Friday, July 29, 2016



July 21, 1891, one hundred and twenty five years ago today, was arguably the most important day in the history of Dublin and Laurens County. That superlative statement could be argued about, but it was on that hot humid summer day when the first train from Macon, Georgia arrived in town and it was the first time that people and vehicles crossed the first permanent passenger bridge over the Oconee River at Dublin.

In the cool of that Monday morning, a small crowd gathered at the depot at the lower end of Walnut Street in Macon.  They were there to celebrate the completion of the 54-mile railroad, subsidized by the investment of more than one hundred thousand dollars by large and small farmers. The four-year project's success was assured when H.S. Morse was appointed as the superintendent and James T. Wright was elected president.  The Illinois and Georgia Improvement Company supplied the rest of the capital investment.  The new railroad would shorten the distance to Macon by 35 miles by eliminating the need to travel through Wrightsville and Tennille to the Central before making a left turn back to Macon.

Not one, but two, trains, crammed with railroad officials, their wives and a host of influential investors and supporters under the direction of Conductor J.B. Maxon pulled out the depot eastward bound.  D.G. Hughes of Danville and  H.S. Morse, president of the Illinois and Georgia Improvement Company, headed the list of dignitaries on board.  

   Passing through stops at Swift Creek, Dry Branch, Pike’s Peak and Fitzpatrick, the  trains stopped in the booming community of Jeffersonville, the capital of Twiggs County, where a jubilation erupted.  Railroad vice president and founder,  Dudley M. Hughes, (left)  boarded the train during a celebration in his hometown of Allentown.

A large delegation of Dubliners and Laurens Countians, commanded by Mercer Haynes, E.E. Hicks, Charles Brantley, and Dr. Wood, boarded and commandeered the lead train, which was quickly and handsomely decorated with flowers and evergreens by the ladies of Dublin and Allentown.  The trains rushed through the infant towns of Montrose, the home of the orchards of founder, Col.  John M. Stubbs, and Elsie (Dudley) to the shouts of unrestrained joy.

In Dublin, an estimated crowd of 3000 people - believed to have been one of the largest crowds ever to assemble in town -  was excitedly waiting, ready for the train and what it would mean to their communities.

And then the wail of the whistle blew sending the crowd into a frenzy.  The train stopped and all of its passengers deboarded for a short walk over to a shady grove of trees where a barbecue was held.  Off to the east, the passengers could hear the sounds of brass music and the report of canon saluting their arrival. There was no estimate of how much meat was consumed that day, but more than a thousand loaves of bread were served to the hungry throng.

While the feast ensued, the train moved down the road to the center of town. Another celebration erupted.  Everyone, dressed in their best attire, smiled and cheered as Dublin’s rise from the previous dormant decades following the late war was really and truly beginning.  The Dublin Light Infantry, led by Lieutenant J.M. Adams, performed snappy maneuvers for the crowds.

Then the unthinkable happened.  The heavens opened up and a torrent of rain fell in a futile attempt to extinguish the excitement.   Everyone scattered into the stores and  homes in the area.  The grounds that were saturated with people only minutes before were nearly deserted.

Col. Stubbs' (left) family played host to some honored guests.  His home was located on his  farm which stretched east to west from North Church Street to Calhoun Street and north to south from Bellevue Avenue to Moore Street.  At 4:00, the train, now carrying all of the passenger cars, returned to Macon.

Some of the first freight trains carried off loads of the evil whiskey, which Dublin’s prohibitionists had recently succeeding in banning from the town.

Railroad officials intended to complete the road to Savannah at once. When a nationwide financial  panic occurred,  the effort was abandoned.  A number of times capitalists offered to buy any number of bonds the road might issue in order to enable it to finish the line to Savannah, but those offers were summarily declined, as the price offered for the bonds were not considered enough.

The Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad began its eastward expansion in 1901 to Vidalia and eventually on to its terminus in Savannah.  As railroads go, the M.D. & S.  was fairly successful but it could never quite effectively compete with the all powerful Central of Georgia.   Today, the tracks are still in operation.

While most of the fervent excitement and media attention was focused on the railroad, an equally  important, but less visible, occurrence happening that day, was the opening of the first permanent passenger bridge over the Oconee at the foot of East Jackson Street.

