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

Friday, July 31, 2015

FARMING IN LAURENS IN 1915




The somewhat lackluster year of 1915 was more remarkable for what did not happen here
than what did happen.  After a quarter century of unbridled growth, Laurens Countians began to
suffer from business closures, cotton crop failures and general uneasiness about their future.  The
county had reached its zenith in 1913 and 1914, but there were always people here who never
lost faith in themselves and the county they loved.

For example, take a look at an article penned by "A Dublin Resident," in the August 10,
1915 edition of the Macon Telegraph, which he titled, "Laurens County Proves Its Splendid
Richness - Brilliant Opportunities in Laurens for The Worker."

In proclaiming that life is worth living the writer pointed to a "countywide" spirit
progressive reform in bettering schools and churches in addition better home lives and farming
conditions.  Credit was given to the county commissioners, school officials and teachers, Sunday
school, the Laurens School Improvement League and school agricultural clubs for the continued
growth in the county.

First and foremost on the minds of Laurens Countians in 1915 were good roads, not only
passable and maintained county dirt roads, but the coming of the Dixie Highway to Central
Georgia.   As the year progressed, Dublin appeared to be a sure spot on the highway's two route
selections from the trans continental Columbus to Savannah route, the future Highway 80, or the
Savannah to Atlanta route, which was not chosen. 

With its half million acres and 810 square miles of area, the need for new and better
county roads were always on the all-important minds of the voters. With improved roads came
the need for things we take for granted today.  Concrete culverts and bridges were on the need list
of the commissioners, who, in those days, were called "Road Commissioners."  The first
non-river crossing bridge was the steel bridge over Hunger and Hardship on North Franklin
Street.  With new and improved equipment and an abundance of natural soil resources, the
commissioners began to further appease their voters as tax dollars would allow.  

Boasting the fact that Laurens was a "Two-Crop County," the author pointed to the fact
that the number of farms was increasing every year. That figure would peak in 1924, when the
county boasted more than 4000 farms, an all time state record.  Part of the increased number of
farms was attributed to the subdivision of once larger farms and former ante bellum plantations
across the northern portion of the county and the cultivation of the pine and Wiregrass section
along the lower southwestern edge of the county. Prime farm lands brought between 25 and 50
dollars per acre, far below the prices of farms in other southeastern states.

The boastful, status quo  idea that a cotton-corn dominated agricultural economy would
continue to support Laurens Countians soon dissolved into oblivion.  The coming of the boll
weevil and the near destruction of the cotton crop led to a massive crop diversification
agricultural pursuits for the first time since the Civil War.  Before the war,  the plantations across
the northern end of the county were forced to diversify to support all of the needs of the residents
of the county.  

As the cotton economy began to fail, farmers looked to other vegetables, grains and
grasses, such as oats and vetch,  as well as increasing the production of livestock, swine and their
byproducts. 

Dublin, the county seat, was pointed to as the key to the economic development of the
county, which was the center of a developing commercial and industrial area.  The writer saluted
the communities of Dexter, Dudley, Cadwell, Rentz, Tingle, Montrose, Rockledge, Brewton,
Lovett, Minter, Orianna, Catlin, Cedar Grove and Poplar Springs for working together with
Dublin and each other.

By all accounts, this writer was hopelessly optimistic as to the near future of Laurens
County.  With the escalation of World War I and the country's eventual entry into the war in
Europe, agricultural activities began to stabilize.  Once the war ended and the cotton crop failed
to rebound, the economic consequences were staggering.    As the county peaked in  its number
of banks to a mark only behind Fulton and Chatham counties, one bank after another began to
fail.  Before the end of the 1920s, the county's banks dwindled down to two, the Farmers and
Merchants Bank and the Bank of Dudley, which were owned by single families.

The sole purpose of the 1915 article was to show that Laurens County, though ravaged by
the boll weevil, had the power to survive any agricultural crisis.  With an average annual rainfall
of 51 inches over the previous four decades, Laurens farmers were poised to continue their large
yields.

The author pointed to the ten million dollars of farmland encompassing a quarter of a
million acres and 400 square miles, and  fed by the streams of the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers,
the county was perched on the precipice of greatness.

Two indicators of better time was the formation of the Farmers Supply Company and the
Laurens County Farmers Union.  Cotton production in 1914 rose to nearly 60,000 bales, or
30,000,000 pounds.  Beating that second highest record, set in 1911, would be difficult for
Laurens County's farmers, who had led the state from 1911 to 1913 and finished a close second
in 1914.  

Production plummeted in 1915 by nearly a third in Laurens and in the other leading
counties in the state.  When the bales were counted and estimated, production for the year 1915
amounted to 40,000 bales, although respectable, was regarded as a devastating loss to Laurens
County's farmers.  

The Laurens Herald looked at the 40,000 bale figure and applauded it as a sign of
increased diversification.  On the optimistic side, the first carload of hogs, sponsored by the
Farmers Union, were shipped to Moultrie in hopes of agricultural diversification.  A county wide
soil survey was completed to give farmers a better knowledge of soil conditions across the
county.

In retrospect, not even the invulnerable Four Seasons Department Store, which had been
the leading store in the East Central Georgia area for nearly a decade, could withstand its losses
when it filed bankruptcy.  

Despite drastic changes in cotton crops and prices and the national economic woes,
Laurens County farmers persevered for the next three decades.  As World War II ended, the
county's farmers once again led Laurens back to the top of the list of the most productive farming
counties.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

THE BIG ONE THAT STILL GOT AWAY


The World Record Large Mouth Bass


As fish stories go, this is a big one - a really big one.  For more than three quarters of a century, this verified fish story has withstood the test of time, a drove of doubters, and a congregation of cynics,  and though there is no existing direct evidence to prove, or disprove, his claim, George Washington Perry, a former resident of Telfair County and a native of Laurens County, Georgia, still holds the record for catching the biggest large mouth bass in the history of the world.  This is the true story of his catch and how it still got away.

George Washington Perry was born on March 1, 1912 in Dublin, Georgia.  One of six children of Joseph and Laura Perry, George grew up on farms in central Georgia.  When he wasn't helping out with the chores or working in the fields, George dreamed of going fishing, not only for the sport of it, but for something good to eat.  You see, George lived in the days when the boll weevil came and devoured most of the cotton plants which brought money to everyone, regardless of whether or not they owned or even worked on a farm.  This was the Great Depression.  There was little food to eat.  With what little money George and his family did have, it was a shame to waste it on buying food, especially when he  could reel it in out of a stream, creek, pond, lake or a river for free.

