Sunday, September 27, 2009


The First Twenty-five Years

Dexter Post Office, early 1900s. L to R - Mail carriers G.H. Green, W.P. English, H.I. King, Postmaster, G.F. Shepard and J.T. Register.

The Town of Dexter was officially incorporated 115 years ago today. Formerly known as Barnes, the town enjoyed a population surpassed only by Dublin. Located in heart of some of the county’s most fertile lands, Dexter drew settlers from Laurens and Wilkinson and Washington Counties, who rushed to the area to plant cotton and other crops where trees once stood.

Exaggerated postcard advertising the gardens of Wiggins and Beacham, Dexter, ca. 1913.

Surrounded by communities such as Springhaven, Mt. Carmel, Musgrove, Alcorn, Kewanee and even Nameless, Dexter is more of a community than a town. Any attempt to chronicle a history of these communities, as well as history of the town beyond it’s first twenty-five years of its existence and within the confines of this column would be impossible. I refer you to a definitive history of Dexter and its environs, which was published in the 1990s by former Dexter resident Amy Holland Alderman.

Dexter, like all other towns in the county, owed its existence to the coming of the railroad, in this case the Empire and Dublin or the Oconee and Western Railroad. The site where Dexter is located was first settled by John W. Green. Rev. Green, one of Laurens County’s longest surviving Confederate soldiers, built the first dwelling. The Oconee and Western Railroad had its beginnings in the mid 1880's as a tram road from Yonkers to Empire to Hawkinsville.

Looking from Water Tank, Dexter, ca. 1910.

The Empire Lumber Company applied for a charter as the Empire and Dublin Railroad in 1888. The incorporators were J.C. Anderson, J.W. Hightower, R.A. Anderson, W.A. Heath, N.E. Harris and Y.H. Morgan. Mr. Hatfield of New York supplied much of the capital and served as the first president. Capt. J.W. Hightower was general manager. A.T. Bowers served as the first superintendent. The road ran from Empire in western Dodge County to Dublin. The principal office was established in Empire. Eventually a western leg would be constructed to Hawkinsville. Within a short time the company changed its name to reflect its future.

The new Oconee and Western railroad headquartered its offices and shops in Empire at the junction of the Oconee and Western with the Georgia Railway. The tracks reached Dublin in 1891 - the same year as the W. & T. and the M.D. and S. railroads completed their tracks into the heart of Dublin. The Hawkinsville leg was completed the next year connecting the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers.

The 40-mile railroad ran from Hawkinsville northeast through Cypress to the headquarters at Empire. From Empire the road ran on through Alcorn's, Dexter, Springhaven, Vincent, Hutchins, and Harlow before reaching Dublin. The railroad was primarily a freight carrier because of the vast agricultural and timber resources in the area. New markets were opened for the towns on the line and those at each end of the railroad as well.

From the beginning of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad, there were plans for westward expansion to Hawkinsville. President and General A.F. Daley announced the purchase of the Oconee and Western Railroad on November 9, 1898.

The sale was completed on February 1, 1899. J.W. Hightower of Empire was elected as Vice President, E.J. Henry of Hawkinsville as treasurer, and W.N. Parson of Hawkinsville as secretary. Other directors were W.A. Heath, J.E. Smith, Jr. and R.C. Henry, the latter two being from Dublin. Master machinist Winter, Auditor Beaumas, General Manager England and Conductor Williams lost their jobs. Gen. Freight and Passenger agent, M.V. Mahoney, was retained by the new owner.  A post office was established at Dexter on January 31, 1890. It has been said that when Dr. T.A. Wood was looking for the right name of the new town, he used his knowledge of Latin and chose the only right name for the town - Dexter - which is a derivation of the Latin word for right. James H. Witherington was the first postmaster. In the town’s first quarter of century, it was served by postmasters John White, John A. Clark, William C. Crubbs, Henry F. Maund and Herbert King. King served the longest term (1905-1935) as a postmaster of Dexter.

