Sunday, December 6, 2009


An American Great Grandmother

I cannot imagine the United States of America without Katherine Banks. You ask, who is Katherine Banks? Katherine lived around three hundred and fifty years ago in 17th Century Virginia. So why is this Virginia lady so significant and what does she have to do with the history of east-central Georgia? Well, she has nothing to do directly with the history of our area, but without her, the face of the history of America, and the world for that matter, would have been vastly different. What did she do? Well, I will tell you.

Katherine Banks was born into a prosperous family in Canterbury, England in County Kent in 1627, the same year the Massachusetts Bay Colony had been chartered to colonize the eastern coast of North America. Her father, Christopher Banks, was one of England's most influential commoners in his position with the Old London Company, which financed the settlement of Jamestown and Virginia.

Sometime in the early 1640s, Katherine journeyed to America, landing in Charles City County, west of Jamestown on the James River. It was not long after her arrival that she married her cousin, Joseph Royall, twice a widower and 27 years her senior. Royall had come to Jamestown aboard the Charitie in July 1622, just after Powhatan Chief Opechancanough had murdered three hundred and forty-seven colonists. Royall survived "the burning fever," which killed even more settlers. By transporting colonists to Virginia, Joseph Royall was able to accumulate a large plantation, which he called "Doghams" after the French river D'Augham, on the James River above Shirley and opposite current day Hopewell, Virginia.

Joseph Royall died in the mid 1650s. As was the custom in those days, his wife's dower from his estate passed to her during her widowhood. When Katherine married Henry Isham in 1656, Royall's estate passed to Isham, who immediately added another wing to his residence on Bermuda Hundred.

From their luxurious home encircled by tall pines and a extensive English flower garden, the Ishams became leaders of Virginia society. It has been said that Katherine Banks Royall Isham was the wealthiest woman in America. Her father gave her one of the first English coaches to be used in the colonies. It was described as cumbrous and capacious. It held six individuals, three on a seat opposite one another. Two others could sit on stools which faced the doors. Its body was hung high on large springs and was entered by steps. The lining was made of cream-colored cloth. Silver trimmings, cords and tassels accented the exquisite exterior. The driver and the footman sat on the front, while luggage was carried in the rear.

As the fall weather began to cool the shores of the James River, Katherine made out her last will and testament. Three hundred and twenty three years ago today, Joseph Royall, Jr. and Francis Eppes walked into the court of Henrico County to probate her generous and loving testament to her children and grandchildren. Her bequests of exquisite and valuable heirlooms paled in comparison to the true legacy of this little known woman.

By her first husband, Katherine gave birth to six children, Joseph, John, Sarah, Katherine and two other unknown daughters. With Henry, Katherine had Henry, Jr. and Anne. But by far, her most famous child was Mary Isham. Mary was a much courted belle of Virginia. Suitors swarmed to get a glance of this charming young woman, who played the cittern, a three-stringed early version of the mandolin. Mary captured the heart of the wealthy William Randolph of Turkey Island. Over the next three centuries, the couple would come to be known as "the Adam and Eve of Virginia." Now, you will see why.

The Randolphs were the parents of ten children, most notably Isham Randolph. His daughter Jane married Peter Jefferson. They were the parents of President Thomas Jefferson. Elizabeth, daughter of William and Mary Randolph, married Richard Bland. They were the great-great grandparents of the noble and the revered, General Robert Edward Lee. William and Mary's son Thomas was the great-grandfather of John Marshall, the nation's longest serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In point of fact, Katherine's descendants included the wives of both President Jefferson and General Lee. You can see why the Randolphs are the closest thing to royalty that Virginia ever had.

I will dispense with all the begats, the great-greats and the removed cousins and simply say that among the most well known descendants of Katherine Banks Royall Isham are presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, first lady Edith Wilson, authors William Faulkner, Willa Cather, Robert Penn Warren and Ray Badbury. Among the most interesting name on the list is Booker Talieferro Washington, a former slave, who became a highly revered educator, author and political leader. There are many, many more. Their names have not yet been entered in the files of So for now, I will stop here.

Why would anyone care about Katherine Banks? She was never memorialized in the annals of early American history. All she did was live a good life and have children. And, that's just the point. All of us have a purpose on the Earth. As we go about our daily lives, we never stop to imagine that our descendants, close and remote, can play a pivotal role in the history of our country.

Can you imagine the Declaration of Independence written by someone else other than Thomas Jefferson? Can you imagine the Civil War without Robert E. Lee? Can you imagine the emergence of the Supreme Court without Chief Justice John Marshall? I cannot.

Maybe you can conceive of the world of literature without the names of Bradbury, Faulkner, Cather and Warren, but it would have been a far poorer one.

I can't envision the world without the leadership and brilliance of Booker T. Washington. I can't envision the world without John F. Kennedy. Would there have even been a man on the moon? Would Richard Nixon have been elected president in 1960? Would there have ever been a war in Vietnam or the turbulent times of the 1960s?

