two.

Our tiniest adult citizen followed Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road.

We have commanded the United Confederate Veterans and won MTV and Grammy Awards.

A Dublin kid grew up to become the first African American catcher in the American League, another  - the first female to get an athletic scholarship at the University of Georgia and another - the first female African American graduate of the UGA law  school and yet another - one of the first African American female dentists in the state.

One of us founded the States Rights movement in the United States and almost started the first Civil War back in 1825 with President John Quincy Adams over the issue of removing the Indians from Georgia.

And we have done the other things, the one no one wins an award for, but the things that meant so much to the ones we love and the ones who have loved us.

Yes, there is an "I" in Dublin.  But, there is also a "U." When you put "U" and "I" togther, you get a "We."

"We" is what Dublin means to me.  We can do anything that our hearts desire will allow.

We have done it before.  We can do it again.  We will do it again.

In this bicentennial year, we celebrated the  people of our past and present  and  hope and pray for the people of our future.

So in this 200th year of Dublin, I  salute "we," the people of Dublin - the people of her past, the people of her present and the people of her future.

May our city always be known as the place where we always tried to do our duty, where we tried to do the right thing,  and where we can live in  a place - a place in our hearts, a place in our dreams, and a place where there are no "I"s, no "Me"s, but  a whole lot of "We"s

Dublin, I salute you, may we live in peace, in harmony and in love for another two hundred years.

Thursday, December 13, 2012



For all of the last seven decades, Roy Malone, of Dexter, Georgia has fought for freedoms.  In the South Pacific in World War II, he flew a fighter plane fighting for our country's freedoms.   Since his return to Laurens County, Malone has fought to build a better home for his family, better methods of farming, wiser soil conservation and  tree farming policies and ways to improve  the beauty of the Earth which he cherishes so, so much.

Roy Malone's world and his life were turned upside down on March 14, 1944.  Second Lieutenant Roy Malone qualified to become a member of the Caterpillar Club.  To achieve this somewhat dubious honor, Malone had to endure bailing out of his P-40 fighter plane under the most of perilous circumstances.   

It was at Aloe Field on the outskirts of Victoria, Texas where Roy Malone, a Laurens County  farm boy, received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force.   As he and his buddies were preparing to ship out to fighter school, the pilots decided to get in a little practice for the rigorous training which lay ahead.

"Nine of us took P-40 fighter planes up to do some simulated dog fighting," Malone recalled.  Trying to position himself on the tail of another plane and at the same time trying not to allow someone else to line up on him for a shoot down, Lt. Malone got into position behind one of the planes. He was locked in on his target, moving in for the theoretical kill.  That's when Lt. Frank Mesojedec slipped in and got on his tail. "He had locked in on me but was coming in too fast.  As he shot past me he came too close, clipping my right wing with his left wing," Malone remembered. "That kind of thing happens in training, we weren't the only ones," the lucky pilot added.

Both planes fell into lethal spiraling spins.  And, both pilots managed to bail out, though they were flying at low altitudes.  "My chute opened about 200 feet off the ground and it had just enough time to open and sway back  and forth once before I landed in an oak tree about 20 feet up," Malone recollected.  Lt. Mesojedec was not as fortunate.  His chute failed to open in time. 

Battered, broken, and bruised, Malone stayed in the hospital for a week. With just one day to spare, Roy, missing one tooth and still sore from the impact,  was discharged and joined his buddies as they shipped out to fighter school.  It was one of the two most memorable moments Malone would experience in his long military career.

It was a day that changed his life forever.  Lt. Malone came within an eyelash of being a casualty of World War II and a hero whom we honor on this Memorial Day. 

Roy tried not to worry about the dangers of being a fighter pilot.  "When we came back from a mission, the flight surgeon gave us two ounces of liquor to calm our nerves," he recollected.  Malone, who didn't drink, began to accumulate his liquor in a bottle with his name marked on it.  To relieve the stress, Malone and his buddies wrestled, played games, and exercised whenever they could. 

One day an infantryman walked by Malone's tent and asked the pilot if he wanted to buy a Japanese sword.  When Roy responded that he didn't have any cash, the soldier wondered if Malone would be interested in swapping some of his aerial combat liquor for his sword.  Malone agreed. The deal was done.  Today, that sword is among a large collection of memorabilia which has been lovingly curated by Malone's wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Gail Poole.     

Malone has seen dying and death in war time, from high above to down low skimming the deck over places like Nagasaki, Japan, where he photographed the total inhalation of the second atomic bomb.  He takes no glorious pride in the destruction which his P-51 fighter reeked upon the Japanese people and their infrastructure, but he makes no apologies for it was his mission, a mission he was thoroughly trained to do.  

