It was on April 26, 1930, that a celebration was held at Midway Church to commemorate the arrival 300 years before of the ship Mary and John from England at Massachusetts. Passengers aboard the ship established Dorchester, Massachusetts, and its First Church of the Parish. Midway Church was its denominational descendent.
Plans for the celebration commenced the year before during the annual meeting of the Midway Society. It was proposed by Newton J. Norman. He died later that year, so most of the planning for the celebration was done by A. Gordon Cassels.
Bright sunshine flooded the scene as a crowd assembled on the morning of the celebration. A platform had been erected on the road side of the church for speakers. It and the church were decorated with American and Confederate flags and bunting since it was Confederate Memorial Day.
A bright note of color was lent by uniforms of the U.S. Marine Band from Parris Island, South Carolina, which played selections at various times during the ceremonies. It was brought to Savannah, Georgia, by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Yamacraw, through the courtesy of Commander Leroy Reinburg, commander of the vessel. The band was transported from Savannah to Midway by bus.
A. Gordon Cassels presided over the ceremonies. The large audience first sang “America,” after which the invocation was made by Reverend Edwin C. Gillette.
Among communications from nationally known figures read by Cassels was a telegram from U.S. Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo. The telegram said: “Mrs. McAdoo and I send cordial greetings to the Midway Society and congratulations of the tri-centennial of the landing at Dorchester, Massachusetts, of the forefathers of those who established Midway Church in 1752.
“We regret that we are unable to attend the celebration and join in the spirit of an occasion of such great historic significance. The fact that Mrs. McAdoo’s great-grandfather, Reverend I.S.K. Axson, was pastor of Midway Church for 17 years invests your celebration with a special interest for us.
“We hope that the great influence for good which the Midway Church has always existed may continue to grow, and to bring happiness always to those who may worship within its doors.”
McAdoo was apparently misinformed in the areas of time and genealogy. Midway Church was established in 1754, and only two families among the first settlers of Liberty County, the Ways and Sumners, could have possibly traced their ancestors back to Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Cassels also read a telegram from President Herbert Hoover. The chief executive extended his greetings and best wishes to those assembled for the celebration.
One of the best-known speakers of the day was Peter W. Meldrim of Savannah, Georgia. During his speech he said he had known the people of Liberty County for more than 60 years. “I have received from you many acts of kindness,” he said, “and I have spoken to you on many occasions.” He closed his speech by saying that because of his advanced age, it would probably be the last speech he would ever make in Liberty County. Meldrim died on December 13,1933.
Principal speaker of the day was Georgia Supreme Court Justice James K. Hines, a relative of Charlton Hines of Liberty County. During his speech he made a plea for the doctrines of those who established Midway Church, and a complete separation of church and state.
The morning portion of the celebration ended at noon. The participants then ate basket lunches on the lawn around Midway Church.
The afternoon portion of the program was held in the Midway Church cemetery. It was staged by members of liberty County Chapter No. 480, United Daughters of the Confederacy, of which Laura Martin Fraser was president.
The afternoon program began with a presentation of Confederate Army veterans from Liberty County. A squad from the Liberty Independent Troop, commanded by First Lieutenant E.V. Martin, stood a present arms as the veterans, all members of the Liberty Independent Troop during the Civil War, walked to a platform in front of the Stewart-Screven monument.
The veterans were Raymond Cay, John Stribling, and Harrison Clifton. They were introduced by Major Joseph B. Fraser Jr., commander of the First Squadron, Georgia Cavalry. One of the best-known persons taking part in the activity was Laura Martin Fraser. She had staged observances of Confederate Memorial Day for more than 20 years. She now paid tribute to the Confederate Army veterans for “the legacy of memories of gallant deeds they have left.” The squad from the Liberty Independent Troop then fired a salute of three volleys, and taps were sounded by a bugler, a requiem to the Confederate dead.
Laura Martin Fraser then introduced Lee W. Branch, a former president of the Georgia Bar Association, and principal speaker during the afternoon services. He spoke on “Results to the South of the War Between the States.”
The afternoon program concluded with the placing of wreaths and flowers on graves of Confederate Army veterans in the Midway Church cemetery. Other decorations for the celebration were arranged by a detachment of Coast Guardsmen from the Yamacraw and Boy Scout Troop No. 36 from Savannah, Georgia.
A. Gordon Cassels was chairman of the Board of Select Men and president of the Midway Society on April 26, 1930, while P.F. Martin Sr. was its vice president, and Luther H. Quarterman its secretary-treasurer. The Board of Select Men consisted of C.B. Jones, Hugh C. Norman, Frank F. Stacy, Abiel W. Varnedoe, Edgar B. Way, and Walter W. Sheppard.