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.