Monday, October 14, 2013



Folk humorist Will Rogers once proclaimed, “I am not a member of an organized political party, I’m a Democrat!”  That statement was all too fitting in 1938, three-quarters of a century ago, especially in the South.  In the pre Ronald Reagan days of the Solid South when nearly all voters who registered to vote listed themselves as Democrats, competition for statewide and local positions was often fierce and sometimes, down right dirty.

It was in those early warm and dry days of September 1938, when two of Georgia’s political icons of the first half of the 20th Century went head to head and nose to nose to win the race for a seat in the United States Senate.  The campaign pitted  Walter F. George, Georgia’s two-term senator against Eugene Talmadge, the state’s former governor and a fiery populist candidate from Telfair County.  Two make things more interesting, incumbent Georgia governor E.D. Rivers found himself in a fight  for his life in his bid against Hugh Howell  to hang on to his job in the capitol.

While  most local officials were not on the ballot in the Summer of ‘38, the races for the two seats in the Georgia House of Representatives were somewhat contentious as incumbent W.H. Lovett, owner of the Courier Herald faced off against A.T. Cobb and  Ed L. Evans faced  R.I. Stephens in the race for Post # 2 in somewhat close races.

In the latter part of the 1930s, Laurens County was still an important key to the election of any Democratic hopeful in a statewide race.

The first major candidate to come to the Emerald City was incumbent Senator Walter F. George, (left) who had succeeded Rebecca Felton, the country’s first female senator.  Sen. Felton was named to replace Thomas E. Watson after his death by then Georgia Governor, Thomas W. Hardwick, a Washington County native,  future Dublin resident and newspaper publisher.

George served in the United States Senate for 36 years, the last two as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, a position which made him third in the line of succession to President Dwight Eisenhower.  At that time, George was highly regarded as the greatest Senator  by Massachusetts Senator, John F. Kennedy.

Local officials, in consultation with the Senator’s aides, selected Stubbs Park as the site for the speech at 11:30 on August 30.  A special platform was constructed in the triangle  surrounded by a grove of tall ancient pines, just north of the Catholic Church.

The Boy Scouts were stationed along the routes to the park to guide the crowds down to the pine grove.  Local dignitaries and politicians were asked to keep their introductory remarks brief so that Senator George could have ample time to plead his case before setting off on a jaunt before.

George had been to Dublin on many occasions, speaking at high school graduations and at political events. The Senator even brought his own band with him.  Just to add to the excitement, the all-girl  band from Eastman, which had just played for Franklin D. Roosevelt in Barnesville, performed to get the crowd more excited.

It was few weeks earlier when President Roosevelt appeared at a rally in Barnesville to support his hand picked candidate Lawrence Camp.  George had grown increasingly disenchanted with the President’s New Deal policies and programs.  Likewise, Roosevelt’s endorsement of Camp fanned the flames of bitter feelings in the race.

Former Georgia Game and Fish Commissioner and Dublin resident, Peter S. Twitty, introduced the popular senator.  Sitting on the platform and lending moral support was former senator, congressman and governor,  Thomas Hardwick.

In his speech, George attacked FDR’s relief programs and in particular W.P.A. administrator, Harry L. Hopkins, whom the Senator described as “Hell on Relief.”  George had no admiration for P.W.A.  Administrator Harold Ickes, insinuating that Ickes was going to personally profit from FDR’s work and relief programs all the while gaining too much power.  Senator George felt totally confident after looking at the faces of those people he met along the campaign trail.

Y.G.Chambless, Chairman of the Laurens County George Club and a  long time supporter of Talmadge and Roosevelt, believed that Senator George “was best man in the race, because he stands head and shoulders above each of his opponents and is a statesman of the old school, a gentleman and a scholar with the courage to fight for right and justice.”

Twelve days later on September 10, former two-term Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge came to town and took his place on the same dias in Stubbs Park where George had spoken.   Talmadge, a long time favorite of Laurens County voters, had lost a little of his solid support in the two years after he left office.

On the day of the speech, crowds gathered at places like Adrian Well in western Emanuel County to form motorcades into Dublin for the popular Populist politician.  They weren’t disappointed. For two hours, Talmadge spoke, his voice booming throughout the park.  

Earlier in the week, incumbent governor E.D. Rivers (left) came to town to woo the voters.  Rivers, despite his successes in providing more tax exemptions, improved schools, free school textbooks and better roads, had become somewhat unpopular, although one couldn’t tell it by the size of the crowd which gathered at the courthouse.  When the courtroom was overflowing hours before the scheduled four  o’clock starting time, the decision was made to move the program to the steps of courthouse.

A week  earlier, River’s opponent Hugh Howell’s rally was moved from the outside to the inside when a rare September rain dowsed the spectators.

