Sunday, January 27, 2013

CSI Douglasville - 1875 Style

It was early morning on Sunday, November 7, 1875 when the body was discovered.

It was found lying in the middle of a road one mile outside of Douglasville.
Cries rang out and soon a crowd had gathered.

The body was that of a man.  Later the scene would be described in The Atlanta Constitution as ghastly. The man was lying on his back, his clothes nearly all burned off down to his waist.
He had obviously been shot.

There were no signs of any struggle or convulsions in the death hour.
The dead man was identified by those in the crowd as James Seals.

County officials were summoned and Dr. C.C. Garrett was authorized to conduct a post mortem examination.  Dr. Garrett (1850-1913) was a recent graduate of the Atlanta Medical College and had set his practice up in Salt Springs/Lithia Springs where he would practice medicine, eventually serve on the Douglas County School board and also serve as the first resident physician of the Sweetwater Park Hotel, but all of that would come later.
At the scene Dr. Garrett probed the body and found that the ball had entered the chest in the direction of the heart.

It was thought best to remove the body to the courthouse to continue the post mortem and if possible by dissecting the body to find the ball.
Dr. Garrett having opened the thorax, proceeded in a skillful manner to trace the direction of the ball; he found that it had passed through the apex of the heart, entering the bowels through the diaphragm, and passing through the left lobe of the liver in the direction of the right kidney.

It was now dark and he suspended until morning, but it was then thought unnecessary to proceed any further.
The ball would stay where it had lodged…..for now since the perpetrator had been identified.  James Clinton had been seen with James Seals leaving town just the evening before. The Atlanta Constitution advised [Clinton’s] testimony alone was sufficient to cause his arrest for the commission of the crime.

Rumors had begun to fly muddling the case, however.
Newspaper reports stated there was hope that a connection could be made between the accused Clinton and the killing of a man named Hicks near Dallas some five years ago. Hick’s house was fired and as he ran out of the house he was shot and killed by parties in ambush. It is thought that Clinton’s evidence will disclose the perpetrators of this deed.

I’m not sure if any information ever surfaced regarding the Hicks murder, but within hours two other names surfaced as possible accomplices…..George W. Stewart and James F. Sisk.
The wheels of justice moved much faster in those days and by November 12th per the paper….James Clinton had been committed for the murder of James Seals. The evidence was very strong against him, and the current opinion was that Clinton would turn state’s evidence against his two accomplices who were to have a preliminary examination.

Things weren’t such a slam dunk, however, because the men told conflicting stories and pointed their fingers at each other.
Confronted with the conflicting stories the authorities called Dr. Garrett back into the investigation for some more sleuthing.

At this point the body had to be exhumed because Dr. Garrett was set upon finding the ball from the murder weapon.  ....It was thought that procuring the ball might lead to some circumstantial proof against the party implicated. …Dr. Garrett continued the examination finding the ball in a few minutes in the spine just above the right kidney.
Bullet/ball molds were made from the gun belonging to James Clinton, and it was found as had been suspected to correspond with the bullet molds, and with the remaining balls in the pistol of James Clinton, who was first arrested, tried and committed to prison

Yes, Clinton was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.   James F. Sisk was acquitted, but the matter involving George Stewart drug on for a couple of years with his guilty verdict being appealed.
The story continued on March 28, 1877 with a report regarding an appeal from Defendant Stewart based on new evidence…an affidavit from someone named John Strickland.

The article states [Stewart] was indicted for the offense of murder and charged with the unlawful killing of James Seals in the county of Douglas.
The article advised that both James Clinton and his wife, Charlotte had testified against Stewart at his trial.

Mrs. Clinton said that on the night Seals was killed in the forepart of the night Stewart came to her house and borrowed her husband’s pistol, that after twelve o’clock that night her husband lying on the bed, Stewart came there to bring the pistol back and she went and got it. Stewart then called to her husband and said, “Jim, we have killed him.”
John Strickland's affidavit advised.....that on the night of November 6, 1875 (the night Seals was killed) he stayed at James Clinton’s and that Defendant George W. Stewart did not come there that night; that he got there about one hour and a half in the night, whilest Clinton was eating his supper; that when he got up from supper went and got the pistol from under the head of his bed and carried it off with him, returned home at a late hour in the night; Deponent asked him when he returned what time it was, and he said the clock had stopped at one, Deponent has never communicated the foregoing facts until today to the Defendant, or his counsel. This affidavit is dated February 8, 1876 after the trial.

