Sunday, October 28, 2012

Five Little Boys...Five Grown Men

I have a Word document where I store bits and pieces of the Douglas County story as i find them...bits and pieces where I feel I need more details or I need to verify facts. I currently have a 68 page document full of bits and pieces.

Yes....68 pages!  I need to whittle it down a bit, so....

I decided I would hold my nose and go ahead and dive in with the story of the five little boys.

Many, many months ago a few lines I read in Fannie Mae Davis' book concerning Douglas County history caught my eye.

She said....

Five little boys born in Douglas County played ball, hunted, fished, swam in the same creek together, attended the same schools, and played tricks and jokes on each other.

Now that one line isn't very special other than I'm the mother of a former little boy, and I can testify he did all of those things. In fact, now that he's a handsome grown man....he still does those same things.

Most men do, right????

Fannie Mae Davis continues....

Only one remained in Douglas County once grown. All prospered and became leading citizens.

In 1915, their counties sent them to the state legislature where they had a reunion for the first time since they were boys.

Ah....there's that interesting turn of history that I like.

Even though they all went their separate ways they ended up as productive citizens and served in the Georgia General Assembly.

The five little boys were.....

John Edwards representing Haralson County...

W.I. Dorris representing Douglas County....

J.B. Baggett representing Paulding County....

L.Z. Dorsett representing Carroll County....and 

W.H. Dorris representing Crisp County.

So, for a three year period beginning in 1915 the five served in the General Assembly. Historically speaking let's set the context of the time these five men had swirling about them as they helped to create laws that effected citizens across the state of Georgia.

The year was 1915...the year Leo Frank was hung by a mob of citizens for the murder of Mary Phagan, and Gutzon Borglum met with members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy regarding a proposed carving on Stone Mountain. Frank's hanging would lead to a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan atop Stone Mountain when a rally was held in 1915.

The men would have known about an earthquake that struck just 30 miles southeast of Atlanta in 1916, and in 1917 with the United States' entry into World War I eminent the battleship Georgia was commissioned again to serve as an escort and troop transport ship.  The five men would also have been in shock as many were concerning the Great Atlanta Fire when 300 acres of homes and businesses were destroyed.

Now that our perspective has been sharpened a bit regarding the time period let's see what exists "out there" about the five little boys who grew to be state legislators.

I found the least amount of information for John S. Edwards (1867-1941). The representative from Haralson County was married to Margaret Milisi Head and prior to being a member of the General Assembly he was the mayor of Buchanan, Georgia in 1907.

W.I. Dorris...William Irvine Dorris (1867-1940) was married to Sarah Elizabeth Taylor. He served as the representative from Douglas County from 1913 to 1917. The Atlanta Constitution dated June 26, 1915 advised Dorris introduced a bill to provide for a method of changing county lines...redistricting. Later on that summer he introduced other legislation to amend an existing act regulating elections. You can see his picture below....

L.Z. Dorsett...Leander "Lee" Z. Dorsett (1864-1948) was the son of Joseph Smith Dorsett (1811-1895), a pioneer of Campbell County who originally came from Laurens, South Carolina. His half-brother, Samuel N.P. Dorsett was Douglas County's first superior court clerk. Dorsett attended Holly Springs Academy at Chapel Hill. His political life included serving as Douglasville's mayor in 1901 and 1907, Recorder from 1902 to 1905 and represented Carroll County in the General Assembly.

I located a mention where Dorsett was involved with a bill against concealed weapons and in August, 1916 another bill he sponsored dubbed the Dorsett Bill was killed in the Ways and Means committee of the Georgia House. It was a bill that provided for the levying and collecting of state income tax.

State taxes.....gee, is HE the one we need to blame?

No...not by a long shot since Georgia's tax laws had been revised by passage of the Lipscomb-Anderson-Miller Bill in 1913 (the bill calling for the appointment of a state tax commissioner). 1913 was also the same year the Sixteenth Amendment was passed giving the federal government the right to rifle through your pockets, so....Dorsett is free from blame as far as the Dorsett bill was concerned.

Dorsett returned to Douglas County in 1935 and served as mayor from 1938 to 1939. During his term as mayor he made the first dialed call from the Douglasville on July 7, 1939. Operator assisted calls had been in existence since 1899.

Finally, Dorsett returned to the state house again from 1943 to 1945 representing Douglas County.

