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Monday, December 17, 2012

A Little Background on Mr. and Mrs. Post

I've been hanging onto this story for quite some time mainly because I wasn't sure how I wanted to present it. When I first became aware of Mr. and Mrs. Post I knew their story had value and should be included in the history of Douglas County, but....I also knew I needed to verify facts and try to add to the story where I could.

But what a story!!! 

I just didn't know in order to verify facts and add to the information I would be creating a story several inches thick and several miles wide with interesting "stuff."

This story has a little of everything...women's rights, healing powers, mining in California, a woman asserting her independence and following her dream, third party politics, mail fraud, fights in the middle of the street....but some of that will come later.

This may end up being a three or four-part story, so hang in there with me as start by examining the early life of Helen Post....one of our stars of the story.

She was born in Fairfield, Illinois on June 14, 1831 to fairly well-to-do folks. She was well educated for the time period...she could even boast some college, and eventually married Dr. John Caldwell Baker in 1856.

Instead of taking her expected position in society as a doctor's wife in some Midwestern town, Dr. Baker moved Helen to Texas....Solano, Texas to be exact. The 1860 census shows the Bakers living there, and by 1870 four children were added to the census rolls.....Florence, Ada, Claude and Jennie.

Later records indicate the family moved to Lake County, California near Soda Springs where the family had a farm and a quicksilver mine.

Unfortunately, the family lost money each year and the place was heavily mortgaged. Dr. Baker eventually lost it.

Not only had Helen given up the life of a Doctor's wife she thought she was going to have...she had always wanted to make her living with a pen...and it just wasn't happening.

As she worked from daylight to dark cooking, washing, ironing, sewing and tending house for her family and the men who worked for her husband...at times as many as twenty-five men per some sources....she dreamed of being a writer.

She was in pain constantly, and her husband refused to hire any help for her. She is quoted as saying, "[Dr. Baker] seemed to consider me a machine with power to run day and night. He had consideration for his men and for his horses, but none for me."

She tried to break away in 1875, but when Dr. Baker found her in San Francisco she returned to the farm with him and attempted to reconcile.

Soon after her youngest daughter, Jennie, died at age nine. Seeing that things hadn't changed on the farm Helen finally had enough.

The year was 1877.

She wasn't getting any younger. The older children were nearly grown and away at school in San Francisco.

One morning Helen prepared her husband and his crew breakfast as usual, packed a bag and then headed for San Francisco never to return. Their divorce was final in 1879.

In San Francisco she found a job writing a four page weekly paper devoted to the sale of various medicines. Later she moved from paper to paper until she landed a position with Overland Monthly, a paper dealing with reform issues.

....and during the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s there were several reforms to write about....women's suffrage, corporate monopolies, poverty, immigration, labor reforms, and many more.

In 1880, she moved to Chicago and took a position with the Chicago Express, a paper Helen described as the leading reform paper in the world. Over time she became bored with labor reform issues stating that most laborers simply wanted to trade places with their employers....not really wanting to end their practices and have true reform.  Plus most in the labor movement weren't in favor of woman's suffrage, and it was an important issue to Helen.

She quit the paper and struck out on her own beginning a paper called The Woman's World. The paper covered such topics as forced maternity, women's suffrage, financial independence, and even praised efforts for women to become ministers.

Yes...her views were extreme for her time period.

This website states, "A woman of middle age, living among strangers, torn by sorrows and worn by worries, having no capital whatsoever, no experience in managing a business, and no money to pay her board bill, founding a publishing concern that made money from the start and put her on her feet within a month after went into business by herself." 

Helen stated in one of her publications, "I went to my room and began to type; and that article was the most emphatic declaration of the right of the "I" that ever put in type.....It said [for people] what they wanted to say but dared not. Hundreds of journals copied it and it ran through public feeling like wildfire."

She further stated, "....no man will ever be the magnet to attract success until he can stand alone, straight and tall as a liberty pole, glorying in the position; free from fear; independent of public opinion and daring to be himself."

I guess in our way of thinking Helen's article went viral and was seen by many people...just what you want to happen as you are seeking subscriptions for a new publication.

Helen was married by 1883. She had met Charles C. Post....also known as C.C. Post....while working at the Chicago Express. Post, fifteen years younger than Helen, was an experienced journalist and was heavily involved with politics. At the time they married he was writing his first novel, Drivin' From Sea to Sea or Just Campin'.  I've written a little about the book and Post's muckraking efforts here.

He also ran his own journal titled Roll Call. His political maneuverings played a heavy hand in Douglas County politics during the 1890s.

Their marriage cost the happy couple a whopping two whole dollars....and it severely depleted their joint savings account. During those early days of wedded bliss they tried to live on five dollars a week.

Between 1882 and 1886 Helen struggled to keep her paper afloat. It was hard for her to find the right niche to support her.

In her book, Each Mind a Kingdom: American Women, Sexual Purity and New Thought  Beryl Satter scrutinizes Helen's writing over those years...her various opinions and how those opinions seem to lose focus and change over time. You can find the section of her book (page 152) regarding Helen here.

Specifically between 1882 and 1884 The Women's World would publish sporadically due to a lack of resources.