I have to wonder why Mr. Strickland didn’t testify during Stewart’s original trial, don’t you?
At this point I’m not aware if Mr. Stewart won his appeal and escaped life in jail.

I’m also a little foggy regarding the motivation behind murdering poor James Seals.
However, I didn’t want to wait regarding sharing the story with you because it was just so interesting with Dr. Garrett’s input.

Don’t you think?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Final Post Regarding the Posts

So, after you have breezed into a small sleepy little southern town and…

*ingratiated yourself with the town’s power brokers
*been named president of one business and invested in others

*become a lecturer for the downtrodden farmer and totally turned every major Democrat in the state of Georgia against you
*supported your wife’s belief that she has the ability to heal

*along with your wife begin a school of mental science attracting students from all over the world
*persuaded ten of the twelve members of the local Democratic party leadership to jump ship for a third party

*attracted hundreds and hundreds to town
*have certain town leaders refer to you as an infidel, an anarchist and a “stench in the nostrils of all who love morality, Christianity, virtue and abhor socialism….”

What do you do next?

You head to Florida where you proceed to build a “City Beautiful”, of course.
Yes, in 1892 C.C. Post and Helen Wilmans Post ended up in Seabreeze, Florida where they purchased several acres of land from C.A. Ballough, and they began to develop a town across the Halifax River from Daytona Beach.

In case you are late to the story and wondering who in the heck C.C. Post and his wife happen to be you can catch up here, here and here.

In her book A Search for Freedom Helen wrote, “At present our town is called Sea Breeze; but after a while we shall give it another name…we will accept the name that even now by a sort of general consent is being bestowed upon it….that of “The City Beautiful.”
Look at this street scene around 1907.
Notice the wide street landscaped with tall palm trees and ornamental planters along the way. This was all part of Helen’s dream of a “City Beautiful”. She wrote in A Search for Freedom….”The two words happiness and beauty are our beacon lights.”

An article dated December, 1901 from Atlanta's Constitution states, “Beautiful boulevards and streets have been laid out and paved, and thousands of dollars have been expended in improvements and buildings.”
The Posts built their own home located on the Boulevard at Valley Street by the river along with the Wilmans Opera House and a  department store. A printing office where all of their books and publications were printed was located on the bottom floor of the opera house.
This was their home in Florida….

The town of Seabreeze was formerly incorporated on May 24, 1901, and C.C. Post was the first mayor.
….and what would the beach be without hotels.  The Posts were partners with C.A. Ballough in building the Colonnades Hotel seen below.

The Colonnades was a 125 room hotel

The Princess Issena Hotel, seen below, was also built with Post money. It opened in 1908 along Ocean Boulevard with 27 rooms and was located in the middle of a five acre park. It was enlarged after the Posts owned it and existed for several years through the 1970s.
Three dollars a day could get you accommodations that included pastries and milk from the hotel’s very own Jersey and Holstein cows.

This article from the Daytona Beach Morning Journal provides a little background on the Princess Issena….
Helen willed the ownership of the hotel to her daughter Ada, and when Ada sold it the new owner granted her the right to live in a cottage on the property for the remainder of her life.
The picture below is of C.C. Post and his granddaughter supposedly on the grounds of the Hotel Issena.

How could the Posts have money to develop a town?  By the turn of the century most people were earning $900 to $4,500 per year, yet Helen’s “mental science” efforts were bringing in $25,000 to $50,000 a year during a time when income tax did not exist.
They certainly had the money to develop a town.

From what I can see, when C.C. Post got off the train at Douglasville in April, 1892 to meet the Democrats (see part three of the story) he had already been forced to move from the town because newspaper accounts mention Douglasville was his “former” home.
The Posts sold their Chicago Avenue home and property to Joseph S. James in1892, and while they tied up their business here they moved into the Sweetwater Park Hotel for about six months.

The Posts were basically run out of town though Helen Wilmans Post writes nothing about the town being unwelcoming. 
Helen described their exit from Douglasville this way in A Search for Freedom…….”But finally we wanted to get away. We had always desired to be close to some large body of water….a suppressed longing for Florida….We had seen that whatever place we remained long enough to impregnate our view, that everything seemed charged with a strongly magnetic power to draw others to us.

She also said Douglasville was too small to accommodate her students and growing financial empire.
Helen also writes about the move to the Sweetwater Hotel….

