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 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.


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. 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 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.

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