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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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