“Just six miles from us on the road leading to Atlanta was the celebrated Sweetwater Park with its large and splendid buildings. It was a summer resort, and my classes were held in winter. But the proprietor of the Park consented to open his house provided there were enough of us to pay him for the trouble. So we sold our beautiful home and went there with sixty or seventy others, and were there for six months”
She then recounts how she went to Florida, then Boston and back to Atlanta. At some point records indicate the Posts were living at 296 Crew Street in Atlanta, but eventually the Posts ended up in Seabreeze full time.

Of course Helen Post remained busy with publishing, writing and placing ads in various newspapers and journals. Her paper was sent to over 10,000 subscribers.  They paid ten cents for a six week subscription. She remained busy with actual “patients”, too. In one article she estimated she saw seven to ten thousand patients during the 1890s alone. She perfected her mail-order business and came up with a successful hard sell approach.
Her ad in her paper Freedom stated….Do  you own the Wilman’s Home Course in Mental Science? If not you surely want it and if you want it you can surely get it now…..

The ad continued……Have you not heard that through the power of “right-thinking’ you can be healed of every form of disease whether it is physical or mental? can be healed in your own homes while the healer is hundreds of mile away…..Thought….goes from the brain of the healer to the brain of the patient and corrects the error existing there….It not only cures disease, but strengthens the broken will, and plants hope in the breasts of the despairing, and opens the way to success in every undertaking.
For particulars send for the Mind Cure circular.  Circulars free.  Consultations free.  State your case and receive an early reply.

She charged three dollars a week or ten dollars a month for the “absent treatments”.
The replies to Helen’s ads were so enormous she had to hire a team of stenographers to handle the replies.

All seemed well in "A City Beautiful", BUT....a storm was brewing.
Not only was the volume of mail overwhelming Helen and her staff, the sheer number of envelopes addressed to her was overwhelming the post office at Daytona, so it was moved to Seabreeze to be closer to the Post home.

Naturally, the move didn’t set well with some of the folks in the area, and they began to complain.
They complained enough that certain government officials began to check into Helen’s “business”.

What was this lady doing to get so much mail?

For someone who might be doing “absent treatments” for a fee…government investigations might not be the thing you want or need.
On October 5, 1901 the New York Times reported an order had been issued by the Assistant Attorney General to the Post Office Department to stop Helen Wilman Post’s mail by issuing a fraud order. C.C. Post, Helen and their son-in-law, Charles Burgman had been arrested in August that same year.

Basically, Mrs. Post was accused of running a scam and using the post office to run it. Part of the language to the affidavit included the following.....“Helen Post aka Helen Wilmans, did devise a scheme and artifice to defraud diverse persons….”
The words “false and fraudulent representation” were bandied about the affidavit as well. She was accused of making false and wild claims that her “mental science” could cure and heal “every form of disease and weakness.”

Part of the problem with the scheme was Mrs. Post would advise her “patients” to connect with her mentally at certain times during the day. The government stated that their investigation showed that during some of the times she indicated, Mrs. Post was otherwise engaged. She had been seen fishing, entertaining friends, or absent from the city.
Mr. Post was charged and arrested because he was in “charge of the financial branch of the enterprise, and devote[d] his time to the development of the property and community”. The son-in-law, Mr Burgman, was the business manager of the concern with the Affidavit stating, “he had general supervision of the printing, distribution and sale of Mrs.  Post’s books, etc.”

An article published in the Constitution dated February 3, 1904 reported from the ongoing trial that evidence had been produced that Mrs. Post would open her mail to extract the money and then hand the correspondence over to her staff. Of course the evidence was given to show that Mrs. Post was not familiar with her patients since she didn’t correspond with them, so….how could she heal them?
A Mr. Bishop had been interviewed. He had worked with the Posts while they were here in was in Douglasville. Bishop published a labor paper and at some point Mrs. Post began to run her “Mental Science” ads in his paper. Later, Bishop advised  his hands were tied. He felt he had to run the ad copy she submitted or he would lose his position. Wild claims were made that so many believed and were being helped by Mrs. Post’s “Mental Science” that “every morning the yard [at their Douglasville residence on Chicago Avenue] was filled with carriages, wagons and ox carts filled with people who had come from miles around to take advantage of Mrs. Post’s healing powers.”
The government asserted this was a gross exaggeration and that “there never were more than three people to see Mrs. Post at any one time….”.  

