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

Friday, August 30, 2013

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!

        On just about any hot August night, most everyone in these parts is praying for a rainy night in Georgia.  But nowadays, most folks are hoping that the rain will go away and the good Lord will let the sunshine in.

At the end of January of this year, it appeared that we here in Central Georgia would have to endure yet another dry year.  Only an inch of rain in a relatively rainy month seemed to indicate that the two-foot plus deficit in the preceding two years was bound to continue.

But then someone let the rain come down.  In nearly half of the year’s shortest month, rain gauges measured 12.18 inches, three times Laurens County’s normal February rainfall.

The St. Patrick’s people prayed for a dry month in March and they got what the asked for, nearly an inch below normal in a mere eight rainy days.  That trend continued in April and the prospects of bountiful  May flowers were seriously in doubt.  Tropical Storm Andrea dumped more than four inches on the county on June 5-7,  initiating the wettest summer in our county’s history.     

Then it was in the days which followed the summer solstice when the dread of another hot dry summer began to change.  On June 22 and every day for the next twenty- three days it rained.    Beginning on that day and for the next five weeks, more (way more in certain areas) than a foot of rain fell, all without the aid of a tropical rain.  Normally during that period we average about five inches, mostly from pop up afternoon thunderstorms.   There is no such thing as an all time record rainfall as official records go back less than 125 years.  But, I think I would be safe in saying that never in the recorded meteorological history of our state has it ever rained for twenty-four days in a row in the first four weeks of summer.   

Here is where I have to say that there is only one official rain gauge in our county and it is located at the Laurens County Emergency Management Center.  It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, that it does rain in other places in the county when rain doesn’t fall into the official measuring tube.  There was one day in July when it rained more than two inches in northern Dublin while less than a quarter of an inch was officially registered.

Normal conditions returned in late July and throughout the first thirteen days of August less than an inch of rain was recorded. Rainy day feelings were fading away when here came the rain again. 

Out of nowhere, it seemed as if every old man in the county started snoring and the twilight skies starting pouring,  dumping rain out of the heavens.  Virtually no one saw it coming.   Just about eight o’clock, it came a flood.  The gully washer continued nonstop for 90 minutes.  In less than a length of a baseball game, we exceeded our average August rainfall of 4.84 inches.   Again, there are no accurate all time records. But, six or more inches in 90 minutes, now that’s a downpour worth remembering. And,  the rain kept coming, another six or more inches in northwest Dublin in three days.

Weathermen love records.  Extreme weather readings give forecasters a barometer  (I couldn’t resist punning here) to inform their readers and viewers of forecasts and trends.  
July is the wettest average month with 5.00 inches, closely followed by March and August.  The wettest official month ever in Dublin came in January 1925 with 14.4 inches.  August 1928 with two tropical storms dumping rain in buckets gave that month 14.07 inches.   As of press time with 12.94 inches, this month of August may set an all time monthly official  rainfall.  On the opposite end of the spectrum,  there was no rain in the rain gauges in October 1961 and September 2005.

The wettest official day ever came on January 19, 1943 when 7.15 inches of rain was recorded.  I remember the 2nd day of June in 2007, when there was more than eight inches in my rain gauge - the official number that day was 6.84.  In some places in eastern Laurens County more than 10 inches fell when Tropical Storm Barry passed through.  On average, the wettest days come in mid January and in early August when tropical storms are prone to come through.

On average, the wettest meteorological season is Summer followed by winter, spring and fall.   Before this year, the wettest winter came in 1912, the spring in 1991, the summer in 1928 (26.98) and fall in 1929 (19.53).  Already this year, the accumulated summer rains are approaching 31.58  official inches with six days to go, making this the wettest season, official or not, in the history of weather records in Dublin.  

Laurens County is located at the southwestern end of an area from Dublin to Augusta which is the driest in the state and has between 47 and 49 inches of rain annually. 

