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Monday, August 18, 2014

Finally! I've Written a Book!

I've written and published a book!

Of course, that was my intention when I began writing online way back in 2006 while I was still in the classroom, but the book I've published isn't exactly the book I had planned.

The planned project - a teaching memoir - will still be published along with a few other projects, but this book feel into my lap along the way, and it needed to be done.

History education is my prime focus along with writing curriculum. Over the last couple of years I've written some college courses used by teacher candidates at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, and I have some other curriculum ideas up my sleeve, but local history has taken a front-burner position over the last year.

I've been researching and writing the local history of Douglas County for the past four years, and have had a weekly column with the Douglas County Sentinel for a year and half.

I've been a longtime fan of the Images of America series of books from Arcadia Publishing. Several towns in Georgia are included, but my town of Douglasville was missing.

When Arcadia contacted me last year, there was no other alternative than to sign the contract and get busy. The book was released July 14th, and I'm very proud of it.

The book contains 200 vintage images depicting the history of Douglasville, Georgia with some dating back to the 1870s and covering the next one hundred years.

As far as a southern town goes, Douglasville is a bit unique as it IS the quintessential New South town having been birthed in 1875 during Reconstruction.

You can see a Google preview of the book HERE, and you can purchase it via Amazon HERE.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Murder of Sarah Collins



When thinking about past events it is easy to speed up time. For example, several events occurring over a few weeks can be interpreted in just a few days especially once they hit the movie screen.

Atlanta's involvement in the Civil War is one such example, and I blame the movie….not the book….Gone with the Wind for the "speedy" version most people have in their minds.

We see Aunt Pittypat upset because Yankees have reached Georgia as she is evacuating the city. The Battle of Atlanta occurs, Miss Melly has her baby and that scoundrel Sherman burns the town.
What a day!

However, those events occurred over several weeks.
The Battle of Atlanta occurred on July 22, 1864 with the Rebels retreating from the city.

The Mayor of Atlanta didn't surrender the city to the Union until September 2, 1864 following a five week siege.
Five long weeks….

While there were some heart wrenching events during those weeks of siege many folks in the city of Atlanta tried to get on with some semblance of normalcy.
In his book, The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta, Marc Josef Wortman states, "Thumbing their collective rebel noses at Sherman amid the siege, Atlanta's party life went blithely on. Distillers sold corn whiskey to soldiers, and prostitutes serviced the troops behind the lines. Officers went to festive balls, where bands played while fiery exploding shells passed overhead."

One such ball was given by the Atlanta Medical College on August 12, 1864 just twenty-one days after the Battle of Atlanta.
The Atlanta Medical College would eventually become Emory University's School of Medicine. The picture I've posted above is the school as it appeared in 1957. This image is a drawing that appeared in the Illustrated History of Atlanta by Edward Young Clarke.

I'm uncertain as to why the school decided to give a ball during the siege of Atlanta since they had suspended lectures on July 3rd, but they did.

One of the young ladies who attended the ball happened to be Sarah Collins, a woman described as beautiful and held a "high position in the first circles of the city."
Sarah had arrived in Atlanta a year earlier as a refugee from Memphis.

The Medical College ball would be her last event.
In the midst of war in a city that was under siege, Sarah was murdered.

The newspaper at the time....the Daily Intelligencer reported the murder of Sarah Collins describing the event as "the most horrible crime that has ever been committed in [the city of Atlanta]." She was found strangled in her bed. The Daily Intelligencer reported "her throat was perfectly black where she had been choked, her arms were bruised, and her body terribly mutilated; her clothing was torn and muddy as though she had been drug through the mud by some villain who had violated her person."
Unfortunately, due to the chaos of the times with no real law enforcement no one was ever brought to justice for the murder of Sarah Collins.

To my knowledge the murder remains an unsolved crime with very little written about it other than the article that appeared in the Daily Intelligencer during August, 1864 and a mention here and there in various books.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Atlanta by Gaslight

People lament all the time that the old Atlanta is gone – torn down, built over, swept away and forgotten.

I think the past is still with us in a tangible way such as the Tullie Smith house or the Wren’s Nest, but yes – sometimes we do have to be satisfied with historical memories via the written word or images presenting places long gone like the grand mansions that lined Peachtree Street once upon a time.
Then there ARE those situations where bits and pieces remain.

I find those fragments of history to be the most fascinating because they hide in the contemporary landscape with most never realizing they are passing a gateway to Atlanta’s past each and every day.
Take the three streetlights that stand in Piedmont Park near Park Drive Bridge, for example.