Fannie Mae Davis’s account of the legal entanglements mentions that Dr. T.R. Whitley was at the center of the allegations against the Posts, and while I never saw his name mentioned in any of the legal reports, I don’t doubt that he and Joseph S. James who were very well connected far and wide was following the events very closely and got a certain enjoyment from the whole thing.
The next month…in March, 1904… the Constitution was almost gleeful as it reported a guilty verdict against Helen Wilmans Post stating, "The sentence was that she be confined for one year and one day in the penitentiary at Nashville, Tennessee.”
Of course an appeal was filed right away and Helen Wilmans Post said, “You cannot pronounce sentence of guilt against me. The sentence you are going to pronounce will be against the ignorance of the age and this sentence will not only fail to condemn me, but it will exonerate me from all participation in such ignorance."

Yes! Those silly people crying mail fraud were simply ignorant and didn't understand.

After a second trial in January, 1906 Helen Wilmans Post was found guilty again. She was ordered to pay a $500 fine and serve 30 days. She was then 75 years of age and appealed again.
One of the last mentions of Helen Wilmans Post published in the Constitution advised on December 3, 1906 that “Helen Wilmans Post, the alleged divine healer joins the …..down and out club with an admission she is stricken with a disease her own cunning cannot reach.”

….and apparently SHE couldn’t heal herself. The stress of having her income flow totally stopped, the stress of the arrest and trials took a toll on Helen and on her husband. 
He passed in June, 1907.  She passed two months later in September during the midst of yet another re-trial. Both are buried at Pinewood Cemetery in Daytona Beach, Florida.

But wait……there IS another Douglas County connection with the Posts. The son-in-law mentioned above…..C.F. Burgman….he was married to Helen’s daughter….Florence Baker. They had a daughter who married a Baggett. It seems about the time C.C. and Helen Post went to Florida. Baggett family history relates William Alfred Baggett was a music teacher at Daniels Mill here in Douglas County during the 1880s. He and his wife, Missouri Ann Dorsett Selman, moved to Seabreeze, Florida at the turn of the century where he began to deal in real estate with.....guess who?
Yes, none other than C.C. Post. It seems that Colonel Post was still persuasive at getting Douglas County folks to buy into his plans, but in this case it actually paid off.

Later on the Baggett’s son, Billie Byington Baggett married the daughter of C.F. and Florence Burgman who was named for her “mental science” grandmother, Helen Wilmans Burgman.
Billie went on to be very prominent in local politics serving as mayor of Daytona Beach.

.....and that, my Dear Reader, is the very strange and twisted tale of C.C. and Helen Wilmans Post.

Go back to installment one here.

Go back to installment two here.

Go back to installment three here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mr. Post and Third Party Politics

During the 1890s the following ad/article appeared in The Sun, a paper in Kansas City.

Driven From Sea to Sea!
A real story of today, illustrating the fate of the disinherited, by C.C. Post, ex-editor of the Chicago Express…..The author of the above book is now sojourning in Douglasville, Georgia, where he went after inspecting the over-advertised land of Florida and he is so well satisfied with the climate, the price of land, the water, the scenery, the products, the people and the prospects in general that he is naturally desirous to see a nucleus of his northern friends gathered about him.

So, C.C. Post was sojourning, was he?
To sojourn means to stay somewhere temporary, but for someone who intended to stay in Douglasville temporarily Post certainly stirred things up.

By the time he and his wife, Helen Wilmans Post had fled the town he had the place turned upside down, and made Douglasville the hotbed of third party politics.
If you are coming into the story late you can catch up by reading parts one and two here and here.

Post wasn’t just a muckraking journalist and novelist. He had been involved in politics for some time before arriving in Georgia, and he was hardly the sort to let a little thing like being a Yankee in the deep south keep him from dabbling in politics again.
However, he underestimated the good people of Georgia….and the even better folks of Douglas County as Joseph S. James was quoted in The New South in 1902:  [The Democratic Party] has in the past withstood all assaults upon it. If you are a friend to it you will do well to try to reform your own actions to its policy or, at least, stay in its lines. The history of it is all those who undertake to burst it usually get bursted themselves.

In other words…don’t trifle with the party….the ONLY party in Georgia per the time period, AND whatever you do….don’t try to split the party by instituting a third party.
Here’s how it all went down……

When we last left Mr. and Mrs. Post she was busy with her “mental science” making a living selling information that more than like was simply not true while her younger husband, C.C. Post busied himself by becoming involved in the power structure of the town. During the late 1880s and through the turn-of-the-century the power structure was headed up by Joseph S. James and Dr. T.R. Whitley. Mr. Post had several business dealings with both men and had bought some land from Dr. Whitley where a grand mansion was built along Chicago Avenue.
So, when did the love affair with the Posts begin to go sour?