The all time record annual rainfall came in 1912 with 70.31 inches, augmented with the presence of five tropical storms in the state.  Right behind that record was 1964 with its 68.28 inches and its five tropical storm rains. So  far this year with only one tropical storm, the total official rainfall stands At 54.22 with a little more than four months to go.  Statewide the year 1964 was first with 70.66 inches,  with 1929 coming in at 70.01.  That year, Dublin measured 70.8 inches with  only 1 tropical storm.

The wettest-five year period in Georgia  in the last 120 years occurred from 1944 to 1948.  The driest came exactly a decade later from 1954 (the driest year ever) to 1958. 

During this year, we have had at least eighteen days with more than an inch of rain.  The highest came on August 14 with 5.75 ( six to seven in some places, and none in others - remember this is a real big county.)  The plus side to this torrential record is that the official temperature has never risen above 95.4 degrees, that was on June 12. For the year and for the summer, for a change we are right at normal average temperatures. The negative side is all of the leaking roofs, unless you are in the roofing business and then you are smiling.  

As this month comes to an end, the official total at press time through August 25 is  12.78 inches and counting .  In many places in the northwestern section of Dublin, from August 11 to August 18, private rain gauges registered at least eight inches more than the official total bringing the August total in my rain gauge, here in the edge of Hunger and Hardship Creek  to 20 plus inches.  From August 14  to August 25, there was measurable rainfall. 11  Days in a row.  Wow!  

It looks like we won’t break the official record, but I dare you find some one who won’t claim that it rained way  more than a foot during the month.   I’ll stop talking now, because nobody can stop the rain.  And, I will just say, rain, rain go away, come again another dry week. 

In the months to come, we can expect the dry weather to return and much needed rainfall will soon be desired.  Three and three quarters of an inch are normal for September and  just more than two and one half inches is an average for October, typically the driest month of all.   Then we can stop crying about  the rain.  Or will we?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

WILEY K. BRACEWELL

WILEY K. BRACEWELL
The Final Return Home

Wiley Bracewell finally made it home, or at least as close to home as possible.  It took one week short of eight years and the aid of one compassionate Pennsylvania doctor for the mortal remains of Bracewell and one hundred other Georgians to be finally laid to rest in Georgia soil.  

During the years 1870-1873, Dr. Rufus Weaver exhumed, boxed and shipped 3,320 sets of remains of Confederate soldiers from Gettysburg to the South. Gathering the remains were a difficult task as many bodies had limbs removed in order to save space. Of these, 73 were individual removals and 3,247 were shipped to the various Ladies Memorial Associations.  The Ladies Memorial Association of Savannah, Georgia received 101 remains.  Georgians removed from Gettysburg in this manner were all re-interred at Laurel Grove (North) Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia.

. Bits and pieces of thirty-two soldiers of Robert E. Lee's army were painstakingly recovered, carefully placed in three sailing chests and respectfully put aboard the U.S.S. American for shipment back to Savannah, the coastal capital of their home state.  

As the tide rolled in, the American arrived at the wharf in Savannah on the morning of August 21, 1871.  The crew of the ship was met by a special committee and escorted to the Cotton Exchange Building, where the remains lied in state in the city council chamber during the day.  


At four o'clock, the procession moved out.  Joining in the march were veterans of the late war, including Brigadier General J.R. Jackson along with mournful citizens who wanted to pay their final respects to the departed heroes in gray.  As the two hearses slowly moved throughout the quiet, melancholy streets, commerce stopped as nearly every store along the funeral procession route temporarily closed.



"Never in the history of our city has a more quite, melancholy, and sadly, appreciated occasion been before our people and never have they seemed to feel more seriously," wrote a Savannah Morning News writer. 

As the procession passed through the gate of the now ancient Laurel Grove Cemetery, it was met by virtually hundreds of women of the South, the unsung heroes of the Lost Cause, who endured the hardships of death and dying in distant lands with no ability to comfort the wounded and dying.

The three caskets were placed in three graves.  Rev. Benedict eulogized the fallen heroes to the tune of "Rock of Ages."  It was at that moment when the grand ladies moved forward, carrying arm loads of flowers which they covered the hallowed ground.

