Wednesday, September 1, 2010



The Largest Country Bank in Georgia

During the score of years between 1895 and 1915, the city of Dublin, Georgia grew astronomically from a new railroad depot town to one of the largest economic centers in Georgia. In order to thrive, the progressive minded businessmen of the city divided into groups to organize banks to finance their personal business interests. At the zenith of Dublin's rise, Laurens County was home to more banks than any other county in Georgia, with the exception of Fulton and Chatam counties. At the top of the list in Laurens County was the First National Bank, which was billed as the largest country bank in Georgia. Regardless of the validity of that claim, the First National, and in particular its board of directors, played a profound role in the growth and development of Dublin during its golden age at the dawn of the 20th Century, the age of the Emerald City.

Five of Dublin's most influential and successful businessman formed the nucleus of the First National Bank. Frank G. Corker, a Waynesboro, Georgia native and University of Georgia law school graduate, was the first and only president of the bank. While Mayor of Dublin in the early 1890s, Corker led the final push to rid the city of illegal alcoholic beverage sales, which had stymied the growth of the town for nearly two decades and which had given Dublin the reputation of being a lawless town. While being an astute businessman and highly successful attorney, Corker realized the importance of education and lent his skills as President of the Board of Education. J.E. "Banjo" Smith, Jr., Dublin's leading businessman of the first decade of the 20th Century, was the first Vice-President. After Smith left to form his own bank, "The City National," the First National had two vice-presidents; William S. Phillips and William B. Rice. Phillips, , who came to Dublin from Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1892, established a large livery and livestock business and in doing so established a small fortune. William B. Rice, known as Captain Rice by the people of his day, was a leader manufacturer of turpentine and a saw mill operator. Rice, who hailed from South Carolina, operated out of the pine rich Adrian, Georgia area, before coming to Dublin in 1900. He too amassed a small fortune, partly from his skills as a planter. Corker, Phillips, and Rice chose Andrew W. Garrett, former exchange clerk of the Dublin Banking Company and cashier of the Laurens Banking Company, as the cashier. Garrett, the only member of the quartet, with previous banking experience, was a former timber dealer from Hancock County. He was respected by all for his financial ability, as well as his stalwart character and unimpeachable integrity.

The First National Bank was chartered in April 1902 with an initial capital stock of fifty thousand dollars. The principal stockholders were Frank G. Corker, William S. Phillips, and J.E. Smith, Jr., the latter being one of the top three movers and shakers in town. C.W. Brantley and A.B. Jones, directors of the Dublin Banking Co., and W.W. Bush, director of the Laurens Banking Company, were chosen to be directors, along with B.H. Rawls, W.S. Phillips, D.W. Gilbert, F.M. Daniel, S.M. Kellam, and John Wilkes. of 1st National, and W.W. Bush, director of Laurens Banking Company. T.O. Dupree, former bookkeeper for the Star Store, was the bookkeeper.

The First National's directors chose a prime location on the northeast corner of North Lawrence (Laurens) Street and West Jackson Street. The location was a part of the Farmers and Merchants Bank for nearly eight decades. The directors chose the highly respected Atlanta architectural firm of Bruce and Morgan, who also designed the Laurens County Courthouse, the Carnegie Library, and the First Baptist Church to design the one story brick building. I.C. Huffman was selected as the contractor. The outside of the building was made of stone and Virginia brick. The floor was built in the Roman masonic style and had to be laid by outside craftsmen. Delivery of the vault was late forcing a delay in completion of the building until September 10, 1902, one hundred years ago today.

In the early decades of the 20th Century, National Banks were allowed to circulate their own currency with their name imprinted on the bills. The First National Bank initially issued $12,500.00 in denominations of ten and twenty dollars, for which the bank purchased an equal amount in U.S. Bonds. Of the thousands of bills issued by the bank less than a dozen are known to remain. Most of the bills were exchanged when the Federal government down sized the size of currency in 1929 and made the "horse-blanket" bills worthless, except to collectors.