When the votes were counted, the Lower Oconee River Valley and upper third of North Georgia went for Gov. Talmadge.  Stronger support along the coastal areas and the major cities swung the race in favor of Senator George, who won a 44% plurality victory over Talmadge, who garnered 32 percent of the vote.  Interestingly, Camp’s strongest support came from neighboring Treutlen County, where seven out of ten voters put their mark beside the president’s candidate’s name.

In Laurens County, the turnout was nearly 80 percent.  Talmadge,  with 46 percent of the vote, easily won over George, whose strong support was confined to Dublin and Dudley voters.  The race for governor was much closer in Laurens County with E.D. Rivers defeating Hugh Howell by a mere 45 votes.  Statewide, Rivers was re-elected after getting a fraction more than half of the votes cast.

In an election called “the greatest and most thrilling political spectacle in Georgia history” by Atlanta Constitution writer Ralph McGill, Laurens Countians were witnesses  to a glimpse of one of the most exciting campaigns in Georgia’s long  history.


It was the year 1888, one and one quarter centuries ago.  Out of the mire of stagnation, Dublin was merging from a cocoon of apathy, mediocrity and drunkenness.  As towns go, Dublin appeared to visitors as it had four decades prior -  a decaying, lifeless and lawless town.  As the righteous and forward minded seized control of city affairs, the shroud over the village by the Oconee was lifted. And order, progress, vibrancy and prosperity came forth, leading the town, which had doubled its population four times in the decade, to becoming Dublin, Georgia, "The only city in Georgia, which is doublin' all the time" and one of the foremost population and economic centers of the Empire State.

The greatest catalysts to Dublin's meteoric growth were the railroads.  With the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad's terminus across the Oconee in what would become known as East Dublin and revived river boat traffic up and down the river, a three-decade period of unfettered growth was just beginning.  Three railroads, the Macon and Dublin, the Savannah, Dublin and Western,  and the Empire Railroad, were making plans to complete their rail lines into the port city.  Other railroad entrepreneurs had their dreams on paper while they were awaiting financial backers to begin construction.  It took law suits to delay the completion for three more years.

The greatest need in the city was for a permanent river bridge. Judge of the Court of Ordinary, John T. Duncan, had been pushing the project for five years following the defeat of a bond issue.  Despite continued token opposition to a bridge, five thousand dollars in bonds were issued in 1888 to begin the process of building the only bridge over the Oconee south of Milledgeville.  The project obtained the requisite Federal approval in the summer and the emboldened bridge boosters never looked back.  

A fine brick true hotel was constructed on the north side of the courthouse square situated to accommodate prosperous guests.  Z.H. Broughton built the first brick store in the spring.  Five more were under construction by the fall.  Several of these buildings would be destroyed by a massive conflagration when a large part of the city burned in May 1889.

Agricultural exports began to fuel the local economy.  More than 10,000 bales of cotton were ginned.  The Dublin Brick Company proudly boasted that it produced a million bricks, mostly used in new brick structures going up in the city.

Major improvements in education in the city dominated the news in 1888.  The City of Dublin used funds from the newly enacted alcoholic beverage tax to increase funding.  A large, wooden, two-story school house was constructed under the direction of architect Alexander Blair of Macon.  The new building, in the rear of the current location of Club 604,  gave rise to the name of "The Academy" and consequently the name of the street upon which it faced, "Academy Avenue."

For the first time ever and in a rare expenditure for small cities around the state, the city council increased funding to Negro schools to a level of one-third of the entire education budget.  A new school for African-American students was constructed on the Telfair Road, near the present site of the National Guard Armory. 

The key to unleashing unprecedented growth in the city was the abolishment, or near abolishment of alcohol sales in the city.  The "wet" and the "dry" folks squared off in an election in April.  
One traveler reported to the Savannah Morning News, "The local option election in Laurens County was a disgraceful exhibition of demagoguery and corruption."  The visitor observed processions of drunken men wearing red badges inscribed "for sale," flaunting red tickets, yelling like fiends and boasting that they were "bosses of the ballot box."  The teetotalers and the city's coffers were the big winners.  To keep those criminals who drank too much, harmed others and stole things,  Judge Duncan ordered a fence built around the jail to prevent the many escapes so that desperate criminals would not need to be sent to Macon.

Later in the fall, the voters of the county decided to go wet by a scant majority of 41 votes.  The Prohibitionists protested, but after careful prayer, temporarily abandoned their mission of ridding demon rum from the county despite much evidence of illegal voting by the drinkers of the county. 

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

The town leaders were Dr. Robert Hightower, Dr. Charles Hicks, Rev. W.S. Ramsay, G.W. Maddox, attorneys Mercer Haynes, T.B. Felder, Jr., David Ware, Jr., T.L. Griner,  Judge John T. Duncan and Julius Burney.  

For those who kept up with such matters, one observant citizen pronounced Dublin as a "heavy weight town," due to the fact that of the 1507 people in the town, sixteen men weighed well more than 200 pounds.  It was estimated that there were about 27 more men who weighed in right at a tenth of a ton, leading the editor of the Dublin Gazette to proclaim, "Very few towns in Georgia can make a better show for weight, population taken into consideration."

