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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

LITTLE JIMMY: The Bell Rings For Thee




Little Jimmy Thomas loved to play.  He loved to stay outdoors and climb in the trees.  Nearly every day after school,  Jimmy could walk across the road to the pond to play.  But, before he went to play , Jimmy would walk up Jackson Street to the courthouse where his  father worked as the clerk of the courts.  Jimmy reported to his father every day  where he would be playing so that his mother wouldn't worry about him. 

Jimmy didn't like the dark rooms in the courthouse, not at all.  He wasn't allowed to go into the courtroom while the court was in session.  So, on some days, Jimmy didn't get to see his father at all.  He would just tell the sheriff where he would be.   

One day as Jimmy was walking toward the courthouse, he saw a huge crowd of people standing around the outside of the courtroom.  He thought, " There's no way I can see my father today."  "I think I'll just go back to the pond and play. Besides, Father will know where I am anyway," Jimmy thought to himself. 

As he started back toward the pond, Jimmy  remembered that he had left his fishing pole in Dr. Hightower's back yard.  Jimmy ran behind the Doctor's house.  Usually everyone could see Jimmy walking down the street toward the pond after school. But this time, Jimmy took a different route to his favorite place.  He made his way through the woods behind Dr. Hightower's house to the far end of the pond, the deep, scary end where he had never been before.

Jimmy caught one fish and then another.  Suddenly, a clap of lightning struck a tall, dead pine  tree near the Baptist church.  A cold northerly wind began to howl.  The thunder  roared.  Jimmy was afraid. He had never been on the far end of the pond.  He didn't know which way to run.  That end of the pond was wet, filled with grasses.  He had to run, somewhere, anywhere to get out of the storm.  With the wind swirling all around him, Jimmy ran as fast as he could.

Suddenly he found himself mired in a tangled mass of tall grasses and murky water.  He struggled to move, but the more he moved, the more Jimmy found himself sinking into the cold water.  Down, down he went.  Jimmy screamed, but no one was there to hear his dying wails.  Suddenly, Jimmy's outstretched, waving  arms disappeared beneath the surface of the water.

Judge Roberts, hearing the commotion of the storm and fearing that the jurors might not be able to return to their homes for the weekend,  adjourned court early that Friday afternoon.  Jimmy's father asked the sheriff if he had seen Jimmy.  The sheriff said, "No, he hasn't been around here at all today."  Mr. Thomas asked Judge Rowe if he had seen Jimmy.  No Francis, I haven't seen Jimmy since yesterday."  "Maybe he went home with the storm and all," Judge Rowe said.    Mr. Thomas saw a friend of Jimmy's standing over in front of a store across the street.  "Tommy, run down to my house and see if Jimmy is there," Mr. Thomas said as he began to truly worry about his son.

In ten minutes or so, Tommy, shaking, huffing and puffing,  came running back to the courthouse.  "Mr. Thomas, I can't find him. Mrs. Thomas said she thought he was in the courthouse, since he is afraid of storms," Tommy sobbed.  Mr. Thomas, climbed in his buggy, and dashed off to the north end of the pond on the western side of town. 

"Jimmy, where are you!," Mr. Thomas screamed.  Sheriff Guyton came galloping up on his horse, yelliing,   "Francis, what's wrong?"  "It's Jimmy, he's missing," Mr. Thomas sobbed.  "Take it easy, we'll find him, he's probably in Mrs. Hightower's kitchen eating cookies. You know how he loves to eat her sugar cookies," Sheriff Guyton laughed.

The sheriff and his deputies walked around  the pond looking  for Jimmy.  They called and called for him, but they never got any answer.  Sheriff Guyton directed his men down to the far end of the pond.  "But sheriff, Jimmy would never go down there.  He know's it's too dangerous," one deputy said.    Just as the men were about to give up the search, the sheriff spotted a small piece of Jimmy's white shirt floating above the water in a patch of cat tails.  As he approached the edge of the water, he discovered that it was Jimmy lying in the edge of the pond.  He rushed into the water, hoping against hope that Jimmy would still be alive.  It was too late. Little Jimmy was dead.

The whole town cried.  Hundreds of people came to his funeral.    The judge decided that every Friday afternoon at three o'clock the courthouse bell would be rung.   Decades went by and soon the bell stopped ringing.   Fifty years ago, they tore the old courthouse down.  A man bought the bell and had it fixed so that he could give it to his church.  His church, Christ Episcopal Church, was built on land where the old pond used to be.  You see, everyone was so devastated that they drained the pond and built a church there  so that no more children would drown in the pond.  

Today, the people in the church ring the bell on Sunday mornings and on very special occasions.  But on any windy, stormy  night , if you are real quiet and listen real hard, you may, you just may hear the echoes of the bell as it rung 150 years ago.  And if you go out on any summer day, over by the columbarium in the garden back of the church, you just may see little Jimmy playing on what was  the edge of the old pond, which he loved so, so much.

Post Script: The ghost story you just  read is fictional.  It is based on real people and a real place.  Christ Episcopal Church, the Dublin Laurens Museum and Theater Dublin are located on the site of an old pond.  Jimmy Thomas in the story is James A. Thomas, who didn't drown as a young boy.  He was  a member of Christ Episcopal Church, son of Clerk of Court Francis Thomas, and National Commander of the United Confederate Veterans in 1925.  The Hightowers lived on the northeastern side of the pond on the site of the Fred Roberts Hotel.  

If you know of a real ghost story in Laurens County or East Central Georgia, please email me at dublinhistory@yahoo.com or call me at 478-272-4460.

To all have a happy and safe Halloween!


  




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