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

Thursday, November 27, 2014



   They were coming!  Sixty thousand Yankees in columns as far as you could see were marching to the sea.  Nothing in their reach was safe from the foraging parties.  Rails were twisted, livestock slaughtered, factories and mills were burned, and homes were ransacked for anything of military value.

  One hundred and fifty years ago today, The Battle of Ball's Ferry, Georgia took place on the Oconee River.

     On the afternoon of November 21, 1864, General Henry C. Wayne, C.S.A. realized that the defense of Gordon was futile and ordered his men to withdraw to the eastern banks of the Oconee River.  Their mission was to defend the Central of Georgia Railroad bridge near the small village of Oconee.  The Confederates built a fort with a commanding view of the bridge and the opposite bank of the river.  The area approaching the bridge on the west side of the river was nearly impassable.  Jackson's Ferry had been abandoned and the trestles along the western bank of the river were demolished by Wayne's men.

     The right wing of General William T. Sherman's Army, composed of the 15th and 17th Corps, were moving into Gordon on the 22nd - days after a difficult skirmish at Griswoldville with Confederate Cavalry.  Gen. Oliver Howard, U.S.A. was in command of the Right Wing.  The 15th Corps, with Gen.  Peter J. Osterhaus commanding,  arrived in Gordon on the 22nd hoping for a few days rest.  Generals  John E. Smith, John M. Corse, William B. Hazen and Charles R. Woods were in command of the 15th's four divisions.  Gen. Francis P. Blair, U.S.A. commanding the 17th Division moved his men forward from Gordon through McIntyre and eventually to Toombsboro - destroying tracks and depots along the way.  Generals Gustavas A. Smith and Mortimer D. Leggett were in command  of the 17th's two divisions.  The 17th Corps were instructed to move to Jackson's Ferry to secure the Oconee Bridge.  The 15th Corps moved to the right to secure the county seat of Irwinton and to follow the 17th Corps to the River.

     Gen. Gustavas Smith arrived at the Oconee Bridge on the 23rd.  He found that there was no Jackson's Ferry and certainly no approaches to the supposed site.  He found  Gen. Wayne's forces fully entrenched on the morning of the 23rd at Station 14 Central Railroad (Oconee) with six guns in place.  The guns were strategically placed with a commanding view of the opposite bank.  When the advance elements of the 17th Corps reached the western bank,  they found all roads impassable with no bridge in place.  They reported back that a crossing would be costly.  Little did they know that the opposing forces included a mixture of Georgia Military Institute Cadets, state prisoners, and local guards.  Gen. Wayne repeatedly begged Gen. McLaws for more men, ammunition, and rations.  Gen. McLaws sent eighty-five enlisted men, one hundred forty five cadets, and two hundred militia.  The cavalry and artillery horses arrived on the 22nd.

     General Smith found that the only way out of the swamp was to return to Toombsboro. He decided to move further south to join the 15th Corps at Ball's Ferry - sixteen miles through Toombsboro but only a couple down the river.  Before moving, the Union artillery shelled the Confederate Fort across the river inflicting as much damage as possible. Gen. Smith dispatched Col. Spencer and the 1st Alabama Union Cavalry to Ball's Ferry early on the 24th of November.  Their mission was to secure the ferry for passage by the Right Wing.  The cavalrymen found the ferry boat on the opposite side of the river.  A patrol was sent up the river crossing on makeshift rafts.  The patrol moved down to the east bank of the ferry and dislodged the Confederate pickets.

     Gen. Wayne dispatched Major A.L. Hartridge with two cavalry companies, eighty infantry soldiers, and two cannons to Ball's Ferry.  Major Hartridge arrived at 3 p.m., just in time to prevent the Alabama Cavalry from securing the ferry.  The Union cavalry suffered nearly a dozen casualties.  Major Hartridge set up positions along the east bank of the ferry.  That evening he returned to Oconee with part of his command.

     Lt. Colonel Andrew Young commanding the 30th Georgia Battalion arrived in Oconee on the 24th.  Gen. Joseph Wheeler led his four thousand cavalrymen along the right flank of the right wing.  They left Macon and swam across the Oconee River at Blackshear's Ferry. Lt. Col.  Gaines and his Alabama Cavalry were sent to Ball's Ferry. They strengthened the fortifications, preparing for the larger force which would soon come.  The remainder of Wheeler's force moved to Tennille.  On the night of the 25th the head of the 15th corps was camped in Irwinton with its rear in Gordon.  The head of the 17th corps was still camped near the Oconee River Bridge with its rear along the railroad back through Toombsboro.

     On the morning of the 25th,  the two corps began their march toward Ball's Ferry.  The 17th corps returned to Toombsboro on their way.  General Hazen's Division, 15th Corps led the way.  General Woods' Division was to move next detouring south toward the Lightwood Knot Bridges.   General Woods' mission was to protect the flank against an attack by Wheeler's Cavalry.  He sent the 29th Missouri (mounted) to destroy the bridges.  The cavalrymen reported resistance at the bridges.  They never knew the extent of the resistance.  The force that turned them away was a Confederate surgeon and an elderly slave woman.  The Confederate force set the bridges on fire and began screaming and firing weapons.  The cavalry,  satisfied that the bridges were destroyed, returned to the division, that is according to the local view of the incident.

     General Hazen arrived first around 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon.  He found the Confederates entrenched on the opposite bank with skirmishers up and down the stream.  As soon as the 12th Wisconsin Battery was set in place, the Confederate forces on east bank were besieged by artillery fire.  The 19th Illinois and the 97th Indiana were placed on picket duty along the river.  The 17th Corps arrived about dusk.  The 17th sent infantrymen to cross the river upstream and work their way down to the right flank of the Confederates.   Smith's and Corse's Divisions of the 15th Corps and the pontoon trains of the 1st Michigan Engineers arrived during the night.

     Col. Gaines realized the magnitude of the opposing force around midnight.  General Wayne's main force at Oconee had been outflanked. With no hopes of reinforcements, Wayne ordered a retreat to Tennille.  Commanding Gen. William J. Hardee ordered the army to move to a defensive position on the Ogeechee River.

     On the morning of the 26th, two pontoon bridges were laid across the river.  Generals Corse and Woods crossed first, moving to Irwin's Crossroads to camp for the night.  General Hazen moved ahead of General Smith, who remained behind to remove the pontoon bridges.  After the crossing was completed, Hazen and Smith moved to Irwin's Cross Roads.  After crossing the river, Blair's 17th Corps moved north toward Oconee to continue the destruction of the railroad.  The 17th Corps Headquarters was established at the intersection of the Oconee and Irwin's roads.  As the two corps rendezvoused near Irwin's,  elements of both continued the destruction of the railroad.  The right and left wings of Sherman's army came together at Sandersville and Tennille.  On the 28th Sherman's army entered the last four weeks of its March to the Sea.  By Christmas,  Savannah was controlled by General Sherman's forces.  

THANKSGIVING - In the Beginning

When did Thanksgiving begin?  Many claim it began in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621.  Proud Virginians have a strong claim that it was on the banks of the James River two years prior when American colonists first celebrated their blessings on a day of Thanksgiving.  The Northerners won the Civil War.  So, to the victors go the rights to write our history.  So, the traditional origin of Thanksgiving features the Pilgrims and Indians of New England.   You might be surprised to learn that a Laurens County man was the first to urge the adoption of the holiday in Georgia.

In 1619, a group of English settlers arrived at the Berkeley Plantation on the James River, southeast of present day Richmond, Virginia. Their charter of settlement provided, "We ordain that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for the plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."  That first celebration was held on December 4, 1619.

Nearly two years later in the fall of 1621, the settlers of the Massachusetts colony joined with their Indian friends in celebrating their good fortune during their first year on the North American continent.  The holiday was primarily celebrated on an irregular basis. George Washington proclaimed a Thanksgiving in 1795.  It would be nearly another quarter of a century before northeastern states revived the erratic celebrations.

The authorities of Augusta, Georgia proclaimed one of the first local Thanksgiving  observations in Georgia on Friday, November 7, 1823.  Members of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches joined together for three services to thank God for  His tender mercies over all the works and in whose favors, all are partakers.

The origin of Georgia's first official celebration of Thanksgiving Day came in 1826.  Governor George M. Troup, in his annual message to the Georgia legislature, asked the assembly to proclaim a statewide celebration of Thanksgiving Day.  Troup, a resident of Laurens County, was one of the most powerful and admired chief executives of Georgia in  the first half of the 19th Century.  Troup urged the legislators to set a day aside to render from time to time homage and adoration so justly due to that Being, who is the donor of all good.

Robert Rea, of Greene County, introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives on November 18, 1826 to set apart a day statewide for prayer and thanksgiving.  Madison County Senator Robert Groves introduced a similar resolution five days later in the upper house in acquiescence to the Governor's request.   Both houses adopted the resolution on December 4th.

Legislators acknowledged the many undeserved favors bestowed by the hand of providence.  In paying honor to the Almighty, the legislature authorized the governor to set forth measures to establish a state wide day of Thanksgiving to be held on the first Thursday of the next year, January 4, 1827.

On the 8th of December, Gov. Troup urged all denominations to assemble in their respective churches and celebrate the day with penitential hearts and uplifted hands to make grateful acknowledgment for the benefactions  received from the Universal Parent.