The bridge was the dream of John T. Duncan, Laurens County’s Judge of the Court of Ordinary. Judge Duncan spearheaded the effort to build a passenger bridge to replace the outdated and inefficient Dublin Ferry.   Turned down primarily by voters in the outlying areas of the county, Judge Duncan never lost sight of his goal.

A wooden bridge was constructed in conjunction with Dr. Robert Hightower, but it fell victim to a torrential freshet which washed it away.   Duncan, the unofficial county manager, issued an order in 1888 to sell bonds in the amount of $15,000.00 to complete the a sturdy concrete and steel bridge.  Engineer George H. Crafts, of Atlanta, brought the project to a completion, slightly over his budget, but substantially on time.

On August 3, 1891, just twelve days after his dream came true, Judge Duncan died. The pall cast over the city of one of its most beloved citizens quickly lifted as the populace realized what an enduring legacy the judge had left to the city.

In conjunction with the opening of the new bridge was the completion of the bridge of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad opening the way for two railroads to come into Dublin.

So it was on these hot, humid days in the summer of 1891, that a new era for Dublin and Laurens County began.  It was a new and golden age, one, with few exceptions, which has lasted for 125 years and spanning three centuries.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


        The Battle of San Jacinto, fought on April 21, 1836, in present-day Harris County, Texas, was the decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.  Led by General Sam Houston, the Texian army engaged and soundly defeated the Mexican army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in a fight which lasted less than a half hour.

In the thick of the fight was one Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar.  While in his mid twenties, Lamar spent several years as the personal secretary of Governor George M. Troup, of Laurens County, Georgia.  Lamar worked side by side with the governor in his quarters at the capital in Milledgeville as well as Troup’s less than palatial mansion Valdosta on the Old River Road, southeast of Dublin.

Lamar was born in Louisville, Georgia, then Georgia’s capital.  As he advanced through the rudiments of a liberal education, it appeared that he was destined for a literary career.  After several years as the governor’s secretary, Lamar joined the westward exodus.  He chose the lovely Tabitha Jordan of Twiggs County as his bride and set out for the burgeoning Chattahoochee River metropolis of Columbus.

With Troup’s influence and powerful support, Lamar founded the Columbus Enquirer newspaper and was elected to a seat in the Georgia senate.   After his young wife’s tragic death, Lamar took a leave to travel and write poetry.  After two failed congressional campaigns, Lamar, seeking a new start, moved to Texas along with Col. James Fannin of Twiggs County.  The two Middle Georgians originally set out to collect information for a planned publication of a history of Texas.

Fate had other things planned for Lamar, Fannin and thousands of other Americans who sought a new and prosperous life in the seemingly endless expanse of Texas.  As the political winds of independence from Mexico began to swirl, Lamar joined the Texian army at Groce’s Point.  Inspired to fight by the devastating battle of the Alamo and the brutal massacre of most of Fannin’s surrendered command at Goliad, Lamar realized why he was sent to Texas.

“Dear Brother, I leave this morning for the army.  A dreadful battle is to be fought in three to four days on the Brazos, decisive of the fate of Texas.  I shall of course have to be in it,” wrote Mirabeau Lamar to his brother J.J. Lamar on April 10, 1836.

Lamar’s commanders took notice of his high degree of organizational skill and military leadership.  In the hours before the Battle of San Jacinto, Thomas Jefferson Rusk and Walter Lane were hopelessly surrounded by the Mexican army. Lamar leaped into action and rescued the men from capture and certain death. The Texians cheered Lamar as did some of his Mexican opponents. The writer, turned soldier, was breveted a colonel in the Texian army on the eve of the greatest victory in the war of independence.

The Texian infantry rushed forward while Lamar kept his cavalry in reserve in the rear.  Lamar’s men did manage to rescue a helpless fellow soldier who had been thrown to the ground from his horse within killing range of the enemy. 

During the night of the 20th and the early morning hours of the 21st, Santa Anna’s Mexican forces hastily constructed entrenchments and breastworks for an expected all out attack on the following day.  During the lull, the Mexican army received 540 reinforcements to bring their total, less than effective, force to 1200 men.  These new, untrained men had just endured a forced march for nearly an entire day.

