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

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

DUBLIN, IN THE BEGINNING

DUBLIN, IN THE BEGINNING


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.

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