Thanksgiving celebrations continued to be sporadic in Georgia until the 1840s.  The corporate authorities of Savannah determined that November 25, 1841 be a day of public Thanksgiving.  Daniel Hook, the Mayor of Augusta, proclaimed that the last day of 1841, would be set aside as "A day of Public Thanksgiving to Almighty God for blessing our city with its accustomed good health."

On December 19, 1842, the Georgia legislature officially adopted the first Friday of November in 1843 to be a day of Thanksgiving, to be attended with appropriate religious services in the several churches throughout the state.   The statewide observance once again changed in 1845, when Governor George W.  Crawford proclaimed  the 13th day of February as a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, in congratulating the people of Georgia on the introduction of this time-honored custom of the Eastern States.   A dozen years later, the legislature determined that the celebration be held on November 26, 1857, the fourth Friday of that month.

Known more for her authorship of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, is more responsible than anyone for the national celebration of Thanksgiving.   Mrs. Hale, is probably one of the most unknown successful women of the 19th Century.  She was the first to urge equal education for women and the first to start day care nurseries for working women.  And, Mrs. Hale was the first woman to serve as an editor of a woman's magazine.   It was Mrs. Hale who wrote to urge President Abraham Lincoln to issue his Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863.

It would take another eighty years before the date was made uniform across the nation.  Amazingly, the designation of Thanksgiving Day as being the fourth Thursday of November, was not officially adopted by the Federal government until the day after Christmas 1941, two years after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suggested the national holiday as a way of boosting the country's economy.

On this day of Thanksgiving, let us all acknowledge our gratitude for the blessings we have.  Celebrate the day with those you love. But remember those who are not as blessed, not only on this Thursday, but all the year long.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


As the Pleistocene period ended nearly twelve thousand years ago, a new period in the history of America began. The Archaic period was marked by diversification of food-gathering, with less emphasis on hunting and more on smaller animals and the growing of crops. It was during the early part of the Archaic period that Indians first came to Laurens County. While they were generally known as "Creek" Indians, the Indians who occupied this area can not be so easily characterized. Over the years many different groups of Indians have lived in Laurens County. Among those groups are the Yuchi (Uchee), Hitchites, Muscogee, and Yamassee. Yuchi is sometimes pronounced "oo-chee" or "you-chee" and is the Muskogean Indian word for "seeing far away." Due to the migratory nature of the Indian, it is possible that other groups from hundreds of miles away may have lived or hunted in Laurens County.

By identifying projectile points, archaeologists are able to identify when sites were occupied. Points from the Paleoindian period of ten to twelve thousand years ago have been found in Laurens County. Although the concentration of the points are light, this area appears to be on the western limits of a macroband boundary centered near Columbia, South Carolina. A University of Georgia team of anthropologists found a spearhead from the era at the mounds at Fish Trap Cut.

A predominant period of occupation in Laurens County stretched from the Woodland period of 1000 B.C. to 700 A.D. to the Mississippian period which followed and lasted until the 1500's. The Woodland era brought in a period where the people were more adaptive to their environment. Village sites became more permanent. Social systems became more structured. The people of the Mississippian period are often characterized as the mound builders. The mounds at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon were constructed between 900 and 1200 A.D.

Laurens County has two documented archaeological sites, along with numerous other areas where projectile points and pottery pieces have been found. The most well known site is the twin mound site at Fish Trap Cut. The site is typical of a Mississippian site. The river at this point is 150 meters wide with a broad flood plain two miles in width, the largest section within 30 miles in either direction. The soil is Norfolk Sandy loam, a rare type of soil. The major period of occupation seems to be during the Mississippian period, with minor occupations during the early and late Archaic Periods and the Woodland Period. There are no signs of Middle Woodland Swift Creek occupation at the site. There are minor signs of a Lamar/Bell occupation on the northern edge of the site. Dr. Mark Williams concluded that the site may have been used as a camp for people who were migrating south toward the Spanish settlements on the Georgia Coast and Florida during the sixteenth century. The site may have been the political center of the chiefdoms of the lower Oconee Valley.

The lower mound on the southern end of the site is most likely a ceremonial mound. Recent probes have found very little evidence of any type of cultural material in the mound, which has a diameter of 100 feet at the top and 160 feet at its base. The mound is flat topped with an average height of three meters and is made of red clay with a thirty inch cover of sand. The upper mound was most likely the home of the chief and was probably built first. Today it stands in grove of hardwoods and is only two meters in height, but it appears moderately larger than the lower mound. Much more material has been found in the upper mound, which has a commanding view of the cut. An examination of river maps near the end of the 19th century indicate that the cut was actually the old river bed and not a totally man-made feature. It is possible that the cut was formed by connecting the riverbank with the upper end of an island in the middle of the river. After his examination of the site in 1994, Dr. Mark Williams of the University of Georgia determined that the mounds were built during a period from 1200 to 1350 A.D. It is most likely that the mounds were only inhabited for a period of 50 to 75 years at the most. The site would have normally been inhabited by 50 to 75 persons. Firewood, the only source of fuel for fires, was soon decimated for a radius of miles. The people would then move to another site while the vegetation at the old site regenerated.

The society was built around a "talwa" or "okli" or chiefdom. The chief was usually an elder member of the community and commanded the respect and honor of all. He served not only as leader, but as a judge and lawmaker. In order to keep the large number of people under control, these chiefs were afforded the status of a diety.

Investigations of the distances between mound sites along the Oconee River valley have revealed an interesting fact. Nearly all of the mound sites are almost exactly twenty eight miles apart. The mounds at Fish Trap Cut are 60 kilometers miles below the Shinholster Mound site. The mounds are also almost 60 kilometers above the legendary village site at the junction of the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers in lower Telfair County.

Villages were laid out with some forms of fortification ranging from light to heavy. Some villages used ditches and small earthworks while larger villages used wooden palisades. The center of the town was usually a plaza surrounded by public buildings and the dwellings of the townspeople. Dr. Williams and his team found evidence that a village was located between the mounds beginning around 100 B.C. The village was laid in a circular pattern about two to three hundred meters in diameter with at least eight houses. The pottery shards found here are those from the Deptford period. Deptford period pottery was predominant during the latter part of the early Woodland period. The village, 200 meters wide and 300 meters long, is the earliest known Woodland village site in Georgia.

The other site was examined in 1965 under a grant to a Georgia State College senior student. The site lies along the side of the Dudley sewage pond northeast of Dudley off Highway 338. The site may have been occupied during the Archaic period. Half of the site was destroyed during the construction of the dam. Pottery shards from the Stallings and Deptford periods were found there as well as from the relatively recent Brushed Ware period. The proximity to Turkey Creek is typical of village locations in the Laurens County area.

Numerous other sites have been associated with Indians in Laurens County. For years, projectile points and pottery have been found along the banks of Turkey and Rocky Creeks in western Laurens County. One of the most famous sites in the folklore of Laurens County is the village of Kitchee. Kitchee is said to have been located north of Dublin at the northern end of the Country Club Road. It is said that ancient trees with expanded rings stood as markers of the burial places of the Indian dead. Another site is located along the northern edge of Dublin. The major creek of Dublin is known as Hunger and Hardship Creek. Victor Davidson, Wilkinson County's premier historian, states that there is a tradition that a group of Indians once lived along the creek. A great drought occurred causing starvation and hardship. As the people were forced to move, they named the creek for their experiences along the creek. Could this village have been located at the lower end of Payne Place Subdivision where flint working sites have been found? Still another site lies below the Fish Trap Cut site on the Oconee. The area was known as Diamond Landing from the days in which timber was rafted down the river to the coast. Indian mounds are reported to have been found at the mouth of Turkey Creek and near Rock Springs.

Many of Laurens County's streams retain their Indian names. The Oconee River is named after a tribe of Creek Indians that lived in the area along the river. It has been said that Oconee is the Creek word for "the place of springs" or "the water eyes of the hills." A recent discovery of a study of the 19th century Hitchitee language reveals that Oconee is the Hitchitee word for "place of the skunk". The middle portion of the river was known to the Indians as "Ithlobee." The Creek word for creek is "hatchee." Turkey Creek, which rises in Twiggs County and flows through Wilkinson and Laurens Counties, is the anglicized name of the Indian word "Pennohachee". A branch of Turkey Creek which is known today as Palmetto Creek was formerly called "Taulohatchee" by the Creek Indians. The name of Ockwalkee Creek, which flows from southern Laurens County through Wheeler County to the Oconee River, is derived from the Creek words meaning "dirty water." The name of Stitchihatchee Creek, which is located in the Dexter area, is derived from the Creek words meaning "red man's creek" or possibly "crossing or fording creek." Another of the major creeks in western Laurens County is Rocky Creek. The Muskogee Indian name for Rocky Creek would have been Chattohachi - "chatto" for stone or rock and "hachi" for stream. One of the branches of Pughes Creek in eastern Laurens County is named Indian Branch. This is evidently a reference to some relationship between the Creek and the Indians who once lived along the creek.