As Dublin grew, so did the First National Bank. The board of directors began to look around for a site to build a new bank. They were looking for a site which would be close to the leading commercial concerns. At that time, the commercial center of Dublin lay between Jackson Street on the north, Washington Street on the east, the railroads on the south and Monroe Street on the west. The center of the district was at the intersection of South Jefferson and Madison Street and that's the spot where Corker chose to build the new bank. Corker chose the old post office site on the southwest corner of the intersection. The directors wanted to erect an impressive structure, not just one which would draw customers from competing banks, but one which would also lure professionals and businessmen from the agri-businesses, which sprung up during the city's golden age.

The bank secured the services of A. Ten Eyck Brown, an Atlanta architect, who was one of the leading architects of the Southeast. While standing nearly one hundred feet tall, the building was narrow, only thirty one feet in width. The first story, twenty two feet in height, featured a mezzanine, which was over the main floor of the bank. As one entered the lobby, the president's office and the cashier's office were located on the right. Behind the main office of the bank in the center of the first floor were the vaults. The director's room was situated at the front of the mezzanine level. The clerical staff kept the records at the rear of the mezzanine.

Most impressive were the marble floors and walls of the main banking room. In the lobby was Dublin's first elevator, one which ascended six floors of the tallest building between Macon and Savannah. Ornamental plaster patterns and elaborate bronze teller screens, as impressive as any in a metropolitan bank, were Brown's finishing touches to Dublin's first skyscraper. The vaults, which included four hundred safety deposit boxes, were designed to be fireproof. As a matter of fact, the building, constructed primarily of concrete, stone, and steel, was itself virtually fireproof. Above the bank were sixty four office spaces, equipped with the modern conveniences of lighting and heating, but alas no air-conditioning, except in the form of electric fans and open windows, the latter of which was most effective on the upper floors, which were impervious to flying insects. Construction was completed in February of 1913.

The First National Bank, the last Dublin bank to survive the economic collapse following the coming of the boll weevil in 1917, closed its doors in 1928. A receiver was appointed to disburse the remaining assets between depositors. Mills Lane, President of the Citizens and Southern Bank of Savannah, came to the rescue of Dublin's remaining business interests by first establishing a private bank, and then in the early thirties, establishing the Citizens and Southern Bank of Dublin, which remained in the First National building until the early 1950s.


Designer of Dublin's Skyscraper

A. Ten Eyck Brown loved to design tall buildings. When the directors of the First National Bank began looking for an architect to design their new bank building, they knew they wanted someone who could design something more than just an efficient office building. They wanted someone who could design a building, which could make a statement about their bank and their community as well. The board didn't have to look beyond the capital city of Georgia. Considered a master architect of his era, Brown designed several of the most famous public buildings in the southeastern United States. What Brown gave the board was the most magnificent building ever constructed in Dublin and one which was known for nearly a century as the tallest building between Macon and Savannah.

Andrew Ten Eyck Brown was born Albany, New York in 1878. His family was of Dutch origin. He was born to be an architect, just like his father, who was prominent in architectural circles in New York's capital city. Brown received his formal training at the Academy of Design in New York. He practiced architecture in New York, Washington, D.C., and Nashville before moving to Atlanta in the early 1900s, where Brown established his offices in the Forsyth Building. His career in Atlanta spanned nearly four decades until his death in 1940.

The First National Bank of Dublin opened for business in 1902 on the northeast corner of West Jackson Street and North Lawrence Street on the site later occupied by the Farmers and Merchants Bank. The board of directors, led by bank president Frank G. Corker began to look for a site to build a new building which would also house professional and business offices. They chose a site on the southwest corner of South Jefferson and West Madison Streets on the site of the old post office. In March of 1912, the board selected A. Ten Eyck Brown to design their building. Corker, in a letter recommending Brown for another project, said of Brown, " believing him to be better equipped after a careful study of his references than anyone else of whom we had knowledge to do our work."

