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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

BLECKLEY COUNTY

THERE WAS A NEW COUNTY IN MIDDLE GEORGIA



And Her Name Was Bleckley




It was a done deal. The Georgia Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill to place on the October ballot a constitutional amendment to create a new county, carved out of the northern portion of Pulaski County. Residents of the Cochran area didn't care too much whom their new county would be named for (Logan Bleckley - a recently deceased native of North Georgia who had served as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court), they just wanted their own county. And, it was time to party. And, what a party it was!

If one could point to a singular founding father of Bleckley County, that man would be the Honorable J.T. Deese, who tirelessly worked for two years to get the measure passed by the legislature, by a vote of 131-27.

When the vote was announced on the house floor, shrieking rebel yells exploded from enthusiastic Bleckley backers in the gallery.

New county movements were frequently proposed and even more frequently dismissed by more powerful entrenched politicians in the larger, sought to be cut off, counties.

Rep. Deese vehemently argued that some residents had to travel as far as 28 miles to attend court in Hawkinsville. He submitted an equitable dividing line to share the natural resources, taxable properties, and population of both counties.

There was smell of hickory smoked pork in the rather cool, Saturday afternoon air in Green Park in Cochran, Georgia, the natural choice for the new county seat, since it had been a successful economic and rail center of eastern Pulaski County for decades. People by the thousands, said to be two, came by foot from across the street, by wagon throughout the county, and by train from the capital city of Atlanta to celebrate the creation of Bleckley County.

Well almost, although the legislature approved the new county, the voters of Georgia would have to approve the measure on the general election ballot in October. No one seemed to worry at all that day as to the outcome of the vote.

Ladies brought bountiful baskets filled with the requisite fried chicken, pies, cakes and the only proper fixins.


A specially chartered Southern Railroad train, left Atlanta at dawn that morning. Bleckley boosters had hoped to fill the cars with politicians and public servants to show their support for the new county and at the same time, boost their chances for reelection in the upcoming fall elections. The failure of the house leadership to allow its members to be excused from their duties, kept many vote seeking representatives away.

They could have staged a debate on the train. Riding aboard the charter were Gov. John M. Slaton, T.S. Felder, E.H. Beck, all candidates in the upcoming state elections. When the special guests arrived, a brass brand struck up a lively tune. The lively crowd, as if scripted, burst into applause, just like in the old movies.

W.O Peacock, a leading citizen of Cochran, took on the role as master of ceremonies.

At high noon, Peacock announced that the political speeches were to begin and instructed the lovely ladies to begin to make their final preparations for the meal.

Mrs. George Brown was presented a gorgeous silver purse by former Georgia Governor, John M. Slaton, as a testimonial for her ardent efforts in the creation of the new county. Slaton slated the highly beloved Atlanta woman, who was dubbed, "The Mascot of the Georgia Legislature."

And, then the unwelcomed rains came, sending the picnickers scurrying like ants for shelter from the storm.

Mr. Peacock offered a special carriage, elegantly outfitted for current governor, Joseph Brown, to former Governor Slaton, who instead offered it to Mrs. Peacock, who he ceremoniously saluted as the most beautiful woman in Bleckley County.

When the showers ended, Thomas S. Felder rose to speak at the podium. Felder, the state's Attorney General, told the then sparse crowd about the importance of farms, good roads, and how he would make a better governor than Slaton, who would win the election twelve days later.

Then it was time to eat. Those 1500 souls who had dodged the speeches and stayed back in the dry shelters back in town, dashed toward the picnic tables.

"We don't do things down here by halves, proclaimed Thomas Lee Bailey, editor of the Cochran Journal. There was more than a plenty of uneaten food left after hungry citizens finished gorging themselves.

Excitement could be found from every dell, hill and hollow throughout northeastern Pulaski County. Yet, there was still work to do. There would be elections to choose new county officials. A temporary courthouse would need to be constructed until a proper, permanent one could be constructed, some two years later.

The actual vote was scheduled for October 2, 1912. It was the first time in six years that the creation of a new county was placed on a statewide ballot in Georgia. The first county officers were Sheriff J.A. Floyd, Clerk of Superior Court, J.T. Deese, Judge, Ordinary Court, W.M. Wynne, Tax Receiver, Jim Holland, Tax Collector, W.D. Porter, Coroner, Morgan Barrs, Surveyor W.H. Berryhill, and the sold County Commissioner, J.B. Hinson.

The actual date of the creation of Bleckley County varies. Some say July 20, 1912, the date the legislature approved the vote to amend the constitution. Strict legal constructionists will tell you that it was October 2, when Georgia's constitution was amended by the voters. Even stricter interpreters of the law would argue that the county was legally created on the day when the election results were certified by the Secretary of State, Philip Cook, Jr. a few days later

But was on that historic Saturday, August 10, 1912, amidst the rain, the food, and the gala hoopla when the people of Cochran and its environs celebrated for the first time as Bleckley countians. Happy 100th birthday to all the fine folks who have and still do call Bleckley County, "home."



















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