I can't imagine a world without these exceptional Americans who descended from the forgotten Katherine Banks Royall Isham. You see, I couldn't visualize these thoughts at all if it were not for Katherine, who was my eighth great-grandmother.

Study the history of your family. Learn where you came from so that you can know where you are going. Everyone's families are no more important than any others. It is up to you. Serve your community now. Don't rest of the accolades of your ancestors or wait on the achievements of your remotest descendants. Who knows what they may learn from you?

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Memories of a Lifetime

Lois Adams loved life as a young woman growing up in Jeffersonville, Georgia. In the years before her marriage, Lois kept her memories in a scrapbook. Now, thanks to the fine folks at Adams Funeral Home and the members of her family, Lois' scrapbook, which was found neatly packed away in the funeral home started by her husband, has been donated to the Laurens County Historical Society, where visitors can catch a glimpse into the life of talented teenage girl long, long ago.

In the five-inch thick black paper scrapbook you will find everything from Leo Mullis' cigarette butts to her very own candy wrappers (she preferred Whitman's over Nunally's), filled dance cards to great football game tickets, and a real cotton boll to a real tarpon scale. Yes, I said a tarpon scale. There are also empty packets of cigarettes, Camel and Home Run, none of which she smoked. Obligatory family pictures and clippings of wedding, anniversary and funeral notices are in the book too. This child of Jack Shine Vaughn and Susie Elizabeth Johnson Vaughn, pasted all of her important memorabilia so that in a moment she could open the book and reach back in time to when life was grand. I like the menu for ice cream, 15 cents a cup, and fruity ice drinks, 10 cents a cup, which she stole and pasted in a special place in her scrapbook.

One of the first things you will see is a piece of chewing gum, Beechnut, I presume. That in of itself is not unusual since there are many gum wrappers and who gave her the gum. Written underneath this piece of gum is the phrase "You bet I wanted to chew it, but I didn't." And she was right, the gum, or what is left of it, hasn't been chewed in the last ninety years. Lois especially enjoyed a dance where she wore a red corsage and commented, "I was thrilled to a peanut." She glued a red ribbon in her scrapbook and posed the question, "Bet I had a good time, wonder who put this around my neck?"

usic and the arts were the fabric of Lois' young life. Not a recital nor a play was held at Twiggs County High School without her name listed in the program. On the 26th of May 1920, Lois performed a rousing version of Muscadine Gulp on the piano, before singing The Governor with her good friend Dorothy Jones. In addition to her talents as a singer and pianist, Lois was a dancer.

She loved going to musical events in Macon and Atlanta. Sometimes when she was lucky, there were musical artists who passed through Jeffersonville. There was this one evening when Lois and her friends Marin, Ethel and Daisy went to hear the Wesleyan Glee Club. The music was great, but the most memorable part of the evening was that the girls didn't return until to the late hour of one o'clock in the morning. When there was nothing else to do, Lois and her friends and family would go to a womanless wedding. She must have an eye for one of the all male participants whom she thought looked real good. Then there were plays and all sorts of things to do. There was no television in those days, nor was there any radio. Movies in Jeffersonville were rare. You had to go to Macon or Dublin to see the silent movies.

Lois Evelyn Vaughn walked across the graduation stage of the Twiggs County High School auditorium on May 21, 1923 with her friends Gladys and Ruth Califf, Dorothy Jones, Estelle Harris, Wilhelmina Faulk and Carrie Norris. But, three days before then, Lois and her fellow musicians had one last chance to showcase their talents in a program under the direction of Miss Elizabeth Pettus, director of the Expression and Piano Department. Lois closed the evening's thrilling show with her performance of Rachmananoff's Prelude in C Sharp Minor.

Of all of Lois's favorite pastimes, dancing and going to dances was the best. One of the best was a big dance at the Dublin Country Club on July 28, 1926. Tom Wilcox asked her to go, but for some reason, Lois didn't remember why she turned down his invitation. But, she had a good time listening to the music of the Georgians, who performed all the great tunes in the club dance hall, which was then located east of the pond in what is now Saint Andrews subdivision.

With all of her artistic talents, Lois Adams had a talent for athletics. Among her most prized possessions is a scorecard for a basketball game against the Dublin High Whirls. I have to explain here why the girls from Dublin were called "the Whirls." The boys were dubbed the "Green Hurricane." Hence the supposedly meeker girls bore a more inferior team name. What was remarkable about the game, in which Lois said she became a famous basketball player, was that she scored 12 of her teams 24 points in a 24-6 rout of the Dublin girls.

Lois liked football as well. It didn't matter if it was Georgia or Georgia Tech. A good football game in the fall was always a thrill. She went to see Georgia Tech play the Auburn Tigers and the North Carolina Tar Heels in 1928. The following year, right before her marriage, Lois was one of the lucky who went to Georgia's game against Yale, a game which inaugurated play in Sanford Stadium and a game in which the Bulldogs gained national immortality for their stunning 15-0 upset victory over the mighty Bulldogs from Yale.