It was early on the morning on Thursday, June 2, 1932.  George woke up, saw it was raining and immediately thought to himself - no farming today,  the fields are too wet.  But, it would be a good day for fishing.  Fish usually bite better when the atmosphere's pressure falls during storms.  So, George called upon his buddy Jack Page to join him for a day of fishing.  The pair hoped to catch a mess of fish for supper that night, but just in case they didn't, it would be good for two teenage boys to talk about things teenage boys tend to talk about, not to mention missing a day of toiling in the hot Georgia sun.

With only one lure between them - a Creek Chub Fintail Shiner - George hopped in Jack's pickup truck bound for Montgomery Lake, an ancient ox-bow lake formed over centuries as the meanders of the Ocmulgee River's were cut off from the river's main run.  The 1931 Creek Chub catalog boasted that the No. 2101 Natural Perch fintail shiner with its beautiful, natural colors, scales, fins, with flat sides and a swishing tail and flexible fins was as near like a living, breathing and wiggling minnow as any human could make.  The company guaranteed their lure would make a fool out of any big old wise fish.  Their promise would turn out to be more than mere puffing, more than George could ever imagine or even dream.

George didn't want to lose his prized plug.  After all, it cost him $1.25 - which in those days, was a good wage for a long  day's work.  Perry pulled back his $1.50 rod and reel and carefully cast his lure between two horizontal cypress trees lying on the surface of the once bountiful lake.   Perry saw a splash.  He felt a tug.  He pulled back.  When nothing moved, George feared that he had hung his line on a pesky stump or a submerged log.

But then, the tug became a pull.  The pull became a strain. The strain became a struggle. a Adrenalin gushed through George's veins.   His instincts took over.  George pulled.  He pulled harder. After an arduous fight, George and Jack got the monster bass to the bank and put it in Jack's truck and set off to Helena, the closest town.

George and Jack pulled up to the store of J.J. Hall and Company.  They knew they had something special, certainly the biggest bass they ever saw and naturally they wanted to show it off.   As they strode into the store to exhibit their prized trophy, all eyes turned, gazed and bugged out in disbelief.

George laid the lifeless bass on a pair of scales.  No one would question the accuracy of these scales which were actually the official scales of the Helena Post Office.  The needle stopped at twenty-two pounds and four ounces.  Someone grabbed up a measuring tape and wrapped it around the twenty-eight inches of the fish's girth and then laid it out on the counter and marked off thirty-two inches.

      There were no digital cameras in those days and certainly not any cell phone cameras.  It was more than six decades before any purported photograph appeared.  The one that did showed an unidentified man and an unidentified young boy holding a big fish.  The palm trees in the picture's background still stand on the post office property and lend some credence to its authenticity.

Someone suggested that Perry submit his fish to Field and Stream Magazine as a part of their annual fishing contest.  Obviously George won it  that year.  Though George Perry was a legend in the Big Bend region of the Ocmulgee River, he never received much of any national recognition until later in life and more so after he died.    As a part of his prize winnings, George did receive a shotgun, a pair of boots, a rod and real and a tackle box, a  seventy-five-dollar value, as the catcher of the biggest fish of the year.   Today his picture and story would be all over the Internet and plastered in every fishing magazine in the country.   Just to put the doubters to rest, George went out and won the contest again in 1934, with a bass weighing a mere thirteen pounds and fourteen ounces.

So what did George Perry do with his big fish?  No, he didn't have it mounted and put on his wall.  He did what every country boy of the 1930s would have done. He gave it to his mama, who cut it up into pieces and fried it in a big cast iron pan. Mrs. Laura served the world record fish with some tomatoes and onions she picked out of her garden and a mess of good old fashioned skillet-fried cornbread.  The Perry's finished off the rest of fish the next day, much to the consternation of ichthyologists around the world.

Jack Page seemingly disappeared.  No one ever seemed to know whatever happened to Jack.  Maybe he left Telfair County to see if he could catch an even bigger fish, always regretting the fact that it could have been his turn to cast the lure into Montgomery Lake that day.

George Perry put aside his fishing tackle as a vocation and took up an interest in aviation.  He worked on planes and opened a flying service in Brunswick.  In 1973, at the age of sixty-one and before he could tell the complete story of his world record catch, George Perry crashed into the side of a mountain near Birmingham, Alabama while ferrying an airplane.

No one in these parts ever caught a more celebrated fish.  Kelly Ward of Laurens County did manage to snare the largest striped bass ever caught in Georgia when he reeled in a 63-pounder in the Oconee River in 1967.  Some say it might have rivaled the world record had it been weighed immediately after Ward caught the big fish.

Catching the world's biggest large mouth bass is no secret.  There are some necessary skills; careful planning, good weather, and a lot of luck that goes into landing the big one. In the words of my late daddy, who considered himself a fine fisherman, when it comes right down to it, "sometimes, you just have to hold your mouth right."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

LIFE IN DUBLIN AFTER THE CIVIL WAR


An Oral History


They were born during the last years before the Civil War divided America.  They grew up during the horror of that war and the hard times which followed.  From those primitive times, the Stevens sisters witnessed a most miraculous transformation in America.  During their long lives, the sisters witnessed the coming of electric lights, radio and television.  They were transported by horses, railroads, automobiles and airplanes.  This is their story.

Anna, (left)  the eldest daughter of Joseph E. Stevens was born in Laurens County on October 11, 1859.  Ella, the youngest daughter, was born on January 28, 1861 as the legislatures of the Southern states were debating the issue of secession.  Too young to understand the cataclysm whirling around them, the girls were not too young to know that their father, a corporal of Co. C. of the 57th Georgia infantry, was killed near Vicksburg, Mississippi while on picket duty.  Their mother, Margaret,  was a daughter of Edwin and Malinda Holmes.

The Stevens girls  were born and raised reared in  Dublin. Their father, whom they barely remembered, came here in the mid 1930s.  Before he enlisted in the Confederate Army, he helped to build the court house, which was still standing until the 1930s and was known as the Court Square Hotel.

Way back in the autumn of 1931, the sisters sat down with a Dublin Courier Herald writer to reminisce about the days of their youth, long ago in Dublin, Georgia.  That account was published in the November 14, 1931 edition of the Dublin Courier Herald:

There was only one physician, Dr. Hudson, who was followed by Dr. Harris Fischer and Dr. Peyton Douglas.  There were only two church denominations here in our youth, Baptist and Methodist with only one church Building. The building stood on the same place where the First Baptist church now stands.  When the city was ready to build a new church, the old building was razed and given to the colored people to build them a church, which was used for a number of years for both worship and school purposes.