W.H. Dorris...William Herschell Dorris (1870-1937) was the son of William C. Dorris, a Confederate veteran and grew up on a farm near Douglasville where he eventually attended Douglasville College. He studied law under Judge A.L. Bartlett of Brownsville, was admitted to the bar in 1896 and was a public spirited person from what I can see.

He was mayor of Cordele in 1910.   One of this accomplishments there was getting a Carnegie Library for Cordele.

Carnegie Libraries are one of my own personal history hot buttons.  I love to learn about them and visit them when I can due to their interesting architecture.  A few years ago I published 13 Things About Carnegie Libraries at History Is Elementary, and over at Georgia on My Mind you can learn more about a special Carnegie Library at Little Five Points.

The August 13, 1915 edition of the Atlanta Constitution mentions Dorris was involved with the leadership of the "radicals" in the General Assembly that year. The radicals were folks who were favoring prohibition. The paper went on to mention the radicals had a job ahead of them to sway folks to their way of thinking. A prohibition bill had been passed in 1907, but there several loopholes the radicals didn't take kindly to, so they were calling for strong legislation. 

Apparently the radicals including Dorris were successful because in March, 1917 the Constitution reported the "Bone Dry" bill had been signed by Governor Harris.....and it was Dorris at the signing ceremony who handed the Governor a pen from his pocket to sign the legislation into law.

Dorris was a state senator for Crisp County into the 1920s.

J.B. Baggett...Joseph Brown Baggett was born in 1859 to Allan Jacob Baggett. He was a landowner, farmer, merchant, saw miller, cotton ginner, notary, postmaster, and justice of the peace. Baggett was married to Capitola (Cappie) Beall, daughter of Noble N. Beall, a judge who had at one time been a state senator representing the people of Paulding County.   His picture is published below.

While it has not been verified via deed records, family sources state he owned several hundred acres in the Hay Community of Paulding County where he is listed as the postmaster.

Around 1908 the Paris Telephone Company set up operations in Paulding County, and they located their switchboard in Baggett's home. Whichever family member happened to be free at the time worked the board for the community.

When not acting as a businessman and farmer with fingers in several pots Baggett also served along with his former childhood friends as a state representative for Paulding County.

So...there you have it...everything I have so far regarding the five little boys Fannie Mae Davis wrote about so very briefly. As things tend to go with my research regarding Douglas County history something will plop into my lap next week or a puzzle piece will fall into place a few months from now making more connections, raising more questions, and drawing me back  into the story, but.....I have to be really honest here.......that's what keeps me going.......the delightful chase!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Falling to Earth

I watched a man fall to earth last week...on purpose.

You  may have watched it as well. The man's name was Felix Baumgartner. I watched as he was carried aloft in a capsule hanging from a helium balloon to the very edge of space where he and I (thanks to technology) could actually see the curve of the earth and the edge of space. The only things he had to protect him were his space suit, a helmet and a parachute.

When Baumgartner reached the right height and after going through an exhaustive check-list he opened the hatch, stood on the platform and stepped off free falling for several thousand feet.

Baumgartner wanted to be the first person to break the sound barrier without the protection of a vehicle...and he did it! News sources report that at one point Baumgartner hit Mach 1.24, and tumbled at times to earth from a height of 128,00 feet or over 24 miles. In case you are wondering Mach 1.24 is somewhere around 833 miles per hour.

It took him two hours to get to the appropriate height, and it only took him four minutes and twenty seconds to complete the fall.  Most of that time I was holding my breath and more than likely so was the other 8 million or so others watching on television, YouTube and other sources around the world.

Baumgartner broke two other records, including the highest exit from a platform at 128,000 feet and the highest free-fall without a drogue parachute. One record Baumgartner did not break was the longest elapsed free-fall record. Joe Kittinger, Baumgartner's mentor and voice in his ear as he fell to earth, still holds the record he set in 1960. 

So...the whole event gave me pause to think about how far we've come since 1960 with technology and how the data gathered during Baumgartner's fall will be used to advance flight technology even further.

Then my mind settled on a post I wrote several months ago regarding Hugh Watson, an aviator from Douglasville. You can see that article at Douglasville Patch here.

Recently I found a couple of Atlanta Constitution articles involving Mr. Watson from his younger days when he first started flying. I've printed the newspaper articles in italics and my comments in regular type.

The first article dated December 8, 1918 and carried the headline...."100 Miles an Hour Made by Aviators".