Sam Houston, the leader of the Texas independence fighters, did not launch the morning attack as Santa Anna had expected.  Houston (left) waited and waited.  The tired Mexicans fell into a state of sheer exhaustion. As the afternoon wore on, many fell into a deep siesta -  that is until late in the afternoon.

At 4:30 p.m., the Texian artillery launched an opening volley.  The infantry rushed out of the cover of the tall grasses and ran head long into the Mexican breastworks.  Total chaos ensued.

Santa Anna and his commanders futilely tried to rally their troops.  Within 20 minutes, 18 minutes to be somewhat exact, the Mexican soldiers deserted their positions and ran for their lives.

The killing continued.  As a large number of Mexicans fled the marsh near Peggy Lake, Texian sharpshooters shot an every thing that moved.  The victorious Texian officers tried to stop the slaughter.  But, most of their men, incited by their anguished memories of the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad, began to chant, “Remember the Alamo!”

The tally of Mexican casualties amounted to 650 killed (54%) and 300 captured (25%.)  Only seven independence fighters lost their lives.  Thirty more, including General Houston, were wounded.

During the night, Gen. Houston feared a counterattack by 4000 Mexican troops under the command of generals Urrea and Filisola.  That attack never came.

By the first week of May, Texas President David G. Burnet named Col.  Lamar as his Secretary of War.  By June, Secretary Lamar was promoted once again, this time to a major general and given the title of Commander in Chief.  Lamar’s military service came to a screeching halt when many of his troops attempted to veto his appointment.

During the fall elections, Lamar was elected as Vice President of the Republic of Texas.  While he was in office, Lamar continued his studies of Texas history. With the endorsement of President Sam Houston, Lamar was the favorite to win the presidential election of 1838.  His election was clinched after the other two candidates, Peter W. Grayson and James Collingsworth, killed themselves during the campaign. 

Lamar’s policies cost him the admiration and support of Texas voters.  He served only one term.  Lamar chose to do what he did best.  And, that was to travel, explore and to write.

`During the Mexican-American War of 1846, Lamar joined the U.S. Army under the command future President Zachary Taylor, distinguishing himself during the Battle of Monterrey.  President Lamar died in 1859 after serving terms as a United States Ambassador to Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Mirabeau Lamar came to Texas to write a history of that Mexican territory.  At the end of the day, 180 years ago today and for two more decades, Lamar found himself personally being an important part of the most important early chapters of the history of the Lone Star State.

The Trip From Tweed to Gretna Green

The Trip From Tweed to Gretna Green

If you know where Tweed, Georgia is, you probably grew up there, or at least somewhere close by. There are no signs left of this once bustling community on theOld River Road in southeastern Laurens County, except the signs indicating the route of the Minter-Tweed Road, which terminates right in the heart of downtown Tweed.  In the years 1895 and 1896, a local correspondent of the Atlanta Constitution furnished reports of several  elopements  in the now extinct community, home to the Wilkes, Branch, Drew, Beacham and McLendon families.

The community, once populated by descendants of immigrant Scots, was probably named for the River Tweed, a large river in southern Scotland which forms the border between Scotland and England as it empties into the North Sea. Established along the old Darien-Milledgeville “the Capital to the Coast” Road, Tweed is situated along a ridge with a commanding view of the Oconee River Valley.

William Branch fell in love with Naomi Wilkes.  At fifteen, Naomi was the most beautiful girl that William ever had seen.  Her father vehemently objected to their courtship.  The couple communicated through her cousins in hopes of evading Mr. Wilkes’s scorn.  Much to his chagrin, on the very day Branch came into Dublin to secure a marriage license, he discovered that Mr. Wilkes was also resent. Realizing Wilkes was busy trading, Branch sped toward the Wilkes home to claim his bride.  Through the aid of Naomi’s cousin Miss Ricks, Branch sent a young boy inside the Wilkes home to summon his fiancĂ© to join him posthaste.  Naomi gathered up her belongings, specially arranged for the elopement and joined her intended. Parson White married them on the spot on March 23, 1895.   The incident was Naomi’s third attempt at elopement.    A previous suitor tried and failed twice. Unused marriage licenses were his only souvenir of unrequited love.

