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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


A Brilliant Bloody Blunder
In a war often filled with blunders, it may have been the biggest blunder of all.  It began as an ingenious plan to dissolve the stalemate along the outer defensive lines east of Petersburg, Virginia in the summer of 1864, 150 years ago this week.   The scheme was inordinately brilliant.  The result, nonetheless, was a totally unforeseen, immeasurably regrettable brilliant bloody blunder. 

For most of six weeks, Gen. U.S. Grant's vastly superior forces laid siege upon the Confederate fortresses of Richmond and Petersburg.   Someone had to give.  Local units of the 48th Georgia Infantry Regiment from Emanuel, Twiggs and Johnson counties, the latter composed of some Laurens Countians, were under the command of Gen. A.R. Wright.  Wright's brigade had suffered dreadfully at Gettysburg and fared scarcely better during  Grant's advance toward Richmond in the spring of 1864.  In late June, while guarding Gen. R.E. Lee's supply lines along the Weldon Railroad, the 48th was engaged in a horrific fight with moderate, but acceptable,  losses.  

Col. Henry Pleasants of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry proposed a bold plan to break the Confederate lines in early July.  His regiment consisted of numerous talented coal miners.  Pleasants convinced his superiors to allow his men to dig a tunnel more than 500 feet long under a Confederate battery.   Gen. Grant, in an attempt to disguise his true intentions,  took the better part of his army in a feint against Richmond, leaving Gen. Burnside in command of a 165,000 men superfluous force in front of Petersburg, a score of miles to the south.  

The Union plan was to explode  eight thousand pounds of dynamite at the end of the tunnel and create a un-repairable rupture in the impregnable Confederate entrenchments.  Following the break in the Confederate line, Meade was authorized to send as many men as he could  through the breach and wheel around to the right to capture Petersburg and cut off Richmond from the south.  

It was a typically balmy night early in the morning of July 30, 1864. There had been talk of some sort of mine being constructed, but most of Petersburg guardians dismissed it as just that,  talk.   At 4:35 a.m., just as the nautical twilight was illuminating the combatants, some still asleep in their trenches, Elliot's Salient erupted in a massive explosion.   Pegram's Battery  and its supporting South Carolina troops were killed instantly. The remnants of their corpses, those which were not scattered into oblivion,  were buried in a coagulation of dirt, rubble and accouterments.  

The explosion resulted in a gap in the Confederate lines of up to 800 yards, wide enough to situate three or four brigades.   Along the core of the explosion, dirt and rocks were blown away leaving a crater, twenty-five feet deep, one-hundred-fifty feet long and fifty feet wide. After a brief falter,  Gen. Ledlie ushered a Federal division into the crater.  He was supported by Gen. Ferrero's Colored division.   Confederate eyewitnesses recounted that ten to fifteen thousand troops swarmed into the void of the crater in ranks of five men deep.  Most of Burnside's entire 9th Corps, supported by divisions of the 1st and 2nd Corps, was engaged in the charge.   

Gen. William Mahone, charged with holding his shattered  line at all costs, ordered his old Virginia brigade and Wright's Georgians,  jointly totaling  only eight hundred effectives,  to move from Blandford Cemetery  in a zigzag line, through a ravine hidden from Union view. Their sole mission was  to stave off the overwhelming Union offensive.  Gen. Mahone  couldn't wait on Wright's men to come up to the right.  He ordered a charge directly into the oncoming onslaught of Colored troops, who by some accounts stated that they were forced into the fray as fodder for Confederate infantrymen. 

Virginia General Weisiger led the rush to the rim of the crater.  The 6th Virginia lost ninety percent of its men.  Company F was completely obliterated.  A total slaughter ensued.  Union troops were heaped in stacks as many as eight bodies deep in the crater.  Some troops pretended to be dead, while others were trapped under the accumulation of the dead and dying.  The Union forces, temporarily paralyzed and understandably demoralized at the horror emanating before them, failed to advance as they had been directed to do.  Those trapped in the chasm could neither charge toward their objective nor could they extract themselves in retreat either.  All the while, profoundly deafening and decisively deadly artillery rounds enfiladed the melee from all points of the compass. 

Confederates, incensed at the deployment of former slaves as soldiers against them, took out their frustrations and slaughtered the succumbing Negro soldiers with bullets. Some mortally beat them with the butts of their rifles.  One soldier reported that useless Union rifles with bayonets attached were heaved into the mounds of the dead and wounded to impale any survivors in their flight path.  

At 10:30, Wright's Brigade was ready to commence the attack following on Weisiger's right.  Wright's line veered to the left colliding with Weisiger's men. Unaware that the Rebels were running out of ammunition and believing that any further attempts to penetrate the enemy line would be futile, Gen. Meade ordered a withdrawal.   Union losses amounted to between 4500 and 5000 casualties.   Confederate losses were about 1,500, but in light of the amount of men fit for fighting, the success in holding the line was no fortuitous victory.  Gen. Mahone counted eleven hundred prisoners and was given permanent command of his division for his actions during the affair.

As the morning of the Sabbath dawned, more than three thousand perished Union souls were still lying where they fell.    Both sides, recognizing the trepidation  which had transpired, consummated negotiations for a truce.    Union details arrived at the scene and began the arduous task of burying the then putrefying corpses.    A long trench was excavated, and the thousands of fatalities were buried crosswise, several layers deep.  

This minor battle, which was virtually over in thirty minutes,  was one of the costliest moments during the war.  Several of Johnson County's Battleground Guards were in the vicinity of the explosion.  Alfred Price was killed in the explosion.  Samuel Price and Francis Tapley were killed in the fighting and may have also been annihilated by the blast.  Wiley Riner was wounded during the fighting.  Private James C.H. Horton was said to have been "blown up" at Petersburg.  

"While the Earth rocked with a swaying motion like that which precedes the earthquake, a huge black mass suddenly shot up two hundred feet in the air from the left of Elliott's salient.  Seams of fire were glistening from its dark side, flashes of light rose above it on the sky, and the whole mass of earth, broken timbers, military equipment, and human bodies hung so like a huge monster over our heads."  A New York artilleryman, at "The Crater," July 30,1864.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Key to Victory

In the summer of 1864, the railroad hub of Atlanta was the final key to ending the bloodiest conflict in the history of United States of America, which had yet to reach the end of her first century.    With devastating losses by the Confederate army at Gettysburg and Vicksburg during the previous July, the vital rail center in Georgia was keeping the armies of the Tennessee and Northern Virginia partially equipped with arms, munitions and food.  

