Monday, July 30, 2012

Living Your Dream

My Sunday began very normally for me.  I began to pour over the pages and pages of Douglas history notes I've accumulated over the last several months waiting on a topic to raise its hand and speak to me.  I kept scrolling through page after page, but the notes were very still and quiet.

I got bored and clicked over to Facebook and complained that nothing was speaking to me, and as my friends often do….someone inspired me.   Susan, a friend who shares the benefit of growing up in Red Oak, Georgia with me asked, “Got any Olympic athletes from Douglas County? That might be interesting if there are.”

Hmmm….well, it might be interesting especially since Douglas County can claim an Olympian. 
I’m sure it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads my posts here that I’m not athletically inclined.

It just wasn’t my thing growing up.   

Recess during my elementary school days consisted of a few tense moments when teams were chosen for daily kickball games where I was usually one of the last ones picked, or periods of paralyzing fear that my teacher would make me climb the various obstacle course stations that involved climbing up and over a ladder or tower. 

If sports weren’t my thing then climbing and heights were certainly my downfall. 
It just wasn’t going to happen.  

 Life became a bit simpler when I discovered a well written note from my mom could excuse me from those hard to deal with areas of the obstacle course and friends were always willing to step in and kick the ball for me or more importantly RUN for me when we broke off into teams.  

However, I do admire athletes and love to watch sporting events from time to time. 

For the next two weeks I’ll get my fill with the 2012 Olympic Games in London watching everything from Archery to Soccer to Wrestling and let’s not forget those very interesting swim meets.

Watching the Olympic Games makes it even more enjoyable when we realize we have our own Olympian who hails from Douglas County. 

When you think of an Olympian from Douglas County you think of someone who might have competed in any number of areas such as swimming, track and field, gymnastics, etc. but Elana Meyers is an American Bobsledder.

Yes, you read that right….bobsledder as in ice and snow.

Myers was one of the less experienced atheletes on the U.S. bobsled team during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, with barely three years of experience, but that didn't stop her from winning her first World Cup Bronze medal in 2008 as a brake woman for driver Shauna Rohbock, and then topped the previous performance with a Gold medal at the World Cup in Whistler, Canada and Silver at the 2009 World Championship also with Rhobock.

This Douglas Sentinel article advises....Meyers grew up playing softball, and was a standout at Lithia Springs High School before moving on to George Washington University where she was a standout shortstop and finished with a .356 batting average.   She actually recorded the first hit, run and win in George Washington softball history.

Growing up and playing on the Olympic softball team was always a dream, Meyers said.  “I was fortunate enough to tryout, but didn’t make it.  So when I realized that dream might not happen I looked around and saw that they were looking for bobsled athletes.  So, I checked it out and came to Lake Placid and just never left.”

She walked away from the 2010 Olympics with a Bronze medal.

Early this month CBS Atlanta presented a story about Elana you can find below:

CBS Atlanta 46

I wish team USA much success in London, and send out a loud shout out to Elana Meyers as she continues to train for the Winter Olympics in 2014.

While it was very easy to find news stories, videos, websites, etc. regarding Meyers it was a little more difficult to find information… first……regarding a second Douglas County athlete I wanted to share with you. 

Have you ever heard of Oliver Clinton Hill?  

What about Johnny Hill?

In a way he’s Douglasville’s answer to Moonlight Graham whose career was used as a focus in the movie “Field of Dreams.”

If you were growing up in Douglasville during the 50s, 60s I’m told that you might have known Mr. Hill.  From what I’m told most people called him Johnny, and many considered him a real sports icon because he had a professional sports career before returning here to Douglasville to lead a quiet life.....but he didn't wear his former career on his sleeve.

Mr. Hill was born Oliver Clinton Hill in 1909 in Powder Springs, Georgia.   I’m not sure at what point he became known as “Johnny” or why, but I do know the Winn Family  genealogy indicates a Johnny Hill who played for the Atlanta Crackers  married Verda Smith, but does not give the year.  

 I began searching through the Atlanta Cracker rosters from 1916 forward looking for the last name Hill.  Finally, I hit the name Oliver Hill around 1938 and discovered an Oliver Hill playing for the Crackers had been born in Powder Springs.   I felt I was getting closer, but once I mentioned something on Facebook a dear reader mentioned a Find a Grave site for Oliver Clinton Hill here.   At that point  I had to admit there were too many coincidences NOT to think Oliver Clinton Hill and Johnny Hill were one and the same.

