Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Review: The 100 Day War: The Western Front of the Atlanta Campaign



Over the last few days I've had the honor to read Ray Henderson's latest work titled The 100 Day War: The Western Front of the Atlanta Campaign. Ray is a local historian, and the author of the much celebrated book The History of the Pony Club regarding Carroll County.

My initial reaction to The 100 Day War is pleasure. What a great resource for anyone who loves reading about the Civil War! My second reaction involves gratitude for the amount of research and writing that it took to put together all of the resources Mr. Henderson presents.

The book examines the days from July to November, 1864 when the Civil War was front and center in Campbell County (now Douglas) including mentions of Salt Springs, Dark Corner, Villa Rica and Campbellton.

Each chapter of the book zeroes in on just a few specific days giving the reader a broader picture of what was happening and when. Photographs of the military leaders and locations are included along with detailed maps.

Not only does each chapter include a narrative introduction to put things in perspective, Mr. Henderson also includes diary entries from Confederate and Union soldiers who were on the ground, as well as all of the dispatches sent back and forth between the leaders in charge. I was also pleased to see pictures of items found over the years that were left behind by the soldiers including canteens, stirrups and saddle buckles.

This book answers so many questions regarding events that occurred in Campbell (Douglas), Carroll, and Coweta counties during the war including:

*What really happened around the Bullard-Henley-Sprayberry house during July, 1864? Is a Union soldier really buried in the family cemetery that is visible along Highway 92?

*What part did the Dog River play in the movement of soldiers during the 100 days?

*Which families in the area made claims with the Southern Claims Commission due to the Union army confiscating property as they moved through the area?

*Why did the Union soldiers believe the Confederates on the Campbellton side of the Chattahoochee have more troops than they actually had?

*Why did Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America visit Palmetto in September, 1864?

Ray Henderson will be on hand reading sections of his book and signing copies this Sunday, November 10th from 1 to 4 p.m. at Pine Mountain Gold Museum at Stockmar Park located at 1881 Stockmar Road in Villa Rica.

You can also pick up a copy of the book at Douglasville Books located at 7191 Stewart Parkway in Douglasville. The phone number is 770-949-4363.

Hope to see you Sunday!!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Afternoon at the Museum

This column first appeared in the Douglas County Sentinel on May 5, 2013.

I took a little time Tuesday to visit the Old Courthouse Museum for the “Keep Calm and Shop Local” Networking event.  All of the museum rooms were open for browsing, and I wanted to make sure I checked out the new and improved exhibit regarding town father Ephraim Pray. 
Ephraim Pray is one of Douglas County’s earliest settlers arriving in the area as early as 1828.  Along with a few other early settlers he holds the distinction of being a man who lived in three different counties – Carroll, Campbell and Douglas – without having to move even one stick of furniture.  County borders shifted twice during his lifetime.

When Pray moved to this area he purchased nine land lots on both sides of today’s Highway 5 at the Dog River Bridge.  He cleared the land himself and built a cabin.  He dammed the Trout Creek/Dog River and using the water power from the river he operated a flour and grist mill as well as a saw mill.  He also farmed, and the second floor of his mill was used by two male slaves, as well as by Pray himself, to make furniture.
Pray donated twelve acres for the purpose of building a church that would become Pray's Mill Baptist Church. His only stipulation was the church had to remain Baptist or the land would revert back to the Pray family. The new congregation wanted to name the new church for Pray, but he refused. Of course, they ended up naming the church for his mill instead.  Pray become a constituent member of the church and attended there until he passed away.

During Reconstruction, Ephraim Pray was one of several men who were tired of having to travel so far to Campbellton to conduct business. They wanted a new county.  In 1870, Pray traveled to Atlanta to listen to the state legislature approve the act for Douglas County. He was named one of the first county commissioners by the Georgia General Assembly, and he is one of the few charter citizens of Douglas County.
The new museum exhibit contains dozens of artifacts evidencing Mr. Pray’s life donated by Pray family member Joe Phillips. There are pictures, farm equipment, furniture Mr. Pray made, and more personal items such as pipes and a fiddle evidencing a man who lived during the Nineteenth century.


Museum volunteers have spent the last few months organizing the artifacts into an entertaining and educational exhibit. I encourage everyone to visit the Old Courthouse Museum at 6754 Broad Street in the historic downtown district. They are open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

Stop by and see what they have to offer.  You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Doing" History

Last night a group of people joined me for a talk about the Sweetwater Park Hotel and the Piedmont Chautauqua at the Douglas County library on Selman Drive.

I was amazed at the turnout. It’s great to know so many people are interested in Lithia Springs’ vibrant past. 
Many showed up with articles they have collected over the years – an actual fruit bowl from the hotel, dish fragments, spoons, Bowden Lithia Springs water bottles, post card images and stories of playing on the ruins and living on the historic property as children.

Afterwards I was invited to dinner with a group who attended the talk, and they all shared more memories of Lithia Springs.
Some say I “do” history through my research and writing.

I don't necessarily agree. 
While I believe what I do has some value, the real part of “doing” history has to do with the folks who showed up last night, as well as folks who participate with my Douglas County history page on Facebook - groups of people who gather to discuss, who share, and who attempt to remember and pass those memories along.

One of the things I shared in my presentation at the library was this image from the Atlanta Constitution during the Fall of 1884. It’s an advertisement placed by John C. Bowden to lease the springs.

