Sunday, December 16, 2012

GENERAL DAVID BLACKSHEAR The Early Years If you were asked to list the ten most influential persons in the history of Laurens County, you would have to include the name of General David Blackshear. In many lists, he would be near the top, certainly first in chronological order. This is the story of a remarkable man, who as a child fought to defend his state from British invaders, as a young man braved the wilderness of the Georgia frontier, as a middle-aged adult, he led armies to protect the fledgling state of Georgia from the British and hostile Indians in the War of 1812 and as a wise old sage, the old general guided the state through some its greatest turmoils. David Blackshear was born on January 31, 1764 in Craven County, later Jones County, North Carolina. The third of eight children of James and Catherine Franck Blackshear, young David was reared in a home, seven miles above Newton on the banks of Chinquapin Creek near Trenton. David's grandfather Alexander Blackshear came to North Carolina as early as 1732. Blackshear arrived in the colony in the company of John Martin Franck and Phillip Miller. They landed in New Haven. As soon as they were able to secure sufficient transportation, the families traveled up the Trent River about twenty miles before coming ashore. There they found a wilderness west of New Bern, which had been settled in 1710. They carried their sole possessions with them since there was no stock for food and no horses for transportation. These stalwart German immigrants immediately went to work building their homes. Blackshear applied for and was granted a patent to obtain his land from the Crown. The Blackshears and their related matriarchal relatives were of German ancestry. Alexander Blackshear made out his last will and testament on October 3, 1785. In it, he named his wife Agnes and children, James, Eleanor Bailey, Elisha, Abraham, Sarah Clifton and a granddaughter Susanna Fordham, who apparently was a daughter of another daughter. Agnes Blackshear died sometime in or shortly after 1793. John Franck and his wife Civel had two daughters, Barbara and Catherine. Catherine first married a Mr. Bush and had two sons, John and William. Bush died in the late 1750s and his widow married James Blackshear. James and Catherine had James, Edward, David, Elizabeth, Susannah, Elijah, Penelope and Joseph. Barbara Franck married Daniel Shine. The Shines lived ten miles above Trenton. Mrs. Shine was given the honor of entertaining General George Washington on his tour of the South in 1791. David and his siblings had a meager education at best. Periodically a traveling teacher might be hired to teach the children the fundamentals of writing and reading. Most days of spring and summer were spent learning the science and art of agriculture. Edward, born on January 20, 1762, married Emily Mitchell. He lived for a time in Montgomery County before joining the mass migration to Thomas County, where he died in 1829. Elizabeth, born on September 16, 1765, married Blake Bryan. The daughter Mary, married the legendary Maj. Gen. Ezekiel Wimberly of Twiggs County, Georgia. Susannah, born on May 27, 1769, married Edward Bryan. Following his death in 1813, Susannah and her sons moved to Twiggs County to be closer to their family. Elijah, born on July 17, 1771, never married. He died in Laurens County in1821 and is buried in the old yard at Vallambrosa. Penelope, born on April 13, 1773, married Edward Bryan, and joined her sisters and their Bryan husbands in Twiggs County. Joseph, the youngest child, was born on September 7, 1775. He married Winifred, sister of Col. William A. Tennille, Secretary of State of Georgia. He died in Laurens County in 1830. In the late spring of 1775, reports of the encounter between Massachusetts minute men and British Army regulars at Concord and Lexington reverberated throughout the backwoods of Jones County. Militia units in the area forced the British to abandon New Bern, then the capital of North Carolina. The British army under the command of General McDonald rendezvoused at Cross Creek on February 15, 1776. Present were a force of 1600 men composed of Highlanders, loyalists and eleven dozen ex-Regulators. The Blackshears and their neighbors did not take this threat lightly. Guns, tools and any weapon capable of inflicting deadly harm were grabbed up by men of fighting age. On the morning of February 27, 1776, the loyalists were moving north across Moore's Creek some twenty miles north of Wilmington. There as they crossed a bridge, partially disassembled to retard their progress. They were met by a force of a thousand patriots who pounced upon them in utter surprise. Expecting only light opposition as their column moved through the countryside, the Scottish Highlanders were dazed and confused as the North Carolinians assaulted them with deadly effect. As the enemy chaotically left the field in retreat, they left valuable wagons, weapons and huge sums of silver coins. Thirty enemy soldiers were dead. Some 850 more were captured. The defeat at Moore's Creek effectively ended Tory activities in the area for years to come. Present that day, probably somewhere in the rear of the fighting, was a twelve-year-old