August 6, 1945 was one of those days Roy Malone which will never forget, although at the time,  he didn't realize that America had dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. 

"Before we were sent up there on a flight, we were told to stay away from a particular point by 75 to 100 miles," Malone recalled.  A few hours after the night time explosion, Malone was flying in the Hiroshima sector and observed the mushroom cloud dissipating into the stratosphere as a new era in the history of the world dawned. 

Two days after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Malone was ordered to fly over the city at low levels to take pictures of the results of the war ending attack.  It would be the second most memorable day of Roy Malone's career as an aviator. 

"I took a wing man with me," said Malone, who was a wing leader at the time.  "Although there was no cease fire in effect at the time, we were ordered not to fire at anyone unless fired upon first," he added.  

"About 15 to 20 miles out, I got down on the deck," Malone recalled.   He  flew 200 feet above the obliterated countryside, snapping photographs with his automatic K-34 camera as his plane screamed just above what used to be tree tops and buildings. 

"There wasn't anything there but dust.  Every now and then you would see the hull of a building," said Malone, who reported that he never saw any sign of human life at all.  

On the left was a mountain and on the right was a place where ships were moored. Malone flew his plane toward the open sea just in case he was fired upon.  Pilots preferred head toward the sanctuary of the ocean where they could be rescued by friendly naval forces if they were shot down.  
"When I snapped a series of pictures, I  dropped down near the water and went around the back side of that mountain, which had a sheer drop into the sea.  Then I saw a cotton pickin' heavy cruiser.  I didn't know it was there because it was well camouflaged," Malone remembered.  

"I saw Japanese running for their guns and said to my self, 'Dang, I better do something,'"  Malone chuckled.  Deciding that discretion is really the better part of valor, Malone wheeled his P-51, which he dubbed the "Georgia Rebel,"  around and raced to the city side of the mountain, which had been nearly sheered away by the atomic bomb blast.

At first, Malone worried about the dangers of radiation, but was assured that he was never in any real danger. He never thought for a moment that his commanders would put him in a perilous position like that.  

The two bombs brought about a quick end to the war, which was projected to last up to  several more years against determined defenders of the island country of Japan.    In the months leading up to the detonations, Malone and his squadron accompanied B-25 and B-29 bombers on raids on important Japanese targets.  

"There was no contest as they were saving their fighters for kamikaze suicide planes," Malone remembered.   The former pilot commented that during some of those raids, 80 to 90 thousand people were killed from bomb blasts and the resulting rapidly spreading infernos every single night.  And, he has his own original  pictures to prove it.  

"It was terrible. Golly!  When I think that could happen over here in some future war, it's frightening," lamented Malone.

At the end of the war, Roy had to make a decision.  While he was in the service, Roy had been making payments on a piece of land.  Having a desire to farm, unlike his four brothers, Roy chose to come back to Dexter to resume life as a farmer and foregoing a three-year hitch in the Army Air Force, or so he thought.   

After he retired from active duty, Roy Malone joined the reserves.  He fondly remembered going over to Dobbins Air Force Base from Athens, where he was attending the University of Georgia.   Roy always enjoyed flying an old P-51 back home to Dexter just to get in his minimum hours of flying time.

During his time as a pilot in the Pacific, Roy and his fellow pilots lived mostly in tents. Only once or twice did they ever get to sleep in a real building.  "We never got time off.  We lived in tents and had to be ready any minute to go on another mission," Malone recalled.  "At Ie Shima, we dug fox holes next to our tents so that if there was a bomb strike at night, we could dive in them," he said.  

"Over there you could save money. We had no expenses and nowhere to spend our paychecks," Roy recalled. To compensate for the lack of decent quarters and less than  decent food, Roy was given separation pay of  slightly more than $8,000.00.  The check came as a big surprise to Roy, who knew exactly what he wanted to do with the money, pay some of his debts off and buy a little more land.

Turns out, he did a lot of both.  Roy came home to Dexter and began farming, married Sarah Weaver and started a family, which included his children, James, Pat, Pam Mullis and Gail Poole.  And, he remained in the Air Force, serving for a total of roughly thirty years.  He retired as Lt. Colonel, serving as an Air Force Reserve instructor and as an advisor to cadets of the United States Air Force Academy.  His awards and decorations are too numerous to mention here.  

"I think right now we are in good  shape against China, Russia and emerging nations which could show hostility," commented Malone on the present state of the  military.   

"I would  hope that our academies will be seeking out, finding and getting the very best brains in the country, and that our staff people and our Congress will fund the kind of effort that will keep us ahead of our adversaries," wishes Malone for the future of American military readiness.  