Union commander, General William T. Sherman, set his sights on splitting the South, and in particular Georgia,  from the mountains to the sea.  In the North, tensions were mounting.  Democratic candidates urged peace with the South, while antiwar and anti-draft proponents rioted in the streets of New York City.  Nothing short of a decisive victory in Georgia would guarantee a second term for the Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.  The beginning of the Battle of Atlanta began 150 years ago today.  

Late in April of 1864, General Sherman (left)  and his 120,000 plus man army began its "March to the Sea."  Confederate Army commander Joseph Johnston adopted a strategy of meeting the attack, striking hard and then falling back.  By the end of June, the Union army had captured the strategic Kennesaw Mountain, which could be seen along the western horizon of Atlanta.  Within  23 days, the Federals were knocking on the door of the inner outskirts of Atlanta.  

Four companies of Laurens countians, Companies A,B and H of the 57th Georgia infantry, along with Co. H of the 63rd Georgia, were stationed in Atlanta.  The units had originally been summoned from Savannah to Virginia, until  it became readily apparent that Sherman was going to mount a massive offensive against Atlanta.    Along with the 1st and 54th Georgia regiments, the local men were under the command of Brigadier General Hugh Mercer and division commander Lt. Gen. William H.T. Walker.  Mercer's brigade had seen action at Champion's Hill and Vicksburg, but primarily spent most of their time guarding Savannah and serving a brief time as guards at Andersonville prison.

Johnston's policy of fight and retreat led to his demise as commander of the Army of the Tennessee on
July 18.  General John B. Hood  (left) took over command of the army defending Atlanta.  Two days later, Hooker's XX Corps and Howard's IV Corps struck headlong into Stewart's and Hardee's Corps, who were strongly entrenched along the banks of Peachtree Creek just north of Atlanta.  Just after noon on the 20th, General Hood issued an order to attack the oncoming Union corps.  Walker's Division was established in the center of the Confederate line, about where the present day Brookwood station is now located.

At about 4:00 in the afternoon, Bate's division moved out.  Walker's men were the first to feel the brunt of the overwhelming Union force. Their attack was repulsed in short order.  Augustus G. Fountain (left)  of Laurens County was one of  the three members of Mercer's brigade to be killed in the fighting as the brigade moved up the eastern margin of Peachtree Road. Fifteen men were counted among the wounded. Five more were missing.   Hardee's corps retreated, dug in and waited on the counterattack, which they believed would happen forthwith.

When the attack failed to materialize on the following day, General Hood devised a daring and precarious plan to defeat Sherman's powerful army.  Hood ordered Gen. Hardee (left)  to march his entire corps on a 15-mile night march southward through Atlanta.  South of town, the long column turned left with the intent to launch a dawn strike against the  left flank and rear of General McPherson's Army of the Tennessee, which was pressing westward toward Atlanta from Decatur.

Once Hardee's men cleared Atlanta, they turned northeast along Fayetteville Road.  Cleburne and Maney's divisions turned northwest along Bouldercrest Road, while Walker and Bates took their divisions further along Fayetteville Road.  Despite warnings of treacherous ground ahead, Walker (left) took his division around the western swamps of Terry's Mill Pond.   General Walker moved to the front along Glenwood Avenue north of the pond.  He raised his spy glasses and was instantly and mortally wounded by a Union sniper.  Gen. Mercer succeeded to the command of the division.  The command of his brigade was assumed by Col. William Barkuloo of the 57th Georgia.  Lt. Col. Cinncinatus Guyton of Laurens County was elevated to the command of the 57th regiment.

Suddenly, the situation erupted  into a full scale battle.  Maj. General McPherson (above) rode out to reconnoiter the battle field.  Confederate sharpshooters retaliated for the killing of General Walker by slaying the popular young Army of the Tennessee commander as he moved through the woods.  Mercer's (Barkuloo's) brigade was assigned to reserve duty behind the brigades of Gist and Stevens.  When Barkuloo was informed of Gen. Walker's death and his appointment as brigade commander, he moved forward to front, where he found the Federals in strong numbers.  Gen. Mercer informed Gen. Barkuloo that the Yankees were retreating and ordered an attack.     It was here, near the intersection of the future routes of Memorial Drive and Clay Street where the Battle of Atlanta began just after noon.  Barkuloo's brigade moved northward through a valley south of Legget's Hill.  Finding his brigade in an open field and surrounded on three sides by the enemy, Col. Barkuloo first ordered a halt and then a withdrawal after sustaining only fifteen casualties, including Col. Olmstead of the 1st Georgia. 

Col. Barkuloo succumbed to heat and exhaustion and relinquished command to Lt. Col. Rawls of the 54th Ga.  At 5 p.m., Rawls's brigade  moved by the left flank to a point near and southwest of Fair Ground Road, about 2.5 miles east of Atlanta.  Col. Rawls was wounded in the first assault, which carried the first two Federal lines.   Col. Guyton took over command of the brigade and prepared his men for another assault on the Federals, who had only been pushed back 30 or so paces.  Confused, dazed, disorganized and just plain exhausted, the disheveled and amalgamated remnants of the brigade ground to halt. Despite his repeated commands, Col. Guyton could not encourage his men to advance any further.  Guyton attributed the failure to the lack of command structure in close combat under heavy fire.  

At 9 o'clock that night, Col. Guyton (left)  sent a request for instructions.  At three o'clock the next morning, Guyton was ordered to withdraw his brigade.  For the next two days, the brigade entrenched and waited for another battle  in the roasting heat of the July sun.  On the 24th, Col. Barkaloo resumed command of the brigade. Col. Guyton, the only colonel in the brigade to survive the battle unscathed,  returned to the command of his regiment.  In his memoirs, Lt. Edwin Davis of Company A commended Col. Guyton for his  "consummate ease and skill" in directing the brigade.

During the battle, 32 members of the brigade were killed, including William Thompson of Wilkinson County.  Samuel Fleetwood and Joseph Yarborough of Wilkinson county were among the 122 wounded men, a total which included my great-great grandfather Seaborn J. Thompson, a 36-year-old cook of Co. H, 63rd Ga., who was shot in his right hand.  Two days later, his hand was amputated in a Macon hospital.  He was sent home and died a short time later.

Atlanta fell in six weeks on September 2nd.  Just before Christmas, General Sherman accomplished his mission and delivered Savannah to President Lincoln as a much desired Christmas gift.  The Confederate Army never had a chance.  Hood's army was composed of only three corps, while  the Army of the Cumberland, the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the Ohio counted among its ranks eight corps,  approximately the necessary ratio for success by an attacking army.  

