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

Friday, July 29, 2016


     Former Dublin High School, coach, teacher, principal and superintendent Tom Stewart was honored on Friday with the dedication of a golf cart named in his honor.  The cart, one of two purchased through the efforts of his former students, Buddy Adams and Tom Proctor, was used in the 2016 Master Golf Tournament.  The carts will be used to ferry patients from the hospital to the parking lots.  One more cart will be dedicated soon. 

     Thomas Perry Stewart was born on February 21, 1923 in Camilla, Georgia. The son of the late Perry Stewart and Jo Camp, Mr. Stewart was preceded in death by his wife Peggy Smith Stewart.

     Mr. Stewart graduated from Valdosta High School and served his country during World War II as an aircraft mechanic with the Navy.

     Tom Stewart was a graduate of Stetson University with further degrees from Peabody College and the University of Georgia. 

     As Coach Stewart, he coached football in Quitman, where his team won the 1949 state championship. He was Georgia coach of the year in Bremen in 1952 and also coached in Dublin from 1953 to 1958.  His players contributed to Dublin’s first two state championships in 1959 and 1960. While he was not coaching, Stewart was one of the team’s biggest cheerleaders.

   Stewart was inducted into the Valdosta/Lowndes County Sports Hall of Fame and The Dublin Touchdown Club Hall of Fame. 

    You can always tell how someone knew him.  If you called him Coach Stewart, you were one of his players.  As a teacher, principal and superintendent you addressed him as Mr. Stewart.  And, well, if you were a friend, you called him Tom. 

     Mr. Stewart was principal of Dublin High School from 1958 until 1971, Assistant Superintendent 1971-1972 and Superintendent from 1972 until his retirement in June 1983. 

     Tom Stewart is the epitome of a member of the Greatest Generation. After returning home from the war he served his community in many, many ways.  It was what Mr.  Stewart and millions of men like him that made them the Greatest Generation.

     Mr. Stewart was a member of First Baptist Church for more than 60 years.  He served as a Deacon and Sunday School teacher. He loved his church, his family, all his many students from Dublin High School and the city of Dublin where he made his home and quietly served his community. A Life Member of the Kiwanis Club and a Hixon Fellow,  Mr. Stewart is the co-founder of the Bell-Stewart Scholarship Fund to encourage high school seniors to pursue education as their career choice. 

     Stewart served on the Laurens County Library Board, volunteered with Meals on Wheels, taught at the Chester prison and worked for the teachers and children of Georgia through the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. 

     In the early 50’s, he operated the city pool in Dublin and I believe, taught many children how to swim.  

     Mr. Stewart died on  April 29, 2015.

     Therefore, it is only fitting and proper that this cart be dedicated to Tom Stewart so that all who ride in it to remember his contributions to our county.






John Lack was a teenager of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.  He loved music, rock and roll in particular.  As a maturing adult of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, John Lack was a smooth salesman and proponent of revolutionary cable television programming.  The brief sojourner in Dublin had an brainstorm. John Lack thought that it would be a popular idea to combine his love for music with his passion to sell television programming.  The result was Music plus TV equals MTV.

John Lack was born in 1944 into a wealthy New York family.  He graduated from Boston University and earned a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from the prestigious Medill School at Northwestern University.  His first job was with Group W Cable. Lack was sent to Dublin to learn all he could about the cable television business. That was in the days when cable television was in its infancy in Dublin and most of the rest of the country as well. Clearview Cable Company came to Dublin in 1965.  Before then, antennas could pick up only four stations, five if you were lucky. WMAZ of Macon, WRDW and WJBF of Augusta, along with WDCO (GPTV) out of Cochran were all that one could see.  The latter required a UHF antenna. If you were lucky and the clouds were just right,  you might be able to see the low frequency, high power signal from WSB out of Atlanta.

“That was in the days when we sold cable television subscriptions for five dollars and ninety-five cents a month, said Judge Johnny Warren.  “I got to keep the first month’s payment as my commission,” said Warren, who remembered Lack as a “slick salesman type.” John Lack married Susan Schildhouse, daughter of Sol Schildhouse, a Washington D.C. attorney, who while with the Federal Communications Commission, played an active role in the federal government’s regulation of the cable television industry.  Susan, during the couple’s brief stay in Dublin, worked with the Courier Herald as a headline writer.  Their stay in Dublin was so brief that the Lacks never made it into the phone book before their move to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

John Lack had a natural talent for broadcast journalism. John, who  was described as generous, charismatic and boyishly enthusiastic, had his moments, though not very frequent, of temperamental moods.  His friends knew that he had an uncommon ability to sell anyone on anything in a slow, rhythm-like reeling manner.

Lack took a job in 1970 as an account representative with CBS radio in New York.  At the age of 32, Lack had climbed the corporate ladder to the position of General Manager of WCBS-AM radio, CBS’s top network affiliate. The broadcast networks, both television and radio, were at their zenith, but Lack knew that the future of television would lie in a different field, cable television.

In 1979, Lack did the unthinkable.  He left the king of the networks for a position with Warner Communications, which was in its second year of a new cable service called Qube, which was being test marketed with its unheard of 36 channels in Columbus, Ohio.   The new system included for the first time, pay per view television channels.  When American Express bought into the venture, the company was split into two divisions.  Lack was chosen to work under his idol from his CBS days, Jack Schneider, to develop cable satellite programming.  Schneider and Lack revamped old Warner programming ideas and launched the Nickelodeon and The Movie channels.

Lack loved rock and roll music.  He loved to sneak away from school to hear black groups such as the Coasters.  Michael Nesmith, who had gained superstardom as one of the Monkees, proposed an innovative idea to Lack.  Nesmith, who had been producing video clips of himself  lip synching his songs, worked with Lack in developing a series of these clips under the title of “Pop Clips.” When Nesmith stated that he thought the future of music videos was in video discs and Lack firmly believed that the music video would become an integral part of the future of cable television, the duo parted ways.