In the fall of 1926, Lois took an extended trip of Lakeland, Florida. She brought back a black watch fob as a reminder of the good times she had. Before coming home with "Big Boy" Hicks and Bob Pitts, Lois took in a boxing match, actually several of them. The big fight on the card that October 13th was the bout featuring W.L. "Young" Stribling, a future contender for the world championship in the heavyweight division. The Macon boxer still holds the world record for the most fights and knockouts by a heavyweight boxer.

Of all of her dancing partners, Lois found the best one of all in Cordy Adams of Dublin.  Cordy, an up and coming undertaker and a graduate of the Cincinnati College of Embalming, won her hand in marriage. Before settling down, the couple left on a short honeymoon trip to Montgomery, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana. While they were staying in the Jefferson Davis Hotel in Montgomery, the newly married couple decided to go to yet another football game, another Bulldog victory over the hometown favorites, the Crimson Tide. It was the next morning when an invitation was slipped under their hotel room door inviting Mr. and Mrs. Cordy Adams to a fine breakfast. "It was the first time I felt recognized as a Mrs.," Mrs. Adams recalled.

Then the newlyweds were on to New Orleans, where they enjoyed dining, dancing and theater going in "The Big Easy." Although they had a good time, Lois wrote that the three nights in the De Soto Hotel were restless. Maybe it was the bill, a whopping $5.00 a night!

When the couple returned to Dublin, they made their first home in the Fred Roberts Hotel. There's even a note on an unused bar of soap to prove it. Then reality set in. Lois wrote on a bill from R.F. Deese Furniture store, "here is where all my money went." She kept the bill and converted it into a ledger sheet showing the purchase of a $150.00 bed room suite and a $125.00 dollar set of living room furniture and the record of her payments down to a zero balance.

Memories are priceless. Lois Adams kept some of hers. Maybe you should do so. Cherish them, preserve them and record them. Maybe some day someone will care about what was important to you. So on behalf of the Laurens County Historical Society, here's a big thank you to you, Mrs.Adams for preserving your present and keeping your fond memories alive for generations to come.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


The Queens of Georgia Basketball

They were pretty good basketball players. Actually they were more than just good. They were some of the best girls teams ever to play high school basketball in Georgia. One Dexter boy basketball player commented, "they could even beat us sometimes." From 1959 through 1963, George Lindsey led his Dexter Hornettes to four consecutive region championships and two consecutive state championships.

Along the way, the lasses from Dexter accomplished a record winning streak of sixty-eight games. The streak began with the first game of the 1961-2 season and ended in the fifth game of the 1963-4 season with a last second, two point loss to arch rival Dodge County. Dodge County had already stopped another long winning streak of the Dexter girls in 1959. That sixty eight game streak held the record until it was broken in the 1970s by Taylor High School.

In his first season, George Lindsey's girls won their region and lost in the state tournament. The 1960-1 team repeated the feat losing for the second straight year in the state tournament. The first team to win the state title was the 1961-2 team.  That year the Dexter girls went undefeated - thirty wins and no losses. In the state tournament they defeated Stewart County, 69 to 47; Crawford County, 73 to 52; Screven County, 80 to 58 to reach the finals. In the finals, the Hornettes defeated Butler High School by the score of 68 to 52 to win their first state championship.

The members of that team were Jackie Kitchens, Sue Whittle, Janet Register, Rhetta Daniels, Linda Howard, Caroline Russell, Peggy Estes, Dianne McLeod, Bertie Mae Evans, Colleen Butler, Kay E. Lord, Joette Hobbs, Pat Jolly, Judy Bryant, Connie Warren, Yvonne Mullis, Kay Tipton, and Venita Lord.

The next year the Hornettes kept on winning. During that season they beat their perennial nemeses, the Dodge County Girls, in both games. The margin of victory was ten points in both games. That was impressive considering that the Dodge County girls were defending State Class "B" champions. Closer to home, the Hornettes defeated the Lady Cardinals of Dudley three times and the Tigerettes of Laurens High four times. One highlight of the 62-63 season was the homecoming game. Connie Malone was crowned Queen of the Homecoming Court. The girls responded with a 50 to 31 thrashing of the Dublin Irishettes, who weren't that bad of a team. By the way, both teams wore green and white.

The Hornettes went into the 5-C Region tournament undefeated. On their homecourt, the Hornettes demolished the girls from Dudley with a final score of 67 to 34. Five girls posted scores in double figures - an unusual feat, considering that in those days girls played a different style of basketball. Three forwards played offense and three guards played defense.

In the sub-region finals, the Hornettes defeated the Tigerettes from Laurens High. The Tigerettes, coached by the legendary Lester Farr, were pretty fair ball players too. They had lost a close game to Doe Run High School in the 1962 state tournament. The Tigerettes were led by forwards Loren White, Sandra Bedingfield, and Vondell Ballard. Since they finished second in the sub-region, the Tigerettes were seeded in the Region finals. Imagine how powerful the team would have been if the two nearby schools had been consolidated.