The streetlights stand as a testament to Atlanta’s history dating back to 1916 when the lights were placed in the park in remembrance of the Gate City’s proud history. 
That’s something isn’t it? Items still standing that date back to 1916.

But wait – there’s more.
The light poles actually date to 1855 when they were ordered from the Schofield Iron Works of Macon at a cost of twenty-one dollars each. The granite bases for the three poles were taken from some of the first pavement, or what existed as pavement, at the time in the city.

Originally the poles were topped with gas lamps and were installed along an Atlanta street by the Atlanta Gasworks. Today we know the company as the Atlanta Gas Light Company, the oldest corporation in the city and second oldest in the state.
Today’s news reports advise some of the streets in Atlanta are dangerous at night, but in 1855 the reasons were very different. Livestock roamed the streets and some of the pothole situations were described as virtual pits that someone could stumble into if they were wandering around in the dark.

The young city had been interested in the new technology of gas lamps but cost was a factor. A couple of proposals were made for a city gasworks, but the city council waited.
Finally, William E. Helme made his proposal. He was a businessman from Philadelphia who had installed the gasworks for the city of Augusta. He along with his partner, McIlhenny had patented gas meters and other equipment. You can find out more about McIlhenny here.

Apparently, dabbling in the gas works industry was very lucrative. This is the Helme home near Philadelphia in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It sat on eleven acres at Pike and St. David’s Road.
 
We must remember that in the early days, natural gas had not yet been harnessed for energy purposes. The plant Helme proposed to build would be one that burned coal in order to produce the gas.

The plant would cost $50,000. His exclusive contract was for a period of fifty years, and fifty street lamps would be provided initially at $30 per annum. 
Helme set to work laying the first three miles of pipe for the gas. Atlanta's citizens celebrated on December 25, 1855 when the first gas lamps were lit.

The gasworks company and the shareholders earned handsome dividends over time.
During the Civil War the city took over the company. Since Helme and many of the shareholders were Northerners, they were declared “alien enemies”. The seized shares were soon auctioned off to folks of the Confederate persuasion.

However, Helme and his investors weren’t the Yankees the city council should have been concerned with since it was General Sherman who ordered the Gas Works to be burned in 1864.
Following the war it took a while, but by 1880 all of the city’s lamps were lit again, and by 1881 the city converted all 426 gas lamps into electric ones.
One of the lamp posts can be seen at Oakland Cemetery as seen below (photo credit: Robert Lz/Flicker)
 
You can view pictures of one of the three Piedmont Park lamps mentioned above at History Atlanta, one of my new blog finds that I ADORE here.  Fantastic site and great scholarly research!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Georgia History: New and Soon to be available titles from Arcadia Publishing

Arcadia Publishing has recently announced two new titles in their Images of America series focusing on the towns of Smyrna and Stone Mountain.

The Images of America series are unique in that they tell the history of small towns and downtown areas through vintage pictures with informative captions. The Arcadia website states, "Local authors transform dusty albums and artifacts into meaningful walks down memory lane. Millions of vintage images become tiny time capsules, re-establishing memories  of the formerly familiar, introducing generations to what once was, and reminding us all of what has been (and can be) in every corner of our nation. The popular series has expanded over to time preserve and celebrate additional worthy topics including local landmarks, architecture, ethnic groups, and more."

The city of Smyrna dates back as far as the 1830s getting its start as a religious campground. The book "Smyrna" (the cover image is provided below) traces the town's history through several events including Civil War battles, the growth stemming from US 41, and the impact of Bell Aircraft Corporation (Lockheed). The book was put together by Harold Lee Smith, a co-founder of the Smyrna Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. and the Smyrna History Museum. He's also a former city council member and Smyrna mayor. Mr. Smith's co-author is Kara Hunter-Oden, a curator of the Smyrna History Museum and vice president of the Smyrna Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc.

 

Who doesn't know about Georgia's iconic Stone Mountain, but what do we really know about the community of the same name? The new Arcadia volume titled "Stone Mountain" ( the cover image is seen below) provides a fantastic chance to learn about the "village that developed in its shadow". Who knew that "a flourishing granite industry attracted skilled, European laborers" or that following the Civil War the neighborhood of Shermantown was established by former slaves? The book was put together by the Stone Mountain Historical Society.
 
 
This spring, Arcadia Publishing will be announcing other new titles for Georgia including MINE.