Brown's design of the six-story building included a basement. Brown utilized a technique often used on sailing ships to bring natural light to the basement. Small glass bricks were placed along the sidewalk above shafts, which descended a few feet and turned at a right angles into the basement. There was a mezzanine above the bank's offices, which were situated on the twenty-two foot tall first floor. The floors of the main banking room were made of Georgia marble, while the walls and ceilings were made of ornamental plaster. The elaborately decorated main vault was placed in plain view for all to see. The tellers stood behind an impressive bronze and marble screen. Above the first floor were sixty-four offices, which could be reached by stairway or with a modern elevator, the first of its kind in Dublin. The exterior three-foot tall base of the building is composed of granite, while the remainder is made of terra cotta limestone. The building is supported by a combination of steel beams and reinforced concrete. Very little of the original building contained any wood, making it for many years the only A-rated insurance building in Dublin. Another attractive feature of the building, especially to the tenants, workers, and customers were the modern steam heating and plumbing systems. Cooling was not particularly a problem. Electric fans did well. On the upper floors many people often opened the windows to pick up a cool breeze without the aggravation of flying insects which rarely flew to such heights. Brown designed the building with a foundation which could have supported three more floors. Brown further anticipated future growth of the area and designed the southern face of the building with less expensive brick and with less ornamental features, just in case a neighbor decided to build a twin tower.

Although he was primarily known as a designer of public and office buildings, one of Brown's earliest designs was the fabulous Georgian Hotel in Athens, Georgia, which was completed in 1909. The hotel was as elegant as any hotel outside of Atlanta. Five years later, the Clarke County Courthouse, a four-story yellow brick building, was completed next door to the hotel. The courthouse in Athens was one of three major courthouses designed by Brown and completed in 1914. Brown designed the Neo-Classical Revival style courthouse in Salisbury, North Carolina. The Rowan County Courthouse features huge Ionic columns on its portico.

Brown's other courthouse design which was completed in 1914 was the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta. Brown collaborated with Thomas Henry Morgan, whose firms Morgan and Dillon and Morgan, Dillon, and Bruce designed the Laurens County Courthouse of 1895 and Carnegie Library. The Fulton courthouse building, which is still used today, is said to be "the finest example of beaux's arts classic architecture in the South." This massive structure, which was one of the tallest buildings in Atlanta at the time of its construction, was the first "million-dollar" courthouse in Georgia. Brown designed two other courthouses in Georgia; the Spalding County Courthouse in Griffin, which was completed in 1911, but was tragically destroyed by fire in 1981, and the four-story white marble, Cherokee County Courthouse in Canton, which was completed in 1926 and is said to be one of the finest public buildings in Georgia. Brown designed the courthouse in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1911. His design and architectural skills were applauded by city officials who recommended his services to the mayors of Dallas, Texas and New York City for the design of their new courthouse buildings.

Brown is widely known among architectural historians and preservationists as the designer of several other major buildings in the Atlanta area. In 1918, his design of the two-story granite building to house the offices of the Federal Reserve Bank on the old site of the First Presbyterian Church was completed. The building has gone through a series of renovations and expansions over the years. The original building was too small to house the government offices, but not because of Brown's design, but more likely because of limited funds during the economic depression during and following World War I. Thirteen years later in1931, Brown designed the new Atlanta Post Office Building to handle the ever expanding volume of mail coming through the Atlanta office. Today the building is known as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Building. One of the most unique and popular buildings in the Atlanta area is the Cyclorama Building in Grant Park. The lead architect in the 1921 project was J.T. Browning. Browning utilized the services of other architects, including Ten Eyck Brown.

Other noteworthy buildings in the Atlanta area include: the Ten Park Place Building near Five Points, which features the rare modernistic style of architecture; the Cooper Street School and various schools built in the 1920s while Brown was the supervising architect of Fulton County Schools, Spotswood Hill - the home of Georgia's premier historian, Lucian Lamar Knight - The Atlanta Municipal Market, St. Anthony's Church, the Luckie Street YMCA, and the Thornton Building on Pryor Street. Brown also designed the Third National Bank and the Guarantee Trust Bank. Countless other buildings designed by Brown have fallen victim to the agony of progress.