In politics the year was not so extraordinary.  Among the shining new stars of the political world was Dublin's future mayor, Thomas B. Felder, Jr.  Felder, who went on to an illustrious and infamous legal and political career, was selected as a Presidential Elector for President Grover Cleveland in his unsuccessful campaign for reelection. 

In the area of trivial news, it was published that a Maltese cat, belonging to Wm. B. Jones, caught two rabbits and cared for them lovingly as if they were her very own kittens.  It was a big year for floods, old timers observed that the river was at its highest level since the Harrison Freshet of 1840.  Richard Niles, who was born at the turn of the 19th Century and was a slave for most of his life walked about the streets of town showing off his gourd dipper with a thirty-six-inch long handle.

The ninth year of the 1880s was important in the sense that it featured major advances in education, infrastructure and prohibition and accordingly marked the time when Dublin accelerated its rise to eminence in Georgia.   



         In the cool dry days of October1913 a century of autumns ago  when Dublin was at the zenith of its boom years, the Bertha Theater came to town, bringing with it big screen movies, Broadway plays, premier wrestling matches and a plethora of pontificating politicians.  In its all too short four-year run, the Bertha symbolized one of the crowning jewels of the Emerald City in the days before the first World War.

The Bertha Theater, constructed by Stephen J. Lord and T.B. Brantley, was designed to replace the Opera House, which had burned in 1911.  In the summer of 1913, the Bertha joined the First National Bank, The Burch Building and the Black Chivers Building in a major building boom.  Little did anyone know that within a few year, the explosive growth which had catapulted Dublin from a tiny, lawless forlorn town into one of the most populated cities of the state would come to a screeching halt with the coming of the boll weevil which singlehandedly destroyed the cotton crop.

Lord planned to have an opera house, although it appears that few real operas were ever performed in the building.  The three-story building was located on the eastern corner of the Courthouse Square at the corner of South Jackson Street and South Franklin Street.  In his grand dreams, Lord, son-in-law of banking magnate and businessman, C.W. Brantley, hoped that the facility would host the best and biggest stage shows anywhere around this area of the state.

The large auditorium was designed to seat 1200 people on the main floor and 300 in the gallery above.  The ceiling was elaborately finished with pressed metal designs.  The acoustics were pronounced nearly perfect as a Courier Herald reporter stated,  “Persons speaking on the stage can be heard to every corner of the auditorium distinctly.”

Managers T.W. Hooks, H.P. Diggs, E.W. Carswell, W.G. Triplett and others were given the mission to seek out and sign the best and most affordable touring acts along the East Coast.

Opening night was October 7, 1913.  On the play bill that evening was “The Rolling Stone.”  Headlining the show was singer/comedian Al H. Wilson, one of the best known singing stars of the early 20th Century,  and his comedy company.  At the time, it was the greatest play ever staged in Dublin.

Between the first two acts, Peter S. Twitty, Jr. spoke to the audience welcoming the visitors to Dublin and saluting all of those who participated in the event.  Practically all of Dublin’s high society were present.  Mr. and Mrs. Lord sat in their special box along with family members including Dr. and Mrs. J.E. New and their daughter Marie.   A reporter described Mrs. Bertha Lord as “queenlike” in her beautiful pink chiffon dress.

The following week marked the Dublin debut of “Edison’s Genuine Talking Pictures,” which were not the usual laughing, talking and singing pictures. The movie featured the Kinetiphone’s synchronization of sound and film at the afforable prices of 25 to 50 cents a ticket.  The first talkie was “Nursery Time Favorites.”

Also on the bill in the theater’s second week was a play , “A Bachelor’s Congress,” staring local talent in a benefit for the Children of the Confederacy.  One of the more popular plays was “The Little Millionaire,” written by George “Yankee Doodle Dandy” Cohan, and starring Bert Leigh and Hazel Burgess. Other featured acts were the “The Norman Field Players, The Cambridge Players, Coburn’s Minstrels and the Mack Musical Comedy Company.

During those first few months, the Bertha had its competitors.  Gentry Brothers Dog and Pony Show and a troup of the American Pavillion Theatre Company were all in town.  Kit Carson’s Wild West Circus came to the fairgrounds  with its three ring Wild West Circus.  On November 5, the Courier Herald estimated that Dublin had 20,000 visitors in town, mostly to attend the 12th District Fair.

Among the most popular movies at the Bertha were  “Quo Vadis”, George Kleine’s 8-reel, 135 minute masterpice and the first block buster film in history and D.W. Griffith’s epic Civil War film, “Birth of a Nation.”

Nearly from its beginning, the managers of the Bertha promoted  wrestling matches.  One of the first featured hometown favorite, Homer Scarborough against Chief Little Bird, who hailed from Minnesota.  One of the biggest was a grudge match between Jack Leon and Mort Henderson in April 1914.