For all intents and purposes the war was nearly over.   It was just a matter of time.  Hood's army fought on in Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas.   Many members of the Confederate army went home sick during the following winter.  Many never returned.  On April 26th, 19 days after Gen. Lee's surrender at Appomattox and 12 days after Lincoln's assassination in Washington, the Army of the Tennessee surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina, ending four years of fighting and four years of dying.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


A List Too Long

It was on a warm Sunday afternoon, some 14 plus years ago, on May 21, 2000  when the members of Laurens Leadership dedicated their project to honor those Laurens County law enforcement and public service officers who gave their lives in the performance of their duty to serve and protect our citizens.  The group raised a generous $50,000.00 in donations.   

The Dublin-Laurens community came together, as it always does, to ensure that no one would ever forget their lives they gave for us.

The memorial, designed by local architect David Woodburn, featured four half pyramid, black marble markers surrounding a star in the middle.    With the recent improvements to the area of the Bicentennial Plaza, the marker was removed with the plans to place it in a more suitable place, complete with a flag pole and appropriate appurtenances. After much study, the decision was made to permanently place the enhanced memorial between the Bicentennial Clock and the Railroad Park.

Now comes the part of this story that no one wants to talk about and that subject is new names.  Thankfully, no one has lost their lives since the first unveiling of the monument.  

Through the efforts of the Laurens County Historical Society, more names can now be honored and added to the list of names of the fallen law enforcement and public safety officers of Laurens County.   

As you may remember, the original marker contained the names of Laurens County Deputy Sheriffs, Kyle Dinkheller, Kip Brown and Wesley Stubbs, the latter of whom was killed in a car crash.  Stubbs, as he left the city limits, surrendered his title as Police Chief of Dublin and by agreement became a Laurens County Deputy Sheriff.    Three city policemen, John J. Webb of Dudley, Joseph E. Fennell and John Faircloth, both of Cadwell,  were all killed in the line of duty.  Danny Badgett, an EMT, lost his life while traveling to the scene of a deadly tornado which struck just across the county line.  Constable W.F. Pierce, at the time, thought to have been the first Laurens County law enforcement officer to have lost his life in the performance of his duty in 1904.  County Policeman W.E. Hathaway was killed in a liquor raid in East Dublin on Christmas Eve, 1919.  State Trooper, John D. Morris, a Dublin native, was killed while traveling to the scene of an accident. County Work Camp Warden John Coleman, who was killed in an accident,  rounded out the original eleven  honorees. 

George Crawford was a law man.  He was a son of a lawman.  His daddy, a county sheriff, was slain while attempting to apprehend a prisoner.  Before this day, May 21, 1921,  was over, George too would take his last breath in the performance of his duty. 

Laurens County's commissioners hired their own policeman to enforce the state law against moonshining.  Sometimes these officers conducted raids in conjunction with state and federal officers.  This time, county policeman George Crawford and his deputy, E.M. Osborn, set off to look for a still, which they believed was operated by one Math Holsey or his daddy, ol' man Green Holsey, way down in the lower extremities of Burch's District. 

Ol' man Holsey burst into the breeze way brandishing a shotgun.  Crawford instinctively wrestled him to the ground and took his gun.  Osborn, out of the corner of his best eye, noticed the senior Holsey reaching behind  a crookedly hung picture frame and pull out an object. At first, he did know exactly what the old man had in his hand.  He was about to found out soon, frighteningly soon.

Crawford and Holsey fiercely fought for control of the weapon.  Deputy Osborn ran around to the other side of the scrum and beckoned to George, "What's he got George?"  Crawford screamed out, "He's got a gun!"

The officers and the occupants of the house continued to struggle.   A shot struck Crawford. "George was still breathing, but he never spoke and he died in two or three minutes," Deputy Osborn recalled.    

Crawford, described as a fearless officer,  had been a Laurens County policeman for two years.   This acclamation was attested to by the fact that during the entire clash with Green Holsey that he did not draw his gun, not once.  When the morticians were preparing his body for the funeral, they found Crawford's leather billy still secured in his pocket.

George Crawford was known to have been a policeman who fervently sought out makers of illegal moonshine.  It cost him his life and the eternal misery of his widow, his eight children and a host of friends.  But, no murder of a law enforcement officer would stop the fight to end crimes, whenever and wherever they occur.  The county commissioners recognized the magnitude of the moonshine problem.  So, they appointed not one, but two,  officers to carry on the battle.  Within two weeks of George Crawford's tragic death in the performance of his duty, Judson L. Jackson and J.K. Rowland stepped in and picked up the torch of justice to carry on the fight the rid the county of the evil demon rum.

The saddest day of the year 1888 came on a Monday, November 5.  On the Sabbath evening the night before, for some unknown reason, W.M. Scarborough, in a stuporous state took offense to his arrest by Dublin Town Marshal N.K. Watson.  As Marshal Watson pronounced that Scarborough was to submit to arrest for being drunk and disorderly, Scarborough plunged a dagger into Watson's neck, severing his jugular vein, spewing blood everywhere.  For five agonizing minutes, the city marshal lay dying.  It was the first time in the recorded history of our county that a public safety officer was killed in the line of duty.

George Martin, a convict guard at the Laurens County Prisoner of Work Farm, died an accidental death while in the performance of his duties on March 14, 1922.  Martin was attempting to clean an old pistol to be used in his duty as a guard.  After attempting several times to make the gun work, Martin handed the bothersome pistol over to Dewey Bedingfield, brother of County Warden, George W. Bedingfield.  Bedingfield, while tinkering with the pistol, accidentally caused the gun to fire.  A sole mortal bullet struck Martin in the abdomen, severely damaging his intestines and his kidney.  Despite all efforts to save the guard, Martin died in a local hospital a few hours later. 

As we re-dedicate the Law Enforcement and Public Safety Officers' Memorial at the gateway to downtown Dublin, let us all hope and pray that never again shall any more names shall ever be added to the list, a list too long. 


The First Twenty-five Years

The Town of Dexter was officially incorporated  in August, 1891.  Formerly known as Barnes, the town enjoyed a population surpassed only by Dublin.  Located in heart of some of the county’s most fertile lands, Dexter drew settlers from Laurens and Wilkinson and Washington Counties, who rushed to the area to plant cotton and other crops where trees once stood.