 
The ad states:

I will receive proposals to lease my springs, formally known as Salt Springs, 18 miles from Atlanta, near the East Tennessee, et al. and the Georgia Pacific Rail Road for a term of ten years or more to include in said lease from 30-50 acres of land around the springs.
The spring yields 4,000 gallons of water every twelve hours and is situated in the midst of a prosperous and picturesque  country, and can be made one of the finest resorts in North Georgia, and is a short ride from Atlanta.

The water is the best lithia water in the United States, and has made many remarkable cures. I refer to Mr. Elias Holcombe, J.C. Harris and J.L. Richmond, of Atlanta, Georgia and to Dr. Moncrief of Greensboro, Georgia and can give the names of hundreds of others who have been cured by the use of the water.
The water has been carefully analyzed by Dr. Pratt, one of the best chemists in Georgia.

The ad continued with Dr. Pratt’s analysis. The main part that stood out to me was this section per Dr. Pratt:
Note the unusual quantities of valuable medical constituents, viz. Chromide and Iodine…Lithium and Magnesia deserve careful notice.

The rest of Bowden’s ad to lease the springs continued:
Propositions for lease must be made in writing  and submitted to me by the 15th of October next.

Bowden advised propositions could be mailed to him, and that he would be available to show interested parties around the place.  He also indicated he reserved the right to select the bid that will pay him the best income for the springs, or to reject all the bids as he saw fit.
It was some time after that when the announcement was made in another article of the  paper advised that E.W. Marsh had leased the springs from Bowden with Bowden keeping the mineral rights……specifically E.W. Marsh & Son had leased the spring. 

The article went on to say, arrangements have been made to place the water on sale wherever there may be demand for it…., and during the fall and winter the water [had] been subjected to a severe test by a number of citizens of Atlanta, and that test [had] two results: 1. That the water can be transported and kept in barrels for a considerable period with no sensible deterioration of its qualities, and 2. That its effects after transportation are as remarkable as they are when drank at the spring.
There is a story that circulates that the first time the water actually came to the attention of anyone in Atlanta was via James A. Watson. He had business concerns in Atlanta, but frequently visited Douglasville to see his mother and other relatives. On one trip he fell ill and had to stay over at Bowden’s plantation home. During his stay he was given the water and credited it with his recovery. He left Bowden’s home carrying a jug of the water which he promptly had tested and shared its properties with his friend who happened to be E.W. Marsh.

So, the question I have is the Watson story merely an embellishment regarding how the springs were eventually leased and sold?  If Watson introduced Bowden to Marsh then why would Bowden need to advertise his desire to lease the springs?
I’ve had people tell me the Watson story is just some sort of historical myth, but you can’t totally discount it as “just a story” since Watson’s friend Marsh did indeed lease the springs resulting in broadening the reach Salt Springs/Lithia Springs had with the rest of the world.

Could it be Bowden wanted to see if he could get a better deal?  
Was he trying to get Mr. Marsh to increase his offer?

Bowden was certainly clear in his ad that he wanted the "best" deal.

Yes, “doing” history always involves discussing, sharing, remembering and passing along what you know to others, but it also involves questions – questions that may or may not ever be answered.

Folks who "do" history, however, love to debate the possible answers.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Business of the Railroad

 
For many today, the railroad running through Douglasville might seem a little outdated and an inconvenience. The blast of the train's horn interrupt our conversations as we walk through O'Neal Plaza or while we have diner or lunch along Broad Street. The train no longer carries us to Atlanta or west into Alabama. It merely blocks traffic as folks attempt to head home to Hiram or Dallas. However, there was a time when the railroad was premier in our thoughts and had it not run through Douglasville our past, and therefore our future would have been very different.

By 1850, Atlanta already had several rail lines, but there was yet to be a line heading west, until the Georgia Western Railroad was chartered in 1854. The concern was incorporated by Richard Peters, Lemuel Grant, and other Atlanta businessmen.

Some sources state prior to the Civil War grading occurred from Atlanta to a point two miles west of Skint Chestnut/Douglasville, but I'm now a little skeptical of that since early railroad maps show the line passing through the southern portion of the county. There are stories that the right-of-way was used by farmers to move cattle from Birmingham to Atlanta for market. I haven't found any proof of this yet, but at any rate the Civil War interrupted the plans.

What I do know is that even after the war the western route for the railroad was still very much a point of discussion. Notice the map I have here courtesy of the University of Alabama Map Library.

You can clearly see a much different route out of Atlanta where the railroad would go through Carrollton and not Douglasville. Douglasville was not legally established until February of 1875 due to some legal entanglements, and an election that had to be held twice, but the town fathers continued to set up the town, so it's no surprise to me that Douglasville was on the 1873 map. Not only did the town fathers have to convince the folks of Douglas County that Douglasville should be the county seat, they also had to convince the railroad to lay tracks through town as well.

On July 12, 1873 a railroad meeting was held at Chapel Hill to discuss proposed routes and issues surrounding stock subscriptions. Three days later a larger group met in Douglasville to consider the prospect of the Georgia Western Railroad passing through the county with W.P. Strickland as the chair and A.S. Gorman as secretary.

