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

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Baseball’s Barnstorming Belles

A century ago,  baseball teams with women players were somewhat of a novelty.  The all-women teams, with the exception of one or two essential male players, made a nearly modest living traveling throughout the country, playing in big cities and little towns against all  male teams, usually a squad formed from local boys and young men.  Such was the case with the Indianapolis Star Bloomer Girls, who traveled through Georgia in the spring of 1914, stopped in Dublin for a contest against our local team.

“Bloomer Girls” teams were formed in different parts of the country from New England to the Mid West.  The teams were not all women. Many hired a male player, “a topper”  to pitch or catch.  Among three of the most famous toppers, some of whom wore wavy wigs, were Hall of Fame infielder Rogers Hornsby, who would return to Dublin with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1933,  Smoky Joe Wood a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in the years before World War I and another Hall of Fame pitcher, Grover Cleveland Alexander. 

Named for Adelaide  Bloomer, a woman’s rights activist, the Bloomer Girls began in the 1890s and lasted for more than four decades when women’s professional baseball teams disbanded in the mid 1930s.  The Girls, who originally wore loose-fitting bloomer pants  before switching to more traditional baseball pants, helped to introduce night baseball games in the early 1900s.  Used to playing at night, the blinding glare of the arc lights often gave the Bloomer Girls a decided advantage to their daylight playing competitors. 

After spending the winter training in Cuba, the Bloomer Girls, managed by Frank Schmalz - the brother of former Cincinnati Reds owner George Schmalz,  began a grueling schedule in February 1914, playing first in New Orleans and then playing on most days across the Deep South.  

Eastman was the first stop on the Georgia schedule for the Bloomer Girls, who billed themselves as the “Lady Champions of the World,”  on April 20, 1914.   One thousand or more baseball fans and curious spectators witnessed the Eastman Boys jump out to an early 5-0 lead at the end of three innings.  The Bloomer Girls committed eight errors in the game, but managed to pull within two runs with a three-run six inning. Eastman’s catcher Wright had a big day with three hits, while Eastman starting pitcher, Henry Skelton, held the Girls in check for most of the game. 

The Star Bloomer Girls traveled from Eastman to Dublin by train for a game  on the afternoon of April 21, 1914.  Under fair, warming skies the teams took the field, most likely at the 12th District Fairgrounds at the corner of Telfair and Troup Streets.  There may have been as many as 1500 fans on hand to see the game.

Although no specific accounts of the game have survived, the Dublin boys scored single runs in the first and third innings before plating four to take a commanding 6- 0lead in the bottom of the 5th inning.  With outstanding fielding, the Dublin boys held the Girls to a single run in the top of the 8th, taking an easy 7-1 victory with the pitching of Whetor.  Margaret “Peg” Cunningham,  the left-handed, nineteen-year-old,  star pitcher for the Girls,  started for the Bloomers until she was relieved by Loyd, who pitched well in relief.  The Dublin boys boasted that they had the second greatest victory by a Georgia team against the Bloomers, only a single run behind the boys from LaGrange. 

Margaret "Peg" Cunningham and Minnie Fay Phelan, Feb. 1914

Among the girls playing in Dublin that day were: Selma Wanbaum, an eight-year veteran at first base,  “Happy” Murphy, the team comedian and second baseman with six year’s experience, and third baseman Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fargo.  Playing left field was “Carrie Nation,” aka Mae Arbaugh, who reportedly played in 6,486 professional baseball games (and at least 4600 as reported by Baseball Magazine in 1931.)  If true, Arbaugh would have surpassed Pete Rose for the most games played by a professional baseball player. 

Marie  Dierl took center field and Watsworth, right field. Minnie Fay Phelan, sister of Chicago Cub infielder, Art Phelan, and the Girls’ right handed pitcher, once pitched a 3-2, 14-inning complete game against the men of Syracuse.  Jack Reilly, a semi-pro player, was the sole male member of the team and usually played the key stone position at shortstop.  

Margaret Cunningham was regarded as the best female pitcher of her day.  Seems that Margaret learned how to pitch under the mentorship of Ed Walsh, a Hall of Fame pitcher, who played with the Chicago White Sox for most of his career and who still holds the all time record lowest (1.82) career ERA.  One of Cunningham’s greatest pitching victories came in 1913 when she defeated Louisville, Kentucky’s male team 2-1 in an 11-inning complete game victory.  
The next stop on the swing through Central Georgia came on the 22nd of April in a game between the Star Bloomers and Hawkinsville. 

On the 24th, the Girls traveled to Macon to play an All Star team made up of members of the Central City League.  Margaret “Peg O’ My Heart” Cunningham started the game in front of more than a thousand men and their wives.

At the end of three innings, Cunningham, obviously exhausted from pitching too many innings on too many days, cried out, “Oh, my!  I am tired.  Take me out!”   With their star pitcher on the bench, things weren’t looking up for the Bloomers, who were playing their fourth straight day of baseball, all on the road and far, far from their homes.  

With three men playing against the powerful Macon team, the Bloomer Girls’ Mr. John came into pitch, holding the Macon nine scoreless for the rest of the game.  The Girls fought back scoring  one in the 6th inning and two runs in each of the next two stanzas to squeak by the Macon men, 5-4.

The next day, the girls traveled to Atlanta to face the Atlanta Federals, a semi-pro team, whom they upset in front of a stunned crowd.  

The Bloomer Girls continued their swing through Georgia in May playing teams from Columbus, Talbotton, LaGrange and the Bibb Mills team from Macon.  Bloomer boosters claim that the Bibb Mills team had to import players to keep the girls from sweeping the two-game series from Macon men. 

By the time the Star Girls made it to Montgomery, Alabama, they had won five games  in a row. Managers of the men’s capital city’s team scoured the countryside for men with semi-pro experience to prevent further embarrassment to the ego of the men of the “Yellowhammer State.”   The Montgomery team assembled a team which they deemed to have “the best amateur infield in the state.”    The bought and paid for  team won, but the Bloomer Girls kept right on playing throughout the summer and throughout the nation, playing as many as two hundred games a year.