Another issue that kept Helen from publishing was her granddaughter's illness. Helen and her husband lived with her daughter Ada and her children. At some point one of the granddaughters was very ill, and Helen went into debt trying to care for the girl. Eventually the baby died in March, 1885.

During the financial and health crisis the content of The Women's World began to change as Helen began to play with the idea of using her readers as a source of money.

In February, 1885, Helen published a story about a girl named Rose....a girl who had been impregnated and abandoned by her employer. Helen asked for her readers to send "Rose" some clothes for the child. Packages poured in.

Another time Helen wrote about a girl named Mary and asked readers to send her cash.

Yes....the cash poured in, and yes, it went into Helen's pocket.

Helen kept "Mary" alive for six months until she wrote in September, 1885 that "Mary" had finally passed and provided a tear-jerking description of her death.

While the money for "Mary" was still pouring in Helen also posted an article in June, 1885 titled "A Talk to My Reader" where she confessed her financial troubles and advised she would begin accepting advertisements from that point on.

The ads were for such things as compound oxygen which folks in the Victorian era inhaled and there were ads for magnetic undergarments.

Yes.....magnetic undergarments.

Sounds attractive, huh?

The advertisements were always paired with a written endorsement by Helen and they took up most of the newspaper.


Yes, Helen was an interesting "reformer." As Beryl Satter stated, "Helen wrote that womanly love would end poverty while she herself lived at poverty's brink. She attacked corrupt male intelligence that used sharp business dealings to fleece the public while it was her only her own such dealings that kept Helen and her family afloat...She was a reform journalist who started her career praising the women's era and concluded it asserting that wealth, the product of bloody corruption and unleashed desire was the "birthright" of all."

Helen issued the paper's final edition on May15, 1886.  By June she had signed up for a course conducted by Emma Curtis Hopkins regarding Christian Science.

She didn't know it, but Helen had reached a turning point in her life.

During this time per Beryl Satter, "[Helen] learned ambiguous doctrines concerning the power of thought and power of women, the necessity of selfishness and the godliness of desire as well as the problem of poverty."

While she was taking the Christian Science classes her husband, C.C. Post fell ill.

Later Helen would claim she had cured him with her "powers."

Seriously.

....and those claims of healing people would bring the Posts to Douglasville, and the town would be turned upside down.

Stay tuned for part two next week......

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Yankee Barbecue

Douglasville was in the hands of the northerners.

Sounds a little ominous, doesn't it? Of course, during the summer of 1864 many towns and cities across Georgia found themselves "in the hands of the northerners" over and over as General Sherman's men came through.

But....wait.

Douglas County didn't exist during the Civil War. Douglasville didn't either. Both came to be during the 1870s after the war. In fact, here's the story how Douglas County was carved from Campbell County and a portion of Carroll.

Before you think I have finally lost my historical mind (some say my actual mind left me years ago).....the above sentence was part of an Atlanta Constitution article dated June 19, 1890 dealing with the Northern Society of Georgia.

The Northern Society was a group of northern-born folks who made Georgia their home and wanted to promote the benefits of their adoptive home for families and businesses.

During the 1890s the group was inspired via a newspaper opinion piece published in Alabama. Folks in Atlanta took the idea and ran with it.  The opinion piece appeared in March and by April and May the group had formed with a constitution and by-laws and was ready for their first convention to be held in June.

You guessed it! The Northern Society of Georgia decided upon Douglasville for their first convention and apparently it was very successful.

The article I've quoted above reads:

....The influence of the convention today, in bringing about a fuller understanding of affairs in the south by people in the north, can hardly be measured.

Colonel C.C. Post, who conceived the idea of such a convention and to whom more than any other one man is due the credit of the successful issue of the enterprise deserves not only the thanks of the northern-born citizens of the state, but the heartiest words of commendation and approval from Georgians and southerners wherever they may be.

Colonel Post was no real colonel. I've referred to him before. He was an investor in the canning plant and the reason why Chicago Avenue received its name. I'll be devoting several columns regarding Mr. Post's interesting albeit notorious life in the very near future.

Post, of course, was a member of the Northern Society and was in charge of the committee who oversaw the convention....so, of course he wanted Douglasville to serve as the host, and apparently was able to persuade people here to go all out to help him welcome the convention-goers.

Business was almost wholly suspended and the town turned out in holiday attire. Early in the day vehicles loaded with people from the country adjacent began arriving. Fifteen hundred southerners took part in the welcome to their northern-born neighbors and fellow citizens.

Shortly before ten o'clock, a special train from Atlanta arrived. Several hundred delegates with their friends were on the train, among them many members of the Northern Society of Georgia, recently organized in Atlanta.

At the depot the Atlanta visitors were met by delegations of citizens, headed by a brass band.

As the train pulled up at the depot, "Yankee Doodle," that tune dear to every Yankee heart met the ears of the visitors, played by the band. It was roundly cheered. Then "Dixie" was given and greeted with another round of applause.

Neat silk badges were furnished the visitors, who were formed into line and escorted to a beautiful grove nearby where the speakers' stand was erected.

The beautiful grove mentioned above was James Grove, a beautiful grove of trees that served as a city park....located east of the business district. It was located in the area across from today's Ace Hardware running between Church Street and Broad. I've mentioned the Grove before.