Music videos had been around for more than four decades, but their distribution was minimal. John Lack had a vision: that people, especially young people, would watch an all-music network. After all, there was an all-sports network and all-news network, which were garnering new viewers every day.

Lack pushed his idea to a somewhat doubtful executive at Warner, who finally relented and gave John the go ahead.  HBO and USA networks were already on the air with single programs of videos.  On August 1, 1981, John Lack appeared before a television camera and launched his dream, MTV, by uttering those immortal words, “ Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.”  The first video shown on the new music channel was appropriately, ironically and purposely, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” MTV in its first two decades of existence has become an American institution with teen-agers and the “X” Generation,” more popular than John Lack could have ever dreamed.

Lack left Warner to found ESPN-2.  From 1992-1995, Lack served as  Executive VP of Marketing and Programming at ESPN. John went on to serve as CEO of Stream Telecom, Italy’s pay television network. In November of 2000, John Lack was appointed President and CEO of i3 Mobile, a leading provider of wireless communication services.  Once again, John Lack is there on the forefront of the future, beyond the land line based communication industry which he helped to become an integral part of our lives today, working to provide America and the World with new and improved forms of communication and entertainment for the future with companies such as Stream, ACTV and FireMedia Partners,

John Lack has come a long way from the days when a few thousand Dubliners had cable television with less than a dozen channels and weather information, which was viewed by a moving camera and which moved back and forth filming dials showing temperature, relative humidity, time, and rainfall. The story makes you stop and think: What  is that young man in our schools or in your work place going to be doing twenty years from now. Who knows?

Sunday, July 24, 2016


In Laurens County, tornadoes rarely kill.  The worst ones seem to come in March and April.  When they occur, they tend to strike in southwestern Laurens County -  in and around the Dexter community.   On April 25, 1929, seventy years ago this week,   the worst one ever recorded struck the Dexter area,  killing two people and injuring two dozen more.  At the end of the day, the murdering storm had killed sixty persons and injured several hundred more in six Georgia towns.

In 1929, there was no Doppler radar. The only warning came when the  southwestern sky turned black as a moonless night.  The storm began near Cochran,  where five persons were killed and at least fifty were wounded.   It steam-rolled along a northeasterly course -  the way they usually go when they are up to no good - headed for a collision with the town of Chester.  Tall pines, which fifty years before had covered the sandy soil like grass on a football field,  were skinned like bananas. The Chester School, a substantial building and the pride of the town, was lifted off its foundation and dumped flat on the ground a few feet away.  C.A. Mullis, never had a chance.  He was killed instantly when the funnel sucked him up and slammed him into a tree.

(The above photo depicts what the tornado may have looked like.)

  The storm turned a little more to the north,  heading straight for the Mt. Carmel community.  Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, one of the most modern and best equipped church buildings in the county, was totally destroyed.   The Mt. Carmel School and the teacherage, located across the road from the church, were amazingly untouched.  Several homes in the community were destroyed.  The J.D. McClelland home and that of Mrs. W.A. Witherington were destroyed. None one in the McLelland family was harmed, but Mrs. Witherington, her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Milton Witherington, and infant grandchild  were seriously injured.   Jim Dawkins lost his house and most of its contents.

  Thankfully and most mercifully, his wife and five children only suffered minor injuries.  Calvin Patisaul’s house was destroyed. Almost  all of his large family suffered some type of injury, though none too serious.   Lee Floyd’s wife was badly injured when their house was destroyed.  One vacant tenant house and the vacant old Dave Fountain home were torn to pieces. Tornados don’t distinguish between occupied and unoccupied houses.

The storm picked up  in strength, rushing toward the Donaldson community two or three miles from Mt. Carmel.   The destruction of homes, worse than at previous points along the storm’s path, suddenly became deadly.   A nine-year old daughter of W.J. Southerland was killed when her house was demolished.  Mrs. Dan Knighton and her baby, living in the Southerland home, were injured and taken to the hospital.    M. J. Crumpton noticed the blackening southwestern sky near Dexter, jumped out of his Chevrolet (ABOVE), and ran to pick up the seven members of his family.  Crumpton then drove “like a bat out of Hades” for a few hundred yards to the home of his son-in-law.  After rescuing four more family members,  Mr. Crumpton drove as fast as could, but not as fast as he wanted to,  for two miles before coming to a settlement road.  He dashed through fields, branches, and ditches,  barely reaching safety, just to the very edge of the storm’s deadly reach.  The family returned to their home, only to find that  it had been completely destroyed.  Parts of the house, useless now and  only a painful memory of more pleasant times,  were found on a hilltop a quarter of a mile away.  Many chickens were slaughtered in the maelstrom - a fate which was only hastened by the swirling winds.   The cows fared better, coming out of the storm virtually unscathed, oblivious to what had just passed them by.   Two tenant houses on the Joe Donaldson place were destroyed.

Just before the funnel lifted off the ground,  it reeked a cataclysm on the home of John Knight.  Mr. and Mrs. Knight were seriously injured, each blown some distance from the home and landing in different places.   Mr. Knight’s scull was fractured, and his heart and that of his wife was to be broken forever.  Their baby was found dead, lying forty yards from the house  in a mud puddle, that had rapidly formed in the freshet accompanying the storm.  The brick pillars and the chimney of their house  were picked up and thrown around as if they were small stones.    Mrs. J.W. Thomas lost every building on her farm,  including her house.   J.Q. Pittman also lost his home and just about every thing he had.

Before leaving the county, the storm struck the Greystone Farms (LEFT)  about a mile from Garretta.  One farmer was hurt.  A tenant house was destroyed.  The roof of the overseer’s house was snatched completely off,  like the lid on can of soup.   At that point,  the storm lifted off the ground -  headed toward Emanuel County,  where two were killed and several injured in Norristown.  Two others were killed further over in Emanuel County.   When the twister touched down for a third time, it became even more deadly than ever before.  Eighteen  persons were killed and many more were injured in Metter.  Thirty one  people lost their lives in Statesboro and over a hundred were injured.  Before it was finally over, four more persons were killed in South Carolina. Tornadic activity continued in subsequent days across the Southeast.