Many of the old roads in Laurens County run along old Indian trails. Perhaps the most famous of the Indian trails is the Lower Uchee Trail. The Uchee Indians lived mainly in southwestern Georgia and southern Alabama. The Uchee (Yuchi) Indians used this trail as a trading path from Old Town on the Ogeechee River in upper Jefferson County to Uchee Town on the Chattahoochee River in Russell County, Alabama. From the Ogeechee River the trail connected with other trails leading to Uchee settlements along the Savannah River. The trail may have been opened as late as 1729 when the Uchee began removing to the Uchee town in Alabama. The Uchee Trail entered Laurens County from the northeast near the present U.S. Highway 319, feinting on Ben Hall Lake and crossing the river at Carr's Bluff, just a quarter of a mile down river from Blackshear's Ferry. From the bluff it ran west and north along what is now Blackshear's Ferry Road. At U.S. Highway 80 northwest of Dudley, the trail follows Georgia Highway 26 through Cochran and crosses the Ocmulgee River at Hawkinsville. On August 1, 1808, the Justices of the Inferior Court of Laurens County ordered that a road be cut from Blackshear's Landing to cross Turkey Creek and at Rocky Creek to cross at the Indian camp above where the path crosses. The road would then continue to Fishing Bluff on the Ocmulgee. From there it ran near Montezuma and on into Alabama. One old timer recounted that the road was named for Uchee Billy, who granted hunting lands to the white man and even helped lay out the road -- an act for which he was hanged by his people.

A second trail roughly parallels the Uchee Trail. The road known as the Chicken Road, ran from Old Hartford, opposite Hawkinsville on the Ocmulgee, northeast through the Kewanee area and on into Dublin. Two basic theories exist as to the name of the road. According to some, the road was named for the use of the road as a market road from Dublin to Hartford, along which peddlers would exchange their goods for chickens. Another theory is that the name "Chicken Road " is an americanization of the Indian word "Chickasaw Road" or "Chickasaw Trail." In the 1730's, Royal Gov. Oglethorpe proposed that the area between the Oconee and the Ocmulgee be settled by friendly Chickasaw Indians to protect the colony of Georgia from attacks by the Yamassees and the Spanish. This suggestion of the Chicasaw connection dates back to the 19th century. The abundance of artifacts in the area along the road seems to be a good indication of the presence of Indians along the banks of western Turkey and Rocky Creeks.

The major east-west road running through colonial Laurens County is said to have been a trail from Indian Springs to Yammacraw (Savannah). This road roughly followed Georgia Highway 86, The Old Savannah Road, through East Dublin to the Oconee River. If the theory is true, the trail may have run from Dublin along the "Old Macon Road" to Macon and thence on to Indian Springs. A well traveled road in colonial times was known as the Milledgeville and Darien Road. The road entered southeastern Laurens County and ran along Georgia Highway 199 until it intersected with the road leading to the community of Condor on Georgia Highway 29. From that point, it ran northerly until it intersected with the river road running along the eastern ridge of the Oconee River Valley through Oconee, Georgia, and on into Milledgeville. This road may have followed an Indian trail.

The Indians of this area lived off the land. They were both farmers and hunters. The men hunted and furnished the heavy labor of home construction and mound building. The women performed the duties of gathering, cultivating, and cooking the food. The making of pottery and basketry was done primarily by the women. The adult Indians wore little clothing in the summer and used animal skins for warmth in the winter. The men made hunting trips during the winter seasons, often traveling as many as 300 miles away from camp.

The diet of the southeastern Indian consisted of both wild and domestic foods. The favorite meat was the white-tailed deer, which was captured by decoys or by setting fires. Other favorite meats were black bear, turkey, passenger pigeon, and waterfowl. Small game favorites included rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and opossum. In this area, fish was a favorite food. Channel catfish as large as 100 pounds could be captured in the rivers and creeks by netting, spearing, or and placing a "V" - shaped wooden or rock trap in the water.

Wild fruits, berries, nuts, and vegetables were highly sought foods. Among the favorites were the persimmon, potato, huckleberry, chestnut, hickory nut, black walnut, and acorn. The fertile alluvial lands along the creeks and rivers were preferred by the farmers over the yellow and red clay lands. Corn, the predominant agricultural crop, was eaten in a variety of ways, including the favorite cracked hominy and cornbread. Other favorite crops were beans and squash. The Indian did not eat regular meals. They only ate when they were hungry.

The Indian walked from place to place. When the Europeans came to America in the 16th century, the southeastern Indian utilized the horse for transportation. When transportation over water was necessary, the Indian used a floatation device made from wood or plant material. For long trips, a log was fashioned into a canoe.

The recorded history of the Indian in North America begins with the coming of the Spanish Explorers. In early March of 1540, Hernando de Soto led an expedition from northwestern Florida in a northeasterly direction toward the Augusta area. For most of this century, historians have debated the true route of de Soto. It is generally accepted that his destination was Cofitachiqui near Silver Bluff on the Savannah River, which was located near present day Augusta. The route he took to Augusta has never been conclusively proved. There are two basic theories as to the route. One theory holds that De Soto crossed the Ocmulgee at Macon and then proceeded northeast to Augusta, crossing the Oconee along the Upper Uchee Trail in lower Baldwin County at Oconee Old Town.

Dr. John Swanton and others drew a different conclusion. Swanton believed De Soto took a more direct path to Cofitachiqui on the Savannah River. A direct line from Tallahassee to Augusta runs through Laurens County. Swanton theorized that De Soto traveled through Dougherty and Crisp counties and crossed the Ocmulgee in the Abbeville area. Then he turned north for a short distance up to Hawkinsville. From there, he followed a trail, later known as the Lower Uchee Trail, to Carr's Shoals on the Oconee River. Carr's Shoals is located a quarter of mile east of Blackshear's Ferry. The river at the shoals was filled with rocks and would have made an ideal crossing place. Swanton claims that the description of Carr's Shoals matches the description given by Rodrigo Ranjel, De Soto's secretary. Ranjel described the crossing as very rough but that thankfully, only a few pigs were lost. The weary Spanish spent the night on a hill not far from the river. Is this the hill which for the last two centuries has been known as Carr's Bluff? From Carr's Shoals, there he would have followed the trail on to Silver Bluff on the Savannah River.

On April 4, 1540, DeSoto and his men came to the Ocmulgee River. The name of the place was known to the Indians as Allapaha or Altamaha. The name "Altamaha" may be a derivative of "To Tama." Luys Hernandez De Biedma, one of DeSoto's men, recounted "that after traveling three days, we came to the Province of Allapaha. Here we found a river with a course not southwardly, like the rest we had passed, but eastwardly to the sea." If this account is to be believed, then the crossing of the Ocmulgee could only have been below Abbeville where the Ocmulgee turns from a southerly direction to an easterly direction.

Although its location is conjectural, many place the Indian province of Ocute in Laurens County. Ocute is the Hitchitee word for "place of the green frog." If Ocute was located within Laurens County, all signs of the province have been obliterated. DeSoto reached Ocute on the 10th of April. Upon reaching Ocute, DeSoto was met by nearly two thousand Indians carrying presents, including corn, turkeys, birds, and dogs. The Spaniards spent two days in Ocute. It is said that it was in Ocute that DeSoto astounded the people by pointing a cannon at a tree, and with two shots, cutting it down. Before leaving he presented the cannon to the chief, because it was too heavy to carry across the river.

The debate over DeSoto's route will never be settled. It seems likely that he would have followed the direct route, as shown on a map included in Arrendo's "Historical Proof of Spain's Title to Georgia." Then again he may have been guided by the trails leading to the well populated area of the Macon plateau. Another possibility is that he traveled over the Lower Uchee Trail and then turned north crossing the Oconee at Old Oconee Town, or Cofaqui, as it is sometimes called. In any event, it seems likely that DeSoto passed through or on the outer edges of what was once Laurens County.

After DeSoto's visit, more expeditions were made into the Georgia coastal plains. The Yamassee
village of Tama, or Altamaha, is said to have been at the forks of the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers in or near what was once the lower portion of Laurens County. In 1597, Fathers Pedro Fernandez Chozas and Francisco Velascola made an eight day horseback journey to the villages of Tama and Ocute with tales of the Diamond Mountain. On the return from Ocute to Tama, they were attacked and narrowly escaped with their scalps. Only a volley of gunfire saved the priests. According to a map of Spanish expeditions, Chozas and Velascola traveled from St. Catherine's Island on the Georgia coast and crossed the Oconee about ten miles below Dublin. From there, they traveled west for several miles before striking a trail supposedly taken by DeSoto a century earlier.

Five years later in 1602, Father Juan de Lara was sent out from St. Catherine's to investigate reports of survivors of previous expeditions in the Yamassee lands in the area between the Oconee and Ocmulgee. Throughout the 17th Century, the Spanish contemplated establishing a mission at Tama. A mission was established in 1680 but was shortly closed. De Lara's followed Chozas's trail to the Oconee but turned north along the western limits of Laurens County and moved north to the Wilkinson/Baldwin County area.

The Yamassee Indians during the early European era inhabited the lands between the Oconee and Savannah Rivers. Little is known of them. They were described as flat footed and very dark skinned and bearing some distant relation to the lower Creek or Muscogee Indians. They allied themselves with the English in South Carolina, fighting the Spanish at the urging of the South Carolinians. The Yamassee moved further south in Georgia and by 1685 were living in the area just south of Laurens County. The Yamassee moved north again in 1685. They were so mistreated by the South Carolinians, they joined in a confederation with the Creeks, Choctaws, Catawbas, and Apalachees. By 1715, the newly formed confederation launched an attack on South Carolina known as the Yamassee War. The English prevailed in 1717. The Yamassees were swept away from Georgia. The area between the Oconee and Ocmulgee, which may have been shared by the Yamassee and the Uchee was uninhabited for many years. The Yamassees continued to venture into this area, attacking Smallwood's trading post at the forks of Altamaha in 1727.