Surrounded by communities such as Springhaven, Mt. Carmel, Musgrove, Alcorn,  Kewanee and even Nameless, Dexter is more of a community than a town.  Any attempt to  chronicle a history of these communities, as well as history of the town beyond it’s first twenty-five years of its existence and within the confines of this column would be impossible.  I refer you to a definitive history of Dexter and its environs, which  was published in the 1990s by former Dexter resident Amy Holland Alderman.

 Dexter, like all other towns in the county, owed its  existence to the coming of the railroad, in this case the Empire and Dublin or the Oconee and Western Railroad.  The site where Dexter is located was first settled by John W. Green.  Rev. Green, one of Laurens County’s longest surviving Confederate soldiers, built the first dwelling. The Oconee and Western Railroad had its beginnings in the mid 1880's as a tram road from Yonkers to Empire to Hawkinsville.  

The Empire Lumber Company applied for a charter as the Empire and Dublin Railroad in 1888.  The incorporators were J.C. Anderson, J.W. Hightower, R.A. Anderson, W.A. Heath, N.E. Harris and Y.H. Morgan.   Mr. Hatfield of New York supplied much of the capital and served as the first president.  Capt. J.W. Hightower was general manager.  A.T. Bowers served as the first superintendent.  The road ran from Empire in western Dodge County to Dublin.  The principal office was established in Empire.  Eventually a western leg would be constructed to Hawkinsville.  Within a short time the company changed its name to reflect its future.  

The new Oconee and Western railroad headquartered its offices and shops in Empire at the junction of the Oconee and Western with the Georgia Railway.  The tracks reached Dublin in 1891 - the same year as the W. & T. and the M.D. and S. railroads completed their tracks into the heart of Dublin.  The Hawkinsville leg was completed the next year connecting the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers.

The 40-mile railroad ran from Hawkinsville northeast through Cypress to the headquarters at Empire.  From Empire the road ran on through Alcorn's, Dexter, Springhaven, Vincent,  Hutchins, and Harlow before reaching Dublin.  The railroad was primarily a freight carrier because of the vast agricultural and timber resources in the area.  New markets were opened for the towns on the line and those at each end of the railroad as well.  

From the beginning of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad, there were plans for westward expansion to Hawkinsville.  President and General  A.F. Daley announced the purchase of the Oconee and Western Railroad on November 9, 1898.  The sale was completed on February 1, 1899.  J.W. Hightower of Empire was elected as Vice President, E.J. Henry of Hawkinsville as treasurer, and W.N. Parson of Hawkinsville as secretary.  Other directors were W.A. Heath, J.E. Smith, Jr. and R.C. Henry, the latter two being from Dublin.  Master machinist Winter, Auditor Beaumas, General Manager England and Conductor Williams lost their jobs.  Gen. Freight and Passenger agent, M.V. Mahoney, was retained by the new owner. 

A post office was established at Dexter on January 31, 1890.  It has been said that when Dr. T.A. Wood was looking for the right name of the new town, he used his knowledge of Latin and chose the only right name for the town - Dexter - which is a derivation of the Latin word for right.   James H. Witherington was the first postmaster.  In the town’s first quarter of century, it was served by postmasters John White, John A. Clark, William C. Crubbs, Henry F. Maund and Herbert King.   King served the longest term (1905-1935) as a postmaster of Dexter. 

Dexter was incorporated on August 22, 1891.    Dr. T.A. Wood was appointed by the Georgia legislature as the town’s first mayor.  J.H. Witherington, W.W. Wynn, W.L. Herndon, J.H. Smith and T.H. Shepard were named as the town’s first council until a formal election could be held on the first Thursday in January of 1892.  Lurking, loitering, gambling, cursing, disturbing, fighting, quarreling, wrangling and drinking were all banned as acceptable behavior within the limits of the town.  A.H. Hobbs, J.E. New, H.F. Maund, C.A. Shepard, T.C. Methvin, Peyton R. Shy, Jerome Kennedy and H.I. King were the mayors during this period.  

Fires were the scourge of Dexter and many other towns.  A devastating fire swept through the town in early May 1901.  Many buildings were lost, but valuable stocks of goods were saved primarily through the efforts of the black citizens of the town.  Just two weeks later a fire completely gutted the store of Currell and Taylor.  A late Friday night fire in January 1913 destroyed Home Furniture Company, a three-store complex and the largest of its kind in the area. 
The Dexter Banking Company was granted a charter on January 18, 1904.  With relatively little information available about the bank, one can assume that its assets were small and its customers were residents of the community.  Among its early officers were Dr. J.E. New, the first president, W.H. Mullis, the first vice president,   H.F. Maund, the first cashier,  and W.B. Taylor.   The bank, which evolved into today’s First Laurens Bank, opened for business on February 22, 1904.  The initial board of directors was composed of J.E. New, W.H. Mullis, H.F. Maund, W.B. Taylor, John E. Lord, W.H. Lee, T.J. Taylor, W.A. Bedingfield and R.C. Hogan.  The bank voluntarily liquidated itself at the end of the depth of the depression.  The Farmers State Bank opened in Dexter on August 19, 1911.  F.M. Daniel was the first president.   Jerome Kennedy was elected the vice-president. John D. Walker served as the financial agent.  J.W. Strange was the bank’s cashier.    This bank merged with the Dexter Banking Company in 1913 under the leadership of R.C. Hogan. 

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, some of the residents of Dexter included Dr. T.A. Wood, Dr. W.B. Taylor, Dr. J.E. New, Rev. Edward Tucker, William L. Currell (merchant), George Walker (grocer), Allen Hobbs (farmer), William Bryan (blacksmith), Seth Bryan (farmer), Raymond Shepard (grocer), Andrew J. Southerland (farmer), Peyton Shy (farmer), Thomas Faircloth (farmer), William Mullis (railroad), George Shepard (carpenter), Alford Gay (merchant), Benjamin Green (farmer), James Rowland (barber),  Henry Maund (railroad agents), Lewis Long (farmer), Benjamin Coleman (laborer), Robert Braswell (farmer), Robert Phelps (laborer) and Amos Harris (the teacher at the colored school).