Those who saw the “Star Bloomer Girls” went away believing that baseball’s  barnstorming belles in dark uniforms with a big star on the front were not just novelties, but an aggregation of good baseball players who could hold their own with the best men that any city or town could send out to beat them.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


During eight weeks in the spring of 1914, brawny behemoths climbed into the ring on the stage of Dublin’s elegant Bertha Theater to battle each other to determine just who was the best wrestler in the land.  In April and May 1914, several of the country’s greatest wrestlers fought it out in a series of matches under the promotion of Harry P. Diggs, the Bertha’s manager and an amateur song writer.

Big time wrestling debuted in the Middle Georgia area in the autumn of 1913 when “Big Jack” Leon defeated Gus Kerveras at the Old Armory in Macon. For the next seven months, Diggs’ wrestlers fought it out in Macon, Columbus and Dublin.

The first match at the Bertha came on the evening of April 3, 1914 in a bout which pitted Dr. Ben F. Roller, (LEFT) a real physician, against Billy Jenkins and Mort Henderson.  Handicapped from the start, Roller  had to wrestle the men back to back - Henderson being his greatest nemesis.  Roller,  a former professional football player, easily took Jenkins in 16 minutes.  Still weary from wrestling Zbyszko in Birmingham the week before, Henderson held his own against his famous opponent Roller, a three time American Heavyweight Champion.

The following year, Henderson would try something new in the wrestling arena.  He was credited with being the first wrestler to don a mask to hide his identity, wrestling as “The Masked Marvel.”

A rematch was set for April 9 in what promoter Diggs proclaimed as “The American Championship.”  With several Maconites who had come down on a special M.D. & S. train in attendance,   Roller was “at his best from start to finish, and the champion’s best is about the best there is in the wrestling business,” wrote the Courier Herald.  Roller took the first round in 51 minutes with a leg and arm hold.  In the second round, a Courier Herald writer wrote, “The doctor went after Mort like a large sized tornado” in defeating Henderson, who had gone toe to toe with Jack Leon in Macon the night before, in less than ten minutes before a near capacity crowd.  

Greek wrestler Gus Kerveras jumped into the ring and urged the champion to go another round.  Roller’s manager, Billy Sandow, a professional wrestler himself and one of the sport’s most well known managers, objected as Roller had already fought enough during the evening.  Sandow did agree to allow his champ, to return to the ring the following night to fight the grandiose Greek.

Roller, a clean sportsman and of Greek ancestry himself, kept his word and climbed into the ring the next evening.  “The bout was a cross between science on one side and plain every day ‘head buttin’ on the other,” a Courier Herald writer reported.  Despite his aggressive manner, the powerful Kervarus, not exactly a fan favorite by the small crowd,  was defeated for the first time by Roller, who won the first fall in 48 minutes and the second one in only 4 minutes.

The third week of the season featured a match in which Henderson, Dublin’s favorite wrestler, defeated  Paul Sampson, a giant German journeyman wrestler.

Another “championship bout” was on the card for the fourth week.  Promoters, who expected Dublin’s largest wrestling crowd ever,  provided for a special train for fans  to leave Macon at 6:00 o’clock and return to Macon a half-hour after the match was over all for the sum of $3.00 for the train ride and a ringside ticket.

Mort Henderson’s  (LEFT AS THE MASKED MARVEL) throng of local supporters filled the Bertha Theater.  His opponent was Jack Leon, a wrestler on the rise, who was making his first appearance in Dublin.

Leon, a long-legged, ugly-looking, big boned, Swedish, bulldog of a  wrestler, was on his game, taking the offensive from the beginning.  Henderson’s supporters hoped that Leon (LEFT)  would wear himself out with his strong efforts.  Those hopes were dashed at the 49 minute point of the 60 minute round.  The second and deciding fall came when Henderson fell half way through the round.

The final match of the 1914 wrestling season came on May 22, 1914.  Jack Leon, still celebrating his championship victory over Mort Henderson three weeks before at the Bertha, was slated to fight Ed “The Strangler” Lewis.    Diggs, in order to boost the attendance in the final fight, offered a purse of $300.00 to the wrestlers in addition to their share of the gate receipts.  Diggs, backed by wealthy, prominent Dublin boosters, was once again boosting the encounter as the most sensational match ever held in Dublin.   All women were admitted free of charge.

“Eddie Lewis, who by the way is a handsome youngster, beside a strangler of international fame, is one of the classiest and fastest wrestlers in the business,” proclaimed  the Courier Herald.

The writer was correct. Lewis (LEFT) used his strangle hold to win six World Heavyweight Championships and a have dozen state and regional championships.  “The Strangler” was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002.  Lewis’ manager, Billy Sandow, once issued a $10,000 challenge to Jack Dempsey that Lewis could beat him in any ring anywhere in 20 minutes or less.

Lewis took the first round when he used his patented “strangle hold” on Leon a quarter of the way through the first round.  Leon turned the momentum in his favor, when he caught Lewis in a half Nelson nearly half way through the second stanza.

Referee Harry Diggs called the match for Lewis, when once again, the “Strangler” put his strangle hold on Leon at the twenty minute mark for the victory.

That summer, the voters of Dublin inexplicably decided to ban wrestling at the Bertha Theater.   Just when Wrestlemania was peaking and fans were thrilled every week, it was all but gone from the city.  Dr. Roller did return to Dublin two years later in 1916 to defeat the Frenchman, Constant Lemarin, (LEFT)

Wrestlemania never really returned to Dublin.  In the 1920s and throughout the 1930s, boxing became the pugilistic preference of Dublin’s contact sport fans.   Over the years, promoters booked matches in high school gyms and in the Laurens County Ag Center to entertain a new generation of wrestlemaniacs.

