Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Man Who Designed Courthouses

I have  been in love with small town courthouses since I was a little girl.   I love the similarities and differences in architecture, I love the stories regarding the folks who worked in the building, the records the building holds and the life and death decisions made in them, and I love the attention the building garners just because it’s in the middle of town.  

Simply put,,.. in my opinion …courthouses make a town

Wilbur W. Caldwell states it best in his book The Courthouse and the Depot:  The Architecture of Hope in an Age of Despair when he states, “Courthouses, more than any other building of the era [between 1870 and 1910] symbolize the aspirations and the collective self-image of the people of these towns.”

Caldwell continues, “Architecture supplies us with a direct conduit to the spirit  of the past….These structures sing to us in rhythms of hope and pride and sweat, dirges of ruin and failure and dashed dreams, anthems of triumph, broken waltzes of irony.  In short they sing for us the music of history.”

The music of history? 

Yes!   I certainly believe they do, and while we have a wonderful Douglas County Courthouse on Hospital Drive and the 1956 Courthouse was preserved as a museum for county history I still mourn for the loss of our 1896 Courthouse.  

Douglas County Courthouse, 1896.   Burned 1956.
Yes, I never walked through its hallways, never had any county business to conduct there, I was never even able to drive by the building since it burned in 1956, but I mourn for it.   I wish the grand old building still graced our courthouse square in the downtown commercial district, and I often wonder how different things might be.

Earlier this week when I was perusing through my pages and pages of notes I have regarding Douglas County history my eyes lingered on one paragraph.   I had written, “The arrival of the Georgia Pacific Railroad in 1882 brought the usual clamor regarding a new courthouse.  In 1884, the Grand Jury suggested that the old courthouse, which was only a few years old, ‘was in bad shape and perhaps dangerous’ and recommended that the building be ‘bolted and banded without delay.’   Local legend holds that the bricks for the building had been improperly fire, some say owing to alcohol induced negligence on the park of the local brick maker…It would be twelve years before Andrew Bryan’s new courthouse finally rose.”

Andrew Bryan.   I’d never really paid much attention to the name.   I wondered to myself who he was.

Hmmm…’s always the little things that grab my attention and send me down the rabbit hole most folks refer to as research.    I spent about twelve hours trying to find everything I could about Mr. Bryan.

I’ve actually found quite a bit about the man who designed Douglas County’s 1896 courthouse….sometimes referred to as Andrew J. Bryan & Co. or Andrew J. Bryan, or even Andrew Jackson Bryan.  I’ve found courthouse records that state he was from Atlanta, Missouri, New Orleans, Jackson, Mississippi and then I finally tracked him to Chico, California……I think.

Let’s just say that Mr. Bryan was a busy architect and got around after he was born in 1848 in Monroe, Missouri. 
Besides designing our 1896 courthouse here in Douglas County he designed several others around the state as well as buildings all across the South.   Unfortunately, like our own 1896 Courthouse many of the examples of Mr. Bryan’s designs succumbed to fire, but thankfully I found some old photos.

One of the earliest mentions of A.J. Bryan was found in the History of Butte County by George Campbell Mansfield regarding the history of Chico, California.   Mansfield states  A.J. Bryan was on the city council for Chico February 3, 1886 through 1890 when he resigned.   Perhaps he resigned because he knew he would be out of town often checking on the construction of his designs.

While serving on the Chico City Council Bryan designed and served as the supervising contractor for the Normal School on the campus of Chico University in September, 1887. Per this website the building was a large brick building, consisting of three stories and full basement.  It was of Romanesque design with Elizabethan gables and artificial stone trimmings…On August 12, 1927 fire destroyed the building leaving only a skeleton of brick walls. 

Debra Moon in Chico:  Life and Times of a City of Fortune advises “The location of the Normal School Teachers College in Chico was a consolation prize for the citizenry who had worked so hard on the county seat issue.   A group of 15 prominent citizens from Chico went to work to convince the legislators to choose Chico including [Mr. Bryan].”  Today, Chico University is California State University.

Chico University's Normal School, 1887
Caldwell advises A.J. Bryan designed at least eight courthouses in Georgia proving himself to be a versatile innovator on varied projects. The Douglas County Courthouse was one of his earliest projects in Georgia along with the Stewart County Courthouse in 1895 located in Lumpkin, Georgia.   It was destroyed by fire in 1922.