From there it was very easy to find this site where I found the most information available for Johnny Hill including this picture….\

Mr. Hill’s baseball career certainly appears to be one where he didn’t know what give-up meant.  During his eleven seasons playing professional ball he spent the most time with the Atlanta Crackers helping them win the league pennant, play-off titles as well as the Dixie Series.  

He was sold to the Boston Bees in September, 1938, and made his debut with them in April the next year.   As the site states he only lasted three or four days with the Bees before he was sold again to the Milwaukee Brewers.    He had worked his way up to the big leagues…..and spent less than a week there.

There are several American League teams after that prior to a three year stint in the Army during World War II followed by twelve years as a player-manager for various minor league teams.   

He left the game for good in 1948 and moved to Douglasville.   I’ve been told he worked for Thad and Patsy Smith at their furniture store loading and delivering furniture for a few years. 
Hill passed away from cancer in 1970.

My Sunday may have started off normally, but I ended up getting to examine two very different athletes during two different time periods, but each had goals and dreams and pursued them.

I think the most important thing is doing something you love….that’s the important thing.   Elana didn't get to represent her county playing softball.  She ended up in a very different place but didn’t give up satisfying her desire to compete.       

Johnny Hill didn’t give up either…..season after season he kept plugging away doing something he loved.   He didn’t exactly get to spend a lot of time playing in the big leagues, but he got there.  

He saw the course through to his goal….even though his goal might have been short-lived.....and sometimes that’s all that matters.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Revisiting Camp Hobson

Clara Barton

Earlier this week Douglasville Patch was so kind to re-run my column from 2011 regarding
Camp Hobson in Lithia Springs….a military camp used during the Spanish-American War.

While I strive to get the whole story with each and every column I write I often stumble across additional sources or bits and pieces of information after I’ve published something.   In this case I recently came across a mention of Lithia Springs in Clara Barton’s book The Red Cross in Peace and War.

Yes!   Clara Barton.   THAT Clara Barton you remember from your history classes!

Clara Barton was the founder of the American Red Cross in 1881.   The website for the Atlanta chapter of the American Red Cross advises…..Miss Barton’s most significant act during her closing years as head of the American Red Cross was to take Red Cross supplies and services to Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Miss Barton….went to Cuba with her nursing corps, medical supplies, and food.  Aid was given to the American forces, to prisoners of war, and to Cuban refugees. This effort was the first step toward the broad programs of service to the armed forces and to civilians during wartime that have become traditional in the American Red Cross.

The Atlanta chapter of the Red Cross per Ms. Barton’s book was also involved with providing meals at an emergency camp that was set up in Lithia Springs, Georgia.

Camp Hobson was set up to provide a place for patients to basically escape after Typhoid broke out at Fort McPherson early in August, 1898.  Camp Hobson was short-lived, but because it existed it may have saved the lives of the men who were sent there.

In her book Ms. Barton mentions a report that was sent to her regarding the camp.  Ms. Barton states:

At Camp Hobson, Lithia Springs, Georgia, a diet kitchen was also maintained under the direction of Miss Julia McKinley, assisted by the Atlanta Committee of the Red Cross, of which the following account is received:   The diet kitchen was opened here on Monday, August 9, and remained in operation three weeks; at the expiration of which time the camp broke up.  During the first week after the kitchen was established, when detachments from the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Twenty-Fifth regiments were in camp, 1,176 meals were served.

The next week orders were received for the removal of the Eighth and part of the other regiments to Montauk Point, consequently the number of convalescents was reduced, but during the second and third week 2,066 meals were served, making a total of 3,242 meals served at the table and in the hospital during the time the kitchen was in operation.  The meals were furnished to convalescents in the hospital, men relieved from duty but not sick enough to be in the hospital, and to the hospital corps.  

The report then went on to describe the various foods served including many of the same things any hospital kitchen serves – breakfast cereals, milk, eggs, toast, bouillons, rice, etc. – before continuing:

The only paid help were two men and one woman, the latter lived near the camp and reported for duty at the first meal call and remained until dining tent and kitchen were in order. 

This last sentence confirms something I had wondered when I first researched the subject regarding the citizens of Douglas County…..if they helped or volunteered in some way.   I certainly would like to know the names of the individuals, but sometimes points of history are lost for all time. 

While the Douglas County workers are not named members of the Atlanta Red Cross Society were mentioned in the next portion of the report.

The other work in the kitchen was graciously done by Atlanta members of the Red Cross Society assisted by Mrs. Edward H. Barnes, Mrs. Loulie Gordon Roper (niece of General J.B. Gordon), Miss Emmie McDonnell, Miss Estelle Whelen, Mrs. George Boykin Saunders, all of Atlanta, and the ladies from the Sweetwater Park Hotel, who came over daily from the hotel, about half a mile distant from the camp, and assisted in serving table meals, also in carrying delicacies to hospitals and distributed flowers among the patients.