William Livingston and his family moved into the Tweed Community in 1895. William frequently visited the McLendon home about a mile away.  He was drawn to the homestead by his increasing infatuation with the McLendon’s buxom rosy-cheeked daughter Rebecca.  Love blossomed and the couple were engaged to be married.    The Livingston family soon grew unsatisfied with their surroundings and moved across the Oconee River.    The McLendon’s thought not too highly of their daughter’s intended suitor and forbade her to marry the pretentious paramour.    By a secretive communiquĂ©, William notified Rebecca that he would appear at her home on Christmas Day to take her hand in marriage. True to his word, the young man appeared right on time.  Following the protocol of the day, Livingston asked the McLendons for permission to marry their daughter.  Mr. McLendon consented, but Mrs. McLendon balked at the impending nuptials.

Undaunted, the couple planned a trip to Gretna Green to consummate their marriage.  Gretna Green was a village in Scotland where young couples were married without parental approval.   The following Thursday, Livingston pretended he was going home alone.  Rebecca, feigning a bout of severe depression, informed her mother that she was going to visit her grandfather.  Just above the McLendon house an friendly accomplice intercepted the lovers and spirited them away with all haste to Squire Drew’s office.  They were married on the spot and triumphantly and defiantly returned to the McLendon home.   A good old-fashioned country frolic ensued.  Mr. McLendon celebrated. Mrs. McLendon stayed home and cried.

The spirit of love was in the air.  During the celebration complete with an anvil shooting and pyrotechnic display, Joshua Branch and Mattie Wilkes announced their immediate intention to marry. Branch told his plan to Mattie’s married sister, who immediately tattled to their father.    Wilkes immediately confronted Mattie in front of her entire family, chastising her for such an impropriety.   Branch, listening to the reprimanding from a concealed spot, bolted to his horse and sped from the scene.   The young man announced to his friends that he would marry Mattie, or someone else, before the next full moon.  Just in case the situation demanded it, Joshua obtained a marriage license with a blank for the wife’s last name.

Three months later, Josh Branch found another Rebecca to marry.  Branch and Rebecca Henry appeared at the home of C.S. Beacham to complete their marriage ceremony.  Alerted to the impending matrimony, a young man named Barber, who had been spurned by Rebecca, arrived at the Beacham home.  Rebecca’s admirers commenced a knock down drag out joust to determine her rightful husband.  It was reported that “blows rained thick and fast and the combatants cursed each other in the most violent manner.”  Rebecca canceled the wedding, refusing to marry Branch for conduct unbecoming a gentleman engaged to be married.  Just days after the ruckus, Rebecca observed Branch courting a former sweetheart.  Was it the other Rebecca, Rebecca McLendon?  Or, was it one in a long line of brides Branch longed to marry.  Despite her announced intentions to the
contrary, the spurned and frustrated young man told friends that he still intended to marry his true love.    According to Laurens County’s marriage records, no Joshua Branch ever married in Laurens County.  I guess he gave up trying to marry a Tweed girl and left the area in an effort to improve his matrimonial desires.

George Miller was an orphan, but managed to accumulate a small fortune to “keep the wolf from his door.”  Naomi Beacham, a fifteen-year-old brunette, was a daughter of one of Tweed’s oldest families.  The Beachams censured their daughter for even looking at the much older Miller.  Naomi disregarded her parent’s earnest restraints and continued to keep company with her suitor.  The young swain, in the company of a friend, approached the Beacham home on a Sunday afternoon.   Miller asked Mr. Beacham for permission to have Naomi visit his home.    Beacham, obviously disconcerted with the entire circumstance, replied “Yes, she can go, and she can go for good, as far as I am concerned.”  Without further ado, George and Naomi spirited away in a buggy bound for the home of Justice of the Peace John S. Drew.  With a bible in his hand and the blazing sun bearing down on his forehead,

   Judge Drew stood against the front gate of his house.  The bride and groom sat in their buggy, situated just over the fence.    In the presence of Drew’s family and a host of friends gathered on the front porch, George and Naomi were united in marriage.  The newlyweds merrily drove toward their new home without a care in the world, except the dreaded next visit from her irate parents.