David Blackshear, along with his older brothers James and Edward. The young warrior was also present at the Battle of Buford's (Beauford's) Bridge. After the battle, David returned home and for three months of school before being tutored by James Alexander Campbell Hunter Peter Douglass, an eccentric Scotsman. In his latter years Blackshear related a tale about a time when the professor instructed the class to spell the word "corn," which his pronounced "korrun." Each student spelled the word just as they had heard it. Upon an examination of their papers, the Scotsman became so infuriated that he flogged every single member of the class and sent them home. David's oldest brother, James Blackshear, Jr., and his cousin, Martin Franck were appointed to raise a company of militia to defend their local area. A scouting party composed of James, Edward and David, along with Martin Franck, Peter Callaway and several others, was sent out under the command of Captain Yates to locate, capture and kill, if necessary, a band of Tories. The party stopped to rest for the night at the home of Col. White. James, Martin and Peter continued on to James's home some five or six miles further away. Just as the men were sitting down for a well-desired supper, the house was surrounded by Tories. James and Martin were taken out of the house, carried to the end of the lane, tied to stakes and executed without mercy. Somehow Peter Callaway escaped. A Negro man ran as fast as he could to Col. White's house. Following closely on his trail, a band of Tories set out to destroy the remaining Whigs. With only seven horses for fourteen men, Yates set out toward the Blackshear home. Just as they left the gate outside the White house, they were ambushed by the Tories, hidden on both sides of the road, killing one patriot and wounding several others, including Edward Blackshear, who was shot in both hands as he was riding double with another man. The Whigs scrambled for the nearest cover. Captain Yates, his collar bone broken, fired and killed the Tory captain. After the skirmish ended, the Loyalist leader was promptly, and without a moment's hesitation, tied to a stake. A flurry of gunshots inflicted sweet revenge on the murder of their compatriots. Those who have not studied the history of the American Revolution in the South do not realize the barbarous acts inflicted by Tories on the Patriots and vice versa. It was the country's first Civil War, and unlike the conflict which would follow nine decades later, neighbors killed neighbors. With the end of the American Revolution in 1783, the State of Georgia signed the treaty of Washington. The agreement with the Indian tribes who owned the lands provided a cession of all the lands from present day Athens down the Oconee and Altamaha Rivers to present day Tattnall County. The new county was named Washington in honor of the most prominent founding father of the country. David Blackshear, though lacking in any substantial mathematical training, developed an interest in surveying. He taught himself how to use a transit, compass and protractor to survey land. Services of trained surveyors were at a premium and the mapping and division of the new county of Washington drew the young man to Georgia. He made several trips to Georgia, first in Wilkes County and then into Washington County. Life for a 18th Century surveyor wasn't easy. With no comforts of home, surveyors trampled through swamps, creeks, briar patches and were constantly in fear of attack by Indians, who still possessed lands west of the Oconee River. David Blackshear settled along the banks of the Oconee River about the year 1790. He chose the perfect spot for a home, one just above the point where the ancient Lower Uchee Indian Trail crossed the Oconee River at Carr's Bluff. Then in Washington County, Blackshear chose a tract of land with fine river bottom lands and a prime spot for his home on an elevated ridge. The only trouble was that he chose a place which was subject to numerous depredations by some Creek Indian hunters who had been displaced from the lands some seven years prior. Blackshear's grants of land totaled more than twenty one hundred acres, the largest being 1084 acres in 1793. Grants of the latter's size usually indicated that the grantee had performed some public service to the state beyond the standard 287.5 acre grants given to soldiers of the Continental Line. Many of the conflicts along the lower Oconee River centered around Carr's Bluff on the eastern banks of the Oconee River in north central Laurens County. Carr's Bluff is relatively small in comparison with higher bluffs up river. Its importance was derived from its location. The bluff is located at the point where the Lower Uchee Trail crossed the Oconee River. The trail was used by Indians in their travels between the Augusta area and lower portions of Georgia and Alabama. The trail seems to have been used throughout the 17th and 18th centuries and may have been in use long before then. According to some early Georgia historians, it was the path taken by the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, while on his expedition in May of 1540. In 1792, the clouds of war once again came into this area. While