Looking Back a Century Ago

The year 1906 represented another year of progress in Dublin and Laurens County.  Primarily marked by extensive infra structural improvements, the sixth year of the Twentieth Century marked the end of railroad construction in the county, an event which in hindsight may have been an indication of the looming economic depression, an unlucky thirteen years in the future.

The railroads were still king in Laurens County, but several factors indicated that they were beginning to reach the peak of their utility.    On the plus side, the M.D. & S. RR added more freight trains to their schedules.  Locals asked the railroad to add another passenger train to allow for short visits to Macon.   An attempt by the City Board of Trade to erect a Union Depot in Dublin to accommodate four rail lines coming into town resulted in a bitter controversy, which killed the worthy idea.  Plans to extend the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad to Cordele fizzled.  The construction of a railroad from McRae to Dublin through Cedar Grove also never came to fruition.

The year was highlighted by extensive improvements to Dublin’s infrastructure.  Congressmen W.G. Brantley and Thomas W. Hardwick and U.S. Senator A.S. Clay came to Dublin to confer with the Oconee River Improvement Association to make plans to secure a $110,000.00 grant to make improvements to the Oconee River.  River traffic came to a near screeching halt when both the R.C. Henry and the Rover both sunk, leaving the Louisa Steamboat Company without a boat.  The loss of the two boats sustained the need for more funds to clear the numerous and treacherous snags in the river.  Izzie Bashinski,  J.E. Smith, Jr., E.R. Orr, D.S. Brandon and W.W. Ward formed a new company, the Dublin Navigation Company.

Years of planning culminated in the construction of a large auditorium on South Monroe Street for Chautaugua and other entertainment and political events.  The City of Dublin completed renovations to the old Hilton Hotel to become the city’s first brick city hall building.   The city purchased a tract of land across Hunger and Hardship Creek as a second cemetery for its black citizens.  The cemetery, known as the “Cross the Creek” cemetery, was established to alleviate the crowded Scottsville cemetery on North Decatur Street.

Perhaps the most lasting improvement to the city began in 1906.  City officials first began to discuss the idea of a public park of the city.  Through the generosity of the Stubbs family, the construction of Stubbs’ Park would become a reality within the next two years.  The first granite sidewalks were laid in Dublin, replacing the old wooden sidewalks which had served the city for more than a half century.  Several of Dublin’s streets were ditched to provide a healthier environment.   Andrew Carnegie continued his generous  support of the city of Dublin.  Mrs. J.A. Peacock wrote to the philanthropist requesting a contribution of $750.00 to aid in the purchase of a new organ for the Methodist Church.  Carnegie granted the request, but when Mrs. Peacock found herself on the wrong side of the minister’s wife, she was asked to leave the church.  Mrs. Peacock was graciously welcomed at the Episcopal Church until a new minister came to the Methodist church.    The beloved lady was promptly invited to return to the church she loved so dearly and remained in the organist’s pit until her retirement.

Dreamers were busy coming up with new ideas to improve the city.   With the increased automobile traffic in the city, a plan was promoted to establish a street car system along the main traffic arteries of the city.  The plan, boosted by fourteen of Dublin’s wealthiest businessmen drew little support and quickly failed.  Another plan to capitalize on the increasing popularity of the automobile involved a proposed sixty-feet-wide and five-mile-long speedway beginning on Robertson Street and running across the northern extremities of the city to the Oconee River.  H.H. Smith and Clark Grier’s dream failed to materialize for lack of financial support.

Many new businesses began in 1906.   Several such as the Dublin Brokerage Company and  H.K. Stanford Brokerage were organized a result of the increased cotton trade.  Ironically, weather conditions that summer were so devastating that many farmers simply abandoned their fields.   Harvesting of timber in the county began to soar.  The Dublin Brick and Lumber Company,  The Yellow Pine Lumber Company, Southland Lumber Company  and The Laurens Lumber Company were established to profit from the abundance of pine timber reserves in Laurens County.

Other new business to open were the Rentz Trading Company, David &  Grinstead Grocery, W.W. Bradley Grocery, T.J. Taylor Mercantile Company  and Lovett Mercantile Company.   Middle Georgia Fertilizer, The Jackson Stores, Dublin Printing Company were started and flourished throughout the next decade.  Two stalwart mercantile businesses, The Sam Weiscelbaum Company, under the management of N.B. Baum  and the Four Seasons Department Stores, under the management of J.E. Smith, Jr.,  expanded their operations as the town’s most dominant department stores.  The Citizens Bank became the city’s second national bank and changed it’s name to the City National Bank.

Among the highlights of the year were the marriage of soon M.J. Guyton of Dublin and Leila Vinson, a native of Milledgeville and a Dublin school teacher.  Mrs. Guyton’s brother Carl Vinson, would later be responsible for major contributions to Laurens County including the Naval Hospital, the county airport, the Laurens County Courthouse, the Laurens County Library and the location of Interstate Highway 16 near Dublin.     Plans were being made to establish the Harriett Holsey Industrial College.   The institution for black children became the city’s first college.   The Georgia Association of County Commissioner’s met in Dublin in June.  The meeting feature a visit to the Chautaugua and a ride aboard the steamboat Louisa down to Wilkes Springs for a barbeque.  The Dublin Rifles, a local militia company under the leadership of Captain W.C. Davis and lieutenants L.C. Pope and Douglas Smith, traveled to summer camp at Fort Oglethorpe in North Georgia.

As I come near the end of my ten years of writing and penning some five hundred columns, I again want to thank all of my readers for their encouragement.  Your appreciation of my work keeps me going when compiling my columns after a long day’s or week’s work.  Thank you all and remember as we as a county approach our two hundredth anniversary that our most important history is not the history of our past, but the history of our future.