Yes! My Images of America volume titled "Douglasville" will be ready for purchase by May, 2014!

Stay tuned for more information.

Hundred of history enthusiasts across the nation actually collect the Images of America series, and Arcadia makes collecting and purchasing easy.

You can search for and purchase titles directly from the Arcadia website, and easy to use social media buttons make it easy for you to alert friends and family concerning your favorite volumes. They even provide a few pages for you to review titles before you purchase via Google Preview.

If you sign up for the Arcadia newsletter, you will receive 20% off your next purchase.

HINT:  You can use the discount to purchase MY book!

The Smyrna volume can be reviewed and purchased here.

The Stone Mountain volume can be reviewed and purchased here.

I can't wait for my copies of "Smyrna" and "Stone Mountain" to arrive, but I have to be honest - I'm really getting excited about the release of my own title.

I'm so ready to share it!

Monday, January 6, 2014

13 Things About King George II

The colony of Georgia was named to honor King George II.  This list of 13 things concerning his life is by no means complete, but is a list of things I found to be highlights of interest.



1. Georgia was the thirteenth and final colony set up by Great Britain in 1733. Since it was formed during the reign of King George II it makes sense that the colony was named for him. What a great way to get his attention!
2. King George II wasn’t just the King of Great Britain.  His official title was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-L√ľneburg (Hanover), and Prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire. Brunswick-L√ľneburg was a historical ducal state dating to the late Middle Ages and was the principal home for George II and his father before him, George I.

3. As a Prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire, George II was a member of the Electoral College that had the privilege of electing the King of the Romans/Holy Roman Emperor.  When thinking of the Holy Roman Empire, think primarily about Germany and Italy. After existing for hundreds of years the title was phased out in the early 1800s. I could launch off into an exhausting history side-bar here....but I won't, and you're welcome.
4. King George II was the last British monarch to have been born outside Great Britain.  Yes, it seems strange that a German born prince born in the German city of Hanover took the British throne. Basically, it was due to his grandmother, Sophia of Hanover and an act of Parliament. The Act of Settlement in 1701 restricted Catholics from taking the throne throwing Sophia of Hanover several steps up the line of succession and resulting in George II’s father, George I taking the throne in 1714.

5. George II had little power. By 1729, Parliament controlled domestic and foreign policy in Great Britain, but George II still managed to influence affairs. He actually had more power in Hanover, and spent many summers there overseeing things.  You can't blame the guy....
6. George II married Caroline of Ansbach in 1705. He actually visited the Ansbach court under a false identify so he could check Caroline out to make sure she would be a suitable bride. Apparently, she passed muster since they had many children over the years. Still , his high regard for Caroline did not keep George II from having mistresses.

It’s good to be the King, right?
In fact, on her death bed Caroline implored the King to remarry. He told her no, but he would have mistresses. 

Nice, huh?
7. So, what’s a German Prince to do?  It’s not like they can go down to the corner and get a job at the drugstore or something.  While he was a king-in-waiting, George II wanted to lead men in battle and do the whole “play soldier” thing.  His father flatly refused until a son and an heir were produced. After that little assignment was completed the future George II participated in the Battle of Oudenarde in 1708.  Say what you want to about prissy German princes, but he had to have some bravery in him somewhere. His horse was shot out from underneath him and the Colonel riding beside him was killed. It is said that the future king bravely charged ahead of his troops, and in fact, George II is the last British king who led troops into battle.

Once George I was crowned King of Great Britain, the future George II became Prince of Wales. At one point in 1716 his father returned to Hanover to oversee matters of state there. The future George II was given limited powers to govern in his father’s absence.  He went on a tour of country through several towns and the public was “allowed to see him dine at Hampton Court Palace.”
Can you imagine?   People showing up to gawk at you while you eat?

I guess it really is an uneasy head the crown rests on because it was during this time  an attempt was made on his life at Drury Lane Theatre.
8. King George I died in 1727 and King George II finally assumed the throne. To fully cement his place among the British people (since some were still wary of their German kings) the new king decided not to travel to Germany for his father’s funeral.  Folks saw it as a declaration of a firm commitment to Great Britain. While it looked nice in public, more than likely the real reason is through the years father and son had quarreled over matters of state.

