Saturday, January 7, 2012

Journey to a Town Center

Gather two or more people together in one community and it won't be long before the disagreements begin.

It's inevitable.

We are human.

Our great city of Douglasville began under a cloud of disagreement including a major lawsuit that went all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court. Head on over to the Douglas County Courthouse and find the very first court docket book dating back to the 1870s. The first entry will advise the first Defendants in the county happened to be the Douglas County Commissioners, and the lawsuit concerned the location of the county seat.

The Georgia General Assembly issued an act on October 17, 1870 creating Douglas County. Within the language of the act was a stipulation calling for an election to be held the first Monday of November, 1870 to elect an ordinary, sheriff, clerk of superior court and to choose a location for a county seat where all county business would be conducted.

Many thought it was a foregone conclusion that the Chapel Hill community would be considered. In 1870, Chapel Hill contained a general store and a few other businesses. There was both a Baptist and Methodist church and three different schools including a high school. The area was a very prosperous plantation community with several influential citizens.

Many others preferred the area up on the ridge known as Skint Chestnut where W.G. Black and his wife Sarah had located a trading post some years before. It wasn't just the draw of the ancient Chestnut tree or the trading post that enticed folks. It had a lot to do with the proposed rail site the Georgia Western Railroad (today's Norfolk Southern) wanted to create.

The 1870s was time when attitudes in Georgia were changing. Many of our town fathers understood the new "farm to factory movement" which would result in business opportunities, more industrialization and an established rail line.

The railroad had actually proposed building a rail line through the county prior to the Civil War, but the war delayed it. The right-of-way would cross the county for 19 miles, and at one point would parallel the old Indian trail where the road passed the ancient Chestnut tree. By 1870, the land had been cleared for the rail line from Atlanta to Skint Chestnut and beyond to Reuben Vansant's crossroads.

By the time the election rolled around thoughts of Chapel Hill as the county seat had been replaced by a group of folks wanting the center of the county chosen as the location. The geographical center is approximately where Pray's Mill Baptist Church is located today off of Highway 5.

The folks who supported this area were known as "center people" and included Moses M. Smith. He argued the railroads could be persuaded to run a line through the area and mentioned the area's water sources -- the Dog River, Bear Creek and Sweetwater Creek -- as the fuel to run a million dollars worth of machinery. He did have a few valid points, but many felt it would be too difficult to persuade the railroad to change their plans since much of the land had been cleared...

THANK YOU for visiting “Every Now and Then” and reading the first few paragraphs of “Journey to a Town Center“ which is now one of the 140 chapters in my book “Every Now and Then: The Amazing Tales of Douglas County, Volume I”. 

Visit the Amazon link by clicking the book cover below where you can explore the table of contents and read a few pages of the book…plus make a purchase if you choose!

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