"We sit here with the best country in the world, with our abundant resources and with our vibrant people.  And, our way of life is coveted by the whole world.  Some of them covet us because they would like to come here and  live with us.  Some of them covet us because they hate our guts and they would like to take what is ours," proclaimed Malone. 

"If we don't stay strong and vigilant, we are going to lose it down the road," Malone warns.  He also hopes that there will be the will on the part of the people to perform when necessary to protect our freedoms. 

"We had patriots who were willing to defend and fight for our freedoms, and to defend those freedoms which were gained and preserve them," the former fighter pilot maintains.  "We would like to think that we have the talent, the resources and the will to defend those freedoms.  If we don't, we will be in a tough situation," he claims. 

Today, at the age of 91, Roy Malone, a veteran of three war time eras,  enjoys the freedoms that he and millions of others fought for.  On each Memorial Day, he pauses to think about the hundreds of thousands of American military personnel who have given the the last true measure of devotion by sacrificing  their lives for their country.

And on most days, you will find Roy somewhere on his Goose Hollow farm in the Dexter suburb of Springhaven, where he has lived the ultimate American dream for most of the last seven decades. 

As he rides through the farm checking on his crops and trees, Roy Malone's thoughts sometime go back to his most everlasting memory of the war on  that March day in 1944, when his life was spared and his buddy Frank Mesojedec didn't make it.  

Roy Malone was one of the lucky ones.  He made it home and has enjoyed a most wonderful life.  And, we are all lucky that he did.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


It is Well That War Is So Terrible

It was warm Saturday morning, the 13th of December and a very unlucky day.  Fog blanketed the city of Fredericksburg, Virginia on the banks of the Rappahannock  River.  At times, the fog was so thick that the infantrymen could not see their commanders.   Just three months after the Battle of Antietam, the deadliest single- day battle of the war, the dying was about to begin again. It was supposed to be a glorious day or so many of the combatants believed.  Before the slaughter ceased, 17,500 men would be dead or wounded.
The brigade of Brigadier General Edward L. Thomas, C.S.A., assigned to the command of Major General Ambrose Powell Hill's Division, Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's corps,  was composed of the 14th, 35th, 45th and 49th Georgia regiments.   The 14th Georgia was composed of ten companies, three from Middle Georgia: the Blackshear Guards, the Johnson Greys and the Ramah Guards of Wilkinson County.  The Laurens Volunteers, the Wilkinson Invincibles, the Cold Steel Guards of Washington County and  the Washington Guards were among the ten companies assigned to the 49th Georgia Infantry.

General E.L. Thomas moved his brigade from its camp at John Alsop's house to a point between the Military Road and the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad.

Just after noon, Hill's Confederates moved eastward to assault Gibbon's Federal brigade.  Division Commander George Meade, who would later command the Union army at Gettysburg,  launched a Union counterattack on the Confederate center, forcing a fatal gap between Pender's and Lane's brigades in the Confederate line. 
The Confederates counterattacked.  A second larger counterattack was cut short, when the Federals  flooded the front lines with artillery fire.  Gen. A.P. Hill reported,  "Gen. Thomas, responding to the call of General Lane, rapidly threw forward his brigade of Georgians by the flank, and deploying by successive formations, squarely met the enemy, charged them, and joined by the Seventh and part of the Eighteenth North Carolina, drove them back, with tremendous losses, to their original position." 
Hill would later say, "At the close of the battle, my brigades were still their original positions, except Thomas's Brigade, which was not recalled from the position it had so gallantly won in the front line."  Thomas moved back to the railroad when he saw he had no support on his flanks. 

General Thomas reported, "About midday of December 13, orders were received from Major General Hill to render assistance and support to any part of the front line requiring it."  Soon after, an officer of General Lane's staff brought information that his brigade was hard pressed by overwhelming numbers.  Thomas immediately advanced his brigade down the road, being unable, on account of the density of the undergrowth, to advance in line any further.

The brigade moved by the flank until near the scene of action, when the regiments were thrown into line of battle and advanced toward the enemy, who at this time had advanced into the woods. 

Their advance was checked.  After a stubborn resistance, this brigade charged them, driving them through the field and completely routing them. 

"We pursued for some distance across the railroad, when, seeing no support either on the right or left, and my ammunition being reported to be well-nigh exhausted, I concluded to fall back to the railroad. Forming at this place the front line, I determined to hold the position, at the same time sending word to Colonel  Edmund Pendleton, commanding a brigade, that I was deficient in ammunition, and requesting him to be in supporting distance," wrote Thomas.

