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

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 or call me at 478-272-4460.

To all have a happy and safe Halloween!


Sunday, October 28, 2012


 We Were!

Earthquakes are rare in Georgia, especially the ones which make our buildings and ourselves violently shake.  Two hundred years ago, earthquakes emanating from New Madrid, Missouri shocked the heartland of America, reaching all parts of Georgia. A century ago, even more earthquakes, although not as severe as the 1812 quakes, shook people all over the world.  In Georgia, the number of rattling quakes was at or near an all time yearly high.

It was a typical October day in Dublin.  Those around the city were coming down from the grand times at the 12th District Fair, which had ended only some ten days prior.  Several local people, who couldn't shake fair fever,  traveled by train to attend the ever popular Georgia State Fair in Macon.  

The Christians in the city had just held a mass meeting.  There was trouble in River City.   Crusades against vice were spreading throughout the country and it was on the third Monday of October, when a crowd of sinner stoppers crammed into the courthouse to hear speeches from J.E. Burch, C. Whitehurst and Rev. C.M. Crumbley on the evils of liquor and vice.

Judge Burch asked the congregation to speak out in favor of laws designed to punish the evil people.  The judge complained out loud that the children of the community were allowed to roam the streets without supervision. Whitehurst and Rev. Crumbley railed against the proliferation of the illegal sale of alcohol which was rampant in the community.    

It was a quiet, warm, rainy Tuesday night in Dublin, Georgia.  Record rainfalls were still soaking into the dry October soils around the county.  It seemed that C.C. Hooks, one of Dublin's finest young men from one of its finest family, had no cares in the world, nothing to torture his soul.  The popular livery man went to his room, carefully removed the pillows from his bed, laid down diagonally, his feet hanging off the edge of the bed, put his pistol to his head and fired a single, fatal shot.

Forty five minutes later, the minute hand on the courthouse clock was touching the three, while the hour hand was pointing just to the left of the eight.  

Then, all of a sudden and without a hint of any warning, the Earth began to tremble. The shaking then became a sharp, decided jolt. Throughout the city the report of a thunderous explosion, blasted everyone into a panic.  The fireman of the Dublin Fire Department, sleeping in their bunks in the City Hall, then on the courthouse square, awoke in a sheer panic.  They gathered their wits and then their gear before venturing outside, scanning the horizons in all directions to detect the presence of a plume of smoke arising into the misty evening.

Elsewhere in the City Hall, the Light and Water Committee of the City Council of Dublin was in session.  H.A. Knight had just been granted the approval of committee members John Kelley, Vivian L. Stanley and Attys P. Hilton for a sewer line to his home on Maiden Lane when the government building began to shake, shudder and tremble.  Kelley knew the building well.  As the preeminent contractor in Dublin, Kelley renovated Hilton's former hotel, which according to the custom of the day, was named for its owner, possibly making it the first Hilton Hotel in America.   With the council chamber moving in multiple directions,  the council sprinted outside toward the open area of the courthouse square.

All around the city, those who were alive back in August 1886, realized what was happening.  That's the day when a massive earthquake struck Charleston, South Carolina.  The shock waves spread to Dublin, igniting rampant trepidation throughout the burgeoning city.

It seems that Dublin and Macon were at the epicenter of the quake.  A writer for the Dublin Courier Dispatch, succinctly reported the event by stating, "One sharp quake was preceded by a sound similar to thunder.  It lasted several seconds and there was a slight shaking and rattling of houses and buildings but no damage occurred."

In the Third Street home of Rev. T.F. Callaway in Macon, Minnie Hammock and Ray Stahle, had just said their wedding vows when the window panes of the Callaway home shuddered and shook.  Cherished vases fell off the mantel, causing widespread panic among the less than amused wedding party, especially the frantic bride, who had to be revived. 

In those days, there were few if any seismographs in use around the country, none in Georgia.  The residents of Jeffersonville, somewhat equidistant between Dublin and Macon, reported no perceptible evidence of an earthquake.  In Milledgeville, some 47 crow fly miles away, there was a noticeable jarring. The Spartans of Hancock County, reported only a faint reverberation. 

  Residents of Augusta and Savannah failed to feel even the slightest earthly vibrations that evening, and certainly nothing like the heavy shocks that the citizens of the two ancient Georgia capitals felt back on the 12th of June.  That quake, or a series of quakes, shook the entire South, but were concentrated in eastern Georgia.  Those people in Dublin felt some of the shaking, which peaked around 4:30 in the morning.   It was the second one for the coastal capital, the first one coming on February 3, 1912. 