Things took a nasty turn as C.C. Post returned to politics. He soon became involved with the Farmer’s Alliance. I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and read through the New Georgia Encyclopedia article regarding the Alliance here.
Farmers did have a legitimate gripe. The landowners were getting wealthier while the farmer was getting poorer.

But wait….weren’t the landowners and the farmers the same people?

No….not necessarily. Because the economy had been destroyed following the Civil War many planters could no longer work their fields. They divided their land and allowed others to work their fields for a fee…..a fee based on the production and sale of the crops. What developed was basically another form of slavery as small-time farmers owed larger and larger amounts to the landowner and often also ran up huge bills with merchants for supplies and staples. Sometimes the merchant and landowner was the same person which meant they had even more leverage over the farmer.
Post used his prior experience with the Grange movement in Indiana to become a lecturer for the Farmer’s Alliance. Per Fannie Mae Davis in her book From Indian Trail to I-20, Post had convinced ten of the twelve members of the Douglas County Democratic Executive Committee to defect to the Farmers Alliance by 1891. Only J.B. Duncan and J.H. McClarty remained Democrats, and they were referred to as the ‘Lone Fishermen.’

Soon Post was traveling the state, and he soon moved up in the ranks of leadership in the Farmer’s Alliance.
Now, in the beginning staunch Democrats like James and Whitley along with men involved in state politics allowed the farmers to have their Alliance without grumbling too much. They felt that if they pushed back too hard the Democratic Party would splinter, and they wanted to avoid it, but that’s exactly what the Alliance leadership including C.C. Post wanted and began calling for.

A third party…..the Populist Party. If you haven’t already clicked through to the New Georgia Encyclopedia article I linked to above now might be a good time.
Staunch Democrats would have none of a third party. They had suffered the indignities of having carpetbaggers and scalawags control the state legislature during Reconstruction. They had finally gotten themselves back in control, and weren't going to let a bunch of farmers led by a Yankee create a third party.

During the spring and summer of 1892 things really heated up.

Politicians like John B. Gordon and W.J. Northern looked upon some of the wants an needs of the Alliance with favor, but were adamantly against a third party. Gordon had returned to the Senate and Northern, past president of the State Agricultural Society had been elected governor.  Even the President of the Georgia Alliance from 1888 to 1892…..Leonidas F. Livingston would not jump the Democratic Party ship for the Populist Party.
Post and his Alliance cronies continued their fight, however. They crisscrossed the state speaking to groups of farmers at barbecues, in churches and even in fields if need be.

The Constitution had a field day with the political fracas reporting every move C.C. Post and the third party men made, but it was clear they favored the Democrats more. On April 1, 1892 the Constitution wrote concerning the third party….“a new party, gathering strength from men who have had no experience in the management of party politics. It is blundering along in the darkness, bungling things as it goes, and when they get through with the job, a pretty mess they will have.”
While most third party gatherings were simple speeches where converts were or were not made before heading off to the next town some of the gatherings were more interesting.

So, what about Douglasville?   Did Post ever speak here?
Of course he did.

In April, 1892 a great meeting between the Democrats and the third party men were advertised for Douglasville….on the thirteenth, to be exact. Both sides advertised the event heavily. The Constitution advised,“This is Post’s home, and is regarded as the home of third partyism in Georgia. Douglasville will be alive with people to hear the political issues of the day discussed. One of Atlanta’s best brass bands will be furnishing the music.”
The day after the even the Constitution published a lively account that was furnished by The New South paper from Douglasville, no doubt since it was written with a more Democratic slant.

 The article began rather dramatically…….
Not since the flaming torch was applied to the city of Moscow and Napoleon’s army began its disastrous retreat to the…waters of the Beresina in the bitter days of 1812 has such a signal rout been given to men as that which marked the flight of Post and his third party followers today.

See, dramatic. Right?
The article continues....This day’s business will go to history.

Unfortunately, it didn’t, and I doubt that even a handful of Douglas residents know about it.
The article continued....It’s parallel has never been known to Georgia politics. Never ever amid the exciting times of warfare between the old whig and democratic parties has the instance been known when one party after lining its forces for a battle on the stump gave up the fight and beat a hasty and sudden retreat before a single speech was made or a single orator introduced.

And yet this is just what the third party people did here in Douglasville today.