In the Grove, a large tabernacle formed by pine boughs and supported by posts and stringers, sheltered the convention from the sun. Beneath this leafy bower seats to accommodate fifteen hundred people were arranged, with those in front reserved for the delegates. 

After C.C. Post opened the convention several speakers manned the podium followed by the announcement for lunch.  Here is where Douglasville really shined.  The event had been in the Atlanta paper for days promoting a free barbecue lunch that would be offered.
Plans had been underway for several weeks with mentions here and there in the Constitution. An article on June 17th states the people of Douglasville have been untiring in their efforts to prepare an entertaining programme for the visitors, and everybody who goes will doubtless have a most enjoyable time.
Senator Joe James, who is greatly interested in the convention, was talking about preparations. “We expect a big crowd,” he said, “not only of northern born citizen, but of southerners as well. An old fashioned barbecue and basket dinner has been arranged for the large crowd that will assemble, arrangements having been made for five thousand people.

Yes……five thousand……and what a lunch!
Barbeque was furnished by the citizens of Douglasville…..the greater portion by  ex-Confederate soldiers who took particular pride in their part of the day’s entertainment.

Captain J.V. James was head of the barbeque committee.
Before lunch was served to the “Yankees”……Captain James read this:

Whereas, the Yanks are coming again, and
Whereas, it behooves us now as in the past to give ‘em the best we have and to make it warm for ‘em, and

Whereas, they did once on a time eat meat which we had roasted for ourselves; therefore be it
Resolved…..That they can’t do it again.

Resolved…That we roast some meat especially for ‘em
Resolved….That we keep it warm for ‘em

Resolved….That four thousand pounds of beef, pork and mutton when roasted be placed with unlimited quantities of bread, hams, chickens, turkeys, pickles and other good things that will be brought by our good housewives upon breastworks of pine boards and the Yankees be requested  to charge the same with all the enthusiasm of their natures.
After lunch the convention took up more business…the most important business of the day.   They set up a committee called the “immigration committee”. The members would have the job of promoting the South to their Yankee friends as great place to live and work.  Mr. Post and Dr. J.E. Howland of Lithia Springs both landed spots on the immigration committee.

The convention then adjourned….the first general convention of northerners ever held in the south.”

…….and Douglasville was the host!
In just a few weeks we will be celebrating the opening of Douglasville’s newest downtown jewel….the new downtown conference center.   I find it most interesting that our “convention” history dates back to the 1890s.   

Seems we have always been a convention town, and may the tradition continue!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Loose Threads, Tying Knots and a Few Re-runs

At this point I’m hard at work on several different threads of Douglas County history….yet, I don’t have all the answers yet.   I have lots of questions and a long list of folks I need to contact, questions I need to ask, and things that need verification.

So….with that mind I’m taking the week off from posting something new in order to get those various threads all knotted up and secure.
Douglasville Patch has been doing a great job re-running several of my older columns that were first published there.  Recently, I opened up some of my 2012 columns published here at this blog to John Barker, the editor at Patch to see if he wanted to share any of my posts from the last year.

 I’m glad he said yes!
This week Douglasville Patch is sharing my post regarding the Brockman boys of Douglas County…..men who grew up along the Chattahoochee River and went on to have most interesting lives.

You can catch the re-run over at Patch here.
As always….thank you so much for visiting this site….”liking” my Facebook page…..and of course, sharing my efforts with your friends.

I’ll be back next week with a brand new post!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Log Cabin Library at Lithia Springs

I've written concerning how the library in Douglasville came to be here, but the efforts at Lithia Springs were entirely separate....in the beginning, and predated the folks in Douglasville by thirty-seven years.

The Lithia Springs project was spearheaded by the women in the community. The library would be housed in a log cabin that sat north of the railroad tracks. They decided to fund the library by holding a box supper and invited the general public. A Sentinel article from the time reported the event was well attended...especially by the men in the area. They enthusiastically bid on the dinners and bought chances to win quilts the ladies displayed.

The Sentinel article goes on to say, "The ladies of Lithia Springs are eternally grateful to the boosters for the nice donation of $25 to build a chimney to their beloved Log Cabin Library which was in danger of being left in the cold, as Lithia Springs is building a new school house and now feeling a might poor. Some of these days they will return the favor when Douglasville and her boosters turn their full attention to such institutions in their town."

The boosters the Sentinel spoke of were a group of businessmen in Douglasville who were headed, at the time, by Dr. Tom Whitley.

The Lithia Springs Log Cabin library was governed by the Lithia Springs Library Association with Miss Lily Reynolds, a school teacher and outspoken promoter of the library project, at the helm.

Volunteers made up the library staff, and in those early days the library was open to the public from two to four o'clock on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons.

The book collection was described as "marvelous" and circulation and membership seemed quite good. A fine of one cent per day was charged for books kept over 14 days.

In 1917, Mrs. George Bass and Captain J.C. Joyner laid a brick walk from the porch to the sidewalk. The library was used at this time for various women's meetings and also served as the town hall for town council meetings.