The fights at the Bertha didn’t last long for in the early summer of 1914, the citizens of Dublin voted to prohibit any matches in the theater.

The Bertha was often used as a place for public meetings and gatherings. In March 1914, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce was reestablished. Those present were treated to a movie and a refreshing Chero Cola, bottled only a few blocks away.

The 1914 session of the Chautaugua was held in the Bertha.  With the former Opera House gone and the courthouse and school auditoriums not being conducive to mass meetings which organizers hoped would occur, the Bertha was the perfect place to stage the big event, which featured musical, religious, scientific, educational, agricultural and political events.

When it came to political speeches, the best place in town, other than the courthouse steps, was the stage of the Bertha.  Two national politicians took to the stage to deliver their message to the voters of Laurens County. Just after Thanksgiving in 1915, Speaker of the National House of Representatives, Champ Clark of Missouri, (below) promoted the programs of the Wilson Administration, especially those important to farmers.

                                                                     Champ Clark

                                                                      John Burke

In one of the last political gatherings at the Bertha, John Burke, the Treasurer of the United States (above) and a former Governor of North Dakota, spoke to an assembly of bankers and businessmen, who were concerned with the economic depression resulting from the coming of the boll weevil to the South.

The grand life of the Bertha Theater came to a fleeting and fatal end early on the morning of September 23, 1918.  A fire started in the 2nd floor auditorium and quickly spread to the stores on the first floor.  In just a matter of minutes $50,000.00 and a a grand dream went up in smoke.

Friday, May 24, 2013


If you think that the Cola Wars started in the 1980s when the Coca Cola and Pepsi companies went head to head with massive advertising campaigns, new flavors and promising promotions, you would be quite incorrect.

A century ago in the spring of 1913, the marketing wars between the makers of a variety of soda water manufacturers were just beginning to heat up.

John Pemberton, a Columbus, Georgia pharmacist, formulated his Pemberton’s French Wine Coca in his Eagle Drug and Chemical Company drugstore in “The Fountain City.”  In the mid 1880s, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola,  a nonalcoholic version of his coca beverage. The new drink was first sold at Jacob's Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886, 127 years ago.

Prior to the sale of Coca Cola in Dublin, small private companies like Prince & Kellam and the Dublin Artesian Bottling Company, sold their own versions of soda water in the Emerald City.  The Artesian Bottling Company, under the management of George Elbert, received 30,000 bottles in a single day at its plant on East Madison Street in 1905.

Three of Georgia’s pioneer bottlers were sons of James Russell Holmes and Alice Hester of Laurens County.  Robert H. Holmes, Joseph F. Holmes and Charlton B. Holmes left their homes in Laurens County and moved to South Georgia, where they enjoyed long and successful careers in the bottling business.  Robert, the elder brother, moved to Valdosta.  Joseph followed in 1896 joining Robert.  Charlton worked with both of his brothers before moving to the nearby city of Tifton.  Other members of the Holmes family, Charles Wesley Holmes, Willie Holmes, Luman Holmes and Harmon Holmes, were long time employees of the Dublin Coca Cola plant. 

Although the Coca Cola Company had previously operated in Dublin for several years, it wasn’t until 1912 when the Dublin Coca Cola Bottling Company was officially incorporated by J.W. Geeslin of Dublin along with Herbert F. Haley and J. T. Lupton, who operated the main office of the business in Macon. 

It will be  said with some authority that the first Coca Cola bottling plant (ABOVE) was located just northeast of the corner of South Franklin Street and what was once Harrison Street and is now known as Hughes Street on the site of a Dublin Construction Company warehouse.  Geeslin established his highly popular ice cream plant on the site in 1920.

Coca Cola Company Employees, 1935

Pepsi Cola came into the market in 1903 when it was patented by Caleb Bradham.  It would be another five years before the first Pepsis were bottled in Middle Georgia, specifically in Macon in 1908.

By the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, Pepsi entered the Dublin market under the name of the Georgia Pepsi Cola Bottling Company in a plant located at the southwest corner of East Jackson and South Decatur Streets. BELOW  The company, under the management of Aldine Hawkins, added ice cream to its line of products to compete with the local Coca Cola plant.  Hawkins boasted that his employees  could manufacture 40 gallons of Hokey Pokey and other kinds of ice cream per hour.

Lime Cola Bottle 

Acme Bottling Works, located on Lawrence Street and operated by J.B. Karrant, was charged with violating the pure food and drug act and was not in business for very long. The Lime Cola Bottling Company was established here by Wilkes Roberts, T.J. Freeman, E.A. and J.E. Evans of Blakely in J.O. Barnes warehouse on Jefferson Street in 1916. By 1922, the company was out of business. 