But, none of these overly fake wrestling matches can compare to those days of a century ago when Dublin, along with Macon and Columbus, featured some of the best wrestlers in the country in Wrestlemania 1914.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


The Ghost Town of Laurens

Two centuries ago, Sumpterville became our first ghost town.  Laurens County, Georgia was established by the Georgia Legislature on December 10, 1807.  It was a county without a county seat.  The first court sessions were held in 1808 in the home of Major Peter Thomas on the Lower Uchee Trail in northwestern Laurens County.  As the county government began to organize, a more central location for the county seat became a prime goal. A committee chose a site, well centered in the county, but a site which, within two years, would be mostly abandoned and forgotten.

When Laurens County was  created, it stretched from its present location on the west side of the Oconee River southwest to Hartford on  the Ocmulgee River, and  included parts of present day Dodge, Bleckley, Pulaski and Wheeler counties.

The justices of the Inferior Court,  analogous to a mixture of today’s Probate Court and the County Commissioners, appointed a committee, which included John Fullwood,  to seek out and find a suitable location for the county courthouse.   The main goal of the committee was to choose a location on level ground near an abundant water source.  It was imperative that the site be situated near the center of the county and on an existing thoroughfare.  

The committee settled on a flat area along or near what later became “The Chicken Road.” This road was actually a major trail leading from Hartford on the Ocmulgee in a more or less direct line to present day Dublin.  The other dominant trail, the Lower Uchee Trail, traversed the western and northwestern limits of the county crossing the river at Blackshear’s Ferry.  The chosen site was not far from the old Indian trading path which ran from Indian Springs through Macon and onto Savannah. (Left photo by Don Johnston).

The spot chosen was Land Lot 39 of the First Land District of Laurens County.  Interestingly the 202.5 acre land lot had just been purchased by John Fullwood in November 1808 for the  sum of $1000.00 or approximately $5.00 per acre.  The fertile oak and pine lands along Turkey and Rocky Creeks were highly coveted by early settlers who swarmed to the western part of Laurens County.  

Following  the tradition of the day, the new county seat was named in honor of a hero of the American Revolution.  Laurens County was named for Col. John Laurens, a top aide to Gen. George Washington and a native of South Carolina.  General Thomas Sumter (LEFT)  was the chosen honoree for the name of the first county seat.  Sumter preferred to leave the “p” out of his name.  The justices chose to leave the letter in. And, the town of Sumpterville, Georgia was born.  Gen. Sumter, known as “The Carolina Gamecock,” was admired for his fierceness in the battles  in upstate South Carolina.  Described by Gen. Cornwallis as his “greatest plague,” Sumter was  one of the models for Benjamin Martin, the protagonist of the movie, “The Patriot.” 

For a year or so, public sales and court sessions were held at Sumpterville, possibly in the home of John Fullwood.  Presiding over the court during that time was Judge Peter Early, who would later become Governor of Georgia.  Bids were taken in the spring for the building of a courthouse and a jail. Lots were sold to the public on May 26, 1811, but no  deeds were delivered to the purchasers.   When plans changed, those who bought lots were issued refunds. Fullwood, himself a justice of the Inferior Court,  was finally  paid $36.00 for building the courthouse on his own land by the  Court in August 1811.   

After losing a good part of their county in 1808 to Pulaski County, many Laurens Countians fixed their eyes on acquiring replacement lands on the east side of the Oconee River.   In 1811, a bill was finally passed annexing portions of Washington and Montgomery counties.  At that point, Sumpterville was no longer in the center of the county.  In anticipation of acquiring new lands for a new county seat, county officials had already focused their sights on a broad ridge overlooking the Oconee River at a place formerly called Sand Bar and called Dublin by its founder, Jonathan Sawyer, who operated a store and post office there.     The courthouse in Sumpterville was abandoned.  

The town of Sumpterville became an abysmal failure.  By Christmas 1811, public sales were being held in Dublin.  In 1824, Fullwood was reimbursed for building another courthouse in Dublin.   Fullwood, Laurens County’s state seantor from 1812-1814,  never transferred the lots at Sumpterville to the county, but he did hedge his bets by investing in several hundred acres of land just north of Dublin, where he erected a large and successful grist mill on the waters of Hunger and Hardship Creek.

John Fullwood, a teen-age soldier of the American Revolution,  erected his plantation plain home at Sumpterville along a road lined with  live oaks, reminiscent of the coastal regions of Georgia.   Eventually, Fullwood’s home would become a stage coach stop when stages were the predominate method of long range transportation from the 1820s to the Civil War.  

In the 1820 Census, there were thirty persons in the Fullwood household engaged in agriculture on the two-thousand acre plus plantation.  Forty-nine of the fifty- six persons living at Sumpterville were slaves.  By 1850, more than seventy slaves called Sumpterville home.   Fullwood, one of the founders of the Laurens County Academy, the county’s first school,  died at sixty-four in  1828.  He is buried in the cemetery to the rear of his home. His estate went to his widow Mary, who married Andrew Hampton, a wealthy landowner who lived a short distance to the west.  After Andrew Hampton died, Mary married the super wealthy Henry P. Jones, of Burke County.  

All the while, both Mary Fullwood Hampton Jones and her third husband Henry Jones continued to buy more and more land, amassing a plantation of more than five thousand acres. When Mary and Henry died, the Sumpterville plantation passed to the Shewmake family, including John T. Shemake, of Augusta, who was serving as Attorney General of Georgia. Although the Shewmake family established a factory on their plantation which they called the Sumpterville Factory, the area  became more popularly dubbed “Shewmake,” When the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad was cut through the area in the early 1890s, a depot was established on the road at the point where it crosses the present I-16 highway.  

In 1894,  the Sumpterville site was acquired by J.B. Tyre, one of Laurens County’s first farm agents.  It is believed that Tyre added the western wing of the Fullwood house, which still stands today.   Tyre also established an inn in his house about a century ago.   Wallace W. Walke acquired the farm in 1930 and established Walke’s Dairy, giving the adjoining road its current name. 