At some point around 1918, Miss Reynolds left the area and interest in the library began to decline. Sadly, the building burned down in the late 1940s. However, one book, a Bible, survived the fire, and is a treasured relic at the Lithia Springs Library today.

I've looked through several collections of old photos taken in and around Douglas County. I've yet to see a picture of the old log cabin, but would be greatly interested in seeing and sharing one.

The efforts to maintain a public library at Lithia Springs took off again when Mrs. Annette Winn, principal of what was then Lithia Springs Elementary School wanted her students to have more access to reference materials than what the school board could afford for the school. Fannie Mae Davis advises in her book Douglas County: From Indian Trail to I-20 that Mrs. Winn was never one to leave a stone unturned, if it concerned a benefit for her beloved adopted Douglas County and her own community of Lithia Springs.

At last there was a reason for hope with the founding of West Georgia Regional Library in Carrollton. After the library's bookmobile service was inaugurated, Mrs. Winn contacted the director, Miss Edith Foster, the State Department of Library Services, and Douglas County officials, whereby permission was granted for the bookmobile to visit Lithia Springs Elementary/Annette Winn Elementary once a month. The children knew the schedule and eagerly awaited the monthly visits. A library was needed. Mrs. Winn and Miss Foster talked with parents, civic groups and clubs to get their interest.

Finally, it was decided that the little courthouse located in Lithia Springs near the fire department would be the perfect location. I've written about the little courthouses here.

The front room of the little building was made available and volunteers from the local Ruritan Club built bookshelves. Mrs. Betty Hagler took over as the librarian on a volunteer basis.

Fannie Mae Davis continues, in May, 1963, East Douglas County Library opened. The first library board was comprised of Mrs. Annette Winn, chairman; Mrs. A.B. Craven, Mr. George P. Argo; Mrs. Agnes Green, Mrs. Ethelyn Cooper, Mr. Louie Wood, and Mrs. Edith Foster the West Georgia Regional director served as an advisor. Mrs. Hagler continued as librarian, but on a salary. The library was now open for longer hours.

They registered 200 people in the first week alone. Of course, it didn't take long for the small front room of the Lithia Springs little courthouse to overflow with books and library patrons. A larger space was needed and the library that you and I know as the Lithia Springs Library was opened in the late 1970s.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Regarding Cracker


It often astounds me when I receive an e-mail from readers. While I do hope that people will find my efforts here worth the time to take a few minutes to read, I’m still amazed that people do read…let alone take the time to make a comment or send me message.

Any type of communication is dearly appreciated.
The other day I received an e-mail from a reader named Susan.   She wrote, “I’m from southern California and moved to Douglasville in 1998. Between Burnt Hickory and Fairburn Road on Highway 78 alongside the railroad tracks (on the south side) there used to be a little sign posted near the rail that said “CRACKER.” It was green and looked like it was a sign posted by either the railroad or the county. I always wondered what it meant. One day it was gone. Was it a racial thing?”
Great question, Susan!!!

 I knew the very sign she was referring to and had wondered myself. I instantly did a little research and asked around and was able to get back with Susan fairly quick. I decided to share the information here.
The word cracker has many meanings including a racial reference to rural poor Whites, but the sign along the railroad tracks was not racially motivated. The sign was placed there by the railroad to alert the engineer they were coming up on a particular area where railroad cars might need to be left or picked up.  The sign served as a marker and until just the last few years it was still there along the tracks.

The name “Cracker” referred to a company that stood along the tracks named Cracker Asphalt Company owned by Dr. Young, a chemist, who moved to Douglasville sometime in the mid-1950s. 
Cracker Asphalt was an asphalt and petroleum refining company.

Today we are taken a little aback regarding what was going on at the site, but we do need to remember from the 1950s through mid-1970s there were no regulations regarding businesses like Cracker Asphalt. The site covered over 40 acres and most of the waste was buried on the back part of the property. 
Everyone knew there were issues with the property. Several longtime residents have told me that if the weather was just right all of Douglasville smelled like roofing tar. It got into your house. The smoke stacks were too close to the ground. Later after citizen complaints the government told Dr. Young to raise the stacks and the problem did get better, but there were still issues.

Later the EPA did get involved and labeled the property as a hazardous area.

Let’s get back to the word “Cracker”. Why would Dr. Young use the word in the name of his company?

Was he making reference to Georgia Crackers?  “Cracker” can be a slur again rural white people as I stated above.  In fact, Georgians who lived in the extreme southern part of the state were often referred to as Georgia Crackers by their Florida neighbors.  The term came about as the Georgians would drive their cattle across the state line during the late 19th century and early 20th century looking for better grassland during the winter months.  They drove their cattle with bullwhips that made cracking sounds earning them the nickname “Crackers”.

I’ve heard Dr. Young was actually from Alabama, so I don’t think he named his business after cattlemen from South Georgia.

There were the Atlanta Crackers – a minor league baseball team that called Atlanta home from 1901 to 1965.  The team was very popular, but somehow I don’t thing Dr. Young was thinking baseball when he named his asphalt company.