Dexter was incorporated on August 22, 1891. Dr. T.A. Wood was appointed by the Georgia legislature as the town’s first mayor. J.H. Witherington, W.W. Wynn, W.L. Herndon, J.H. Smith and T.H. Shepard were named as the town’s first council until a formal election could be held on the first Thursday in January of 1892. Lurking, loitering, gambling, cursing, disturbing, fighting, quarreling, wrangling and drinking were all banned as acceptable behavior within the limits of the town. A.H. Hobbs, J.E. New, H.F. Maund, C.A. Shepard, T.C. Methvin, Peyton R. Shy, Jerome Kennedy and H.I. King were the mayors during this period.

Bird's eye view of Dexter from the water tower. R.C. Hogan house is on the left. ca. 1911.

Fires were the scourge of Dexter and many other towns. A devastating fire swept through the town in early May 1901. Many buildings were lost, but valuable stocks of goods were saved primarily through the efforts of the black citizens of the town. Just two weeks later a fire completely gutted the store of Currell and Taylor.  A late Friday night fire in January 1913 destroyed Home Furniture Company, a three-store complex and the largest of its kind in the area.

The Dexter City Hall and office of Dr. J.E. New.

The Dexter Banking Company was granted a charter on January 18, 1904.  With relatively little information available about the bank, one can assume that its assets were small and its customers were residents of the community. Among its early officers were Dr. J.E. New, the first president, W.H. Mullis, the first vice president, H.F. Maund, the first cashier, and W.B. Taylor. The bank, which evolved into today’s First Laurens Bank, opened for business on February 22, 1904.  The initial board of directors was composed of J.E. New, W.H. Mullis, H.F. Maund, W.B. Taylor, John E. Lord, W.H. Lee, T.J. Taylor, W.A. Bedingfield and R.C. Hogan.  The bank voluntarily liquidated itself at the end of the depth of the depression. The Farmers State Bank opened in Dexter on August 19, 1911. F.M. Daniel was the first president. Jerome Kennedy was elected the vice-president. John D. Walker served as the financial agent. J.W. Strange was the bank’s cashier. This bank merged with the Dexter Banking Company in 1913 under the leadership of R.C. Hogan.

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, some of the residents of Dexter included  Dr. T.A. Wood, Dr. W.B. Taylor, Dr. J.E. New, Rev. Edward Tucker, William L.Currell (merchant), George Walker (grocer), Allen Hobbs (farmer), William Bryan (blacksmith), Seth Bryan (farmer), Raymond Shepard (grocer), Andrew J. Southerland (farmer), Peyton Shy (farmer), Thomas Faircloth (farmer), William Mullis (railroad), George Shepard (carpenter), Alford Gay (merchant), Benjamin Green (farmer), James Rowland (barber), Henry Maund (railroad agents), Lewis Long (farmer), Benjamin Coleman (laborer), Robert Braswell (farmer), Robert Phelps (laborer) and Amos Harris (the teacher at the colored school).

Dexter School, circa 1911.

Laurens County’s second Masonic Lodge, Dexter Lodge No. 340, was founded in 1892. The first lodge officers were Worshipful Master W.A. Witherington, Secretary J.H. Witherington along with R.E. Grinstead, W.B. Rodgers, J.W. Green, John H. Smith. Other members were J.A. Clark, B.C. Green, W.T. Linder, J. Rawls, J.P. Rawls, J.G. Thomas, J.S. Thomas, Jerry Ussery, J.M. Witherington, T.A. Wood and Lee Hardy. J.A. Clark, P.E. Grinstead, T.A. Wood, A.M. Jessup, E.W. Stuckey, J.A. Warren, and E.L. Faircloth served as Worshipful Master during the first twenty-five years of the lodge’s history. Today, one hundred and fourteen years later, the lodge is still in existence.

Masonic Lodge and Odd Fellow's Hall over Taylor's Drug Store, ca. 1910.

The town’s second lodge, the Dexter Odd Fellows Lodge, was established in 1905. The initial officers were Noble Grand - J.R. Harvey, Vice Grand - H.F. Maund, Recording Secretary - W.T. Scarborough, Financial Secretary - W.O. McDaniel, Treasurer - H.I. King, Trustees - F.M. Daniel, T.C. Methvin, E.W. Stuckey.

