A Look Back

The town of Lovett is the third oldest incorporated town in Laurens County, losing  the honor of being the oldest town not including Dublin or Brewton, which it finished behind  by a mere three days in 1889.   At the turn of the 20th Century much of the experiences in Lovett was published in the Macon Weekly Telegraph.  Then without any explanation the snippets of the shenanigans and shining moments disappeared leaving the historians with virtually no record of the events which happened there until surviving issues of the Dublin papers began to chronicle her past. But when the calendars began to replace the 18s with the 19s,  Lovett could be lively and Lovett could be lovely. And, Lovett could be lurid, but loving too.

Just after Easter Sunday, the Rev. George C. Matthews, a former minister of the First Methodist Church in Dublin and a founder of the Holiness movement in Georgia, was the featured speaker at the South Georgia Holiness Association's annual meeting.  The streets of Lovett were crowded with  hundreds of people, all in town to hear the elegant sermons of Rev. Matthews and a host of other prominent religious leaders.   Association organizers provided special daily train rides for the large crowds  from Garbutt's Mill to the meeting place, a large sixty foot by ninety foot cloth tent.  The professing Christians met for more than a dozen days.  The Rev. W.A. Dodge, Matthew's counterpart in the North Georgia District, spoke to the gathering, estimated to have been more than two thousand believers and sinners. As the session came to a close, thousands appeared at the tent.  They came on foot, on horseback, in wagons and on trains. They came early and continued to assemble after the climactic service began.  Rev. Dodge preached the morning sermon and spoke only to the men that afternoon.  Mrs. Crumpler spoke to the ladies, while the men folk talked about manly things.  It was reported that the meeting exceeded any other meeting ever held in Lovett in the good it did and "many sinners were moved to repentance and conversion - and the town was generally shaken up."

But, as it goes in small towns of the day, the good news turned to bad news, within a cycle of the moon.  Pebe Hall and Miss Radford of Lovett had gone down to the Big Ohoopee River at Snell's Bridge for a day of jollity and picnicking.  Leaving their friends on the banks of the river, Pebe and his best girl rowed their boat into the center of the stream. All of a sudden the boat wobbled throwing the couple into the swollen stream.  They cried out for help, and help was on its way.  But before they could be rescued, the popular couple disappeared down to the sandy bottom of the muddy water. The pall of their deaths lasted a long time in the minds of their many friends.

It would only be three fortnights before another dead body would be found in the merciless waters of the Big Ohoopee near Snell's Bridge.  A crowd of men were seining the river for a mess of fish when to their utmost horror the fisherman found a solitary leg and a man's head.  Attached to what remained of his neck was a 150 pound iron bar.  A closer examination of their nets revealed a satchel and several articles of clothing.    Investigating officials determined the dismembered remains belonged to one George Yates, who had disappeared three months earlier on March 4th.  There were suspects.  Just to make sure, Georgia governor Allen D. Candler offered a one hundred dollar reward for the villainous perpetrators.

Within a week, George Yates rose to the surface, not from the water or his grave, but he had been alive all the time.  Thoughts of the identity of the corpse turned to Jack Benedict of Athens.  Thought to have been wearing similar clothes at the time of his disappearance led Dr. Benedict, the brother of the suspected victim, to examine the remains and determine that the skull sizes matched. Believing that the Athens physician was simply seeking closure to his brother's fate, the investigation continued.    J.T. O'Neal, a convicted bootlegger who had vanished after his release, may have been the casualty of vindictive co-conspirators he helped to convict.    Johnson County Ordinary J.E. Page continued to investigate the true identity of the mystery man.

Just as the citizens of Lovett were trying to overcome the horrors of the river deaths, a small epidemic of smallpox terrified every man, woman and child.  Between two and three dozen cases of the deadly disease were reported in a small area between Harrison and Lovett.   Physicians were summoned and comprehensive vaccinations were begun, ending the crisis.

Another month brought another tragedy.  On the 9th of August, Bascom Flanders was trying to find a seat on the wood in the tender of a fast running train when he lost his balance and fell to the ground striking his head against an series of immovable cross ties.  Little hope for his recovery was given.

On the lighter side, the farmers of Lovett were enjoying a plentiful season, raising enough corn, fodder and provisions to provide for their families for another year, without being forced into debt.  Ike Askew brought the first two bales of cotton into town on August 9th.    Mr. E.A. Lovett paid Askew $5.80 for his prized bales.  By the end of the month, heavy tropical rains severely damaged the unpicked half of the cotton crop. Fears of losses were erased by the first of October, most of the
farmers were happy. But Lovett continued to grow.  Sidewalks were given much needed and overdue repairs and three new handsome homes were erected that summer.  The young people were preparing a concert and a traveling showman thrilled the congregation of folks with a ascension of his hot air balloon.

The townsfolk of Lovett were proud of the wonderful springs on Tucker's Mill Creek. Although unnamed in a newspaper article, these springs are now known as the "Thundering Springs," which are located three crow fly miles west of town.  Folk medicine believers swore by the healing effects of the mineral laden waters which erupted from the earth.  The boil of the spring was constant and constantly rose about a foot above the surrounding water level.  The springs were ideal for swimming and bathing because even the poorest swimmer could never sink below his heart.   Determined divers attempted to touch the bottom, but the force of the boiling water pushed them back to the surface.  It was said that on cloudy days, the roar of the springs, which emanate from miles and miles away,  rival the loudest reports of an approaching  thunderstorm.

After a festive, and somewhat lively,  holiday season and the end of the 19th Century, promises of bigger and better things were abundant in Lovett.    On the very first day of the 20th Century, six inches of snow covered and killed  a fine crop of winter wheat and oats in the fields. J.T. Lovett was chosen as the century's first mayor.  E.A. Lovett, A.T. Cobb, W.J. Stewart, P.M. Johnson and Z.M. Sterling constituted the town's first council in the 20th Century.    Professor W.J. Daley opened the doors of the Lovett School.  Fifty kids came to class and more were expected to attend. E.F. Cary and W.J. Stewart established an Express office in town. Lovett farmers planned to increase corn plantings in the spring.  The farms and saw mills of the area were so profitable that the lack of available laborers became a problem.


majorlonnie said…
I enjoyed reading this. Would like to see more.