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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