Congressman Livingston was invited to Douglasville to speak on behalf of the Democrats.  He returned to Atlanta from Washington D.C. for that very purpose. Committees from each side met on the morning of April 13 and decided how the debate would unfold.
Congressman Livingston would speak followed by C.C. Post on behalf of the third party.  Then a host of others would speak as well from each side. Livingston would respond again at the end of the day.
The stage was set.
The Constitution article goes on to say....Hundreds and hundreds of people [went to Douglasville] – not alone from neighboring regions, but from all parts of Georgia – to participate in the political sensation that was promised. Newspaper correspondents came by the dozen representing all the leading daily journals of the state.

The train arrived carrying the speakers, and even though the agenda and rules for the debate had been agreed to earlier in the day, as soon as Post alighted [from the train] and sought his committee on arrangements a sudden change of the program was demanded.
Post did not want to allow Livingston to have the final say. He wanted equal time man for man.

By this time the crowds had already arrived for the debate and were pressing upon the courthouse in downtown Douglasville. The People’s Party Paper advised there were four People’s Party men in Douglasville for every one Democrat stating....They left their plows sticking in the furrows and came by scores and by hundreds….They filled the courthouse, they overflowed and filled the town….a great sea of people.”
The event changed, however, from the debate the crowds were expecting to see to two separate meetings…. each competing for the crowd.

Joseph S. James stood on the courthouse steps and welcomed the throng of visitors who had come to listen to the debate and he assured the people they would witness an orderly and fair minded gathering…
Livingston and E.P. Howell led off the Democratic speeches from the courthouse steps
while Post led his supporters away. It is estimated around 500 people had left the courthouse with Post and marched across the pedestrian bridge over the railroad and down Strickland Street.

Railroad bridge?

During Douglasville’s earliest days up until the 1930s there was a wooden bridge up and over the tracks so people could safely cross from Broad Street over to Strickland.  The picture I’ve posted below is actually from the 1920s, but you can see the bridge very clearly.  I’ve written about it here as well.

The People’s Party Paper advised it was County Alliance president J.W. Brown who suggested to the third party followers they should adjourn to the Alliance Warehouse on Strickland Street.
The paper advises someone yelled...."Cross over the railroad bridge so everybody can see,” and the surging crowd turned aside at the intersection of the street and crossed the high bridge over the railroad, thus making their numbers apparent to every onlooker.

Two blocks further down the street stands the Alliance Warehouse and when the head of the marching column reached here they looked back and saw the crowds still surging across the high bridge, where every moment fresh squads of twenty, fifty, or one hundred of those who had wanted to hear what the excited and now dismayed Democratic leaders were saying, turned away from the courthouse on the hill with cheers for Watson, Post and the party of the people, joined the marching columns headed to the warehouse.
The Constitution article stated....Many had apparently left the courthouse under the impression that all the speakers were going to the warehouse….[Post] naturally took in hand the direction of affairs, and had half a dozen bales of cotton rolled out in front of the warehouse. The idea was for the ladies to sit on the bales, but they were provided with other seats, and the men mounted the bales…

Couriers kept going back and forth between the courthouse and the warehouse to report what was going on at the other meeting…The composition of the crowd at the warehouse kept changing composition as folks would venture to the courthouse and reinforcements would come down.
The gentle breeze wafted the hearty democratic cheers over to the warehouse and the burst of enthusiasm up there came down like the rattling of distant guns. Now there  would be a tremendous roar as if from a whole battery. Then there would be the rattle of musketry as volley after volley of applause greeted the telling of the speeches.

The people’s party cheered , too, and in defiance, but their hurrahs, mingling with the odor of the phosphate were mostly borne by the zephyrs over towards Cobb County.
After the meeting a young planter, who had gone from Lithia Springs said, ‘I had thought there would be a much larger gathering of third party folks. They cannot carry Douglas County.

….and after their first success, they never did.
Next week I’ll publish the final installment of the “saga” of the Posts.

See installment four here.

Go back to installment two here.

Go back to installment one here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

When Mr. and Mrs. Post Came to Town

Thank you so very much, Dear Reader, for indulging me while I took some time for family, friends, and little frivolity during the holidays.

I'm looking forward to bringing you many more bits of Douglas County history in 2013.

During our last visit I had begun the story of the very interesting tale of C.C. and Helen Post who entered the Douglasville scene in the late 1880s.

The late Douglas County historian, Fannie Mae Davis used the words visionaries, social reformers and even eccentric to describe the Posts, and it's clear from my research they brought Douglas County to the forefront of a very tumultuous time in Georgia's political history. Personally, I'd like to add the word nefarious as well to the descriptors....

When we last left Mr. and Mrs. Post she had decided to take classes regarding Christian Science with Emma Curtis Hopkins. See my first post regarding the Posts here if you need to refresh your memory or need to catch up on the story.