             There was only one school building in the city at that time, which stood on the site where the High School Building now stands.  It was still being used when Horace and  Effie Geffcken reached the school age and they entered their school life there. The mail service was poor at that time.  It was sometimes brought on horseback or in a buggy from Toomsboro, as that was the nearest railroad station. The mail was often delayed for several days at the time, especially in rainy weather as there was no bridge across Hunger and Hardship Creek.

              In 1871, the mother of these two women died. They remember and can give the names of each person who lived in Dublin at that time. The list follows:  Col. E.C. Corbett and family; Charlton Smith, farmer; Col. James Thomas, Proprietor of the Old Troop Hotel; Henry Herrman, merchant; William Tillery, Shoemaker; Elijah Benton, tax receiver. F.H. Rowe, merchant; George Currell, farmer and merchant; Col. Rivers, lawyer; Col. W.S. Ramsay, Baptist minister and school teacher; R.A. Stanley, Lawyer: Bryant Herndon, Dr. Douglass; Dr. Fisher, Ben Dixon, farmer; John Keen, Capt. Hardy Smith ordinary; Mike Burch, Wright Stanley, William Hester, W. E. Geffcken, father of Anna Geffcken's husband; James Reinhardt, merchant; L.C. Perry, T.P. Sarchett, merchant; W. J. Scarborough, Mr. Hollaway, T.H. Rowe, merchant; J.T. Duncan, merchant; Col. J.M. Stubbs, lawyer, William Pope, merchant.  Dr. Fischer had the only drug store in the city at theat time.

           There is an interesting story about the Court  Square Hotel  It is bound up in the lives of its builder, Mr. Stevens and his descendant.  It has already been stated that the building first served as a court house.  Later it was moved and became a clinic, managed by Dr. Edmundson and Dr. Thompson.  About this time, Mrs. Spivey's youngest daughter, Bonnie Belle granddaughter of the builder finished a course in nursing at the Rawlings Sanitarium in Sandersville and  came back home and located.  In a day or two she was called on duty by Dr. E.B. Claxton on her first case and made
her first dollar within its walls
.
             One day, Dan Smith decided to ride out and see the train.  He took a fine horse, one which had never seen a train and rode bravely forth.  The place to see the train was finally reached and Mr. Smith enjoyed the sight immensely.  Not so the horse.  The animal became very hard to hold and began acting in a very strange manner.  Mr. Smith thought nothing of it and continued to hold the animal, so it would not run away.  In a few minutes the horse began to tremble and a little later fell to the ground, frightened to death.

              Another happening of the past, which concerns Mrs. Spivey and Mrs. Geffcken, occurred during the Civil War.  When Jefferson Davis passed through Dublin, he stopped under a china berry tree near their mother's house. She was greatly upset thinking that the men were Yankees.  She was almost ready to flee to safety when the men passed on.  Later in the same day, after she had forgotten her fright, she saw another group of men nearby and realized that they actually were Yankees, who were following Mr. Davis and his men. She was again afraid for her children and home, but soon discovered that even the enemy can be friendly at times,  for the blue-coated Yanks rescued her horse which had fallen into a well in front of the house.

The girls recollected that they went to school in the same building that their father did.  Mr. Stevens built his house on the spot of the former Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad Depot at the intersection of South Jefferson and Marion Street.  At the end of the block up the hill toward the courthouse was the home of John Dasher which was located on the future of the First National Bank Building and the new location of Georgia Military College.

Anna, the eldest daughter,  She married Mr. William Frederick Geffcken, a South Carolinian carpenter and inventor, who claimed to the youngest person in Laurens County to serve in the Confederate Army and died in 1923.  The Geffckens, who lived on Pine Street had three children: Mrs. Effie M. Fort of Dublin and Horace and Frederick Geffcken of Portsmouth, Va.  Anna died on January 28, 1951 and is buried in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Ella, (left) the youngest Stevens girl, married A.K. Spivey, who died in 1911. The Spiveys, who lived on the corner of Gaines and Washington Street,  had four children;  O.W. Spivey, of Rebecca, Ga., Lavada, (Mrs. D.F.) Bush, Bonnie Belle (Mrs. W.R.) Wynn and J. Hilton Spivey of Atlanta. Ella, who died in 1934, three years after the Courier Herald interview, is buried in the cemetery of Bethlehem Baptist Church at Condor, near East Dublin.  

The oral histories of the Stevens girls gave us some insight into how life was like in the decades following the Civil War, which ended 150 years ago.  Please take the time and sit down with a senior citizen and record the stories of their lives so that those who come after us can take a remarkable glimpse back into our past. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

CAPTAIN HUGH BARRON


HUGH CLAFTON BARRON
On the Wings of a Hero

 For sixty eight minutes, an American Airlines twin-engine Convair circled in the skies above Chicago. With his plane's fuel nearly exhausted, jet airliner pilot Clafton Barron had to make an emergency landing and make one soon. Barron and his crew struggled mightily to release the right main landing gear, which has been stuck in the upright position.

Earlier in the day of November 9, 1954, passengers boarded the doomed plane in Fort Worth, Texas for the relatively short flight to Chicago. Along the way, the plane stopped in Springfield, Missouri to pick up more flyers, including Mrs. Shirley Stratton, wife of Illinois governor William G. Stratton. It was about five minutes until four o'clock in the afternoon, when the pilot Barron, based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, but a native of Dublin, Georgia, radioed air traffic controllers in Chicago that one of his landing gears was stuck and wouldn't drop down into its landing position. Barron got Capt. Fred Bailey on the radio and went through a series of routine measures to lower the right wheels.

After twenty minutes of futile efforts, Bailey directed Barron and his co-pilot H.L. Henderson to fly north of the city to Glenview Naval Air Station, where there would be a crash and fire crew standing by. Gov. Stratton stayed in contact with airport officials from his Chicago offices on LaSalle Street. By 4:30, Barron reported that he had about 65 gallons of fuel left - maybe enough to keep flying for about 30 minutes. "I decided that the best way to keep everyone calm was to tell them what was wrong and how I intended to overcome the trouble," Barron recalled.

Barron lowered the Convair's flaps and began his descent. Approaching low from the south, Barron attempted to tilt the right wing higher to keep it off the ground upon contact with the runway. As the plane lost speed, the right wing dropped dangerously and deadly toward the ground below. The crew and passengers braced for a crash. Barron pulled the flaps all the way and gently edged the left and nose wheels to the ground. For four thousand excruciating feet, the crippled plane slid down the runway until it spun around at a right angle to a full stop. Stewardess Anita Roberson had calmly and brilliantly prepared the passengers on the proper evacuation procedures.

All were safe, breathing, but barely. Within a minute, Navy crash crews had ripped open every door and hatch from the plane and retrieved everyone from the wreckage. Mrs. Statton and the other passengers praised Capt. Barron for his calm demeanor during the descent and especially for saving their lives. Thirty seven men, including an Illinois state senator and three women, made it to safety, though they were visibly shaken as they boarded emergency vehicles.