Today, the Fullwood home and some of the  magnificent live oaks which lined the old stage road still remains.  Just west of a historical marker placed on the site by the John Laurens Chapter of the N.S.D.A.R. is a small wooden building which has fallen to the hallowed ground and  thought by some to have been the first Laurens County Courthouse.  To this point, no one has come forward with any definitive proof that this decaying structure was our first courthouse.  Nor have they completed discounted that it was not.   For now I’ll print the legend. 




Wednesday, April 02, 2014


All You Have To Do Is Dream

Every kid whoever picked up a baseball has dreamed that one day he would pitch in the major leagues.   Tens of millions of tried, only a dozen thousand or so have ever toed the rubber of a big league mound and thrown his best pitch toward an awaiting slugger.  This is the story of Larry Foss, a former Dublin Irish pitcher, and who he achieved his dream of becoming a major league pitcher and in the process winning his very first game against one of the game's most feared and revered pitchers, only to lose all of his remaining games on the worst team in professional baseball history.

Larry Curtis Foss was born in Castleton, Kansas on April 18, 1936, seventy years ago today.  Foss was drafted out of West High School in Wichita by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Inthe summer before his senior year at West High, Foss grew an amazing eight inches to a height of six feet two inches, a stature which greatly helped the speed of his pitches.   The young pitcher was assigned to the Dublin Irish, the organization's Class D entry in the Georgia State League.

During the 1955 season Foss appeared in 23 games posting an average record of four wins and four losses.  His earned run average of 5.51 runs per game was not good and his future in baseball was in doubt.  In eighty innings of pitching, he gave up 72 hits and 82 bases on balls.  His strikeout ratio of seven per game was not too bad for a 19-year-old hurler more than a thousand miles away from home.  There were no designated hitters in that era and Foss was expected to hit as well as pitch. In 28 at bats, he managed to bat a respectable .250 with seven runs batted in.  In a sign of times to come, Foss ended his first year in professional baseball playing on one of the worst minor league teams ever assembled in Dublin.  The Irish finished fifth out of six teams that season under the helm of George Kinnamon.  George Arent, the team's best offensive player that year, couldn't break the .300 mark, finishing with a batting average of .294.  Jim Hardison was one of the league's best pitchers, but couldn't help Foss from the bench.

Foss bounced around the minor leagues for six more seasons.  His first taste of being in the major leagues came on March 11, 1960 when he came in relief against the Baltimore Orioles.  He had control problems, but managed to give up only one run in two innings. Four days later he was brought in relief against the Kansas City Athletics.  The first eight Athletics batters reached base.  Ten runs scored.  Foss's teammates got him off the hook when they scored eleven more runs to win the game. A March 25th appearance wasn't much better.  He gave up four straight walks against the Senators before being pulled from the game.  But Larry Foss refused to give up. He worked hard and pitched well for the Asheville Pirates of the Sally League.

Just when it looked as if he would never pitch in the majors, Larry got a call from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the last weeks of September 1961. He was numb and exhilarated at the same time.  Foss drove from Asheville, North Carolina to join the Pirates.  The Pirates, the 1960 World Series Champions, were in a slump.  With the memories of Bill Mazeroski's championship winning walk off home run against the Yankees still fresh in their minds, the Bucs lingered in sixth place in the eight team National League.

Foss remembered, "I get into the clubhouse and Danny Murtaugh, (the Pirates manager), says, "You're pitching tonight."   Not only was he pitching, but he was starting. What the young pitcher didn't realize was that his opponent that night was a another 25- year-old pitcher for the Cardinals, Bob Gibson.  Though he was still striving for his abominable hard driving style which catapulted him to the position as the National League's best pitcher and eventually into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Gibson was still an imposing opponent.

It was a cool evening in Pittsburgh on September 18th.   As he took his warmup pitches, Foss peered around the vast confines of Forbes Field.  Tradition was all around him.  The pressure was on.  It must have seemed to Larry that it was now or never.   He walked Curt Flood, Julian Javier and Bill White to load the bases.  The first three pitches to the cleanup hitter Ken Boyer veered outside the strike zone.  Then somehow Larry gathered himself and managed to get out of the inning without a single Cardinal runner crossing the plate.  The Pirates took the lead, which they held until the fifth inning when Foss gave up the first run of his career.  The Pirates bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the inning and five more in the seventh stanza.  Foss pitched to two batters in the eight before being relieved by Harvey Haddix and Elroy Face, two of the game's best relievers.  The Pirates held on to win 8-6.  Foss gave up three runs, two of them earned.  He struck out five and walked six. Larry had done it. He won his very first major league game and beat Bob Gibson and held the legendary Stan Musial to one hit  in the process. He never won another regular season game.

Two weeks later, Larry took the mound against the Cincinnati Reds.  Foss gave up three runs in the first inning and three more in the sixth lowering his record to 1 and 1. A third start resulted in a no decision.  At the end of his first season, Larry Foss had accumulated a record of 1-1 with an ERA of 5.87.

After a stint in the winter Dominican League in 1961, Larry returned to the Pirates spring training camp in 1962 with high hopes of making the team's roster.  Larry returned to his superb form of his first start when he pitched three scoreless innings against the Mets. His blazing fastball caught the eye of the venerable Met manager Casey Stengel, who had led the New York Yankees to an unprecedented string of World Championships, but who was then managing the cross town Mets in their inaugural season.  Foss won his next game against the Twins.   Larry didn't make the roster, but enjoyed a good season at Asheville with a record of 10-5. He was placed on waivers by the Pirates.  Stengel, one of the game's greatest sages, remembered Foss, whom he called "Foos"  and convinced the team's general manager to pick up the promising rookie for the $20,000.00 wavier price.

Larry Foss pitched his first game for the 1962 Mets.  He lost to the Colt .45s on September 19th.    Larry pitched well in relief in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs 9 days later.  The Mets lost 120 of 160 games that year, the worst team record in the history of major league baseball.  He returned to training camp in 1963.  His last appearance for the Mets came on April 3, 1963, when he gave up one run in one inning against the Reds.  He was picked up by the Milwaukee Braves and assigned to their Denver AAA team.  Larry left professional baseball with arm problems, but pitched his hometown Service Auto Glass team to the 1964 National Baseball Congress World Series championship.   He worked in the oil and gas business for twenty plus years before moving to the mountains of Colorado, where he enjoyed fishing and hunting. Larry Foss returned to Wichita in 1993 to open a sporting goods store.  