Claud A. Hatcher, yet another Columbus pharmacist, developed a new soft drink in 1905.  In 1910, the company became known as the Chero Cola Company.  W.E. Vann and R.M. Campbell opened the first Chero Cola Bottling Company in Dublin in 1913.  In 1915, they were bought out by  Robert Davis and J.C. Mathis of Tennille.

T.J. Kelly came to work for the plant as a young man.  After serving  in World War I, Kelly came back to work for the plant.  He was promoted to manager when Mathis left for Sandersville in 1920.  At that time,  the plant’s capacity was 1000 cases per day or 24,000 bottles.  At full capacity, the Dublin plant could conceivably produce upwards of 7.5 million bottles of pop a year.

One distinctive feature of Chero Cola was that it was only sold in bottles and not sold  in soda fountains.  One less than distinctive feature of Chero Cola bottles, made by the Graham Glass Company of Evansville, Indiana, were their striking similarity to the Coca Cola bottles.

At the height of the cola wars between Coca Cola and Chero Cola, a 1921 court decision banned Chero Cola from using the word “cola” in their product’s name.    The court found evidence that particularly in Dublin, the bottles of the two companies were so similar in appearance that employees of both companies picked up each other’s empty bottles.  Nearly a decade and half  later,  Hatcher revived his business by starting the NEHI line of flavored drinks and changing the name of his original cola to Royal Crown Cola. 

Not everyone in Dublin was enthusiastically in favor of Coca Cola.  Alderman G.H. Williams, a diehard Republican,  proposed an annual $5,000  tax on businesses selling Coca Cola, which he proclaimed was irreparably injuring the people of the city.  Williams also sought to discourage the sellers of cigarettes and near bear. It will be noted here that Williams was adamantly opposed to another Georgia icon, “Gone With the Wind,” which he asserted would ruin the South.

Coca Cola Plant - South Jefferson Street, ca. 1940.

Locally, Coca Cola was the eventual winner in the Cola Wars.  A modern plant was built in the early 1940s on South Jefferson Street, across from the current Dublin Police Department. The company moved to its present site on East Jackson Street while Royal Crown Company moved into the former Coke Building, before moving to East Dublin into a building now occupied by Irish Moving and Storage.

A popular pastime of kids and adults alike began in the years of World War I when Coca Cola began embossing its  bottles with the names of their bottling companies around the country.  The first Dublin bottles arrived in the winter of 1917. 

And to all of those of you who are over the age of fifty, do you remember the days when you would collect old coke bottles and return them to the Coke Company or your nearest neighborhood grocery?  You know, the days when a crate of two dozen empty bottles would land you nearly a half dollar, good for a trip to a matinee movie, a small pop corn and a thirst quenching  fountain drink -Coca Cola of course -  or the price of a new baseball to play with on the sand lots.

The domination of the Dublin market by Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola and Royal Crown Colas did not deter other entrepreneurs from entering the market. Williams Bottling Company was established at the bend of South Jefferson on the site of Williams Body Shop. It’s Pop Kola and fruit flavored drinks were cheaper alternatives to those of the big three soda makers.

So whether you can’t beat “The Real Thing,”  prefer the “Great Taste of an RC” or if  you are member of “The Pepsi Generation,” remember that the fight for the best soft drink started a century ago during the Golden Age of the Emerald City an entire century ago.

Friday, April 26, 2013


A New Tradition Begins

Most folks in this part of the South were more than glad to see Woodrow Wilson raising his right hand and taking the oath as the 28th president of the United States of America. After all, Wilson was the first Democratic president since Grover Cleveland left office some sixteen years before and only the second since the beginning of the Civil War. And to make things better for the solidly democratic South, Woodrow Wilson was a native of Virginia and a man who grew up in Augusta, Georgia.

So, it was only natural that many Southerners were overly excited about Wilson's inauguration. No one was more excited than the twenty-five lucky scouts, all members of Dublin Boy Scout Troop No. 1, who were chosen to represent the state of Georgia during the inaugural parade.

The Boy Scouts of America were organized in the winter of 1910 in Washington, D.C. by General Baden Powell. The 1913 inauguration would be the first in which the Boy Scouts would be able to participate. And, President Wilson, a consummate politician, was quick to enlist the helpful, kind Scouts to serve in the inauguration - a practice which continues today.

And, what could be more fitting and proper to have Boy Scouts, who by their nature promise to do their best to do their duty to God and our country. It was part of their creed to help other people at all times.

The Dublin troop, organized in early February 1912, was one of the first officially organized Boy Scout troops in the state.

The exciting announcement of the trip came in January. To be eligible to go on the trip, each scout was given an oral examination on the laws and oaths of the Boy Scouts of America.

The trip to Washington, D.C. was sponsored by Congressman Dudley M. Hughes of Danville, Georgia. Congressman Hughes, who had theretofore represented the 3rd District, began representing the newly created 12th Congressional District of Georgia in 1913. Hughes became an avid supporter of the Dublin scouts after entertaining them at his home on their 50-mile hike to the United Confederate Veterans Reunion in Macon in 1912.