negotiations were pending at Rock Landing, attacks continued along the eastern banks of the Oconee. Indian agent Seagrove went from village to village asking for the return of stolen animals. In July, Captain Benjamin Harrison had six horses stolen from him by Uchee Indians. Harrison lived at Carr's Bluff, across from the present day Country Club. Settlers in what would become eastern Laurens County stepped up their defenses. An old Indian trail leading along the eastern edge of the river was used for border patrols. This may have been the Milledgeville-Darien Road. The settlers petitioned the Georgia governor for ammunition and forts. The State built an outpost called Fort Telfair at Carr's Bluff on the Oconee River in 1793. The people built their own forts arming their families and even their slaves. On April 18, 1793, the Indians raided the home of William Pugh near Carr's Bluff. Pugh was the son of Col. Francis Pugh for whom Pugh's Creek in eastern Laurens County is named. Pugh was killed and scalped in the attack. Four horses were taken and one slave was captured. The situation eased when the Oconee's waters rose, creating a natural barrier to an attack. In the summer of 1793, armies were being raised all over Georgia to protect against further raids. Benjamin Harrison, a resident of the Carr's Bluff area, bore the brunt of these constant attacks of horse taking and killing of livestock. Captain Benjamin Harrison simply hated Indians. Harrison once said "that there should never be a peace with the Indians whilst his name was Ben Harrison for he was able to raise men enough to kill half the Indians that might come to any treaty." Benjamin Harrison is said to have been a frontier character with a patch over an eye and piece of his nose missing. Harrison, a captain of the local militia, called his men together for a mission to retrieve some of his stolen horses. The company moved along the Lower Uchee Trail until they reached the home of the Uchee King who promised him that the horses would be returned. At another time, Harrison's men overtook a group of Indians taking three of their guns. Timothy Barnard, the husband of a Uchee woman, convinced Harrison to return the guns and the matter was temporarily resolved. By October of 1793, Harrison's ire had once again been raised by the Indians. Captain Harrison's company and other companies under the command of Major Brenton set out from Carr's Bluff in defiance of General Jared Irwin. Their destination was a Chehaw village on the Flint River. Their objective was to capture any runaway slaves and stolen property. They found the village defended by sixteen males and four slaves. The rest of the men were in Florida hunting for game. A battle ensued with two Georgians and three Indians being killed. In early May of 1794, Indian agent Seagrove invited the Lower Creeks and Uchees to return to their hunting grounds along the Oconee River while treaty negotiations continued. That same month Georgia's war hero, General Elijah Clarke, was about to embark upon an attack on the Spanish at St. Augustine. Clarke and his men were supported by the French government. The expedition left from the upper Oconee area down an old Indian trail along the western side of the Oconee River. The men camped at Carr's Bluff on their route to Florida. Before he could invade, Clarke was convinced by the federal government to call off the attack. On October 28, 1795, Georgia and the United States were drawn into an incident which nearly precipitated a war with the Creek Nation. A small group of Indians had crossed the Oconee River and were visiting friends in a home near Carr's Bluff. Benjamin Harrison, along with Mr. Vessels and their men, attacked the Indians, killing seventeen of them. The dead, which included five Creek and twelve Uchee, were thrown into the river. The next morning the Uchee rode along the Uchee Trail leading to the bluff. They planned a retaliatory strike at dawn. The Uchee surrounded Harrison's home. To their dismay Capt. Harrison was gone. They moved east attacking Bush's Fort with all haste. Bush was a stepbrother of future General David Blackshear and lived in the area south of Ben Hall Lake along the newly created Washington/ Montgomery County line. They captured the fort and killed one man. The horses were taken and the cattle were killed. The Creek chiefs protested the killings to the Georgia government. The legislature passed a resolution regretting the incident. Harrison and his men were arrested for murder, but were never tried. In February of 1796, John Watts and his company of 17 men were at Hickory Bluff, two miles above Carr's Bluff on the Oconee. The men received information on the 6th that Indians had been committing depredations along the frontier. Some of the men started down the river in two canoes. The first canoe was fired upon. Joseph Blackshear, George Muse, and James Leonard in the second canoe heard the gunfire and quickly moved ashore. The firing continued for fifteen minutes. The next day Watts led a party to the scene of the incident. There he found a decapitated William Foster who had his intestines and private parts cut out. Israel Smith's bullet-riddled body was found skinned like an animal. Isham