It affords us pleasure to acknowledge the uniform courtesy of the army officials, especially the commandant Major Thomas Wilhelm, Chief Surgeon Major E.L. Swift, Assistant Surgeons Street, Baker, and Johnson and Lieutenant Norman, Quartermaster.

Major Wilhelm had our kitchen built and fly ten for dining hall put up in a few hours after our arrival; detailed men to help wherever needed in kitchen and with finest courtesy assured us of his appreciation of what was done to add to the comfort of his sick and convalescent men.
Besides regular kitchen work at Camp Hobson, the Red Cross furnished for a short time to the hospitals one special nurse….Miss McKinley….and one trained nurse….Miss McLain, who remained until our last patients were sent to Fort McPherson General Hospital and went with them in the hospital train, ministering to their wants until they were transferred to their respective wards there.

In this connection we think proper to state that many of our Camp Hobson patients now in Fort McPherson Hospital, one of the best equipped and best managed hospitals in the country, assure us that they can never forget the unfailing kindness of Chief Surgeon Swift and assistants the faithful care of their Red Cross nurses, nor the delicacies furnished by the diet kitchen at Camp Hobson.

Even though I have looked at the pictures and visited with all of the historical documents and accounts through my research it is still difficult to realize that not only was Lithia Springs home to a magnificent hotel during 1898 but also played host to a military camp with a thousands of soldiers.

But...the hotel WAS there and so were the soldiers.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Italian Peddler

When I realized I would be diving into Douglas County history and publishing my research I had to make myself a couple of promises.   I never wanted accuracy to be an issue.  I’ve had a couple of situations here and there….one biography piece that I know I need to go back and properly label the sections that are backed up by historical sources and the sections that are admitted family embellishments, but overall I work hard to use more than one source wherever possible, and I constantly wring my hands over the facts.

The other promise had to do with sugarcoating history.  I’ve been researching and writing about history since 2006, and I print the good with the bad.  If you only want the “pretty” side of the Douglas County story then you might not want to stay tuned.

I know this is fairly obvious, but history ISN’T pretty.  History is the human story, and humans are rather flawed, right? They make poor choices, they often react without thinking, and group thinking often trumps individual thought leading to all sorts of ugly history.

Take the time period known as the Progressive Era – those years between the 1890s and the 1920s.   It was a time of social activism and political reform.   Corruption was exposed especially in government.   The time period also had some ugly aspects such as efforts to restrict immigration.

Now you might be saying to yourself what in the world does immigration have to do with Douglas County…..especially in the early days of this place we call home, but one hundred years ago sentiment towards immigration impacted a group of men right here in Douglasville. The men made poor choices, reacted without thinking, and let their group mentality get the better of them.

In the book Race and the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition of 1895 Theda Perdue  examines Atlanta and race relations as the Exposition was being planned and held.  The Exposition was a world’s fair held in Atlanta to stimulate foreign and domestic trade.   The event was very important to the region since and economic depression had a firm grip on the area. 

Perdue advises….Nativism, the intense opposition to immigration, is a hallmark of late nineteenth-century America.  In the 1890s four million people emigrated to the United States.  Many were from eastern or southern Europe, and native-born Americans viewed them as poor, unskilled peasants who clustered in urban neighborhoods and resisted assimilation.…[Most people felt immigrants] were linked to immorality, crime, political corruption and labor unrest and moved to stem the tide of immigration. 

Southerners took pride that few immigrants had found their way to this region.    The Atlanta Constitution concluded that it was “a blessing in disguise that the tide of immigration went west and not south” and reported with relief that “fifty more Italian laborers employed on the sewage work [in Atlanta] were shipped back to New York today by the contractors.

In his keynote address at the opening of the exposition, Judge Emory Speer contended that “multitudes of those who seek our shores to better their condition have no conception of the character of our government, and therefore, no devotion to the institutions of free men, and this is one of our greatest dangers.”

….and lest you think it the white population who had that attitude against immigrants consider Booker T. Washington’s remarks at the exposition.   He urged the audience to look to African Americans for achieving “the prosperity of the South” and not to “those of foreign birth and strange tongues and habits.”

Since these attitudes towards immigrants at the turn of the century were so prevalent in Atlanta it should not be surprising that the same attitudes existed here in Douglasville.

Buried within a section regarding Fairburn news titled “Fairburn Facts” in the June 13, 1882 issue of the Atlanta Constitution I found this:

Fairburn, Georgia…June 11….It is reported here upon good authority that a poor Italian peddling his wares in Douglasville, was set upon by some of the county officials and the authorities of the town and beaten almost to death.