Locally, the trip to the inauguration was sponsored by Judge Kendrick Hawkins, H.W. Knighton, S.V. Sconyers, A.T. Blackshear and A.D. Blackshear.

The Scouts, led by Scoutmaster George W. Fout and accompanied by the Rev. C.M. Chumbley and Fireman W.R. Locke, were assigned to first aid duty during the parade.

The boys and their chaperones didn't sleep much at all on the night before the trip. With all of their gear packed, checked and rechecked, the boys boarded a Central of Georgia train in Dublin on the morning of February 28, 1913. They rode to Savannah, where they transferred to a Seaboard Coastline train to ride in a specially outfitted passenger car for the 24-hour trip up the Atlantic Coast.

The muster roll of the scouts were; Sibley White, Bluford Page, Charles Hicks, Franklin Pierce, Vivian Dupree, Harry Erwin, Lewis Outler, Vernon McGlohorn, Dupree Bishop, John B. Parelle, Ewell Pierce, Theron Butts, Lyman Prince, Henry Carrere, Kyle Scarborough, Guy Scarborough, Clarkston Grier, Sidney Knight, Otis Rawls, Henry Hicks, Farrell Chapman, James Weddington, Fred Geffcken, John D. Prince, Jr. and a Chappell boy from Dudley. Like many Boy Scouts, many of these young men grew up to become trustworthy, loyal and brave leaders in their communities.

The thrifty boys, the first out of town troop to arrive in Washington, were welcomed by Washington, D.C. Scoutmaster, E.S. Martin, who went on serve a long career with the National Boy Scouts Association. Through the efforts of Congressman Hughes, the boys were quartered in the gymnasium at Rosedale Playground on the corner of 17th and Kramer Streets in northeast Washington, not far from the current day Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

An estimated 1500 friendly and cheerful scouts from across the country were invited to attend and serve. About half of the physically strong and mentally awake scouts were assigned as stretcher bearers for the many ambulances stationed around the city.

The day itself was nearly perfect. There were no bitterly cold, blustery winds nor any blizzards of blinding snow. Only a dreary, typically overcast March Washington sky with a threat of rain later in the day presented a concern to the half million or so people who showed up for the momentous moment in history.

Before returning home the boys toured Frederick, Maryland, the hometown of their scoutmaster. On the way back, the troop was treated to an audience with Governor William Hodges Mann in his office in the capitol in Richmond, Virginia. Gov. Mann, a friend of Rev. Chumbley, was the last Confederate veteran to serve as governor of Virginia.

The boys, who vowed to keep clean thoughts in their heads, arrived back home on March 7. Not a single injury or instance of bad conduct among the most obedient and wholly reverent Boy Scouts was reported. Every boy would tell you that it was the trip of a lifetime.

But there was one more special event to come. In the last week of May, Sibley White, of the Dublin troop, and Julius Harris were awarded a medal from the National Women's Suffrage Association for their meritorious conduct in keeping the lines along the parade route clear.

To make their point, between 5,000 and 8,000 suffragists staged their own parade in front of more than 100,000 people on March 3, a day before the Inaugural Parade. As the women marched from the Capitol to the White House, some of them were attacked, right in front of apathetic law enforcement officials.

The nature of the scouts weren't reported. One might assume the courteous boys may have protected the activist ladies after a few reported scuffles along the parade route.

For as long as they lived, these morally straight Boy Scouts from Dublin remembered the most unforgettable day when they were a part of history. It was that day, March 4, 1913, a hundred years ago when for the Boys Scouts of America, the first time in the history of the country, were part of the inauguration of the President of the United States.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


A dozen decades ago, Dublin and the rest of Laurens County, stood upon a precipice.  As we gazed into the valley of the future, we saw the whole world coming toward us.  That year, 1891, became one of the most pivotal years in the history of our county.  Dublin and Laurens County began its ascent from a sleepy,  lawless  village into one of the most prosperous and progressive locales in the entire state of Georgia. 

In the quarter century after the end of the Civil War, citizens of Dublin and Laurens County struggled to survive.  After the war, more than a decade would pass before a local newspaper was published or a river boat cruised up and down the Oconee River.  Two decades passed before railroad tracks were laid to the edge of the Oconee River.  A devastating fire nearly wiped out the entire business district of Dublin in 1889.   Still after twenty-five years, there was no bridge, either rail or passenger, over the river.  By the end of the year, two bridges would be constructed and a rail connection to Macon would be established with another one to Hawkinsville in the works.

When the rails of the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad, later known as the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad, first reached the eastern banks of the Oconee in 1886, freight and passengers were required to be carried by ferry across the river, which was subject to the mercy of floods and drought.  By 1891, the owners of the railroad were determined to construct a bridge over the river to increase their profits.