A committee was set up to create resolutions for those at the meeting to consider. John F. Glover, Dr. Poole, Ezekiel Polk, Captain Whitley and G.W. McLarty were appointed to the committee. They went into another room to devise the resolutions, and while they did so John M. Edge entertained the crowd with what is described as his "fluent and impressive style describing the benefits to have the railroad pass through the county."

The committee came up with three resolutions which were read to the crowd and adopted. They were:

"Resolved - that the people of Douglas County want the Georgia Western Railroad; that the  right-of-way be given through the county; the road be the same width as allowed to other roads in this state.

Resolved -that we recommend the company to cross the Chattahoochee River below the mouth of Sweetwater Creek, thence coming out by the great water power known as the old Sweetwater Factory site and the Merchant Mills on that stream.

Resolved - that we are willing to subscribe stock under the form adopted at the railroad meeting at Chapel Hill on the 12th.

Railroad construction finally began eight years later in 1881. By that time the Georgia Western Railroad had become the Georgia Pacific, and fortunately, the final route included Douglasville.

The Weekly Star, Douglasville's paper at the time, advised on August 23, 1881, "On Tuesday, one hundred and twenty-five hands arrived here for the purpose of beginning work on the Georgia Pacific. Yesterday morning, they began preparing the graded portion of the railroad for the reception of crossties and iron. The men are from Virginia...This looks like business."

Business most certainly was the correct word!

This post first appeared in the Douglas County Sentinel, May 19, 2013.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Mules of War

In July, 1917 mentions can be found in The Constitution regarding Great Britain's need for mules and how Atlanta was leading the way in supplying them.


Due to the business acumen of men such as Captain John Miller and I.N. Ragsdale, Miller Union Stockyards (located along today's Howell Mill Road between 14th and 10th Streets) Atlanta, at the turn-of-the-century was known as the largest mule market in the United States until well into the 20th century.
Through my research I located an article in The Constitution dated July 27, 1917 advising the government of Great Britain had designated Atlanta as the assembling point for thousands of mules to be shipped to Europe for war purposes.
The Brits were calling for one hundred mules per day for an indefinite period of time, and were dispatching two representatives to Atlanta to inspect and formally take charge of the stock.
Guidelines were fairly clear. Mules had to meet strict British requirements to help in the war effort. They had to be fifteen hands in height and of dark color with no blemishes. Later on, the inspectors did relent and began to accept iron grey mules.
Let's pause a moment to do the math. The Brits were paying $160 per head for the mules. If they bought one hundred per day as planned mule dealers would be collectively making $16,000 cash money daily, and over the course of a month as much as half a million dollars could be made.
So, what does this have to do with Douglas County?
I'm sure one name is already on your lips.
Abercrombie, right?
Since Douglasville's earliest days there has been one mule barn or another located at different spots around town under the control of one Abercrombie or another.
The Constitution article goes on to mention Mr. Ragsdale had recently purchased twenty-eight mules from Douglasville advising, "At Douglasville...one of the local bankers who sold several big lots of mules in Douglasville and adjacent counties stated that the farmers were selling their mules they no longer needed and were applying the proceeds on account. This situation, [the banker-mule dealer] stated, was certain to mean a great improvement in business conditions in the smaller as well as the larger towns and would aid the farmers in carrying over certain accounts until their crops are gathered."
The banker-mule dealer who would have sold the mules to Ragsdale and in turn to the British government would be Joe S. Abercrombie whose brother W. Claude Abercrombie was the president of the Farmers and Merchant's Bank and dabbled in mules while a third brother, Walter A. Abercrombie dabbled (sarcasm) in mules as well. In fact, sources state they each had a mule barn.
The Douglas County Sentinel advised in 1916 that Joe S. Abercrombie "annually handled approximately 250 head of mules and did a business of $50,000.  That's $50,000 in 1916 dollars, folks!
The paper also advised, "You could write success in capitals at the end of each one of the three [Abercrombie] brother's names. They are the most spirited men in Douglas County!"
Well, I'd be a bit spirited, too, if I had a passel of mules and was selling them for $160 a head, wouldn't you?
Still, it's nice to know that Douglas County not only sent their men off to The Great War, we bravely sent our mules as well.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Douglasville's Birth

Once Douglas County was formed in 1870, a county seat was needed. In fact, the Georgia General Assembly instructed the county commissioners - John M. James, John C. Bowden, W.N. McGouirk, J.H. Winn, and Ephraim Pray - to survey land for a county site and to stake lots for sale. The proceeds from the sale of the lots would go towards building a courthouse and jail.

However, the first order of business was to hold an election for certain offices and allow citizens to choose the location of the county seat. Folks were divided. Some preferred the community of Chapel Hill; others wanted the center of Douglas County, and a third group lobbied for Skint Chestnut to be the county seat.

Many thought it was a foregone conclusion that the Chapel Hill community would be considered. In 1870, Chapel Hill contained a general store and a few other businesses. There was both a Baptist and Methodist church and three different schools. The area was a very prosperous plantation community with several influential citizens.

Some folks wanted the center of the county chosen. It made sense in a way. It would have been an equal distance for all citizens to travel. They decided the geographic center would be the area around Pray's Mill Baptist Church. Supporters promoted the community's water sources - the Dog River and Bear Creek - as the fuel to run industrial concerns.