That night, the brigade bivouacked in the edge of the woods, throwing out pickets on the railroad. They were relieved early the next morning by Col. E. T. H. Warren's brigade, and were placed in reserve.

At the bloody siege of Fredericksburg, Captain Thomas M. Yopp, commanding the Blackshear Guards,  fell when a shell burst over him.  His friend Bill Yopp rushed to his aid.  Yopp, would later gain fame and recognition as one of the few true African American infantryman and the only African American Confederate to buried in the all white Confederate Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.

Hill's Division suffered one half of the Confederate's total casualties and forty percent of Lee's Army's deaths. 

"The Fourteenth Georgia under its gallant commander took an early conspicuous part.  Unprotected by breastworks, it repulsed three heavy lines of battle.  The losses of the regiment in the battle were twenty-four killed and eighty-eight wounded.  After battle the regiment moved 10 miles south to Fort Gregg for the winter," wrote James Madison Folsom of Wilkinson County. 

Laurens Countians killed in the fighting were:  Carswell Davis, Uriah S. Fuller, Jonathan G. Hall,   Among the wounded local men was:  Charles Fulford, Henry Gay, Isaac Hall, Joel Hall, J.H. Herrington, Ebenezer Hilliard, James L. Jones, James W. Maddox, John McCant, R.H.C. McLendon,  A.M. Nash, Aaron G. Odom, Terrell Perry, Elijah Register, Jethro Scarborough, Elijah Shepard, Martin Smith and James W. Stanley.  Most of the casualties occurred among the Blackshear Guards of the 14th Georgia. 

Hardy Bellflower was wounded and died from his wounds in a Richmond Hospital on Christmas Eve. It was duly noted that Hillary Wright, a native of Laurens County and a member of a Montgomery County regiment, had "part of his cheek bone gone."

The 49th Georgia regiment, which had a  reputation for dash and gallantry, suffered the loss of 12 killed and 47 wounded.

The heaviest action, in the only battle of the war ever fought in the month of December,  was to the north at the foot of Marye's Heights, where the Federals lost 6300 men in the one day struggle.  Lee had won another decisive victory losing only one man for every two Federals. 

After the Battle of Fredericksburg the Aurora Borealis  could be seen from the battlefield that night. The Confederate army observing the ultra rare phenomena in the Virginia sky,  took it as a sign that God was on their side during the battle, one hundred and fifty years ago this week.

The ghastly sight of so many thousands of dead and dying enemy soldiers prompted General Lee, from his observation point  at the crest of Marye's Heights,  to profoundly and somewhat sadly proclaim, "It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it."

Wednesday, December 05, 2012



With the stroke of his pen, Georgia Governor David B. Mitchell officially established the Town of Dublin on December 9, 1812. That was two centuries ago.

Laurens County had been established five years earlier. It was a county without a seat. Nearly three years would pass before Sumpterville was designated as the capital of Laurens County. Originally cut from Wilkinson County, Laurens stretched all the way to the Ocmulgee River, opposite and below what would become Hawkinsville. Travel from the remote southwestern regions of the county was arduous and totally impractical.

Consequently, state legislators cutoff a large portion of Laurens County lands giving it to the newly created county of Pulaski. With the loss of new lands, local leaders sought to obtain more lands. The legislature agreed and in 1811 annexed extreme portions of northwestern Montgomery and southwestern Washington counties into Laurens.

With new lands to the east, the Justices of the Inferior Court decided that the county seat should be located nearer to the center of the county. The justices chose a plateau nearly a mile from the Oconee River. Just across the river to the east was a riverside community known as Sandbar. (pictured above.)  It was settled by merchant Jonathan Sawyer in 1804.

Sawyer  (left) joined his brother in law, George Gaines, who established a ferry at Sandbar about the year 1806. Gaines continued to operate the ferry, profiting handsomely upon it's sale in the mid 1810s. Following right behind was another brother in law, David McCormick, who set up his holdings on the east side of the river below what would become Dublin. Still further down river, yet another brother in law, George M. Troup established his plantation of Valdosta. Troup, a Georgia congressman and senator, as well as the state's governor for two terms, was the founder of the state rights movement in the United States.

In June of 1811, Sawyer was appointed postmaster of a new post office. Sawyer's wife, Elizabeth McCormick, was a native of Baltimore, Maryland and a progeny of Dublin, Ireland. She died in childbirth a couple of years before. Sawyer, as postmaster, was given the right to choose the name of the new post office, which he named Dublin, in honor of the capital of his wife's ancestral homeland.

