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.