Laurens County’s second Masonic Lodge, Dexter Lodge No. 340, was founded in 1892.  The first lodge officers were Worshipful Master W.A. Witherington, Secretary J.H. Witherington along with R.E. Grinstead, W.B. Rodgers, J.W. Green, John H. Smith.   Other members were J.A. Clark, B.C. Green, W.T. Linder, J. Rawls, J.P. Rawls, J.G. Thomas, J.S. Thomas, Jerry Ussery, J.M. Witherington, T.A. Wood and Lee Hardy.   J.A. Clark, P.E. Grinstead, T.A. Wood, A.M. Jessup, E.W. Stuckey, J.A. Warren, and  E.L. Faircloth served as Worshipful Master during the first twenty-five years of the lodge’s history.  Today, one hundred and fourteen years later, the lodge is still in existence.

The town’s second lodge, the Dexter Odd Fellows Lodge, was established in 1905.  The initial officers were Noble Grand - J.R. Harvey, Vice Grand - H.F. Maund, Recording Secretary - W.T. Scarborough, Financial Secretary - W.O. McDaniel, Treasurer - H.I. King, Trustees - F.M. Daniel, T.C. Methvin, E.W. Stuckey.

The ladies of Dexter organized the Magnolia Chapter of the Order of The Eastern Star, an auxiliary unit of the Masonic Lodge.  The first officers of the chapter were Viola Daniel, Worthy Matron; Dr. L.W. Wiggins, Worthy Patron; Mary Ussery, Associate Matron; Dr. Floyd Rackley, Secretary; Jennie W. Wiggins, Treasurer and Myrtle Tutt, Associate Conductress. 

Among the new citizens of town enumerated in the 1910 Census were Henry Shepard (laborer), William P. English (postman), Elbert Davis (carpenter), James Beasley (farmer), J.M. Benford (farmer), Rodger Walden (railroad foreman), Benjamin Tutt (merchant), L.A. Hobbs (farmer), Julian Horne (farmer), Julian Shepard (barber), George Shepard (postman), William J. Thomas (farmer), Hollie Hooks (farmer), Herbert Womack (railroad hand), Wash McLeod (brick mason), Joe McRae (laborer), Rev. James Wilson (minister, colored church), Sidney Hamp (cook), R.C. Shepard (salesman), William Jordan (railroad foreman), John J. Bryan (laborer), George Malone (salesman), Charley Butts (salesman), John Warren (farmer), John Faircloth (laborer), Virgil Crumpton (photographer), Trad Pennington (ice dealer), Charley Evans (laborer), Clarence Duffy (blacksmith), Thomas C. Methvin (merchant), John W. Bass (policeman), Charley Shepard (bookkeeper), John G. Thomas (farmer), Lovett Fann (farmer), Otho Warren( farmer), Solomon Mason (barber), Joseph Joiner (farmer), John Warren (farmer), Rev. John Bridges, Thomas J. Hunnicutt (merchant), Ben M. Daniel (bailiff), Sam Beasley (railroad hand), Lee Rowland (railroad hand), James A. Attaway (liveryman), Roscoe C. Hogan (merchant), Jerome Kennedy (telegraph operator), Robert M. Benford (farmer), Herbert King (postmaster), John A. McClelland (salesman), William P. McClelland (fruit tree agent), John T. Thompson (merchant), John D. Bass (lumber mill), Dr. Lee Wiggins, Herbert Chadwick (merchant), John J. Phillips, John J. Harvey (book agent), William Watson (farmer), Fletcher Warren (laborer), John W. Johnston (farmer), William Stripling (merchant), Joseph Daniel (planing mill), Jeremiah Ussery (salesman), William Tripp (laborer), Thomas Register (farmer), James T. Register (postman), Robert Manning (merchant), Hardy F. McDaniel (farmer), John Mullis (farmer), Joe Cherry (laborer), Benjamin Green (postman), Amos L. Register (farmer), William B. Daniel (laborer), Erastus P. Warren (merchant), Eddie Faircloth (music teacher), David Payne (carpenter), Nathan Bostic (lumber mill), B. Wynn (carpenter), James W. Jones (carpenter), Evia G. Currell (boarding house), and U.G.B. Hogan (farmer).  Not included in this list are the hundreds of fine women and bright children who called Dexter home. 

Church life in Dexter has always been of preeminent importance.  Though many rural churches surrounded the town, there were two main churches, the Baptist and the Methodist.  On the fourth Sunday in July 1893, Elders B.C. Green J.W. Green and J.A. Clark constituted the Dexter Baptist Church.  Among the first members were Nettie Clark, R.M. Green, Viny Green, Cilla Mullis, Anna Smith, Jeany Smith, Nancy Smith, Sarena Smith, J.G. Thomas and J.S. Thomas.  The church’s presbytery was composed of B.A. Bacon, P.A. Jessup and the Rev. N.F. Gay.  Reverends P.A. Jessup, J.T. Rogers, J.A. Clark, J.T. Smith, S.F. Simms, E.F. Dye, F.B. Asbell, George W. Tharpe and Q.J. Pinson served the church in the town’s first twenty five years.  Initial services were held in the two-story school house until a permanent structure could be erected about the year 1903.  This wooden building was used until 1960.  

The Methodists began to organize before Dexter came into it formal existence.  In 1893, J.W. Warren gave the land and Jake Rawls gave the lumber to build a church building, which was destroyed by winter storms in 1904 and 1905.  According to Dexter historian Amy Holland Alderman, the current church building is thought to be the third structure on the site.  Among the ministers serving the Methodist church in the town’s first  quarter of a century were Reverends C.C. Hines, E.M. Wright, Guyton Fisher, H.C. Fontress, E.L. Tucker, M. L. Watkins, W.O. Davis, L.A. Snow, H.E. Ewing, J.P. Dickenson, J.P. Bross, C.C. Lowe, J.W. Bridges, Claude S. Bridges, Silas Johnson, L.E. Braddy and George R.  Stephens.  
During the second decade of this century there were movements to slice off pieces of the larger counties of Georgia.  Wheeler and Treutlen Counties were formed from Montgomery County.  Bleckley County was cut off from Pulaski County.  There were at least three movements in Laurens County to form new counties.  The citizens of Dexter proposed to take the southwestern portion of Laurens County and the northern part of Dodge County, including the towns of Dexter (the proposed county seat), Cadwell, Rentz and Chester to form Northern County.  The new county was to be named in honor of Gov. William J. Northern of Georgia, but the movement fizzled when opposed by Laurens county’s representatives and senators in the state legislature. 

Though the railroad is gone and farming is no longer the major occupation of Dexter residents, the town of Dexter still lives.  It is a fine place to live.  It is a place where the residents can look along their streets and still see many remnants of why the town’s founding fathers believed that it was only right to live in Dexter. 