Brown's most famous design outside of Georgia was the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. Construction on the twenty-seven story, three hundred fifty foot tall, building began in 1925. A powerful 1926 hurricane delayed the construction period to a total of three years. The base of the courthouse is made of Stone Mountain granite, while the upper portion is constructed of terra cotta, much like the First National Bank building in Dublin. Brown designed the four-million dollar building, which was once one of the tallest buildings in Florida, in collaboration with August Geiger

Ten Eyck Brown, in his day, was one of the best governmental and commercial architects and his buildings were tall and grand. Many of them were so well designed that they should continue to be used for more than a century. The next time you are downtown, look, up in the sky, and see the glory and grandeur of Dublin's skyscraper, Ten Eyck Brown's gift to the Emerald City.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Making the South Better

Azaleas, daffodils, magnolias, camellias, dogwoods, and tall pines swaying in the wind. It doesn't get any better in the South in the spring. It got better when Prosper Julius Alfonse Berckmans showed up. The young Belgian gathered every seedling, sprig, bulb, root and seed that he could get his hands on and planted them in the sandy clay soil of his farm outside of Augusta. He studied the plants and nurtured them, trying to find the right ones which would thrive in the temperate climates of Georgia and the South. What he achieved was nothing short of amazing.

For those of you who watch golf and for those of you who watched the Master's golf tournament this past Sunday, how many of you looked beyond Phil Mickelson as he played the last few rounds and saw the magnificent gardens which surround the eighteen holes of the Augusta National golf course? Who among you know that after winning the Masters Mickelson donned his third green jacket, all of which were made at J.P. Stevens in East Dublin? Who among you noticed any similarity between Augusta National and a place in Dublin? Nobody? I know it's a stretch, but did anyone say Stubbs' Park? Now, I will tell you why I say so.

Prosper Julius Berckmans was born in Belgium in 1830. He came to the United States in 1850. Seven years later, Berckmans settled in Augusta, Georgia, where he established the Fruitland Nursery. Berckmans dedicated all of his life to study and promote horticulture in the Southeast. Berckmans' love of plants came from his father, Dr. Louis Berckmans, a leading horticulturist from Brussels.

It was in 1876 when P.J. Berckmans was elected as the first and only president of the Georgia Horticultural Society until his death in 1910. Among the founding members of the society was none other than Col. John M. Stubbs of Dublin. The young Dublin lawyer, in addition to his aversion for the law, journalism, transportation and politics, was fascinated with horticulture and all things which grew from the earth. Berckmans and Stubbs became life long friends.

Meanwhile, Berckmans continued his horticultural work. He was elected president of the American Pomological Society in 1887 after twenty-seven years of service to the organization. Berckmans represented the United States at worlds' fairs and expositions around the world.

When Prosper Berckmans came to Georgia in the years before the beginning of the Civil War, it was estimated that there were some 100,000 peach trees, primarily located on family farms throughout the state. After fifty years of seeking the perfect peach tree, Berckmans' research led the planting of more than three million trees, a feat which led to Berckmans being dubbed "the father of the peach tree culture in the South."

When Col. Stubbs began to develop the lands around his home, which he named Liberty Hall, he asked Berckmans to help him design his gardens and orchards which stretched along Bellevue Avenue from the Baptist Church westward to Duncan Street and northward to Moore Street.

Berckmans and Stubbs studied which plants would be suited for the young Dublin lawyer's suburban farm. Dozens of the finest fruit bearing trees and aromatic shrubs graced the finest lands in the city. All the while, Stubbs planned to leave a portion of his lands after his death to the City of Dublin.

Stubbs, also an active leader of the society for more than two decades, expanded his operations to include vast acreages of peach trees in western Laurens County in the Montrose area. The Honorable Dudley M. Hughes, of Danville, worked with Stubbs in planting fruit trees wherever they grew best in small patches or very large orchards.

Following the death of Col. Stubbs in 1907, his widow and children deemed it only proper and fitting that they donate a particularly beautiful section of the family farm to the City of Dublin, dedicating it as a park in memory of the late phytophiliac.

The area chosen for the park was located along the banks of Stubbs Mill Branch between North Church Street and North Calhoun Street. The stream provided the water for a grist mill located at the far eastern end of the park. J.T. Pope, a pioneer miller in the Dublin area, built the first combined grist mill and cotton ginnery for Col. John M. Stubbs on the property in 1901, following a fire which destroyed the old mill. The new mill contained two sets of grist rocks, three seventy-saw cotton gins, and a planing mill.