Capt. Hugh Clafton Barron followed the manual and performed a successful emergency landing in his first try, well almost. 'Bo Peep" Knight was riding his truck on a Dublin road a little more than twenty years earlier on March 31, 1934. With Wansley Hughes and Bob Gentry aboard, Clafton Barron was taking off in his prop plane. Arthur Rowe and R.T. Smith saw Barron's plane wasn't going to clear their truck. They jumped out to save their lives. One of the plane's wings struck the truck and tipped it over killing "Bo Peep" on the spot. The plane spun and came to a stop when it struck a wire fence about thirty yards away. Barron and his passengers limped away from the crash.

Poor "Bo Peep" was laid to rest days later. Barron's crash on the outskirts of Dublin in 1934 didn't stop him from flying. He loved to fly and kept on flying. His kinsman W.H. "Bud" Barron went on to become one of Dublin's and Georgia's most celebrated flyers. Bud Barron was known to have flown the second most miles of any Army Air Corps pilot in World War II. Clafton Barron took a job as a commercial airline pilot with American Airlines in 1942.

On August 4, 1955, just eight months after his first crash landing in Chicago, Barron piloted his American Airline plane off the runway at Springfield, Missouri, where his former plane had developed landing gear problems back in November. Twenty-seven passengers and two other crew members were aboard. They had taken off from Tulsa, Oklahoma bound for New York City. Aboard were eight women, two children and a Catholic priest and missionary, the Rev. George Crock. Daveron and Robert Galloway were traveling with their mother Betty to join their father Robert Galloway in his new job in Jordan as a community development adviser.

Just a few minutes after takeoff, the forty-five-year old Capt. Barron radioed a "mayday" signal to the St. Louis Airport that he had one engine on fire. For thirty minutes Barron and his first officer William G. Gates valiantly fought to glide his damaged plane to a nearby military airstrip. Unlike his successful crash landing in Chicago, this situation was different, completely different. His plane was on fire and falling fast. Stewardess Thelma Ballard did all she could to comfort the terrified passengers.

Witnesses at Fort Leonard Wood saw the plane as its glided toward the runway some two hundred to five hundred feet above the ground. It appeared at first that the plane would make it to safety, but all of sudden there were muffled explosions. Parts and eventually the wings dropped off the plane as it tumbled for a quarter of a mile before it disappeared into a woody ravine only a half a mile from the edge of the landing strip and possible safety.

It was the third time in less than eight months that an American Convair out of Springfield crashed. Previously in March, thirteen were killed and twenty-two were injured in the only crash Barron was not involved in. Rescue workers, thwarted by a dense underbrush of vines, scrubby trees and brambles and the intense flames emanating from the plane, desperately tried to rescue the passengers and crew. All of thirty people aboard perished inside the inferno.

Captain Hugh Clafton Barron was buried in Northview Cemetery. He was born to William J. and Ella May Hughes Barron of Dublin on Christmas Eve 1909. He married his wife Margaret in 1928 and for a time lived with their daughter Maggie in a house at 318 Rowe Street in Dublin. After he graduated from high school, Clafton worked as a delivery clerk for the post office. Clafton Barron may have died in a plane crash, but he died as a hero. During the last thirty minutes of his life and with his very last breath, Barron fought to keep his plane flying, trying to save the other twenty nine souls aboard. And, those forty two other persons who survived the Chicago crash landing owe their lives and the lives of their descendants to the brave and the dauntless, Captain Hugh Clafton Barron.


SHEEP HERDING IN LAURENS COUNTY

SHEEP HERDING  IN LAURENS COUNTY

For most of the Nineteenth Century the pastures of Laurens County and its neighboring counties  were covered with sheep. The sheep came to this area as a result of the influx of Scottish Highlander families into east and southeast Central Georgia in the decades following the War of 1812.   While no records of the numbers of sheep exist prior to 1850, many sheep grazed on the Wiregrass lands along with the cattle brought in by the Scots.

While cotton was a major cash crop of our area, wool production continued to grow until the beginning of the Civil War.  Most of the uniforms of Georgia's Confederate soldiers were made from wool and not cotton.

In 1850, the United States began taking a census of agricultural activities for the first time.  During that year there were 7606 head of sheep.  Forty one farmers had over fifty  head.  Sixteen of those owned more than one hundred.  The largest sheep farmers were those men who owned the largest plantations.  Samuel Yopp had five hundred sheep on his plantation between Dublin and Dudley. That year, the sheep produced a half ton of wool.  Nathan Tucker, a large plantation owner in the extreme northeastern corner of the county had 366.  Freeman H. Rowe and Gov. George M. Troup had over two hundred head each. Other farmers who had over hundred head were David Harvard, James Stewart, E.H. Blackshear, Reuben Warren, A.C. Hampton, Henry C. Fuqua, Samuel Miller, James Barlow, James Stanley, James White, and Josiah Gay.  

In 1860, there were slightly over one-half million sheep in Georgia.  In Laurens County the number had declined to just over six thousand.  The number of men who had one hundred head remain about the same.  While large sheep herds were scattered all over the county in 1850, a shift had already occurred by 1860.  The largest sheep owners were Nathan Tucker, James Stewart, Freeman Rowe, and Samuel Yopp.  The major sheep herds were located in three areas.  The first area was located along the northeastern line of the county from the current day Highway 80 northwest to the Buckeye Road.  Large sheep farmers in this area were A.J. Hilburn, Dougal Stewart, Alexander Graham, Aaron Odom, C.S. Guyton, Nathan Tucker, and E.H. Blackshear.  These seven men owned twenty seven percent of the sheep in the county.  Another concentrated area was along the southwestern line of the county from the Cadwell area northeast toward Montrose.  Large sheep farmers in this area were John White, Benjamin Burch, Robert Faircloth, Alcy Faulk, Allen Thompson, Hayden Hughes, Samuel Yopp, and John W. Yopp.  These men owned twenty percent of the county's sheep.  One other large sheep farmer was Freeman H. Rowe, whose farm was located at the southern tip of Dublin from the Oconee River west to Telfair Street.

During the Civil War and its aftermath, the number of sheep in Georgia plummeted to sixty percent of its pre-war level.  On the other hand, the number in Laurens County rose to 8502 in the 1870 Census.  Slightly more than eleven tons of wool was clipped in the year preceding the census.  The number of sheep was only slightly less than the number of cattle and swine.

