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.