Stewart County Courthouse, 1895
A.J. Bryan also designed the Muscogee County Courthouse in 1895.   Per Caldwell, “The up-to-date styling of Bryan’s design at Columbus points directly to a remarkably progressive spirit in that city.    The architectural style of court buildings of this period were driven more by local hopes and attitudes than it was by the artistic tastes and convictions of the architects who designed them.”  The building survived until 1972 when the building was demolished.

Apparently Mr. Bryan was applying to design courthouses all over Georgia.  American Architect and Architecture for October 3, 1896 advised Bryan’s company had plans to build a new courthouse in McDonough, Georgia.  A month later The Henry County Weekly advised Bryan had been employed to inspect the old courthouse, but apparently his designs didn’t meet their expectations since another architect by the name of James Golucke got the Henry County nod.

Engineering News-Record in January, 1897 advised Bryan had designed the new courthouse in Randolph County, Alabama located in Wedowee.    Sadly that building was destroyed by fire in 1940.   It had so much more character that the Randolph County Courthouse does today.

A.J. Bryan was creating a name for himself.  He was mentioned in the Atlanta paper, The Constitution, in 1897.   The paper advised Bryan’s work was confined almost exclusively to courthouses and other public buildings throughout the southern states, and that the firm had plans for a number of county courthouses throughout Georgia in hand and would deliverer them within the next few weeks…as soon as the weather will permit. 

The year 1900 saw the courthouse in Coffee County completed, but like the others it no longer survives.  It was destroyed by fire in 1938.

Coffee County Courthouse, 1900
The Colquitt County Courthouse at Moultrie followed in 1903 and he also designed the Troup County Courthouse in 1904.   Over 600,000 bricks from Trimble Brick Company of Hogansville were used to build Bryan’s design in LaGrange.

In 1936, the building caught fire.   Two women died.   Few records were destroyed in the fire, however, because citizens formed a line and passed the documents and docket books from one to the other until most of the papers were removed from the building.

Colquitt County Courthouse, 1903

Troup County Courthouse, 1904
A.J. Bryan also designed the Monroe County Courthouse in Alabama.  Many experts state the design is very similar to the Troup County Courthouse.     Per the Encyclopedia of Alabama:  The courthouse’s most significant claim to fame is its inspiration for the fictional courthouse in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird…None of the film was shot in the courthouse, but the film set constructed for the courtroom scenes was patterned after the building’s unique oval courtroom.  Although the cost of the building nearly bankrupted the county, the structure was finished and in use in 1904. 

In 1906, Mr. Bryan also designed a Carnegie Library near Chico, California.   This website states the Biggs Public Library located in Butte County, California was designed by Mr. Bryan and opened in 1908.   The site further states, “When the Carnegie grant of $5,000 was offered in 1906, Biggs may have been the smallest city to undertake the responsibility of a library grant.  

It wasn’t an easy road.  The library site advises construction was delayed by the high cost of labor following the ‘San Francisco fire and railroad congestion’ after the 1906 earthquake.

Summerville, Georgia welcomed Mr. Bryan in 1909 as he designed the Chattooga County courthouse.  It’s one of my favorites.  

Chattooga County Courthouse, 1909
Back closer to him home in Chico Bryan designed the Chico City Hall in 1911, and a historical inventory of buildings I found online here and   here states he designed at least four homes which are all similar.  There is no question one of the homes was designed by Bryan as his signature was found on one of the boards.

I’m sure you have already noted the similarity in the homes.  They all use segmented intersecting gambrels, columned enclosed porches, and accent shingles that makes them immediately identifiable. Sadly, Mr. Bryan’s home was mentioned in the inventory, but not photographed.   Apparently the home had been altered to such an extent it was not included.

A.J. Bryan passed away in 1921.  Western Architect and Engineer mentions Bryan’s death saying…..”in the death of Mr. A.J. Bryan of Chico, Butte County, on October 10, the Architect and Engineer lost one of its oldest readers, Mr. Bryan having been a continuous subscriber to this magazine since its first number in 1905.   Mr. Bryan’s death was due to paralysis following an illness that extended over a period of nearly a year.   He was 73 years old.”

Bryan’s grave can be seen here.

If you want to learn more about Georgia’s various courthouses this site is invaluable.    A tour of the various courthouses that can be found along Georgia 27 can be found here.   Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division can be found here along with an online manual regarding courthouses.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Sweetwater Park Hotel: Gaining Some Focus

The website WikiAnswers advises that we spend approximately six months of our entire lifetime waiting at traffic lights. 