The ladies of Dexter organized the Magnolia Chapter of the Order of The Eastern Star, an auxiliary unit of the Masonic Lodge. The first officers of the chapter were Viola Daniel, Worthy Matron; Dr. L.W. Wiggins, Worthy Patron; Mary Ussery, Associate Matron; Dr. Floyd Rackley, Secretary; Jennie W. Wiggins, Treasurer and Myrtle Tutt, Associate Conductress.

Dr. W.C. Taylor's Drug Store, ca. 1914.  Henry and James Thomas at the soda fountain.

Among the new citizens of town enumerated in the 1910 Census were Henry Shepard (laborer), William P. English (postman), Elbert Davis (carpenter), James Beasley (farmer), J.M. Benford (farmer), Rodger Walden (railroad foreman), Benjamin Tutt (merchant), L.A. Hobbs (farmer), Julian Horne (farmer), Julian Shepard (barber), George Shepard (postman), William J. Thomas (farmer), Hollie Hooks (farmer), Herbert Womack (railroad hand), Wash McLeod (brick mason), Joe McRae (laborer), Rev. James Wilson (minister, colored church), Sidney Hamp (cook), R.C. Shepard (salesman), William Jordan (railroad foreman), John J. Bryan (laborer), George Malone (salesman), Charley Butts (salesman), John Warren (farmer), John Faircloth (laborer), Virgil Crumpton (photographer), Trad Pennington (ice dealer), Charley Evans (laborer), Clarence Duffy (blacksmith), Thomas C. Methvin (merchant), John W. Bass (policeman), Charley Shepard (bookkeeper), John G. Thomas (farmer), Lovett Fann (farmer), Otho Warren (farmer), Solomon Mason (barber), Joseph Joiner (farmer), John Warren (farmer), Rev. John Bridges, Thomas J. Hunnicutt (merchant), Ben M. Daniel (bailiff), Sam Beasley (railroad hand), Lee Rowland (railroad hand), James A. Attaway liveryman), Roscoe C. Hogan (merchant), Jerome Kennedy (telegraph operator), Robert M. Benford (farmer), Herbert King (postmaster), John A. McClelland (salesman), William P. McClelland (fruit tree agent), John T. Thompson (merchant), John D. Bass (lumber mill), Dr. Lee Wiggins, Herbert Chadwick (merchant), John J. Phillips, John J. Harvey (book agent), William Watson (farmer), Fletcher Warren (laborer), John W. Johnston (farmer), William Stripling (merchant), Joseph Daniel (planing mill), Jeremiah Ussery (salesman), William Tripp (laborer), Thomas Register (farmer), James T. Register (postman), Robert Manning (merchant), Hardy F. McDaniel (farmer), John Mullis (farmer), Joe Cherry (laborer), Benjamin Green (postman), Amos L. Register (farmer), William B. Daniel (laborer), Erastus P. Warren (merchant), Eddie Faircloth (music teacher), David Payne (carpenter), Nathan Bostic (lumber mill), B. Wynn (carpenter), James W. Jones (carpenter), Evia G. Currell (boarding house), and U.G.B. Hogan (farmer). Not included in this list are the hundreds of fine women and bright children who called Dexter home.

R.C. Hogan House, circa 1911, corner of King and Alpha Streets.

Dexter Baptist Church, circa 1911.

Church life in Dexter has always been of preeminent importance. Though many rural churches surrounded the town, there were two main churches, the Baptist and the Methodist. On the fourth Sunday in July 1893, Elders B.C. Green J.W. Green and J.A. Clark constituted the Dexter Baptist Church. Among the first members were Nettie Clark, R.M. Green, Viny Green, Cilla Mullis, Anna Smith, Jeany Smith, Nancy Smith, Sarena Smith, J.G. Thomas and J.S. Thomas. The church’s presbytery was composed of B.A. Bacon, P.A. Jessup and the Rev. N.F. Gay. Reverends P.A. Jessup, J.T. Rogers, J.A. Clark, J.T. Smith, S.F. Simms, E.F. Dye, F.B. Asbell, George W. Tharpe and Q.J. Pinson served the church in the town’s first twenty five years. Initial services were held in the two-story school house until a permanent structure could be erected about the year 1903. This wooden building was used until 1960.

Dexter Methodist Church, ca. 1946.