The fast and furious action then shifted to Abbeville - the site of the Region 5-C tournament. In the first game, Caroline Russell scored thirty points and Judy Bryant dropped in 18 more to lead the Hornettes to a 54 to 36 victory over the host Abbeville team. When Laurens High won its first game, a rematch with the Hornettes was assured. The Tigerettes managed to hold the Hornettes to fifty two points, losing 52 to 38. Caroline Russell put up twenty-one points, and Yvonne Mullis nearly matched that total with nineteen points.

Both teams were headed to the State Tournament in Columbus. For several years before, the state finals were held in Macon. Going into the tournament, the winning streak stood at sixty. As good as the forwards were, the guards were just as good. Kay Lord, Diane McLeod, Kay Waldrep, and Kay Tipton were unrelenting in their defense - stealing passes and errant dribbles and passing them back down the

In the first game, the Hornettes defeated Norman Park 60 to 40. Caroline Russell turned it up for the finals. She scored twenty nine points, nearly half of the team total. In the second game, Caroline scored thirty to lead the Hornettes over Putnam County, 55 to 43.

Cave Springs High School was the opponent in the semi final game. The guards of Cave Springs held Yvonne Mullis and Judy Bryant in check. Caroline Russell came through with thirty two points and running her tournament total to ninety two points. The Hornettes had one point leads at the end of the first three quarters. In between, Cave Springs surged to three and four point leads. In the last quarter the defense tightened up - allowing only seven points in the final stanza-while forwards scored eleven to win the game 43 to 38.

Their opponents in the finals were the Deer from Doe Run High School. Yes, that was their name. The Deer were led by Mary Fincher, the coach's daughter, who scored an amazing forty points in the other semi-final game. Russell was held to seven points in the first half, but came back strong with sixteen in the second. Diane Fountain came into the game and hit two long distance field goals to keep the girls in the game. At the end of regulation play, the score was knotted at 40 to 40. Kay Lord, Diane McLeod, and Kay Waldrep tightened up on the defense and allowed only two points by the Deer, both by Fincher. The forwards, Caroline Russell, Yvonne Mullis, Judy Bryant, and Diane Fountain scored four points to take a two point win. The Hornettes had won two consecutive state titles, a record for the 18 year old classification. The Hornettes kept on winning. Coach Lindsey retired to enter private business. All six Dexter starters were among the best in their class. Bryant, Mullis, Waldrep, and Fountain returned, but missed the chance for a third championship when they lost to the Red Bud of Calhoun in March of 1964. They were simply the best, the Queens of Georgia Basketball.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


The Lady of the Camellias

Lila Moore Keen loved the flowers of her native Georgia. With an unequaled talent for painting flowers, Mrs. Keen became nationally renowned for her paintings of camellias, magnolias, and other flowers of the South. Mrs. Keen, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Moore of Winder, Georgia, began her artistic career at the age of twelve. One day she sneaked off a secret place with her sister's paints and began to teach herself to paint. She attended Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. Wayman Adams of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, gave the "budding artist" - pun intended - her formal training. Lila Moore married James L. Keen, Jr., son of James L. Keen, Sr., the founding president of Farmers and Merchants Bank. The couple moved to Laurens County after their marriage. Their last home was located at the southwest corner of North Calhoun Street and Highland Avenue. Their children, James L., III, and Jane were born here and graduated from high school here. Camellia Journal Magazine described Lila Moore Keen as "a missionary for truth and beauty."

One of Mrs. Keen's crowning moments was her management of the South Georgia division of American Art Week in 1944, for which she won statewide acclaim. After the chairman fell ill at the last minute, Mrs. Keen took over management of the entire state's celebration. Mrs. Keen organized exhibits all over the southern part of the state. She convinced four civic clubs of Dublin to each donate an art book to the library. Locally, Noble H. Marshall, Jr. and Mrs. Milo Smith were the county and city chairmen. Mrs. John Waldrep was co-chairman and Mrs. W.M. Harrison was publicity chairman. Misses Mildred Bishop, Virginia Joiner, Ida O'Neal, and Pearl Cofer were chairwomen of the city schools. Mrs. Tom Burts, Mrs. Sam Swinson, Mrs. Fred Brown, and Mrs. Roy Orr were committee members. Mrs. Orr put together a scrapbook of the activities of the art week. That book is now in the Dublin-Laurens Museum. The scrapbook contains paintings of magnolias and cherry blossoms done by Mrs. Keen.

During the celebration, art works were exhibited at the Women's Club House on North Drive. That building still stands and is located in front of the entrance to Dublin Junior High School on North Calhoun Street. The featured artist was Frances Jordan. Miss Jordan, a native of Wrightsville, was the first woman ever to graduate from Wesleyan Conservatory in Macon with a degree in sculpture. She was the first student at the college to have her work put on permanent display. Art works were also displayed in several downtown stores.