Post quake analysts searched their memories to compare the October 22nd quake to others in the Middle Georgia area.  Few remembered the 1884 Thursday and Saturday early morning quakes of March 20 and March 22, when a slight trembling of the Earth awoke the citizens of North Macon, Clinton and Dublin followed by a Sunday evening jolt.  The quake of the 22nd,   was reported as "very perceptible and the noise accompanying  it was  that of a fast departing train." 

Minor quakes along the Fall Line in Middle Georgia were not rare, occurring on a somewhat regular basis, especially in the last quarter of the 19th Century.

But, no one forgot the 31st day of August, 1886, when the entire Southeast was shaken by a major earthquake centered on Charleston, South Carolina.  That day is long gone from most of our minds now. But,  let us all remember there are times, just when you least expect them, when the Earth will begin to shake, rattle and roll beneath our feet.

Monday, October 15, 2012


        Do you ever wonder why the doors of many Episcopalian churches are painted red?  The answer goes as far back as the Middle Ages. Some say that the color represents the Blood of Christ, marking the front of the church and even some of its side doors as a sanctuary.  It has long been said that no soldier would follow an enemy behind the red door of sanctuary inside the church.  Today, the red doors still symbolize that the church is a place of refuge and safety.

The red door tradition  lives on in Episcopalian, as well as some Catholic and Methodist churches around the world.  And, you don’t have to go very far to find a red door church here.  Just go look at the red doors of Christ Episcopal Church located in Dublin’s historic triangle. In fact the church has four red doors.

Founded in 1899, Christ Episcopal Church is the city’s oldest church building in its original form.    On February 5, 1899,  the church was consecrated by Rt. Rev. C.K. Nelson and Archdeacon, W.M. Walton, the latter serving as the church’s  first priest. In those days, the Dublin church was a mission church under the charge of the priest of St. Luke's Church in Hawkinsville.  The church was built in the shape of a crucifix with a high vaulted ceiling supported by heart pine beams.  The ceiling area is similar to that of the hold of a ship or an ark, symbolizing that the church is the ark of the children of God in times of tumult.  The sanctuary has seen some minor alterations, adapting to the technology of the day, while major additions were made to the rear of the building.  The present stained glass windows were added in 1994.  

The bell on the exterior of the church was given to the church by church member W.W. Walke after he rescued it from the Laurens County Courthouse, which was demolished in 1963.  The bell had been removed from the Dodge County Courthouse after that building burned and was  placed in Dublin’s courthouse in the mid 1930s. 

        The exquisite red front doors were hand crafted by Jim DeFaux from strips of mahogany glued together.  If you take a closer look, you will notice that the doors actually incorporate two crosses.  The whole process took three months to complete.  DeFaux also designed the interior narthex doors to compliment the front doors. 

The Episcopal Church Women will sponsor a “Red Door Sale,” beginning on Saturday morning, October 20,  at 8:00 a.m.  in the church social hall and lasting until three o’clock in the afternoon.  The church is located at the corner of South Church Street and Academy Avenue in Downtown Dublin.   For more information, call (478) 272-3003. 

The sale, an annual event, will feature its usual treasures as well as works of local artisans, Christmas items, jewelry, antiques, and plants for your garden.  There will be  silent auction items and free drawings during the day, for which you will need to be present to win.  

Information will be available on the red doors and the new Columbarium in the church garden.  Take a peek at the renovation of the James Crabb Episcopal Center and get details on the upcoming Christmas tour.

While you are browsing, nibble on some of the most delicious pies, cakes and cookies, you will ever taste.  The members of the church cordially invite you to attend the Holy Eucharist services each Sunday at 10:30 a.m., followed by a social coffee hour.

Some Episcopalians  now say the interpretations of the meaning of the red doors have changed or expanded. They say that the red doors not only symbolize the church as a place of refuge in the house of the Holy Spirit, but that they  shine forth with a warm welcome.  Come by, visit and see for yourselves. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012



In the early decades of the 20th Century, there was no more fun time, no more important time or no more anticipated time than fair time. State. District and county fairs were the people's favorite time of the year. With most of the crops in the barns and the gins, the rural people, the farmers and the merchants who sold them goods, could pause for a week, relax, and have a grand of' time. Before it was over, more than 20,000 people would come to the autumn festival.

Following the 1910 Census, Lauren's County found itself in the 12th Congressional District of Georgia. It was the practice in those days for every Congressional District to stage its own fair, centered in the largest city within the district. Dublin, being one of the largest cities in the state in general, was selected to host the very first 12th Congressional District Fair, which took place a century ago this week.