Many others preferred the area up on the ridge known as Skint Chestnut. It wasn't just the draw of the ancient chestnut tree. The choice had a lot to do with the proposed rail site for the Georgia Western Railroad. The 1870s was a time when attitudes in Georgia were changing. Many of our town father's understood the new "farm to factory movement" which would result in business opportunities, more industrialization, and an established rail line was one of the necessary ingredients.

The commissioners decided on a ballot with just two choices leaving Chapel Hill out. Voters could choose the "center" of the Douglas County or Skint Chestnut. The center of the county received 300 votes, and there were as many votes for Skint Chestnut.

Events took a murky turn when voters ignored the two choices and wrote in other locations. When the votes were counted the board of commissioners arbitrarily ruled that any write-in votes that didn't refer to the "center" of the county would be counted in the Skint Chestnut column. This resulted in a win for Skint Chestnut.

Well, of course the "center" folks weren't too happy. What resulted was a debacle that drug on through the courts for four years with the state legislature finally ordering a second election. During the four years it took for the mess to be straightened out those who wanted Skint Chestnut as the county seat simply proceeded with their plans. Young Vansant donated 40 acres along the ridge for the town. Land lots were laid out, and a small structure was built to serve as a temporary courthouse. County business was conducted including an informal name change from Skint Chestnut to Douglasville.

In 1874, the courts placed the matter back in the lap of the General Assembly, and they directed Douglas County Commissioners to hold a second election except this time they directed that the two choices for county seat should be along the proposed railroad route.

Voters could choose between Skint Chestnut/Douglasville where county business had been transacted for the past four years, or they could vote for Rueben Vansant crossroads, a spot further up the rail line about 3 miles. Basically, it's where today's Bright Star Road and Bankhead Highway intersect.

Naturally, the Skint Chestnut site won, and the General Assembly formally established the town on February 25, 1875.

The rest we can safely say is history.

This post first appeared in the Douglas County Sentinel on April 24, 2013.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Yesteryear Room

Can you imagine going to work each day in an office where the furniture and other items happened to be nearly one hundred years old?

That's exactly what Elma Shipp did every single day she worked for the city of Douglasville as the city clerk. For approximately thirty years she went to work each day and sat at a desk the very first city clerk used beginning in 1875. She also inherited a potbellied stove and other items.

Yes, during the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s Mrs. Shipp dealt with that potbellied stove in an attempt to heat her office. As soon as the coals would turn white her office would be too hot. She would open a window to try and balance the temperature only to have someone arrive from the cold. The visitor would invariably add more coals to the stove starting the process all over again.

Another hold-over from the early days was a semi-circle of straight backed chairs with straw seats. When Mrs. Shipp began her job she soon discovered the city clerk's office seemed to be the gathering place in town. Pretty soon the visitors headed off to other places since Mrs. Shipp stayed too busy for conversation.

One of the reasons why the city clerk's office was visited so much has to do with Mayor's Court which is no longer in existence. The clerk recorded all of the cases and though most were minor they did add some excitement to small town life and blemished some respectable names.

The dockets indicate convictions for fighting and failure to pay city taxes which ranged from twenty cents to one dollar a year. Failure to pay meant working on the city's streets, and if this sentence was refused you could find yourself with a week in jail and an additional three dollar fine.

Around 1965 the city moved into new offices at the corner of Church and Pray Streets, and Mrs. Shipp received new furniture. She could finally retire some of the items that had been In the city clerk's office since 1875, but she chose to do something else altogether.

Elma Ship created Douglasville's first attempt at preserving history.

Mrs. Shipp set about making an exhibit out of furnishings and articles in an upstairs office that wasn't being used. She called it the "Yesteryear Room" because she attempted to make the room just as she had found the city clerk's office on her first day of employment in the late 1930s. Several folks around town considered to be "old timers" told her she had succeeded.

Many stated it was hard not to visualize Douglasville's first city clerk feeding the stove a little coal and rubbing his hands over it to ease stiff fingers before beginning the day's work.

It only cost Mrs. Shipp about $50 to get the room done as most of the items were already in place, and what she didn't have she purchased from a second hand store. The "Yesteryear Room" contained a potbellied stove, hand-crank phone, and even a copper spittoon. Upon the desk she placed a turkey quill, an iron horse-shaped stamp bearing the seal of Douglasville, a pair of wire-rimmed eyeglasses, a corn cob pipe, iron bookends and a kerosene lamp.

The only modern thing in the room was the fluorescent lighting.

The item that really interests me is the mention of a ten foot wide oak desk that had been used by every city clerk up to that time. It sat up higher than a normal desk - almost like a counter. There were no nails used in its construction. All of the joints were dovetailed.

The desk was at least 91 years old in 1966 which means today it would be 138 years old. Here is a picture of the desk as it appeared in Fannie Mae Davis' book with Nick Davis, a city manager sitting at it:



  I know that eventually the "Yesteryear Room" was dismantled, but what happened to everything - the desk, the potbellied stove and even the docket books for the Mayor's Court? 

Seriously....Where are they?  Especially that desk...

The picture at the beginning of this post shows Jake Dalrymple and N.L. Sparks in the "yesteryear room". If you look closely you can see many of the items mentioned above including the cantankerous potbellied stove.  That picture appeared in an "Atlanta Journal and Constitution" Sunday magazine article published about Mrs. Shipp close to her retirement in 1966.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A History Quilt for Douglas County


When my Nanny Blanton passed away in 1962 she had been working on a rather large quilt. It was several years before my mother could look at it long enough to hand it over to an aunt to finish it up – mainly because she missed her mother so, and it held so many memories.