School children contributed their best works to the exhibits. The Savannah Art Club sent a large group of paintings by South Georgia artists for display at the Women's Center. Miss Frances Stewart, head of the University of Georgia Art Department, spoke at the chapel program at the High School. The women of the Parnassus Club served as hostesses throughout the week.

For her efforts, Lila Moore Keen was presented a blue ribbon for honorable mention by Art Digest Magazine. Mrs. Keen was one of only four to receive the distinct honor.

Mrs. Keen dedicated her life to preserving the beauty of southerns flower on her canvases. Her talent won her critical acclaim by art critics and the public all over the world. Her attention to detail was especially keen (pun intended.) The least deviation from the true color or detail of the flower was rejected and thrown away. Her standards of quality led to perfect prints of her works. One publisher misidentified a similar variety of camellia. Many readers wrote in to correct the publisher's error and to vindicate the perfect depiction of the camellia.

Mrs. Keen was personally fond of the magnolias of the South. She toured many gardens in order to select the perfect example of the fragrant beauty. Her portraits were often life-sized, captured at the moment of perfection. Mrs. Keen also captured the beauty of other southern flowers; the Narcissus, the Daffodil, the Violet, the Hyacinth, and the Periwinkle.

Lila Moore Keen was a member of the American Artists Professional League and was associated with a number of famous artists. She served as National Director of the 13th Annual Celebration of American Art Work.

Lila Moore Keen was honored nationwide for her paintings. Her works were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., every other year. She was honored by the American Camellia Society. Keen's flowers adorned the covers of national flower publications. In addition to her floral portraits, Lila Moore Keen's landscapes and portraits were displayed in major cities of our country. Some of the children, who had their portraits done, didn't like them because Mrs. Keen left their freckles on their faces. Lila Moore Keen's originals are highly sought after by art lovers - some commanding prices above one thousand dollars. The prints of her camellias and magnolias are favorites among collectors and lovers of flowers everywhere.

Lila Moore Keen died in 1963. Her legacy lives on the walls of the Dublin-Laurens Museum. Her son, James L. Keen, III, gave a collection of eighty of her works to the museum several years ago. Other examples of her works have been donated by others. The museum displays a large portion of these paintings on a regular basis. Two of the camellia prints are available for sale at the museum. My words do no justice the works of Lila Moore Keen. They are an invitation to come by the museum and enjoy the beauty and splendor of the portraits of the most beautiful flowers of the South by Lila Moore Keen, "The Lady of the Camellias."

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Shattered Dreams

Her parents named her Oralie, or "the golden child." All of her life Oralie dreamed of being happy. Born into great wealth, she never seemed to find the alluring bliss she longed for and so desperately hoped to find. This little rich girl grew up without the constant presence of a father and without the guidance and nurturing of her mother, who died at a young age. In her autumn years, Oralie was labeled a "lunatic" and involuntarily confined within the inescapable and claustrophobic walls of the Lunatic Asylum of Georgia.

Oralie Troup was born about the year 1820 - perhaps in Laurens County or wherever her mother may have sought the best medical attention. Her father was George M. Troup. Troup served two terms as Governor of Georgia, as well as terms as a United States congressman and senator. Governor Troup and his family moved to Laurens County around 1815. Oralie's mother, Ann Carter, was a great granddaughter of Robert "King" Carter of Albemarle County, Virginia and one of the wealthiest landowners in Colonial Virginia. Oralie was a second cousin of arguably one of the most famous southerners ever, General Robert E. Lee.

Oralie spent much of her youth with her older sister Florida and their Troup cousins who lived at Broughton Island near Darien in McIntosh County, where educational opportunities were much more available and where she could live a proper social life in keeping with her lavish lifestyle, much more so than in the sparsely populated agrarian back woods of Central Georgia.

Florida and Oralie developed an acquaintance with Fannie Kemble Butler, an English actress who resided on the nearby Butler Plantation. Mrs. Butler kept journals of her experiences in the slave holding plantations of the coastal Georgia islands. In them, she described Oralie as one of the most beautiful women she had met in America. After a bitter divorce from her husband, Mrs. Butler published her journals in an effort to promote the abolition of slavery and convince the government of her native land to refrain from entering the Civil War on behalf of the South.

While there are no existing census records to show her residence before 1850, Oralie did live in the home of her father at his Valdosta Plantation on the Old River Road, southeast of Dublin. As the woman of the house, Oralie entertained visitors on their travels from Darien to the capital in Milledgeville. The death of her sister Florida- perhaps her dearest friend - in 1847, and living in solace with her rapidly aging and frequently ailing father and her ne'er-do-well brother George, Jr. did little to further her dreams of eternal happiness.