Nineteen men and one woman, Mrs. Nathan Tucker,  owned over a hundred head of sheep in 1870.  The largest farmers in the county were James Stewart and John White who each owned five hundred.  James Stewart clipped fifteen hundred pounds of wool, while John White reported that he had not clipped any.  Aaron Odom was the third largest farmer with 450.  Sheep farmers who were increasing their herds were Vaughn Hilbun, Josiah Gay, J.T. Rogers, U.G.B. Hogan, Samuel Roach, David Alligood, J.G.F. Clark, John Wynn, Benjamin Burch, Wright Nobles, Rachel Robinson, and James Herndon.

In 1880, another dramatic shift began to occur in sheep farming in Laurens County.  Only Warren Carter, Duncan Graham, and John Holmes had more than seventy five sheep in the northeastern part of the county.  Production in northwestern and southeastern Laurens County was minimal.  Hardy Alligood of Hampton Mills District had thirteen hundred head with nearly four hundred lambs being born during the year.  Most of the large sheep farms were then located in the Pinetuckey District which encompassed the southern quadrant of the county.  Alfred Burch had slightly over one thousand  head while William Burch had seven hundred head.  Other large farmers were Benjamin Burch, Ben Burch, Hardy Gay, James B. Gay, Wm. B.F. Daniel, John McLendon, John White, John G.F. Clark, John Grinstead, and Jasper Gay.



Sheep herding became more profitable than cotton farming, despite the ravages of dogs who killed many of them.  Sheep thrived on the grasses in the open ranges of southeastern Central Georgia, known as "The Wiregrass."  The prime range stretched westerly from Bulloch County toward Telfair and Laurens and thence southwest toward Worth and Berrien Counties.  In 1890,  there were four hundred and forty thousand sheep in Georgia.  Thirteen thousand one hundred of them were in Laurens County.  The number of sheep outnumbered the total number of cattle, including milk cows.  It may have been a poor year since the wool clip had dropped to nine thousand pounds.  Within ten years,  the numbers of Georgia sheep decreased by forty percent.

Laurens County finished a close seventh in the number of sheep in Georgia in 1890 coming within seven hundred of fifth place.  Laurens County's position was mainly due to its tremendous size.  The leader was Emanuel County which had nearly twenty thousand and clipped over two and one half pounds per sheep compared to the three quarters of a pound produced by Laurens County's sheep.  Other counties ahead of Laurens were Bulloch, Berrien, Tattnall, Worth, and Telfair.  The forty two hundred sheep of Johnson County produced over two pounds of wool each.

The number of sheep began to steadily decline in the 1890s.  With the clearing of timber lands in southern Laurens County and the improved use of fertilizers, farmers turned to cotton which became more profitable than wool.  The practice of sheep herding  disappeared in our area.  Although long forgotten, it was a major part of the agricultural activity in our county for nearly six decades.

Laurens County, Georgia's Revolutionary War Veterans' graves

The Known Graves of Laurens County's soldiers of the American Revolution.  Courtesy of Loree Beacham and Billy Beacham, the Laurens  County Historical Society and the Find A Grave project.



Gen. David Blackshear
War of 1812
Private, N.C. Militia
Blackshear Cemetery



Peter Calloway
Pvt. N.C. Militia
Blackshear Cemetery



Benjamin Darcy/Darsey
Pvt. Georgia Militia
Buckhorn Methodist Church



James Darcy/Darsey
Lt. Georgia Militia
Buckhorn Methodist Church


William Darcy/Darsey
Major Georgia Militia
Buckhorn Methodist Church 



The Darcys/Darseys
Buckhorn Church



John Shine
North Carolina Militia
Blackshear Cemetery


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Ancient Tumuli at Fish Trap Cut



Laurens County has several documented archaeological sites along with numerous other areas where projectile points and pottery pieces have been found.  The most well known site is the twin mound site at Fish Trap Cut.  This ancient landmark, centered on the two mounds, was occupied by various groups of Native Americans for as many as twenty centuries and as many as twelve thousand years.  

The major period of occupation seems to be during the Mississippian period, with minor occupations during the early and late Archaic Periods and the Woodland Period.   Some time in the 9th Century A.D., a culture of Native Americans began to flourish throughout the valley of the mighty Mississippi River.  

The culture which lasted for seven centuries stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. Typical of the culture were people who constructed small to massive earthworks for homes, temples and burial grounds.

The Fish Trap Cut  site, typical of a Mississippian site, is located on the west bank of the Oconee River at a point 150  meters wide with a broad flood plain of two miles in width -  the largest section within 30 miles in either direction. The soil there  is Norfolk Sandy loam, a rare type of soil.  

There are no signs of Middle Woodland Swift Creek  occupation at the site.  There are minor signs of a Lamar/Bell occupation on the northern edge of the site.  Dr. Mark Williams concluded that the site may have been used  as a camp for people who were migrating south toward the Spanish settlements on the Georgia Coast and Florida during the sixteenth century.  The site may have been the political center of the chiefdoms of the lower Oconee Valley.






The lower mound on the southern end of the site is most likely a ceremonial mound. Recent probes have found very little evidence of any type of cultural material in the mound, which has a diameter of 100 feet at the top and 160 feet at its base.   The mound is flat topped with an average height of three meters and is made of red clay with a thirty inch cover of sand.  





The upper mound was most likely the home of the chief and was probably built first. Today it stands in grove of hardwoods and is only two meters in height but appears moderately larger than the lower mound due to its location on a bluff overlooking the river.  Much more cultural material has been found in the upper mound, which has a commanding view of the cut in the river’s edge.  

An examination of river maps prepared near the end of the 19th century indicate that the cut was actually the old river bed and not a totally man-made feature.  It is possible that the cut was formed by connecting the riverbank with the upper end of an island in the middle of the river.  

After his examination of the site in 1994, Dr. Mark Williams of the University of Georgia determined that the mounds were built during a period from 1200 to 1350 A.D.  It is most likely that the mounds were only inhabited for a period of 50 to 75 years at the most.  The site would have normally been inhabited by 50 to 75 persons. Firewood, the only source of fuel for fires, was soon decimated for a radius of miles.  The people would then move to another site while the vegetation at the old site regenerated.    

Some archaeologists believe that the inhabitants would also be forced to move when their village became infested with insects and in particular, fleas.  

The society was built around a "talwa" or "okli" or chiefdom.   The chief was usually an elder member of the community and commanded the respect and honor of all. He served not only as leader, but as a judge and lawmaker.  In order to keep the large number of people under control these chiefs were afforded the status of a diety.

Investigations of the distances between mound sites along the Oconee River valley have revealed an interesting fact.  Nearly all of the mound sites are almost exactly twenty eight miles apart.  The mounds at Fish Trap Cut are 60 kilometers miles below the Shinholster Mound site.  The mounds are almost 60 kilometers above the legendary village site at the junction of the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers in lower Telfair County.