The Methodists began to organize before Dexter came into it formal existence.  In 1893, J.W. Warren gave the land and Jake Rawls gave the lumber to build a church building, which was destroyed by winter storms in 1904 and 1905. According to Dexter historian Amy Holland Alderman, the current church building is thought to be the third structure on the site. Among the ministers serving the Methodist church in the town’s first quarter of a century were Reverends C.C. Hines, E.M. Wright, Guyton Fisher, H.C. Fontress, E.L. Tucker, M. L. Watkins, W.O. Davis, L.A. Snow, H.E. Ewing, J.P. Dickenson, J.P. Bross, C.C. Lowe, J.W. Bridges, Claude S. Bridges, Silas Johnson, L.E. Braddy and George R. Stephens.

During the second decade of this century there were movements to slice off pieces of the larger counties of Georgia. Wheeler and Treutlen Counties were formed from Montgomery County. Bleckley County was cut off from Pulaski County. There were at least three movements in Laurens County to form new counties. The citizens of Dexter proposed to take the southwestern portion of Laurens County and the northern part of Dodge County, including the towns of Dexter (the proposed county seat), Cadwell, Rentz and Chester to form Northern County. The new county was to be named in honor of Gov. William J. Northern of Georgia, but the movement fizzled when opposed by Laurens county’s representatives and senators in the state legislature.

Wiggins Drug Store - L-R:  Back row: Dr. L.W. Wiggins, unknown clerks.  Front row - Lee and Eleanor Wiggins.

Though the railroad is gone and farming is no longer the major occupation of Dexter residents, the town of Dexter still lives. It is a fine place to live. It is a place where the residents can look along their streets and still see many remnants of why the town’s founding fathers believed that it was only right to live in Dexter.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The origin of its name is shrouded in mystery. Who in his right mind would name a post office and hence a community after an ugly scavenging bird? The origin of the name "Condor" comes from the Spanish phrase, "quechua kuntur." A condor is a large vulture found in the Andes Mountains of South America and the mountains of California. Locally, folks pronounce the word "Conder". Five quarters of a century ago tomorrow, the Postmaster General of the United States established a post office at the intersection of two of East Central Georgia's most ancient roads at the community known as Holmes Cross Roads. Over the last two hundred years, the community of Condor has been an integral part of the history and heritage of eastern
Laurens County.

Condor became more of a community rather than a crossroads. The heart of Condor lies about a mile or so southeast of East Dublin at the point where Georgia Highway 29 crosses Bethlehem Church Road. The highway from East Dublin City Hall to it's intersection with Georgia Highway 86 follows an ancient Indian trail, which ran from Indian Springs to Savannah. Bethlehem Church Road runs along the old Milledgeville and Darien Road, which ran from the 19th Century state capital to Georgia's premier southern seaport.

Perhaps the first landowner of Condor was the enigmatic Indian fighter, Capt. Benjamin Harrison, who was granted the land surrounding the crossroads in the late 1790s. Among the residents of Condor in the 1830s were Jeremiah Brantley, William Brantley, Solomon Williams, John B. Williams, Charles Bush, and Hezekiah Jones. On January 4, 1847, Charles L. Holmes purchased one hundred and fifty acres from Jeremiah Brantley along the Darien Road. The sale price - a paltry $100.00. Three days later, Holmes paid Brantley ten dollars for a one acre tract at the southeastern corner of the crossroads at the place where John Boatright had been keeping a store. Boatright settled in the area south of the crossroads in 1837, before selling out to Young Keen. Two months later, Holmes acquired the five acre tract at the southwest corner of the crossroads from John B. Williams for one dollar per acre.

On October 13, 1879, the male residents of the community held an election to incorporate the Town of Holmsboro. Mr. Holmes once jested that the first ordinance to be adopted should require all husbands to return home by dark because he was tired of helping their wives look for them during all hours of the night. While the community was known as Holmes' Crossroads for most of the mid 1800s, somehow the alias of Taylorsville began to appear in public records. Apparently there was some resentment among area residents because an October 1879 article called for a large turnout to incorporate the town of Holmesboro and "elect councilmen who will kill and forever bury the Taylorsville Loan Association."