Following the Governor's death in 1856 and that of George Jr. a few years later, litigation, often ugly and greedy, ensued between the heirs of the Governor, who had amassed a substantial fortune in real property and slaves. The remaining heirs, all children of Florida, stood to inherit all of the estate of their grandfather if Oralie never had any children. Oralie's share of the estate amounted to some $30,000 in land and more than $100,000 in the market value of the slaves she owned.

Oralie chose to live on what had theretofore been called the Turkey Creek Plantation of the eastern outskirts of present day Dudley. In 1860, Miss Troup made substantial improvements to the place, which she renamed Vallambrosa for a Benedictine abbey in the Appenine Mountains of Tuscany, Italy. At the terminus of a winding path near the banks of Turkey Creek was a spring house, which featured a stone arch with the words "Oralie Troup 1860" carved in a stone marker along with a goblet centered inside a four-leaf clover. In point of fact, the spring house was not a house at all. Moreover, it had no roof. The simple structure resembled the entrance to an ancient Hebrew tomb carved in the side of a steeply sloping hill. The stone, its original lettering now somewhat eroded, rests in front of the Dublin-Laurens Museum.

The dark clouds of the Civil War opened in the latter months of 1865 in glorious splendor. Oralie was anywhere from the age of 45 to 56, depending on which source you believe - the former being more likely than the latter. Considered an old maid, her hopes for marriage at her age were slight, unless the suitors, who came looking for riches instead of youthful beauty, might come and court the lonely Oralie. She had fully intended to marry before. Oralie had the finest brocaded satin wedding dress tailored for her wedding, but the prospective groom met with an untimely death before the couple shared their vows.

Enter one John A. Vigal, a Macon native who had lately resided in Sumter County before the beginning of the war. An Assistant Surgeon of the 33rd N.C. Infantry Regiment, the presumably handsome and relatively young widower with two young sons, moved to Dublin to open his practice. There he began to court Miss Oralie, some fifteen years his senior. Though he was nowhere near destitute, his means were considerably less than those of the wealthy spinster. John Vigal bore the scars of sorrow as well. The scarlet stains of ceaseless carnage never faded from his surgeon hands. After losing his wife at a tender age, Dr. Vigal found himself amputating limbs and watching young boys bleed to death in the blood-splattered field hospitals of Lee's army, who suffered acceptable casualties at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, but were slaughtered by slightly more than a score of thousands in a shallow valley south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, some two summers prior.

Though Oralie was "past the days of her youth," she was quite loved by those who knew her. Tall and graceful, Oralie loved to dance. Finally she would dance with the man of her dreams. In the days before Christmas, John Vigal proposed marriage to Oralie, who readily accepted. Oralie had her servants to take out her abandoned dress and revitalize it for her grand wedding, which was held on January 11, 1866.

Sometime in the fall of 1870 or the early winter of 1871, it is not exactly known when, Dr. Vigal fell ill. He traveled to Macon to seek treatment. Soon he removed himself to a healthier climate. On June 14, 1871 , Oralie received a communique that her beloved John had died.

Oralie’s life was about to change. And, once again, happiness devolved into sorrow. Oralie’s stepsons, Clifford and Joseph, were sent back to their blood relatives, leaving her to face the world alone once again.

Most of the people that knew Oralie would tell you that she "had little capacity for business and that she was generous to a fault." Credulous and trusting, Oralie was susceptible to connivers, schemers and fortune swindling lotharios. Oralie was the last surviving child of George and Anne Troup. She was in her early fifties and there was no one around to protect her from the avaricious miscreants who might seek to relieve her of her life sustaining affluence.

It was about this time that the children of her departed and beloved sister Florida traveled to Vallambrosa to seek to take care of her affairs. Col. Robert Wayne, husband of Augusta Bryan and a veteran of the late war, assumed control of her affairs.

The Vigals executed a post nuptial agreement which set forth the terms of the ownership of their respective properties. Oralie’s lands, which amounted to nearly 5,000 acres, was placed in the hands of her husband to manage and control for her benefit, but not to be sold without her consent. Vigal, in exchange for his services, was entitled to the use of the profits for the education and maintenance of his sons. This was done without any requirement of any accounting to her whatsoever - a clause which would lead to much consternation after Vigal’s death. Oralie stipulated that if she was to die before her husband, that all of her property should go to her children, and if she bore none, to her husband and his heirs.

When Col. Wayne began to investigate Oralie’s assets and legal affairs, he discovered that Vigal had taken it upon himself to invest some of the excess and unreported profits into bonds of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad and placed them in the hands of a trustee for the benefit of his sons. Wayne believed that the late doctor had been embezzling funds from Oralie. It was further apparent that Vigal did not maintain an extensive medical practice - the only extant evidence of his practice came more than three years after his death when the Simmons Liver Regulator Company published his testimonial of the benefits of their product, a statement attested to by dozens of Georgia luminaries.

Upon the advice of her counsel, Oralie repudiated the terms of her agreement and sought to set aside the unwise relinquishment of her property to her late husband and his sons. A jury agreed and all of her property rights were returned to her, of course under the management of her nephew by marriage.