The quilt was made from scrap pieces of fabric, but each held meaning for our family. Everyone could look at the quilt and point out fabric that had been used to make a shirt, a dress, a skirt, a jacket, or even a tablecloth.
 
 
 The quilt held all sorts of memories such as memories for the first day of school, a honeymoon outfit, a flannel shirt that my kept my father warm and even a baby dress for me.
Even though it was just scraps of fabric the whole quilt is a touchstone that provides the spark that triggers memories for my family.
In 2002, the Douglas County Art Guild did something similar for you, for me and all of the other citizens of Douglas County.

 The Douglas County Art Guild was founded in 1973. It is a satellite of the Cultural Arts Council of Douglasville & Douglas County and exists to allow local artists to share common art interests and goals.
 
 
 Using money received from a grant awarded by the Georgia Council for the Arts along with money raised from local sponsors, members of the Art Guild created a very unusual quilt fashioned entirely out of paper. The grant money was used to pay Mona Waterhouse to “facilitate, teach and direct the creation of the quilt. “
The quilt tells the history of Douglas County one square at a time in a very lovely and unique way.


The hope was that the quilt would “revive a community spirit in the midst of a county experiencing tremendous growth. Its purpose [would] be to teach people and demonstrate that Douglas County is a great place to live.”

 
The quilt is on permanent display at the Douglas County Courthouse on Hospital Drive. You can find it on the second floor. You will find a book on the table below the quilt that provides more information.
 
 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

At Auction: Douglasville Property



The following ad appeared in "The Atlanta Constitution" during March, April and May, 1874.

Will be sold to the highest bidder, on the premises at 10 o'clock a.m., on Wednesday the 27th day of May, 1874, a part or all, of one hundred and thirty-three lots as numbered and defined in the plat of the town of Douglasville, the county site of Douglas.

The property has been donated to the county by Mr. Young Vansant, and will be sold with a view to the commencement of the public building.

32 of these lots front the courthouse square and the others extend back, making very desirable lots for businesses and private residences.

This property is located on the Georgia Western railroad, 27 miles west of Atlanta.

Douglasville, the county site of Douglas is destined at no distant day to be one of the most flourishing towns in Georgia.

Terms: Five percent, cash, the balance divided into two payments, one-half to be paid November 1, 1874, the remaining half, November 1st, 1875. Purchase money secured by lien on property sold.

John M. James, Ordinary

E. Pray, J.C. Bowden, W.N. Magouirk, J.H. Winn - Commissioners

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fire at Douglasville Grammar School

Think about Church Street for a minute. 
 
What are the main focal points as you mentally go from one end of the street to the other?

You might mention the large Regions Bank building, City Hall, the new conference center and parking deck or even the former First Baptist Church building.
The Douglasville City Cemetery might be your focal point or the recently vacated jail or even the armory building.

All of these are worthy focal points, but why don’t we zero in on the space between the church and the armory building.
Today we know a fire station sits there, but between 1918 and 1955 the space was home to Douglasville Grammar School, a three-story brick and wooden structure housing 25 classrooms and anywhere between 600 to 800 students.

From the pictures I’ve located it was a lovely building. Even though it wouldn’t meet today’s education needs, it would be a nice structure to connect with our past for offices, meeting rooms or even a boutique hotel of some sort.
Sadly, we lost the building forever on January 27, 1955 when a slow moving fire took it from us.
The fateful day was a Thursday.  Students and staff had already gone home when Jimmy Gable, a high school student at the time, noticed smoke billowing from the building as he traveled down Church Street around 5 p.m.

A newspaper article a few days later advised several surrounding communities helped with fighting the fire including Austell, Marietta, Villa Rica and even Atlanta, but the fire was too far out of control.
Even though the building was a total loss, a few of the high school boys and men on the scene were able to remove some of the desks from the basement classrooms and, most of the school’s lunchroom equipment was saved.

There had been some initial speculation that water-pressure had been an issue in fighting the fire, but it was ruled out. The cause of the fire was thought to have started in the school’s boiler room.
The school’s principal, Mrs. H.N. Kemp and Board of Education Superintendent, J.E. Walton scrambled to provide a place for the students to finish out their school year. Double sessions began at the high school with the older students attending class from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the grammar school students were in class from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.

A new grammar school that had already been planned was quickly built, and as you already realize – Douglasville Grammar School did not rise again along Church Street.
The school became a memory for the hundreds of students and teachers who called it their educational home for 37 years.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Giving Respect

Since we celebrate the birthday of our wonderful country this week, I thought it would be appropriate to bring up Richard M. Wilson's name.

I first wrote about him some time ago here where I make reference to the genealogical research of Joe Baggett. Mr. Baggett connected Richard M. Wilson, one of our first clerk's of court (1889) to John Miller, a well known printer in London. There are claims Miller was the anonymous author of the Junius Letter which attacked King George III's government and helped to spark the American Revolution.

You can read more about the Junius letter here at my site, History Is Elementary.

Cool connection, huh?

There are other connections as well to this week.The story I'm presenting today was published in The Manning Times, a South Carolina paper on July 15, 1903...so, basically one hundred and ten years ago, this month.

