A Centennial Look Back

     The year 1908 was another good year for Dublin and Laurens County.  The city and her surrounding sister towns were still growing after a decade and a half of prosperity. Though times were good, the best years were yet to come.

     The first news of the new year was good. Passengers could leave Atlanta at midday and arrive home in Dublin just in time for supper. Train riding was a popular pastime. At least a thousand Sunday School picnickers boarded trains in Dublin for the short ride over to Idylwild in Johnson County for a day of food, fun and frolicking.

     But the iron horse was soon to be replaced by the horseless carriage.  And, L.W. Miller was going to prove it. Miller pulled his prize auto up next to a locomotive of the W&T Railroad in Tennille. Though he had to slow down over the bad spots in the dirt roads, Miller beat the train back to Dublin by ten minutes. Six months later, the bicycle dealer, would better his time and set a new record in the race between the Cadillac and the locomotive.


   Streets in the city were being paved for the first time. First around the courthouse square and then throughout the residential neighborhoods, paved streets were suddenly in demand.  The residents of Bellevue offered to pay two-thirds of the cost if the city would pave their avenue. Mayor L.Q. Stubbs was so anxious that he personally offered to pay the share of any property owner who was unable or
unwilling to contribute. Without the paving, the dust from the busy street could only be suppressed by pouring diesel fuel and kerosene on it.

     The forward-looking folks of Dublin called for a bond election, an early version of the SPLOST sales tax, to provide for improvements to the city's infrastructure, including the construction of Stubbs Park and a new school on Saxon Street.  To meet the needs of the burgeoning city, the voters approved the construction of a half-million-gallon water reservoir at the water plant. In February, the voters, in a landslide election, approved the project by a margin of 10 to 1.

     Just as it would be a century later in 2008, the campaigns of '08 were hotly contested. Since Laurens County, with its record registered voter total of 4,000 voters, was one of the state's most populous counties, politicians descended upon Dublin to promise what they would do if elected. Gov. Hoke Smith attracted a near overflow crowd of 1500 at the Chautauqua Auditorium, which underwent a massive expansion and renovation. Georgia's next governor, Joseph M. Brown was a dinner guest of his friend Izzie Bashinski at his Bellevue home. Former governor William Northern spent a day in town gathering information for the government on cotton production.

     Three trains left Dublin to travel over to Idylwild.  They were  filled with people who wanted to hear Thomas E. Watson, a perennial political favorite in the area, as he campaigned for President of the United States. Just three weeks before the election, Watson, Georgia's favorite son candidate, came to Dublin in mid-October to speak at the auditorium. While in Dublin, Watson was a house guest of his close friend, Dr. C.H. Kittrell. Though William Howard Taft, the Republican candidate, won the election, William Jennings Bryan, who would speak in the auditorium two years later, carried Laurens County over Taft, who was supported by black voters. Watson came in a distant third. Election returns were received by Western Union telegraph and projected on the wall of the auditorium with a stereopticon device.

     Dublin's population, which had increased 50 percent  since the beginning of the decade, was estimated at 4500, sixty percent of whom were white and forty percent of whom were black. More than one quarter of the city's residents were students. Out in the county, there were more than ten thousand students, a much higher figure than today. The county's student population had increased at the unbelievable, but highly gratifying, rate of twenty five percent in five years.

Confederate Monument and Library 
   1908 was the year when plans were being made for the erection of the Confederate Monument on the grounds of the Carnegie Library and the erection of a new and permanent brick post office in Dublin. Fourteen sites were offered for the new building. Most Dubliners wanted it to be  located at the corner of Bellevue and Monroe Streets or on the northwest corner of the Courthouse Square. After much controversy, the committee decided to locate the Federal building at the southwest
corner of East Madison and South Franklin streets in the heart of the cotton related businesses and a block from the railroad depots.

Stubbs Park 
     P.J. Berckmans of Augusta began his design of Stubbs Park.  His original conception called for a lake and lots of fountains, but when the appropriated and donated funds fell short, the horticulturalist, whose gardens became the famous Augusta National Golf Course, scaled back his plans. The concrete causeway between the river bridge and the road on the East Dublin side was completed to allow more reliable crossings.

     Alderman G.H. Williams proposed a $5000.00 annual tax on the sellers of Coca Cola, which he believed was injuring the people. He proposed the same tax on retailers of cigarettes and near beer.

      Workers found the remains of the Laurens County jail while paving the street between the Brantley Building (old Lovett & Tharpe building) and the First National Bank (old F&M Bank building). The walls of the cells were found five feet below the surface and were twenty-four feet apart.  The discovery reminded Hardy Smith of an older jail that  was located on the old bus station site at the corner of South Franklin and East Jackson streets.

Professor Paul Verpoest reorganized the Dublin Military Band.   Over the next seven years, the band would be recognized as one of the best city bands around.  The boys from Dublin would later represent the state of Georgia in the national reunions of the United Confederate Veterans on many occasions.

More than a thousand people attended the tent show production of the play, Jesse James. The Star was the new silent movie theater in town. When its quarters became too small, it was moved to the auditorium.

As I complete my twelfth year of chronicling the events of our past, I remind you all to look to the future, for there is where our most important history lies.   I leave with you with one of my favorite quotations.  It comes from a frustrated history teacher.  He actually wanted to be a piano player, but would have been gratified to have taught the history of the country he loved.    In his most famous vocation, he believed that knowledge of his country's past was vital.  His name was Harry S. Truman and he said, "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know."     So, study your past, document the present, and live for the future.