Another group of Indians, known to some as the Oconee, lived in the area around Oconee Town at the lower edge of Baldwin County. They may have been of the Hitchitee stock or merely Yamassees living along the Oconee River. The tribe is mentioned by Pareja, a Spanish missionary, in 1602 and again by Ibarra, Governor of Florida, in 1608.

By 1685, many of the lower Creeks moved away from the Chattahoochee back to the middle Ocmulgee and Oconee River Valleys. The Spanish were insisting on a monopolistic trading relationship with the Lower Creeks or Muscogees. The Lower Creeks moved back to this area to trade with the more friendly English out of South Carolina. The Spanish attempted to move back into the area in 1690 with an outpost in Coweta on the Chattahoochee River. An army headed by seven Spaniards led a force of four hundred Indians against the Oconee tribe at Oconee Old Town in 1695. This was supposedly in retaliation for an attack on the Spanish supported Indians in southern Georgia. Several English trading posts were established along the trail from Augusta to Macon, including a post on the Oconee River. The Indians along the Oconee left this area after the Yamassee War and moved to the Chattahoochee River Valley.

From the removal of the Indians in 1717 through the American Revolution, Laurens County was a hunting ground for the Lower Creek Indians. Relationships between Georgians and the Creeks were once again strained during the Revolution. Some Tories fled eastern Georgia and lived along the Oconee River. They formed an alliance with Alexander McGillivray, son of Lachlan McGillivray and an Indian woman. McGillivray bore a deep hatred for the Georgians. McGillivray was constantly launching attacks on the white settlers along the eastern banks of the Oconee River. These attacks occurred in Washington County, a portion of which later became part of Laurens County. By some accounts the Seminole Indians owned a good portion of the lands in western Laurens County during this time.

In the late 1780s, Captain Kemp of Washington County sent John Galphin, son of trader George Galphin and an Indian woman, along the Lower Uchee Trail which ran through present day Laurens County. Galphin met a party of Indians headed toward Washington County. He reversed his course and raced back to Washington County to warn the settlers of an impending attack. Galphin became a bitter enemy of the Washington countians because he felt they were ungrateful for his saving their lives. (Indian Affairs, Vol. 1, p. 36) McGillivray won an important diplomatic victory at Rock Landing in 1789. From then, McGillivray's power began to wane. His people and the American government could no longer trust him.

In 1792, the clouds of war once again came into this area. While negotiations were pending at Rock Landing, attacks continued along the eastern banks of the Oconee. Indian agent Seagrove went from village to village asking for the return of stolen animals. In July, Captain Benjamin Harrison had six horses stolen from him by Uchee Indians. Harrison lived at Carr's Bluff, across from the present day Country Club. Settlers in what would become eastern Laurens County stepped up their defenses. An old Indian trail leading along the eastern edge of the river was used for border patrols. This may have been the Milledgeville-Darien Road. The settlers petitioned the Georgia governor for ammunition and forts. The State built an outpost called Fort Telfair at Carr's Bluff on the Oconee River in 1793. The people built their own forts arming their families and even their slaves. On April 18, 1793, the Indians raided the home of William Pugh near Carr's Bluff. Pugh was the son of Col. Francis Pugh for whom Pughes Creek in eastern Laurens County is named. Pugh was killed and scalped in the attack. Four horses were taken and one slave was captured. The situation eased when the Oconee's waters rose, creating a natural barrier to an attack.

In the summer of 1793, armies were being raised all over Georgia to protect against further raids. Benjamin Harrison, a resident of the Carr's Bluff area, bore the brunt of these constant attacks of horse-taking and killing of livestock. Harrison once said "that there should never be a peace with the Indians whilst his name was Ben Harrison for he was able to raise men enough to kill half the Indians that might come to any treaty." Benjamin Harrison is said to have been described as a frontier character with a patch over an eye and a piece of his nose missing. Harrison reported to the Governor that he had 160 Montgomery County men under his command. Harrison, a captain of the local militia, called his men together for a mission to retrieve some of his stolen horses. The company moved along the Lower Uchee Trail until they reached the home of the Uchee King, who promised Harrison that the horses would be returned.
At another time, Harrison's men overtook a group of Indians taking three of their guns. Timothy Barnard, the husband of a Uchee woman, convinced Harrison to return the guns, and the matter was temporarily resolved.

By October of 1793, Harrison's ire had once again been raised by the Indians. Captain Nicholas Curry's Company of Washington County Militia was stationed at Capt. Harrison's. Captain Harrison's company and other companies under the command of Major Brenton set out from Carr's Bluff in defiance of General Jared Irwin. Their destination was a Chehaw village on the Flint River. Their objective was to capture any runaway slaves and stolen property. They found the village defended by 16 males and four slaves. The rest of the men were in Florida hunting for game. A skirmish ensued with two Georgians and three Indians being killed.

Georgia Governor George Matthews set out to take a first hand look at the situation on the 380 mile long frontier in the mid winter of 1794. Matthews realized that Georgia's frontier was vunerable to Indian attacks. His tour ranged from the Tugalo River in northeast Georgia to Carr's Bluff. Matthews ordered a series of forts to be placed at intervals along the Altamaha and Oconee Rivers. A fort or station was constructed at Berryhill's Bluff in Montgomery, now Treutlen County. The soldiers at Berryhill's bluff held the extreme right flank of the Georgia Militia and were responsible for the area up to Carr's Bluff until a station could be built there. The area above Carr's Bluff was the most exposed area to attack. Matthews requested that a troop of horse cavalry be assigned to guard the northern end of the Oconee. President Washington sent two hundred horse soldiers to help Guard the frontier. Fifty of those soldiers were stationed along the east side of the Oconee from Berryhill's Bluff northward to Carr's Bluff, where the fort was completed by August, 1794. The area to the north was without any soldiers until the governor got word of an impending attack. The estimated strength of men at each fort probably ranged from 50 to 100 men.

In early May of 1794, Indian agent Seagrove invited the Lower Creeks and Uchees to return to their hunting grounds along the Oconee River while treaty negotiations continued. That same month, Georgia's war hero, General Elijah Clarke, was about to embark upon an attack on the Spanish at Saint Augustine. Clarke and his men were supported by the French government. The expedition left from the upper Oconee area down an old Indian trail along the western side of the Oconee River. The men camped at Carr's Bluff on their route to Florida. Before he could invade, Clarke was convinced by the federal government to call off the attack.

Elijah Clarke returned through Laurens County to his home base in northern Wilkinson County. There he set up The Trans-Oconee Republic - a country of his own. The area covered most of western Laurens County. Clarke established a series of forts along the perimeter, including one on the Laurens-Wilkinson line near Turkey Creek. Clarke made peace with the Creeks and rented the land. The massacres along the Oconee virtually stopped. Georgia's governor insisted that Clarke remove his men from Indian lands, but he appreciated the fact that there was no fighting for the moment. George Washington had other ideas. He demanded that Clarke be removed. The Georgia militia reluctantly marched against Clarke who finally refused to fight his former comrades and left the Oconee area. Georgia officials began to lay off the former Republic into districts. The division was done in anticipation of the eminent acquisition from the Creeks and to prevent settlers from crossing the river. All of the land from the junction of the Oconee and the Ocmulgee up to Carr's Bluff comprised the first district. The area immediately to the north comprised the second district.

The year 1795 was a critical year in relations with the Indians ,which had until then been called the Oconee Wars. In February, John Watts and his company of seventeen men were at Heissey Bluff, two miles above Carr's Bluff on the Oconee. Some of the men started down the river in two canoes. The first canoe was fired upon for nearly fifteen minutes. Joseph Blackshear and the men in the second canoe heard the gunfire and quickly moved ashore. The next day Watts led a party to the scene of the incident. There he found a decapitated William Laster, who had his intestines and private parts cut out. Israel Smith's bullett-riddled body was found skinned like an animal.

Benjamin Harrison continued to be plagued by Indian forays onto his property. In early September, five Indians came to his home with guns and war-like instruments in hand. They asked for rum. Harrison stated that he had none. The Indians insisted that must have some rum. Harrison finally convinced the men that he did not have any. The Indians left and Harrison thought nothing more of the matter. The next day Harrison was riding through his cornfield on his way to his boat yard. He spotted four Indians taking corn without his leave.

On October 28, 1795, an event occurred in Laurens County which nearly plunged Georgia and the United States into a war with the Creek Nation. A small group of Indians had crossed the Oconee River and were visiting friends in a home near Carr's Bluff. Benjamin Harrison, along with Mr. Vessels and their men, attacked the Indians, killing seventeen of them. The dead, which included 1 Creek, 4 Lower Creeks, and 12 Uchees, were thrown into the river. The next morning, the Uchees rode along the Uchee Trail leading to bluff. They planned a retaliatory strike at dawn. The Uchees surrounded Harrison's home. To their dismay, Capt. Harrison was gone. They moved to east attacking Bush's Fort. Bush was a stepbrother of future General David Blackshear and lived in the area south of Ben Hall Lake ,along the newly created Washington/ Montgomery County line. They captured the fort and killed one man. The horses were taken, and the cattle were killed.