Sitting – waiting – bored – even though there are several things you can do to pass the time.  You can return a phone call, check your e-mail, send a text, check your list of things to do, or my personal favorite…..I just sit and think.

More often than not I sit and think about my surroundings and contemplate how those places have changed over time.  It seems natural that you would try to visualize certain areas regarding how they looked fifty to one hundred years ago, and I do try and do that. I guess it’s just a symptom of researching and writing about the history of certain areas.

Some locations are fairly simple.   As I head up Broad Street from Fairburn Road towards the Old Courthouse Museum I can easily visualize the look of the town in 1940 or even back to 1900.   The buildings are basically the same, and several landmarks such as the railroad are still there.  It’s actually very easy to visualize the spires of the once grand courthouse that stood up on the ridge rising up above the various businesses along Broad Street.

Photographs of certain areas help me to visualize as well, but some areas are more difficult.   Some locations are just impossible.

Take this image of Lithia Springs…..

Sweetwater Park Hotel, Lithia Springs, Georgia
This is a well-published image of the Sweetwater Park Hotel that was located in downtown Lithia Springs at the turn of the century.    When  I sit at the red light at Veterans Memorial (Bankhead) and S. Sweetwater Road I try to visualize the hotel and how my surroundings looked back then.  

I try.   It’s hard.   The Sweetwater Park Hotel was located just southwest of the intersection of Veterans Memorial and S. Sweetwater covering many acres where there are now residential areas.   It’s amazing to think such a complex of buildings and beautiful grounds were ever located there, but it did exist.

The Sweetwater Park Hotel was trendy for the times.   It was the place to be and be seen.   Mark Twain, members of the Vanderbilt family, and Presidents Cleveland, Taft, McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt all enjoyed the many amenities of the resort which included rooms with electricity and individuals baths, wide verandahs, excellent meals with European wines, and a train schedule that allowed guests to visit Atlanta for shopping or matinees and be back at the hotel by bedtime.

While the pictures aren’t helpful to me I have found some written descriptions that do lend assistance in allowing me to appreciate the beauty of this long departed landmark for Lithia Springs.   I happened upon a few letters written by Madison J. Cawein while he stayed at the hotel during May, 1902.

Madison J. Cawein was from Louisville, Kentucky.   During his career he published 36 books and wrote over 1500 poems.  His efforts earned him the nickname “the Keats of Kentucky.”   He is touted as having a lyrical way of describing nature and after reading his descriptions of the hotel grounds and surrounding areas I would have to agree.

Madison J. Cawein at his desk
Cawein, like many visitors to the Sweetwater Park Hotel, was in poor health and was hoping the famous Lithia waters would cure him.  Cawein wasn’t alone.   During the late 1800s and into the turn of the century hundreds of people visited the hotel for health reasons as well as for recreation.  

On May 8, 1902 Cawein described the hotel and surrounds in a letter to his friend, Lucien V. Rule.  Rule was an author and Presbyterian minister.   Cawein wrote:

…It is very picturesque and romantic around Lithia Springs, whose waters are doing me a great deal of good, I think.  I am also taking the baths…..

The woods here are overgrown with wild flowers; wild honeysuckle, wild phlox and calcanthus; and ferns! – in masses, sometimes above your waist.

The brook bubbles over beds of crystal, honestly and virtually speaking, - not figuratively, - for everywhere , in the fields, on the roads, in the woods and scattered boulders and pebbles and pieces of sparkling white spar, which is crystal of some sort.  I have seen lots of it and the creeks ripple and babble musically over it.

Near the [Sweetwater Park Hotel] is a place going absolutely to ruin now; in its time it was the Chautauqua, where revivals were held, meetings of all sort, for pleasure, religion and politics.  Vast buildings, built in a forest, ….and of fantastic yet beautiful architecture of the Moorish order, with towers and turrets and loggias; also a large amphitheater capable of seating thousands are slowly moulding to decay here.   What was once an artificial lake, covering several acres, is now merely a frog-pond filled with mud and weeds in whose center an old boat is slowing rotting.

