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27 June 2013

Fort Augusta

Overlooking the Savannah River, from the rear of St. Paul's Church, stands a cross of Celtic design which marks the birth-place of the present city of Augusta. It was on this spot, at the head of navigation, that the great founder of the Colony caused a fort to be erected in 1736... (Lucian Lamar Knight, 1914)

"Fort Augusta dischar[g]ed the very highest functions for which military armaments are intended. It kept the peace throughout the whole Colonial time, up to the breaking out of the Revolution and, indeed, until 1781. It fulfilled its first purpose -- a mission of peace..." (Dr. C. C. Williams, quoted by L. L. Knight, 1914)

Photos © 2013 S. Lincecum.
Source of text: Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials and Legends [images on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
Original data: Knight, Lucian Lamar. Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials and Legends. Atlanta, Ga.: Printed for the author by the Byrd Print. Co., state printers, 1913-1914.

24 June 2013

Greensboro's Spooky Old "Gaol" (1807-1895)

It sits ominously behind the Greene County courthouse... [Cue Twilight Zone music.]

I'm referring to Greensboro's Old Gaol (that's pronounced "jail"). It was built in 1807, "patterned after the bastilles where prisoners were housed and punished...Built of granite about two feet thick, it is two stories in height and has a trap door in the floor of the upper story where condemned prisoners were hanged. An iron bar supported the trap door. When the signal was given, the hangman pulled the lever that controlled the bar and the culprit was launched into eternity...It was used as a jail until about 1895." [from historical marker]

While I felt no uneasiness around the structure, I still would describe it as one spooky sight. Here's an article from the 4 November 1873 Macon Telegraph (Georgia) describing a (botched?) hanging:

"THE last Greensboro Herald has a long account of the hanging of George Copelan, negro, last Friday, for the murder of Miss S. A. Richards in May, 1871, from which we quote as follows:

[a description of the crime was given by the condemned man]...At precisely 12 o'clock, the sheriff cut the cord that held the trap-door; the rope broke and he fell with a crash down the stairway, caught in a sitting posture, and remained silent and motionless; not a tremor shook his frame; his countenance was placid, and indicated no pain whatever. He seemed in a perfect sleep. At fifteen minutes past twelve, he was again drawn up, making a gutteral sound and struggling considerably. In four minutes he ceased to struggle, at the expiration of the fifth minute a slight tremor struck him and he drew one breath. In fifteen minutes his pulse ceased, but his heart still beat feebly. At thirty minutes it was doubtful whether there was any pulsation, at thirty-five minutes Mr. Walker again detected pulsation at the heart, at ten minutes past one life was pronounced extinct. No blame attaches to the sheriff for the accident to the rope. It was large and deemed strong enough by all who saw it."

I don't want to stir the pot, so to speak, but has anyone ever heard of this place being haunted? I have no evidence to support this, but it just seems like if there ever was such a place to ascribe the adjective...

...this place would be it. Maybe "haunting" is a better way to state it.

(Photos © 2013 S. Lincecum.)

22 June 2013

William C. Dawson: Grand Master of Masons in Georgia

[Originally posted at the Southern Graves blog.]

William Crosby Dawson
via Wikipedia
I headed out before the sun came up one morning several days ago to visit a few cities with roots in early Georgia history. My first stop was Greensboro, the seat of Greene County. It was first chartered in 1786, and later incorporated in 1803. I parked in front of the courthouse with every intention of walking around the back to take a peek at the old jail. Even though it was raining, I was sidetracked by a marker in front of the courthouse detailing the life of William C. Dawson. After reading it, I snapped a picture and moved on. Little did I know, I would visit Mr. Dawson again a bit the cemetery, of course!

William C. Dawson marker in front of
Greene County's 1849 courthouse.
Marker reads: William C. Dawson (1798-1856), Statesman -- Soldier -- Jurist -- Freemason: "A native of Greene County, then on Georgia's Indian frontier, he was educated in the law and admitted to the bar in 1818. The remainder of his exemplary life was spent in the public service as Legislator, Captain of Volunteers in the Indian War of 1836 in Florida, Judge of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, Congressman, and U.S. Senator from Georgia from 1849 to 1855.

