Saving Our Past One Piece at a Time
Scrapbooks have been around for just a little more than two hundred years. President Thomas Jefferson was one of the more notable early scrap bookers. Jefferson clipped newspaper articles pertaining to his presidency for future compilation into a book. Today, scrap booking is undergoing a revival. It has become an art. Entire stores are devoted to its most passionate participants. The greatest compliment I receive from my readers is that they “cut my column out of the paper and saved it.” No other blessing justifies the fruits of my passion for the past. Let’s take a look at some pieces of scrap paper assembled by a foresighted ladies, who clipped previous pieces of our past so that we can remember them today.
Corporal punishment, brutally severe by today’s standards, was the order of the day in the early years of Laurens County. In1812 a cattle thief was found guilty by a Laurens County judge. The judge ordered the convicted man be taken immediately to the public square and that his shirt be stripped off his back and his hands tied to a tree. Thereupon the officer of the court administered thirty-nine lashes across his bare back. The process was to be repeated the following day and the day after that. After the third round of lashings, the court ordered that the thief be branded, much like the cattle he stole, with the letter “R” on his shoulder. There was a way out. The defendant could escape the lashings and the branding if he paid the court costs, the sheriff’s fee and the charges of those who popped the whip and pressed the branding iron against his naked, bruised and slashed back. Though “cruel and unusual” punishment was banned by both the Federal and Georgia constitutions, the practice of lashing wasn’t terminated until years later.
In order to protect escapes between lashings and other punishments, the Inferior Court of Laurens County ordered improvements to the jail in 1832. The justices ordered that a ditch, five feet deep, be constructed around the perimeter of the jail. The ditch would be of sufficient width to hold a vertical line of one-foot-thick timbers, which were to protrude from the ground to a height of three feet along the exterior walls. The interior walls, also to be made of the finest heart pine timbers, were constructed of timbers laid in horizontal positions to a height of one foot above the surface, to prevent tunneling by those who feared the whip.
In one of the most unusual cases of grand theft ever reported in Laurens County was the actual theft of a church. No, I did not say a theft of something in the church. I said the entire church building. On September 12, 1952, the Deacons of Ebenezer Baptist Church appeared before Justice of the Peace Hill G. Thomas to swear out a warrant for the thief, or should I say the alleged thief, whom they accused of stealing their church building. Deacon Ivey Stanley testified that when he was ill during the month of August when he abandoned his work on repairing the church. Upon his return to the job, he found, much to his dismay, that the church building was gone. Stanley formed his own one member posse and scoured the countryside for the missed church. He found the transformed structure in the southern part of the county. After an intense interrogation, the deacon found that Belle Coley sold the building to a Jab Haynes. Haynes then dismantled the structure, moved the materials to a remote location and assembled them into his personal residence. The duo was convicted of the theft and receiving stolen goods respectively.
In the days before our country became cognizant of our homeland security, airplane hijacks were fairly common events, especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A Delta Airlines Super DC-9, carrying a crew of five and seventy-seven paying passengers, was headed to Savannah. The flight, which originated out of Chicago, was about halfway from the Atlanta airport and its destination when an armed male passenger in the rear seat informed a stewardess that he was armed and wanted to go to Havana, Cuba. At the time the plane was flying in a southeasterly direction directly above Laurens County. The pilot of Flight 435 radioed F.A.A. officials and reported that the plane was being hijacked. He yielded to the hijacker, who was carrying a bomb, and turned the plane in a southerly direction toward Havana, where the aircraft landed at 10:34 p.m., some seven hours after it took off from Chicago. The hijacking, which occurred on August 20, 1970, was the first of four hijacking of American planes in a five-day period.
It was a hot Sunday in 1950 when a Cuban army plane was forced to land at the Laurens County Airport. For three days and over the July 4th holiday, the Cubans endured the hot heat of Georgia in July and enjoyed the warm hospitality of Dubliners while their plane was being repaired. In his haste to leave Dublin and return to Cuba, Dr. Sanchez Arranga, the country’s Minister of Education, left a thousand dollars in cash in American money and considerably more in Cuban currency, along with his passport in his room at the Fred Robert’s Hotel. Alberta Quilchey was cleaning Dr. Sanchez’s recently vacated room when she found the minister’s valuables. She sprightly ran downstairs and reported her find to the hotel manager. The astounded manager, recognizing the urgency of the situation, jumped in his car and dashed to the airport, just in time to present the grateful leader of a group of Cubans who were returning from a vacation in the North Carolina mountains.
Some hotel guests in Dublin didn’t receive such royal treatment. Georgia governor Hugh Dorsey was the antithesis of ostentatiousness. He was a plainly dressed man and looked like any other gentleman traveler of his day. Governor Dorsey was due in Dublin on the day after Christmas in 1919. The governor was in town at the invitation of the Chamber of Commerce to address the county’s businessmen on his plan for the Georgia Cotton Bank. When the governor arrived at the depot on South Jefferson Street, he noticed the large crowd gathering on the piazza of the New Dublin Hotel anxiously awaiting his arrival. He stepped from the rear of the train and decided to walk the short distance up the street to the hotel at the end of the block. Hotel manager Stubbs Hooks noticed the visitor coming up the street. The thought that he might be the eagerly awaited dignitary never crossed his mind. He expected only an exalted entourage would be accompanying the governor of Georgia. In a matter of respect to the guest he told the man that he better go ahead and eat because a large banquet was about to take place. The governor, not wanting to embarrass Hooks, told the anxious manager that he would wait and eat with everyone else. As the governor began to mill around in the crowd, someone approached Hooks and informed him that the man he had just talked to was the man the reception committee had been waiting on. Stunned and stymied, Hooks recovered from his blunder and greeted the governor in the appropriate manner, all the time thinking to himself, “how could I be so stupid.”