Villages were laid out with some forms of fortification ranging from light to heavy.  Some villages used ditches and small earthworks while larger villages used wooden palisades.  The center of the town was usually a plaza surrounded by public buildings and the dwellings of the townspeople. Dr. Williams and his team found evidence that a village was located between the mounds beginning around 100 B.C.  

The village was laid in a circular pattern about two to three hundred meters in diameter with at least eight houses.  The pottery shards found here are those from the Deptford period.  Deptford period pottery was predominant during the latter part of the early woodland period. The village, 200 meters wide and 300 meters long,  is the earliest known Woodland village site in Georgia.   

The majority of the Fish Trap Cut site, named the Sawyer site, by Dr. Williams, is owned by the Laurens County Sportsmen’s Club.  The upper end, including the upper mound, is owned by the Archeological Conservancy, based in New Mexico.


The site at Fish Trap Cut is one of only two places in Laurens County which are currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  To travel to the site, travel south from the Laurens County Courthouse on Georgia Highway 19.  Cross Interstate Highway 16 (take exit 52 if traveling along I-16) and take Sportsmen’s Club Road (first paved road on the left) and follow it to the river.   The upper mound is on your left and the lower mound is on your right in the club’s complex.  Please contact the site manager before entering the site.

When you visit the mounds, remember they are one of our most treasured cultural resources and as such, should be treated with utmost dignity and respect.  Digging on the site for artifacts is absolutely prohibited by Georgia law.  If you want to look for arrow heads  (points) there are virtually hundreds, if not thousands, of places to find them throughout the county.


FOR MORE INFORMATION GO THE WEBSITE OF THE LAMAR INSTITUTE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA.

http://www.thelamarinstitute.org/images/PDFs/publication_32.pdf





Friday, July 10, 2015

BLACKSHEAR’S FERRY, LEGENDS AND MYSTERIES




As the construction of a new bridge over the Oconee River begins at a place known as Blackshear’s Ferry, let us take a look back at some of the legends and mysteries of one of Laurens County’s most ancient of landmarks.

The first of a series of ferries owned by War of 1812 General David Blackshear and his sons came into operation in 1808.  Two centuries later, eroded by rushing waters,  remnants of this mystical place still remain.  Most of the people who ever rode across the rushing waters on the rickety ferry boat are gone now.    For those who did, their recollections of their youth have now faded.  Like the ancient proverb says, Blackshear’s Ferry never gives its secrets.”  So, let us take a look at some the ancient mysteries which surround Blackshear’s Ferry, some four crow fly miles north of Dublin on the Oconee River.




Rock Shoals

One of the most enduring mysteries goes back more than four centuries.  English colonists under John White settled on Roanoke Island along the coast of North Carolina in 1587.  When White returned three years later, he found the colony completely deserted, except a small sign on which was carved the word “Croatoan.”  One of the myriads of theories as to what happened to the lost colonists was that they traveled south into what would become Georgia some century and a half later.   Legend tellers would swear to you that these wanderers made their way across the Oconee River at the shoals, some quarter of a mile down the river.  While the legend sounds good, like many legends do, you decide for yourself, though logically this legend is probably not true.

Even more cryptic is the legend of the “Indian Spring Rock.”    Julia Thweatt Blackshear saw the rock.  She described it as four feet high and seven feet long.  One of the sides of the rock, which lies about a mile north of the ferry, has been carved as smooth as if were cut by a marble cutter.  Mrs. Blackshear reported that across the face there are written, or carved, mysterious hieroglyphic letters.    Likened to Egyptian characters, these letters have been said to form a long line across the entire surface of the rock.  This legend is true.  What remains a mystery is where the rock is.  Did Mrs. Blackshear mean true north, which would put the rock somewhere in the vicinity of Springfield, the home of General David Blackshear.  Or did she mean, north along the river near where Blackshear’s original ferry once was located?  If so, on which bank did she mean?    For all you mystery solvers, this is one you solve.  The trouble is, with the ever changing course of the river, the legendary “Indian Spring Rock,” may now be submerged waiting for millennia before someone deciphers its ancient message.

Interestingly just down the river from the ferry on the eastern bank of the river is another mysterious rock.  Lying on the steep slopes of Carr’s Bluff is a limestone rock similar in size, but not in shape.  Lying on its side, the rock resembles half of a perfectly split  elongated heart.    While there are no markings on this rock, which is similar in size, it is puzzling how this massive rock came to rest some fifty feet up the side of a near cliff.     This rock does exist. The question remains, “How did it get there?  Was it rolled down the cliff as an anchor  by Jarred  Trammel and James Beatty, who established their own ferry there at the point where the ancient Lower Uchee Trail crossed the Oconee River on it way from the Creek Indian lands in southern Alabama northeasterly to the area around present day Augusta on the Savannah River?  




OLD CANAL 

If you walk down the western bank of the Oconee you will find a ditch which runs parallel with the river and at times sinks to a depth of more than twenty feet from the top of the river bank.  The trench, which spans out as wide as a hundred feet, runs in a southwesterly direction from the ferry down to the point where the Lower Uchee Trail intersects with the river bank at a tall bluff at Carr’s Shoals.



OLD CANAL 

This is a mystery solved.  In the early decades of the 20th Century, when river traffic was beginning to wind down, but when electric power needs were begin to swell, some thinkers proposed the idea of a canal from the area around the ferry down to Dublin.  The canal would be filled with water.   The proponents believed that since water flowed downhill that the resulting drop in elevation along the route could be utilized to generate electricity at the southern end of the canal.    They also believed that in times of raging high waters and rocky low waters,  flat boats, loaded with cotton and other valuable commodities could be carried by horse and mule teams along a tow path.  To increase and diminish the flow of water along the canal, the builders built gates, one of which can still be seen about half way down the path.  The project failed for the lack of money and utility.

Dr. Arthur Kelly, esteemed archaeologist of the Smithsonian Institution, called them “the most exciting and wonderful Indian mounds that he had seen on his exploration of the Oconee River.”  Situated near the river crossing was the ancient Indian village of Ocute.  It was here in 1934, where Dr. Kelly and his party found an old Indian burying ground with at least eighty to one hundred graves.  Strewn and scattered across the ground were arrowheads and pottery deemed by Kelley as “entirely different from any others found in Indian mounds across the state.