Despite the failure of a bond issue, city fathers moved ahead with the plans for a park on the Stubbs's property. The Stubbs family signed the deed giving the park to the city on October 10, 1908. M.J. Guyton, the first city engineer, surveyed the area in October 1908.

The P.J. Berckmans firm, of course, was hired to design the park. P.J. Berckmans, then officially retired, sent his son Robert to work with local officials and the Stubbs family. Robert Berckmans' initial plan called for the draining and filling in of the lake with seats and fountains placed throughout the park. The city of Dublin agreed to accept the donation of the land for the park in April of 1909. The council appropriated three thousand of the five thousand dollars needed to complete the ten-acre park in May of 1909. One of the first improvements would be a small pavilion located just north of the Catholic Church in the area now known as the Grady Wright section of the park.

In the 1930s, golfing icon Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts wanted to build one of the world's finest golf courses. They bought Berckmans's old Fruitland Company lands and his home and set out to improve the home and the grounds. Louis Alphonse Berckmans, a son of Prosper, was solicited to help with the design. Over the last eighty years, the course has grown into one of the most beautiful sports venues in the world. The Berckmans' home was remodeled into the club house of the Augusta National Golf Course.

Signs of Berckmans's work still remain; the large oak tree behind the clubhouse, the privet hedge around the club house, which was imported by Berckmans from France, and the wisteria vine, generally accepted as the largest vine of its kind in the country.

So the next time you watch the Master's golf course or if you are one of the lucky ones who get to see the tournament up close and in person, think about our little piece of Berckmans's work and the generous gift of Col. John M. Stubbs and his family to the people of the city they loved so dearly.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Near the end of the 19th century, the leaders of Methodism in South Georgia congregated in Dublin for their annual conference. The event was held in the sanctuary of the First Methodist Church under the leadership of many legendary Methodist ministers. It would be the first of three conferences held in our city before a permanent meeting site was established. The delegates were housed in local hotels and in residences of local Methodists - and probably in the homes of members of other denominations.

The conference opened on the 6th of December 1899 with Bishop A.W. Wilson of Baltimore presiding. Rev. W.F. Smith, who had been responsible for the building of the Dublin church five years earlier, was elected to serve as Secretary of the conference. Reverends Thomas H. Thomson, Edmund F. Cook, Osgood F. Cook, William W. Seals, and Jeremy M. Glenn were selected to assist Rev. Smith. Rev. Glenn would return to the church twenty two years later as its pastor. One of the highlights of the first day was the presentation of a gold watch to Rev. W.C. Lovett by the ministers of the Americus District.

The big event of the second day was the least enjoyed of the conference.  Following the opening prayer, the committee on ministers gave a disparaging report on one of their own. In light of convincing evidence, the members dismissed Rev. S.G. Meadows from the conference for his acts of immorality. In a more pleasant agenda item, new ministers were accepted on a trial basis while many newer members were moved up in their class. Dr. J.W. Roberts, President of Wesleyan College in Macon, made an eloquent speech in the interest of his college. Rev. J.W. Callahan, former missionary to Japan, spoke on the behalf the church's continued support of mission work.

During the session on the third day, the delegates continued to receive committee reports on various aspects of the church. More ministers were promoted to higher classes. Those elder members who had served the Church for several decades were superannuated to the esteemed positioned of seniority among ministers of the Church.

During the fourth day, the delegates went through one committee report after another, ranging from the Orphan's Home to the Epworth League. Dr. W.W. Pinson gave a report on temperance - one that was enthusiastically applauded by the delegates. Pinson urged the delegates to be partisan prohibitionists and to eliminate any use of alcoholic beverages. The minister criticized the American people for sending soldiers and missionaries to Cuba to save lives, when they stood by and let the breweries kill people on a daily basis.

The final day, Sunday the 11th, was the biggest day of the gathering. Bishop Wilson gave an address at the Methodist Church, while other sermons were presented at First Baptist, St. Paul A.M.E., and Marie Baptist Churches. A community-wide temperance meeting was held at the courthouse. The biggest event of the entire conference was the announcement of new appointments to the churches of the conference.