The Chiefs protested the killings to the Georgia government. The legislature passed a resolution regretting the incident. Harrison and his men were arrested for murder. That same year David Blackshear, Joseph Blackshear, William Bush, Jr., John Bush, and other citizens of Montgomery and Washington counties were indicted for hacking five Uchee Indians to death. The attack occurred at Harrison's boat landing on the Oconee. Blackshear defended his actions as punishment for beating up one man, behaving badly, and demanding rum. While the negotiations for the Treaty of Colerain were pending, many of the hostilities ceased. However, Isaac Vansant had his brains blown away and was scalped at Bush's Fort in Laurens County in 1796. By the spring of 1797, the Indians were becoming impatient with the failure to bring Harrison and his men to trial. They attacked Long Bluff a few miles above Carr's Bluff, killed a Mr. Brown and injured his wife. The Indian leading the party had a son killed by Harrison at the massacre at Carr's Bluff. In one of the last attacks in this area in February of 1798, William Allen was killed near Long Bluff.

By the end of the century, most of the hostilities had ceased. Gen. David Blackshear complained of the small thefts being committed by Indians in the late spring of 1799. No harm was done, but he thought the Indians were too insulant and mischievous. He found the remains of a bar-be-qued pig at a camp site. Blackshear was aggravated that the Indians were killing any animal they could find on his side of the river and that he had done all in his power to stop them without laying his hands upon them. In one of the final clashes with the Indian people, two white citizens of Montgomery County crossed the Oconee River and took two horses belonging to Indians. Gov. James Jackson wrote to Gen. David Blackshear who had command of this area. One of these may have been ol' Benjamin Harrison. Jackson gave orders to Blackshear directing him to arrest the offenders and not to resort to violence in the absence of any provocation. Jackson reiterated the law against any Indians remaining on Georgia soil without permission. The governor promised to back General Blackshear in any actions he might take.

Georgia renewed its efforts to obtain the land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers from the Indians. All of the lands below Rock Landing near Milledgeville were claimed by Seminoles in Florida. It was said that they were the rightful owners because they were the descendants of those who once occupied Oconee Old Town. The government negotiators pushed to obtain a treaty before massive movements of settlers across the river could take place.

Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins, Andrew Pickens, and General James Wilkinson acted as commissioners to sign the Treaty of Fort Wilkinson in May, 1802. The treaty was signed ceding the land from the Oconee to the Ocmulgee. In May of 1803, the details of the sale were agreed upon, and the new county of Wilkinson could now be settled. After nearly eleven thousand years of Indian occupation, all of the lands of Laurens County were no longer under the ownership of the American Indian.

Three final chapters of the Indians and their relationships with Laurens County were yet to be written. As the United States and the British Empire once again became involved in a war, the southeastern Indians were drawn into the conflict. The British convinced some of the Indians along Georgia's western borders to fight with them against the American government. Suddenly, the western limits of Laurens County were subject to Indian attacks. The State of Georgia raised dozens of regiments to protect the border regions. Forts were established along the Oconee River. General David Blackshear of Laurens County was given command of the 2nd Brigade of the Fifth Division. The men from Laurens County were stationed in forts in Telfair and Pulaski Counties. Georgia Militia fought along side Federal troops and Creek Indians in driving the British out of the southeastern United States.

In 1818, conflicts with the Creeks once again arose. Capt. Obed Wright and Captain Robinson led a force of men against the Felemna and Hopaunee towns. A troop of 46 men was formed by the men of Laurens County. "The Laurens Light Dragoons" were commanded by Capt. Jacob Robinson, with Charles S. Guyton and John Underwood serving as lieutenants. An attack was made on the Cheehaw Indians in southwest Georgia. The Cheehaw attempted to surrender but were decimated as Captain Obed Wright pressed the attack. The attack angered the entire country because of the Cheehaw's friendly relationship with General Andrew Jackson.

Two of the most prominent leaders in Georgia's relationship with the Creek Indians had ties to Laurens County. Georgia Governor George M. Troup was a resident of Laurens County. Troup had previously served in the Congress and the Senate before moving to Laurens County about the year 1818. Troup was elected Governor in 1823 and served for four years. Troup was bent on removing the Indians from all of Georgia's land. He was a first cousin of William McIntosh, Chief of the Lower Creek Indians. Troup used his influence with McIntosh to affect the removal of the Creeks from Georgia. Chief McIntosh and chiefs of other tribes met with government officials at Indian Springs in February, 1825. A treaty was signed. The Indians had given up all of their land in Georgia. In the process of removal, Troup nearly entered a state of war with the United States by refusing to comply with the demands of President John Quincy Adams to stop any attempts to remove the Indians.

William McIntosh was the son of William McIntosh of Darien and a Coweta woman, Senoia Henneha. McIntosh learned the language and customs of both of his parents. He was known to have worn tartans and plaids of his paternal family along with the clothing of his maternal ancestors. McIntosh allied himself with the American army during the War of 1812 and fought alongside the army against other Indian tribes. T.F. Sawyer of Hutchinson, Kansas (grandson of the founder of Dublin, Jonathan Sawyer) wrote of McIntosh in a letter in 1904. Sawyer tells of his father, who lived in Dublin in the first two decades of the 19th century. He states that " Chilly McIntosh, son of the Chief, played and romped about the present site of Dublin and up and down the Oconee River, about 80 or 90 years ago, with Sawyer's father, the son of Jonathan. They were also classmates." Among the legends of Laurens County's history is the reservation of Chief McIntosh at Well Springs. The springs are located on the west bank of the Oconee River a few miles below the Valdosta Plantation of Governor Troup. Chilly McIntosh, son of the Chief, attended school while his father was visiting at the springs. He later became the first school superintendent of Oklahoma. The Upper Creeks retaliated against McIntosh for his part in the sale of Indian lands in Georgia. On May 30, 1825, he was murdered in his home on the Chattahoochee River. Chilly McIntosh escaped and made his way to the capital in Milledgeville to inform the government of the fate of his father.

The final events in the history of Laurens County with the Indian people occurred in 1836. The Seminole Indians, elements of whom may have descended from the Indians of this area, began an uprising under the leadership of Osceola. Governor William Schley ordered the formation of militia companies to protect against the threat of an invasion. Gen. Eli Warren, head of the militia in Laurens County, organized several companies of men. The Dublin Volunteers were organized on February 8, 1836, with George M. Troup, Jr. in command. Newman McBain, 1st Lt., Thomas N. Guyton, 2nd Lt., and Edward J. Blackshear, Ensign, rounded out the cadre of officers. The federal and state forces under the command of Gen. Winfield Scott easily defeated the Seminoles and effectively put an end to the conflicts in the southeastern United States.

Thus ended the era of the Indian in Laurens County. The generations of eleven thousand years were gone, never to return. It was a time of simple life. It was a time when generations were taught to remember those who came before them. They were a people who built their lives around their family and traditions - persevering for over a hundred lifetimes.



In the grand lore of Laurens County, no legend has been more celebrated than the acts of a young Confederate Surgeon and his valiant effort to protect the resources of Chappell's  Mill during General William T. Sherman's cataclysmic "March to the Sea" near the end of the Civil War.  Despite reports to the contrary that his efforts were unsuccessful, Duggan and his lone aide did accomplish their objective, protecting the mill.  In his private life, Dr. James Barnes Duggan was a guiding force behind the establishment of one of  the county's oldest and most important institutions, the Laurens County Library.  

James Barnes Duggan, a s son of Archelaus and Elizabeth Walker Duggan was born in Washington County on November 1, 1833.  One of five brothers, Duggan graduated from the University Medical College in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Duggan began his practice in Wilkinson County and supplemented his income through large farming interests.  Duggan was married three times.  His first wife Nancy Jackson bore him four sons; Isaac Jackson, William Lee, James Henry and Paul Franklin.  His last two wives were a Miss Brown and Emma Bass, sister-in-law of Dr. Benjamin Franklin Stanley, a Confederate surgeon whose family operated Chappell's Mill, then called Stanley's Mill.

On March 4, 1862, during a massive organization of military companies of the Georgia Volunteer Infantry, James B.  Duggan was elected First Lieutenant of Company A,  "The Wilkinson Rifles," of the 49th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment.   His company first saw action during the Battles of the Seven Days on the Virginia Peninsula in late June and early July of 1862.  Following the battles of Cedar Mountain and the Second Manassas  Lt. Duggan replaced Captain Samuel T. Player, who was elevated to Major of the Regiment.  A soldier in Duggan's regiment, was given credit for killing the highest ranking Union officer killed during the war,  General Phillip Kearney, at the Battle of Chantilly.   Capt. Duggan led the company while guarding prisoners at Harper's Ferry during the horrific Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam).  Duggan led his company to victory at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. His company was held in reserve in the climatic battle of Gettysburg.  The Wilkinson Rifles participated in the bloody retreating battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse before retreating to a defensive position around Richmond and Petersburg.    On June 11, 1864, Capt.  Duggan was elected as Major of the 49th Georgia replacing Major John A. Durham, who died from wounds that he suffered at Jerico Ford.