Sawyer continued to expand his holdings in what would become Dublin. He purchased half of an entire land lot (232) from Joseph L. Hill, who sold the other half to the commissioners of the Town of Dublin in 1811. He bought an adjoining land lot north of town (231), containing 202.5 acres, in February 1812 for the paltry sum of $100.00. Frederick Roberts, who owned lot 233 south of town and is known to have been buried in his family cemetery just south of the Martin Luther King, Jr. By Pass on South Franklin Street, refused Sawyer's efforts to expand his holdings even more.

Dublin was chartered on December 9, 1812 by an act of the legislature. The town's original commissioners were Neil Munroe, Lewis Kennon, William Tolbert, Eli Shorter and Henry Shepard. The original city limits extended a distance of 250 yards in all directions from Broad Street. Eventually, the streets of the town were named for American Presidents and heroes of the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

On December 13, 1811, the legislature appointed Jonathan Sawyer, Jethro B. Spivey, John G. Underwood, Benjamin Adams, and Henry Shepherd to act as commissioners of the courthouse and other public buildings granting unto them the power "to lay out and sell such a number of lots as may be sufficient to defray the expenses of such public buildings as they may think necessary."

Among the big news events of the first year in the life of Dublin was the murder of Benjamin Harrison, the legendary Indian fighter, who was killed by the hands of Hansel Roberts on August 14, 1811. A large contingent of volunteers assembled in Dublin on the 4th of July 1812 to launch an expedition against the British Army at Saint Augustine in the opening months of the War of 1812.

As the prospects of Dublin as a river port grew, so did the desire of businessmen to scoop up lands near George Gaines' ferry. Jonathan Sawyer sold two partial land lots, less than a hundred acres along the river, to Redolphus Bogert, a New York City businessman. Bogert also purchased 174 acres from William Daniel for the outrageous sum of $7000.00. Interestingly, Bogert made a profit in 1814 when he sold the lands to Gilbert Aspinwall, a wealthy businessman, who served on the Board of Governors of the New York Bank For Savings and was the Governor of the New York Hospital in 1799 and 1819.

George Gaines sold his lands around the ferry to Andrew Low and his partners, Robert Isaac and James McHenry of Savannah. Isaac, Low and Company was one of the most prosperous cotton exporters in Savannah. Low, who died childless, encouraged his relatives to come to Savannah. One of his collateral descendants was Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America.

Roswell King, who in 1802, was hired as Major Pierce Butler's overseer on his plantations on Butler Island, at Woodville on the Altamaha River and at Hampton plantation on St. Simons Island, developed efficient methods in the cultivation of rice and sea island cotton

In 1816, Roswell King purchased a building on the northwest corner of the courthouse square in Dublin. In 1829, King sold the building which may have burned. King moved to North Georgia, where he established a large cotton mill. The surrounding community, which grew up around the mill, was named "Roswell" in honor of Mr. King himself.

The town's first attorney was Eli S. Shorter. Shorter, who purchased a prime lot on the southwest corner of West Jackson Street and South Jefferson Street for $200.00, practiced in Dublin for a short time before heading off to bigger and better things in western Georgia. His nephew, Hon. John Gill Shorter, served in the Confederate Congress and as Governor of Alabama.

In it's infancy, the Town of Dublin functioned merely as a place where court was held two to four times a year and a good place to cross the river or stock up on supplies. Most of the county's population was centered in the northern plantations.

As decades passed, the Town of Dublin fell into a state of despair and dilapidation. It would take more than a half century before the town began it's Phoenix-like rise to become one of the largest and most heralded cities in Georgia, peaking first in the year 1912.

On this bicentennial of the City of Dublin, the land I love the most, I want to take this opportunity to wish a happy 200th birthday to all of those persons who have ever called the Emerald City their home. May she live and prosper for another 200 years.



George Leon Smith, III was born a century ago today on November 27, 1912 in the railroad community of Stillmore, Georgia.  In 1959, Smith began his tenure as Speaker of the House of Representatives during one of the most turbulent political and social decades in the history of Georgia.  When he died at the age of sixty-one, Speaker Smith was one of the most powerful and admired speakers as well as being the longest serving house leader in the long history of Georgia. 

George Smith, a son of DeSausaure Degas Smith and Sarah Gladys Wilder, graduated from Swainsboro High School before attending the University of Georgia, where he was a member of Delta Tau Delta and Blue Key.  Smith, a member of the Colby Smith clan of Washington County, Georgia, descended from a family known for its public service to the State of Georgia.

Smith, first elected as the Solicitor of Swainsboro City Court in 1937, began his 29-year legislative career with his election to the Georgia legislature representing his native county of Emanuel in 1944.  Smith served as the attorney for the City of Swainsboro for three decades. Smith won reelection in 1946 and 1948, and finished his career with an even dozen unopposed races.