Larry Foss loved baseball.   Despite his short major league career he fondly remembers his victory against Bob Gibson, his favorite pitcher, and being a member of  the hapless 1962 Mets.  He told a reporter from the Wichita Eagle, I had no idea that team would become as legendary as it has.  I would have grabbed a jersey or something or gotten some balls autographed."  All he has to remind him of being a member of baseball's worst team is his old cap.  But dreams do come true.  Hard work and determination can take you  to high places.   All you have to do is dream. Happy Birthday Larry!


Sandersville Man Marched to A New Tune

Anyone whoever marched in a military unit in the last six decades, knows the chant that one Sandersville man created in the last year of World War II.  The lyrics have been changed over the last sixty years, but the quintessential cadence of American military personnel still remains intact.   For a century and a half, armies had marched to the sounds of "Yankee Doodle," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Over There" and "The Caisson Song."  This is the story of Private Willie Lee Duckworth and how a simple verse changed the style of the military marching for decades to come.
Willie Duckworth grew up like most African-Americans of the Great Depression in the South.    Earning only enough money to survive, he worked as a share cropper and sawmill worker until he was drafted away from his native Washington County and into the United States Army.  

It was a cold spring night in 1944.  Private Willie Lee Duckworth and two hundred of his buddies were tired, tired of marching and just plain tired, period.  The company had just left their bivouac at Ardsley, New York for the thirteen-mile march back to their camp at Fort Slocum in New Rochelle.  Private Duckworth noticed the men were dragging their feet.  He was too.  He thought that something should be done to invigorate the column to get them to pick up their stride to get back to the warmth of their barracks.

It all began in a meager way, quietly at first.  By the end of the march, the men were belting out the tune as they double-timed their pace and arrived back at the fort and on time.  The private's simple staccato cadence was "One, two, sound off; three, four, sound off; one, two, three, four; one, two, three-four."  Then the alternate verses began.  One of the most popular was "Ain't no use in going home. Jody's got your gal and gone. Ain't no use in feelin' blue. Jody's  got your sister, too! Sound off, one, two. Sound off, three, four."

A wave of excitement permeated every company at Fort Slocumb.  The post commander Col. Bernard Lentz, enjoyed it as well.  For a quarter of a century Col. Lentz had been working on a method to remove moil from the mundane forced marches and inspire his men to march with precision and vigor.  Col. Lentz, a recognized expert on close order drill, required that all of the men at the fort drill and work while chanting Willie's refrain.  Col. Lentz was astounded to see the instant and rapid improvement in morale and productivity.  Col. Lentz called Private Duckworth to his office to explain how he came to invent to the rhythm of the chant.  Duckworth simply responded, "I made it up in my head."  Fifty eight years later, Duckworth confessed to columnist Ed Grisamore of the Macon Telegraph, "I told him it came from calling hogs back home."  "I was scared and that was the only thing I could think of to say," he added.  

With the aid of post musicians, new arrangements of the song were composed, replete with a couple dozen new verses.   Since its origin, thousands of verses of the song have been sung, many of which are not printable.  Many of the verses reflect the complaints of the every day foot soldier, like "the captain rides in a jeep, the sergeant rides in a truck, the general rides in a limousine, but we're just out of luck" or "I don't mind to take a hike, if I could take along a bike.  If I get smacked in a combat zone, gimme a Wac to take me home."  Col. Lentz incorporated Willie's song into his revised version of "The Cadence System of Teaching Close Order Drill."  Then the brass at the Pentagon began to take notice.  The first copies of "Sound Off" were distributed to military installations around the world just before the end of World War II. 

Col. Lentz retired from the Army in 1946.  Boosted by the success of "Sound Off," the colonel began a song writer career of his own.  Willie Duckworth got out of the army and returned to Sandersville to await the torrent of royalty checks which kept flooding his mailbox.  Duckworth told Grisamore , "it made me famous for a while and put some money in my pocket." 

"Sound Off" became a hit with soldiers.  It  first appeared in the 1949 movie "Battleground" starring Van Johnson and Ricardo Montalban. The song has been used in countless movies including Scott Thompson's (not me) 2005 movie "The Pacifier" with Vin Diesel.  It was also featured in the 1992 hit "Wayne's World."   It also became a hit for bandleaders  Mickey Katz and Vaughn Monroe.  The chant became the theme song of the 1952 movie of the same name starring Mickey Rooney as an obnoxious night club owner who is abashed when he is drafted into the army.  Eventually Duckworth became a member of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. 
For his outstanding contribution to the military and to the legacy of African-American accomplishments, Willie Duckworth was honored as the first recipient of the George Washington Carver Monument Foundation's annual achievement award.   On January 5, 1952, a ceremony was held near Joplin, Missouri at the home of the noted American scientist and inventor.  Col. Lentz was invited to attend the award presentation, which featured a rousing rendition of the song performed by an all-black glee club from nearby Ft. Leonard Wood.  In addition to a plaque signifying this distinct honor, Duckworth was presented with a modest stipend of two hundred dollars.   

Willie Lee Duckworth spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity, hauling pulpwood and trying to make ends meet.   The royalty checks still came, though more infrequently in his last years.  The money he earned from that passing thought in his mind nearly a lifetime ago helped to support his family, who lived in a house on Highway 242 between Riddleville and Bartow.   His fame, known to a scant few of his fellow Washington Countians, was almost forgotten.  Just weeks past his 80th birthday, Willie Lee Duckworth died in February of 2004.   