The third connection is rain, wind and lightning, and as you well know we've had plenty of that over the last few days. The cycle of hot sunny vistas outside my window change rapidly over and over with dark skies and a deluge of water from the skies. At times the lightning is fierce and intimidating...as it is meant to be, I guess. 

The story in The Manning Times is titled "Narrow Escape" and advises Douglasville, Georgia had been visited the past week with a severe thunderstorm. The story continues.....

The lightning struck in several places in town and among the number was the residence of R.M. Wilson, clerk of the Superior Court of that county. Mr. Wilson and five other members of his family were in the house when the bolt came and their escape is very miraculous. Mrs. Wilson was in the kitchen washing dishes and a large hole was torn in the floor within ten inches of where she was standing.

The dishes she held in her hand were broken, but she escaped unhurt. A son, F.M. Wilson was lying on a bed upstairs and pieces of plank were thrown all over him. He was unhurt. Other members of the family had equally as miraculous escapes.

Here we are...practically on the eve of July 4th, and the predictions for rain and more rain are rampant.  We may have to wait until the weekend to truly celebrate appropriately, but in the meantime.....watch the weather and  give the lightning plenty of respect.

Be safe out there!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Krom Lace Cabinet Company


This is a drawing submitted to the U.S. Patent office early in the 20th century.

Here's the second page....


I find the artwork interesting.

Chester F. Krom is listed as the inventor, and his paperwork at the U.S. Patent office explains:

Be it known that I, Chester F. Krom, ....have invented a new and useful Improvements in Display Cabinets, of which the following is a specification.

The general object of this invention is to provide a cabinet adapted for displaying bolts of lace and fine trimmings of all kinds.

It is understood that usually the lace is wound upon card boards for facilitating the handling of the same. This, of course, requires constant handling thereof and subjects the goods to great liability of damage.

So, this storage cabinet would help keep your lace trimmings used for dressmaking all clean. I'm still not sure if the cabinet was for the home or for businesses that sold laces and trimmings.

As early as 1910 newspapers such as The Evening Independent (September 4, 1909) mentioned:

St. Petersburg has still another inventor. C.F. Krom, of Smith & Northrup, has applied for a patent on a lace cabinet.

His attorney has informed him that it is new, and there is nothing like it.

The cabinet stands 20 by 30 inches, and is 10 inches deep. The first model is at the store now and differs slightly from the one sent to Washington for patenting.

The latest one has four compartments with hinged doors for each. Each compartment contains 25 reels. Each reel slides out and admits of winding and unrolling.

The beauty of the cabinet is that it holds three times the amount of lace in far less space. Mr. Krom has been working on his invention for about two months. There is a lace cabinet at the store and as he saw many chances for improvement in arrangement and general makeup he thought he would go to work and make a cabinet of his own.

By 1910, Mr. Krom had moved his family to Douglasville per the 1910 Census. He had found a place to manufacture his cabinet and a few men to invest in his new product.

An article in The Atlanta Constitution titled "A New Concern to Open" and dated September 1, 1910 announced:

The Krom Lace Cabinet Company, a new $10,000 company organized [in Douglasville] several weeks ago, will begin active operations within the next few days. The company will manufacture patent lace cabinets, and already agencies have been planted with the largest houses in "the country" and it will mean a great deal to the town and community. The officers and directors of the company are as follows:  J.T. Duncan, President; C.F. Krom, Vice President; J.R. Duncan, Secretary/Treasurer; and C.O. Dorsett, Manager.

The following ad appeared in a trade magazine in 1912...notice the location is Douglasville.


The Duncan brothers had a large concern on Broad Street at the extreme western end of the business district where they sold all sorts of things. I'm not sure where Krom Lace manufactured their cabinets, but Mr. Krom didn't stay in Douglasville long. By the 1920 census the Krom family had moved to another city. 

I do have to wonder about the cabinets.  I wonder if there are any around anywhere sitting in an antique store gathering dust....and not a soul knows what they were used for. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Douglasville's World War II Submarine

This column first appeared in the Douglas County Sentinel on March 24, 2013....

I've been researching and writing about Douglas County history for a couple of years now, and I'm always amazed regarding what I discover. Folks ask me how I come up with the things I write about, and my answer is always the same.

Douglas County was and is an amazing place!
Most of the time my subject matter simply falls in my lap. Something I read spurs me to write, something someone says, something a reader sends me, and sometimes my writing begins with just a photograph.

The other day I came across a picture of a captured Japanese submarine on the back of a truck being carried through the middle of Villa Rica. I realized that if the submarine was being driven through Villa Rica the chances of it being driven through Douglasville were very high.
Intrigued I decided to dig a little deeper.

I knew the time period for the picture was 1943, so I wanted to pour over the Sentinel issues archived at the library. Unfortunately, the microfilm copies for 1940-1943 are missing, so I turned to the Internet for the rest of the story.
During the early morning of December 7, 1941 it wasn’t just Japanese aircraft bearing down on Pearl Harbor. Five midget submarines were also launched from the Japanese fleet as well.

The submarine that eventually made its way through Villa Rica and Douglasville was 78 feet long and carried the designation of HA-19. There was just enough room for two men – Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki and Chief Warrant Officer Hiyoshi Inagaki.
There were problems with the submarine as soon as it hit the water. At one point it nearly sank. When the men were finally forced to surface, the submarine was spotted by a U.S. patrol, and our men began tracking it.