Carr testified that he was a member of the party sent to investigate the theft of horses and sundry articles on February 8th. He stated that the men on the land ran to the crossing point on the river. The militia fired on the forty to fifty Indians, who retreated and fired from the high ground. After a short time, the militia retreated when they feared they might be surrounded. He went with Major Blackshear, Captain Blackshear, and others on the 10th to look for the missing men. The men found a small cache of three guns, a pistol, powder, and some clothing which they believed to belong to the Indians. Carr found one dead man on the east bank of the river. His scalp had been taken and it was presumed he had tried to swim to the east side of the river to safety. Two men, Sparks and Leonard, were missing after the action and were presumed to have drowned in the attack. While the negotiations for the Treaty of Colerain were pending, many of the hostilities ceased. By the spring of 1797, the Indians were becoming impatient with the failure to bring Harrison and his men to trial. They attacked Long Bluff a few miles above Carr's Bluff. Isaac Brown (Vansant?) had his brains blown away and was scalped at Bush's Fort in present day Laurens County in 1797. Jeremiah Oates of Washington County testified that the dozen or so Indians carried off most of Brown’s belongings. Brown’s wife was shot. The Indians set the Brown’s house on fire. Mrs. Brown managed to fire a shot which scared the Indians. Despite her wound, Mrs. Brown was able to extinguish the fire. The Indian leading the party had a son killed by Harrison at the massacre at Carr's Bluff. In one of the last attacks in this area in February of 1798, William Allen was killed near Long Bluff. As early as the fall of 1797, David Blackshear was serving as a major of a brigade of militia. By the end of the century, most of the hostilities had ceased. Gen. David Blackshear complained of the small thefts being committed by Indians in the late spring of 1799. No harm was done, but he thought the Indians were too insulant and mischievous. He found the remains of a bar-be-qued pig at a camp site. Blackshear was aggravated that the Indians were killing any animal they could find on his side of the river and that he had done all in his power to stop them without laying his hands upon them. In one of the final clashes with the Indian people, two white citizens of Montgomery County crossed the Oconee River and took two horses belonging to Indians. Gov. James Jackson wrote to Gen. David Blackshear who had command of this area. One of these may have been ol' Benjamin Harrison. Jackson gave orders to Blackshear directing him to arrest the offenders and not to resort to violence in the absence of any provocation. Jackson reiterated the law against any Indians remaining on Georgia soil without permission. The governor promised to back General Blackshear in any actions he might take. Pursuant to the approval of the Georgia Legislature on February 22, 1796, Jared Irwin, a fellow Washington Countian and Governor of Georgia, appointed Blackshear as Justice of the Peace for Blackshear’s Militia District on June 4, 1796. Militia districts were formed primarily as a means of local defense against Indian attacks. Each district was named for its captain, presumably either David Blackshear or his brothers Joseph or Elijah. Three years later the Justices of the Inferior Court of Washington County renominated Blackshear to the position, which he served at least until 1808 and presumably until the boundaries of Laurens County were expanded to encompass all of his holdings in 1811. Blackshear represented Washington County in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1797 to 1798 and again in 1804. Nearly all of the records of General David Blackshear’s activities while he was residing in Washington County went up in flames in a disastrous fire which destroyed the county courthouse in the 1850s. The early years of the 19th Century were relatively quiet in the number of so called Indian depredations. This lull was not so much caused by a cessation of hostilities but primarily because the state of Georgia acquired all of the land east of the Ocmulgee River in the early years of the century. Blackshear remained active in local affairs. With the creation of Laurens County in 1807, new lands were opened across the Oconee River from his plantation. Blackshear and his brothers, though not land lottery winners, promptly expanded their family’s holdings by purchasing fractional land lots along the river at a public sale held in the capital in Milledgeville. In 1811, the Georgia legislature authorized the ceding of portions of Washington and Montgomery counties to Laurens County. This simple act to compensate Laurens County for its loss of lands to Pulaski County was directly responsible for David Blackshear becoming a resident of Laurens County. David Blackshear’s early years as a local patriot and warrior was soon to change. In his last twenty five years of life, Blackshear would make outstanding contributions to his state that would make him one of the county’s most influential and important citizens in the 200-year history of Laurens County.


