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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...