After the long hot summer of 1864, Grant's overpowering forces were poised in a strangle hold against the embattled defenders of the Confederate capital at Richmond and its neighbor to the south, the strategic city of Petersburg.  During the late fall and winter,  when the armies basically took off from the war, Dr. Duggan was granted a leave to return back to his home.

The date was November 25, 1864.  The advance elements of the Union Calvary already reached Ball's Ferry on the Oconee River in Wilkinson County.  Ball's Ferry is located about 1/4 mile north of the present Georgia Highway No. 57 bridge over the river.  The cavalry unit was dispatched to the ferry to secure it for passage by the 15th and 17th Army Corps.  These two corps, composed of nearly sixty thousand men, were the Right Wing of Gen. William T. Sherman's army.

     As the Right Wing approached the ferry on the 25th, patrols were sent down major roads to reconnoiter the area for signs of Gen. Joseph Wheeler's Confederate cavalry.  General Osterhaus ordered the First Division under Gen. Charles Woods to march toward the Lightwood Knot Bridges on Big Sandy Creek.  The 29th Missouri (mounted) was dispatched to destroy the bridges and to guard all crossings along the road to Dublin.  General Wheeler and nearly four thousand cavalry men had just crossed the Oconee at Blackshear's Ferry the day before.

Major Duggan was acutely aware that grist mills were prime targets of Gen. Sherman's men.  The local mill, then known as Stanley's Mill and now known as Chappell's Mill, was also serving as a cotton warehouse with a few hundred bales in storage.  He became aware of the fact that "Yaller Jim," a mulatto servant belonging to the family which owned the mill, had run off to join the Yankees.  Upon hearing of the approach of the Union Cavalry, Dr. Duggan mounted his horse and dashed off toward the Toomsboro Road.  He arrived at the Lightwood Knot Bridges over a swollen Big Sandy Creek.  Legend has it that the bridges were named because the Indians, who once populated the area, bridged the creek by piling a long row of "fat lightered" stumps in the creek.

     Dr. Duggan fell back toward a house where he found an elderly black woman washing clothes in a boiling pot.  Dr. Duggan formulated a plan to deter the cavalry.  He briefed the lady about his plan.  She agreed to help if the good doctor would insure the safety of her home.  The Major and the lady then set fire to the bridge and its trestles.

     Just then four cavalrymen with "Yaller Jim" on a mule approached from the northeast.  They dismounted and attempted to put out the fire.  Major Duggan and the lady began to open fire on the perplexed cavalrymen, who managed to get off a few return shots.  Through the smoke they saw Major Duggan waving his arms appearing to be ordering his men into action.  The cavalry, fearing they had found that Gen. Wheeler's Cavalry had  double backed and returned to Ball's Ferry, reported to their superiors that they had completed a successful mission by destroying the bridges.  "Yaller Jim" lost his mule and ran into the woods - never to be seen or heard from again.  Dr. Duggan dashed off to his home and found it safely intact.  He returned back toward the bridges and put out the fires.  He graciously  rewarded  the woman who had helped him save Stanley's Mill from destruction by Sherman's "Bummers."

     Dr. Duggan returned to his regiment and surrendered with the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse.  Duggan served in the Georgia Legislature from 1875 to 1876. Dr. Duggan later moved to Laurens County and built a home known as "Elmwood."  A community bearing that name is centered around the intersection of Ga. Highway 338 and Claxton Dairy/Mt. Olive Road.   He died on September 29, 1915 and is buried in the Stanley Family Cemetery, affectionately known as "The Ditch," which lies only a short distance from Chappell's Mill.

In 1903, Duggan's initial pledge of $100.00 led to the building of Laurens County's first public library.  His portrait now hangs in the Heritage Center of the Laurens County Library as a reminder of his most enduring contribution to our community.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Travels in Time

My time machine came to a stop in a less than hospitable place.  All around me was a massive line of soldiers, all dressed in blue.  The countryside seemed familiar.  By the colors of the trees and the chill in the air, I knew it was autumn.  Much to my horror, I surmised that this endless column of blue uniformed infantrymen must have belonged to that dastardly eternal enemy of the South, General William T. Sherman.  I found myself in step with the right wing of Sherman's sixty-thousand man army as it blitzed through Middle Georgia, taking what they wanted and burning everything of value they could carry, eat or steal.

An officer walked up to me to ask for my identity.  Not wanting to reveal my southern heritage, I introduced myself as Sgt. Jedediah Bartlett and explained that I found my way back to the main line after being separated from a  cavalry unit.  When the lieutenant asked me if I could write, my response was "yes, sir!"   He gave me a satchel filled with writing papers, a couple of  inkwells and a supply of quill pens, and ordered me to shadow him every where he went.

The handsome young officer told me that he was Lt. Cornelious C. Platter of the 81st Ohio Infantry Volunteers.  I noticed that Lt.  Platter carried a diary in his knapsack.  Every evening the lieutenant pulled out his diary and wrote of the day's activities.  I wrote down everything else which went on during the day.  Lt. Platter began to dictate a letter to the regimental commander.  Not knowing the exact date, I tricked the Ohioan into telling me it was November 22, 1864.  I knew we must be somewhere near Macon, but what puzzled me was that there was snow on the ground that morning.  Could it really be November?  It never snows in Middle Georgia in November, but on that very day it did so.

Passage along the roads was slow.  The pontoon bridge trains were in our way.  Some even got stuck in the frozen mud and kept us from reaching our destination of Clinton, the county seat of Jones County.  It was cold, very cold, and no one was happy.  The early blast of winter and the fear of attack by General Wheeler and his ever circling Confederate cavalry kept nearly every one awake all night long.  The foragers brought in a tasty feast of fresh pork and sweet potatoes.

We set out at 10:00 a.m. for Clinton, a muddy, dirty and dilapidated town.  It's inhabitants having fled for the hills and the swamps, the town seemed abandoned. A courier came up and told us that the Rebs had given up Milledgeville to the 20th Division without a fight.  We marched until dark through pitifully infertile sandy woods.

Arriving in Gordon the following morning, the column rested in defensive works, which had been put up by advance troops.  While the locals were virtually starving, these "blue bellies" took time to clean their clothes and enjoy a Thanksgiving feast of pork, swee potatoes, corn bread, honey and cobbler.

Irwinton, the seat of Wilkinson County, was next on our itinerary.  Leaving a dawn, we found the main town buildings in heaps of ashes.  Friday night was spent sitting around the camp fire and reading the Macon paper and listening to the braggadocios exploits of the conquering army.

We marched through miles of swamps before reaching the Oconee River at noon on Saturday.  On the opposite side of the river at Ball's Ferry, the head of the division found a small resistance on the bank.  After a short delay and the defenders were routed, we crossed the river on pontoons and made it up the arduous road to the high ground.  We took the road to the left and turned in the direction of Tennille and the Central of Georgia Railroad.

Lt. Platter was fascinated by palm leaf plants and Spanish moss growing along the route.  As we passed through the countryside, detachments of men broke off and headed toward every farm house along the way, returning with new food stuffs and all sorts of souvenirs.  As we paused near Piney Mount Church, I noticed one officer berating a group of privates celebrating their bounty as they came out of a long house.  The officer, upon the recognition that the house was the former home of Lt. Asa Gordon Braswell,  but more importantly a member of the Masonic brotherhood, ordered all of the stolen goods to be returned immediately.  We halted and for 90 minutes tried to decide what to do.  The column halted at Peacock's Crossing.  Wandering around the area, I found the grave of Lt. Braswell on the far side of a cotton field.  He died just weeks before the fighting began in earnest in Virginia in May 1862.

The column turned south at dawn the next morning.   Just a few miles down the road we came upon a farmstead with a fair number of livestock in the fields.  I decided to go along with a foraging party.  We were met by a tiny, black-haired, olive-skinned young woman and her siblings.  As she approached us, I glanced over in the woods and saw the head of man peeking out of a hollowed out log.  The defiant headstrong woman stepped forward and said, "Sir, my name is Elmina Smith Brantley.  My husband was killed and taken from me by you Yankees in Maryland.  You aren't going to be taking anything else of mine and my family, so get off my land."

I suggested that we let the little woman have all she could carry back to her house.  Her little brothers ran back to the house and fetched a bread tray and a couple of water buckets.   I helped her fill them with still bloody scraps of meat.  The prime cuts were already snapped up by the greedy butchers.  After all this little woman was my great great grandmother.

We got to a town which the town's folks called Wrightsville.  I heard Lt. Platter remark, "this is the most miserable town I ever saw."  Somehow we found ourselves on the wrong road, some six miles distant from the rest of the Federals.  We intended to go to Johnsonville, not the county seat of Johnson County.  We camped that afternoon about a mile and a half east of town.    That night reports came in of a clash between local militia southeast of town along the Ohoopee River.  Shots were fired and a Mr. Flanders was captured and taken as a prisoner.

The regiment turned north and joined the rest of the army as it made its way down the Central of Georgia Railroad to Sherman's prize, the City of Savannah.  Sherman's March to the Sea was the single most devastating destruction of civilian property ever intentionally committed by a United States Army.  Today, one hundred and forty three years later, the people of Georgia still feel the affects of the senseless acts of vengeance and greed.