Building off the foundation of the county's first fair in 1911, the organizers of the 1912 fair set out to show off Dublin and Laurens County to the entire state. Peter Twitty, Jr., who would go on to become Mayor of Dublin and Georgia's Game and Fish Commissioner, served as President of the 12th District Fair Association. Twitty was aided by Capt. W.B. Rice, J.B. Type, and Vivian L. Stanley, who served as vice-presidents along with other vice presidents hailing from the eleven-county district. Newspaperman Frank Lawson, gleefully counted the bulging receipts and carefully watched the expenses. Local promoters proudly hailed the fair as the largest of its kind in the state with the exception of the State Fair in Macon, which took place a few weeks later in October.

To draw a crowd, the fair's organizers planned an abundance of events, not to mention the $3000.00 in cash prizes. Three things would always produce people; food, fun and politics.

The fair opened on Tuesday, October 8 with short addresses by President Twitty and other community leaders. Farmers, the main focus of the fair, were saluted on Wednesday, Farmers' Union Day. With the fear of the dreaded boll weevil on their minds, a large crowd gathered in the Laurens County Courthouse to hear addresses by Lawson E. Brown, State President of the Georgia Farmers' Union and J.A. Evans, a Federal government expert on the boll weevil. Congressman Dudley M. Hughes, of Danville, a farmer's congressman if there ever was one, disappointed all when his schedule didn't allow him to appear before the large throng of farmers.

Thursday, the 10th, was, well, "Fun Day." Horse races along a half-mile straightaway along a major city thoroughfare were the highlight of the day. The races were so well attended that the horses and their riders were hampered because of the crowds spilling onto the race track. The nucleus of the fair was located on the site of the current day Farmers Market. An all day sing featured the best of local singers entertained the crowd. Many of the best fiddlers in this part of the country gathered and rosined up their bows in one of the city's first Fiddler's Conventions.

The fun continued on Friday, when all kids got out of school to attend the festivities. Of course, their parents came too. And, of course, the parents were the targets of the politicians. Thomas E. Watson, a perennial Populist presidential aspirant, told the gathering just what they wanted to hear. State School Superintendent, M.L. Brittain was there to promise everyone that he would make all the schools in the state better and soon.

John M. Slaton, a former appointed Governor of Georgia, appeared in hopes of being elected in the following election. Slaton was elected, but saw his political career collapse when he pardoned Leo Frank, who was coincidentally was represented by law partner.

To top off the next to the last day of the fair when an estimated 5,000 people swarmed all over the city, all of the prize winners were announced. By far and without a doubt, the best jelly maker was Mrs. J.W. Horne, who proudly walked away with four blue ribbons in all four jelly making categories. Mrs. B.H. Rawls claimed the title as Queen of Condiments for her zestiest catsup and briniest pickles. Mrs. E.H. Langston and Mrs. S.H. Cook were the superior seamstresses of the fair.

Agricultural exhibits and competitions were integral parts of fall fairs for decades. The Emanuel County Boys Corn Club walked away with the grand prize with their record of 57 bushels of corn produced per acre at a handsome profit of $40.97 per acre.

There were poultry and livestock exhibits and of exhibits of nearly every crop one could imagine. Most exhibits were allowed free of charge. But in order to help pay the bills, a charge of 10 cents per chicken and 50 cents for hogs, sheep, goats and cattle, and $1.00 for horses, mules and mules were levied. W.W. Robinson and D.W. Gilbert displayed the finest in agricultural equipment and implements from their respective hardware stores. It will be remembered that it was Gilbert, who created the idea for the county's first fair in 1911. Each county in the district put on display showing off what was best in their communities. Houston County walked away with the Grand Prize of the 12th District Fair.

Baseball fans in the crowds were treated to play by play, inning by inning reports at the Telephone Exchange as the Boston Red Sox, jumped out to 3-1 game lead over the New York Giants, Interestingly, the second game of the series resulted in a 6-6 tie, causing an 8-game World Series.

To make the atmosphere a lot livelier, Dublin's highly heralded brass band, fresh from the magnificent performances representing Georgia at the previous two National Confederate Reunions, entertained the crowds daily.

The District Fair came to a climax on Saturday, October 12, on Dublin and Laurens County Day. The day was set aside for one last great day of fun on the Big Midway.

Although an aero plane could not be secured, thrill seekers were treated to several balloon ascensions. A young and somewhat fearless daredevil leaped from the balloon, pulling his parachute at the last possible moment.

The fair came to end with a dazzling fireworks show. The crowds went home, counting the 360 days until the fair of 1913, which would be even better.

But, it was in those days, in the twelfth year of the 20th Century, when the envious eyes of the citizens of Georgia were focused on the 12th District Fair, our fair, a century ago this week.