Ever since 1883, John T. Duncan, Judge of The Laurens County Court of Ordinary, led the effort to construct a bridge over the Oconee River.  After the electorate failed to approve a bond issue to build the bridge in 1883, private individuals attempted, but failed  in their efforts when the rushing flood waters washed a wooden bridge down river.  Undaunted, Duncan persevered. By mid-July 1891, the first permanent bridge over the Oconee was completed.  It lasted until it was replaced in 1920 and again in 1953.

Pedestrians, horse drawn vehicles and various livestock could now travel over the Oconee without having to deal with long lines, flood waters and costly toll fees at the Dublin ferry.    For the first time ever, citizens of Dublin and Laurens County, as well as the occasional traveler were no longer at the mercy of the raging or shallow waters of the Oconee.  More importantly, passage over the Oconee River was now free.  

The first permanent county bridge, which would last nearly three decades, was  replaced in 1920.

A sign of better times came when the Laurens Lodge, No. 75, F&AM moved into its new lodge in  a brick building which later became the Lanier Building and now occupied by the Courier Herald,   The first lodge of the Royal Arcanum was organized and met in the the Masons' new quarters.

In another move which signified a revival in the city, Lucien Quincy Stubbs, son of Col. John M. Stubbs - Dublin's first newspaper publisher -  purchased The Dublin People and renamed it the Dublin New Era.   Stubbs purchased the newspaper from Major A.H. McLaws, a Confederate officer and brother of Confederate Major General Lafayette McLaws.

Another good sign was the final prohibition of legal alcoholic beverage sales within the city limits. For more than a decade, the teetotalers and the drinkers waged a see-saw battle over the issue of beer and liquor sales in the city.  By the mid 1880s, the prohibitionists began to move ahead of those who wanted to buy a drink wherever and whenever they wanted to.

Still another showdown between the drinkers and the dry folks came in early March. In a county wide election, the prohibition people defeated the imbibing inhabitants by a scant margin of 131 votes.    Legal sales of liquor within the city of Dublin in bar rooms already licensed by the Dublin City Council continued until the end of the year.

A new bank, the People's Banking Company of Atlanta, was established, but failed to succeed.  It would take another year until the beginnings of the Dublin Banking Company, began a successful thirty year reign as the city's first permanent bank.

The year 1891 was a year of new and old.  A new jail replaced the old one which had been burned to the ground by disgruntled prisoners.  The grist mill at Blackshear's Mill Pond,  now known as Ben Hall Lake, burned leaving the county's oldest grist mill in a pile of ashes.

Without a doubt, the most important, non war,  date in the history of 19th Century Laurens County came on July 22, 1891.

Early on the morning of July 22, 1891, Conductor J.B. Maxon guided the first train out of the depot on Walnut Street. D.G. Hughes of Danville, H.S. Morse, president of the Illinois and Georgia Improvement Company, headed the list of dignitaries on board. A second train followed behind the No. 1. The trains chugged along the 54-mile track built primarily for the farmers who lived between Macon and Dublin.  Over $100,000.00 was raised among large and small farmers.  The project's success was assured when H.S. Morse was appointed as the superintendent, and James T. Wright was elected president  and the Illinois and Georgia Improvement Company supplied the rest of the capital investment.  The trains stopped in the growing community of Jeffersonville and picked up more passengers.  Vice president Dudley M. Hughes boarded the train during a celebration at Allentown.  Mercer Haynes, E.E. Hicks, Charles Brantley, and Dr. Wood of Dublin boarded the train which was now handsomely decorated with flowers and evergreens by the ladies of Dublin and Allentown.

The trains rushed through the infant towns of Montrose and Elsie (Dudley) to the shouts of joy.  Dublin was waiting, ready for the train.  Everyone was dressed in their best.  An estimated three thousand persons gathered around the depot.  Barbecue dinners and over a thousand loaves of bread  were served.  The Dublin Light Infantry led by Lieutenant J.M. Adams performed maneuvers for the crowds, only to be interrupted by a downpour.  Everyone scattered into the stores and the homes in the area.  The grounds that were saturated with people only minutes before were now nearly deserted.  Col. Stubbs's family played host to some honored guests.  His home was located on the farm of Col. Stubbs that then stretched from North Church Street to Calhoun Street and Moore Street on the north.  At 4:00 the train, now carrying all of the passenger cars, returned to Macon.  Following the new railroad to Macon was the first telegraph line running from Macon to Dublin.

More than two hundred years have passed in the history of Laurens County and Dublin now, but if I had to pick one, the most important one, that year would be 1891.   While many important events have taken place in the last two centuries, it was during that single year when many of the most seminal events in our county's history converged into  a turning point of our time.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


If you could go back in time a hundred years ago, you would find the City of Dublin resting on a pinnacle.  The meteoric growth of the stagnant, lawless, village to one of the leading cities of the State of Georgia was nothing less than astonishing, to say the least.