The Facts and the Legends

To many people the mere mention of crawling live poisonous snakes sends shivers up their spines.  Most snakes are of the nonpoisonous and harmless variety.  Since mammals and reptilian snakes have coexisted, mammals have developed ways of surviving their venomous antagonists.  For centuries, during the period of “dog days,” people have observed correlations between the location of the heaven’s  brightest star and the behavior of the feared serpents.

On July 3 of each year, Sirius comes in conjunction with the Sun.  Sirius, the primary star in the constellation Canis Major “The Great Dog,” is also known as the “dog star.”  During the next 40 days, while the temperatures  in Georgia and around the country swell to their greatest magnitude, this intense heat was thought to have been caused by the combined heat of the Sun and Sirius.  The ancient people named this period “Dog Days.”

Over the years, various superstitions and beliefs have arisen concerning the activities of snakes during “dog days.”  Some believe that snakes actually go blind during this time.  Actually, many snakes shed their skins during “dog days.”  When a snake begins to shed its skin, its body secretes a milky substance to aid in the skin’s removal.  Some of this cloudy liquid covers the snake’s eyes and does contribute to its ability to see.  Many people believed that without his skin the snake was more apt to bite people and was even more venomous.  Others swore that dogs themselves were bitten more often and with more fatal results during “dog days.”  

Now that “dog days” officially ended last Saturday, do all of us who suffer from Ophidiophobia feel safe?  I don’t think  so.  Here are some of the stories and tales of snakes in our past which I know won’t make you feel any less afraid of these fearsome reptiles than you already are.   If you have recently eaten, come back a few hours later and resume reading.  Trust me.

In the category of getting the worst over with first,  the most revolting snake story was published in 1885.  It seems that Jake Moorman, a Negro school teacher, had been suffering from a severe and violent case of vomiting.  Moorman threw up a six-inch snake and what was described as a “very large” bug.  Any size of either would be very large.   The bug ran into a fire and committed suicide. The snake, well, was dead on arrival.  Moorman, who was being treated for consumption, believed that he had other “live things” in his stomach.  Seems like I would have found a stomach pump somewhere.

Another case of a parasitic snake was published in1883.  Mrs. Bryant Gay asked Cass Abbott to butcher a four-year-old cow.    In the course of his operation, Captain Abbott found  a coach whip snake in the cow’s large intestine.  If that wasn’t enough, when the butcher opened the cow’s lungs, he found thirty-seven offspring “holding on to the walls of the lungs to secure their lives.”  Next time maybe we should ask for a chicken sandwich instead of a burger. 

It was in the early summer of 1891, when a young woman, who had being hoeing cotton in the blistering sun, found a shady spot to rest.  The barefooted woman awoke to find a huge blacksnake attempting to swallow her toe.  Apparently the snake thought the woman’s toe was a small reptile or was very ambitious one.  Within an instant the woman was dashing at the rate of “a mile a minute” until the snake relinquished its grip.  If you are outside and take a nap, maybe you should at least sleep with your shoes on. 

Snake stories always made good “filler” material.   The Dublin Post reported in 1887 that a five-foot four-inch thick snake with a dozen rattles had been killed at Blackshear’s Ferry. Good! As reported in The Dublin Gazette in 1883, Coroner James Wyatt killed a rattle snake measuring “about eighteen inches” in circumference and not length. Even better!     Earlier that year in the dead of winter, a young boy was walking along Turkey Creek on the old Troup plantation looking for some hogs.  He found a large rattlesnake atop a large pile of rocks.  The young boy did what most boys would do. He threw a rock at it and then ran for his life. After securing reinforcements, the boy and his friends dismantled the rock pile to find seventeen rattles, several water moccasins and an assortment of chicken snakes.  The lesson here is to stay away from a pile of rocks whether its “dog days” or not.  

These old stories remind us to be careful when we are outdoors. John Jones was out his field nearly a month after “dog days” had ended in 1883 when he happened upon a very large snake, the dimensions of which were lost in the calamity of the moment.  Inside he found sixteen infants, all measuring thirteen inches in length.   T.B. Felder was taking off a load of fodder when he discovered seven two-foot long rattlers.  Mrs. W.A. Brack laid a load of dirty clothes down in her smokehouse.  Upon her return, she picked up the bundle only to discover a large snake coiled up inside.   So it was no wonder that two days later her husband massacred a brood of nine little snakes which were aggravating his dog.  Of all the reported snake killings I have read, Virgil Lewis’s killing of a seven-foot nine-long snake in 1885 seems to be  the county’s longest rattler ever.  In 1902,  Nannie Ruston came in second place with the  killing of a  seven-foot long rattler, which sported eighteen rattles.  When you are looking at the eyes of a rattler, all snakes are large. J.C. Jones seemed to have a passion for killing rattlers. In the year of 1884, he reportedly killed twenty-six rattle snakes. 

One day in 1883, a little daughter of J.C. Williams was out playing.  When she tired, she climbed atop a stump to rest.  Her dog began to bark, alerting a male member of her family.  Upon his arrival, the man found the dog engaged in a battle with a large female rattler.  Attempting to divert the snake away from the little girl, the man prodded the snake with a long stick.    The agitated snake unwound from her coiled position and prepared to strike back.  At that instant, her brood of sixteen neonates darted down the snake’s mouth.  Their attempt to find refuge was fruitless as the man killed the entire family. 

Snakes haven’t been killed only to protect the safety of humans.  In 1932, Millard Hall was plowing a field when he noticed his dog in a bout with a snake.  He reached down and  picked up the nearest rock.  He quickly pulled out his slingshot, took careful aim and mortally wounded the six-foot-long snake with his first shot.  He skinned his prey and transformed it into a belt as a trophy of his expert marksmanship.  W.B. Smith found a snake attacking one of his goldfish in his garden pool. He quickly grasped the attacker by the tail, slung him into the road, and executed him on the spot.  These folks and many others always believed the saying “the only good snake is a dead snake.” 

Snakes, like all other animals, have a purpose of the Earth.  Treat them with respect, remembering the old adage “that they are more afraid of you than you are of them.”  Be aware of their potential presence when you are in the outdoors.  When you encounter one, I recommend you back away slowly and run away until it hurts.


Lighting Up The Night 

On any clear night if you look long enough, you will probably see a streak of light flashing across the sky. From time to time, especially in mid August, mid November and mid December, the Earth travels through zones of meteoroids in a perpetual orbit around the Sun. These stony and iron objects strike the Earth's atmosphere at tremendous speeds. Most of these extra terrestrial objects are vaporized before they strike the ground, but a few survive the impact with our atmosphere. 

