There was a general air of excitement in Hinesville as the dawn broke over Liberty County on the morning of April 5, 1917. Word had been received that the Liberty Independent Troop, after several delays, would return home that night aboard the Flemington, Hinesville & Western Railroad train.
Headlines in the Savannah Morning News that day read:
SENATE VOTES 82 TO 6 FOR WAR
ACTION BY HOUSE EXPECTED TODAY
GERMAN AGENTS ACTIVE IN SOUTH
TRAIN 2 MILLION MEN IN 2 YEARS
In Savannah, Georgia, that day there was Keith vaudeville at the Bijou Theater, a film “The Hidden Door” at the Arcadia Theater, and another film “The Perils Of Our Girl Reporters” at the New Colonial Theater. B.H. Levy. Brothers & Company was advertising “pinch-back, belted effect, patch pockets, snug-fitting, English suits for men”at $15 each; a Dodge sedan cost $1,200; eggs were 15¢ a dozen; sugar was two pounds for 15¢, and a Victrola console sold for $300.
General Robert E. Lee’s daughter was visiting friends in Savannah, Georgia, that day, and in Hinesville, Roland Brewton and his wife. the former Maude Hines, had just celebrated their second wedding anniversary. Laura Martin Fraser was in Hinesville that day to organize the Liberty County Chapter of the American Red Cross. It was duly organized, and she became its first president.
The Hinesville Ice Company, owned and operated by Henry Lowe, sold sacked ice for 50¢ per 100 pounds. J.B. Morgan had just moved his barber shop from upstairs in the Way building on courthouse square to another location just down the street, and was now in business as the Johnson-Morgan Barber Shop.
By eight in the morning, every store in Hinesville was open for business, and S.B. Brewton, an attorney, had arrived in his snappy red buggy pulled by a sleek little horse, from his home on North Main Street to his office in a miniature home with front porch on courthouse square.
So much rain had fallen earlier in the month that people were unable to travel the road two miles outside of town to Martin Terrill’s modem grist mill, and took their corn to be ground into meal and grits to a small mill powered by an old Model-T engine, and operated by Bill Way almost inside of town.
Sheriff J.D. Stafford arrived at his office on the second floor of the Liberty County Courthouse at eight in the morning, as did Deputy Sheriff W.H. Sallette. It looked to them as if it might be a busy day. People were streaming into Hinesville from almost every direction, bad roads or not, because members of the Liberty Independent Troop arriving that night would need transportation home.
Hershel Hopkins Elder was state senator for Liberty County, and Thomas L. Howard Sr. was its state representative in 1917. Walter Wade Sheppard, a native of Liberty County, was in town that day attending to business. He was Judge of Superior Courts, Atlantic Judicial Circuit, and now a resident of Claxton, Evans County, Georgia.
By eleven o’clock, housewives had gone themselves or sent one of their children, to fetch clear water from “the spring” just below courthouse square to be used in making iced tea for the noon meal. Charlie Dasher had not yet opened his cafe in Hinesville, so there was no restaurant where visitors might take the noon meal. Some of them ate in the hotel dining rooms, others bought sardines and crackers in one of the stores, and lucky visitors went home with friends or relatives residing in Hinesville for the noon meal.
By mid-afternoon, Hinesville was crowded with horses, mules, wagons, and buggies. Visitors shopped in the stores, took care of legal matters in the courthouse, stood around and exchanged gossip, or just sat on the courthouse grounds and waited. By the middle of the afternoon the temperature was nearly 90 degrees.
Not long after seven the Flemington, Hinesville & Western Railroad train chugged away from its depot on North Main Street for its last run of the day to McIntosh. It returned in about an hour with a string of coaches, freight and cattle cars, and members of the Liberty Independent Troop with their baggage, organizational gear, equipment, and mounts they acquired from a remount station at Macon, Georgia. They turned in the mounts they acquired in Texas before departing the Mexican border.
The troops detrained at the National Guard Armory beside the railroad tracks, secured their equipment, gear, and mounts, and lantern lit wagons and buggies could be seen long after nightfall carrying the troops home. Some of them resided in adjoining counties and did not arrive home until near daybreak.
Wallace F. Martin was hospitalized just before the unit departed Texas. He arrived at McIntosh several days later, found that the last train of the day to Hinesville had already departed, and hired a black gentleman and his horse and wagon to bring him to his home in Hinesville.
Some of the troops brought home souvenirs of their year on the Mexican border. Ralph H. Groover, son of Hampton W. and Edith Matilda Long Groover of the Gum Branch community, brought with him a small Mexican burro he bought in Texas. For days after he got back home people could some from miles around to the Groover home to stand and stare at the tiny beast.
There was one woman on the troop train from McIntosh to Hinesville on the night of April 5, 1917. She was Minnie Davis Taylor of Pierce County, Georgia. Her daughter, Susie Taylor Groover, was due to give birth at any time. She came to be with her daughter during the birth and spend a few days afterward. The child was born just after midnight a few hours after she arrived. They named her Mildred Louise.
The following morning the Savannah Morning News head-lines read:
STATE OF WAR WITH GERMANY
AFTER DAY AND NIGHT DEBATE
HOUSE AT 3 AM PASSED WAR
RESOLUTION 373 TO 50