B.H. Lord, President of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad, the artery which had carried the life blood for the Dexter community for thirty or so years,  arranged for a special  train, which he sent to Dexter on the evening following the storm.  The seriously wounded were returned to Dublin for treatment.   Dublin doctors H.L. Montford, E.B. Claxton, Sidney Walker, and J.W. Edmondson rode the train to treat the  wounded in homes around the devastated community.   Dr. O.H. Cheek, County Health Director, worked all night with members of the local National Guard unit,  supplying the homeless with blankets, bedding, and cots.  Army trucks were converted into ambulances.   Countless women, with no formal training, became nurses - it  seemed the only natural thing to do.  When the comforters, healers, and those who just wanted to help out arrived back home in Dublin, they were greeted by over three hundred grateful and applauding citizens.
On Friday morning, when the sky showed no evidence of the previous day’s unrelenting  fury,  property owners and local officials assessed the damages.   B.H. Lord, chairman of the disaster relief committee, witnessed the mass destruction first hand, along with Red Cross chairman H.R. Moffett, Red Cross secretary Mrs. Frank Lawson, and treasurer W.H. White.   Two little children were dead. Twenty five people were seriously injured.  The seven most seriously injured persons were carried to the Claxton-Montford hospital in Dublin.  Many more suffered minor scrapes, cuts, and bruises.   Crop and property damages , originally estimated at one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, were revised to over three hundred thousand dollars.

The local chapter of the Red Cross sprung into action.   A national officer of the Red Cross arrived in Cochran in the late afternoon.  The disaster became the first test of the disaster relief committee -  one they passed with flying colors.  Calls from the Dexter City Council and Laurens County officials went out for any type of help.  Senator Walter F. George introduced a bill to bring Federal relief to the devastated areas of Georgia.   A local fund raising effort was initiated by Laurens County, which donated one thousand dollars along with five hundred dollars by Dexter’s neighboring city of Dublin.  Those amounts were nearly matched by local citizens with contributions from ten cents to the thirty five dollars and fifty cents given by Cochran Brothers Grocery.   The national Red Cross donated two thousand dollars for replanting the cotton fields.   Women from all parts  of the county  gathered together at the Chamber of Commerce to coordinate fund raising efforts and make plans for distributing supplies and necessities.  Mrs. Frank Daniel served as chairwoman of the Dexter ladies.

An interesting footnote to the story was the death of a young eagle.  Walter Prescott and T.R. Taylor were out on the T.V. Sanders farm near Dublin.    All of a sudden,  the befuddled and somewhat amazed duo saw the young bird falling to the ground,  mortally wounded by large hailstones.  J. Guyton Sanders brought the poor pitiful corpse of the bird, which had a wing span of five feet,  to the offices of the Courier Herald.



Friday, July 22, 2016

July 21, 1891: DUBLIN'S BIG DAY


July 21, 1891, one hundred and twenty five years ago today, was arguably the most important day in the history of Dublin and Laurens County. That superlative statement could be argued about, but it was on that hot humid summer day when the first train from Macon, Georgia arrived in town and it was the first time that people and vehicles crossed the first permanent passenger bridge over the Oconee River at Dublin.

In the cool of that Monday morning, a small crowd gathered at the depot at the lower end of Walnut Street in Macon.  They were there to celebrate the completion of the 54-mile railroad, subsidized by the investment of more than one hundred thousand dollars by large and small farmers. The four-year project's success was assured when H.S. Morse was appointed as the superintendent and James T. Wright was elected president.  The Illinois and Georgia Improvement Company supplied the rest of the capital investment.  The new railroad would shorten the distance to Macon by 35 miles by eliminating the need to travel through Wrightsville and Tennille to the Central before making a left turn back to Macon.

Not one, but two, trains, crammed with railroad officials, their wives and a host of influential investors and supporters under the direction of Conductor J.B. Maxon pulled out the depot eastward bound.  D.G. Hughes of Danville and  H.S. Morse, president of the Illinois and Georgia Improvement Company, headed the list of dignitaries on board.  

   Passing through stops at Swift Creek, Dry Branch, Pike’s Peak and Fitzpatrick, the  trains stopped in the booming community of Jeffersonville, the capital of Twiggs County, where a jubilation erupted.  Railroad vice president and founder,  Dudley M. Hughes, (left)  boarded the train during a celebration in his hometown of Allentown.

A large delegation of Dubliners and Laurens Countians, commanded by Mercer Haynes, E.E. Hicks, Charles Brantley, and Dr. Wood, boarded and commandeered the lead train, which was quickly and handsomely decorated with flowers and evergreens by the ladies of Dublin and Allentown.  The trains rushed through the infant towns of Montrose, the home of the orchards of founder, Col.  John M. Stubbs, and Elsie (Dudley) to the shouts of unrestrained joy.

In Dublin, an estimated crowd of 3000 people - believed to have been one of the largest crowds ever to assemble in town -  was excitedly waiting, ready for the train and what it would mean to their communities.

And then the wail of the whistle blew sending the crowd into a frenzy.  The train stopped and all of its passengers deboarded for a short walk over to a shady grove of trees where a barbecue was held.  Off to the east, the passengers could hear the sounds of brass music and the report of canon saluting their arrival. There was no estimate of how much meat was consumed that day, but more than a thousand loaves of bread were served to the hungry throng.

While the feast ensued, the train moved down the road to the center of town. Another celebration erupted.  Everyone, dressed in their best attire, smiled and cheered as Dublin’s rise from the previous dormant decades following the late war was really and truly beginning.  The Dublin Light Infantry, led by Lieutenant J.M. Adams, performed snappy maneuvers for the crowds.

Then the unthinkable happened.  The heavens opened up and a torrent of rain fell in a futile attempt to extinguish the excitement.   Everyone scattered into the stores and  homes in the area.  The grounds that were saturated with people only minutes before were nearly deserted.

