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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who the Heck Was Bill Arp?

The Bill Arp community can be found five miles south of Douglasville along State Route 5 or Bill Arp Road per the street signs. Fannie Mae Davis' history of Douglas County states, "No one is sure how the community came to be known as Bill Arp. The best guess is that many of the residents there in the 1880s and 1890s were subscribers to the weekly papers and The Atlanta Constitution, which published [pieces written by Bill Arp] for about 25 years, and in some manner the name came to be associated with the place."

So the question has to be asked - who the heck is Bill Arp?

Do a little digging and the name Charles Henry Smith keeps popping up.

During the Civil War and in the following years until 1903 he was one of the most famous writers in the South. He wrote popular pieces from the battlefields. He had a popular column for more than 40 years, wrote books and lectured. He also served as the mayor and alderman of Rome, Georgia and in the Georgia Senate.

Charles Henry Smith was born in Lawrenceville, and eventually attended the University of Georgia back in the day when it was known as Franklin College. He returned home to help his ailing father and later studied law with his father-in-law. He practiced in Lawrenceville for a time before moving to Rome, Georgia where he continued his law career and added politics to his activities.

During the 1850s while he lived in Rome, Smith inhabited the home we remember as Oak Hill. Today the estate is part of the campus of Berry College. When the Smith family lived there the home was a smaller Victorian-style farmhouse.

The Greek-revival mansion located on the grounds today was built following a fire in 1884 by Thomas Berry.

Smith was a Confederate and served on the committee in Rome that passed a resolution of non-intercourse with the North which was basically a call for a trade embargo. He served with the Eighth Georgia Voluntary Infantry also known as the Rome Light Guards with the rank of major. The soldiers from Rome saw action at battles such as First and Second Manassas, Gettysburg and Chickamauga as well as several others. It's no surprise that Smith volunteered for the army considering his own father was from Massachusetts and had seen action at Lexington during the American Revolution.

Smith wrote his first piece as the Rome Light Guards were assembling and preparing to depart for Virginia following the surrender of Ft. Sumter in April, 1861. Literary critics agree there were many writers during Smith's time who were far superior writers, but Smith gained popularity because he spoke to the average person, and his Civil War pieces utilized the Cracker dialect mixed with humor. His first piece was a satire addressed to President Lincoln titled "Mr. Lincoln, Sir" responding to the President Lincoln's pleas to southerners they should just stand down and go home following the events at Ft. Sumter. Smith wrote, "I tried my damd'st yesterday to disperse and retire, but it was a no go."

Smith read the piece aloud to a crowd who had assembled. When he finished he asked them how he should sign the response to Lincoln. A man in the crowd, an everyday simple man, told Smith he agreed completely with everything he had written. He directed Charles Henry Smith, "Sign my name!"

What was the common citizen of Rome's name?

Why, Bill Arp, of course!

From that moment, Smith used the name Bill Arp as his non de plume, or pen name for all of his writing. As a politician Smith had to weigh his words carefully. As Bill Arp he could use harsher language an be more free with his personal opinions.

The people loved it!

The Lincoln piece became very popular, and Bill Arp became a well known Southern voice during the war. Smith's wartime writing numbered at least 30 pieces where he attacked the Union for their policies and served to inspire the Confederates. He brought the war to the people in a way they could understand, feel, and respond to......


THANK YOU for visiting “Every Now and Then” and reading the first few paragraphs of “Who the Heck was Bill Arp?“ 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!


 

2 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I found links to the books mentioned in your article.
    http://openlibrary.org/books/OL6544264M/Bill_Arp_so_called

    http://archive.org/details/schoolhistoryofg00smit

    http://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/arp/menu.html

    Mike G.

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