Note: Asa Gordon Braswell was my great-great-great grandfather.   The lady who defied the Yankees was his daughter in law Elmina Eliza Jane Rebecca Ann Smith Brantley Braswell.  At the time of Sherman’s march, she was an 18 year old Confederate widow.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Recollections of A Nightmare

The Yankees were coming!  A sea of blue was marching down the roads from Macon.  They were sixty thousand strong.  Mass destruction was their mission.  Their goal was to make it to Savannah by Christmas, take everything they needed along the way, and destroy everything of value that they couldn't eat or steal.  Forty three years after living through a nightmare, Susan Tillery of Dublin, formerly of Wilkinson County, wrote a letter to the editors of the "The Confederate Veteran." She relived, in detail, the nightmare she suffered during General William Tecumseh Sherman's "March to the Sea."

Susan was born in Irwinton, Georgia.  When the war came, her family moved six miles out of town to her father's farm.  Susan became friends with her next door neighbor Sallie Clay.  In nearby Gordon, Georgia, a home had been established to take care of the sick and wounded soldiers, who had been pouring in following the battles of Atlanta and Jonesboro in the summer instant.  The ladies and young girls of Wilkinson County took turns visiting the home taking baskets of food and goodies (though food and goodies were scant).  Susan and Sallie gathered up what they could find, put it in a basket, and headed for the soldiers' home.  The girls arrived in Gordon on Tuesday morning.  Within an hour, frightening news came in.  The Yankees were invading Macon and headed down the Central of Georgia Railroad.  Susan and Sallie decided they should leave right away.  Luckily, they managed to catch an eastbound Macon train headed for Savannah.  The girls got off the train in Toomsboro and headed for home.  The four-mile walk didn't bother them.  Fear overrode any thoughts of the long distance.  Along the way the girls warned anyone they saw that Sherman's army was coming and destroying everything!

Panic was spreading throughout the community.  Susan's father took his livestock down into the swamp to hide them from the thieving Yankees.   The next day he sent a Negro boy named "Bob" down to the swamp to tend to the animals.  Bob returned to report that the animals were okay.  Bob went back down into the swamp on Thursday morning.  He never returned.  Susan's father went down to look for the young man.  He found the stock, but no Bob.  A neighbor told the family that Bob had gone to the Yankees.  Bob had been seen riding through Toomsboro on Mr. Clay's fine gray horse, sitting on a saddle blanket made from one of Mrs. Clay's quilts.  All along the march, freed and frightened slaves swarmed the tail end of the Yankees columns, looking for comfort, food, and freedom.  Several weeks later, long after the Yankees had gone, Susan and her family were sitting on the front porch of their home.  They spotted a man walking through the fields late in the afternoon.   It was Bob.  Susan's father threatened to kill the young man.  He got his gun.  As the children began to cry and Susan's mother began to beg for mercy, Susan's father queried Bob as to the reason for his absence.  Bob said that he "wanted to go up to the big road" so he could "see the Yankees as they passed."  Suddenly, two Yankees pounced on Bob and told him that they had been looking for him and they wanted Bob to go with them.  The "bluecoats" promised Bob that they would pay him ten silver dollars a month and give him a fine horse to ride.  He was going ride along General Sherman as a boy in waiting.  Bob eagerly accepted the offer.  The soldiers gave Bob Mr. Clay's horse, which they had earlier stolen. Things then began to go wrong.  Bob was branded across his shoulders with the letters, "A.S.A.."  His horse was taken away, and he was forced to walk all the way to Savannah, where he managed to escape. Bob followed the railroad back home.  His master was still visibly upset, wishing the Yankees had killed Bob.  Bob, nearly naked in the remains of his shredded clothes, replied "they came very near doing that.  No more Yankees for me.  They made me burn bridges, build breastworks, and do all kinds of hard work."  He turned his back to show Susan and her family the his brand.  Bob stayed with the family until the end of 1865, after which Susan never saw him again.

Susan had a nightmare of her own. Mr. Clay had taken his family's most valuable possessions down into the swamp.  Mrs. Clay, overcome with fear of her husband's safety, sent Sally to look for him.  Sally was afraid, so Susan agreed to go with her.  Susan's father reluctantly agreed that she accompany Sally to look for Mr. Clay.  The girls secreted through the fields, the briars, and the bushes toward Mr. Clay's camp.  Just as they arrived, the girls heard the sound of horses headed toward Mr. Clay's position.  The girls rolled over into a thorny brier-filled gully, out of sight of the Yankees who were just a few yards away.  The girls froze.  The sound of their tense breaths was muted by the whoops of the triumphant plundering hoard. It was dusk.  The air was freezing.  The girls managed to climb out.  Their clothes torn, their skin cut and bleeding, and their hearts racing, Susan and Sally climbed a hill and saw Dr. Taylor's flaming gin house, which only added to their fear.  The girls made it to Mrs. Lord's home, which had just been ransacked and stripped of all its meat supply by the Yankees.  Mrs. Lord and two little Negro children escorted Susan and Sallie to their homes.   They made to the Clay house first - one more mile to go for Susan.  Before Susan could reach her home, she was met by her two younger sisters and her old cook, who had been desperately searching with a torchlight for Susan and Sallie.

Another incident which remained in Susan's memory for decades involved old Judge Bower.  The judge, like most of the residents of Wilkinson County, sent his valuables into the swamps to hide them from the Yankee looters.  The Union soldiers found his belongings, ripped open his bedding, and burned his most prized belongings.  Bower's fine carriage was stripped and modified into a dray.  The marauders shelled all of his corn, put it onto the dray, and took it with them along with Bower's oxen, which they also confiscated.  Judge Bower managed to keep his old gun and his new overcoat.  On Saturday, the judge thought that the danger was over and went outside to sit on the front porch.  Fearing that he was still in danger, Judge Bower placed his gun under his overcoat and sat out on the porch, swearing vengeance against the invaders.  Just then, two straggling Yankees approached the Bower homestead.  The soldiers, desiring the warmth such a coat would bring them, took the garment right off the defenseless judge's back and let him with nothing, not even his trusty gun.  All of this was too much was for the old man.  He didn't live much longer after the end of war.

Susan Tillery remained grateful for the rest of her life for the mercy God had shown her in sparing her and Sallie's families from harm.  The Yankees found Mr. Clay.  They took his livestock and other usable items.  They burned what they couldn't use.  After the war, Susan married William H. Tillery, who had served as a private in Company F of the 3rd Georgia Infantry.  The Tillerys moved to Dublin.  William Tillery, a Dublin merchant,  served as Dublin's first Fire Chief in 1878 and  Mayor of Dublin in the early 1880s.  While Tillery was elected on a pro-liquor ticket,  Susan Tillery was one of the leading opponents of the sale of alcoholic beverages in the city.  Susan Tillery died on February 26, 1920, more than a fifteen years after her husband, who is buried in the old City Cemetery.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


One Last Valiant Stand

The last days of the Confederacy were coming to an end.  General Sherman's army was poised in Atlanta ready to march east to Savannah to split the Confederacy in half.  General Grant's army was still laying siege against General Lee's army in Richmond and Petersburg.  Many men in the Southern army were coming home on winter furlough with plans not to return.  One hundred and fifty years ago on November 22, 1864 the largest battle of the Civil War in Middle Georgia took place along the Twiggs - Jones County border east of Macon near the industrial hamlet of Griswoldville.

On October 12th, when it became apparent to Confederate leaders that Sherman's army would march along the Central of Georgia Railroad bound for Savannah, Maj. Gen. Gustavas A. Smith recalled as many men as he could gather.  These men had been sent home on a harvest furlough following the loss of Jonesboro.  The men, mostly young boys, old men, and disabled soldiers, rendezvoused at Camp Lovejoy. Among those men was Sgt. Blanton Nance, Co. E, 7th Ga. Militia, who later lived in Dublin; Laurens County residents J.H. Barbour, A.M. Jessup, and Henry E. Moorman of the 5th Georgia Reserves; along with many other old men and boys from Wilkinson, Jones, and Twiggs Counties.  John A. Braswell,  who lost his father early in the war, left his home near Irwin's Cross Roads in Washington County to join the 5th Georgia Reserves just days after his 18th birthday.  Capt. John McArthur brought his company up from Montgomery County to help hold off the Union army. Companies D and H of the 2nd Regiment were brought up from Wilkinson County.

Following his defeat in Atlanta, Gen. John B. Hood took his Army of the Tennessee to Alabama, along with the cavalry of Gen. Joseph Wheeler.  More than sixty thousand Yankees were moving out of Atlanta toward Lovejoy.  A delaying skirmish was fought on the 16th of November.  Georgia governor Joe Brown sent out a call for all able-bodied men to come to the defense of the state.  The Confederates were forced to retreat to Hampton.   Nance and his men began erecting a barricade across the road leading from Atlanta.   At Hampton, Griffin, and Forsyth, the Confederates were pushed back by the vastly superior Union Army.