During the time Helen was taking the classes poor Mr. Post suffered from what has been described by some sources as a weak physique while other sources mention the word "consumption".

In case you are not aware consumption refers to what we know today as tuberculosis.

Helen promptly introduced her future husband to Christian Science doctrine. After their marriage she advised anyone who would listen that she had cured him. Mr. Post agreed with her and encouraged her to share her healing powers with others.

At this point the story shifts from Chicago, Illinois to Douglasville, and if you are like me you have to wonder what prompted the Posts to move from a large city such as Chicago to little old Douglasville. In fact, a Constitution article concerning the background of Mr. and Mrs. Post refers to Douglasville as a mere hamlet, possessing but one grocery store and a blacksmith shop.

Indeed...not exactly a spot where a muckraking political journalist/novelist and a newspaper/healer might end up.

Mrs. Post advises in her book The Search for Freedom concerning the move south saying, "Some three years after my marriage to Mr. Post we came south. We were on a search for conditions. We hardly knew what the conditions would be; but we had worn out the old ones, and ha been worn out in them until a complete change became imperative.

Indeed, Mr. Post was a very sick man. He had worked too hard at the desk, and death threatened him in the shape of consumption. When we left Chicago not one of our friends expected to see him alive again....

...We went to Douglasville, Georgia and there, in a little country hotel, we fought the battle with death, and won the victory. As health began to be established in Mr. Posts' wasted frame...."

However, the Haymarket Riot in Chicago might have prompted their move. The riot occurred in May, 1886....six months before the Posts arrived in Douglasville.

The whole affair started out as a peaceful march by workers demanding an eight hour day. However, when police tried to get the crowd to move along someone threw a bomb into the crowd. After the blast and the gunfire that erupted several policemen and civilians were killed or wounded. The eight organizers for the march were prosecuted and convicted of conspiracy. They were branded as anarchists and sentenced to death. During the eight weeks after the riot a red scare ensued.

The Posts were known supporters of the labor movement, and Mr. Post's co-workers at the paper didn't take kindly to it when they learned Helen Post had sent money to those on trial to help with their legal bills. It could just be that Chicago had gotten a little uncomfortable for Mr. and Mrs. Post.

At any rate...Helen sold her paper...The Woman's World to fund the move. She wrote, "I soon grew tired of the whole matter, especially as it took up my entire time and there was no money of any consequence in it; and we needed money...Mr. Post had been unable for months to earn anything with his pen. It was quite a long time before he recovered his mental vigor sufficiently to enter the field of literature again."

The Posts arrived in Douglasville in January, 1887 with what probably amounted to the clothes on their backs and two hundred dollars between them.

During the move C.C. Post had encouraged Helen to figure out a way to share their experiences with Christian Science and his "cure" with the public. After thinking on it a bit Helen decided she could fashion the philosophy into her own dogma stating in her book, "It's hallmark was the claim that humanity was nourished by an inferior fountain of thought and will which represented one's inner divine power."

She improved upon the "one's inner divine power" principal an became the self-appointed founder of "Mental Science".  Please understand I am in no way discounting Christian Science in any way, and don't wish to make a judgment on it.  The problem has to do with how Helen Wilmans Post perverted the thoughts behind Christian Science and eventually twisted her "Mental Science" to such an extent she was committing fraud.

While in Douglasville...perhaps during their stay at the hotel in town on Strickland Street Helen Post wrote her series of lessons. Between herself and her daughter Ada, Helen handwrote six copies of the lessons, placed an ad in The Woman's World and upon receipt of $25 a copy of the lessons would be mailed to the customer. The customer then produced their own handwritten copy of the lessons and mailed them back to Helen.

Later, Helen was able to print the lessons, and the cost was reduced to $20 for each client.

Apparently the venture was an immediate success and started gaining Helen Post attention as well as a fat bank account. She an Ada began work on their next project....a paper clients could subscribe to called Wilman's Express.

Four years later in a Constitution article dated February 15, 1891 in which Helen was interviewed regarding her business she advised that the paper was printed by the New South in Douglasville and brought in close to twelve to fourteen thousand dollars a year in subscriptions. She advised that the paper had circulation of 30,000, but close to 50,000 were printed each month. During those years when the population hovered around 1,000, I venture to say that Helen Wilmans Post was the number one customer at the Douglasville post office!

By 1891, there were two "Mental Science" courses offered....a beginners and an advanced. Mrs. Post estimated that over 5,000 had been sold. This means that in the four years she had been living in Douglasville Mrs. Post had made close to $100,000 with her course...and let us remember that this was prior to income tax!!!