Sakamaki and Inagaki finally decided to scuttle the submarine and make for shore. Explosives were rigged to destroy the craft in case the men had to abandon it, but when there was no explosion Sakamaki swam down underneath the submarine to determine the problem. He became unconscious from the lack of oxygen and washed ashore near Waimanalo Beach, Oahu.
When Sakamaki finally awoke he found himself the “guest” of the United States. In fact, he is recorded as the very first prisoner of war captured by the United States during World War II.

The submarine was salvaged by Navy and Army personnel, and for the remainder of the war it toured the country as part of a war bond drive. That’s how it ended up being carried through Villa Rica and Douglasville. 
The submarine served as a symbol – a reminder regarding how the United States entered the war and of our loss. The submarine ended up raising millions of dollars for the war effort.

Sakamaki’s name was stricken from Japanese records as if he never existed. He begged his U.S. captors to allow him to commit suicide, but of course, his request wasn’t granted. He spent the entire war on the U.S. mainland as prisoner of war, number one.
At the war’s end Sakamaki was released and returned to Japan where he refused to discuss the war. He eventually became an executive with the Toyota Motor Corporation and served as the president of its Brazilian subsidiary during the 1970s.

Sakamaki eventually wrote a memoir entitled I Attacked Pearl Harbor.
He was reunited with his submarine in 1991 when he traveled to Texas for a historical conference regarding the war. He reportedly cried.

I remain on the hunt for the missing newspaper articles and will keep you updated.
More about the submarine and a few more pictures here.
 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Radio Days

The year 1922 saw the first Reader's Digest published, Babe Ruth signed a contract with the New York Yankees for $52,000, the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in our nation's capital and in Douglasville, Georgia folks were crazy over some newfangled gadget called "the radio".

Various sources state that there were about 1,000 homemade radio receivers in the Atlanta area in 1922 even though there were no radio stations in the city, but what many didn't realize was the two major newspapers in town, the Atlanta Constitution and the Journal (both separate entities back then) were in a neck-and-neck race to see which media outlet could get the first radio station on air.

The Journal won by mere days and WSB was on the air in March, 1922 followed by The Atlanta Constitution's station, WGM.

WGM's broadcast was transmitted through the radio plant of the Georgia Railway & Power Company, and the paper devoted an entire page of the paper titled "The Atlanta Constitution Radio Department" where various people and shows that were offered  every day on WGM were discussed. Telegrams and letters the station received were printed to share what listeners were enjoying. There were also articles from time to time regarding the perils of becoming addicted to the radio.

If only those people could see us today glued to our smart phones.

Folks began to gather around the radio and often parties would  be given in homes where the main entertainment was to listen to a particular radio show.

The image below is the front page of The Atlanta Constitution announcing their new radio station:



WGM presented a radio show each week showcasing the musical students of one man, Signor E. Volpi who was described as "Atlanta's noted coach of opera and teacher of voice".

On the night of January 14, 1923, Volpi's program included Miss Charlotte Crumbley and Jimmy Finley who were both singers who were known to national radio audiences.

The program also included dramatic readings performed by Miss Louise Shamblin who hailed from Rome, Georgia but at that time was employed as a teacher of dramatic fine art and expression at Douglas County High School.

Also, The Atlanta Constitution article published on January 15, 1923 reported, "Last night's program was arranged for the particular pleasure of Miss Catherine Geer and radio party of Douglasville, Georgia. The party was arranged through the courtesy of Mrs. Floyd House whose radio apparatus received each of the numbers clearly.

Miss Shamblins' debut to radio fans was a distinct triumph and no more talented or accomplished reader has appeared at this station.

The appreciation of the party was expressed by long distance messages and in the following telegram received just as the program ended:

We are enjoying the program immensely, thanks!   Catherine Geer and party"


It should not escape our notice that Atlanta was a long distance call and a telegram was sent --something no longer needed today.

Catherine Geer was the daughter of M.E. Geer, an executive with the cotton mill. I've written about the Geer home on Strickland Street here.

At the helm of WGM's operations was Clark Howell, Sr., The Atlanta Constitution's owner. By March of 1923, Mr. Howell had allowed the broadcast license for WGM to expire, and the equipment including the transmitting tower was donated to Georgia Tech where Mr. Howell was a trustee. The station continued as WBBF. By 1925, the call letters had changed to WGST.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Then and Now: Cooper Street

One of the first data bases I went to in order to see what they had on file for Douglasville was the Library of Congress.

I happened upon a series of photographs taken during the late 1930s/early 1940s of three houses along Cooper Street.

Here are two views of 6286 Cooper Street in Douglasville, Georgia from the front:


And a view from the rear:


The pictures were taken by Michael Wyatt, a photographer working with the Historic American Buildings Survey which like most government programs is often referred to by an acronym - HABS.

The survey was first proposed by Charles E. Peterson, a landscape architect with the National Parks Service during the Great Depression.

Basically, the survey was a program to create jobs for out of work architects, draftsmen, and photographers. It was their job to survey and document America's architectural heritage, and I'm glad they did.