By June 16, 1882 the matter was more prominently displayed with a headline that read “A Douglasville Outrage”, but the outrage wasn’t so much against the beating, but that another official had been linked to the beating….an official by the name of S.N. Dorsett who I’ve mentioned before here.

The article reads:
Douglasville, Georgia…June 15….In the post appeal of the 13th instant we find that the name of S.N. Dorsett, clerk of the Superior Court of this county, is charged with being in the party who outraged the young Italian.  We desire to state in behalf of Mr. Dorsett that he is not charged with nor did he have anything to do with, the unfortunate affair, and no such rumors have ever prevailed in this community.
Mr. Dorsett is a most perfect gentleman in every sense of the word and the assault upon his character is very unjust and positively false.

He is a faithful officer and performs his duty as such.  We think that when the facts of this whole affair are known will show that there has been a great deal more important attached to it than the means by this to say there has been one and a thousand rumors circulated about this unfortunate affair that are untrue.

Signed……John I. Freely, J.P. and M.B. Watson, J.A. Pittman, J.S. James, W.J. Abercrombie, J.W. Westmoreland, M.D. and W.G. Hanson, J.L. Selman, M.D. and W.H. Malary, H.L. Baggett, A.W. McLarty

Ten months later the case was being heard in the United States Circuit Court.  The Atlanta Constitution dated April 18, 1883 carried a headline advising “The Italian Peddler” with a smaller heading…..”The man who was mashed up asking for ten thousand dollars damages….”

The article advised….Yesterday an interesting case came up for trial in the United States Circuit Court.  It was a suit for ten thousand dollars damages instituted by an Italian named Michael Burney against W.T. Lindley, John V. Edge, C.P. Vandergriff and C.P. Camp of Douglas County.  The Plainitiff alleges that the Defendants have damaged his pocket and he will doubtless recover something on his claim as he was considerably used up. 

I'd like to interject here that W.T. Lindley had served as sheriff from 1881 to 1882 and besides being a prominent attorney John V. Edge was the Ordinary.

The newspaper article continues:

One day last year, the young Italian while peddling plaster of Paris images passed through Douglasville.  He could not speak English and was only able to name the prices of his wares
At Douglasville he “fell into the hands of the Philistines” who took him into the courthouse and after smashing his toys proceeded to smash the Italian.  They threw him down and sat on him and so roughly used him up that he stayed in the bed 16 days and at the end of that time was able to get to the train to come home only by being transported in a chair borne by two stout Negroes. 

The Italian employed counsel to bring suit against the persons named and the case came up in the United States Court yesterday.

….The Defendants set up their defense that if they did as charged they were too drunk to know what they were doing. 

Pending the argument court adjourned.

Well….I told you history was ugly sometimes.

The men named in this lawsuit were all important leaders in our community at the turn of the century.  They all did great things and did their part to build the county, but based on prevailing thoughts at the time it would appear they made some terrible choices and then had the temerity to use being drunk as an excuse.

Did you notice the Italian’s name?  Michael Burney.    It doesn’t seem very Italian, does it?   However, foreign sounding names were often Americanized at Ellis Island and other entry points into the United States.   

At this point I’m sure you are asking yourself what type of remedy the young Italian received through the verdict of the court.

A Library of Congress search finally revealed The Austin Weekly Statement in Texas ran a follow-up story on May 10, 1883:

"In Douglasville, Georgia, about a year ago, the sheriff of the county, an ex-member of the legislature and several other prominent and enlightened citizens attacked a poor Italian image vendor, spat upon him, rolled him on the floor and then sat upon him, singing ribald songs and [telling] rude jokes. A jury recently gave the Italian $1,250 damages."

Goodness! Well, at least the poor man received something for his troubles.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Buzzard's Roost

Everyday hundreds if not thousands of Douglas County residents cross the Chattahoochee River to reach work or school via the 92, 166, Bankhead Highway or Interstate 20 bridges.

I've crossed the river numerous times myself - most of the time with hardly a thought to the water flowing underneath me.

I think, "Oh, there's the bridge...the river..." and then on to other thoughts as I zoom along.

I would imagine most of us never get any closer to the river that makes up a portion of Douglas County's geographical borders than our car windows.

What about you?

Sadly, I was never allowed to participate in the great raft river races on the Chattahoochee during the late 1970s like many of my friends. In fact, the closest I've gotten to the Chattahoochee River has been to stroll along the stretch that passes by Ray's on the River after Sunday brunch or from the patio at Canoe during lunch, and then there was the impromptu instance last summer when I made the Mister walk to the middle of the 92 bridge to snap a few pictures. 