In 1947, Smith was chosen to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Georgia House of Representatives, a political rarity for a first term state representative.  He filled that high position with dignity until the end of 1958, when he was first chosen as Speaker of the House under an appointment by Governor Ernest Vandiver.

Smith's initial term as speaker ended in 1963, when newly elected Governor Carl Sanders appointed the other George Smith, George T. Smith, to replace him. The Swainsboro attorney, a Sanders supporter,  returned to the office of Majority Whip and Speaker Pro Tempore until 1967.

It was in the election year of 1966 when George L. Smith rose to prominence in Georgia's political affairs.  In fact, during that year when the country was finding itself in one crisis after another, one of the state's most contested gubernatorial elections took place.

Staunch segregationist, Lester Maddox, was selected as the Democratic candidate, defeating former Democratic governor, Ellis Arnall, in the primary.  Although Maddox won the primary with less than 30% of the vote (Jimmy Carter finished in third place,) Arnall entered the general election as an independent candidate and managed to receive seven percent of the vote in the general election and thereby throwing the election into the House of Representatives.  Bo Calloway, the Republican candidate, finished ahead of Maddox by some 3,029 votes.  Georgia law law required a simple majority of the total votes cast.  Going against the will of the plurality of the voters, the Democratically dominated legislature elected Maddox.

With Maddox's support, George L. Smith returned to the well as Speaker in 1967.  It was the first time in the history of the state that the Georgia House of Representatives elected their own speaker, a move which signaled an independent, if only in theory, legislature.  Meanwhile, the other George Smith, was elected Lieutenant Governor, who by law presided over the Georgia Senate.

George L. Smith suffered a stroke in November 1973 in his law office in Swainsboro.  The long time legislator never recovered. 

On December 9, 1973, Speaker Smith died.  At that time, Smith had served more years as speaker (11) than any other person in Georgia history.  Only his successor, Tom Murphy, who served in the position for 30 years, surpassed Smith in years of service as the state's top legislative officer.

His funeral was one of the largest gatherings of politicos in the state's history.  Leading the State of Georgia at that time was Governor Jimmy Carter, who would be elected President of the United States within three years as the first Deep South president since Andrew Jackson.

Smith's body lied in state in the rotunda of the Georgia capital.  The first person so honored was Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  In recent times, Eugene Talmadge and Richard Russell were afforded the same high honor, an honor only afforded a dozen men in the state's history.

Smith fought many battles, some winning and some losing,  during his twenty-nine years in the Georgia house. He fought to establish kindergartens in every school system and to extend the number of years a student had to complete prior to graduation.

Two of Speaker Smith's most lasting achievements are the establishment of Emanuel Junior College in Swainsboro and the movement to create a more independent legislature.

The State of Georgia honored Smith's long legacy of service to the state by naming the World Congress Center in Atlanta in his memory.

Monday, November 19, 2012

1891: The Turning Point of Our Time

A dozen decades ago, Dublin and the rest of Laurens County, stood upon a precipice.  As we gazed into the valley of the future, we saw the whole world coming toward us.  That year, 1891, became one of the most pivotal years in the history of our county.  Dublin and Laurens County began its ascent from a sleepy,  lawless  village into one of the most prosperous and progressive locales in the entire state of Georgia. 

In the quarter century after the end of the Civil War, citizens of Dublin and Laurens County struggled to survive.  After the war, more than a decade would pass before a local newspaper was published or a river boat cruised up and down the Oconee River.  Two decades passed before railroad tracks were laid to the edge of the Oconee River.  A devastating fire nearly wiped out the entire business district of Dublin in 1889.   Still after twenty-five years, there was no bridge, either rail or passenger, over the river.  By the end of the year, two bridges would be constructed and a rail connection to Macon would be established with another one to Hawkinsville in the works.

When the rails of the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad, later known as the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad, first reached the eastern banks of the Oconee in 1886, freight and passengers were required to be carried by ferry across the river, which was subject to the mercy of floods and drought.  By 1891, the owners of the railroad were determined to construct a bridge over the river to increase their profits.   

Ever since 1883, John T. Duncan, Judge of The Laurens County Court of Ordinary, led the effort to construct a bridge over the Oconee River.  After the electorate failed to approve a bond issue to build the bridge in 1883, private individuals attempted, but failed  in their efforts when the rushing flood waters washed a wooden bridge down river.  Undaunted, Duncan persevered. By mid-July 1891, the first permanent bridge over the Oconee was completed.  It lasted until it was replaced in 1920 and again in 1953.