Perhaps the most remarkable year for meteors over Middle Georgia came one hundred and twenty six years ago in 1880. It was a quiet night in Macon as the month of June was about to come to an end. A small gathering of men was standing on the corner of Second and Cherry Streets when an intense light illuminated the city. One of the men, a reporter for the Macon Telegraph, described the light as "not like the sun, the moon nor a gas light. It was nearer the electric light, yet a thousand times more powerful." The light was so bright that trees cast shadows on the ground and all heavenly stars were dimmed. Moving from directly overhead in the direction of Milledgeville, the "shooting star" changed to a brilliant red light at 45 degrees from the horizon and then into various shades of green. The whole spectacle only lasted five seconds and was undoubtedly witnessed by late nighters in Laurens County. As the meteor began to change shades, it began to emit sparks and then vapors of smoke. At thirty degrees above the horizon, the light disappeared. 

After three minutes, of silence a thunderous boom reverberated for at least thirty seconds. Witnesses described the sound as metallic and not like the normal sound of thunder. Many reported that the Earth shook. About five days later, the meteorite, said to be the size of a man's head, was found in the forks of a tree some distance from town. If it was indeed the actual meteorite, it is strange that the object has not been documented by scientists. Furthermore, the report of the meteor was probably similar to the sound of a sonic boom caused by an airplane - not by an impact on the ground. If that was the case, it corroborates the belief the meteorite landed about 40 miles away from Macon. Officials in Eatonton reported that the meteor struck south of the town along the southwestern horizon. Coming in the heat of the 1880 presidential election, the meteor was dubbed "The Hancock Meteor," in honor of Winfield Scott Hancock, the former Union hero of the Battle of Gettysburg, but a man who had been embraced by Southern Democrats who were seeking to be relieved of the shackles of Northern Republican policies and politicians. 

Nearly two months later, at ten minutes until ten o'clock on the evening of August 26th, a meteor appeared in the southwestern sky. Witnesses in Brunswick reported that the meteor broke into two equal fireballs, each appearing to be the size of a man's head. The phenomenon lasted for just over a minute. Maconites reported that the meteor threw off brilliant fireballs of red, blue and yellow as it disappeared into the northeastern sky. Witnesses in Columbus reported three distinct balls, the first one sporting a long luminous tail. There were no reports of impact as the meteor faded out of sight. 

One of the most remarkable celestial events in the recorded history of Middle Georgia came on the late autumn afternoon of December 9, 1880. It was about 5:30 when citizens over Central Georgia and as far north as Atlanta observed a brilliant streak of light following the usual northeasterly course. Observers in the capital city described the fireball as the size of a common cannon ball. When it passed directly overhead, Atlantans saw the meteor break into several fragments until they disappeared from sight. The event lasted only a minute. The resulting trail of smoke remained in the twilight sky for a full five minutes. While viewers in Macon reported that the smoke lasted ten minutes, those gazing upon the rare phenomenon in Dublin stated that they saw the smoke trail for at least twenty minutes before the Sun set. There were no reported sounds of impact, though some residents of Macon reported that their windows were slightly jarred by the passage of the fireball. 

Less than forty hours later on the following Saturday, another day light meteor was seen in Savannah. Witnesses reported that the meteor streaked seemingly just about the tree tops from the direction of Dublin toward the Atlantic Ocean. Those who saw the light repeated the same description as the Hancock meteorite over Macon. When the meteor passed over the city, a group of men saw it explode as if it were a sky rocket. A policeman, walking his early morning beat on Bryan Street, watched the meteor for nearly a minute in "the most dazzling sight I have ever seen." No sounds were audible and no impact site was observed. 

If you want to catch the best glimpse of a meteor shower, go outside this Friday and Saturday nights, late, or early in the morning I should say. Look toward the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky. Unfortunately, a nearly full moon will diminish the brilliance of the shooting stars, which have been numbered as much as a hundred per hour. For nearly two thousand years, humans have observed what has become known as the Perseides meteor shower. The bright streaks of light you will see come from dust from the Comet Swift-Tuttle. These dust particles, traveling at more than 132,000 miles per hour, illuminate the entire sky with nature's greatest summertime fireworks show. 

The most famous and magnificent meteor shower ever recorded in Georgia came on the evening of November 12, 1833. As the Earth entered the path of an ancient comet, hundreds and hundreds of meteors radiated out of the constellation Leo every hour. The superstitious and the uneducated believed the world was coming to an end. From the skies above Laurens County and all around the world, people were sent into a frenzy. The Leonids meteor shower returns every year on the evenings of November 12 and 13. Approximately every thirty-three years, the shower reaches peak intervals, the last ones being in 1999 and 2000. 

For thousands of years meteors have become a fascination and a consternation for observers of the nighttime sky. Composed of particles of iron, stone and comet dust, these spectacles have come and gone, like clockwork literally reigning down pieces of the solar system's most distant past. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

AMERICAN GRANDPARENTS - The People Who Made America

           On this 4th of July week, we turn our thoughts to people like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, the main authors of the Declaration of Independence, and how they changed the history of the United States and the world.  But, I suggest, just for a moment or two, let us turn our thoughts to William French, Robert Parke, Thomas Parke, Alice Parke, Thomas Ford  and Robert White.  You may ask yourselves and rightfully so, who are these people and why am I writing about them and America’s birthday?  And, what do these New England Yankees have to do with the history of East Central Georgia? 

Their story begins nearly some four centuries ago in the English colonies of Connecticut and Massachusetts. All of them,  members of the gentry of England, played important roles, not in the founding of the United States in 1776, but in the two centuries which followed.

For you see, if these people or their children had never made the trip across the Atlantic, the Wright Brothers would have never made that first flight at Kitty Hawk, there would be no Disney World and Dorothy would have never gone over the rainbow to see the Wizard of Oz.

William French, one of the first to settle in Billerica, Massachusetts, was a tailor by trade. He arrived in Boston about the “Defence” in 1635.   French’s first wife and mother of his children, died in 1669.  Elizabeth French could rightfully be called “the mother of the great inventors.” For without her, there would have never been Mickey Mouse, Disney World and the Morse Code. Through their descendants, Elizabeth and William were the ancestors of Eli Whitney - the inventor of the cotton gin,  Samuel F.B. Morse - a world famous portrait painter and the developer of the Morse Code for telegraphy; Charles Goodyear - the inventor of vulcanized rubber tires; Walt Disney - founder of the Disney Corporation and a pioneer cartoon and movie maker; and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and the man Democrats love to hate, Vice President Dick Cheney.