The Scottsville section of Dublin is located in the northeastern section of the city.  Named for a Rev. Darling, or Nathan, Scott, an early resident of the area and founding pastor of Scottsville Baptist Church, Scottsville is generally bounded on the southeast by East Gaines Street, southwest by North Decatur Street, northwest by East Mary Street and northeast by the Oconee River swamp.  The area first began to develop in 1898 when the Dublin Furniture Manufacturing Company establish a factory on the corner of Ohio and Georgia Streets.  Several cottages and a boarding house were constructed along with a factory building.  The company, headed by J.M. Simmons and several of Dublin's leading businessmen, specialized in medium-priced bedroom suites.  The location was chosen because of its proximity to the Oconee River.  Lumber was transported by river which lies within a half-mile of the factory.  The choice of the location turned out to be a poor one. The waters of the Oconee flooded the area when the river was high.  The owners of the factory subdivided the surrounding lands into tiny lots to accommodate "shot gun" style houses for factory workers.  After the factory went out of business about 1907, the factory and its out buildings were abandoned.

In 1909,  R.A. Carter, A.J. Cobb, and Lee O'Neal, all from the Atlanta area, purchased thirty  acres of land which included the former Dublin Furniture Factory on Ohio Street.  They sold one block  of the land to L.H. Holsey, G.L. Ward, J.H. White, P.W. Wesley, R.A. Carter, A.J. Cobb, Lee O'Neal, W.T. Moore, E. Horne, and C.L. Bonner as Trustees for the Harriett Holsey Industrial School.  The school provided education in agriculture, domestic science, and other technical skills and was open to all of the Negroes of Laurens County.  The school became known as the Harriet Holsey Industrial School, in honor of the wife of Bishop Lucius Holsey of the C.M.E. Church.  Today the city maintains a small park on the site of the school.  Throughout the mid-20th Century, M&M Packing Company maintained a slaughterhouse and abattoir on the site.  Today Roche Manufacturing Company maintains a cotton gin on the fringe of the old college campus. 

The subdivision around the homes was renamed  Holsey Park.  Streets in the subdivision were named after some of the United States.  The northern part of Scottsville was owned by Mary Wolfe and called North Dublin.  New streets in the southern part of Scottsville were named for several American states, including Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and California, the latter of which was never apparently opened.  Northern streets in Scottsville were named for Republican presidents and in one case an unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, James G. Blaine.  Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield, William McKinley and  Ulysses S. Grant had streets named in their honor.

The heart of the Scottsville community was on North Decatur Street where it takes a jog to the left.  Located at that spot was the Second African Baptist Church, the city cemetery and most likely Scottsville School.  The Second African Baptist Church was founded in 1900 as the Scottsville Baptist Church  The original sanctuary building was donated to the members of the church by members of the First Baptist Church who completed their present church building in 1907.   The cornerstone of the church was laid on November 22, 1908 by Pastor B.J. Parker and J.L. Cullens and J. Glenn as Trustees along with the Board of Deacons, which was composed of W.H. Hall, L. Lewis, J. Smith, L. Labinyard, A. Askew and V.B. Rozier. It  was used until May 1, 1934, when  it burned.  A second wooden church was dedicated on November 11, 1934 under the pastorate of Rev. C.H. Harris and is  still in use, but covered now by bricks.   A second Scottsville church  is was established as a Church of God in Christ in 1924 at 410 Alabama St..  It later became Fields Temple Church of God in Christ and finally Zion Hope Baptist Church in the late 1950s.  A third church, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church was established at 806 N. Decatur Street in the 1920s.  

The city of Dublin maintained a school at 709 N. Decatur Street across the street from the church.   In 1909, the school was staffed by Principal E.L. Hall, First Assistant Pearl Simmons and Second Assistant E.B. Caldwell.   In 1926 Decatur Street school was located in the building that later became a missionary hall for Scottsville Baptist Church. The school burned and its students were sent to Washington Street School.

Across the street from Second Baptist Church is Dublin's first cemetery for blacks. Although the city purchased twelve acres of land in 1906 for a cemetery (Cross The Creek Cemetery) on the northern banks of Hunger and Hardship Creek, the city  cemetery was used for burials into the 1930s. Among the more famous persons to be buried in the cemetery were Rev. Norman McCall, a well known and revered minister of First African Baptist Church, and his wife, along with Susie Dasher, a dedicated teacher, who is the only person in Dublin to ever have a school named for them.   Though there are less than two dozen marked graves in the cemetery today, a 1936 obituary stated that the cemetery contained the remains of "hundreds of Dublin's finest Negroes."

H.H.  Dudley established a cemetery at the northern margin of Scottsville in the 1920s.  Dudley's land was also used as a ball field for the Dublin Athletics, a highly successful semi-pro Negro League team, which included Herbert Barnhill and Jimmie Reese, both of whom eventually made it into the Negro Leagues.

Among Scottsville's most prominent residents was Dr. Benjamin Daniel Perry.  Dr. Perry, a graduate of Meharry Medical College, was one of the city's first black physicians.  Perry was an educator, as well, and was prominent in the promotion of educational endeavors and a promoter of Colored Fairs for three decades.  

Though most signs of their existence are now gone, Scottsville was filled with small business such as groceries, dry goods stores, cafes and laundries.  Among the earliest businesses were Mattie Tinsley's grocery at 508 Alabama St. and M.H. Hall's grocery at 506 E. Mary St. in 1926.   Milo and Elizabeth Castleberry established a grocery and café at 501 N. Decatur in the 1930s.  Pearl Carroll operated a grocery on Ohio Street in the late 1930s.  In the late 1940s, Mattie Miller and Wilson Coley operated general merchandise  stores in Scottsville.  Minnie Stinson opened her grocery on Alabama St. about the same time.   The The new café in the area in the post World War II era was the Green Pastures at 401  Alabama St..   