Pedestrians, horse drawn vehicles and various livestock could now travel over the Oconee without having to deal with long lines, flood waters and costly toll fees at the Dublin ferry.    For the first time ever, citizens of Dublin and Laurens County, as well as the occasional traveler were no longer at the mercy of the raging or shallow waters of the Oconee.  More importantly, passage over the Oconee River was now free.  

The first permanent county bridge, which would last nearly three decades, was  replaced in 1920.

A sign of better times came when the Laurens Lodge, No. 75, F&AM moved into its new lodge in  a brick building which later became the Lanier Building and now occupied by the Courier Herald,   The first lodge of the Royal Arcanum was organized and met in the the Masons' new quarters. 

In another move which signified a revival in the city, Lucien Quincy Stubbs, son of Col. John M. Stubbs - Dublin's first newspaper publisher -  purchased The Dublin People and renamed it the Dublin New Era.   Stubbs purchased the newspaper from Major A.H. McLaws, a Confederate officer and brother of Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws.

Another good sign was the final prohibition of legal alcoholic beverage sales within the city limits. For more than a decade, the teetotalers and the drinkers waged a see-saw battle over the issue of beer and liquor sales in the city.  By the mid 1880s, the prohibitionists began to move ahead of those who wanted to buy a drink wherever and whenever they wanted to.

Still another showdown between the drinkers and the dry folks came in early March. In a county wide election, the prohibition people defeated the imbibing inhabitants by a scant margin of 131 votes.    Legal sales of liquor within the city of Dublin in bar rooms already licensed by the Dublin City Council continued until the end of the year.  

A new bank, the People's Banking Company of Atlanta, was established, but failed to succeed.  It would take another year until the beginnings of the Dublin Banking Company, began a successful thirty year reign as the city's first permanent bank. 

The year 1891 was a year of new and old.  A new jail replaced the old one which had been burned to the ground by disgruntled prisoners.  The grist mill at Blackshear's Mill Pond,  now known as Ben Hall Lake, burned leaving the county's oldest grist mill in a pile of ashes. 
Without a doubt, the most important, non war,  date in the history of 19th Century Laurens County came on July 22, 1891.

Early on the morning of July 22, 1891, Conductor J.B. Maxon guided the first train out of the depot on Walnut Street. D.G. Hughes of Danville, H.S. Morse, president of the Illinois and Georgia Improvement Company, headed the list of dignitaries on board. A second train followed behind the No. 1. The trains chugged along the 54-mile track built primarily for the farmers who lived between Macon and Dublin.  Over $100,000.00 was raised among large and small farmers.  The project's success was assured when H.S. Morse was appointed as the superintendent, and James T. Wright was elected president  and the Illinois and Georgia Improvement Company supplied the rest of the capital investment.  The trains stopped in the growing community of Jeffersonville and picked up more passengers.  Vice president Dudley M. Hughes boarded the train during a celebration at Allentown.  Mercer Haynes, E.E. Hicks, Charles Brantley, and Dr. Wood of Dublin boarded the train which was now handsomely decorated with flowers and evergreens by the ladies of Dublin and Allentown. 

The trains rushed through the infant towns of Montrose and Elsie (Dudley) to the shouts of joy.  Dublin was waiting, ready for the train.  Everyone was dressed in their best.  An estimated three thousand persons gathered around the depot.  Barbecue dinners and over a thousand loaves of bread  were served.  The Dublin Light Infantry led by Lieutenant J.M. Adams performed maneuvers for the crowds, only to be interrupted by a downpour.  Everyone scattered into the stores and the homes in the area.  The grounds that were saturated with people only minutes before were now nearly deserted.  Col. Stubbs's family played host to some honored guests.  His home was located on the farm of Col. Stubbs that then stretched from North Church Street to Calhoun Street and Moore Street on the north.  At 4:00 the train, now carrying all of the passenger cars, returned to Macon.  Following the new railroad to Macon was the first telegraph line running from Macon to Dublin.  

More than two hundred years have passed in the history of Laurens County and Dublin now, but if I had to pick one, the most important one, that year would be 1891.   While many important events have taken place in the last two centuries, it was during that single year when many of the most seminal events in our county's history converged into  a turning point of our time. 

Monday, November 12, 2012



On any given clear night you can see roughly 1500 stars with the naked eye.  On a cold November night in the year 1833, residents of the Eastern United States began to believe that the sky really was falling.   It was on that night, one hundred and seventy nine years ago tonight, when it seemed that at least thirty thousand and as many as many as two hundred thousand stars were falling every hour.  And, if the skies are clear this Saturday night you will get a chance to see just a small glimpse of what people all over the country saw on ‘the night the stars fell.