The appointments for 1900 to the Dublin District included J.M. Lovett, Presiding Elder; J.T. Ainsworth, Brewton; E.H. Crumpler, Lovett; E.P. Morgan, Wrightsville station; C.T. Bickley, Wrightsville Circuit; and J.S. Jordan, Adrian.  Rev. William N. Ainsworth was named minister of First Methodist Church of Dublin.

Rev. Ainsworth served two years at First Church, Dublin before moving onto Mulberry Street Methodist in Macon. In 1918, Rev. Ainsworth was elected Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Rev. Ainsworth presided over Methodist Churches around the world until his retirement in 1938. Preceding Rev. Ainsworth at First Methodist Church and participating in his next to last South Georgia conference was Rev. Peter Simmons Twitty, the beloved minister of thousands of Methodists throughout South Georgia.

Peter Simmons Twitty was born in southwest Georgia in 1842. On May 27, 1861, he enlisted in Sumter Light Guards, Company K, 4th Georgia Infantry, in Americus, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, Twitty was appointed regimental musician. 1st Sergeant Twitty suffered his first battlefield wound at the bloody battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam, Maryland on September 17, 1862. On that day, the bloodiest in American history, more than twenty three thousand men were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Sgt. Twitty returned to duty only to be wounded a second time on the 2nd day of the Battle of Gettysburg. During that three-day epic battle more than fifty thousand men were killed and wounded. Twitty was taken prisoner and kept in a Union prison until March 6, 1864. Sgt. Twitty was wounded a third time at Winchester, Va., on Sept. 19, 1864. The war ended for Twitty on May 10, 1865, a month after Lee's surrender, when he surrendered at Tallahassee, Florida. Sgt. Twitty entered the ministry of the Methodist Church in 1872. He served as President of Andrew Female College from 1891 to 1895. Rev. Twitty served as pastor of First Methodist Church from 1899 until his superannuation during the 1899 Conference in a highly emotional service, which was one of the saddest moments of the entire week. Rev. Twitty died on April 15, 1901.

The church sanctuary was filled with mourners and those who came to paytheir last respects to their beloved friend and comrade. Not a seat was empty. The aisles were filled with standing gentlemen. Rev. W.N. Ainsworth led the body of his friend and predecessor up the aisle to the chancel railing. Members of Camp Smith, United Confederate Veterans stood in a line at the church door. With their heads bowed in upmost reverence, these gray-haired gentlemen said their farewells to another fallen comrade before bringing up the rear of the funeral procession into the church. The funeral services were conducted by a half-dozen ministers and colleagues of Rev. Twitty. Rev. Twitty's body was carried to its final resting place at the rear of the church in the Old City Cemetery.

The life of Rev. Peter S. Twitty was typical of those men who served the Methodist Church at the turn of the 20th century. Rev. Twitty's death came as a result of that first battle wound he suffered at Sharpsburg, Virginia in September of 1862. In battle, he was a soldier for his state. In life, he was a soldier of the cross - a Christian Soldier fighting for the Lord.

The Methodists of South Georgia came back to Dublin in 1919 and again in 1937. Eventually the conferences were moved to permanent locations. For one week a hundred years ago, our city, on the brink of becoming one of the state's largest, was home to hundreds of Methodists going about their work in serving the Lord.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


If you think that Americans invented the Christmas tree, you would be wrong. That honor goes to the Germans, who began decorating their native trees way back in the 15th Century. Americans can, however, take pride in that we took the German tannenbaum to a new level. We put lights on them. We make them out of plastic. We make them spin, dance and even play music. Although tannenbaums are supposed to be green - it says so in the words of the song - we paint them blue, white, red, yellow and even pink, Pink! This is the story of our first city Christmas tree and its role in the history of Christmas in Georgia.

The Christmas tree first came into vogue in England during the reign of Queen Victoria through her relationship to Germany. On this side of the Atlantic, some ministers in the United States believed that the tree was an abomination and a pagan symbol.

The ladies of Macon sent out a request in December 1861 for contributions of gifts and money to have a tree decorated with tinsel, hand made paper decorations and gift cards. The promoters charged a small fee for entrance to the Christmas Eve party to help fund the relief of the beloved soldiers who were enduring their first Christmas away from home during the Civil War.