Maybe we should focus on the business of Cracker Asphalt….refining petroleum. A report I found online prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency stated “it is believed Cracker Asphalt disposed of waste sludge by on-site land application.”   The report goes on to say that from 1955 to 1971 the site where Cracker Asphalt was located was used for various activities but most are undocumented mainly because prior to the 1970s the refining industry was largely unregulated across the United States.
If we connect the word “cracker” to petroleum geology and chemistry the choice of name makes perfect sense.  “Cracking” can occur during the refining process basically when long-chain hydrocarbons are converted to short chains. Yes, I know.  It sounds very involved scientifically, and it is.  Perhaps it might be best if we know that “cracking” is a process that occurs in refining, so it makes sense Dr. Young would use the word as a name for his business.

At some point during the early 1970s Dr. Young put his own name on the business changing it from Cracker Asphalt to Young Refining Company.  The EPA report I read stated that, “beginning in 1971, refining asphaltic crude; the facility also refined waste oil and produced JP-4 jet fuel.”
Around 1976, the EPA became involved when residents in the area made complaints.   The report advises they were concerned about possible leaking tanks, piles of scrap metal and debris all over the site, possible waste buried on or behind the site; including drums containing toxic and radiological wastes, and potential excess cancers and respiratory illness in the area.”

Since 2004 the business covering 40 acres along Huey Road and bordered the tracks along Bankhead has changed hands two or three times, but has always retained the Young name.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Celebrating the Election


As I write this it is exactly 48 hours until the polls will close here on the east coast Tuesday night. The pundits are all squawking filling up the airwaves with their poll numbers, commentary, and spin.

Once the polls close it won't get any better.  Tuesday night will be filled with a never-ending series of maps, numbers and election tidbits until we know without a doubt that we have a winner.

If you are like me you are a little weary of the whole election slug-fest at this point. I long for Wednesday to get here, so the suspense will be over....but will it really be over?

Yes, by Wednesday we will know who the next occupant of the Oval Office will be. Some of us will be celebrating because the current resident, President Obama will remain in office another four years, or some of us will be celebrating because a new guy...Governor Romney...will be making arrangements to move his family into the White House come January.

No matter the winner...one thing we can count on will be the reactions...the news media will keep talking, and you will see all sorts of reactions good and bad via social media like Facebook.

You didn't really think the election would actually end all of that, did you?

With possible reactions in mind I did a little digging regarding past elections and how folks in Douglas County reacted to the news. I found an interesting reaction from the election of 1884.

The Election of 1884 pitted Grover Cleveland for the Democrats up against James G. Blaine representing the Republican Party, and it is one election year remembered for its extreme bitterness including personal slurs, casting blame toward the opposition, gaffes and downright nastiness.

Hmmm......

I really don't have to state the obvious here, do I?

This was also one of the first presidential elections where the candidates had to try a little harder to get in front of as many citizens as possible to make the case why they were the best person for the job.

This was also the election year the news media made a huge profit hawking sensationalism.   They picked up on the drama on both sides reporting every detail they possibly could and kept the mess churning throughout the months of campaigning by both candidates.

Again...do I need to bring up the obvious here?

Cleveland was accused of having an illegitimate child. James  G. Blaine carried around the nickname of "Slippery Jim" due to several questions regarding ethics violations while he served as Speaker of the House.

Cleveland won, but just barely in what is described by historians as one of the closest elections in United States history. Cleveland's election was also notable because it broke a twenty-five year losing streak for the Democratic Party regarding the White House.

So, the reaction?

Well, as far as Democrats go they were ecstatic, and southern Democrats were beyond ecstatic....they were downright giddy as they had endured years of Reconstruction and Republican rule not only with national offices, but within their own states as well. 

Douglas County Democrats were among the ecstatic bunch per The Weekly Star newspaper. The article from November, 1884 states:

A number of Douglasville boys went down to Atlanta last Friday night to participate in the jubilee over Cleveland's election. Some of them jubilated muchly.

I have my own personal opinions regarding what "jubilated muchly" might mean, but I'll keep that to myself.

The newspaper article continues:

The boys painted the town red last Friday, when the news of Cleveland's election was received. Amid the firing of anvils, whooping and rejoicing, Captain C. P. Bowen made his appearance on the smallest mule in the county and rode up and down the sidewalk and all over town, with little Joe Johnson behind him. He had placed on the mule's forehead a placard which had written on it in large letters "Cleveland and Hendricks". 

Hendricks was Cleveland's running mate and our 21st Vice President..Thomas A. Hendricks. Please don't feel bad if you didn't know. I didn't know it either, and I make it my business to commit factoids like that to memory.

Back to the article:

Bowen was followed by half the town, some holding to the mule's tail, some its ears, and all hollering at the top of their voices.

Before the election, the Captain had pledged himself, that if Cleveland was elected, to ride a bull all over town. He was not able to find a bull and substituted this little mule.

Well, the occasion justified the behavior.

Unfortunately, I'm not aware which Douglas County "boys" made their way to Atlanta and "jubilated muchly" following the Election of 1884, but as far as Captain C.P. Bowen goes, I do have a little more information.

Captain Bowen was known to his mama as Caleb Perry Bowen (1827-1907), and his mama was Nancy (Yarbrough) Bowen. Captain Bowen's father was Major Thomas J. Bowen who moved to Campbell County (later Douglas County) from Jackson County, Georgia. Major Bowen received his rank while serving during the War of 1812.