Col. Stubbs' (left) family played host to some honored guests.  His home was located on his  farm which stretched east to west from North Church Street to Calhoun Street and north to south from Bellevue Avenue to Moore Street.  At 4:00, the train, now carrying all of the passenger cars, returned to Macon.

Some of the first freight trains carried off loads of the evil whiskey, which Dublin’s prohibitionists had recently succeeding in banning from the town.

Railroad officials intended to complete the road to Savannah at once. When a nationwide financial  panic occurred,  the effort was abandoned.  A number of times capitalists offered to buy any number of bonds the road might issue in order to enable it to finish the line to Savannah, but those offers were summarily declined, as the price offered for the bonds were not considered enough.

The Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad began its eastward expansion in 1901 to Vidalia and eventually on to its terminus in Savannah.  As railroads go, the M.D. & S.  was fairly successful but it could never quite effectively compete with the all powerful Central of Georgia.   Today, the tracks are still in operation.

While most of the fervent excitement and media attention was focused on the railroad, an equally  important, but less visible, occurrence happening that day, was the opening of the first permanent passenger bridge over the Oconee at the foot of East Jackson Street.

The bridge was the dream of John T. Duncan, Laurens County’s Judge of the Court of Ordinary. Judge Duncan spearheaded the effort to build a passenger bridge to replace the outdated and inefficient Dublin Ferry.   Turned down primarily by voters in the outlying areas of the county, Judge Duncan never lost sight of his goal.

A wooden bridge was constructed in conjunction with Dr. Robert Hightower, but it fell victim to a torrential freshet which washed it away.   Duncan, the unofficial county manager, issued an order in 1888 to sell bonds in the amount of $15,000.00 to complete the a sturdy concrete and steel bridge.  Engineer George H. Crafts, of Atlanta, brought the project to a completion, slightly over his budget, but substantially on time.

On August 3, 1891, just twelve days after his dream came true, Judge Duncan died. The pall cast over the city of one of its most beloved citizens quickly lifted as the populace realized what an enduring legacy the judge had left to the city.

In conjunction with the opening of the new bridge was the completion of the bridge of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad opening the way for two railroads to come into Dublin.

So it was on these hot, humid days in the summer of 1891, that a new era for Dublin and Laurens County began.  It was a new and golden age, one, with few exceptions, which has lasted for 125 years and spanning three centuries.


Dudley Methodist Church, ca. 1950.

Thursday, July 21, 2016



Wednesday, July 20, 2016




Monday, July 18, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Rentz, Georgia is located in central Laurens County, Georgia, about thirteen miles from the county seat of Dublin.   It is named for Edward Pierce Rentz, a banker, a sawmill operator, and president of the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad. E.P. Rentz was born in 1862.  He was a son of  Rev. Joseph Rentz and Martha McGeehee.   Joseph was a minister in the Methodist Church.  His family, originally called “Von Rentz,” settled the German Salzburger community at Ebenezer, Georgia. Martha McGeehee’s family’s roots were deep in Methodism.  Her brother, Rev. John McGeehee, the founding minister of  the First Methodist Church in Dublin, still holds the distinction of being the longest serving active minister or presiding elder in the history of the Methodist Church in Georgia with 65 years of service.   E.P. Rentz married Katherine Gaston, whose family traced its roots to Bishop Lovick Pierce and George Smith, two major stalwarts in 19th century Georgia Methodism.

E.P. Rentz, president of the Citizens Bank of Swainsboro, joined one of Dublin's leading businessman, J.D. Smith, in organizing the Citizens Bank of Dublin in August of 1902.  The bank was located on South Jefferson Street in a building designed by Rev. George Thompson, a local minister and architect, and built by local contractor, E.J. Fuller.  This modest, granite-faced building still stands and is today occupied by attorney, Charles Butler.  Early in 1906 the bank was sold to a new group of investors.  The City National Bank opened with $100,000 in paid in capital, making it the largest bank between Macon and Savannah.  It joined the First National Bank as a part of the national banking system. The new board of directors also included E.P. Rentz.   Rentz purchased a stately colonial home on Bellevue Avenue in Dublin from J.D. Smith.   He sold the home after a few years.  Today the home is known as the W.E. Lovett House.

The area around Rentz was once fields of wiregrass and virgin  yellow pine trees.   During the 1880s, timber brokers began coming into the area to harvest the coveted yellow pine.    Once pine trees were harvested, farmers began planting cotton and corn in their place.   On January 1, 1880 J.D. Bates bought Land Lot 131 of the 17th Land District from John T. Rogers.   The land would eventually encompass over two thirds of the Town of Rentz.  The property was later acquired by W.B.Rogers. Rogers lost the property when the Merrimack Savings Bank foreclosed a judgment lien against the property in 1894.

The area was formerly known as Reedy Springs.   The name comes from a nearby spring, which undoubtedly had a lot of reed plants around it.   The Reedy Springs Militia District was created on October 5, 1883.    After the Civil and Indian Wars, the necessary of each militia district was no longer necessary.   The militia districts then began to function as voting districts and Justice of the Peace Court districts.

The Reedy Springs community was also known by the name of Bluewater. That name was derived from a nearby creek to the north and west.  In 1883, the Reedy Springs District had four churches (all Baptist), a common school, a steam gin, a grist and a saw mill.  Farmers produced 800 bales of cotton, 800,000 board feet of lumber, and 8,000 pounds of wool.  The farmers of the area, which extended down to the current day Cadwell area and over to Dexter were: E.F. Alligood, H. Alligood, I. Alligood, A.J. Barron, H.D. Barron, J.H. Barron, W. Barron, W.T. Barron, J.D. Bates, A. Bedingfield, J. Bedingfield, R.A. Bedingfield, W. Bedingfield, W.A. Bedingfield, G.W. Belcher, Eliza Clarke,  H.C. Coleman, W. Coney, J.E. Crumpton,R.H. Crumpton,  C.C. Gay, Hardy Gay, Mrs. M. Gay, Stephen Green,  D.Y. Grinstead, E. Grinstead,  P.E. Grinstead, Robert Grinstead,  J. Hobbs, A.B. Holliday, W.F. Holliday, L.H.  Hudson, S.B. Johnson, W.D. Joiner, A. Jones, W.J. Kinchen, W.F. Kinchen,   G.B. Knight,  J.T. Knight, R.G.B. Knight, B.  Lewis, S. Lewis, T.J. Lewis, J.R. Locke, J. Lowery,  W.A.N. Lowery, G.W. McDaniel, H.R. McDaniel, J.R. McDaniel,  R.F. Mathis, C. Mullis, J. Mullis, W.H. Mullis, R.F. Register,  and A. Rountree.