Monday, October 01, 2012


First Marine

You will not find the name of Lester F. Graham on the monument to those Laurens County men who lost their lives in World War II.   Those names are only the men who lived in Laurens County at the beginning of the war, or at least our country’s entrance into the war.   If you were making a list of those who served and fought in World War II, the name of Lester Graham would be right up there at the top.   After his graduation from Dublin High School, Lester joined the United States Marine Corps and entered basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina in the fall of 1934.  

When one thinks of Marines of that day, they think of the Marines who fought in the South Pacific in World War II.   In time, Lester Graham would become one of those Marines.  When Lester got to the scene of the fighting in the South Pacific in 1942 with the First Marine Division, he had already crossed the South Pacific twice on his way to two tours of duty in China.

Lester F. Graham was born on July 14, 1914 to John J. Graham and Pearl Carr Graham, of Empire, Dodge County, Georgia.  

You see, Lester Graham was what they once called a “China Marine.”  With the aid of Russia, the United States and yes, even Adolph Hitler’s Germany, the Republic of China engaged in a war with the Empire of Japan, after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.  To help protect American economic interests and citizens in the area, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the 4th Marines to the vicinity of Shanghai.  

It was in the summer of 1937 when an intense struggle for control of Shanghai erupted.  Just north of Soochow Creek, the antagonistic armies of China and Japan collided in brutal combat - all combat is brutal.  The 300,000 man Japanese Army launched an all out offensive in October, seventy five years ago this week.  Further resistance  was futile. With only 6500 British and French forces and  a mere thousand Fourth Marines in support, the  Chinese retreated to fight another day. 

After a lull in the fighting in downtown Shanghai, Graham took a little time to write his mother, the former Miss Pearl Carr, at her home at 303 Telfair Street, now part of Duncan Tire Company.

“Dear Mom, I hope you aren’t too frightened by me being here, because there is hardly any danger.  All I have to do is to keep near sandbag emplacements and duck when I hear shells and bombs whistling,” Lester wrote.  

Graham told his mother that some  times the Japanese fired into the American  lines, but never hit anyone.  The Dublin Marine reported that only a few foreign soldiers had been killed during the fighting, but he did relate an incident when an enemy aerial shell struck within seventy yards of his fortified position.  When the excitement subsided, Lester and his buddies ventured out to pick up a few souvenirs from a crashed Japanese airplane.  Although he planned to bring some large pieces home on his next visit, Lester sent his mother a small piece of the bounty of war.

“The officers really gave us a workout when we first arrived here.  We had to build sandbag emplacements, put up miles of barbed wire and cut portholes through brick and stone walls,” Graham wrote.  

Graham, a private in C Co., 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, wanted his mother to know that he often talked about her mother, “Big Mama,” to his fellow Marines, and what “darned good biscuits” and ham she can cook.  

He ended his letter with the usual sentiments and asked all not to worry about him.

Graham returned to China in May 1938 aboard the U.S.S. Sacramento for a 15-month hitch.

After serving relatively light duty in his first years in the Marine Corps at the Naval Prison in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Lester received orders just before Christmas 1939 to report for duty at the World’s Fair in New York.  Being in the Big Apple in those happy times leading up to the war was a thrill of a lifetime. At every turn, there was fun and happiness. 

After the war with Japan began in December 1941, Corporal Graham served in Marine installations primarily on the East Coast of the United States and assignments in Puerto Rico and Cuba.  

In April 1942, Corporal Graham was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division.  As a part of the Marine Corps’ first major offensive against Japan, the 1st Division attacked on several fronts during the Guadalcanal Campaign.  Roughly 7,000 good men were lost in contrast to the deaths of some 30,000 plus resolute Japanese defenders.

During the middle of the six-month unmerciful campaign, Sgt. Graham was promoted to Platoon Sergeant Graham.  In July 1943, Graham added a fourth bottom stripe on his sleeve when he was elevated to the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant.  

In December 1943,  just three short years after Lester was living the easy life on the busy streets of New York City.  Graham found himself entangled in a savage struggle when the First Marine Division staged its second amphibious landing in a series of fights called the Battle of Cape Glouchester.

Somewhere in the fighting on January 23, 1944, First Sergeant Lester F. Graham was killed in action.  His body was brought back home and buried beside his father in the Rogers Cemetery, near Empire, in Dodge County, Georgia.

 So now you know part of the story of Lester F. Graham, First Marines, a Dublin man, a China Marine,  who fought to protect Americans in the volatile streets of Shanghai, China, seventy-five years ago and became the first Laurens Countian to serve in World War II.