A picture of Captain Bowen later in life is seen below:



Bowen earned the title of Captain during the Civil War when he was with the Campbell County Sharpshooters, Company F of the 30th Regiment. Originally the group of soldiers was known as Company C, but after being sent to Camp Bailey in April, 1862 the group was reorganized, and they were referred to as Company F throughout the remainder of the war. Per Douglas County historian Fannie Mae Davis, Company F was with the 30th Regiment throughout the war in all engagements in which the regiment participated including Vicksburg and Missionary Ridge.

Captain Bowen was wounded for the second time at Chickamauga, but stayed on the battlefield for five days following the battle to help bury the dead. He was captured at Nashville in December, 1864 and sent to Johnson's Island.

Bowen came home to Campbell County after the war and soon got involved with the efforts to create Douglas County.  He was a member of the contingent who traveled to Atlanta when Dr. Zeller's bill was presented to the state legislature along with Ephraim Pray and several others. See my article concerning how Douglas County formed here.

Captain C.P. Bowen served as the first treasurer of Douglas County, was a state representative in 1876 and also served as postmaster from 1893 to 1897. He was also an investor in the canning plant that was established in Douglas County in 1887.....see my article here.  Information I located at Ancestry.com mentions Captain Bowen grew up in the Chestnut Log area, but later lived in a home along W. Broad Street in Douglasville.

Further checking regarding the mention of little Joe Johnson who followed closely behind the Captain and the mule revealed little. At the time the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Douglasville was named Thomas J. Johnson, and he did in fact have a son named Joseph, but I was unable to get an exact verification if they are one and the same.

Captain Bowen's "Find a Grave" entry can be found here.

For a full account of how the city of Atlanta celebrated Cleveland's election including citizens taking over the General Assembly and a river of fire running through the streets you can read my post here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Five Little Boys...Five Grown Men


I have a Word document where I store bits and pieces of the Douglas County story as i find them...bits and pieces where I feel I need more details or I need to verify facts. I currently have a 68 page document full of bits and pieces.

Yes....68 pages!  I need to whittle it down a bit, so....

I decided I would hold my nose and go ahead and dive in with the story of the five little boys.

Many, many months ago a few lines I read in Fannie Mae Davis' book concerning Douglas County history caught my eye.

She said....

Five little boys born in Douglas County played ball, hunted, fished, swam in the same creek together, attended the same schools, and played tricks and jokes on each other.

Now that one line isn't very special other than I'm the mother of a former little boy, and I can testify he did all of those things. In fact, now that he's a handsome grown man....he still does those same things.

Most men do, right????

Fannie Mae Davis continues....

Only one remained in Douglas County once grown. All prospered and became leading citizens.

In 1915, their counties sent them to the state legislature where they had a reunion for the first time since they were boys.

Ah....there's that interesting turn of history that I like.

Even though they all went their separate ways they ended up as productive citizens and served in the Georgia General Assembly.

The five little boys were.....

John Edwards representing Haralson County...

W.I. Dorris representing Douglas County....

J.B. Baggett representing Paulding County....

L.Z. Dorsett representing Carroll County....and 

W.H. Dorris representing Crisp County.

So, for a three year period beginning in 1915 the five served in the General Assembly. Historically speaking let's set the context of the time these five men had swirling about them as they helped to create laws that effected citizens across the state of Georgia.

The year was 1915...the year Leo Frank was hung by a mob of citizens for the murder of Mary Phagan, and Gutzon Borglum met with members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy regarding a proposed carving on Stone Mountain. Frank's hanging would lead to a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan atop Stone Mountain when a rally was held in 1915.

The men would have known about an earthquake that struck just 30 miles southeast of Atlanta in 1916, and in 1917 with the United States' entry into World War I eminent the battleship Georgia was commissioned again to serve as an escort and troop transport ship.  The five men would also have been in shock as many were concerning the Great Atlanta Fire when 300 acres of homes and businesses were destroyed.

Now that our perspective has been sharpened a bit regarding the time period let's see what exists "out there" about the five little boys who grew to be state legislators.

I found the least amount of information for John S. Edwards (1867-1941). The representative from Haralson County was married to Margaret Milisi Head and prior to being a member of the General Assembly he was the mayor of Buchanan, Georgia in 1907.

W.I. Dorris...William Irvine Dorris (1867-1940) was married to Sarah Elizabeth Taylor. He served as the representative from Douglas County from 1913 to 1917. The Atlanta Constitution dated June 26, 1915 advised Dorris introduced a bill to provide for a method of changing county lines...redistricting. Later on that summer he introduced other legislation to amend an existing act regulating elections. You can see his picture below....



L.Z. Dorsett...Leander "Lee" Z. Dorsett (1864-1948) was the son of Joseph Smith Dorsett (1811-1895), a pioneer of Campbell County who originally came from Laurens, South Carolina. His half-brother, Samuel N.P. Dorsett was Douglas County's first superior court clerk. Dorsett attended Holly Springs Academy at Chapel Hill. His political life included serving as Douglasville's mayor in 1901 and 1907, Recorder from 1902 to 1905 and represented Carroll County in the General Assembly.