Eli Whitney

                                                                  Samuel F.B. Morse

                                                                    Charles Goodyear

                               George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney

Robert White and his wife Bridget Allgar, both natives of Essex, England, never made it to New England, but many of their children did.  Their list of descendants ranks near the top of the number and variety of notable Americans.  Without their progeny, there would have no Latter Day Saints Church in America as we know it, no flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, and possibly a much longer Civil War in America and possibly no Civil War at all as among the White’s descendants was one John Brown, (left)  whose actions ignited the abolitionist movement in the years before the war. 

Among their descendants, the Whites count four presidents, Millard Fillmore, U.S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and Gerald Ford, along with authors Emily Dickinson and O. Henry (William S. Porter,) the pioneering plane pilots, Wilbur and Orville Wright, entertainers Donny and Marie Osmond and their brothers along with the queen of television comedy, Lucille Ball, and the princess of child actors, Shirley Temple.  Among other notable descendants are NFL Hall of Famer and three time Super Bowl winning quarterback Steve Young  and Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints in America.  One could speculate that had U.S. Grant had not continued to pommel Robert E. Lee’s army as his predecessors had not done after Union victories, that the Civil War would have lasted many more years or ended in a draw.  One could also argue that had the Whites not been born, Millard Fillmore would not be regarded as the country’s worst president.  There’s still time for that undesirable title to be earned.

  Without the Whites, there would have been no Vincent Price to scare us in horror movies, no Racquel Welch on pip up posters in the 1960s, nor neither one of Ronald Reagan's wives, Jane Wyman or Nancy Davis, nor a Juliette Gordon Low to found the Girl Scouts of America.  And you could have never bought books from Barnes & Nobles.

Grover Cleveland


                          Millard Fillmore             

Gerald Ford

O. Henry 

Emily Dickinson

Donny  and  Marie Osmond

Joseph Smith

Lucille Ball

Shirley Temple 

Steve Young

Vincent Price

Racquel Welch 

Jane (Mrs. Ronald Reagan) Wyman 

Richard Gere

Ernest Hemmingway 

Nancy Reagan 

Juliette Gordon Low 

And, Barnes and  Noble, too.

Without Thomas Ford and his wife, Princess Diana Spencer would have never married Prince Charles and ensuing mania would have never been spread over television, newspapers and magazines.  One might could speculate that Charles may have never married and the monarchy of Great Britain in the 21st Century would have been radically different.

Without Thomas Ford and his wife, the face of World War II would have been completely different.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt would have never had his fireside chats, the country may have been delayed in coming out of the Great Depression, and it is possible that the Axis powers may have won the war.   

Thomas  Parke,  his wife Dorothy Thompson Parke, his father Robert and  her mother Alice T. Parke, were directly responsible for four of the silver screen’s greatest actors.  For without them, their would have never been two of Hollywood’s greatest couples Bogey and Bacall and Tracy and Hepburn, who individually and collectively appeared in many of the  greatest movies of all time.   You would have never loved “The Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum.

Dorothy’s mother, Alice Freeman Thompson, may have been the most prestigious and prolific ancestress in American history.  Through her first husband John Thompson, Alice,  who married later remarried Robert Parke (father of Thomas) was the ancestor of President Warren Harding, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, Union Army commander, George B. McLellan, author Louisa May Alcott, activist and nurse Dorothea Dix,  chef Julia Child, actors  Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn and Lee Remick. Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee,  Spanish American War Admiral Thomas Dewey, Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, aviation pioneer Samuel Langley, Secretary of State Henry Stimson, actor Robert Lansing, not to mention the spouses of Louis Comfort Tiffany, Harvey Firestone, Gen. George Patton, philanthropist Paul Mellon, General Billy Mitchell father of the modern bomber, television journalist Edward R. Murrow, industrialist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., agricultural industrialist and inventor Cyrus McCormick, women’s activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, singer Enrico Caruso, actor John Barrymore, inventor and painter Samuel Morse, actor Rudolph Valentino, boxing champion Gene Tunney and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.

George B. Mc:Lellan

Louisa May Alcott 

Warren Harding 

Nelson Rockefeller 

Humphrey Bogart - Lauren Bacall 

Spencer Tracy - Katherine Hepburn

Dorethea Dix

Julia Child

Lee Remick

Ben Bradlee, Editor Washington Post - Watergate

Admiral Thomas Dewey 

                               Wizard of Oz Cast - Conceived by L. Frank Baum

The ancestry of the Wright Brothers (left)  is particularly interesting in the fact that it took Robert White, Thomas Ford and their wives to procreate descendants for these two men to have made the first heavier than air flight.

John Alden and William Bradford, leading passengers of the Mayflower, which landed at Plymouth Rock were famous for their arrival in America.  But without these men taking a calculated risk and leaving their homes in England behind them, there would have been no Dirty Harry movies, no Playboy magazine and no Webster’s dictionary.  Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge would have never lived in the White House.  Nor would have Dick Van Dyke or Raquel Welch been icons of television and movies in the 1960s. 

So as you see, these grandfathers and grandmothers, neither of whom had any particular fame or lasting achievements during their 17th Century lives, were responsible for forming the history of our country and the history of our world.  Between these men and women, they were the ancestors of at least ten presidents,  many pioneering inventors, great authors, outstanding athletes and iconic entertainers. This impressive list does not include those who haven’t been able to complete their family trees back to the early 1600s.

So if you will allow me, I will beg your leave to allow me to remind each of you  that we are all put on this Earth for a purpose and that purpose is to build and not to destroy.  It doesn’t matter from whom you are descended. You can’t wait on your descendants to accomplish great deeds. The time is always right to serve your community and your country.  When you leave this world, you can take solace in the fact that you left it a far better place than when you got here.  Who knows? Your descendants can cure cancer and heart disease, walk on the moons of Saturn, travel at the speed of light  or bring everlasting peace to this ever battling world.  

As for me, I take no particular pride in that I descend from all of these early settlers of New England and their parents.  I do rejoice in the fact that they and we are integral part of the greater family of Americans, who work far better when we work togther and often.
On this 238th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,  I do thank the my ancestors, the Frenches, Whites, Parkes and Fords.  For without all of them being in this world, I would not be writing about Dublin and Laurens County, the home I will always love and for the enduring gifts they gave to us. 

Happy Birthday America!