The local businessmen were A.J. Adams, machinist; H. Alligood, sawmiller; J.M. Bass, miller; W.B.F. Daniels, general store; J.T. Rogers, general store; R.L. Faircloth, machinist; James Lovett, wheelright; J.R. Sheperd, general store; and Wynn Brothers, general store.  Local ministers in 1883 were N.F. Gay, D.E. Green, J.W. Green, T.J. Hobbs, J.T. Kinchen, J.T. Kinchen, Jr., J.I.D. Miller, J.T. Rogers, C.B. Smith, and C.R. Winham.  L.A. Bracwewell was Justice of the Peace and A.B. Clark was the Notary Public and ex-officio Justice of the Peace.

The Williams Lumber Company had built a tram road from Eastman to Rentz where the mill of the Georgia Shingle Company was located.  In 1899, W.D. Harper and John J. Simpson established a saw mill.   By 1902 all of the available timber was located between the mill and Dublin.  The company decided that a new railroad could be built at only a slightly higher cost.  The original plan called for a railroad that would  intersect the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad near the Dublin Cotton Mills in West Dublin.  Among the early backers of the project were the Macon, Dublin, and Savannah Railroad, with Col. J.M. Stubbs as being the driving force behind the project.  In 1904, Edward P. Rentz and his partners, W.D. Harper and J.J. Simpson purchased the property for $75,000 from Merrimack Savings Bank, which had been leasing the property to Harper and Simpson. E.P. Rentz, a Dublin banker,  took a keen interest in the project, becoming the main owner in partnership with Harper and Simpson.
Grading of the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad began on March 2, 1904 near the cotton mills in Dublin under the supervision of E.P. Rentz and superintendent Frank S. Battle.  The organizational meeting of the railroad was held in the Citizens Bank on April 6, 1904.  E. P. Rentz was elected president.  J.J. Simpson and  W.D. Harpe, were elected as vice president and traffic manager/treasurer respectively.  William Prichett, J.M. Stubbs, and David S. Blackshear of Dublin were elected to the board of directors.  The first spikes were driven and the workers raced to complete the road to Rentz by mid May.

The first scheduled train from Rentz to Dublin ran on June 29, 1904 with two daily trips to follow in July.  Engineer J.P. Pughesly immediately began laying out the road along the old tram road to Eastman while Col. J.M. Stubbs was seeking subscriptions from Eastman and Dodge County businessmen. Originally there was only a little interest in Dodge County but when McRae offered to buy into the road, the citizens of Dodge came through with the necessary capital.    Battle's crews began laying rails.  Construction was delayed by legal actions by some Eastman citizens. General Manager W.J. Kessler moved the headquarters of the railroad to Eastman in May of 1905.

Conductor B.W. Hightower guided the first freight train out of Eastman on May 5, 1905.  E.P. Rentz, W.J. Kessler, and Supt. C.E. Rentz were on board the inaugural train. Within a week the first load of freight was received in Eastman. President E.P. Rentz arranged the inaugural passenger service to coincide with the May term of Dodge County Superior Court. The train left Dublin early in the morning of May 15, 1905 with attorneys and clients bound for the nine a.m. court on board.  Passenger service was born as the train arrived just in time for court.

Rentz and his associates had done such a good job in building the road that the Wrightsville and Tennille became interested in the project.  Finally after a year of offers, the W. & T. purchased the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad. The Wrightsville and Tennille made its new runs on July 1, 1906.  Thirty-five years later the story ends when the railroad and an era were closed forever.    

The Town of Rentz was born on October 5, 1904.  E.P. Rentz, acting on behalf of the Rentz Lumber Company, made an agreement with an adjoining landowner, J.D. Bates.  Bates owned sixty acres of land east of or opposite the Rentz Lumber Company Mill.  The railroad bed split the two tracts. Bates agreed that the title to his land would belong to E.P. Rentz.  In exchange for the promise, Rentz promised to lay out lots for sale.  Rentz, Bates  and a member selected by both were appointed to an advisory committee to determine the terms of sale.   The 11.4 acre Faulk Reserve located just north of the intersection of Bates Ave. and Bedingfield Ave. was to be held for sale until Bates agreed that it could be sold.

The Town of Rentz was laid out in a kite-like shape.  The tail of the kite was the intersection of Bates Avenue and Bedingfield Avenue on the eastern end of town. The top of the kite stretched from the academy lot on the north to the Rentz Lumber Mill pond on the south.   There were twenty business lots on the west side of the railroad and twenty four business lots on the east side.  On the west side of Davidson Street there were 10 residential lots.  On the east side of Proctor Street there were thirty eight residential lots.   The streets were named for the early and prominent citizens of the town.    Bates Avenue was named for the co-founder, J.D. Bates. Simpson Avenue was named for J.J. Simpson, a co-owner of the Rentz Lumber Company.  Bedingfield Avenue was named for Dr. W.E. Bedingfield, one of the town’s first doctors and original city councilmen.  Pughesly Ave. was named for J.P. Pughesly, the town’s first mayor and the railroad engineer.  There was Railroad Street West and Railroad Street East which ran from north to south along the sides of the railroad.  Davidson Street was named for A.W. Davidson, an original councilman and the town’s first businessman.  Proctor Street was named after J.L. Proctor, businessman and original city councilman.    Taylor Street is named for Dr. T.J. Taylor.   Church Street is named for the two churches, Methodist and Baptist which are located in the eastern part of town.  On the west side of town around the lumber mill were a dozen or so shanties.  J.P. Pughesly owned a large lot on the west side of the railroad at the southern end of town.  Dr. C.E. Rentz’s house was a little further down on the east side of the railroad.  A hotel lot was laid out on East Railroad Street just south of the corner of the southern margin of Simpson Ave. and the eastern margin of East Railroad Street.  The Academy was  at the northwestern end of town.