You should have seen me attempting to dodge dead animals on the side of the bridge and try  NOT to fall over the side since heights make me dizzy (that bridge railing is not as high as you might think) while trying NOT to fall into the line of traffic (it would seem everyone is speeding these days).

The view of the river seen above is looking up towards Atlanta.

The river doesn't just serve as a geographic border for Douglas County. It figures prominently in our history, of course, going all the way back to our early Native American history before there was a Douglas County and even before there was a Campbell County.

In fact, per The River Keeper's Guide to the Chattahoochee River by Fred Brown evidence of both Woodland (1,000 B.C. to 900 A.D.) and Mississippian (900 A.D. to 1,600 A.D.) villages as well as Paleo-Indian (10,000 B.C. to 8,000 B.C.) mounds have been found throughout the area including along the river. I mentioned this briefly in a past post regarding Native Americans in the Douglas County area here.

The book also mentions Buzzard's Roost Island and describes it as one of the most important archaeological sites in northwest Georgia.

If you take at look at the maps you can see it right where the borders of Fulton, Cobb, and Douglas Counties meet along the river.

Franklin Garrett speaks of "The Creek village of Buzzard Roost" stating it "lay along the southeast bank of the Chattahoochee River at a point approximately one mile below the mouth of Utoy Creek in territory which would become Campbell County in 1828 and was annexed to Fulton in 1932."

I have seen the island referenced in various treaties the Creek and Cherokee Nations made with the government regarding boundaries, so I decided to research it a bit more.

It just seems natural the Creeks would have settled near the island as it became a crossing point in the river - part of the Sand Town Trail - said to be one of the oldest "roads" in the southeast. The Indian trail went all the way out towards present day Alabama and was used by natives and then later pioneer settlers. In fact, today's Cascade Road follows the old Sand Town Trail.

East - West trails such as the Sand Town Trail typically crossed waterways at the Fall Line or close to it because the streams were shallow making a better place to cross. Travelers sometimes were able to wade across.

I've searched many records looking for a description of the Creek settlement at Buzzard's Roost/Sand Town, but haven't found any extensive research....yet.

The Treaty at Indian Springs of January 8, 1821 mentions Buzzard's Roost as a geographic feature stating "beginning on the east bank of the Flint River, where Jackson's line crosses running thence up the eastern bank of the same along the water's edge to the head of the principle western branch; from thence the nearest and direct line to the Chattahoochee River, up the eastern bank of said river along the water's edge to the Shallow ford where the present boundary line between the State of Georgia and the Creek Nation touches the said river, provided, however, that if the said line should strike the Chattahoochee River below the Creek Village Buzzard's Roost, there shall be a set-off made so as to leave the said village within the Creek Nation."

I located another description offered by Wilson Lumpkin in April, 1821...four months after the Indian Springs agreement. Lumpkin would go on to be a governor of Georgia, but in 1821 he was responsible for addressing treaty line disputes with the Creek Indians. He was sent out to Buzzard's Roost area to gather information and report back to then Governor Clark. Lumpkin wrote to Governor Clark what was likely one of the few, if not only visual accounts of a river trip from Buzzard's Roost up to Standing Peachtree (site of present day Atlanta).

Lumpkin's report says:

"From the Buzzard Roost village to the Standing Peachtree I estimate the distance of fifteen miles - this is computed more by the Indians. I found some difficulty in arriving at this village, in determining on the correct course. For several miles on the river, these improvements, is the most striking appearance of a town, the buildings being more compact in this, than any other part of the settlement. But there is no appearance of Capital, Town-house, or public square about the place...."

I know. Lumpkin's report doesn't give the kind of description I want either, but he does confirm there were buildings, dwellings, etc., and the place wouldn't have looked like a town as we would recognize it.

Other sources describe the Sand Town/Buzzard's Roost settlement with cornfields planted along the river and scattered dwelling structures here and there stretched for one miles north and south from the island on both sides of the river.

It's just as hard to find documented trips to the island today. I did find one website with pictures and a slight description here. The site states, "The island has a big beach and a good amount of interior woods to walk." The "beach", of course, is on the Atlanta side of the island when you look at the satellite image from Google.

I would imagine the trees on the island are old.

I would love to hear from any readers who have done any exploring on Buzzard's Roost Island or might have a story or two about it!

I'll keep gathering information about it as I run across it, of course.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Few News Snippets from the 1880s

Over the last few months I've periodically buried myself in newspaper research mainly with Atlanta's Constitution to see what was said about Douglas County and Douglasville during our earliest days.