9. The charter creating the colony of Georgia was granted to General James Oglethorpe on April 21, 1732. In the beginning Oglethorpe desired a colony that would be a place where debtors could go. You might have even been taught that in school, but while Oglethorpe wanted the colony to be a place where debtors could find refuge and work their debts off free of prison, a debtor’s haven never materialized.
That’s right. The Georgia colony was NOT a haven for British debtors. King George II and his advisors put a stop to that. Each of the 114 original settlers who sailed on the Anne in 1733 was chosen for the skills they could bring to the new colony, and there wasn’t a debtor among them.

Instead, the King and other government officials liked the theory that the newest colony could serve as a buffer zone between South Carolina and lands to the south belonging to Spain.In order to serve as a “garrison province” that would defend the southern colonies from invasion the new colony of Georgia would need to be populated with strong folks willing to work hard. 
In order to make sure the new Georgia citizens were on their toes, Oglethorpe banned alcohol in the new colony as well as slavery. The men sent to the new colony were heavily trained as members of the militia

10. While King George II did everything he could to prove to the British people he was their king, he was also the Duke of Hanover. He returned there in 1736 to oversee things.  After an absence of several months citizens attached a note to the gates of St. James’s Palace stating, “Lost or strayed out of this house, a man who has left a wife and six children on the parish.”  
Well, at least the British had a sense of humor regarding their absent king.

11. Just as King George II couldn’t get along with his father, George I, he also couldn’t get along very well with his son and heir Frederick.  When Frederick, the Prince of Wales applied to Parliament to increase his allowance, it caused a rift between father and son.  Feelings of ill will were so high that when Frederick’s wife was about to give birth to the heir, Frederick bundled her up, thrust her into a carriage and drove off in the middle of the night to keep his parents from being present at the birth. Frederick was banned from court after that.
12. Getting back to the colony of Georgia, ever hear of the War of Jenkin’s Ear?

Britain and Spain went to war in 1739. Over in Europe the fracas became part of the War of the Austrian Succession.  As the British monarch, King George II didn’t have much to say or do with the war, but as the Elector of Hanover he could have a say and intervene directly in European affairs, so he hightailed it to Hanover during the summers of 1740 and 1741 to participate more directly in the war.
As far as the colony of Georgia is concerned, colonists attacked the Spanish city of St. Augustine in 1740 aided by a British naval blockade, but were turned back. The British forces were led by James Oglethorpe. They attempted to take the city of St. Augustine for over a month before retreating. They finally just gave up. The Georgia colonists simply walked away from their artillery.

13. Following the approval of the Colony of Georgia’s charter the council of Trustees governed the colony deciding how subsidies received from Parliament would be allocated.  Running a colony where everyone has different agendas is more difficult that it seems.  Oglethorpe finally returned home for the last time.
On June 23, 1752, the Trustees submitted a deed of reconveyance to the crown and three years later the colony ceased to be a proprietary colony and became a crown colony. It remained that way until the American Revolution.

King George II died in October, 1760 leaving the throne in the hands of his grandson, George.  At the time of his death the king was blind in one eye and could barely hear.  It was determined he died from an aortic aneurysm.
He was buried in Westminster Abbey next to his wife. It’s interesting to note that he had left instructions for his coffin and that of his wife to have the sides removed so that their remains could mix together.

Picture credit: Portrait of George II, 1730 by Enoch Seeman via WIkipedia

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Confederate Rosie the Riveter

One of the iconic images of World War II happens to be Rosie the Riveter representing thousands of women who entered the work force at a time when the majority of Americans felt a woman's place was at home. Conditions were often harsh, pay was not equal, and most had to deal with unfavorable treatment by men working beside them.

It took a strong woman to become "Rosie the Riveter".

It took a fighter.

One Georgia native - Helen Dortch Longstreet - was a fighter. In fact, over and over during her life she had earned the nickname "fighting lady".

In 1894, she was appointed assistant state librarian - the very first woman in Georgia to hold that position. In 1896, the Dortch Bill passed the state legislature. It was named for Helen Dortch Longstreet and paved the way for any woman to be able to hold state office.

In 1897, Helen met General James Longstreet through her college roommate. He was 76. She was 34. The same year the General was busy with Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, Helen was born!

Though they were only together for six years before General Longstreet died, it must have been a very special relationship. Found among Helen's papers stored at the Atlanta History Center you can find an unpublished essay written by Helen that details their courtship titled Wooed to the Warrior's Tent.

Wooed?  Why General Longstreet!  I do declare!

I really need to get to the Atlanta History Center and look through Helen's papers.


