Beginning of a New Century (1900)

Edward R. Perry was chairman of the Liberty County Board of Commissioners in 1900, Thomas S. Layton, a phy­sician, was mayor of Hinesville, and Liberty County was 124 years old. More than half of its population was black, most of whom could not qualify to vote in political elections because of a state literacy law.


Agriculture, livestock, lumber, and naval stores comprised the only industries in Liberty County in 1900. Three hun­dred and twenty-three bales of cotton, nearly 2,000 head of cattle and hogs, nearly 2,000 feet of lumber, and about 1,000 barrels of resin and turpentine were produced in Liberty County in 1900.


Liberty County Chapter No. 480, United Daughters of the Confederacy, was organized in Hinesville on June 15, 1901. First officers of the organization were Laura Palmer Norman, president, Alice Reppard, vice president, Laura Martin Fraser, treasurer, and Mamie Caswell Brinson, secre­tary. There were 22 charter members in the organization.


Squire Benjamin Darsey, second schools commissioner of Liberty County, died in August 1901. He was a captain in the Georgia Militia, and a director of the Taylors Creek Camp Meeting most of his life.


A log train of the Savannah and Southern Railroad, owned and operated by G.W. Tuten of Bryan County, Georgia, jumped the track while crossing a trestle over the Canoochee River in 1902. Twenty-five cars piled up, but no one was injured. Firemen came from Savannah, Georgia, to supervise the burning of the cars to clear the track.


The Georgia Coast & Piedmont Railroad, referred to by local wits as the “Gopher, Coon, and Possum Railroad,” was established in 1902 by a company headed by William Mendes. It ran from Collins to Darien via Reidsville, Glennville, and Johnstons Station (Liberty City). It eventually had 99 miles of track, six locomotives, and 104 freight and passenger cars. Some of its stops were in communities with such names as Mendes, Wee Fanny, Goosepond, and Donald.


The U.S. Congress in 1903 approved the Militia Act and the state militia became the National Guard. The Liberty Independent Troop survived the transition and built a two­ story wooden armory adjacent to the general parade ground at Hinesville. Ladies in the 16th Militia District designed and made an official flag for the Liberty Guards and presented it to members of the organization on October 5, 1903. But the unit was mustered out of the service in less than five years.


Newton J. Norman and Select Men of the Midway So­ciety in 1905 commenced a vigorous campaign to have the U.S. Congress erect a monument to Brigadier General Daniel Stewart and Brigadier General James Screven in the Midway Church cemetery. The time was right for such a campaign, because Brigadier General Stewart’s great-grandson, Theodore Roosevelt, was president of the United States from 1901 to 1909.


William Ludowici, owner of the Ludowici Celadon Com­pany, made a substantial contribution to build a high school at Johnstons Station (Liberty City) in 1905. Grateful citizens changed its name to Ludowici. The village was incorporated as the “Town of Ludowici” by the General Assembly on August 23, 1905. Henry B. Skeele was appointed mayor by the General Assembly, and W.D. Baggs, M.T. Rimes, and R.L. Horne aldermen until an election of such officials could be held.


A story datelined “Dorchester, Ga.” in the Savannah Morn­ing News on April 7, 1907, reported: “There was a charming dance at the academy last evening. A party of young people came over from Belfast, being chaperoned by Mr. and Mrs. Gaza. Miss Basam and Mr. and Mrs. W.R.H. Carvan were the chaperones here.”


The American Missionary Association in 1907 contributed $1,300 and the Daniel Hand Fund $3,600 for the operation of Dorchester Academy. Buildings and land owned by the school were valued at $25,000 in 1907. It had 12 teachers, 251 students, and its annual operating cost was $4,400. Its principal that year was Reverend Charles M. Stevens.


There was a dim road which passed through Goshen Swamp to the middle part of Liberty County which was a nightmare for travelers for more than 100 years. The Liberty County Board of Commissioners in 1905 hired a firm to build up the roadbed from Hinesville to McIntosh and put clay on top. The work was completed in 1907 at a cost of from $700 to $1,000 a mile, depending on how far the clay had to be transported by mule teams.


Someone in Ludowici early on April 1, 1908, spread the rumor that Governor Hoke Smith would be aboard a train of the Georgia Coast & Piedmont Railroad when it passed through town later that morning. Mayor R.C. Hines, Professor F.L. Byrd, the Ludowici High School Band, and a large crowd gathered at the depot to greet the esteemed gentleman. When the train arrived someone aboard it dispatched a conductor to tell the crowd that the governor, who was not aboard the train, would be unable to appear because it was the “first of April.” As the train chugged away, the crowd realized that someone in town and aboard the train had played an elabor­ate “April Fools Day” joke on the people of Ludowici.


Railroads proliferated in several parts of Southeast Georgia during this general period of time. The Darien & Western Railroad touched Liberty County on the south, while the Glennville & Register Railroad touched it on the west.