Piedmont Chatauqua Grounds, Lithia Springs, Georgia
….in one spot there is a mound some twenty to thirty feet high up [which all around winds a road].  The road is scarcely discernible now, for the entire mound is overgrown with tame honey-suckle vines, commencing to bloom, and forms a fragrant tombstone for the dead-body of the old place lying mouldering there.  I love to climb to the top of this green and fragrant monument and stand there and watch the sunset in the west, and listen to the wind in the pines that seems mourning something lost and never to be found again – Never! Never!

It is a lovely place, altogether, this hotel, with its charming people and its beautiful grounds filled with flowers and trees, the holly, the roses and fountains, syringe bushes and mountain laurel in full bloom and over it all the blue sky of Georgia vibrating with the melody of birds, the mocking bird and the thrush, whose note is the sweetest I ever heard.

The grand Piedmont Chatauqua was held in 1888, and I wrote about it here.  I find it rather sad that just a few years later the buildings were abandoned as Mr. Cawein reports in his letter.

The next day Cawein wrote Miss Jenny Loring Robbins.  Ms. Robins lived in Louisville at one point she was the guiding force behind Louisville, Kentucky’s Speed Art Museum, a museum begun by her aunt.

Mr. Cawein wrote:

…I am falling more and more in love with the hotel, its grounds, and the people in and around them, to say nothing of the woods and the waters, the latter of which  I am drinking with much gusto and, I hope, benefit.

I have found a number of old mills here – all dilapidated or going to ruin; one a total ruin.   One on Austell Run is supposed to be still in operation, but I have been there twice and neither time have I seen a soul.  On the Sweetwater Creek, six miles from here, I found an old grist-mill, below a rushing and roaring dam.  It is a great gaunt thing of frame, weather-beaten and old, but still in operation.

A half-mile below it, under a wild hill-side, on which the dogwood was blooming in profusion, together with the wild honey-suckle, the other mill, built of rock and brick, towers five stories high.  It was burned by General Sherman during the war and stands a sad relic of that time.  It was a cotton mill, and the workers in it lived on the hillside in their cottages, but their homes were burned also and not a vestige of them is left.

Only the ruin – here is a wilderness of trees, great trees, grown up in its gaunt interior, crowding its crumbling walls, and the wild vines and creepers trailing over and covering its rocks and bricks – stands pathetically looking out upon the tumbling waters beneath and the projecting pines around.

The creek, wooded on both sides, foams and roars past it, over huge rocks and boulders, upon which it stares with its one mighty arch of stone, in which the mill-wheel once rushed and sounded and its empty windows like hollow eyes in the face of death.

An apt description of the New Manchester Mill ruins, don’t you think?

On May 11, 1902 in a letter to James Whitcomb Riley Cawein wrote:

Your note did me lots of good, coming just in the nick of time when Mr. [Robert W.] Geiger was visiting me at Sweetwater.  He and the rest of the literary clan, Harris and Stanton [Evelyn Harris and Frank L Stanton who called on Cawein] want you to come down here.
Well, here I am and delighted am I with the hotel and everybody in it.  But I can’t say that am getting well rapidly….I am not much better for all the water I drink and all the baths I take.  And so, about Friday or Saturday next will find me wending my weary way home again to commence the nauseating round of medicine taking once more.  I don’t know where it’s going to end.  Nothing seems to benefit me.  Things that benefit, that cure, other people don’t have any effect on me.

…will  probably see Joel Harris Wednesday.  He is still ailing, but sends me word he wants to see me.

At this point I think it’s necessary to identify the folks Cawein mentions.   I’m almost certain Geiger is a railroad executive who happened to live in Atlanta at the time.   Evelyn Harris is the son of Joel Chandler Harris who we remember as “Uncle Remus”, and Frank L. Stanton was a columnist for the Atlanta Constitution and was a famous American lyricist. During the 1920s he would serve as Georgia’s poet laureate.

James Whitcomb Riley, who the letter was addressed to, was also a very famous writer and poet and was very popular with children.

James Whitcomb Riley and Joel Chandler Harris
Eight days later on May 19, 1902 Cawein writes again to James Whitcomb Riley saying:

I saw Uncle Remus [in Atlanta] last week and enjoyed an hour-or-so talk with him at his beautiful home in the West End.   Stanton was with me, also Evelyn Harris [son of Joel Chandler Harris].   Joel Chandler Harris looks poorly.  He is still a very sick man.  I am sorry to say.   Mr. Geiger and Stanton were out to see me last Saturday, stayed to supper and we had quite a walk and considerable talk.  I am returning home today.   Shall go to Atlanta as the guest of Mr. Geiger for a day or so, then home once more.
My condition is about the same as it was when I came here.  However, I have enjoyed myself greatly wandering around the country and setting on the verandah or under the trees meeting people or watching the roses bloom.