For billions of years, the comet Tempel-Tuttle has been orbiting the Sun.  Every thirty three years or so, the Earth passes through the densest section of the tail of Tempel-Tuttle.  Although the number of visible meteors currently is  substantially lower than in 1833,  the resulting meteor shower,  called the Leonids,  comes to a peak on November 17 of each year.

In the days leading up to November 13, 1833, the weather in Georgia had been somewhat mercurial.  On a rather warm Saturday and part of Sunday a steady rain fell.  After a Monday morning fog evaporated, the skies cleared.  As the sun began to set on Tuesday afternoon, temperatures began to plummet. Wednesday, like Tuesday, was a perfectly clear, crisp autumn day.   As the Sun set, a thin crescent moon hung low in the sky.  

Once the moon disappeared below the western horizon, the pitch black sky was speckled with its usual compliment of stars and planets.  All was normal or so it seemed.

Then about 9:00 that evening and continuing until the Sun came up the next morning, thousands and thousands of stars came screaming out of the calm, northeastern sky appearing to emanate out of the constellation of Leo, the Lion,  traveling at an estimated 156,000 miles per hour.

Those who believed in a higher being were sure that Judgment Day was at hand. Few, if any, people realized what was really happening. 

“The stars descended like snowfall to Earth,” an Augusta resident recalled.

“We were awaked by a neighbor, who had been aroused in a similar manner by one who supposed the World was coming to an end, as the stars were falling. The whole heavens were lighted by falling meteors, as thick and constant as the flakes which usher in a snow storm, ” a Georgia newspaper editor wrote. 

“Stars fell like snow flakes and fireballs darted back and forth in the heavens, like children at play,  making a grand and awe-inspiring display,” recalled  Rev. William Pate, of Turner County.

Settlers came from as far as 15 miles away to visit Rev. Pate’s home.  They stayed up all night singing hymns and praying as Reverend Pate read the scriptures.  Many confessed their most secret sins that remarkable night, truly fearing that the world was coming to an end. 

In an Alabama Heritage Magazine article in 2000, it was written that in a town in Georgia many profane people "were frightened to their knees,  dust-covered Bibles were opened and dice and cards were thrown to the flames.”

In Milledgeville,  the newspapers reported that hundreds and thousands of stars were shooting madly and vertically  from their spheres with several second-long trails of whitish light behind them.  Some thought that they must be fireworks instead of falling stars.  A few observers  swore that several of them had exploded.

A resident of Butler’s Island near Darien, Georgia wrote, “There were innumerable meteors in the skies, all apparently emanating from a focus directly overhead to every point of the compass, of various sizes and degrees of brilliancy, occasioned probably by their different distances.”  

One Morgan County farmer was transformed by the celestial phenomenon. As the shower intensified, the man ran out of his house, dressed only in his shirt and undergarments exclaiming, “The world is now actually coming to an end, for the stars are falling.”  His Negro servant ran after him as his master scrambled to take cover under the house.  

The farmers’ wife followed him outside and chastised her husband for his lack of courage.  The challenged the terrified farmer to come out and live or die with his family.  After he mustered the courage to come back outside, he gazed into the wondrous sight of thousands of burning meteors and vowed to himself and to God, “Well, this one thing I do know, escape or not - live long or die soon, I never will drink another drop of liquor.” 

Some Georgians thought the meteor shower had a more sinister political purpose than an astronomical phenomenon.  A  full scale political war between George M. Troup, of Laurens County, and John Clarke  had been raging for more than a dozen years.  Troup had been narrowly defeated by Clarke in two elections in the early 1820s.  Troup won a narrow victory of his own in 1823 and was narrowly reelected again in 1825 in the first popular vote  gubernatorial election in Georgia history.  

Following Clark’s death from yellow fever in October 1832, the struggle between the two rivals seemed to wane or simply shift to other members of the bitterly divided Democratic-Republican party.  

On Friday, November 8, five days before the meteor shower, Troup tendered his written resignation from the United States Senate from his Valdosta home in eastern Laurens County.  The first written accounts of the political icon’s leaving the Senate two years early circulating throughout the capital in Milledgeville on the 13th.  Although Troup maintained that his resignation was for purely personal reasons, some of his more ardent supporters thought that the evening’s spectacle was a sign of retribution if Clark’s followers regained political power in the state.

The longest lasting legacy of that starry, starry falling night was the beginning of the concentrated study of  meteors and the causes of meteors storms in particular.

So venture outside early this Sunday morning sit back and relax and turn your eyes upward and eastward and try to catch a glimpse of one of the grandest of nature’s fireworks, the Leonid Meteor Shower.  And, maybe one day, about 21 years or so from now, we all will witness the grand and glorious view of the night the stars fell.