The Scottsville neighborhood businesses were at their peak in the 1950s.  Mattie Mitchell operated a luncheon room at 403 Alabama St..  Down the street at 508 and 514 Alabama St. were the groceries of Mattie Miller and Doretha Miller.  May and George  Bell operated still another grocery store at 508 Georgia St..  Robert Trawick and his family operated a laundry and cleaners at 517 Alabama Street for several decades,  sometimes operating under the name East Side Cleaners.  In the mid 50s, Wiliam Redick opened another cleaning establishment at 507 Alabama St..  Rosa Moore operated a grocery at 700 N. Decatur for several years as did Susie Mallard at 319 McKinley St.. and James M. Jackson at 506 Ohio St..   In the late 1950s, Ervin and Idearest Jones took over the operation of the former Castleberry's place on North Decatur.   Amos Parks opened still another grocery at 1008 Ohio in the latter part of the decade.   Ruth May operated a grocery at 414 E. Mary St at its intersection with N. Decatur Street for many years in the 1960s and 70s.  


Old Times in the Old South

Once upon a time ours was a land of gallant gentlemen and fair ladies.  Gaiety and opulence were commonplace.  It was almost like another world, where the elite lived in luxury and the slave toiled to serve his master.  It was almost like a dream now. No one is alive who remembers the time before the war.   Few even survive who listened to  first hand  tales of the old South.  When the South collapsed following the Civil War, some memories endured, particularly on one Twiggs County plantation.

Inglehurst was built before the Civil War by Dr. Henry Bunn and his wife Nancy Thorp.  Their daughter Harriet Maria Bunn married first to General Hartwell Tarver, for whom the community of Tarversville is named.  Bunn was an early minister of Richland Baptist Church.  Harriet remarried to Frederick Davis Wimberly.

Bunn built his home in one of Georgia's wealthiest rural communities, one which was home to the Tarvers, Wimberlys, Slappeys, Faulks, Bunns, Solomons and Glovers.  Of typical colonial style ante bellum construction, this magnificent home featured a separate library, which housed many important books and manuscripts and was decorated with portraits of the Wimberly and Bunn families.  One striking feature of the interior of the main house was the mahogany paneling, which was taken from Dr. Bunn's ancestral home in Virginia along with pine and oak boards from his own plantation.

After the Civil War, the home was occupied by Frederick Davis Wimberly, Jr., a son of Frederick Davis Wimberly, but a step son of Harriet Bunn Tarver Wimberly.  Just after his graduation from Mercer University, Wimberly was elected a second lieutenant in the local company.  For gallantry in action at the cataclysmic battle of Sharpsburg, Lt. Wimberly was promoted to captain of his regiment.  Wimberly returned to a home which had escaped the torches of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's army but one which had not escaped the ravages of economic depression.  His bride of five years, Miss Isrelene Minter, was a daughter of Col. William F. Minter, who was killed in the last battle of the Civil War at the age of sixty.

The oldest child, William Minter Wimberly, was born just as his father's regiment was engaged in vicious fighting in Northern Virginia and Maryland.  Warren, the second son, was born at the end of the war.  Clara, the couple's first daughter, was born in 1868.  The second girl, Isrelene was born two years later.  The last Wimberly child, Frederick Davis Wimberly, III, was born in 1874.

Life on Inglehurst Plantation was tough, but not quite as tough as on the surrounding smaller plantations and farms.  Many of the family's slaves remained on the plantation, serving in the house and operating tenant farms surrounding the main house.  William Minter Wimberly went on to a successful political and legal career.  He was most well known as the counsel for the Macon, Dublin and Savannah railroad and for his service  in the Georgia legislature.

Clara Wimberly grew up in the hard times following the war.  Still surrounded by many of the plantation's former slaves,   Clara observed the customs of her family's servants and workers.  It was said the Clara inherited all of the charms and hospitality of the south's finest women.  

On a trip to New York to visit relatives, Clara attended a performance of Negro songs, which despite the distinctive nasal tones, fondly reminded her of the days of her youth.  Clara increasingly became interested in the customs of the Negro.  She told stories in their dialect adding a banjo to her monologues to capture their musical heritage.    She reminisced about the days of Inglehurst after the war.   One of her most well received skits was "Ole Miss and Sweetheart," in which she portrayed the stereotypical mammy of the old South.  Playing a mammy came easy to Clara, who drew upon her memories of her own mammies.  The "Ole Miss" in the story was her own mother.  During the war, Miss Isrelene  presided over Inglehurst.  She became President of the Soldier's Aid Society.  It was said that "no one, white or black, whatever his condition, was ever turned empty handed from her door, and at her board, where governors and senators have sat as honored guests, the wandering pilgrims of the road have received always an ever tendered courtesy."

Clara was fascinated with customs of the Negro, especially their dances like "The Cake Walk" and "The Holy Dance."  She began to develop artistic interpretations of poetry, prose and song.  Her interest became so intense that Clara packed her belongings and headed to New York where she planned to pursue a career as an impersonator of female Negroes.  

Just as she arrived in New York, she received word that her mother was gravely ill.  Clara rushed home and comforted her mother until her death in 1906.  Other relatives returned home for a brief period of mourning, only to hastily return to their own homes.  Clara loved Inglehurst.  She couldn't leave.  Just like her mother, it was her duty to maintain the home during times of trouble.  

But something was wrong.  As she walked through the dark house, it's windows shuttered with the pall of her mother's death. There was no joy and no music.  The house's dutiful servants stoically carried out their daily chores.   Clara soon realized that she had enough of gloom and depression, and with her gentle, but firm, voice, ordered all of the windows thrown open.  She restored the library and spent many fond times there.  The servants were revived "now that Miss Clara was carrying the keys to the house, just like her mother, whom they affectionately called "Ole Miss." Aided by her brother, Dr. Warren Wimberly, Clara restored the home to its ante bellum grandeur.   Her younger sister and an unnamed aunt also resided at Inglehurst.  