The first mention of a Christmas tree in the Dublin papers was the time when Capt. Rollin A. Stanley and Rev. T.W. Johnson, superintendents of the Baptist and Methodist Sunday schools, planned a Christmas party for the little children at the Troup House on South Jefferson Street on Christmas night in 1879. The children were entertained with music, food, and plenty of fireworks. Though the night was cold and the crowd too big for the hotel, everyone went home satisfied.

Edward H. Johnson, a Thomas Edison associate, is generally credited with creating the first electrically illuminated Christmas tree with eighty red, white and blue pecan size light bulbs at his home in New York during the 1882 Christmas season. San Diego, California holds the honor of having the first municipal Christmas tree. Further up the West Coast, Pasadena joined the list in 1909. New York's lighted tree was turned on in 1912.

The Christmas season of 1913 was a nightmare for the law-abiding citizens and merchants of Dublin. Firework shooters were out of control. Fire fighters along with cotton merchants, and especially their insurance agents, were horrified at the thought of a stray roman candle or rocket landing in a bale of cotton lying beside a wooden warehouse building.

An editorial writer described the commotion: "Life and property were in danger, so much that citizens feared to venture on the streets, and plate glass fronts were smashed on all sides. Persons were knocked down and injured by rockets, or had some idiot to burn their clothing with Roman candles, while cannon crackers that endangered windows and doors by the jar when they were exploded half a block off were fired without protest by the police or the city authorities. The police could do little because permission had been given to the 'funmakers' by someone in higher authority, and the result was that the rowdy and the roughnecks went as far as they pleased."

So, the city council decided to take action when the police force would not. A license tax of $1,000.00 was placed on dealers who sold skyrockets and large firecrackers. Merchants who sold other less explosive fireworks, such as Roman candles, sparklers and bomb sticks, paid the usual fee of $10.00. The ordinance seemed to work as no one paid the larger fee.

The mayor and council were serious. Fireworks ordinances were going to be strictly enforced. The council invited the people of the country to come into town, promising them that they would be free of fear and harm.

The ladies of the Women's Christian Temperance Union were serious as well. They knew that the miscreant behavior was due in part to the use of alcohol. In order to divert the attention of the party goers, the ladies planned a caroling from the library to the courthouse on Christmas Eve of 1914.

Leading the committee were minister's wives, Mrs. W.F. Mott, Mrs. T.W. Callaway and Mrs. Whitney Langston. By using children as carolers, the ladies felt sure that no scoundrel would dare shoot a firework in their direction. Once the children arrived at the courthouse, the public was invited inside for an extended program of Christmas music.

The plan worked. There was not a firework fiend in sight on that Holy night. "For the first time in several years, it was possible to walk through the business section without risking life and limb in the saturnalia of fireworks," a Courier Herald writer reported.

With the end of an old tradition, a new tradition began. A large cut tree was placed on the courthouse square. Electrician C.F. Ludwig strung a long string of colored electric lamps around the evergreen tree. On the tree top, Ludwig placed a large star outlined with electric lamps. Ludwig's donation of the material brought forth many favorable opinions.

It would be the first time that Dublin and Laurens County had a municipal Christmas tree. It would also be the first time that a city in Georgia had a lighted tree.

The merchants were also happy. After a few days of acceptable business due to bad weather, storekeepers were delighted that they had more business than they could handle. Most of the large crowd hung around and patronized the soda fountains and engaged in a lot of last-minute Christmas shopping. It was nearly 10 o'clock before the streets began to clear.

Another pleasant aspect of the day actually took place in the courthouse. Laurens County Ordinary W.A. Wood reported a state record of twenty marriage applications were issued on the day before Christmas.

The tradition of a Christmas tree lasted for many years under the direction of the city light and water commission with free help from the electricians and telephone linemen of the city. The large tree, loaded with lights and topped by a brilliant star array, illuminated the entire courthouse square and could be seen from blocks. From time to time it was resurrected, but never on the scale of the 1921 tree, which was reported to be as tall as the courthouse, or the very first time we lit the tannenbaum, ninety-five years ago this Christmas.