Apparently the town was never incorporated. On October 2, 1856, Warren Smith conveyed a tract of land adjoining Bethlehem Church to Charles L. Holmes, James M. Smith, and Thomas Hart as Trustees of Taylorsville Academy.  During the 1870s, postal service in Laurens County began to expand. On September 17, 1878, the United States Postmaster signed the order establishing a post office of Condor, Georgia. The first office was opened in the store of Dennis Kea, the community's first postmaster. Kea served as postmaster until February 12, 1882, when he was replaced by Charles L. Holmes. Other postmasters of Condor were Columbus W. Brack, Oct. 30, 1888; Fred D. Beall, July 18, 1890; Henry F. Maund, Nov. 15, 1892; Fred D. Beall, Oct. 21, 1896; Mamie Bell, Jan. 30, 1904; Alfred Mimbs, July 2, 1908; and Lewis C. Pope, Oct. 27, 1910, who became the last postmaster when the post office was closed on June 15, 1917.

An 1883 gazetteer listed Condor, also known as Taylorsville and Holmes' Cross Roads, with a population of 150. The community's exports were six hundred bales of cotton, along with tons of lumber, and a few animal hides. The reverends James Smith and J.H. Hudson were pastors of Bethlehem and Gethsemane churches respectively. Condor was the seat of Justice of the Peace Court of Smith's (52nd ) Militia District. W. R. Keen was the district Justice of Peace, while Perry J. Adams served in the position of constable. Dennis Kea, the postmaster, operated a general store along with a grist and saw mill at the northeastern corner of the cross roads.

Beacham and Holmes owned the other general store. Beacham and Pope also conducted a saw and grist mill business. A third saw and grist mill business was operated by Dennis Kea's brother, Wesley Kea. C.G. Bush maintained yet another mill, bringing the community's total number of mills to four. A. B. Tapley was the community carpenter. J. C. Tapley fashioned carriages in a factory originally established by Dennis Kea. Wiley Martin operated a blacksmith and wheelwright shop. The listing showed the Adams, Barfields, Barwicks, Beasleys, Brantleys, Bushes, Carters, Donaldsons, Fullers, Grahams, Hilbuns, Holmes, Joneses, Keas, Keens, Martins, Odoms, Pryors, Smiths, Spiveys, Thigpens, Warnocks, Wilkes, Williams, and Youngs as the major farmers of the Condor community, which stretched nearly to the eastern limits of the county. Dr. Thomas Kea, a brother of Dennis, Wesley, and William Kea made frequent trips to Condor to meet the dental needs of the citizens. Doctor Meridan Odom of Adrian and Doctor John Barwick of Tennille traveled to town to tend to the sick folks in the community. Dr. Barwick and Dennis Kea opened a drug store in the fall of 1881. Dr. John P. Holmes returned to Condor in 1885 and set up his practice after his graduation from the Medical College of Georgia. Dr. James McCullers, another Medical College graduate, practiced medicine in Condor in the 1880s.

Following the establishment of a post office at Condor, community leaders came together and built a new academy at Condor. Leading the effort was L.C. Beacham. Beacham donated a large sum of money and the labor of his hands in building the school, which was located near Bethlehem Church. Prof. Thompson opened the school on February 3, 1879 with two dozen students under his charge. Prof. B. R. Calhoun, a first honor graduate of Mercer University and a high-toned Christian gentleman, took over as principal of Condor Academy in 1880. Rev. H. Turner Smith took charge of the Academy in 1883. Dennis Kea, Wesley Kea, and L.C. Beacham, Trustees of the Condor Academy, hired Henry Overstreet to head the academy in 1884. Prof. W. E. Arnold served in 1885. In 1912, the Laurens County Board of Education gave the old school site the members of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Other area school students were taught by J.B. Jones and Zenobia Smith. An academy was established at Adamsville, north of Condor on the Snellbridge Road in 1880 by W.R. Keen, Wiley Martin, K.M. Jones, and J.B. Jones. On May 5, 1891, F.C. Adams conveyed one acre on the Snellbridge Road at the sweet gum head to Wiley Martin, B.B. Linder, H.T. Bush, J.W. Cox, and F.C. Adams as Trustees for North Condor School, which replaced the old Adams School. Chappell Beacham, after attending Mercer University, opened a school near his home in the Fall of 1880. A new school was opened at Gethsemane Church in the eastern part of the Condor Community in the winter of 1882.