My English volume of “Kentucky Poems”, with an introduction by Edmund Grosse, will be out sometime next month, I think, so look out for a copy; I am going to fire one at your kindly countenance.

Joel Chandler Harris’s “beautiful home in the West End of Atlanta” is of course The Wren's Nest.

Though Madison J. Cawein earned about $100 a month from his writing, a comfortable sum at the turn of the century, poor investments and the Stock Market downturn in 1912 led to most of his savings simply evaporating away.

Over the next five years Cowein’s health worsened, and he died on December 8, 1914.
At the time of his death in 1914, Cawein had been placed on the relief list with the Authors Club of New York City.

I’m grateful his letters survive giving us a little insight into how wonderful the Sweetwater Park Hotel was for folks to visit!

I found Cowein’s letters published in a biography published after his death by Otto Arthur Rothert titled  The Story of Madison Cawein:  His Intimate Life as Revealed by His Letters…found here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Brockman Boys of Douglas County

During my years as a fourth and fifth grade teacher I managed to have my fair share of parent conferences.   One thing remained the same no matter the needs of the child – every parent wants their children to achieve and experience certain goals and dreams.
Some parents want their child to maintain As and Bs while others have a particular college in mind and begin planning early.  Some parents have smaller goals such as getting through the week without receiving a bad behavior note from the teacher.

Other parents seem to be very comfortable planning out the lives of their children including which career path they will choose.  Yes, I had my fair share of parents tell me little Johnny was going to be a doctor or little Susie would be an attorney one day, and the wants of the child rarely figured into the picture.

I always had to wonder how those goals would turn out.  What would happen if the child inevitably rebelled and went his or her own way?  However, there are plenty of people who have their careers foisted upon them or want to please their parents so much they follow the plan.  Those children seem to do just fine including the Brockman boys of Douglas County.

You probably aren’t familiar with them – they all moved away many years ago.

All three of the Brockman boys followed their mother’s fervent desire – they all became missionaries.

The Brockman story begins before the Civil War when Rev. Henry D. Wood of the Virginia Methodist Conference came to Georgia with his wife and daughter.  They took possession of Glennwood, a plantation along the Chattahoochee River which encompassed the land across from the Bullard-Henley-Sprayberry house along Route 92.   Basically the cotton plantation lay on the left side of Route 92 as you head towards the river.

Unfortunately, Rev. Wood passed away in 1863 before the war’s end leaving his daughter, Rosa Emory Wood to run the plantation.  His grave can be found at Campbellton Methodist Church across the river.

During July, 1864, as Sherman’s men approached Glennwood to cross the river Rosa and her mother decided to head to relatives in Virginia for the duration of the war. Rosa road out to meet Sherman’s men and explained her plight.  She requested an escort to help her get to the train in Atlanta so she could leave.   I wrote about that here.

My source for this story was the excellent book regarding Douglas County history compiled by Fanny Mae Davis, however, she identifies the mistress of Glennwood as “Rossleigh”.   My recent research including the birth records of her children indicate her name was Rosa Emory Wood.

She spent the end of the war and the early years of Reconstruction in Virginia only returning after Glennwood had become part of Douglas County in 1870.   Rosa brought along a husband when she returned named Willis Allen Brockman who had been born in Albemarle County, Virginia.  His family had been long associated with the families of Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison.

Fanny Mae Davis indicated in her book the Mr. Brockman “purchased the farm from the Wood estate and added land to the holdings.”   The Brockmans proceeded to live life and raise a family.    Mrs. Davis indicates the Brockman children were educated on the farm and biography sources for all three sons – Fletcher, Whitfield, and Francis verify this. 

Times were naturally hard for large landowners following the Civil War and most sources describe the Brockman boys as having grown up on an impoverished Georgia cotton plantation, but all three achieved their mother’s dream.   They were all educated at Vanderbilt University and all three – Fletcher, Whitfield and Francis – became well-known missionaries in China and Korea.