Col. Wayne sought and was granted letters of guardianship of the affairs of Oralie. Believing in his mind and the minds of his wife and in-laws that Oralie was incapable of handling her affairs, Wayne petitioned for a writ of lunacy directing that Oralie be confined to the Lunatic Asylum located on the outskirts of the former Georgia capital of Milledgeville. Oralie was taken under protest to the dreadful facility, where she was admitted on November 16, 1873.

During her initial stay in the asylum, which lasted at least until June 30, 1875, Oralie received infrequent visits from her family. Wayne did order and pay for the delivery of her favorite foods; lemons, oranges, sugar and cakes, as well as hair brushes and perfumes as pleasant reminders of the grand ole days when life was sweet and without care. Meanwhile, the Waynes lived at Vallambrosa in lavishness.

After a confinement of six months, rumblings began among Oralie’s friends and acquaintances that she was being imprisoned as a part of a scheme to get rid of her and gain possession of her exceedingly valuable estate. A correspondent of the Macon Telegraph denounced her immediate relatives and suggested their involvement in the dastardly scheme. He communicated his suspicions to the superintendent of the asylum, Dr. Green, pleading with him to observe and analyze Mrs. Vigal’s behavior and to verify that she had been justly committed to the institution.

Apparently sometime later, Oralie was sent home on a permanent, or perhaps only temporary, basis. For on October 10, 1877, Robert Wayne, acting as guardian for Oralie, petitioned Judge John T. Duncan, Judge of the Laurens County Court of Ordinary, for the appointment of a commission to determine the propriety of an order to recommit Oralie back to the asylum. Wayne alleged that his ward "had become very violent," and that he "had been unable to return her to home without force." Believing that she would be better cared for back at the asylum, Wayne asked the court to investigate the matter.

Judge Duncan appointed a thirteen-man jury to meet at the schoolhouse near Mr. Moore’s house on October 24th to try the issue of Oralie’s sanity. D.H. Combs was elected foreman by the panel, which included David Ware, Stephen B. Whipple, George H. Ware, John W. Horn, J.C. Pope, R.R. Stanley, J.T. Pope, C.C. Stokes, W.W. Howard, J.F. Howard and A.F. Thomas. W.P.W. Anderson testified along with Oralie’s nephew Hugh Bryan that Mrs. Vigal was incapable of handling her affairs. Wayne and a letter by Gen. T.P. Smith corroborated the testimony of Dr. W.J. Kurtz. Kurtz, a member of the jury, testified that he had known Mrs. Vigal for more than fifteen years and that he had recently spent one night and the better parts of two days observing her mental condition. Kurtz was satisfied that her mind was much impaired and that she was unsure and incapable of taking care of herself. Kurtz told the jurors, who agreed with his beliefs, that it was in Oralie’s best interest that she be sent to the institution where she could live with all the comforts of home - it being noted by the court that she possessed sufficient assets to enjoy said comforts for many years to come. But the years didn’t come. Nearly eighteen months after her return to the mental hospital, Oralie died on May 15, 1879. All alone and without anyone she could truly call a friend, Oralie was back in the arms of her parents and her sister Florida, who would love her for all eternity.

Oralie’s desire for everlasting contentment always seemed to have alluded her. The happy times were often interrupted by years of loneliness and fortnight after fortnight of despair. Her remains lie beneath an anonymous urn with no indication of who she was or when she was born or when she died. In her death as in her life, she was separated from her family. Lying just beyond her feet is Dr. Patrick Hoey, a doctor from Dublin, Ireland, who was a friend of Elijah Blackshear, an officer of the War of 1812 and the original owner of the place on Turkey Creek. Blackshear’s mortal remains lie to Oralie’s right in the cemetery in the yard of the now indiscernible Vallambrosa. Even the promised obituary by the editors of Dublin Post never materialized. Only a few of the ancient live oaks remain to mark the spot where, if only for a brief time, Oralie finally found true and belatedly deserved happiness before she faded away into the future of obscurity, that is until now.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Mrs. Henrietta Stanley (S.R.) Dull

The Queen of Southern Cooking

Long before there was a Betty Crocker (actually she was a fictional person), Julia Child or Paula Deen (of Lady and Sons fame), there was Henrietta Stanley (Mrs. S.R.) Dull. Trained in the art of true southern cooking by former slaves and forced into cooking as profession to support her family, Mrs. Dull was considered by the people of her day as the consummate Southern cook. Her 1928 cook book “Southern Cooking” is still defined by current culinary connoisseurs as the Bible of southern cooking.

Henrietta Celeste Stanley was born on her family’s plantation near Chappell’s Mill in Laurens County, Georgia on December 6, 1863. Her parents were Eli Stanley and Mary Brazeal. On her father’s side, Miss Stanley boasted a fine pedigree which included three colonial governors. On her mother’s side of her family, she descended from Solomon Wood, who took an active part in exposing the Yazoo Fraud of 1795.