We are mentioned fairly frequently, and it's fair to say by reading these snippets we can get a good picture of what our own paper at the time - The Weekly Star - was publishing since the text of their articles is what was published in the Atlanta paper.

Here are a few entries in chronological order printed in italics along with my reactions and explanations.

September 10, 1882 - The first new bale of cotton was sold [in Douglasville] today at auction by Dr. G.W. McLarty and was bought by Mr. M.B. Watson, one of the first merchants of the place. It will be shipped to J.M. Watson, Atlanta, and sold at Cumming's exchange next Wednesday at two o'clock at the First Bale of Douglas County for 1882, and the first new bale for the year shipped over the Georgia Pacific Railroad.

G.W. McLarty was George Wilson McLarty and M.B. Watson would be Mathias Bates Watson.  Watson was born in 1855 and married Lillie J. Vansant. Her father, Young Vansant was the man who donated land that would become Douglasville. The picture below shows M.B. Watson and Lilly on their honeymoon.  Sadly, Lillie would be dead a year later.

Once the railroad was operational Douglas County cotton would be loaded on the train and sent to Atlanta for auction. "Cumming's" mentioned in the above article was J.F. Cummings & Company located at 37 Broad Street in Atlanta. The company dealt in cotton, grain and meat futures.
Along with several others J.F. Cummings was one of the men who incorporated the International Cotton Exposition. It was similar to a world's fair and was held in Atlanta from October through December, 1881.
December 6, 1883 - From an article titled "Newspaper Change" - Dorsett & McElreath have disposed of the "Star", to W.A. Breckenridge, who will continue its publication. Mr. Breckenridge is the proprietor of the "Fairburn News - Letter" and the "Dallas News Era", which with the "Star", makes him proprietor of three of the best weeklies in west Georgia.
Dorsett & McElreath would be Samuel N. Dorsett and Samuel A. McElreath. Unfortunately, I've not been able to find out more about W.A. Breckenridge, yet. It is interesting that ownership of the paper ended up in hands outside of Douglasville though. I'm sure the editors continued to be local citizens.
June 15, 1884 - From an article titled "Newspoints From Douglasville" - Tom Edwards showed a blue sparrow [in Douglasville] this morning that he had caught. Dr. T.R. Whitley, who has lived in Atlanta the past five years, has moved [to Douglasville] to practice his profession. Mr. T.J. Smith of Gadsden, Alabama passed here today in pursuit of Joe Blalock who had stolen his horse. W.J. Camp of this county has a field of cotton that will average two feet high.
Catching a bird, the height of cotton, and a move from Atlanta to Douglasville seems like rather mundane news to us today, but the pursuit of a horse thief is rather interesting. Note that Mr. Smith is pursuing the thief himself. No mention of the police is made.
Those were the days, huh?
Once he moved to Douglasville, Dr. T.R. Whitley was very involved with various things including the establishment of Douglasville College which was located approximately where the armory is located on Church Street today.
October 1, 1884 - The crop outlook in Douglas County is above average. The small grain crop is good, while there is an abundant yield of corn. The indications are that, while the cotton crop is late it will be much better than was anticipated.
With a population of one thousand inhabitants it has about thirty stores, the proprietors of which [have] a thriving business. All of the merchants are classified as gilt-edged.
Within the past year many improvements have been made. Notably among them being the three...brick store houses by S.A. McElreath and Brother, J.M. and M.B. Watson and Selman, Smith & Co.
The cotton receipts of the past year were 5,000 bales and this year they will probably reach 7,500 bales.
There has been much immigration to this county of the smaller farmers from the "stock law" counties.
The taxable value of the property in the county has increased over two hundred thousand dollars as shown by the tax books during the past year.
In Douglasville there is no ad valorem tax and there is now source to ascertain the increase of the town. The entire revenue of the town is derived from the licenses exacted from bar-rooms. This is placed at such a high figure that it runs the entire expense of the municipal authorities. They now have under advisement and it will  soon be a certainty, of establishing a complete system of water works that will furnish water for the whole town.
Douglas is a new county and has many resources that the completion of the Georgia Pacific will develop.
The most interesting part of the above article that jumped out at me was this particular sentence, "The entire revenue of the town is derived from the licenses exacted from bar-rooms."
What an interesting bit of history!  In the early days the City of Douglasville was funded almost exclusively by liquor licenses during the saloon era.