Eventually the names of each of the 32 men were placed on markers in the area known as "The Confederate Field" or "Gettysburg Field." On September 24, 1871, 69 more sets of remains were buried in Laurel Grove. 

The climatic battle of Civil War was fought in the crossroads town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in the first three days of July 1863.  Wiley Bracewell was a private in Company G of the 49th Georgia Infantry, Thomas' Brigade, Pender's Division, A.P. Hill's  Corps.   His brother, William Sampson Bracewell, and brother cousins, Jesse A. Bracewell and John A. Bracewell, along with another cousin, James W. Bracewell were also members of the company.

The 49th Georgia arrived late on the field after the first day's fighting.   The regiment was relieved on the series of attacks on Federal positions on the 2nd day.  Just as the nautical twilight faded on July 2, Thomas' brigade was moved forward to the far Confederate left in preparation of an all out attack on Cemetery Ridge on July 3.  Although Thomas' brigade was not engaged in the infamous "Pickett's Charge," nevertheless it suffered some casualties as the companies were pommeled by artillery fire and some of its members were killed or wounded while on skirmish duty.

On July 25, 1863, Jesse A. Bracewell wrote home to his parents, "Mother, I got wounded in the hand at the Gettysburg fight on the 3rd of July, but thank the Lord I got out to the rear and have my hand dressed.  Mother, it was the biggest battle I have ever seen. Dear Mother, you couldn't tell one cannon from another. It was a continuous roar all the time. We were lying behind a rock fence and everything was quiet. I could see the Yankees' canon and they were walking around them and neither side was firing. In a few minutes, General Lee rode up on his old gray horse and asked me to hold it for him. I did so.  He took out his telescope and spied over at the Yankees and in a few minutes he left.   I saw a courier coming with a paper in his hand, which he gave to the captain of the cannonade.  Then we fired at the Yankees and they returned it. Every now and then, a ball would strike the fence.  Mother, I want you to know it frightened them.  I was just as afraid of the rock on the ground.  Cousin Wiley Bracewell was wounded and left on the field and the Yankees got him.  We could hear his calling for his brother, but it was at night and his brother was afraid to go out to him.  He was in the halfway ground and his brother never saw him anymore.  Dear Mother, they think peace will be made soon. I hope so, for I am tired of this dreadful war and I want it to soon close for I want to see you for all the worse I ever did in all my life. Dear Father and Mother, I want you to pray for me, for I feel needful for your prayers. Tell the children I want to see them and them to write to me.  Will close, hoping to hear from you soon, your son until death, Jesse A. Bracewell, Co. G, 49th GA Regiment."

Wiley's brother, William Sampson Bracewell, wrote home twenty days later;" 

"Thru the tender mercies of God I am spared to write you a few lines that will inform you that I am well at this time. And, you don't know how glad I was to hear from you and to hear that you were will and you can't tell how glad I was to hear from Wiley.  I hope that he will soon by paroled and if he is I think that he will get the chance to come home and stay till he gets well., and I want to know whether his thigh was amputated or not. I hope that it was not.  I hope it will get well without being amputated.  My Dear Mother you said that you and all the children wanted to see me very bad.

Mother, I know that you don't want to see me any more than I want to see you and I want you to pray for me and also for the close of the cruel war that we may be spared to meet you all again on this of the grave, and if we may meet in heaven. Dearest mother, you ask me to write you all the news that I have. I can't tell half of it,, as it is -------.  I will tell you that our army is demoralized. Worse than is ever has been and the men are deserting every night more or less and you can think of things as they are and how that it is bad times here.  Mother I must close for this time by remaining your son till death.  

W. Burton Owen, Chaplain of the 17th Mississippi Regiment, wrote to Mrs.Redley Bracewell on August 27, 1863;

"Dear Madam, your letter to your son, W.K. Bracewell, was received at Gettysburg and now that I am now within our lines again, I will give you some information concerning him.  His right thigh was fractured by a wound and he died at the General Hospital in Gettysburg on August 27th(1863). The ---- Register from Richmond may be able to give you the particulars of his death. I am certain that he died in peace and that he gone to rest. May the Lord Bless and comfort all of his relatives. I will be glad to hear from you that I may know that this has been received." 