The article reads:

At the average rate of 100 mph three aviators - Lieutenants Wilson, Weaver, and Moncrief - yesterday came from Taylor Field at Montgomery to Atlanta where they landed on the speedway at Hapeville. They only stop made en route was at Columbus.

All three aviators are stopping at the Ansley.  On Sunday afternoon Lieutenant Watson will fly to his home in Douglasville for a visit.

The Ansley refers to the Ansley Hotel built in 1913 by Edwin P. Ansley who is best known for developing the neighborhood still known as Ansley Park which is just east of Midtown and west of Piedmont Park. The Ansley Hotel was located on the 100 block of Forsyth Street. Later it was known as the Dinkler Plaza Hotel before being demolished in 1973.

Just a couple of days later another article appeared on December 10, 1919 with the following headline...."Aviators Crash to Earth Monday at the Speedway".

The article states:

Lieutenants Hugh Watson, of Douglasville, Georgia and Lincoln Weaver of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, both fliers from Taylor Field, Montgomery, Alabama are in the base hospital at Fort McPherson in a serious condition as a result of an attempted tailspin executed yesterday morning at 11 o'clock while the plane in which they were flying was at a height of about 300 to 350 feet and moving at a rate of speed too low to maintain its balance during the movement.

It would appear that Watson was making several cross-country trips at this point.

Douglas County historian, Fannie Mae Davis mentions the fact that Watson was a  flight instructor in Alabama.

Taylor Field was Montgomery's first military flying installation established November, 1917.  Approximately 139 pilots completed eight weeks of training there.

As a result of the attempted difficult air "stunt", instead of righting the plane after it had plunged downward for some distance, the two airmen lost control of the machine and it crashed to earth on the old Atlanta automobile race track about 3 1/2 miles beyond Fort McPherson.

The track the article refers to is Atlanta Speedway or Atlanta Motordome built by Asa Candler in 1909.   He wanted to build a racetrack that would rival the newly built track in Indianapolis, so he bought 287 acres bordering Virginia Avenue south of the city and got busy. The track was only open for two seasons, and if you haven't already guessed the property today is part of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Watson had the right idea at the time when he attempted to land there and/or crash landed at the would later be the "right" spot.

Atlantans in an automobile happened to witness the accident and rushed to the badly damaged plane and pulled the lieutenants from underneath the wreckage.

They immediately rushed the injured airmen to the base hospital at Fort McPherson where they were given medical attention. 

Officials of the medical department at Fort McPherson last night stated that Lieutenant Watson suffered innumerable cuts, bruises and sprains, and although in a critical condition physicians at the fort believe that they can save his life.

My earlier article at Patch referred to this accident, but at the time I didn't have all of the details. It took Watson over a year to recover from his injuries and my research indicates the officer in charge at Taylor Field put the word out he didn't want any more "stunts" taking place with his planes.

...The accident occurred as the two lieutenants were flying to Atlanta Monday morning on a cross-country practice trip from Taylor Field. Experiencing some trouble en route, they made a successful landing on the old Atlanta Automobile Speedway and worked on the engines. After this was done they made ascension and after rising some 300 to 350 feet into the air fell into a tailspin that caused the accident. Lieutenant Watson is reported to have told medical officers at Fort McPherson Monday night that he could have righted the plane from the spin, but he misjudged the height at which they were flying and was too near the ground.

Information that the steel helmets worn by the lieutenants probably saved their lives was also supplied by officials at Fort McPherson who were told by those who pulled the two unconscious men from under the plane that heavy parts of the machine were resting on their heads when they were removed from the wreckage and that the steel helmets probably kept their  skulls from being crushed in.

Lieutenant Watson, who was formerly an automobile racing driver for the Sunbeam Company, is the son of M.B. Watson, prominent citizen of Douglasville.....

The fact that Hugh Watson drove race cars is a brand new fact for me. You can find out more about the Sunbeam Motor Car Company here.

The accident Monday was the second Lieutenant Watson has had in Atlanta while in a cross-country run from Taylor Field to his home in Douglasville to spend the day with his parents there, his machine crashed into a rough piece of ground just outside the city limits of Atlanta on Sunday, December 1st.  Lieutenant Watson escaped from the accident with a few slight bruises and small damage to his plane.

It's interesting to note that both crashes were within days of each other.