Fletcher Sims Brockman (pictured above)  graduated from Vanderbilt in 1891 and through the Young Men's Christian Association or YMCA he acted as Field Secretary and served as a missionary.    Fletcher reached China in 1898 just in time for the Boxer Rebellion, when the “Righteous Harmony Society” led an uprising opposing foreign imperialism and Christianity.  Whites were referred to as “foreign devils.” 

During the 25 years he spent in China Brockman and his wife, Mary, collected various relics and artifacts.   Recently Vanderbilt University opened an exhibit titled “Fletcher Brockman’s Missionary Life in Asia” showcasing many of the hundreds of items the Brockmans collected including “ancient coins, a bronze mirror, Japanese woodblock prints, and a Korean horsehair handbag.”   The exhibit’s webpage can be found here, and it includes an interesting biography of Fletcher as well.

Willis Allen Brockman passed away in 1898 at Glennwood. He is buried beside his and  Rosa’s children who did not survive to adulthood at Campbellton Methodist Church. Rosa ended up overseas with her boys heading to China in 1904.She died at the age of 75 and is buried alongside her son Francis in Seoul, Korea.

History of the Hume, Kennedy and Brockman Families: in Three Parts by William Everett Brockman has excellent entries for all three sons and discusses their sister, Florence De Allen Brockman who married Rev. M.L. Underwood.   Their son, Emory Marvin Underwood (pictured above) was born at Glennwood Plantation and grew up to become an Assistant Attorney General of the United States in 1914 and was a partner with the law firm King and Spalding. 
A website detailing the history for King and Spalding, an Atlanta law firm dating back to 1885, advises E. Marvin Underwood was a partner with the firm in 1909 and during that time the firm name included the name Underwood as well….at least until Underwood became Assistant Attorney General for the United States.  Underwood was also nominated by President Hoover to serve as a Federal Judge for the Northern District of Georgia where he served until his death in 1960.
Glennwood Plantation continued to pass into the hands of others – Herman Harper in 1921 and the most recent owners were Henry and Sally Rawlins per Fanny Mae Davis.   

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Time to Survey Christmas Greetings

Well, here we are–the day after Christmas. 
If you are like me you are sitting among the remnants of the holiday–a trash bag in the corner full of wrapping paper scraps, a bit of ribbon here and there on the floor, empty boxes everywhere, a stack of new treasures one of the kids left under the tree, and tons of leftovers and dirty dishes.
There was so much to do before Christmas Eve and now there’s so much to do to get ready to celebrate the New Year, but for right now–for right this minute–it can all wait. Finally, I can take a few minutes, sit by the tree and look through the stack of Christmas cards we received this year. It’s always interesting to look at the various cards. Some are very religious, some are humorous, some sport rather modern artwork while others are more traditional. Some cards stick to versions of Santa while other cards use other symbols of Christmas such as holly, ornaments, or the Christmas tree. Some say Merry Christmas, some say Happy Holidays and many add in “and a Happy New Year” as well.
Thumbing through the Christmas cards has always been a little tradition of mine since I was a little girl. I was really into all the places Mom and Dad’s cards were mailed from, and Mom had a great time explaining who all the people were and how we knew them. She sent so many cards and always received over one hundred even on the slow years.

Enjoy Our Library of Paintings

I’ve been a regular patron of the Douglas County Public Library on Selman Drive for years. I’ve checked out books, sat at the tables working on projects with my children or researching a topic of my own, I’ve utilized their extensive video collection, taken advantage of  their story time and reading clubs for kids during the summer months and even enjoyed the artwork scattered along the walls.
Yes, the artwork. Notice the walls the next time you visit the library. The walls are full of pieces of art.
Some of the pieces are like old friends to me as I come and go each week, so I finally inquired with the library if they had information they could share with regarding the collection. I discovered they actually have a self-guided tour with information regarding each piece of art in their collection, and found it very helpful as I took the time the other day to visit each work of art and take photographs.  

13 Things About Sweetwater Creek State Park

I have to wonder how many of us living inDouglas County have actually ventured onto the grounds of Sweetwater Creek State Park
I’m ashamed to admit I have never sat at a picnic table, never hiked a trail, never visited the Manchester Mill ruins or attended a festival there or any other type of event.   
Twenty years ago I did visit the park a few times with my son to feed the ducks, and we were on the lake a couple of times in my husband’s bass boat, but other than that my participation with Sweetwater Creek State Park has been close to nil. 