After the marriage, Helen took on the job as postmistress in Gainesville, a post she held though 1913. She also championed her husband's reputation as the controversial general who failed to follow orders at Gettysburg. She fought until the end of the General's life and then her own to portray his life correctly in history. In 1905, Helen published Lee and Longstreet at High Tide to that end.

In 1911, Helen fought unsuccessfully with Georgia Power over their wish to build hydroelectric dams along the Tallulah River citing that no one knew for sure what the impact the dams would have on the river or to Tallulah Gorge. Her fight is considered to be one of the first efforts at conservation in Georgia.

During World War II at the age of 80, Helen Dortch Longstreet packed a lunch, picked up her tools, and stood alongside other Georgia women at Bell Bomber (Lockheed) building B-29s. Life magazine featured Helen in their issue dated December 27, 1943 as the "Confederate General's Widow".  The picture below appeared in Life.


During the 1950s, Helen Dortch Longstreet led an unsuccessful write-in campaign against Herman Talmadge for governor.

Think of that!  A woman running for governor in the 1950s, even if it was a write-in campaign.  Helen was most certainly a woman before her time.

Another first for Helen involved her portrait hanging at the state capitol building in Atlanta. Yes, hers was the first portrait to hang alongside important men throughout Georgia's history.

Several resources state Helen Dortch Longstreet was, at the time of her death, the last surviving widow of a Confederate General. It's hard to know for sure since records weren't kept very well on the Confederate side. One thing can't be disputed - Georgia did have a Confederate Rosie the Riveter, and she knew how to fight for issues she believed in.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Palmetto's Railroad Depot Museum

By the time I was aware of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad depot buildings they were all but abandoned since the railroad no longer used them by the mid-1960s.

Red Oak's depot was moved to another location. I'm sure the depot in College Park was used for something, but I can't remember. I do remember a law firm making their home in Fairburn's depot (it's still there), and the city of Palmetto used their depot for city offices including the police department.

The other day as I was heading through Palmetto I noticed they had opened a museum in their depot.

I decided to take a few minutes and stop. I'm glad I did. The docent and I had a lovely time sharing history.

Palmetto's depot was built somewhere between 1914 and 1917 with plenty of room for freight on one side of the building and passengers on the other. At the time the depot was built, the rails through Palmetto didn't set up as high as they do now. In fact, they dipped down to the point that sometimes the train would get stuck and an engine would be dispatched to come behind the train to "push" it along. The passengers would disembark and then have to come through a small tunnel underneath the depot and climb the steps to reach the passenger waiting room.

Once the depot was no longer needed for rail travel the city managed to rent it from CSX Railroad for $100 a year. The sweet deal came to fruition because a former mayor was a CSX employee.

When the city moved out the building sat, and like so many older beauties, it began to decay. Many thought it just needed to be torn down. After all...the roof had holes in it, and there was an asbestos issue.


Thankfully, in the year 2000 the railroad sold the depot to the city for $14,000. Once the deed was in the city's name, a group of historically minded citizens applied for a couple of grants. One in particular was a Georgia Transportation grant for $1.2 million dollars with an 80/20 split. The city would have to contribute 20 percent of the money used to restore the depot, but the majority of funds would be given. A second grant was obtained for $200,000.
Eighteen months later and just one year ago, a ribbon cutting celebration was given, and there was quite a bit to show off.
 
The restored depot houses a conference room at one end and space for special events on the other end. The special events section of the depot has the original depot flooring including the original freight scale embedded in the floor.
 
  
You can see the depot agent's office, the original ticket window and all the doors and windows are original to the property. There is also a train-side deck/patio.



Of course, for some folks the word "train" in the official name of the museum is confusing since the focus is Palmetto's history and NOT trains. There are no trains featured in the historical exhibits, but they DO cover Palmetto's history with new things being added all the time.

The museum is in the middle section of the depot with the brick walls lined with vintage furniture, objects, clothing and other memorabilia.

 

The museum also owns a vast collection of historic photographs.

A couple of penny-farthing bikes donated by former Palmetto mayor, Robert Steed are on display. A penny-farthing bike gets its name from the high wheel/small wheel that resembles a British penny next to a farthing.



Take some time and learn some local history. The Palmetto Train Depot Museum located at 549 Main Street (Highway 29/Roosevelt Highway) is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. with free admission.

Visit Georgia on my Mind's Facebook page here to see more of my pictures from my visit to the museum.

You can see pictures from Palmetto's official grand opening here....
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