You might also be wondering what was meant by a "stock law county". Basically, it has something to do with fences and folks who might allow their cattle and other livestock to roam freely. A section of the law provided that land owners could keep any livestock that might wander onto their land if you were in a "stock law district." Apparently, Douglas County was NOT a stock law county in 1884.
December 5, 1884 - In Douglas County, West Summerlin is charged with the offense of committing an assault with intent to murder on the person of Tom Williams. Both are negroes. Summerlin only has one arm. Yet the evidence shows that he made Williams "tote the fast mail".
I've done some checking but have been unable to discover what "tote the fast mail" might mean, but considering Williams was assaulted Summerlin must have had the "upper hand", even if he only had one.
He most certainly had the matter "in hand".
April 15, 1885 - Real estate is being rapidly improved in [Douglasville], and is held at good prices. The population is being increased at the rate of about four per week - with new babies. The farmers are staying severely at home, planting, hence trade is dull. The merchants, however, say they had rather see them preparing for the fall payments than loafing around town now.
In October, 1884 the population hovered at one thousand and six months later four babies a week are being born. Well, it would be easy to surmise what the folks were doing in their free time, right? They were most certainly planting seeds of various kinds.
October 3, 1885 - Douglasville, with a population of one thousand, has but one foreigner and two citizens born above the Mason and Dixon line. All are lawyers, merchants and physicians and were raised in this and the adjoining counties. We have an emphatically Georgia town.
Oh my! Two Yankees.  I think my research has identified them, but that's a story for another time, but seriously...a foreigner?  I will keep my eye out for an identify.
April 18, 1886 - From an article titled improvements in Douglasville - The spring improvements have begun. A.W. McLarty has let out contract for the erection of two fine brick two-storied stores, while S.N. Dorsett will match them with one similar to them. This will give Douglasville a block of fine brick stores. Besides these there are five new dwelling houses in process of erection.
Samuel N. Dorsett was one of Douglasville's first merchants and was a co-owner of Dorsett, Price an McElreath. He also co-owned The Weekly Star before it sold, was the city's second postmaster and was on the City Council in 1889. We also need to add Superior Court Clerk, County Treasurer, and he served on the committee to secure a bank.
February 10, 1887 - From an article titled "Douglasville's New Council" - The new municipal officers were installed last night. J.C. Wright was elected mayor pro tem, S.M. Cash, marshall; W.T. Roberts, city attorney; and W.M. McElreath, treasurer.  Messers. E.H. Camp, J.J. Haynes, A.R. Bomar and W.J. Camp are attending the state agricultural convention at Americus. There are two flourishing agricultural clubs in [Douglas County].
September 28, 1887 - Can you imagine checking into an Atlanta hotel and it making the paper? Well, apparently in the 1880s The Constitution regularly published the names of people who were in town and staying at the local hotels. A blurb from September 28th indicates S.N. Dorsett was staying at The Markham. Apparently Markham House was a very nice hotel in the 1880s located close to Atlanta's Union Station. The hotel had 107 rooms and central heat. The building was lost in a fire in 1896.
August 10, 1889 - The headline read Farmers Alliance Day - Today is a great one at Piedmont Chautauqua. The Piedmont Chautauqua in Lithia Springs was in full swing. The article goes on to advise the 8 p.m. address for that day would be given by Colonel J. G. Camp on "Women and Her Influence". Mr. Camp is one of the most gifted orators in Georgia.
Joseph G. Camp was known as the orator of the south.
The advertisement states, "His splendid graceful periods are interspersed with enough humor to prevent a surfeit of beauty." Maybe so, but somehow I think Mr. Camp and I would have differing opinions on the subject of women and their influence.
Well that's some of the local news from the 1880s - I hope you enjoyed it!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dr. R.J. Massey: The Man Who Saved Georgia's State House

Through my months of research I’ve come to the conclusion that Douglas County history is packed with interesting people who contributed to our area and to our state in very important ways.   

Some of those people were born in Campbell/Douglas County, lived here and died here like Joseph S. James.   There are others who lived here for a time and then left to make their mark on the world like Hugh Watson, and still others who arrived in Douglasville for a brief time and then moved on like Dr. Robert Jehu Massey.

Dr. Massey was born near Madison, Georgia in October, 1828 and grew up near Penfield, Georgia.  He received his degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and began a medical practice in Penfield before moving to Atlanta, Georgia.  He married Sarah Elizabeth Copeland on June 16, 1850.

