Good Folks at Home
The community of Orianna is what was once called a line town. Situated in both Laurens County and Treutlen County, the community was split by political boundaries, but in a united effort overcame its lawless reputation to become a home for good folks. Orianna was established as a post office one hundred and seven years ago today on May 16, 1899. Lucien Thigpen served as the first postmaster. Dora (Mrs. John M.) Thigpen took over the duties of the postmaster on March 8, 1900 and served until December 15, 1904 when all mail was ordered to be sent to Adrian. Postmasters had the privilege of naming their post offices. Lucien Thigpen chose the name of Orianna, which was derived from the Latin word meaning "golden" or "dawning," a highly appropriate choice at the dawning of the 20th Century.
In the latter part of the 1890s, the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad, which had been completed into Dublin in 1891, began acquiring the necessary rights of way to continue its railroad to Vidalia, where the road would connect with another which lead to the port of Savannah. At the same time, Thomas J. James was planning a railroad, known as the Wadley and Mt. Vernon, which would run from Wadley, in his home county of Jefferson, through Kite, Meeks, Adrian, Orianna, Rockledge, and onto Mt. Vernon, a commercial center of southeast Central Georgia. The railroad continued to operate into the 1920s when it folded for lack of use.
The centerpiece of the Orianna community was the local school. A fine school was a necessity for attracting residents to the area. Line schools, schools which were supported by two counties, were generally underfunded and consequently understaffed. But the Orianna school was an exception. Local residents supplemented state and county funding by hiring the best teachers they could afford. Smaller area schools were consolidated into one large school. The driving force at the school was teacher J..L. Poston, who later became the principal. The project was a success, but area residents wanted an even better facility.
The original one room school became woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the burgeoning school population. The school boards of Laurens and Montgomery counties appropriated a third of the cost toward the new school forcing the community to raise the remainder of the three thousand dollar price tag. Nearly everyone responded resulting in one of the most modern and handsome schools in that section of the state. Behind the leadership of school trustees J.E. Page, J.A. Youngblood and E.A. Avery of Laurens County, and B.B. Thigpen, J.A. Curry and R.B. Avery of Montgomery County, the new facility became the envy of schools everywhere.
The new school, completed in the summer of 1913, was well finished with four large classrooms, each of which was equipped with a blackboard, teacher's desk, heater and modern desks. Two of the rooms were separated by a folding wall, which when thrown open, converted the rooms into the school auditorium. Each of the teachers enforced the lessons of morality and principles of everyday life. Normally teachers were forced to obtain quarters from area residents either for free or pay from a portion of their relatively pitiful salary. But the school trustees arranged for erection of an adequate dormitory for the teachers, which was placed on the edge of the expansive four acre school yard. The new venture was so successful that within the first term after its construction, the trustees considered adding a second floor to the building.
Equally important as the school to Orianna were her two churches, one Baptist and one Methodist. The Baptist Church, through its trustees J.M. Hattaway and J.A. Curry, acquired its first church property from P.M. Johnson on August 21, 1903. The land adjoined Rose Hill School. W.H. Toler and his wife Elmina Rebecca Braswell Toler donated the land for the Methodist Church in the northern part of town on October 11, 1910. Most of the two hundred fifty citizens of the community were church going people. The prohibitionists in the community decided that a temperance union was the best weapon to fight the abundance of "blind tigers," a name given to establishments which illegally sold spiritous liquors. Leading the fight was a young man by the name of L.O. Mosely. In a short decade, Mosely's star soared when he became the secretary to Congressman W.W. Larsen of Dublin and later as a writer for the Atlanta Constitution and as manager of the finest hotels in Atlanta. Moseley obtained the written pledges of every member of the community to refrain from the use of tobacco, whiskey and profanity.
Some of the early families who lived in the environs of Orianna were the families of Jonathan and Julia Smith, John M. And Dora Thigpen, Lucien and Sarah Thigpen, Willis and Mary Beckworth, Richard and Elsey Thigpen, Thomas and Pearcy Frost, Jordan and Julia Norris, Howard and Orley Courson, Andrew and Laura Thigpen, James and Sallie Hammons, Walter and Pansy Thigpen, A.L. and Kate Thigpen, Sol and Wannie White, John W. and Trudie Greenway, Mack and Elene Foskey, J.S. and Mary McDaniel, William and Minnie Pope and Lewis and Mary Pope, as well as the families of W.H. Toler, J.A. Youngblood, W.F. Avery, E.A. Avery, G.W. Spivey, J.D. Wilson, W.W. Dent, J.A. Curry, John Gillis, Ben Gillis, J.T. Blankenship, Emmett Thipgen, J.J. Leach, J.T. May, J.R. Clements, F.M. Youngblood, J.H. Bailey, W.V. Thigpen, J.B. Ricks, H.L. Hicks, J.C. Flanders and Hardee Thigpen.
One of the area's most famous residents was the venerable Methodist minister, the Rev. Bascom Anthony, who lived northeast of Orianna on the Thigpen Trail and Wadley Southern Railroad where it crossed the southern bank of Pendleton Creek.
Today, the Orianna community is only a faint shadow of its past nearly a century ago, but one thing remains constant. The Methodist Church is gone, but the Baptists still gather on Sundays. And the good folks, they're still there.