Condor residents began seeking a railroad as early as 1880. William Kea graded a road to Dublin and was ready at an instant to start laying tracks when the railroad finally made it to Dublin from the west. L.C. Beacham laid the foundation for a railroad when, in 1880, he built a three-mile long tram railroad to transport his saw mill lumber from his "Williams Level" mill to the Oconee River in Dublin. His mill had the capacity of turning out more than twenty thousand board feet of lumber every day. The Georgia legislature authorized the incorporation of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad Company in 1881. For three years, the farmers of eastern Laurens County desperately sought to extend the railroad from Wrightsville to Dublin.

On November 15, 1884, the board of directors of the newly formed Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad accepted subscriptions for the construction of a railroad to the banks of the Oconee River. The leading subscriber was board member L.C. Beacham who purchased one thousand dollars in stock. Condor resident Dennis Kea, who was later named to a seat on the railroad board, purchased six hundred dollars in shares of the new company. Other Condor area residents who subscribed their names were J.D. Keen, C.L. Holmes, W.H.H. McLendon, Jasper Spivey, Farqhuar Adams, Edwin Holmes, and C.S. Pope.

As the railroad was being completed to Lovett and Brewton, a controversy arose as to the location of the route from the latter point. Two possible routes emerged. The northern, or the Blackshear Route, was the most direct and practical route into the city of Dublin. The southern or Condor Route was longer and more expensive to construct. The southern route was actually split into two separate routes, one into the heart of Old Condor and the other just north of Condor. The board ordered surveyor Arthur Pou to survey the routes and render a report on the estimated cost differentials between the different options. C. W. Holmes, in an effort to sweeten the deal to bring the railroad to Old Condor, offered the railroad one thousand dollars in land. Pou found that the route to Old Condor would cost an additional six thousand dollars, while the route to the lands of L.C. Beacham would cost only an additional three thousand dollars.

In a December 1885 board meeting, director R.H. Hightower moved that the board accept the Fenley Kea route which called for the railroad to cross the Milledgeville and Darien Road at a point just south of Fenley Kea's residence. L.C. Beacham and his neighbor C.S. Pope offered the donation of two acres of land and a promise to construct a 35' by 50' depot building, which was to be completed by June 1886. The agreement gave the railroad the right to choose the location of the depot at any spot along the route on the lands of Beacham and Pope. Much to the chagrin of the donors, railroad president W.B. Thomas chose a location which they deemed to be injurious to the value of their property. The location of the depot remained mired in controversy. In a conciliatory move to pacify Messers Beacham and Pope, the board of directors agreed to construct a substantial rail crossing along the Milledgeville and Darien Road.

The deadline came. The depot was not finished. When the board met in July 1886, Fenly Kea complained, and the board voted to annul the contract if the building was not completed in short order. Finally, the depot was completed in September 1886. The location of the depot at Condor brought out the worst in one of the town's residents. Fenly Kea took exception to Lewis Beacham's efforts to locate the depot at Condor. While Beacham was standing a hundred yards away, Kea emptied his five shot pistol, seriously wounding Beacham with all five shots. All of this led to a lawsuit, which thankfully allowed the minutes of the Dublin and Wrightsville Railroad to be introduced into evidence in the case. The minute book still survives and can be found in the archives of the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah. Nearly all signs of the depot are now gone. It was located on the southern side of the railroad center about 950 feet west of the where the Darien and Milledgeville Road crossed the railroad.

Fenly Kea and his wife Mary Kea sold several lots in what was called New Condor along the railroad. Among the first purchasers were E.B. Jones & Co., R.J. Hightower and Sons, David Blackshear, C.S. Pope, Rhoda Page, and Mary Tarpley. In 1903, the members of Condor Lodge No. 5192 United Order of Odd Fellows, purchased a lot on the south side of the railroad near the depot. The town of New Condor never became a reality. It appears that all of the lots were purchased by L.C. Beacham who owned nearly all of Condor in 1911. C.S. Pope owned the lands to the north and west, while Dennis Kea's family owned the lands to the south and east.

