Thursday, January 8, 2015

1914: THE END OF THE GOLDEN AGE


1914: The End of the Golden Age


As years go in our past, the year 1914 was one of those years you hated to see end.  For all of the great and wonderful things which happened here a century ago, the fourteenth year of the 20th Century was one final flare into the heavens of our community’s first great golden age. As the year came to an end, Dubliners and Laurens County were celebrating the Christmas season with one of the first, if not the first, lighted municipal Christmas trees in the state and one of the first in the United States.  Still, all was not goodness and light, Decades of darkness and despair would soon reach out their tentacles in an attempt to drag us into the abyss of gloom and despondency.

It was a year when sports dominated the headlines during the spring.  Wrestling matches, featuring some of the best professional and amateur wrestlers in the United States of America, came to Bertha Theater in the early spring to determine the who was the champion.    During that same spring, the Bloomer Girls, a premier women’s traveling baseball team, came to town, where they suffered a defeat to the Dublin boys, a rarity during their southern tour of 1914.

Dublin’s largest church, the First Baptist Church, was officially dedicated upon the paying off of the construction loan, seven years after the building was completed.  Mrs. F.H. Rowe was the first person to be baptized in the church. Another new building plan was making headlines.  Frank G. Corker, President of the First National Bank and an officer of the Georgia Mausoleum Company, announced the construction of a municipal mausoleum at Northview Cemetery. By most accounts, the building, not just for members of a single family, would become one of the first of its kind in the South.

As tensions began to build south of the border with Mexico, local patriots, under the command of W.C. Davis, organized a militia company in case a war with Mexico was declared.

On a grand note, the Federal Post Office on East Madison Street was finally completed, three years after the beginning of construction and a year and a half after its official opening.

Business interests began to suffer and with the economic downturn. The Chamber of Commerce, which had been originally organized in 1911, was re-organized with hopes of a permanent organization for centuries to come.  Present at the first meeting of new chamber were:  C.B. Cadwell (Secretary,) W.W. Robinson (President,) J.M. Finn (Vice President,) and D.S. Brandon (Chairman of Auditing Committee.) Members entertained with movies at the Bertha with free cigars and Chero Cola.

In some news notes of mere trivia, William Barlow celebrated his 103 birthday, making him one of the oldest white residents in Laurens County’s history.  The Farmer's Enterprise, an African-American firm, opened in the building at the corner of Lawrence and Madison next to Chinese laundry under the direction of Rev. A. T. Speight.  Hal M. Stanley was elected as Grand Chancellor of Georgia Knights and Pythias.   The Crystal Palace was  reopened under the direction of  J.D. Southall, who led the installation of a new projector. The Rockledge Militia District, the last militia district created in Laurens County, was proposed.

The county’s first orphanage, Bethlehem Orphange,  opened near Minter on land donated by Mrs. B.M. Wilkes.  The orphanage, which came here from Meansville, Pike County, burned after a few months of operation.

The Rentz Banking Company was organized in May under the direction of  President, Dr. J.M. Page, Vice Pres., H.D. Barron and W.E. Bedingfield; Cashier, H.K. Murchison; and directors:  A.W. Davidson, S.T. Hall, J.S. Adams, W.A. Bedingfield, E.S. Baldwin, Alex D. Blackshear, and J.W. Rowe.  Down in Cadwell, the city was making preparations to install the first light and water system in the county outside of Dublin.

Back in Dublin, the Southern Exchange Bank opened its doors across from the Post Office.

In June, children, accompanied by the mothers and grandmothers, descended upon Dublin for the annual meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Children of the Confederacy.

In June 1914, the Oconee Cotton Mills, successor to the Dublin Cotton Mills burned to the ground.  The mill, located on Marion Street in West Dublin, was the crowning jewel of the cotton industry which sparked a revolution in Laurens County in cotton production,.

On August 3, 1914, the future governor of Georgia, Nat Harris, spoke to a large crowd at the Laurens County Courthouse.

On a sad note, Judge Kendrick J. Hawkins, the recently appointed first Judge of the Dublin Judicial Circuit, died.  Judge Kendrick was replaced by William W. Larsen, who would later serve several terms in the Congress of the United States.

Dublin attorney Peyton L. Wade was chosen by the governor to sit on the bench of the Georgia Court of Appeals.  Wade served for six years, three of them as the court’s third Chief Justice, until his death in 1919.

The year marked a milestone for one of the county’s biggest supporters.  Carl Vinson, who would later bring to Dublin the U.S. Naval Hospital, Interstate Highway 16, along with a new courthouse and library in the 1960s, was elected to the U.S. Congress for the first time, replacing future Laurens County resident, Thomas W. Hardwick, who entered the U.S. Senate and served as Governor of Georgia, before moving to Dublin in 1926.

In a way, the year 1914 was a year of beginnings, or beginnings of the end.   As Laurens County relinquished her throne as the queen of cotton production, it was the last great year of cotton production before the boll weevil waged its wrath of destruction upon local crops.  And, it was the year that across the Atlantic Ocean that the first world war began, a struggle which would change the face of the world forever.

As I end my eighteenth year of bringing you “Pieces of Our Past,” I again remind you that our most important history is not in our past, but in our future.  It continues to be my honor, my pleasure and my blessing to bring to my readers stories of our people and their contributions to our community and their triumph of the human spirit.

The year 2015 will prove to be an exciting one for me and the Laurens County Historical Society, For it will during this year, when the society’s new museum opens in its new home at 702 Bellevue.  A renewed dedication on the part of our members and our county will make the new museum a show place of our heritage and culture for our residents as well as many others around the state and the nation.

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