When Wiley died,  his remains were buried In Confederate Section 6, Grave 8 in Camp Letterman Hospital  (above) cemetery on the outskirts of Gettysburg. 

During the fighting, Jesse was wounded. He would be captured at Petersburg at the close of the war he so desperately pleaded for.  Although he spent nearly ten weeks at Hart's Island Prison, New York for 10 weeks, he made it back home.  William was wounded in the next major battle at the Wilderness on May 6, 1864 and sent home where he remained until the end of the war.  John C. Bracewell, who suffered a wound at Mechanicsville in June 1862 and presumably never made it Gettysburg.  Very little of cousin James Bracewell's activities are known. He may or may not have been at Gettysburg.

When James Ray Bracewell began investigating the story of the "Five Bracewell Brothers,"  he discovered that the quintet were Bracewells, but there were two sets of two brothers (first cousins to each other) and another Bracewell, a third cousin.  In his research on Wiley K. Bracewell, Bracewell discovered that his tombstone was incorrectly marked "Wiley .R. Bracewell."  It appears that Wiley's middle initial was changed at Camp Letterman, General Hospital. 

This error put Bracewell on a quest to once and for all to give the final honor to his kinsman. So after plying through red tape covered with bureaucratic apathy, the corrected tombstone of Wiley Kinchen Bracewell will be unveiled at a ceremony on August 27, 2013, one hundred fifty years to the day on which Wiley K. Bracewell died in a Union hospital in Gettysburg.

"It is personally, a quest for knowledge about where I came from. For most of my life, all that I knew was that my father and his father were from Dublin, Georgia," wrote James Bracewell. 

The ceremony at Laurel Grove Cemetery (802 W. Anderson St., Savannah) at 4:00 o'clock, p.m.  is open to the public and all Bracewell relatives are specially invited to attend. After the unveiling, James Ray Bracewell will give a talk about the life and death of Wiley K. Bracewell and about how he came to be buried at Laurel Grove North Cemetery.

Monday, August 19, 2013

THIRTEEN DOG DAYS IN '13

Reading old newspapers are a passion of mine.  You never know what kind of story you might come across.  The first thirteen days of August 1913 revealed several interesting stories about Dublin and Laurens County in the first thirteen days of August a century ago.

THE ONLY GOOD SNAKE IS A DEAD SNAKE - W.L. Moye and N.T. Gay were out to catch a mess of fish in the cool waters of Land Branch in the early days of August a century ago, when they saw a rather large snake, which they promptly killed.  Just as the first snake had stopped writhing in pain, the men spotted a second serpent, almost the length of a human being.  It too met a similar fate.

What the duo saw next was nothing short of amazing.  First one and then another snake, slithered out of a den.  Forty foot-long snakes emerged.  When the slaughter ceased, Moye and Gay counted the dead at forty-two, a massacre any snake hater would savor. Augusta Chronicle, August 10, 1913.

August 7, 1913 was another hot day in Dublin.  Harry and John Stanley, sons of Georgia Commissioner of Commerce and Labor Hal M. Stanley,  were out rabbit hunting in the fields and woods north of Bellevue Avenue.  The boys had been visiting their aunt and uncle while their parents were on vacation in New York. Harry noticed a bad looking thunder cloud coming up from the west and ran back to the home of his aunt, Mrs. William  Pritchett, He reached shelter just before the bottom dropped out.   Thirteen-year-old John stayed looking to bag one more rabbit.  After the torrent  diminished to a drizzle, a man stopped by the Pritchett’s home to report that he had found a dead body in the field north of the house.

As Pritchett and the man approached the body, they noticed a couple of hunting dogs standing guard over John’s motionless body.  Harry, who followed a short distance behind, went into shock when he saw that his brother was dead.  An examination of the body revealed little, if any, outward evidence of a lightning strike.   A single small spot was burned into the back of his neck.  His internal organs, however, were so twisted and disfigured that embalming became impossible.  Owing to that fact, the body had to be buried immediately in the family plot in Northview Cemetery, while his grieving parents made their way back home to Dublin to comfort their grieving son.  Macon Telegraph, August 9, 1913.