The heart of the Condor community over the last one hundred and seventy five years has been the churches. The first church was founded as the Fork Road Meeting House four miles from Dublin on the Milldegeville and Darien Road. On January 14, 1821, eleven white and two colored former members of Buckeye Baptist Church organized Bethlehem Baptist Church. John Whittle, Benjamin Manning, and Levi Bush were  ppointed to act as the presbytery. The Rev. Whittle was the first pastor. George Daniel was the first clerk. The first deacon was James Kinchen. Area resident Young Keen constructed the first church building. On July 31, 1832, Solomon Williams donated three acres of lands to "The Baptist Church of Christ holding the doctrine of the final perseverance of the Saints through grace and baptism by emersion." The church remains active today and is the second oldest church in the county.

In 1850, Benjamin Pope, Edward Holmes, Kindred Jones, and William Brantley founded Gethsemane Methodist Church just off Dewey Warnock Road about a mile or so south of East Laurens School. The church eventually moved into East Dublin. In 1879, Rev. and Mrs. D.W. Williams organized William Chapel Baptist Church on the outskirts of East Dublin about a mile west of Condor. Eli Hampton, Robert Walker, and Anderson Franklin, Trustees of the Condor A.M.E. Church, purchased a lot at the northwestern corner of the railroad and the main road for a church in 1909.

News of the happenings in the early days of Condor were often printed in the Dublin Post. Among the more humorous stories and trivial accounts of life in Condor was Mack Smith's killing of three gobblers in one shot. Local correspondents frequently reported strange sights, such as a long legged crane like bird with a wide bill that landed in Mary Kea's chicken yard and made himself at home. From the report, it appeared to have been a roseated spoonbill, a bird rarely seen in these parts. December 27th, 1879 was a particularly raucous night in Condor. The local correspondent reported that even the hogs got drunk. In March 1880, a washing machine salesman passed through town with an alligator and a deer in tow - no word if the animals were dead or alive. A month later a band of gypsies came through and swapped George Keen a horse that could tell fortunes. Several Condorites (Condoricans?, Condorians?) marveled at a death match between a king snake and thunder snake, one won by the former. For those of you who don't know where Condor is, get in your car and ride out there. Stop for just a moment or seven, absorb the aroma of the decaying grasses of Fall, and just imagine all of the history that has taken place in and around an ancient crossroads, named by some unassuming soul after one of the ugliest birds in the world.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


The First Hundred Years

On August 17, 2008, the town, or should I say the community of Cedar Grove, will officially turn one hundred years old. In reality, Cedar Grove, or the community that it encompasses has been around for much longer than that. Cedar Grove has always been a community. Cedar Grove, the town, never seemed to get off the ground. The fates against it, Cedar Grove is the only incorporated Laurens County town to have never had a post office and though it was the largest Laurens County town ever created by the Georgia Legislature, its location far away from railroads and populous centers doomed it to fail as a municipality. In the end, Cedar Grove and those who have lived there and those who still live there have persevered to make it a fine place to live.

Early residents of the community, the Clarks, Gays, and Burches often traded for goods and supplies, not in Dublin, some twenty three-airline miles away, but instead along with other early residents of Scottish descent in Montgomery County, now Wheeler County, in the community of Little York, once located west of Alamo. Later in the 19th Century, residents traded at McRae, ten miles closer than Dublin.

Before there was a Cedar Grove, there was Arthur, Georgia. Located near the intersection of Georgia Highway 45 and Paul Young Road and west of the present Cedar Grove Crossroads, Arthur, established as a post office on June 29, 1880, was named for Arthur Burch, a member of the Burch family, who has for more than a century and a half lived in the area. The first postmaster at Arthur was Daniel H. Burch. He was succeeded by D. Cabie, who served for only 18 days until Arthur Burch took office. Arthur Burch only served for 79 days until John Burch was sworn in as postmaster, a post he held until C.M. Clark became the final postmaster in 1900. The post office was closed on September 22, 1908 and the mail ordered to be sent to Depue in Dodge County.

In the latter decades of the 19th Century, what would become the Cedar Grove community was inhabited by the Browning, Burch, Caldwell, Clark, Clements, Colemans, Currie, Gay, Harrell, Harrelson, Lowery, Miller, Mullis, Purvis, Ryals, Sears, Taylor and White families.