A member and officer of historic San Marino Lodge No. 34, F & A. M. Greensboro, GA, first chartered in 1821 and which lodge has had its quarters atop the Greene County courthouse here since 1849, Brother Dawson served as Grand Master of Masons in Georgia from 1843 until his death in Greensboro on 6 May 1856. Two cities and one county in Georgia are named for him. Also named in his honor are two Masonic lodges: Dawson No. 68, F & A. M. Social Circle, GA, and Dawson No. 16, F. A. A. M. at Washington, D.C.

One of the most beloved, respected and distinguished grand masters in Georgia's long Masonic history his honored remains lie in the city cemetery near this spot. His entire life was a testimonial to his devotion to his fellowman, his country and to the sublime precepts of Freemasonry. His name will always be revered by the Freemasons of Georgia."

A short time later I was in Greensboro City cemetery, and even though I wasn't purposefully looking for it, visiting the grave of William Crosby Dawson.

was born on the 4th day of January, 1798,
and died on the 6th day of May, 1856.
Bred to the Bar, he entered upon his profession in
1818, and prosecuted it successfully until his death.

an eloquent Advocate, and an upright Judge.  Cautious, practical
and independent, as a Statesman; he commanded confidence by the
frankness of his manners, the purity of his motives, and the wisdom
of his counsels.

for his fidelity to her numerous trusts.
it because he was kind and liberal to them,
it because as Husband, Parent and Master, he was
affectionate, considerate, gentle and true.

Upon his death, obituaries appeared in newspapers all over the country. I read several from up and down the east coast, including Maryland and New York. The following is an example of the opening paragraph found in many. This one from South Carolina's Charleston Courier (8 May 1856, pg. 2):

"We are called on to announce the decease of one of Georgia's most honored citizens of public station and renown, and one who had worn fitly and faithfully the highest honors of the State. The Hon. William Crosby Dawson expired at an early hour on Tuesday, the 6th inst., at his residence in Greensboro, Ga., of an attack of bilious cholic."

All photos, sans the one credited to Wikipedia, are © 2013 S. Lincecum.

11 June 2013

Review: Georgia Courthouse Disasters by Paul Graham

It's an indispensable book. It really is.

I first caught wind of Paul K. Graham's Georgia Courthouse Disasters via an article at the Legal Genealogist blog. She was quite persuasive, so I bought it. Turns out she was pretty accurate in her assessment, too. ;-)

Georgia Courthouse Disasters provides a listing of the more than 100 "events" that resulted in some sort of damage to courthouses and had an impact on the 159 counties in Georgia. There is an alphabetical list as well as a chronological list. From the Introduction:
Previously, cursory lists only gave a hint of destructive events and potential loss of records. None were complete, and many included dates of planned demolitions or "fires" that never happened. Through careful research, each event has now been documented using contemporary evidence. If a courthouse disaster does not appear in this book, no evidence was found during the research process.
Then each county with a disaster has a separate mention with a description of the disastrous event and source citations.

Not every courthouse had a disaster, mind you. But, as you well know, county boundaries changed over time. Parts of some counties were used to create other counties. Some counties were consolidated. Not to mention, Georgia has the second most number of counties behind only Texas. [per Wikipedia] So Mr. Graham does something that I think ranks this resource above any other attempted past listing -- he provides maps! A modern county map is used with a shaded boundary showing the maximum impact of loss, as well as another bold outline of limited impact. For example, let's take the county of Washington. The map shows the maximum impact being said county, as expected, but take a look at the number of (modern day) counties with limited impact: Oglethorpe, Greene, Taliaferro, Hancock, Baldwin, Jefferson, Johnson, Laurens, Treutlen, Emanuel, Jenkins, Montgomery, Toombs, Candler, and Tattnall. Fifteen! I have ancestors in some of those counties, and never looked at Washington's issue quite that way.

I told you it was indispensable.

At only $5.39 per paperback (at Amazon), the value totally surpasses (IMHO) the modest price.

But it gets better (also, IMHO).

I have been going through a self-imposed season of downsizing and minimizing. And though I usually purchase my reference books in their "old-fashioned" bound form, I thought this one might be an easy one to try on my Kindle. And I'm thrilled with the result. It takes up no space on my physical bookshelf, and is available to me anywhere (online and off). With all of the Kindle reading apps, the book is literally at my fingertips -- on my desktop PC, on my laptop, on my netbook, on both of my Kindles, and on my iTouch. Furthermore, with a linked table of contents and just a couple of clicks or taps, I can be at the county of interest in mere seconds. The price of this wealth of knowledge and convenience? $2.99 -- I say get 'em while their hot!