Accompanying him on this trip was Lieutenant E.T. Dennis, also of Taylor Field, who Lieutenant Watson had invited to visit his home with him for the day. He also had to make a forced landing in his plane due to gasoline trouble, but he was able to pick out a smooth piece of ground in east Atlanta and escaped practically uninjured.  

They resumed their trip the next morning and spent the day in Douglasville after which they returned to their planes at Taylor Field.

Crash after crash...yet early aviators kept getting back in the air. They kept flying. They kept forging ahead making new advances and laying the ground for the men in the 1960s like Kittinger, and then later in the 21st century astounding feats like Baumgartner's plummet to the earth could become a reality.

Monday, October 15, 2012

This Week's Post.....

I regret to say that I'm suspending this week's blog update. I was in the middle of preparing this week's post when we received word that my husband's beloved Uncle Jack Lewis had passed.

My heart is not into finishing the piece. I will share it next week.

In the meantime Douglasville Patch is running an older column of mine titled "Our History: Let's Go Back in Time.    

It can be found here

Thank you for your indulgence.....

Monday, October 8, 2012

Douglasville's Own Mule Whisperer

The Sheriff's Department page at has a wonderful listing of every sheriff who has served the county with a small amount of biographical information compiled by Joe Baggett.

With regards to Sheriff Mac Claude Abercrombie, Sr. the site states he served as sheriff from 1933-1952 defeating Seawright Baggett in the 1932 election by 24 votes.  Abercrombie started business in 1923 with a grocery store on Broad Street, later moving to Church Street near his father's barn and blacksmith shop.   At the time of his election, he operated a dairy on Fairburn Road on Dura Lee Lane.  

Abercrombie retired to operate a stable at the corner of Church Street and Club Drive, now the county jail parking lot, and later owned Timber Ridge Stables.

Early on in his life Mr. Mac, as many around Douglas County remember him, worked with his father trading mules.   In 1918, his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona where they remained for three years trading mules and delivering them all over the area.  

In the video I've posted below... filmed in 1986.... Mr. Mac tells about his father having a contract with the Harvey Company while they were living in Arizona. 

Now the Harvey Company.....or the Fred Harvey Company to be exact.....had been granted the concession contact with the Grand Canyon in 1922.  The Harvey Company had started operating many of the restaurants found along the rail lines throughout the western section of the United States.  They were basically the first restaurant chain established in this country, and early in the 20th century they saw an opportunity with the Grand Canyon.

Now mules had been used since the 1840s  to carry men and materials down into the canyon when prospectors were thinking there was treasure to be found, but early on folks realized the real gold mine at the Grand Canyon wasn't from prospecting, but from tourism.  When Theodore Roosevelt rode down into the canyon in 1913 he made the trails even more appealing to tourists.

In order to fulfill the contract with the Harvey Company, Mr. Mac's father had to travel to Texas and bought 30 mules. The animals were then broken and trained before delivering them to the Grand Canyon.  

In the video Mr. Mac tells about staying on at the canyon with the mules stating that they were a bit short-handed.  My research indicates that during 1920 the Phantom Ranch was being built at the bottom of the canyon, so more than likely the mules the Abercrombies delivered to the canyon were....for a  time....involved with transporting the building materials down to the bottom of the well as tourists.  

In the video Mr. Mac mentioned the numerous young people that hung around the barns and helped him through the years.   He referred to them as " barn rats", and they called him "Mr. Mac". If you watched the video you saw the part where he mentioned giving the kids a quarter back when you could actually go to a movie and get some form of refreshment for such a small amount. 

Mr. Mac also mentions the decline of the mule business as gradually more and more farmers stopped depending on them to pull the plows and began using tractors.  As a result he began to get more and more involved with horses at that point....during the 1950s. 

The video below shows many of the different locations of Mr. Mac's various mule barns which in the beginning were were located in downtown Douglasville.

This last video is a tribute to Mr. Mac with lots of different pictures and newspaper clippings

Of course, I haven't even begun to touch Mr. Mac's long career as our sheriff which was filled with interesting events as well including a few stills that were tracked down and destroyed.  I'm on the research trail and hope to bring that installment soon!

Mr. Mac passed away at the age of 90 in 1994.   An article published in the Douglas County Sentinel states, "At 'the barn' one could find an honest horse trader, gifted storyteller and a real man of integrity in Mr. Mac."

A very nice tribute website to Mr. Mac can be found here. 

I have a feeling I would have loved to have known Mr. Mac!

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