The War Years

On this day in 1764 in the British colony of North Carolina was born a general. Although he was widely heralded as an Indian fighter and brigade commander of the War of 1812, General David Blackshear of Laurens County rarely led his men into battle. Blackshear had seen war all too closely, watching his oldest brother James being killed by Tories during the American Revolution. This is the story of General David Blackshear, the soldier, planter, surveyor, and public servant during the years of the War of 1812.

Known to many as "The Second American Revolution," the War of 1812 began with a declaration of war by President James Madison on June 18, 1812 following a ten-year series of skirmishes at frontier outposts, impressment of sailors on the seas, and blockades of shipping. It was on the 4th of July in 1812, some three dozen years after America first declared its independence from the King of England that soldiers of the Georgia militia rendezvoused in Dublin to launch an attack on British fortifications in Florida, which would not become part of the United States until six years later.

During its regular session, the Georgia legislature on December 9, 1812, appointed David Blackshear to command the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Division of the state's militia. Dr. William Lee commanded the first division.

Blackshear's first known call to duty came in early August 1813, when Georgia governor David Mitchell wrote the general to move his brigade to the frontier and adopt measures to afford some security for the fearing inhabitants. Gen. Blackshear ordered Lt. Col. Ezekiel Wimberly to immediately man three forts: Twiggs, Telfair, and Jackson along the line of the frontier, then the Ocmulgee River. Blackshear ordered Col. Allen Tooke of Pulaski County and Major Cawthorn of Telfair to immediately do the same.

The General set out on a patrol to inspect the forts and reported back to the Governor, "I found the inhabitants in a high state of alarm - an immense number of whom had left and fled to the interior." Blackshear immediately began preparations to lay out an additional ten forts along the frontier, each manned by one subaltern, a sergeant, a corporal and fifteen privates and each approximately ten miles equidistant.

My mid-September, Gen. Blackshear reported that all threats of an eminent invasion had subsided, at least for the present. By mid-November, tensions along the Ocmulgee once again began to rise. Major General David Adams ordered Blackshear to send some of his best men to join a force of 157 men and to go out to the frontier to make improvements to existing fortifications and erect new ones and to report his activities to Major James Patton at Fort Hawkins.

On January 4, 1814, the newly elected Georgia governor Peter Early, a former judge of Laurens County Superior Court, replaced the ailing General John Floyd with his old friend, David Blackshear to command the army from Georgia in the lower Flint River region. Blackshear reported that a great number of his men were sick and that he needed substantial reinforcements to aid his 700-man force in guarding his forts and supplies, not to mention the effort to drive away the hostile Indians, all the Negroes, and the British forces at the mouth of Flint River.

Two years after the war began, Gov. Early reappointed Gen. Blackshear to command a brigade of first class militia along with Gen. Floyd. (LEFT)  Blackshear responded, "Sir, I am at all times ready promptly to accept that or any other appointment you may think proper to confer on me in which it is in my power to serve my country."

Just as was the case in previous Septembers, tensions along the Georgia frontier began to explode. Blackshear ordered several units to move out from Hartford, opposite present day Hawkinsville. Adjutant General Daniel Newnan informed Blackshear that 2500 men would be needed to support General Andrew Jackson, then in the vicinity of Mobile. Several units from Blackshear's command were detached for that purpose.

Ten days before Christmas, Blackshear and his brigade received orders to move from their encampment at Camp Hope, two miles north of Fort Hawkins on the Milledgeville Road in present day Macon, to Hartford and then to open a road to the Flint River, where he was ordered to erect fortifications. No one in Georgia even realized that the war with Great Britain officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve while Blackshear and his men were camping on the banks of the Ocmulgee.

Blackshear's men spent Christmas at Camp Blakely, two miles from present day Hawkinsville before moving west toward his objective on the Flint River. Blackshear reported that he arrived on January 6 "without forage and not many rations on hand." Blackshear continued his march, oblivious to the fact that two days later, General Andrew Jackson's command defeated the British at the war ending Battle of New Orleans.