By the 20th of November, Sherman's right wing was bearing down on Macon.  The Central Georgia city had been the object of an failed attack in the summer past.  Macon was a key railroad and manufacturing center, but it was well defended.  Sherman wanted the city to allow his forces to liberate his fellow soldiers imprisoned in Andersonville.  He did not, however, want to commit a large portion of his forces to capture the city.    By the time the Union Army reached Macon, the Confederate Force amounted to thirty seven hundred men, with another thirty seven hundred or so cavalrymen.  The Union Army launched an attack beginning at Cross Keys in East Macon with the objective of taking the heights east of the city, which are now the site of the Ocmulgee National Monument and old Fort Hawkins.  Sherman's forces were able to get a foothold on the Dunlap Farm, which allowed them to shell parts of the city.  The resulting artillery fire led to the naming of the Macon landmark, "The Cannonball House."  The small band of Confederates was able to hold off the Federals, who retreated to the east, tearing up railroad tracks, destroying Eleazar McCall's old mill, and pillaging the countryside for anything of monetary or military value .

Just east of Macon on the Central Railroad was the hamlet of Griswoldville.  The community of five hundred citizens and one hundred slaves was located at the southern tip of Jones County.  Its founder was Samuel Griswold, a native of Connecticut who accumulated five thousand acres of land on which he erected a cotton gin, a candle factory, a soap factory, and a saw mill.  The most important industry was the pistol factory that manufactured the famed Griswold revolver.  The Confederate Army leased the gin building to manufacture pistols, which were turned out at the rate of one hundred per month.  The Griswoldville factory turned out more pistols than all other factories combined. On the morning of the 21st,  the Union Army moved into Griswoldville.  They destroyed over thirty five hundred weapons, burned anything they couldn't carry, and continued their destruction of the railroad.  That night the clouds dumped a torrential rain in advance of a cold front.  The temperature dropped over twenty four degrees in twenty four hours.

Wheeler's Cavalry moved out early on the morning of the 22nd.   The Union Army had already vacated the smoldering town and were bound for Gordon, McIntyre, and Irwinton.  The infantry followed and arrived in Griswoldville about noon.  The temperatures was 12 degrees.  It was snowing.  The rain-soaked ground was frozen. Gen. Samuel Ferguson's Mississippi Cavalry with 4000 men ran head long into the rear of the Union column just east of Griswoldville .

Gen. Oliver Wolcott's Union forces were about two miles southeast of Griswoldville on the Duncan farm, which was situated on the Jones-Twiggs County line.  Skirmishers came in contact with the Union forces,  who stopped their advance and dug in on the high ground.  Upon the report of the fire from the Duncan farm, more cavalrymen and the infantrymen who had just entered the town were drawn toward the direction of the fire.

The Confederate forces were placed  in a precarious position.  A large open field was  between them and the Union army.  The Union forces were surrounded on three sides by Big Sandy Creek which was a natural barrier to an attack on the Federal left, front, and rear.  The Confederates began an ineffective artillery fire on the hill.  The Union artillery was also similarly ineffective.  The Confederates crossed the creek and advanced to within two hundred fifty yards of the Union lines.  The first ranks were decimated by rifle fire. There were seven thousand men firing at each other within the bounds of the 190 acre field.  The Confederates kept advancing, filling in the gaps in the lines with reserves.

By 4:30 p.m. the battle was all but over.  Near the end of the fighting, Sgt. Blanton Nance, part of Anderson's force which attacked from the railroad at the north end of the battlefield, was shot in the shoulder and the neck.  He fell to the ground.  Nance was lucky.  He was picked up by Union soldiers and taken back to a field hospital for treatment.  Many other wounded men froze to death that night.  Nance, a forty-six year old veteran of the Mexican War, survived and lived in Dublin until 1910, when he died at the age of ninety two.  The Confederates retreated to Griswoldville, returned to Macon the next day,  and  never mounted another threat to Sherman and his men.  Gen. Smith was furious that the militia engaged the Union army contrary to his instructions.

Most of the Montgomery County men survived. Addison McArthur and Groves Conner were killed, and John McArthur and Thomas Adams were wounded.  Southern casualties totaled  six hundred killed and wounded, which was about ten percent of their force.  Northern casualties were fourteen killed, seventy nine wounded and two missing in action.  The town of Griswoldville was never rebuilt.  Today several organizations are seeking to preserve a portion of the battlefield for posterity.

Friday, November 21, 2014


“A True Survivor”

For the last sixteen years, millions of persons all over the world  have tuned their television sets to watch the popular television show Survivor.  The king of reality of shows features everyday people who endure the elements and undergo a variety of contests.  Sixty five years ago, William Wallace and thousands of other American soldiers and civilians faced the same challenge.  However, this challenge was real. It was constantly brutal,  frequently deadly and unfathomably heinous.

William Wallace, son of Lase and Frances Wallace, was born on April 1, 1922 and grew up in Millen, Georgia.  After his graduation from High School, William enlisted in the Army Air Corps and began his training at Fort McPherson in Atlanta.    Private Wallace was assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group (L)as a tail gunner.  The group was assigned to duty in the Philippine Islands in November 1941.  Wallace was at his station when the Japanese attacked the island chain on December 7.

The invaders launched a ferocious siege upon the American and Filipino forces, who had little food and an ever dwindling supply of ammunition.  After the three months of constant fighting, the American forces surrendered.  William was taken prisoner and along with thousands of other prisoners, was forced to endure the infamous “Bataan Death March.”  The weakened men were force-marched sixty miles in intense heat.  The only drinking water was found in mud puddles along the way.  Rest periods were rare.  Slow walkers were beaten.  Stragglers were bayoneted.  Six or seven hundred men were left dead on the side of the road.

After three months and fifteen hundred deaths at Camp O’Donnell, the prisoners were transported to the nefarious prison at Cabanatuan.  William remained there until September 1943.     It was in the latter months of 1943 that the Japanese government began to transport American prisoners back to the mainland to work in the coal mines.   Wallace and six hundred other prisoners were crammed into the hold a cargo ship, which set a course for Osaka.

Along the way, the ship detoured to Formosa in China.  The men were sent to a coal mine and were worked more than a half day, every day.  William was forced to push a heavy coal car up hill.  Any slip might result in a beating.    A prisoner’s daily diet consisted of three cups of rice.  If they were lucky, the men were given a prize morsel of meat, a pickled grasshopper, known to its consumer as a “Georgia Thumper.”

By 1944, William was assigned to a coal mine of the Rinko Coal Company in Japan. Conditions in the mine were unbearable.  The men were placed in an open building, left to face the brutal winters with virtually no shelter.  Each man was given old clothes to wear and a single blanket to keep them warm.  On the coldest of nights, six men would lie on one blanket and lie together, three with their heads on one end and three at the other end, with the five blankets on top.  At least the meals were better.   Stewed fish and boiled soybeans were added to the customary, but highly treasured, three daily cups of rice.   Once a week, the men got a bath.

Wallace described the winter of 1945 as the worst.  Snow falls ranged from three feet and more.  In order to avoid work and gain a stay in the hospital, Wallace would hold his breath and fall flat into the snow to make it appear that he had lost consciousness on six or seven occasions.  His captors never realized his ruse.  Had they done so, he would have been immediately executed on the spot.  “Getting out the snow, the freezing rain and still being allowed to eat was worth the risk,” said Wallace.   During that winter, William suffered from dysentery and double pneumonia and spent Easter Sunday, his 23rd birthday, in the hospital.

Conditions in the camp began to deteriorate rapidly.  The men began to steal food and cigarettes from each other, but were strongly disciplined if caught.  Distribution of food was scrutinized down to the pro rata bean and crumb of rice.

William was not released until the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  When he left the coal mine, he weighed 87 pounds.  Constant hunger and debilitating malaria and beriberi nearly killed William.  Thousands of others who weren’t so lucky.  

In August 1945, William returned to the United States and entered a hospital in California.   When he arrived home,  he possessed six stitches in his head, a result of an unprovoked attack by a Japanese civilian with a large chunk of coal.   After a period of recuperation, William returned to Georgia.  Among the first to greet him was his high school sweetheart Mary Dickey.  The couple married in 1946, but William believed his obligation to his country was not yet completed.  He returned to the Army Air Corps for a three-year hitch.  Though he tried to live a normal life, the haunting memories of his incarceration prevented William from sleeping with a light off for more than eight years.  Talking about his experiences was difficult, if not impossible.  It wasn’t until the survivors held their first reunion when William began to relate the horrors of his internment.  Wallace’s  remembrances are featured in Donald Knox’s “Death March,” the story of the Bataan Death March and its survivors.

Wallace told Knox, “the further we went into captivity, the worse it became.”  He began to doubt whether or not he could ever survive, but came to realize “that the human body can suffer nearly everything and still survive.”

William Wallace graduated from Mercer University with a double major in religion and history.  For forty-one years, he served small rural Baptist churches in our area and worked at Warner Robins AFB until poor health forced his retirement in 1943.  His last sermon was delivered in 1991.

In January 1992, nearly fifty years after his capture,  William Wallace was presented the Congressional Prisoner of War Medal in his hospital bed by Congressman J. Roy Rowland.   Never bitter toward his captors, Wallace was disappointed that Japanese Americans interned in camps in our country were given a reparation of twenty thousand dollars, while he and the four thousand survivors and the families of the five thousand who died never received a cent of compensation.

The Rev. William Wallace died on February 27, 1995.  The lung disease he contracted in the camps eventually killed him.   Wallace survived one of the most brutal prison camps in the history of the world.  He endured to serve his fellow man and to espouse the word of the Gospel and spread the message of peace and love toward all mankind.  On this Memorial Day, take a moment to remember William Wallace and the millions of brave Americans who sacrificed their lives, their homes and families to preserve our freedoms.