Mrs. Synthia's Recollections

One year ago when I mentioned to friends I would be writing a local history column, I had a few people who immediately said, “Oh, you are going to write about the mill at Sweetwater, aren’t you?”
It is a foregone conclusion, isn’t it?  
The New Manchester Mill is one of our most historic sites, and there is a bit of mystery concerning the millworkers who were carried off by Union troops, but I quickly answered that since it was such an expected topic, I would wait and choose other bits of history that aren’t so well known. 
So far, I have stuck to that plan, but today I’m going to mention the mill because I’ve stumbled over an interesting story regarding one of the families who lived at New Manchester and what happened to them after the war.

Douglas County's Little Courthouses

Though the phrase "government by the people" was included in the Constitution in 1787 it took many years, numerous stuggles and a few amendments to ring true. 
It still doesn't ring clear, unfortunately.
Citizens of the United States have many rights, but we have responsibilities as well, and some overlap. For example, we have the right to vote, but we also have the responsibility to vote.
Yes, if you choose to stay home and you fail to vote you are part of the problem.  You keep us from having "government by the people," and it might just be my little old opinion, but I think it's one of the major problems we experience as a nation. Imagine how our national, state, and local elections would be impacted if every citizen chose to be responsible and exercised their right to vote.

A Succession of Polks

I'm sure everyone thinks they have an interesting family tree, but some, of course, are a little more interesting than others.
One of the perks regarding writing about history is I get to dig around the roots of various family trees. Through the process I have determined everyone's tree has extreme high points to brag about as well as that skeleton folks like to talk about in hushed tones. Everyone has a branch of the tree that ends in a strange little cul-de-sac that leaves you scratching your head, and sometimes you find situations that at first creates visions of three-eyed children with horns coming out of their heads, even the family trees of very important people, even important people like U.S. Presidents.
The particular tree I'm speaking of belongs to our 11th U.S. President–James Knox Polk–a tree that has a branch that reaches all the way to Douglasville.

Here's O'Neal Plaza

In 1969, William H. Whyte was helping the City of New York with urban planning by studying human behavior in urban settings. Over a span of 16 years he conducted the Street Life Project to understand how people use city spaces. As unobtrusively as possible, he watched people and used time-lapse photography to chart the meanderings of pedestrians. What emerged through his intuitive analysis is an extremely human, view of what is staggeringly obvious about people’s behavior in public spaces, but seemingly invisible to the unobservant.

Remembering Those Who Serve

Tragic things happen, but over time we realize life somehow does goes on. A new normal is created. Most people can go on with their daily routines, but some events have such an impact and leave such an imprint they become pivotal moments whether we are directly involved or not.

Days later I'm still lingering over the procession for Lance Corporal Scott Harper. I'm still feeling the effects of the awesome turnout by folks all along the procession route from Brown Field in Fulton County through Austell, Lithia Springs, along Veterans Memorial Highway and all along Church Street in downtown Douglasville.

Many moments during the procession have become embedded in my mind including:

-Observing a fellow school teacher as she lined her students up along the sidewalk to pay their respects.

-Seeing young teenage boys walking along Church Street carrying small U.S. flags.

-Noticing an obvious veteran standing near me wearing his cap laden with medals and pins. The Marine emblem was emblazoned across the back of his jacket. At some point a young man approached him, shook his hand and said a few words to him. I can only assume he was thanking the veteran for his service. He shook the older man's hand and then handed him a flag.

-I was touched by the young children - many of whom would later have no recollection they attended such a historic occasion and make no mistake this was a historic occasion for our city.

Yes, the procession for Scott Harper was sad. It was most certainly tragic, but it was also historic. I firmly believe anytime our community comes together we witness a historic occasion. It was most certainly an outpouring of collective mourning and praise that our society still produces young men like Lance Corporal Scott Harper.

If you haven't seen the excellent video showing the entire route prepared by DCTV23 you can view it at this link.

As long as there have been wars, the folks on the home front have recognized the fallen soldier and his or her sacrifice with parades, with salutes, and with the written word. While especially poignant the procession for Harper wasn't the first such recognition the City of Douglasville has experienced.

We have recognized other fallen soldiers.

One in particular stands out.

Tragically, Robert G. "Jerry" Hunter was Douglasville's first son to be lost during the Vietnam War. Hunter Park is named for him. He was the only son of Robert and Zelma Hunter and was a graduate of Douglas County High School where he received many honors for his artistic and leadership abilities. He was voted Most Talented, was editor of the yearbook and starred in the senior play.