THREE FOR THE MONEY - J.M. Finn, Dublin’s Premier Citizen, never considered himself much of a planter.  Finn came to Dublin as a banker.  In his first twenty years in the city, Finn skyrocketed up the ladder of success to become the Emerald City’s most successful and respected business leaders.

It was in the summer of 1913 when Finn decided to try his hand at forming.  He thought he would start with an eight-acre corn field where he would plant peas later in the summer.  To ensure a good stand of corn, Finn saturated the ground with a coat of cotton seed fertilizer.  As the corn stalks were rising up, cotton plants were already thriving.  The farm hands left the “white gold” plants growing beside the corn.   Peas were also planted  at the same time.  By August 1, 1913, all three crops were flourishing in the same field.  Augusta Chronicle, August 4, 1913.

ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL - It is known fact that all politics are local.  That maxim was never more true than when it came time for the appointment of the postmaster in cities and towns in the country.  From 1897 to 1913, the position of Postmaster of the Post Office in Dublin was left to the discretion of a Republican president.  The 1912 election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson changed everything.

The nomination of Vivian L. Stanley as Postmaster brought about controversy, not from Republicans, who virtually were nonexistent in Georgia, but within the Democratic Party itself.  Stanley, who had not been a fervent supporter of Wilson, was seen as an offensive choice by some  powerful Laurens County politicos.   More than three months elapsed after Danville, Georgia Congressman Dudley M. Hughes submitted Stanley’s name to President Wilson.

Turns out, Stanley was an obvious choice.  He was a popular newspaper man.   He was politically connected, his brother, Hal Stanley, had just been elected as Georgia’s first Commissioner of Labor.  Stanley would go on to a long career in public service, including a long term as a Georgia Prison Commissioner. Macon Telegraph, August 13, 2013.

SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL - It is quite hard to believe, considering the depiction of all types of human behavior and misbehavior in movies in 2013, to realize that in the first half of August a century ago, Dublin’s City Council was finalizing plans to put a lid on immoral plays and movies in the city.  J.E. Burch, J.M. Finn, and A. J. Toole were appointed as the Board of Censors to police the increasing debauchery and sinful performances which were thought to be on the way with the opening of the Bertha Theater in October.  Augusta Chronicle, August 24, 1913.

THE FIRST BALE - In the days when cotton was king in the South, one of the most exciting times was when the first bale of cotton was brought into the gin.  Farmers, bankers and all citizens looked forward in anticipation of the initial prices offered for the South’s greatest cash crop.  J.F. Petway, who lived at the far southwestern end of the county between Cadwell and the Dodge County line won the honors on July 31,  1913.  Petway’s bale, weighing 346 pounds and bringing 18 cents a pound, was taken to the Georgia Warehouse and Compress Company, eleven days earlier than the year before and setting the mark for one of the earliest bales ever. Petway won the honor of shipping the first bale to Macon in 1912.  The honor of the first bale in Georgia  on July 30 was a bale produced in Dougherty County.  The Laurens County was the first to be sold in the Augusta Cotton Exchange

The year 1913 would be another good year for Laurens County as she led the state in cotton with more than 52,000 bales, setting the mark for the county’s highest cotton crop.  The all time best county crop and state record of more than 60,000 bales was ginned in 1911.  After 1913, cotton crops across the South began to feel the wrath of the boll weevil bringing a time of economic turmoil which would last all the way until World War II.   Macon Telegraph, Aug. 1, 1913.

HOW DARE THEY?  Times change.  They always will.  Today with rampant trafficking in illegal substances.  Folks in Dublin were shocked when a couple of men who  sold aboard the trains ( they called them news-butchers in the day) were arrested for selling Coca Cola and cigarettes aboard a Macon, Dublin and Savannah train on a Sunday.   Macon Telegraph, August 9, 1913.