Fannie Mae Davis advises the Posts were "promptly welcomed into the social and power structure" of Douglasville.

Helen Post advises in her book...."a wild curiosity was manifested to find out what cured [Mr. Post].

It was believed that I possessed some secret power that was denied to others, and I become a marked individual in the community. Especially the Negroes were affected by Mr. Post's cure, and they came to me with their complaints and begged to be cured also."

Some of her words might offend us today, but we need to remember this particular book was written in 1898, and opinions and the manner in which they were expressed were much different.

Helen continues...."but soon there was another class [who came]. Southern society is divided into three classes; the Negroes, the poorer class of white people who are tenants on the land they planted, and the upper classes who are property owners, and in every way superior to the others.

I only had a short experience with the middle class when the more intelligent and refined people began to crowd all the others out."

Apparently, Mr. Post had recovered enough by March, 1887 to get out and about. Helen writes, "....He wished for some ground in which to dig and plant. He had been brought up on a farm, and it was strange to see how he really longed to come into close relationship with old mother earth once more."

Mother Earth was the last thing on C.C. Post's mind...he missed politics and had set about working on his way into making the right friends in Douglasville.

By March, 1887 Mr. Post had become very friendly with Joseph S. James and Dr. T.R. Whitley and was named the president of the Douglasville Canning and Preservation Company. I wrote about it here stating that the goal of the [company] was to provide a market for area farmers plus provide an incentive for the farmers to plant more fruits and berries.

It wasn't just about providing a market. The business was a farmer cooperative and a main tenant of the Farmer's Alliance....a political concern Post was heavily involved with before he ever reached Douglasville, and that eventually would turn the town's political structure upside down.

The Posts eventually bought some land described as "adjoining the town", and "began to improve it."

The land in question happened to be four lots belonging to Dr. T.R. Whitley.  They set about using some of the money Helen had earned from her mail order business building a home....a home Fannie Mae Davis advises was so fine and impressive the street it was on became known as Chicago Avenue.

A Constitution article from 1891 states, "...just on the outskirts of one of the handsomest residences in the state. There lives Colonel C.C. Post and his wife...The home is one of elegance, unsurpassed by many city palaces."

The home is gone now but this picture taken before the house was torn down in the 1950s clearly shows that Helen Post must have been doing well.

In fact, once the house was built Helen expanded her business. She established the Wilmans Metaphysical College which offered classes leading to diplomas an advertised "Lovely accommodations for a limited number". Tuition was $50 and board cost seven to ten dollars a week. The petition for the "college" was filed by Joseph S. James.

Who knew that such as "college" ever existed in Douglasville?

C.C. Post's name also appears on letter head for the Douglasville Mineral Land and Improvement Company as vice president. Joseph S. James was listed as president and
H.H. LeVan was listed as secretary.

An article in the Constitution dated February 16, 1889 advises a syndicate of northern capitalist had purchased 3,000 acres of land near Winston in the red belt section of Douglas County on the Georgia Pacific railway, and that the land contained large deposits of magnetic iron ore. Joseph S. James, who by that time was an ex-Senator stated they would commence removing the ore within 30 days.

And these northern capitalist? The article states among the purchasers were C.C.Post and Mr. LeVan of Minneapolis who also had moved to Douglasville.

A northern capitalist who had arrived in town nearly dead and with as little as $200.  You have to smile, right?

While I have found no verification to date, Helen Post advises that her husband was elected to the Douglasville town council on two separate occasions while they lived in town.

....and Helen wrote of the people of Douglasville once more after she had a little more money:

"We had money to spend on the effort to assist others. The people about us - though not understanding our ideas in the least - were strongly attracted to us, and we loved them in return."

C.C. Post expanded his growing group of friends and associates to those in Atlanta eventually. By June, 1890 he helped form the Northern Society.  I shared a little about this group here.....

The Northern Society was a group of northern-born folks who made Georgia their home and wanted to promote the benefits of their adoptive home for families and businesses.

C.C. Post was heavily involved with the group and managed to get the city of Douglasville to help him put on the very first convention for the Northern Society attended by hundreds from around the state.

And then by 1891 C.C. Post was a lecturer for the Farmer's Alliance, and that's when things began to get a bit dicey for Mr. and Mrs. Post....for Douglasville.....and the state of Georgia.

Tune in next week!

Go back to Part one here.

Part three can be found here.

Part four can be found here.
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