But just where were these mounds?  Were they at the crossing site, which to his dying day Kelly, and his colleagues,  believed was where the Spanish explorer crossed the Oconee in his journey in 1540.  Were they further upstream or downstream nearer the Country Club?    Even though Dr. Kelly warned Dubliners about commercial exploitation of the site and challenged them to raise a mere two hundred dollars to help establish a fund to explore and document the site in addition to Federal help with the labor and volunteer help by the ladies of the John Laurens Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Alas, Dr. Kelly went off to Macon to survey what became the Ocmulgee National Monument.  The legendary village of Ocute, or whatever it may have been called, is still there, just waiting for the time when the next archaeologist comes along to reveal the truth about what was really there.

Julia Blackshear in her  article in The History of Laurens County, 1807-1941 names the village as Kitchee, which according to her description would have located just to the north of the Dublin Country Club.  She tells the story of the time when the final council of the residents of Kitchee was held.  Three aged Indians appeared before the great white chief, General David Blackshear, and asked his permission to allow them to remain on the lands of the ancestors and to guard their graves until their deaths.  The General graciously granted their requests and allowed the ancient and honorable  scions to live there in peace.  When the last of the trio died, the residents of the community buried him along the side the other two.    Just where this ancient burial ground lies  remains a mystery, perhaps for the remainder of time.




The area around Blackshear’s Ferry remains an ancient and mysterious place.  Please remember that the area is privately owned and to ask permission before visitation.  Despite the thoughtless efforts of the apathetic, the river, thanks to conscientious sportsmen and river keepers, remains virtually pristine. And keeping it that way along with respecting the remains of a long ago people should always be our goal.   

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

CLARENCE LOYD, BASEBALL MAN



A Baseball Man

     In his day, Clarence Lloyd was considered one of the best baseball men in America. First as a sportswriter and then as the traveling secretary of one of the sport's most legendary teams, Lloyd saw many of the game's greatest players in an era when the game was played not for the love of money, but merely for the love of the game. This is his story and how he wound up in Dublin, Georgia. 

     Clarence Frederick Lloyd was born on February 4, 1887 in St. Louis, Missouri. Clarence lived on Cass Avenue with his mother, who worked in the home, and his father Henry, who was a native German bartender in a neighborhood saloon. As a boy, Clarence loved to go to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play at nearby League Park, located some twenty blocks from his home. He would often go watch the Browns, St. Louis's entry in the American League, every chance he got. After high school, Clarence took a job as a sportswriter. He got to know some of the players both on the Cardinals and the Browns including enough Hall of Famers to field two teams. 

     Clarence, a 30-year-old sports writer for the St. Louis Star, claimed an exemption from the draft in World War I to look after his widowed mother, who was dependent on her only child to support her. Clarence and his mother Minnie moved from Cass Avenue to Page Boulevard after the war. It was in 1913, when Clarence was introduced to Branch Rickey, the new and exciting young manager of the Browns. Rickey was fired by the Browns in 1915 and was immediately hired by the Cardinals. As general manager of the Cardinals, Rickey built the team into one of the game's premier franchises. 

     After nearly twenty five years with the Cards, Rickey took over the management of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey changed the face of baseball forever, not by building the Dodgers into a perennial power for more than four decades, but by taking the unthinkable risk of signing Jackie Robinson on the team and in the process, breaking baseball's color barrier in 1947. When Rickey took over the management of the cross town Cardinals in 1919, he remembered seeing Clarence around the ball park. 

     As his first hire as the team's new manager, Rickey, considered to be one of the game's greatest general managers of all time, lured Clarence away from his arduous duties as a beat sportswriter for a job as the team's traveling secretary. It was Lloyd's responsibility to take care of every need of the team while they were on the road. He had to coordinate train schedules, meals, hotel rooms and in the process keep both management and the players happy. While the team was at home, Lloyd was working, planning the next road trip. Clarence Lloyd at times found himself at odds with certain club officials. 

     Both Rickey and team President Sam Brendon and his wife, stood behind Lloyd when times were tough. But the players admired him. He got a one-half share of the winnings after the team won the World Series in 1926. Following their loss in the '28 World Series, they voted him a one-half share, the handsome sum of nearly twenty one hundred dollars. 

      Lloyd built a special relationship with the team's best and most unpredictable star, Dizzy Dean. One day, Dizzy, in one of his frequent moments when he was short of cash and way ahead on his salary advances, came up to Clarence and asked for a twenty dollar bill. Lloyd, under strict instructions to only allow Dizzy to have a single crisp one dollar bill a day, asked Dean why did he need twenty dollars. Dean refused to disclose the reason, but finally, and embarrassingly, admitted it was for a gift for his bride. 

     At the height of Dean's superstardom in 1935, team officials ordered Clarence to be Dean's personal secretary. No one, not even Dean's wife or his brother and teammate Paul, could reach Dizzy by phone without the approval of Lloyd. There was a day in Pittsburgh, when Dean was no where to be found. No one, not even Clarence knew where he was. Was he off gallivanting he was prone to do and often, or had something happened to Ole Diz. Dizzy had a personal appearance. Lloyd and Dean's business manager Bill DeWitt were worried. Finally, Lloyd told DeWitt to find a bell boy and open the door to Dean's room. When the door was opened, the boy found Dizzy, snoozing with his radio blaring away. 

     The Gas House Gang was famous for their antics, both on and off the field. Dean and Pepper Martin were the team clowns. They and others frequently impersonated Clarence and told rookies that they were being sent down to the minor leagues. One of Clarence's best friends on the team was Grover Cleveland Alexander, known to his close friends as "Old Pete." When Alexander died in 1951, Lloyd sent in a contribution to a memorial fund and a letter stating that Alexander was " a great athlete, a great competitor and a good friend.

     "Minnie Lloyd continued to live with her son even after he went to work for the Cardinals. On February 19, 1937, Lloyd, a confirmed bachelor of fifty years, married Dorothy McBride Grossman. After Lloyd left the team after the 1937 season, the couple moved to Dublin, where Clarence took a job with Georgia Plywood Company, where he worked for twenty five years and served as the company's president. 

     Minnie Lloyd died at the age of ninety at the home of her son in Dublin on October 9, 1951. Lloyd was honored by the Baseball Writers Association of America when he was given a No. 1 card in 1966. Lloyd served as a sportswriter for the "St. Louis Dispatch" and the "St. Louis Times" before his association with the Cardinals. 

      In May of 1967, the Cardinals honored Lloyd by inviting him to an all-expense paid trip to St. Louis. The occasion was the final game at Sportsman's Park and the first game at Busch Stadium. At that time, Lloyd held a lifetime pass to all major league games, being the second oldest sportswriter in the United States. 

      Clarence loved to swap baseball stories. It's part of the lore of the game. It's what baseball people do. Former Courier Herald sportswriter Bush Perry fondly remembered talking about the old days of the Cardinals, a team they mutually loved. Ernest Oatts, who dubbed Lloyd as "Mr. Abernathy" hailed his friend as a great man of baseball. 