With no instant communications informing him that hostilities had officially ended, Blackshear marched his men, many of whom were sick, south and west from their Flint River base. On January 14, Blackshear received orders to return to Fort Hawkins. Within a week, Blackshear was back at Fort Hawkins, where he begged Farrish Carter, of Baldwin County, to furnish him with 30,000 badly needed rations. Blackshear implored, "Our country is invaded; and I hope in God you will use every exertion in your power to facilitate the movement of the troops to check the insurrection and depredation that will ensue should we delay for want of provisions."

Once resupplied, at least in part, Blackshear began cutting a road down the northeastern line of the Ocmulgee and Altamaha. His destination was Fort Barrington on the Altamaha in McIntosh County. Along his line of march, Blackshear's men cut the legendary "Blackshear Road."

Reports of British activity around St. Mary's were coming in from many sources. One of those sources was J. Sawyer, possibly Jonathan Sawyer the founding father of Dublin, who reported that the British were landing on Cumberland Island. Sawyer wrote Blackshear concerning British atrocities and their movement toward Darien.

By February 4, 1815, Blackshear reported that he was some 132 miles from Hartford or just a few miles from Fort Barrington. Upon his arrival in Darien, David Blackshear reported, "We have been in a constant state of alarm, and the principal inhabitants, remonstrating against my leaving this station."

Just as he was making plans to move toward the enemy, General Floyd wrote to Blackshear, "The official accounts of a peace having been concluded between our country and Great Britain appear to have filled the hearts of the populace here (Savannah) with joy." And, just like that it was over. After formally winding up their affairs, Blackshear's men were discharged and went back their homes in East Central Georgia.

Thus ended the middle and most widely heralded chapter in the epic life of General David Blackshear - soldier, statesman and citizen. Blackshear returned to his Springfield home in Laurens County, where he spent the last twenty two years of his life serving the people of Laurens County and Georgia.

Thursday, December 13, 2012



On any given clear night you can see roughly 1500 stars with the naked eye.  On a cold November night in the year 1833, residents of the Eastern United States began to believe that the sky really was falling.   It was on that night, one hundred and seventy nine years ago tonight, when it seemed that at least thirty thousand and as many as many as two hundred thousand stars were falling every hour.  And, if the skies are clear this Saturday night you will get a chance to see just a small glimpse of what people all over the country saw on ‘the night the stars fell.

For billions of years, the comet Tempel-Tuttle has been orbiting the Sun.  Every thirty three years or so, the Earth passes through the densest section of the tail of Tempel-Tuttle.  Although the number of visible meteors currently is  substantially lower than in 1833,  the resulting meteor shower,  called the Leonids,  comes to a peak on November 17 of each year.

In the days leading up to November 13, 1833, the weather in Georgia had been somewhat mercurial.  On a rather warm Saturday and part of Sunday a steady rain fell.  After a Monday morning fog evaporated, the skies cleared.  As the sun began to set on Tuesday afternoon, temperatures began to plummet. Wednesday, like Tuesday, was a perfectly clear, crisp autumn day.   As the Sun set, a thin crescent moon hung low in the sky.  

Once the moon disappeared below the western horizon, the pitch black sky was speckled with its usual compliment of stars and planets.  All was normal or so it seemed.

Then about 9:00 that evening and continuing until the Sun came up the next morning, thousands and thousands of stars came screaming out of the calm, northeastern sky appearing to emanate out of the constellation of Leo, the Lion,  traveling at an estimated 156,000 miles per hour.

Those who believed in a higher being were sure that Judgment Day was at hand. Few, if any, people realized what was really happening. 

“The stars descended like snowfall to Earth,” an Augusta resident recalled.

“We were awaked by a neighbor, who had been aroused in a similar manner by one who supposed the World was coming to an end, as the stars were falling. The whole heavens were lighted by falling meteors, as thick and constant as the flakes which usher in a snow storm, ” a Georgia newspaper editor wrote. 

“Stars fell like snow flakes and fireballs darted back and forth in the heavens, like children at play,  making a grand and awe-inspiring display,” recalled  Rev. William Pate, of Turner County.

Settlers came from as far as 15 miles away to visit Rev. Pate’s home.  They stayed up all night singing hymns and praying as Reverend Pate read the scriptures.  Many confessed their most secret sins that remarkable night, truly fearing that the world was coming to an end. 

