April 26, 1915, was a very special day in Liberty County, because it was on that date that a marble tablet commemorating the repairing of the Midway Church cemetery wall by the Georgia Society of the Colonial Dames of America, and a monument to Brigadier General James Screven and Brigadier General Daniel Stewart, erected by the U.S. Congress, were both unveiled in the cemetery.
About 3,000 persons gathered in the morning about the cemetery entrance to witness ceremonies attending the unveiling of the marble tablet. Two battalions of coast artillery troops, one from the U.S. Army and the other from the U.S. Army Reserve Corps, were drawn up at attention with their backs to Midway Church and facing the cemetery wall.
Reverend W.E. Way of Jacksonville, Florida, opened the exercises with the invocation. A speech of presentation was made by Peter W. Meldrim, president of the Georgia Bar Association. The tablet, covered with buff and blue cloth, was then unveiled by the president of the Georgia Society of the Colonial Dames of America.
Joseph B. Way, born and reared in Flemington, accepted the tablet on behalf of the Midway Society.
During his speech he said:
“We are told by our church that from 1752 to 1865 there were buried in this historic place 1,200 people-one governor, one U.S. senator, two generals of the American revolution, one commodore, one scientist of worldwide fame, one diplomat, and 11 ministers of the gospel.”
When Way said that “two generals of the American revolution” were buried in the Midway Church cemetery, he was speaking of James Screven and Daniel Stewart. Screven was a brigadier general in the Georgia Militia when he died from wounds he received in combat with British troops during the Revolutionary War. He was not a member of Midway Church. Daniel Stewart did not attain the rank of brigadier general in the Georgia Militia until shortly before the War of 1812. He was a member of Midway Church.
By noon the crowd had grown to nearly 5,000. During the recess between the morning and afternoon ceremonies, many people ate basket lunches on the church grounds. Hundreds of persons had traveled by automobile to witness the ceremonies, while many others came from Savannah, Georgia, to Dorchester on two special trains the Seaboard Airline Railroad operated for the day.
Colonel A. Gordon Cassels was marshal of the day, and Troop B, First Georgia Cavalry (Liberty Independent Troop), commanded by Major W.P. Waite, did special police duty. Not one case of intoxication or disorderly conduct was observed or reported. Respectful attention was accorded by everyone to veterans of the Confederate Army, who wore their Civil War uniforms.
There were Confederate flags on the graves of Confederate Army soldiers in the Midway Church cemetery. They served to remind everyone that the occasion was also Confederate Memorial Day.
The Western Union Telegraph Company installed a station inside of the Midway Church cemetery. Many people sent messages to friends and relatives as souvenirs of the event.
Two messages to President Woodrow Wilson went from the station to the White House in Washington, D.C.
At two in the afternoon, the 14th Coast Artillery Band from Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, played the national anthem. The crowd was quietly attentive as Newton J. Norman, president of the Midway Monument Commission, and master of ceremonies, opened the program while the band softly played “The Rosary.”
The monument was covered with two huge American flags.
A speakers’ stand was erected directly in front of it. Seated on the stand were 20 members of the monument commission, the speakers, and representatives of several patriotic organizations.
At the end of the stand, and facing the monument, stood 13 young ladies who were “sponsors” of the unveiling. All of them were descendents of the first Liberty County settlers. They were Eliza Maxwell Stevens, Mary Helen Quarterman, Josephine H. Law, Van Evren Green, Marie Way, Mary Miller, Mary Fraser, Iola Norman, Gladys Cassels, Alicia Hart Young, Evelyn Harris Girard, Raymonde Harris Harrison, and Hattie Gignilliatt.
Reverend W.E. Way delivered the invocation, after which Norman briefly recited a history of the monument. Colonel William C. Langfett of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then formally transferred the monument from his jurisdiction to the Midway Society.
Colonel Langfett concluded his remarks by saying, ” … and I commit to your loving care this monument to General Screven and General Stewart.” At that moment Mary Helen Quarterman and Eliza Maxwell Stevens, both direct descendents of the two officers, released cords holding the flags and they slipped to the base of the monument, and the Stewart-Screven Monument was officially unveiled.
The moment the monument was unveiled, the first guns of a double brigadier general’s salute were fired by Battery A and Battery C, First Coast Artillery Battalion from Fort Screven, Georgia. As the echo died down and while the crowd was still cheering, the sponsors occupied seats in front of the stand facing the crowd.
U.S. Congressman Charles G. Edwards officially presented the monument to the Midway Society. The band then played “Dixie” and the monument was accepted by A.S. Way of Reidsville, Georgia, for the Midway Society.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Samuel Jordan was President Woodrow Wilson’s personal representative at the ceremonies. He made a speech and told the crowd that the two men honored that day “died on the field of honor.”
Reverend John W. Quarterman of Beach, Georgia, delivered the benediction. The Chatham Artillery then fired a double salute. The closing event was a concert by the band. Its selections included “Georgia Varsity,” “Calm Sea and Happy Voyage,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Lucia di Lammermoor.” and “A Hunting Scene.”
The Stewart-Screven monument was now a part of Liberty County forever. Sad to say, an inscription on the monument was not entirely correct. It said Brigadier General James Screven died in combat with British troops at Sunbury. He was fatally wounded in combat with British troops about two miles south of Midway Church.
Troop A, First Georgia Cavalry, commanded by Captain Frank P. Mclntire , marched on horseback on the return trip to Savannah, Georgia. It was accompanied by J. Van Holt Nash, the state adjutant general. The Liberty Independent Troop marched on horseback to and from Hinesville.
Newton J. Norman, chairman of the board of Select Men of the Midway Society, was chairman of the Midway Monument Commission. Neyle Colquitt was the secretary, and E.L. Miller of Hinesville was the treasurer.
Members of the Midway Monument Commission were Sumner W. Allen, W. Norman Beckett, A. Gordon Cassels, Walter G. Charlton, Charles G. Edwards, Stephen N. Harris, William Schley Howard, Joseph William Hughes III, G. Noble Jones, P.F. Martin, John M. Slayton, Henry D. Stevens, J.O. Varnedoe , Joseph B. Way, Grant Wilkins, Abial F. Winn, and William B. Stephens.