I located a mention where Dorsett was involved with a bill against concealed weapons and in August, 1916 another bill he sponsored dubbed the Dorsett Bill was killed in the Ways and Means committee of the Georgia House. It was a bill that provided for the levying and collecting of state income tax.

State taxes.....gee, is HE the one we need to blame?

No...not by a long shot since Georgia's tax laws had been revised by passage of the Lipscomb-Anderson-Miller Bill in 1913 (the bill calling for the appointment of a state tax commissioner). 1913 was also the same year the Sixteenth Amendment was passed giving the federal government the right to rifle through your pockets, so....Dorsett is free from blame as far as the Dorsett bill was concerned.

Dorsett returned to Douglas County in 1935 and served as mayor from 1938 to 1939. During his term as mayor he made the first dialed call from the Douglasville on July 7, 1939. Operator assisted calls had been in existence since 1899.

Finally, Dorsett returned to the state house again from 1943 to 1945 representing Douglas County.

W.H. Dorris...William Herschell Dorris (1870-1937) was the son of William C. Dorris, a Confederate veteran and grew up on a farm near Douglasville where he eventually attended Douglasville College. He studied law under Judge A.L. Bartlett of Brownsville, was admitted to the bar in 1896 and was a public spirited person from what I can see.

He was mayor of Cordele in 1910.   One of this accomplishments there was getting a Carnegie Library for Cordele.

Carnegie Libraries are one of my own personal history hot buttons.  I love to learn about them and visit them when I can due to their interesting architecture.  A few years ago I published 13 Things About Carnegie Libraries at History Is Elementary, and over at Georgia on My Mind you can learn more about a special Carnegie Library at Little Five Points.



The August 13, 1915 edition of the Atlanta Constitution mentions Dorris was involved with the leadership of the "radicals" in the General Assembly that year. The radicals were folks who were favoring prohibition. The paper went on to mention the radicals had a job ahead of them to sway folks to their way of thinking. A prohibition bill had been passed in 1907, but there several loopholes the radicals didn't take kindly to, so they were calling for strong legislation. 

Apparently the radicals including Dorris were successful because in March, 1917 the Constitution reported the "Bone Dry" bill had been signed by Governor Harris.....and it was Dorris at the signing ceremony who handed the Governor a pen from his pocket to sign the legislation into law.

Dorris was a state senator for Crisp County into the 1920s.

J.B. Baggett...Joseph Brown Baggett was born in 1859 to Allan Jacob Baggett. He was a landowner, farmer, merchant, saw miller, cotton ginner, notary, postmaster, and justice of the peace. Baggett was married to Capitola (Cappie) Beall, daughter of Noble N. Beall, a judge who had at one time been a state senator representing the people of Paulding County.   His picture is published below.




While it has not been verified via deed records, family sources state he owned several hundred acres in the Hay Community of Paulding County where he is listed as the postmaster.

Around 1908 the Paris Telephone Company set up operations in Paulding County, and they located their switchboard in Baggett's home. Whichever family member happened to be free at the time worked the board for the community.

When not acting as a businessman and farmer with fingers in several pots Baggett also served along with his former childhood friends as a state representative for Paulding County.

So...there you have it...everything I have so far regarding the five little boys Fannie Mae Davis wrote about so very briefly. As things tend to go with my research regarding Douglas County history something will plop into my lap next week or a puzzle piece will fall into place a few months from now making more connections, raising more questions, and drawing me back  into the story, but.....I have to be really honest here.......that's what keeps me going.......the delightful chase!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Falling to Earth


I watched a man fall to earth last week...on purpose.

You  may have watched it as well. The man's name was Felix Baumgartner. I watched as he was carried aloft in a capsule hanging from a helium balloon to the very edge of space where he and I (thanks to technology) could actually see the curve of the earth and the edge of space. The only things he had to protect him were his space suit, a helmet and a parachute.

When Baumgartner reached the right height and after going through an exhaustive check-list he opened the hatch, stood on the platform and stepped off free falling for several thousand feet.

Baumgartner wanted to be the first person to break the sound barrier without the protection of a vehicle...and he did it! News sources report that at one point Baumgartner hit Mach 1.24, and tumbled at times to earth from a height of 128,00 feet or over 24 miles. In case you are wondering Mach 1.24 is somewhere around 833 miles per hour.

It took him two hours to get to the appropriate height, and it only took him four minutes and twenty seconds to complete the fall.  Most of that time I was holding my breath and more than likely so was the other 8 million or so others watching on television, YouTube and other sources around the world.

Baumgartner broke two other records, including the highest exit from a platform at 128,000 feet and the highest free-fall without a drogue parachute. One record Baumgartner did not break was the longest elapsed free-fall record. Joe Kittinger, Baumgartner's mentor and voice in his ear as he fell to earth, still holds the record he set in 1960. 

So...the whole event gave me pause to think about how far we've come since 1960 with technology and how the data gathered during Baumgartner's fall will be used to advance flight technology even further.

Then my mind settled on a post I wrote several months ago regarding Hugh Watson, an aviator from Douglasville. You can see that article at Douglasville Patch here.