It was during her early years when she observed the Negro cooks who provided the daily meals for the Stanley family. Born into a wealthy family which had the luxury of a variety of foods, Henrietta was said to have made a hobby of trying each dish she ever heard by duplicating it from memory. In her youth, the women of the house were charged with preparing three meals of day. Leftovers were discarded or fed to pets and there was no such thing as refrigeration. The ladies had to prepare many of the basic ingredients and condiments which we enjoy straight out of a box, jar or can today. Henrietta and her family moved to Flowery Branch, Georgia, where he father worked as a railroad station master. At the age of 23, Henrietta married Samuel Rice Dull of Virginia. The Dulls became the parents of six children.

After a decade of marriage, Mr. Dull began to suffer from mental illnesses. Mrs. Dull found herself in a seemingly overwhelming dilemma. Forced into supporting her children and her ailing husband, Mrs. Dull did the only thing she knew how to do, and that was to cook. Preparing cakes and sandwiches at first for the ladies of her church, Mrs. Dull soon began to sell a large variety of prepared foods out of her home. What started as a way of making ends meet eventually became a successful and profitable venture. Widespread praises led to invitations to plan parties throughout the social circles.

The owners of Atlanta Gas Light Company invited Mrs. Dull to initiate a program of home service to promote the sale and proper use of gas stoves. She always compared a gas range to a husband by proclaiming “ you couldn’t get the best out of either until you learn how to manage them.” Though the theory of home service had been unsuccessful on previous occasions, Mrs. Dull rose to the occasion and championed the program. During this time, Mrs. Dull was chosen to head the Home Economics Department at Bessie Tift College in Forsyth, Georgia. She lent her expertise to establish and develop a Domestic Science Department at Girl’s High School of Atlanta and later a department for its night school.

During World War I, Henrietta Dull served as a hostess in the Soldier’s Recreation House on Peachtree Street. Affectionately known as “Mother Dull,” she was a mother and cook to more than fifty thousand dough boys. Two of her sons, Samuel Rice Dull, Jr. and Ira Cornelius Dull, enlisted in the army. Mrs. Dull believed it was her duty to comfort the boys and young men stationed at nearby Camp Gordon in hopes that some Christian mother would do the same for her boys, wherever they may be stationed.

Her success at Atlanta Gas Light led to an offer from the editors of the Sunday Atlanta Journal Magazine to write and edit the Home Economics page of the magazine section. As with all of her previous efforts, Mrs. Dull became an instant success. Her recipes were found in kitchens throughout Georgia. Her cooking expertise soon spread throughout the South and led to invitations to make cooking demonstrations and conduct cooking schools as far north as Delaware. It has been said that she was the pioneer of cooking schools in the South. Requests for copies of her recipes led Mrs. Dull to contemplate compiling her recipes into a comprehensive guide to Southern cooking.

Mrs. Dull’s landmark work with its thirteen hundred recipes was simply titled “Southern Cooking.” The 400-page book, which has sold more than a quarter of a million copies, was designed to be a practical guide to preparing dishes with items which were readily available in local groceries. “Not once in the whole book will you discover that I had called for the use of an ingredient that any southern housewife can’t get by calling up the grocer,” Mrs. Dull said. Mrs. Dull’s book emphasized the need for making cooking simple with easy to follow directions with exact measurements and cooking times. In her youth, few recipes were put in writing. Directions were often passed by word of mouth and the amount of ingredients were expressed in pinches, dabs and plenty. “Southern Cooking” also features chapters on sample menus, including seasonal and formal selections, as well as chapters on food selection, table service and kitchen equipment. Thirty five years after her book was published, Mrs. Dull was horrified that she omitted a recipe for that staple of Southern cooking, collard greens. Mrs. Dull’s book, which was dedicated to her friends, the women of Atlanta and the South, was sold throughout the United States and seven different countries. It is still a popular selection in old book stores and EBay.

Mrs. Dull recalled a time when as a child she bribed the cook to allow her to make some corn pone. For the rest of her life cornbread was still her favorite food (and mine too.) “You can make it thick, ... thin... with lacy edges that get deliciously brown. Oh, I do love corn bread! I suppose I just love cooking,” Mrs. Dull said. Mrs. Dull didn’t even mind washing dishes because she figured out that washing them in cold water with little soap prevented “dish pan” hands. Among her best tasting dishes were her angel food cakes, called “archangel cakes” to distinguish them from the run of the mill cakes.

After 20 years with the Atlanta Journal, Mrs. Dull retired in 1938. That same year she was listed as one of the twelve most famous women in Georgia. But she wasn’t through cooking. For another twenty years and well into her nineties, Mrs. Dull enjoyed cooking for friends and family in times of celebration and in times of grieving. Henrietta Stanley Dull died on January 28, 1964 at the age of one hundred years. Her life was described as one of unselfish service and outstanding achievements. Her sweet disposition and charm endeared her to everyone with whom she came in contact. She is buried in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.