In an Alabama Heritage Magazine article in 2000, it was written that in a town in Georgia many profane people "were frightened to their knees,  dust-covered Bibles were opened and dice and cards were thrown to the flames.”

In Milledgeville,  the newspapers reported that hundreds and thousands of stars were shooting madly and vertically  from their spheres with several second-long trails of whitish light behind them.  Some thought that they must be fireworks instead of falling stars.  A few observers  swore that several of them had exploded.

A resident of Butler’s Island near Darien, Georgia wrote, “There were innumerable meteors in the skies, all apparently emanating from a focus directly overhead to every point of the compass, of various sizes and degrees of brilliancy, occasioned probably by their different distances.”  

One Morgan County farmer was transformed by the celestial phenomenon. As the shower intensified, the man ran out of his house, dressed only in his shirt and undergarments exclaiming, “The world is now actually coming to an end, for the stars are falling.”  His Negro servant ran after him as his master scrambled to take cover under the house.  

The farmers’ wife followed him outside and chastised her husband for his lack of courage.  The challenged the terrified farmer to come out and live or die with his family.  After he mustered the courage to come back outside, he gazed into the wondrous sight of thousands of burning meteors and vowed to himself and to God, “Well, this one thing I do know, escape or not - live long or die soon, I never will drink another drop of liquor.” 

Some Georgians thought the meteor shower had a more sinister political purpose than an astronomical phenomenon.  A  full scale political war between George M. Troup, of Laurens County, and John Clarke  had been raging for more than a dozen years.  Troup had been narrowly defeated by Clarke in two elections in the early 1820s.  Troup won a narrow victory of his own in 1823 and was narrowly reelected again in 1825 in the first popular vote  gubernatorial election in Georgia history.  

Following Clark’s death from yellow fever in October 1832, the struggle between the two rivals seemed to wane or simply shift to other members of the bitterly divided Democratic-Republican party.  

On Friday, November 8, five days before the meteor shower, Troup tendered his written resignation from the United States Senate from his Valdosta home in eastern Laurens County.  The first written accounts of the political icon’s leaving the Senate two years early circulating throughout the capital in Milledgeville on the 13th.  Although Troup maintained that his resignation was for purely personal reasons, some of his more ardent supporters thought that the evening’s spectacle was a sign of retribution if Clark’s followers regained political power in the state.

The longest lasting legacy of that starry, starry falling night was the beginning of the concentrated study of  meteors and the causes of meteors storms in particular.

So venture outside early this Sunday morning sit back and relax and turn your eyes upward and eastward and try to catch a glimpse of one of the grandest of nature’s fireworks, the Leonid Meteor Shower.  And, maybe one day, about 21 years or so from now, we all will witness the grand and glorious view of the night the stars fell.  



With the stroke of his pen, Georgia Governor David B. Mitchell officially established the Town of Dublin on December 9, 1812. That was two centuries ago.

Laurens County had been established five years earlier. It was a county without a seat. Nearly three years would pass before Sumpterville was designated as the capital of Laurens County. Originally cut from Wilkinson County, Laurens stretched all the way to the Ocmulgee River, opposite and below what would become Hawkinsville. Travel from the remote southwestern regions of the county was arduous and totally impractical.

Consequently, state legislators cutoff a large portion of Laurens County lands giving it to the newly created county of Pulaski. With the loss of new lands, local leaders sought to obtain more lands. The legislature agreed and in 1811 annexed extreme portions of northwestern Montgomery and southwestern Washington counties into Laurens.

With new lands to the east, the Justices of the Inferior Court decided that the county seat should be located nearer to the center of the county. The justices chose a plateau nearly a mile from the Oconee River. Just across the river to the east was a riverside community known as Sandbar. (pictured above.)  It was settled by merchant Jonathan Sawyer in 1804.

Sawyer  (left) joined his brother in law, George Gaines, who established a ferry at Sandbar about the year 1806. Gaines continued to operate the ferry, profiting handsomely upon it's sale in the mid 1810s. Following right behind was another brother in law, David McCormick, who set up his holdings on the east side of the river below what would become Dublin. Still further down river, yet another brother in law, George M. Troup established his plantation of Valdosta. Troup, a Georgia congressman and senator, as well as the state's governor for two terms, was the founder of the state rights movement in the United States.