The decision by city leaders to clean out the illegal and the legal sale of alcohol in the city along with the infusion of money and jobs with the location of four railroads converging in the heart of the Emerald City ignited a spark which took Dublin from a population of 200 to a population of nearly 5,000 in twenty-five years.

Ideally suited in the center of the state, Dublin became a favorite location for gathering of state leaders.  During that year,  eight associations held their state conventions in the city. The members of the Al Sihah Mystic Temple of the Shrine, the State  Sunday School Association, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Georgia Banker's Association, the Weekly Press Association, the State Agricultural Society, the Macon Presbytery, and the Hotel Keepers of Georgia gathered in the Emerald City for business meetings and pleasurable activities.

With an eye on future, there was very little, if any, celebration or mention of centennial of Dublin in 1912.

The crowning jewels of the Emerald City were completed and started in 1912.  In August, the  city's modern post office was opened on East Madison Street.  For the first time ever, the citizens of Dublin had,  in reality, the city's first permanent post office building.  And, what a building it was.  The two-story building was recently renovated by Jeff Davis, IV as a testament to that generation of dreamers and doers who built the city into a crown jewel of Georgia.

A. Ten Eyck Brown of Atlanta was selected as the architect for the First National Bank building.  He was engaged with Morgan and Dillon and had designed the then new Fulton County Courthouse.  Brown designed many notable bank buildings in the South.  The building featured  a marble front on the first floor with the remaining facade of brick.  The foundation was laid on October 12, 1912.  The work on the six-story building was completed within six months.

It was also a year of great plans and unrealized dreams.  The Columbian Woodmen of the World planned to erect a four-story office building.  W.W. Robinson proposed to build a two-story opera house next to the Robinson Hardware Company a basement and a café.  A street car line  from the end of Bellevue never materialized.

Dr. E. New  considered building a seven-story building on the corner of W. Jackson Street and Monroe Street with stores on first  floor, a café on the top floor and apartments in between.  Architect RB McGeckin included a  children's playground and garden on the roof.

Elks Club members bought a lot for three-story building from the Georgia Warehouse and Compress Company at the southeast corner of East Madison and South Franklin Streets a project which never got off the ground.

An application for the incorporation of the Jacksonville, McRae and Northern Railroad was filed.  It began at Barrow's Bluff on the Altamaha River and was to run north through McRae and Cedar Grove on to Dublin, giving Dublin a direct route to Jacksonville, Fla.  Future Georgia governor Eugene Talmadge was an incorporator of the failed project.

One of the most highly contested presidential elections ever took place on November 5, 1912. It was the only time in the history of the country when three presidents, all serving consecutive terms, were on the same presidential ballot.  Woodrow Wilson, formerly of Augusta, easily won the race in Laurens County, with 83% of the vote.  The Bull Moose candidate, Teddy Roosevelt, came in second with 15%.  Republican William Howard Taft, with support from only a handful of blacks who were allowed to vote, finished a distant third.  Eugene Debs, the socialist candidate, received two votes in the Reedy Springs District.  Election results were received over a rented wire in the Elk's Lodge and flashed on the canvas on the front of Baynard's Store by the use of a stereopticon.

It was a year to celebrate the courage and the bravery of the grand old Army of the South.  Under the auspices of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a thirty-five foot, ninety-thousand pound marble statue was erected on the lawn of the Carnegie Library at the intersection of Bellevue Avenue and Academy Avenue.  After a four-year dispute when the statue remained veiled, the monument to the Confederate soldier was dedicated on Confederate Memorial Day in 1912.

Hundreds of people from Dublin, including the Dublin Brass Band, traveled by rail to Macon to celebrate the National Reunion of the United Confederate Veterans in May.

It was a sad day in the town when one of those Boys in Gray, the universally beloved, Capt. Hardy B. Smith, died in his home on West Gaines Street on December 6.

Laurens County's industries included a cotton mill, two cotton oil mills, several fertilizer plants, phosphate works, veneering mills, lumber mills, a variety works, an ice factory, brick plants, machine shops, hydraulic stone works, marble works, large buggy and wagon factories, bottling works, a disinfectant and chemical plant, naval stores manufactory, an oil heater plant, wood working plants, a cotton compress  and numerous  cotton gins.

With four banks with a total capital surplus over  than six hundred thousand dollars and deposits well more than a million dollars in the city and thirteen banks in Laurens County carrying over 1 and 1/4 million dollars in deposits, Laurens County became the regional banking center for East Central Georgia.

Agricultural production dominated the local economy.  For the second year in a row, Laurens County led the state in cotton production.  Despite that fact, the beginning of the end of the county's position as the Queen of Cotton in Georgia would take place in the following years.

The year 1912 was the pinnacle of the explosive growth of Dublin, its surrounding sister towns and the unincorporated countryside.  Nearly a half century would pass before Laurens County would regain it dominant economic position she held in 1912, a century ago.