Just as a year of elopements was coming to an end, perhaps the most unusual trip to Gretna Green was coming to a finale.  Charity Wilkes, daughter of the venerable Methodist minister John Wilkes, announced her intention to marry Charlton B. Smith, son of Rev. Charlton Smith, of the prominent Hardy Smith family from the Anderson community- just up the River Road from Tweed.  Charity’s
twenty-year-old son John A. Wilkes protested his mother’s marriage shouting, “ I’ll kill him just as sure as he comes inside the house again.  You shant marry him; I’ll see to that part of it, provided my gun will fire.”  Charity secreted away and traveled to Messer’s Creek Bridge to wait for Smith.  Meanwhile the groom and his best man waited for her at Norris’ Chapel.  Soon the groom found his bride.  Approaching Charity with the marriage license in hand, Smith cried out, “I have a bench warrant for your arrest.  Will you submit?”

The couple dashed to the home of Judge John Drew, where they were instantly married.  Drew took off his marrying hat, put on his postmaster’s hat and handed a letter to the new groom.  Inside the dispatch was a forged rejection of Smith’s offer of marriage, presumably at the hand of the disenchanted son.    As Christmas Day approached, all was merry and bright.  Charity, a forty-year-old newlywed, had all but forgotten her first engagement twenty years before, one which ended in heartbreak and relegated her to the life of a single mother for two decades.

Charity Ricks, a beautiful young daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M.R. Ricks, desperately wanted to marry Adolphus McLendon.  Her parents never believed their industrious and intelligent daughter was courting anyone, much less that she would ever get married.  Just before Christmas Day in 1895, the Ricks accepted an invitation  to attend a wedding in Montgomery County.  As soon as her parents were out of sight, Charity told her sister Mattie that she was going to visit a girlfriend, grabbed up her tooth brushes and headed off to the branch.  There she met her aspiring lover.  The couple made their way to Squire Drew’s house where they became man and wife, much to the consternation of the absent parents.                                                              

Saturday, August 22, 2015


 Stump Speaking in Dublin 

No one in late Nineteenth Century Georgia was more popular. During the War Between the States, General John Brown Gordon was one of General Robert E. Lee's most trusted lieutenants. After the war, Gordon staunchly fought reconstruction. Elected to the United States Senate in 1873, Senator Gordon, the first ex-Confederate to preside over a senate session, convinced his old enemy, President U.S. Grant, to rid Georgia and the rest of the South of corrupt northern officials who had been placed in power by Grant's successor, Andrew Johnson. He would return to Capital Hill in 1891, but in 1886, Gordon found himself embattled once again, not on the battlefields of Virginia, but in the most vicious of all war like combat, state politics. 

  With all of his popularity throughout the state, Senator Brown couldn't garner the support of Laurens Countians during his first gubernatorial campaign. The day - June 22, 1886. The occasion - a political speech by Senator Gordon. The location - the yard of the First Baptist Church in Dublin. 

The politicos of Dublin and Laurens County should have seen it coming. That morning it looked as if was going to rain. Supporters of Gordon's opponent, Senator Augustus O. Bacon, wanted to stage a rally of their own that day. Major Hanson of Macon had arrived the day before in hopes of espousing the platform of Senator Bacon. Bacon's men acknowledged that the day would belong to Senator Gordon, but requested that once the senator had finished his oratory, that their man be allowed to address the crowd. At first, the Gordon committee refused, though they were offered full reimbursement for the cost of the stand and seats. So the Bacon men retorted that they would stage a rally of their own in the courthouse at 11:00 a.m. In an act of political respect, a consideration still in affect in those days, Major Hanson vetoed the suggestion stating that all the crowd gathering to hear Senator Gordon would have gone home before the main speech was scheduled to start. 