In June of 1811, Sawyer was appointed postmaster of a new post office. Sawyer's wife, Elizabeth McCormick, was a native of Baltimore, Maryland and a progeny of Dublin, Ireland. She died in childbirth a couple of years before. Sawyer, as postmaster, was given the right to choose the name of the new post office, which he named Dublin, in honor of the capital of his wife's ancestral homeland.

Sawyer continued to expand his holdings in what would become Dublin. He purchased half of an entire land lot (232) from Joseph L. Hill, who sold the other half to the commissioners of the Town of Dublin in 1811. He bought an adjoining land lot north of town (231), containing 202.5 acres, in February 1812 for the paltry sum of $100.00. Frederick Roberts, who owned lot 233 south of town and is known to have been buried in his family cemetery just south of the Martin Luther King, Jr. By Pass on South Franklin Street, refused Sawyer's efforts to expand his holdings even more.

Dublin was chartered on December 9, 1812 by an act of the legislature. The town's original commissioners were Neil Munroe, Lewis Kennon, William Tolbert, Eli Shorter and Henry Shepard. The original city limits extended a distance of 250 yards in all directions from Broad Street. Eventually, the streets of the town were named for American Presidents and heroes of the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

On December 13, 1811, the legislature appointed Jonathan Sawyer, Jethro B. Spivey, John G. Underwood, Benjamin Adams, and Henry Shepherd to act as commissioners of the courthouse and other public buildings granting unto them the power "to lay out and sell such a number of lots as may be sufficient to defray the expenses of such public buildings as they may think necessary."

Among the big news events of the first year in the life of Dublin was the murder of Benjamin Harrison, the legendary Indian fighter, who was killed by the hands of Hansel Roberts on August 14, 1811. A large contingent of volunteers assembled in Dublin on the 4th of July 1812 to launch an expedition against the British Army at Saint Augustine in the opening months of the War of 1812.

As the prospects of Dublin as a river port grew, so did the desire of businessmen to scoop up lands near George Gaines' ferry. Jonathan Sawyer sold two partial land lots, less than a hundred acres along the river, to Redolphus Bogert, a New York City businessman. Bogert also purchased 174 acres from William Daniel for the outrageous sum of $7000.00. Interestingly, Bogert made a profit in 1814 when he sold the lands to Gilbert Aspinwall, a wealthy businessman, who served on the Board of Governors of the New York Bank For Savings and was the Governor of the New York Hospital in 1799 and 1819.

George Gaines sold his lands around the ferry to Andrew Low and his partners, Robert Isaac and James McHenry of Savannah. Isaac, Low and Company was one of the most prosperous cotton exporters in Savannah. Low, who died childless, encouraged his relatives to come to Savannah. One of his collateral descendants was Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of America.

Roswell King, who in 1802, was hired as Major Pierce Butler's overseer on his plantations on Butler Island, at Woodville on the Altamaha River and at Hampton plantation on St. Simons Island, developed efficient methods in the cultivation of rice and sea island cotton

In 1816, Roswell King purchased a building on the northwest corner of the courthouse square in Dublin. In 1829, King sold the building which may have burned. King moved to North Georgia, where he established a large cotton mill. The surrounding community, which grew up around the mill, was named "Roswell" in honor of Mr. King himself.

The town's first attorney was Eli S. Shorter. Shorter, who purchased a prime lot on the southwest corner of West Jackson Street and South Jefferson Street for $200.00, practiced in Dublin for a short time before heading off to bigger and better things in western Georgia. His nephew, Hon. John Gill Shorter, served in the Confederate Congress and as Governor of Alabama.

In it's infancy, the Town of Dublin functioned merely as a place where court was held two to four times a year and a good place to cross the river or stock up on supplies. Most of the county's population was centered in the northern plantations.

As decades passed, the Town of Dublin fell into a state of despair and dilapidation. It would take more than a half century before the town began it's Phoenix-like rise to become one of the largest and most heralded cities in Georgia, peaking first in the year 1912.

On this bicentennial of the City of Dublin, the land I love the most, I want to take this opportunity to wish a happy 200th birthday to all of those persons who have ever called the Emerald City their home. May she live and prosper for another 200 years.