The survey was the beginning of a movement towards historic preservation in the United States. We also ended up with an archive of primary source material that is invaluable today for all types of research including the work I do. We also ended up with a wealth of open source documents and photographs showing how cities, towns and communities all across the United States looked at the time.

The collection is housed at the Library of Congress, but can be accessed online utilizing the link I gave above.

Today HABS is an ongoing program and is administered by the Heritage Documentation Program, a division of the National Parks Service.

Michael Wyatt documented the homes along Cooper Street because they were an "extant [or surviving (at the time)] example of worker housing constructed as part of a mill village complex."

The homes date to around 1900, and yes, they were part of the cotton mill village for THE cotton mill that burned in 2012.

I did a drive-by the other day and got a few pictures of the same house. It's a little different, but not much.




As far as I can tell the Cooper Street homes are the only entries in the early days of the HABS survey.
I'll be uploading the original views of the three homes to Facebook in an album soon.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Another Visit with Dr. Massey

Last year I introduced Dr. Massey to you here where I recounted how he's remembered in Georgia history for saving the Georgia Statehouse in Milledgeville from the torch during the Civil War. I also discussed his time living here in the Douglasville area.

Recently, I located an interesting article where Dr. Massey was interviewed on the occasion of his 80th birthday by The Constitution.

The article is an interesting look at Georgia history over Massey's 80 years.

When Dr. Massey first opened his blue eyes to the light on a Morgan County farm, near the city of Madison, he was not blinded by any electric lights or even gas lights; nor did the scratching of matches or the hoot of a locomotive whistles break on his young years, for there were none of these things on the morning of October 15, 1820.

Looking back on his long life, Dr. Massey could remember the night when the stars fell in 1833.

Yes, the stars fell, or at least that's what early pioneers thought was happening.

Dr. Massey advised, "About four o'clock in the morning Uncle John, the faithful old negro man who always made the fire in my father's room every morning, came rushing in calling, 'Master, get up quick! The world is coming to an end. Judgment Day is here and the stars are falling.' My father got up at once and went to the window carrying me. Such a sight I never expect to see again."


Of course, it wasn't the end of the world. What most of North America experienced during the predawn hours of November 13, 1833 was the Earth passing through the tail of the comet Tempel-Tuttle. I've read descriptions from that morning stating the meteor shower looked like "fiery rain" comparing the meteors to "flakes of snow or drops of rain in the midst of a storm."

There are estimations that the rate of meteors was close to 10,000 an hour in 1833.

This blog provides a great article regarding the night the stars fell.

Dr. Massey could remember the frozen Friday of 1835 when the chickens, pigs, and ducks froze to death. Dr. Massey advised, "I remember how the old rooster and turkey gobbler looked after they got well from their combs freezing and dropping off. The stage driver from Madison to Watkinsville froze to death just before he got to the last place"

The winter of 1834-1835 was quite harsh throughout the entire United States. The Savannah River had ice as far upriver as Augusta. There are reports that one hundred year old fig trees along the coast were killed by the cold, and in January, 1835 thirteen to fourteen inches of snow fell in Georgia.

Dr. Massey remembered a time when the railroads had neither headlights nor any whistles and did not run at night.

If lighters disappeared today at least we would still have a match, but Dr. Massey could remember a time BEFORE their invention. He said, "Upon retiring at night the family always covered up a good size chunk of fire about six to ten inches deep in the ashes. Sometimes in the morning the fire would be gone out, and then somebody had to run post-haste to the nearest neighborhood to borrow a piece of fire and run back home to kindle a fire before breakfast could be cooked."

A "piece" of fire...imagine!

If you are like me you doubt that the U.S. Postal Service will still be in business by the time we pass on to our rewards, but Dr. Massey could remember a time BEFORE postage. He explained, "A letter going 50 miles cost 6 1/2 cents postage. It was then called a "thrip". If the letter was going from 50 to 200 miles the postage would be 12 1/2 cents, and the fellow that got the letter had to pay for it. There was no prepayment of postage."

I'm thinking that junk mail would never have been an issue if the folks getting the mail still had to pay for it.

Dr. Massey remembered when folks traveled by stagecoach during the days before railroads were even an idea. The fare was 10 cents per mile, and the stage generally went about 30 miles a day and stopped for the night along the way at regular stations. It took 8-10 days to go to Washington D.C. from Milledgeville, and 10-15 days from Madison, Georgia to New York or Philadelphia."

Dr. Massey could also remember a time when Atlanta didn't exist.

No Atlanta?

Well, yes, I know it's hard to comprehend, but Atlanta hasn't always been there.

Dr. Massey advised, "The first time I came to Atlanta was during the meeting of the Sons of Temperance Convention in 1847. There were 500 of us. Atlanta had accommodations for only 400 visitors in hotels, boarding houses and private homes, all total. At night the other 200 had to go either to Decatur or Marietta. The first night I went to Marietta. It was when they were digging up the stumps and trees in the middle of town for its beautiful public park.

It's hard to imagine a time when Marietta didn't have its lovely square and park The picture below is an early picture of the Marietta Square after the initial construction of the park.



After granting his interview to The Constitution, Dr. Massey lived on for another six years, but his last four were filled with illness. His obituary advises he died on a Thursday afternoon after being confined to a private hospital for several weeks.
One of Georgia's favorite men, one of Atlanta's favorite leaders, and former citizen of Douglasville was gone.
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