Recently I found a couple of Atlanta Constitution articles involving Mr. Watson from his younger days when he first started flying. I've printed the newspaper articles in italics and my comments in regular type.

The first article dated December 8, 1918 and carried the headline...."100 Miles an Hour Made by Aviators".

The article reads:

At the average rate of 100 mph three aviators - Lieutenants Wilson, Weaver, and Moncrief - yesterday came from Taylor Field at Montgomery to Atlanta where they landed on the speedway at Hapeville. They only stop made en route was at Columbus.

All three aviators are stopping at the Ansley.  On Sunday afternoon Lieutenant Watson will fly to his home in Douglasville for a visit.

The Ansley refers to the Ansley Hotel built in 1913 by Edwin P. Ansley who is best known for developing the neighborhood still known as Ansley Park which is just east of Midtown and west of Piedmont Park. The Ansley Hotel was located on the 100 block of Forsyth Street. Later it was known as the Dinkler Plaza Hotel before being demolished in 1973.


Just a couple of days later another article appeared on December 10, 1919 with the following headline...."Aviators Crash to Earth Monday at the Speedway".

The article states:

Lieutenants Hugh Watson, of Douglasville, Georgia and Lincoln Weaver of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, both fliers from Taylor Field, Montgomery, Alabama are in the base hospital at Fort McPherson in a serious condition as a result of an attempted tailspin executed yesterday morning at 11 o'clock while the plane in which they were flying was at a height of about 300 to 350 feet and moving at a rate of speed too low to maintain its balance during the movement.

It would appear that Watson was making several cross-country trips at this point.

Douglas County historian, Fannie Mae Davis mentions the fact that Watson was a  flight instructor in Alabama.

Taylor Field was Montgomery's first military flying installation established November, 1917.  Approximately 139 pilots completed eight weeks of training there.

As a result of the attempted difficult air "stunt", instead of righting the plane after it had plunged downward for some distance, the two airmen lost control of the machine and it crashed to earth on the old Atlanta automobile race track about 3 1/2 miles beyond Fort McPherson.

The track the article refers to is Atlanta Speedway or Atlanta Motordome built by Asa Candler in 1909.   He wanted to build a racetrack that would rival the newly built track in Indianapolis, so he bought 287 acres bordering Virginia Avenue south of the city and got busy. The track was only open for two seasons, and if you haven't already guessed the property today is part of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Watson had the right idea at the time when he attempted to land there and/or crash landed at the speedway....it would later be the "right" spot.


Atlantans in an automobile happened to witness the accident and rushed to the badly damaged plane and pulled the lieutenants from underneath the wreckage.

They immediately rushed the injured airmen to the base hospital at Fort McPherson where they were given medical attention. 

Officials of the medical department at Fort McPherson last night stated that Lieutenant Watson suffered innumerable cuts, bruises and sprains, and although in a critical condition physicians at the fort believe that they can save his life.

My earlier article at Patch referred to this accident, but at the time I didn't have all of the details. It took Watson over a year to recover from his injuries and my research indicates the officer in charge at Taylor Field put the word out he didn't want any more "stunts" taking place with his planes.

...The accident occurred as the two lieutenants were flying to Atlanta Monday morning on a cross-country practice trip from Taylor Field. Experiencing some trouble en route, they made a successful landing on the old Atlanta Automobile Speedway and worked on the engines. After this was done they made ascension and after rising some 300 to 350 feet into the air fell into a tailspin that caused the accident. Lieutenant Watson is reported to have told medical officers at Fort McPherson Monday night that he could have righted the plane from the spin, but he misjudged the height at which they were flying and was too near the ground.

Information that the steel helmets worn by the lieutenants probably saved their lives was also supplied by officials at Fort McPherson who were told by those who pulled the two unconscious men from under the plane that heavy parts of the machine were resting on their heads when they were removed from the wreckage and that the steel helmets probably kept their  skulls from being crushed in.

Lieutenant Watson, who was formerly an automobile racing driver for the Sunbeam Company, is the son of M.B. Watson, prominent citizen of Douglasville.....

The fact that Hugh Watson drove race cars is a brand new fact for me. You can find out more about the Sunbeam Motor Car Company here.

The accident Monday was the second Lieutenant Watson has had in Atlanta while in a cross-country run from Taylor Field to his home in Douglasville to spend the day with his parents there, his machine crashed into a rough piece of ground just outside the city limits of Atlanta on Sunday, December 1st.  Lieutenant Watson escaped from the accident with a few slight bruises and small damage to his plane.

It's interesting to note that both crashes were within days of each other.

Accompanying him on this trip was Lieutenant E.T. Dennis, also of Taylor Field, who Lieutenant Watson had invited to visit his home with him for the day. He also had to make a forced landing in his plane due to gasoline trouble, but he was able to pick out a smooth piece of ground in east Atlanta and escaped practically uninjured.  

They resumed their trip the next morning and spent the day in Douglasville after which they returned to their planes at Taylor Field.

Crash after crash...yet early aviators kept getting back in the air. They kept flying. They kept forging ahead making new advances and laying the ground for the men in the 1960s like Kittinger, and then later in the 21st century astounding feats like Baumgartner's plummet to the earth could become a reality.
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