The business lots were sold to C.E. Evans (1), Flora Edmondson (2), Francis C. Walker (10), C.E. Rentz (13-16),  W.H. and Eliza Bonner (34), W.F. O’Connor (35), W.E. Bedingfield (37), J.L. Proctor (39), J.H. Proctor (40),  C.F. and J.T. Ussery (42), and C.E. Rentz (48).   Residence lots were sold to C.E. Rentz (48), J.L. Proctor (62-63), H.C. Coleman (84-85), and H.C. Woodard (92).

On March 11, 1905 the post office of Rentz was established.  John S. Edmondson was the first postmaster. Other postmasters were J. Eldredge Chambless, General M. Knight, Lovett  N. Mullis, Olin D. Barron, C. Thurmon Grinstead, Ray Chambless, Billy Payne, and Betty Register.   The office effectively replaced the old Reedy Springs Post Office which had been established on October 27, 1873 with John T. Rogers as postmaster.  This office was discontinued on December 31, 1901.  The mail was forwarded to Dexter.  John F. Silas and George P. Bugg were early mail carriers.

The town of Rentz was incorporated by the Georgia Legislature on August 21, 1905.   The city limits extended to one-half mile in each direction from the intersection of Bates Avenue and the railroad.  The first mayor was J.P. Pughesly. J.L. Proctor, A.W. Davidson, J.E. Guy, Dr. C.E. Rentz, and Dr. W.E. Bedingfield were the members of the first city council.  

As the railroad became a reality, more and more families began moving into the area.  E.P. Rentz offered choice building and residential lots for sale.  A 60 x 100 foot lot could have been bought for $25.00.    Half acre home lots were being sold for $35.00 to $50.00.  A.W. Davidson was the first to build a store  house.    His house store was located on Lot 7, with his home on the adjoining Lots 26 and 27.   He traded under the name of Davidson and Grinstead in partnership with J.T. Grinstead.    Davidson also built the first home in town.  Doctors W.E. Bedingfield and T.J. Taylor established the first drug store in 1905.   J. P. Pughesly established a large general mercantile store.   The store  traded under the name of The  Rentz Trading Company.  Investors in the corporation were T.J. Taylor, J.F. Graham, W.A. Bedingfield, and P.E. Grinstead.   The store, which contained 3500 square feet was considered one of the largest in Laurens County.     Houses and businesses were going up at a fast pace.  Dr. C.E. Rentz built a two-story home on the south side of town along the railroad tracks.  Cullen Evans completed his dry-goods and grocery store in the spring of 1905.    H.C. Coleman, Jr. began construction of his residence in the summer of 1905.    That same year, Haywood Proctor began the construction of a furniture store.    Proctor’s store was modern 20 x 70 foot building with plate glass windows.    J.G. Gay began building his house near the home of J.P. Pughesly in southwestern Rentz.  J.S. Knight built the first cotton gin and grist mill.   J.S. King was also one of the first merchants in  Rentz.  In 1906, T.J. Taylor incorporated his general mercantile business, The Taylor Mercantile Company, with the aid of Joe F. Graham and A.T. Barron.

During the town’s first two years of existence, Rentz was plagued by a series of four fires.  The second and most destructive fire came in April 1906 when the wooden stores of the Rentz Trading Company, Davidson & Grinstead, and the Rentz Pharmacy went up in flames.  A fourth fire resulted in the loss of the $5000 store of J.M. Outler in 1906.  A financial cataclysm struck the firm of Roundtree, Knight & Coleman in 1907, when the firm petitioned for protection from its creditors under the bankruptcy code.

If the railroad was king, cotton was queen in Laurens County.    From 1911 to 1918, Laurens County was a perennial leader in the production of cotton in Georgia. In 1912, the county produced more cotton than any other county in the history of our state, before or since.    John Rigby built a cotton gin which burned in 1908.  Dr. Taylor built a gin a year later.  M.E. Burts of Dublin built the Planters Gin.  In 1923,  O.D. Barron built still another gin.   Several cotton warehouses were located in Rentz.  The Farmers Union Warehouse was established in 1910.  The original building was destroyed by fire in 1940, along with 800 bales of cotton.  H.Y. Grant built a warehouse in 1923.   R.A. Register later established the Planter’s Gin Company.  The last cotton gin, owned by John Lowery, closed in 1978.

  In the early spring of 1906, Rentz suffered a devastating fire.  The stores of J.P. Pughesley and A.W. Davidson were destroyed along with the drug store of Doctors Bedingfield and Taylor.   The losses were estimated to be between thirty and forty thousand dollars.    The  businessmen of Rentz were not to be deterred.  Police Chief R.A. Watson, broke ground for Dr. Taylor’s new two story store building in May of 1906.    Most of the new buildings were to be built of brick.  The people of Rentz hoped to have seven brick stores, a bank building, an opera house, a city hall and  a Masonic Lodge,  all within three months.

On September 28th, 1906, the Rentz Lumber Company, composed of E.P. Rentz, Dr. C.E. Rentz, W.D. Harper, and J.J. Simpson, sold their interest in the lumber mill to two Dublin agri-businessmen, W.B. Rice and W.T. Phelps.   The conveyance included 12 shanties in the southwestern section of town, three dwellings, the hotel lot, and commercial building lot # 4, along with the lumber yard.
The fifteen hundred dollar sale price indicates that there weren’t a lot of improvements located on the property at the time.

