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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!

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