Tragically, just after Christmas in 1909, Inglehurst burned to the ground.  Not a single remnant of a memento of the family's heirlooms could be found among the ashes.   Minter and Warren died at relatively young ages.  Isrelene married Eugene Robbins and moved far away to Selma, Alabama.    With her days at Inglehurst behind her, Clara decided to settle down.  At the age of fifty-two, Clara married Mark Cooper Pope, a brother of her brother Minter's widow.  Today there are no traces of the stately Inglehurst, nothing there to remind us of the genial days of noble cavaliers and grand ladies of the Old South.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


More Umpires of Lovett Park

From 1949 to 1956 and again in 1958 and in 1962, Dublin fielded a team in the Class D Georgia State and Georgia-Florida Leagues.  For many of those ten seasons, the leagues’ umpires were based in Dublin.  Eight umpires, who called games in Dublin and around South Georgia, combined for 123 seasons in the major leagues. Seven of the “Men in Blue” umpired 19 World Series and 18 All Star games. From 1961 through 1986, only three times (1963, 1964 and 1984) were none of these men on the field for either the World Series or the All Star Game.  

       You may have read about Harry Wendlestedt and  John Kibler, who are potential inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after iconic careers spanning a third and a quarter of a century respectively.  There was also 15-year-veteran Russ Goetz and Cal Drummond, who died during a minor league game one game before his return to the majors.  Now, I will tell the stories of four other “blues,” who made it to the big show.  

Harry Wendlestedt 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 John Kibler

                                        Cal Drummond

           Russ Goetz 

William Haller, brother of Major League catcher Tom Haller, broke into umpiring in the Georgia-Florida League in 1958.    It didn’t take long for Haller to run into his main nemeses, Earl Weaver, the player-manager of the Dublin Orioles.  Haller joined the American League in 1963 after working the New York - Penn, Northwest, Pacific Coast and International leagues.   When Weaver was named the manager of the Baltimore Orioles in 1968, Haller and Weaver frequently went head to head, nose to nose and toe to toe in several of the most heated, foul mouthed arguments ever seen in a major league game.  (Check it out on You Tube)

Haller officiated 3,068 regular season games in the American League from 1961 and from 1963–1982. He also worked 15 American League Championship Series games in four series (1970, 1973, 1976 and 1980), 27 World Series contests in four different years (1968 -Tigers/Cardinals,1972-Athletics/Reds,1978-Yankees/Dodgers, and 1982- Brewers/Cardinals) and four All-Star games (1963, 1970, 1975 and 1981.) Haller was the home plate umpire when Carl Yastrzemski got his 3000th major league hit on September 12, 1979.

Anthony “The Pope”  Venzon came to the Georgia State League from Thurber, Texas. Venzon, who spent four years in the U.S. Army during World War II, played a little ball before the war.  In his first season in the minors, Venzon called several games featuring the Dublin Green Sox.  

After one season in the league, Venzon moved up the ladder first to the Provincial League and the Eastern League, before winding up his minor league career with three seasons under his belt. (1954-1956.)   Venzon was selected as an umpire in the National League in 1956.  

Over his 15 years in the majors, Venzon was honored to call World Series games in 1963-Yankees/Dodgers, 1965-Twins/Dodgers, and 1970-Orioles/ Mets.  Venzon called All Star games in 1959, 1962 and 1969.    Four times during his career, Venzon drew the assignment to call from behind home plate no-hit games (Don Cardwell-Cubs-1960, Jim Maloney-Reds, 1965, Earl Wilson-Astros-1969, and Dock Ellis-Pirates-1970, which puts him tied for fourth place in major league history for behind the plate no-hitters. 

Tony Venzon, who called 2,226 games during his career,  died at the age of 56 near the end of the 1971 season, after missing the entire year because of cardiac health problems.

Henry “Hank Morgenweck’s first appearance as a professional umpire came in the Georgia State League during the 1954 season when the Dublin Irishmen, a newly affiliated team in the Pirates organization, enjoyed one of their better seasons.  

After one season in the Georgia State League, Hank worked in the Carolina and  South Atlantic Leagues, before voluntarily retiring after the 1960 season.  Morgenweck returned to the game after more than a dozen year absence when he joined the American League.  In an inauspicious Major League debut in the first game of the 1970 National League Championship Series, Morgenweck was a part of a minor league crew asked to call the first game of the series when the regular umpires staged a strike against Major League Baseball.   

In his five-year stint in the majors, one of Hank Morgenweck’s biggest moments behind the plate came on June 1, 1975 at Anaheim Stadium.  Calling the game from behind the plate, Hank watched history in the making.  For nine innings, the Baltimore Orioles, managed by former Dublin Oriole manager, Earl Weaver, made it to first base only four times, each time on walks.  The Angel pitcher struck out one of three batters in a close 1-0 victory.  The California pitcher, who set the American League career record for no-hitters with four and tied Sandy Koufax’s National League record, was the great Nolan Ryan, who retired with seven no-hitters in his career. It was Hank’s second n0-no, his first one coming on July 19, 1974 when Dick Bosman of the Cleveland Indians no hit the defending World Champion Athletics.

Hank Morgenweck ended his career on a high note as a member of the umpiring crew working the 1975 American League Championship series.  He died in 2007. 

One long time National League Umpire, Paul Pryor played for three days as a member of the Baxley Cardinals of the Georgia State League in 1949.    From 1961 to 1981,  Pryor umpired almost 3,100 games.  He umpired in three World Series (1967, 1973 and 1980), four League Championship Series (1970, 1974, 1977 and 1981) and three All-Star Games (1963, 1971 and 1978).

Ed Vargo, a National League umpire from 1960 to 1983, was assigned to the Georgia Florida League from 1954-1956.   Jerry Neudecker, who worked the Georgia-Florida League in 1950, worked thousands of games in the National League from 1966 to 1985. 

Theodore Max Howe, who called games in the Georgia State League in 1952, came close to making it to the big leagues, finishing his career with three seasons in the AAA Pacific Coast League.

Two of the most famous umpires to call in a baseball game here were not really umpires at all.  In an exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Oglethorpe University, two members of St. Louis’ “Gas House Gang,” Dizzy Dean (right)  and “Pepper” Martin (left)  were asked to help officiate the game.   The game, played at the old 12th District Fairgrounds in the early spring of 1933, was part of Dublin’s Homecoming Day.

So, as we kick off yet another baseball season, here’s to you, the eleven “Men In Blue,” who, in their early years in baseball, called “America’s Greatest Pastime,” right here on our own “Fields of Dreams.”