It was 9:00 o'clock in the morning and Senator Gordon was not at the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad depot on the east side of the river. It was later reported that the train had an accident up the line and that the honored guest and widely heralded general was relegated to riding a mule into town. Gordon finally arrived around 1:00 o'clock, a mere hour before his speech was scheduled to begin. Upon his arrival, Gordon was adamant that no one, including Major Hanson, would be allowed to speak for Bacon on his stand. Reportedly, Gordon promised that if Hanson was allowed to speak, "I will contact my committee in Atlanta to send a man after Major Bacon at his every appointment and make it hot for him." Several hundred men gathered around the grounds of the church to hear the Senator speak. 

Most of them actually came to hear Major Hanson. County Court Judge Mercer Haynes, a former mayor and postmaster of Dublin, and Confederate veteran, rose to introduce the illustrious guest. Gordon rose to speak. His reception chilled the hot air of the first day of summer. People in the crowd asked questions. Gordon responded petulantly. To make matters worse, two of Gordon's supporters, inebriated with several swallows of liquor, interrupted the General frequently and in an ugly and idiotic manner, which only further instigated the crowd to become even more indignant. 

After about twenty minutes, Gordon's eloquent speech turned into rambling gibberish. Temperatures and tempers were rising. All of the shady spots were covered with people. Gordon's voice faltered. He called for a water glass with sugar and honey added to help him get the words out of his raspy throat. During the next two hours, Senator Gordon attempted to rebut the charges of which he had be condemned for during the campaign. Gordon challenged his hecklers by asking that if he was guilty that he "be buried beneath an avalanche of votes and that he be driven from the society of decent and honorable men." 

Just when he nothing more to say, or couldn't say anything more, Gordon turned to James B. Sanders, a young attorney who had just moved to Dublin to practice law, pulled on his coat sleeve and then jerked it. "Now make your remarks; go on; now is the time," Gordon ordered as he remained on the standing, talking until Sanders began to speak. Bacon backers protested loudly, yelling," Hanson! Hanson! Hanson!" Gordon and the nervous Sanders refused to yield the stand. The overwhelmingly Bacon crowd urged Hanson to take the stand, some even volunteering to "clear the way." Owing to his love of peace, Hanson declined the violent alternative and waited for the commotion to subside. Dr. R. H. Hightower yelled out, "Then we'll go to the courthouse!" Captain Rollin A. Stanley, the local president of the Bacon club, spoke out that in the interest of good order that Major would be better served by leaving and making his remarks elsewhere. 

Hanson agreed. Those who wanted to hear about their man raced to the courthouse. Within five minutes, there were only about forty or fifty people left before the grandstand. One Bacon supporter, Attorney T.L. Griner, remained to chastize Senator Gordon. Amid cries of "You're killing time" and "That's your way," Griner protested, "The committee promised us the stand!" Gordon and Griner went back and forth "They did! - They didn't." 

An announcement was made that a reception was going to be held in front of the stand. When no one approached, aides and supporters nudged those still remaining to step forward. Gordon greeted the lingerers in his own personal and amiable way by placing his left hand on their shoulders and saying something gracious to them. Those who remained slowly began to ease away. Gordon, in an effort to keep the reception going, re-shook the hands of those still on the stands. Within thirty minutes, virtually no one was left. Seeing that his continuing presence was futile, Gordon joined his escorts and retreated back to Wrightsville. 

Major Hanson spoke for ninety minutes to an agreeable and cheering crowd. He attacked Gordon for being a privy counselor to Victor Newcomb, a railroad speculator and a convict lessee. 

A mass meeting was held at the courthouse on July 6, 1886. Bacon tallied 360 Democratic votes and Gordon managed to garner only 248. John T. Chappell, Louis C. Perry, and Thomas B. Felder, Jr. were elected as delegates committed to Bacon. Statewide, Gordon won the Democratic nomination by a count of 252 to 74. With no Republican candidate of any consequence, Gordon was assured of winning the election in November.

In the end, Gordon triumphed, despite the vicious opposition he faced under the shade trees of the First Baptist Church and which must have seemingly been as fierce as that he received from the Army of the Potomac some twenty years before. Within 18 years, Gordon would die. All was forgiven as thousands of Dubliners and Laurens Countians gathered inside and outside the sanctuary of the First Methodist Church for a memorial service to honor one of Georgia's greatest heroes of the 19th Century. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015


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.


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?  


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.


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.  

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.