A school was constructed in 1905 under the direction of Hamp Williams on the Academy lot in western Rentz.  The original school was located on the site of the last school in Rentz.  The patrons of the school met and elected J.P. Pughesly, A.W. Davison, J.L. Proctor, Dr. Charlie Rentz, and B.O. Rogers as the school’s trustees. In its first days, enrollment approached 200 students.   In 1914 a two-story brick school building was constructed.  Rev. N.H. Burch and O.K. Jolly served as superintendents for many years.  Among the early teachers were Miss Carswell, Dan Metts, Ida O’Neal, Mr. Miller, Mr. Lawson, and Mr. Murchison.   In 1924, Miss Sadye Wilkinson taught the first classes in home economics.  C.A. McMillan was the first Agricultural teacher.   Many area schools were consolidated into the Rentz School District.  L.H. Cook was the new superintendent.  He was succeeded by E.A. Rusk and W.M. Ouzts.  A vocational building was added in 1939, followed by a business training program under the direction of Gladys Fields.   Six man football, a program designed by school superintendent Elbert Mullis, began in October of 1938.  Teams were fielded by the high schools in Rentz, Dudley, Brewton, Cadwell, Dexter, and Cedar Grove.

The Bank of Rentz was established  in 1910.   T.J. Taylor was President of the Bank.  H.D. Barron was the Vice President.  F.M. Kirkpatrick was the cashier.  John D. Walker served as Financial Agent.  The Board of Directors was composed of J.T. Mercer, H.D. Barron, John D. Walker, T.J. Taylor, J.F. Graham, P.C. Coleman, W.E. Bedingfield, W.A. Bedingfield, and B.O. Rogers.

The Rentz Banking Company succeeded the ill fated Bank of Rentz.    The new bank was reorganized in May of 1914 with the help of several Dublin businessmen. Dr. J.M. Page, founder of the Commercial Bank of Dublin, was elected president of the bank.  H.D. Barron and W.E. Bedingfield were elected vice-presidents.  H.K. Murchison was hired as cashier.  The original board of directors included A.W. Davidson, S.T. Hall, J.S. Adams, W.A. Bedingfield, E.S. Baldwin, Alex D. Blackshear, and J.W. Rowe.  The bank was located on the main street along the Railroad in Dexter.   In 1920 Olin D. Barron was President with H.D. Barron and W.E. Bedingfield serving as Vice Presidents.   In the latter years of the bank, Mr. and Mrs. O.D. Barron, Barron Smith, and Foster Taylor were officers of the bank.  The bank and its assets were purchased by the Citizens and Southern Bank in 1974.  The bank continued to operate as a branch for nearly twenty more years before closing.

On Oct. 29, 1903 the Thaggard Masonic Lodge No. 460, F.& A.M. was chartered on the Thaggard Turpentine still grounds south of Dublin in lower Laurens County.  The charter officers included P.E. Grinstead, Worshipful Master; J.F. Grinstead, Senior Warden; P.D. Couey, Junior Warden; and J.C. Gay, Secretary. In 1905 the Lodge moved to Rentz to a lodge built on city lot 23 and donated by E.P. Rentz on November 17, 1905.    The trustees of the lodge were P.E. Grinstead, R.L. Faircloth, and J.L. Hobbs.    Over the next 55 years, the lower floor of the two-story lodge building was used as a school, canning plant, voting precinct, and the Reedy Springs Militia District Courthouse.  The Masons of Rentz built a new concrete block building in 1960 just in front of where the old building stood.  When the new building was constructed, the officers of the Lodge were J.A. Dominy, Jr., Worshipful Master; G.B. Lindsey, Sr., Senior Warden; J.L.F. Lowery, Junior Warden; Kermit R. Lowery, Secretary; and Leon Keen, Treasurer.  On Halloween night in 1906, the men of Rentz formed a Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows.    The institution of the lodge was brought about by the members of the Dexter Lodge.  The original members of the lodge were W.B. McLendon, Frank Lavender, W.D. Register, H. T. Beckworth, J.B. Rowe, D.E. Mullis, D.J. Faircloth, J.L. Gay, S.E. Warren, W.D. Warren, E.D. McDaniel, T.R. Taylor, L.L. Frierson, J.S. Frierson, W.J. Mullis, A.W. Smith, James R. McDaniel, J.W. McDaniel, D.J. Grinstead, J.A. Coleman, H.C. Coleman, J.T. Grinstead, H.C. Burch, J.A. Burch, W.F. Coleman, J.H. Coleman, P.D. Couey, W.E. Silas, Washington Hobbs, L.H. Currie, G.B. Knight, F.M. Sanders, W.E. Bedingfield, J.T. Gay, E.O. Alligood, B.F. Dixon, W.D. Dixon, T.J. Taylor, W.O. Minton, L.L. Ward, J.E. Faulk, W.B. Gay, H.J. Alligood, H.L. Faircloth, G.W. Culbreth, W.H. Bedingfield, W.H. Tate, and J.W. Rowe.   Those admitted from the Dexter Lodge by card were C.C. Hutto, R.L. Faircloth, A.T. Barron, C.H. Wyatt, Otis Davidson, M.R. Mackey, Will Ward, Luther Knight, and Robert Knight.

The officers of the Lodge were R.L. Faircloth, Noble Grand; W.E. Silas, Vice Grand; J.R. Gay, Conductor; J.T. Grinstead, Recording Secretary; Washington Hobbs, Financial Secretary; J.W.  Rowe, Treasurer; J.H. Coleman, Chaplain; W.H. Bedingfield, Jr., Warden; A.T. Barron, Right Support Noble Grand; E.O. Baggett, Left Support Noble Grand; O.W. Davidson, Right Support Vice Grand; W.H. Tate, Left Support Vice Grand; W.W. Warren, Right Scene Supporter; E.O. Alligood, Left Scene Supporter; W.J. Mullis, Inner Guard; and L.G. Knight, Outer Guard.  The Odd Fellows met in the Masonic Lodge.