For years his goal had been to attend The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. In a 1988 article from Looking Good Douglas County Vicki Harshbarger advises, "[Hunter's] dream of wanting to be a pilot began with an essay written on how Lindburgh's flight across the Atlantic would affect the future of aviation."

After graduating from The Citadel with honors Hunter went to Moody Air Force base in Valdosta, Georgia to undergo pilot training and was soon flying bombing missions over Laos to disrupt the enemy's supply lines. Harshbarger states, "His parents had suggested their son choose a line of work in keeping with his Citadel degree in business administration, but he would not settle for less than his dreams."

Harshbarger's article continues, "He didn't want us to worry," Hunter [said] lovingly of her son. "I'd ask him on the telephone if he'd been shot at, wanting him to say no. He'd say, 'Yes, but they missed. Don't worry about it, Mom, sometimes it's fun.'"

Hunter flew the F-105D, a supersonic fighter-bomber used by the U.S. Air Force during the early years of the Vietnam War. The aircraft on display at Hunter Park is a F-105 or a Thunderchief and is representative of the plane Hunter flew over Laos.

The plane was capable of exceeding the speed of sound at sea level and Mach 2 at high altitudes even though it weighed 50,000 pounds. The earliest versions of the F-105 had only one seat. Hunter completed his missions alone.

Laos allowed North Vietnam to use its land as a supply route for its war against the South. In return, the United States regularly bombed those routes. U.S. bombers dropped more ordinance on Laos between 1964 and 1973 than was dropped during the whole of World War II.

Hunter was 25 years old when he boarded his jet on May 25, 1966 for his 34th and last mission. He had been overseas for just two months, and had been busy during that time bombing supply lines throughout Laos. His last mission involved attacking what one source describes as a truck park in a heavily wooded area near Ban Ban in Laos.

Hunter released his bomb, and as he was turning up and away from the target he was hit by enemy fire. He bailed from the jet. Other pilots in his group saw his parachute open and watched him until he disappeared below the tree line. They could hear the beeps from his locator signal. A rescue was attempted, but enemy fire was coming from the area where Hunter's beeper signal was coming from. When a second plane was hit the team was forced to return to base.

It took two agonizing months before Hunter's fate was fully known.

Once the area became safe enough a team was sent in to investigate. People who lived in the area advised the recovery team Hunter had indeed died. They showed the team where he had been buried.

Funeral services for Robert G. "Jerry" Hunter were held on July 22, 1966 at the First Baptist Church of Douglasville. The church was overflowing. One long time resident of Douglasville tells me the mood of the town during this time was reverent, respectful, and somber.

During the days leading up to the funeral members of the Jaycees visited more than one hundred Douglasville businesses and left U.S. flags to be displayed.  On the day of the funeral many of the town's businesses closed out of respect.

A four man fly over took place during the burial at Rosehaven Memorial Park. Harshbarger advises, "Four planes flew across the horizon in unison, three planes returned."

Hunter was the very first Vietnam casualty Douglasville endured during the long war. Also killed in Vietnam were Sp4 Gene Thomas Bailey, GMG1 Hubert Eugene Belcher, 1st Lt. Leon G. Holton, PFC Brian Edward Jay, PFC Melvin Johnson, Sgt. Thurlo McClure, PFC Nathan Bedford Simmons, 1st Lt. Robert Paul Tidwell, and 1st Lt. David Beavers Wood.

Hunter was also the 11th casualty during the Vietnam War who graduated from The Citadel. You can view their memorial page here, and my article at History Is Elementary discussing how the author Pat Conroy, also a Citadel graduate, helped to fund a Vietnam memorial on the historic Citadel campus here.

Hunter's name can be found on Panel 07E, Row 109 on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and can be found online here.

During my research I reconnected with a longtime blogging friend of mine named Eddie Hunter, Jerry Hunter's cousin. He continues to remember his cousin and his ultimate sacrifice at his blog, Chicken Fat, here, here, and here, and is my source for many of the photos I have of Jerry Hunter.  Eddie advises, "The Hunter family continued to take interest in veterans affairs and ceremonies in memory of their only child [up until their own deaths]."

General George S. Patton advised, "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men the who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

I agree.

This article first appeared at Douglasville Patch on October 23, 2011
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