Citizens of McRae desperately wanted a railroad to Dublin. They had hoped to lure the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad away from Eastman. In 1904 the men from Telfair County met and formed the McRae and Dublin Railroad Company. C.B. Parker was elected President of the company. Grading was begun from the depot to the Seaboard Air Line near the Oil and Fertilizer plant. Ransom Rogers of Atlanta laid off the route and the work was begun on the 35-mile road. The road progressed along the present day Highway 441 toward Dublin, but failed due to lack of financial support. Telfair County tried again in 1912. The Jacksonville, McRae, and Northern Railway was incorporated to build a road from the Ocmulgee near Jacksonville through McRae and northward to Dublin through Cedar Grove. One of the incorporators was future Georgia governor, Eugene Talmadge. Like many other attempts, this railroad also failed. The coming of the railroad would mean new people and, more importantly, more money for the Cedar Grove Community.

Promoters of an actual town had high hopes. On August 17, 1908, the Georgia Legislature adopted a bill incorporating the town of Cedar Grove. It was the largest town ever created in Laurens County. With twenty four land lots of two hundred two and one-half acres each, the new town was 4,860 acres in size or 7.59 square miles. John P. Harrell was named as the town's first mayor. James Purvis, J.T. Parish, W.E. Kinchen, J.Y. Hill, and S. Harrelson were named to the first town council until an election was held on the first Saturday in January 1909.

Yet, there is one burning and mystifying question about Cedar Grove which still puzzles anyone who ever lived there or just passed through. Where are the cedar trees? Well, the story goes like this. About the year 1869, Rev. Cornelious Clark, a righteous and God-fearing man, wanted to build a church near his home. He remembered a grove of cedars growing in a nearby cemetery and decided that this would be the place for his house of worship and obviously named it "Cedar Grove." Samuel Harrelson, Mary Pharis, B.L. Lowery and others joined with him in establishing the new church. Others took offense that the community's church would not be located in a more central location, so B.L. and Lamar Lowery offered to build a church in the triangle formed by Georgia Highways 46 and 126 and Sudie Pearl Jones Road, about one and a quarter miles to the northwest along Sudie Pearl Jones Road. Clark reluctantly agreed to the new location but insisted that the name Cedar Grove be retained. And, it did.

The most accepted authorities state that Purvis' store was the first business in the town. Sam Mackey, Russell Howell and Cordie Joiner also operated establishments there.

Cedar Grove became the center of religious, civic and educational activities. The earliest church, the Clark Baptist Church, ceased to exist in the 1880s. There was a New Hope Church located southwest of the Cedar Grove Crossing off Chic Inn Road.

The Masons of lower Laurens County organized the Whiteford Masonic Lodge in 1885, moved to the Lowery community shortly thereafter, and later returned to Cedar Grove. The Odd Fellows of Cedar Grove established a lodge, which they share with the Masons.

The original school began in a log church. As the school population grew, classes were held in the lower floor of the Masonic Lodge until 1924, when the schools of Whitewater, Oakdale and Union Springs were consolidated into Cedar Grove School. A large school, for its time, was built in 1926 and expanded in 1939. The school closed and merged into Laurens High School near Rentz.

In 1920, the Cedar Grove Community Council was created to help promote the community. The original members were: J.W. Horne, J.T. Grimsley, D.E. Grinstead, J.C. Ussery, J.F. Burch, J.W. Purvis, R.F. Gay, M.L. Miller, B.H. Howell, C.W. Clark, A.B. Miller, H.R. Gilder, J.P. Jackson, Dr. B.S. Benson, R.L. Thigpen, B.L. Lowery, E.N. Johnson, S.L. Miller, L.L. Howell, A.H. Johnson, M.L. Beasley.

The actual town of Cedar Grove only existed for ten years and two days. For on August 19, 1918, when most of her citizens were fighting World War I, the boll weevil and flu bugs, the Georgia Legislature in its enigmatic wisdom repealed the town's charter. They might have killed the town, but they could never kill the spirit of Cedar Grovers, who love their community as their forebearers did.