E.P. Rentz sold a lot to the Laboring Friends Society for their Lodge on April 29, 1905.  The  Lodge was located between the Colored Methodist Church and the Colored Reedy Springs Baptist Church.   Wiley Ginn, John Anderson, and Seaborn Rozier were Trustees of the Lodge.
The Baptists of Rentz organized a church on June 28, 1905.  They met at the L.G. Knight home.  The fourteen charter members were Mr. and Mrs. B.O. Rogers, Mr. and Mrs. L.G. Knight, Mr. and Mrs. G.M. Knight, Mrs. John T. Rogers, G.W. Knight, John S. Knight, D.J. Knight, Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Cooper, and Mrs. George Coleman.  They moved to a brush arbor and the Methodist Church before moving into their permanent church in 1906.  E.P. Rentz sold the church Lot No. 69 for $1.00 on August 5, 1905.  The deacons of the church were B.O. Rogers, W.S. Cooper, J.S. Knight, J.W. Barron, and J.P. Pughsley.  The first pastor was J.T. Smith.  Other early ministers of the church were T.J. Hobbs, T.Z. Bush, T. Bright, O.O. Williams, T.E. Toole, J.R. Kelly, L.N. Jessup, T.J. Barnette, W.E. Harville, Frank Synder, C.H. Hornsby, J.C. Daniel, Otis Garland, F.B. Pickern, E.A. Price, W.O. Brown, J.W. Harper, William Burns, C.E. Vines, Thomas E. Moye, Harry W. Bentley, Charlie Smith, Hugh Harber, Francis F. Bush, Billy Lee, Richard D. Hinely, Hubert F. Woodyard, Jack Sapp, Otis Bentley, and Grady H. Mimbs.   Among the earliest deacons of the church were J.F. Cooper, B.C. Coleman, B.O. Rogers, W.F. Cooper, and H.Y. Grant.  J.E. Chambliss served as a deacon for 40 years.   L.H. Cook served over 50 years as deacon.  Clerks in the church included A.W. Couey, A.J. Cooper, A.W. McCleod, G.M. Knight, F.M. Barron, L.A. Gibson, F.C. Taylor, D.P. Knight, W.W. Fordham, J.E. Chambless, H.A. Rountree, Mrs. Adon Woodard, Linda Morton, and Ruby Knight. The first church was torn down in 1929.  Until the new church was completed in 1931, services were held in Grant’s Cotton Warehouse and in the Methodist Church.

The Methodist Church was organized in 1905.    E.P. Rentz sold a lot to the Church for $1.00 on April 27, 1905.   The property was conveyed to C. E. Rentz, E.P. Rentz, RL. Shy, J.T. Warthen, and J.E. Gay as Trustees .    Among the early members were Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Rentz, Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Warthen, Mr. and Mrs. J.S. Pughsley, and Mr. and Mrs. Joe Keen.

E.P. Rentz sold a lot for $1.00  to the Reedy Springs Colored Baptist Church on November 29, 1905.  Richard Allen, Richard Moss, and Henry Roberts were the Deacons of the Church.   Rentz also sold a lot the Colored Methodist Church, but there is no indication that the deed was ever recorded.

The lights came on in Rentz in the early 20s when the town operated off a Delco battery system.  On April 1, 1927, Georgia Power began furnishing power to the town.   In a history of Rentz written by Charles L. Schell in 1998, a list of the men providing law enforcement for the Town of Rentz were town marshals Rawls Watson, Will Coleman, Charles Tipton, W.D. Register, J. Frank Schell, Alfred Davidson, and Prentice Coleman.

Despite the growth of area in the early years, the population of the Reedy Springs Militia District dropped from 1,904 in 1900 to 1,619 in 1910.  The trend turned around in 1920 when the population rose to 1, 886.    In 1910, the first census was taken in the Town of Rentz.  The population was 275.   Ten years later following the war and the coming of the boll weevil, the population dropped to 219.   The population of Rentz climbed to 400 in 1940.

Last Train in Rentz

The death blows to the growth of the small towns along the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad came in 1941.    The world was at war.   The railroad tracks were pulled up.    At the pinnacle of the history of Rentz, the following merchants and businesses were located  in Rentz: Grant Warehouse, Farmers Union Warehouse, Barron’s Pharmacy, J.R. Chambless Hardware and Electrical Store, J.A. Daniel Gen. Merchandise, E.J. Woodard, Gen. Merchandise, J.A. Davidson Dry Goods, James L. Davidson Grocery, Allen D. Davidson Hardware, J.G. Register Grocery, Z.C. Register Grocery, Eugene Couthern Grocery, P.R. Coleman Grocery, R.A. Register’s Service Station, Mack Strozier’s Lunch Room, O.D. Barron’s Rentz Service Station, F.R. Phelp’s Service Station, Z.C. Register’s Barber Shop, Rentz Wagon Works, O.D. Barron Gin Company, Planter’s Gin Company,  and O.B. Barron’s Stables.

Many people say the best thing to happen to Rentz since the coming of the railroad was the formation of the Rural Telephone Cooperative, Inc. in 1953.  The founding officers were C.J. Burch, President; L.K. Keen, Vice President; W.B. English, Treasurer; and J.B. Fordham, Jr., Secretary.   The original party telephone lines were completely replaced by private lines by the early 1970s.  By the mid 1970s, extended area service gave residents the third largest free calling center in Georgia.  Since the installation of fibre optic lines, the cooperative serves over 5100 customers located over an area of 500 plus square miles.

The drug store, then owned by Herbert Bedingfield, closed in 1955.  Dr. T.J. Taylor and Dr. W.E. Bedingfield died in 1948 and 1942 respectively.   The Rentz school closed.  Students went to Laurens High and then to West Laurens High.  A new post office was constructed in the 1960s.  A new city hall was built in 1985. Despite all the changes, the town of Rentz perseveres.

Congratulations to the people of Rentz and may you always remember your heritage.

Professor L.H. Cook