During the Civil War Dr. R. J. Massey assisted the Confederacy by serving as a surgeon.   He often worked right in the field.   In fact, an Atlanta Constitution article from 1908 concerning Dr. Massey’s 80th birthday has him recalling his efforts to save the life of General John Bell Hood when he was severely injured at Chickamauga.   The article states, “When General Hood was operated on at the old Alexander bridge hospital……Dr. Massey administered the anesthetic.”  In fact, several sources indicate Dr. Massey performed approximately 2,000 surgeries using anesthesia.  Hood had been wounded so severely his right leg had to be amputated four inches below his hip. General Hood’s leg was sent along with him in the ambulance because it was thought Hood wouldn’t live much longer and at least his leg could be buried with him. 

Of course, Hood did live to fight another day….

As the focus of the war shifted towards Atlanta Dr. Massey ended up at the Brown Hospital and helped it relocate further south to Milledgeville as Sherman’s men advanced on the city.  Dr. Massey’s position was surgeon in charge. 

This website advises [Governor] Brown and other state officials fled the [Georgia state] capital ahead of General Sherman’s army.  The Union soldiers occupied the city of Milledgeville on November 23, 1864. 

Lee B. Kennett in Marching through Georgia: the Story of Soldiers and Civilians during Sherman’s Campaign confirms Brown Hospital and Midway Hospital were the only public institutions still functioning when Sherman’s men entered the city.

Basically… could say that Dr. Brown and the doctor in charge of the Midway Hospital were the only officials….of sorts…..available to Sherman during his brief stay in Milledgeville.

Kennett recounts how Massey asked for Union guards at the hospital to keep soldiers from ransacking it.   He had to do this more than once because the guards kept disappearing. 
Apparently Dr. Massey kept his eye on what the Union soldiers were doing in other parts of the city and in particular at the state house even though he had no power to stop them.   
It would seem that Dr. Massey’s visibility during the brief Union occupation of Milledgeville and his interaction with General Sherman helped save the state house from the torch.   Though the building was in great disarray when citizens returned to the city, important documents and records belonging to the state of Georgia were saved. 

Years later the Georgia General Assembly acknowledged Dr. Massey’s actions.

Kennett also advises how General Sherman left twenty-eight of his injured men with Dr. Massey.   Sherman told the doctor to give them a decent burial if the soldiers died, or if they lived to remand them over to the care of the prison at Andersonville.   In return for taking care of the soldiers Dr. Massey received ten gallons of rye whiskey that had been discovered.  

Apparently the whiskey had been hidden by the owner of the Milledgeville Hotel in hopes the soldiers wouldn’t get it.   Instead….Dr. Massey was able to use the whiskey at the hospital.

Another book…..Civil War MilledgevilleTales from the Confederate Capital of Georgia by Hugh T. Harrington discusses Dr. Massey’s efforts during the Milledgeville occupation and states Dr. Massey wrote his own articles in The Sunny South and the Atlanta Constitution regarding his war experiences that were published in the early 1900s. 

Dr. Massey’s obituary  from the Atlanta Constitution (March 19, 1915) states, “He possessed a wonderful memory, stored with vast knowledge of the pioneer history of the state, and his writings, which are written in a pleasing style dealt largely with this period.”

He was a great friend to Georgia’s Governor William J. Northern (1890-1894) and contributed over one hundred biographies to Northern’s book…Men of Mark in Georgia.   The Library of Southern Literature also advises Dr. Massey wrote for Uncle Remus Magazine at frequent intervals.

After the war Dr. Massey practiced in Gainesville, and St. Simons, followed by a move to Douglasville.   Dr. Massey’s son….Robert A. (Alexander) Massey….was an attorney, judge and Douglasville postmaster in the late 1800s.   I’ve written about him here.

In the book From Indian Trail to I-20 Fannie Mae Davis relates how Dr. Massey had a kitchen lab in his home which he used to concoct cures from herbs and roots he collected across the county.   One such extract he marketed was Compound Georgia Sasparilla which was billed as….”The best, cheapest and most complete blood remedy in the world.”  The extract could be bought directly from Dr. Massey at his office and at area stores for the sum of one dollar.   Apparently, Dr. Massey also operated a drugstore in Austell before selling it to Dr. C.C. Garrett around the turn of the century.

While he lived in Douglasville Dr. Massey cultivated his love of history and exercised his writing skills.   He was an early editor of The Weekly Star per Mrs. Davis.  She states, “He…added great interest in the early paper which gave away to The New South a few years later.....and…..of several legends, giving the original source of the Skint Chestnut name.  Dr. Massey’s story has been the most acceptable by lovers of local history.”

Thought he spent his last years writing Dr. Massey still practiced medicine.   He returned to Atlanta in 1893 and served as the lead physician for the Confederate Soldier's Home.  

Dr. R.J. Massey’s grave can be found in Douglasville’s City Cemetery.

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