      Just a week before his death on October 9, 1970, Clarence Lloyd and Bush Perry talked for the last time. The subject was baseball. 

     And so, I salute the memory of Clarence Lloyd in the words of the late baseball commissioner Bart Giamati, "It breaks our heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filing the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops, and summer is gone."

Saturday, July 04, 2015

JUDGE GEORGE WALTON


Montgomery County Jurist Declares Our
Independence

Philadelphia, PA, July 2, 1776 - There was a meeting going on!  A revolution!  Freedom, the unalienable endowment of our Creator, was the solitary topic of discussion.  Over in the corner sat a young Savannah lawyer, the youngest in the congregation of the Colonial America’s most elite and erudite professionals, businessmen, and planters.  George Walton and fifty-five other freedom seeking members of the Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring the thirteen colonies of King George’s colony of America be, then and forever independent and free to enjoy the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Walton, in the in the first year of nearly thirty years of public service, would later serve a  term as Judge of the Superior Court of Montgomery and Washington counties, some of whose citizens became Laurens Countians, when a portion of  those counties was annexed into Laurens County in 1811.

George Walton was born in Frederick County in the colony of Virginia in the middle of the 18th Century.  As an orphaned boy, George was sent by his uncle to apprentice under a local carpenter, who being somewhat of a fool and knowing nothing of the young man’s potential, denied the young man the use of a mere candle, which George yearned to have to satisfy his passion for reading and for learning all that he could.  Undaunted by the ignorance of the craftsman, George, in his spare moments when he could slip away, gathered sundry pieces of wood, which he burned in lieu of the forbidden stick of wax.

When he attained the age of majority, George removed himself from his native land and set out to study the law, a subject which then attracted the most intelligent men in the colonies. Walton, still a teenager by the calendar, began to study law under Henry Young, a prominent Savannah barrister. In four years or so, Walton had become proficient in the understanding the laws of the colony and was admitted to the practice of law in the general courts of the state.

Savannah, the southernmost port city of the American colonies, was rapidly becoming a “hot bed” of those who favored liberty from the tyrannical acts of King George.  In the summer of 1774, Walton allied himself with “The Liberty Boys,” a group of men who held a bitter, deep and unceasing  hatred for the King of England for his numerous and continuous acts of repression he had heaped among the colonists of America.   Some of the Liberty Boys gathered at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah to discuss a plan of action to bring a halt to the oppression. A year later, on July 4, 1775, in a meeting held in Tondee’s Long Room, Walton was elected Secretary of the Provincial Congress of Georgia.  By December, Walton was elevated to the position of President of the Council of Safety, which governed the colony in the absence of and contrary to any British authority in the area.  Walton was the last President of the council before it became equated with being governor of the state - Archibald Bulloch would hold that distinction.

In the winter of 1776, Walton was honored by his colleagues with his election as a delegate to the Continental Congress to be held the following summer in Philadelphia.  Joining Walton as delegates were: Lyman Hall, Archibald Bulloch, John Houston, John J. Zubly, and Wimberly Jones.  Walton arrived near the end of June, just before the deliberation on a resolution, which would change the history of the World forever.  Walton took his seat in the hall on the 1st day of July, the day in which Thomas Jefferson presented his draft of the Declaration of Independence.  The following day, the delegates officially adopted a resolution sponsored by Richard Henry Lee and John Adams, which declared independence from the Crown.

       Technically, but not officially nor traditionally, July 2nd, was the date of our “Declaration of Independence.”  For the better part of two days, the delegates debated, discussed and edited Jefferson’s words, an act which Jefferson saw as a personal insult to his intellect and beliefs.  Late in the afternoon on the fourth day of July, twelve of the thirteen colonial delegations voted to adopt Jefferson’s document - the New Yorkers did note vote because of an unavoidable technicality.

     The following day, a cool day for July in Philadelphia, Jefferson and his committee  began the process of printing the declaration for signing by all of the delegates, Walton being the last of the Georgia delegates to sign. Lyman Hall and Button Gwinett subscribed their names first.

George Walton remained in Congress until the fall of 1777, when he returned to Georgia to a more active role in governing the affairs of the state and protecting the citizens from the British Army.  After receiving a commission as a Colonel, Walton took command of the First Regiment of the Georgia Militia.  Despite the best efforts of Walton, John Laurens, Count Casimir Pulaski and others under the overall command of General Robert Howe, the city of Savannah fell into the hands
of the British just after Christmas in 1778.  Col. Walton, seriously wounded but fortunately in the care of skilled British physicians, was taken south to Sunbury, where he was held as a prisoner of war until he was exchanged for a British naval officer in October of 1779.

Walton wasted very little time in returning to the rebel government.   Walton traveled to the isolated areas of Georgia north of Augusta encouraging the citizens to keep up the fight.   In November, he was elected Governor by the State Assembly.  He served only two months.  Walton found himself embroiled in a bitter battle between two factions in Georgia politics. He sided with Lachlan McIntosh, who eventually killed his opponent, Button Gwinett, Walton’s co-signer of the
Declaration of Independence, in the most celebrated duel in the history of Georgia. For his role in the affair, Walton was censured by the Georgia legislature.

Walton returned to Congress in the dark days of the Revolution in 1780.  Things were not going well.  The British had control of the South and defeat seemed eminent. With the aid of the French government, Washington’s forces were able to defeat Lord Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown, which inevitably led to the defeat of the British in the South.  Walton left the Congress in 1783 and returned to Georgia to spend the last twenty years of his life.  Walton, thought of as a highly superior lawyer, was appointed Chief Justice of the State.  He remained in the judicial branch of government until 1789, when he was elected Governor of Georgia, serving only a portion of year when Georgia’s government was re-organized.  In that same year, he was sent to capital city of New York as a delegate to the first Electoral College, which elected George Washington as our nation’s first president, under our current constitution that is.  John Hansen was technically our country’s first president, under the previous government based on the Articles of Confederation.  In 1795, Walton returned to New York to fill an unexpired term of James Jackson in the United States Senate.

Walton failed to win reelection to the Senate and returned to Augusta to engage in farming. But, Walton had one more duty of public service to perform.  On January 17, 1799, he was sworn in a Judge of the Middle Circuit of Georgia, which had jurisdiction of a wide area ranging from Warren, Richmond, and Columbia counties on the northeast and Washington and Montgomery counties on the
southwest.  Judge Walton remained in office until his death on February 2, 1804.

     In 1848, his remains were re-interred in Augusta as a part of the monument to the
signers of our “Declaration of Independence.”