People, Places, and Things (1857-1861)

It was in 1857 that the congregation of Jones Creek Bap­tist Church erected a new church building. It was designed by Henley F. Horne and had a gallery for slaves.


A hunting season was established in Liberty County in 1857, when the General Assembly approved legislation pro­hibiting the killing of deer at certain times of the year. Within two years, seasons for hunting other kinds of game were also established.


The Savannah, Albany & Gulf Railroad completed laying its tracks to Thomasville, Georgia, in 1858. The tracks were layed and the roadbed built in part by slaves hired from various plantation owners. It built depots along the way it referred to only by numbers, but local residents gave them names. Station No. 3 was on the Hutchinson Plantation and became known as Hutchinson Station, and later McIntosh when a gentleman by that surname became the depot agent. Station No. 4 was near Walthourville Village, so it was called Walthourville Station. Station No. 5 was on property of Allen Johnston, so it was called Johnstons Station.


The Grand Lodge of Georgia on October 28, 1858, granted a charter to Altamaha Lodge No. 227, Free and Accepted Masons. It had 23 charter members. The lodge hall was lo­cated south of the Johnstons Station depot, and the railroad referred to a stop it made there as Station No. 5 1/2.


During an election in January 1859, William Bennett Fleming ran unopposed and was reelected Judge of Superior Courts, Eastern Judicial Circuit. He was the son of William and Catherine Fleming of Flemington. Fewer than 400 voters showed up at the polls in Liberty County for that election.


An important social event occurred on December 22, 1858. Gussie H. Quarterman was married in the home of her parents at Walthourville to Milo S. Freeman of Savannah, Georgia.


A great deal of counterfeit money was circulating in Georgia in 1859. It reached the point to where people would carefully examine paper money they received, and bite coins trying to determine whether they were bogus.


The latest fashion for ladies in 1859 was beaver hats trimmed with ostrich feathers. Horse-drawn streetcars were introduced in Chicago, Illinois, for the first time in 1859. “Nearer, My God, to Thee” was published in 1859 and soon became a national favorite. It was not at first considered a hymn.


A large crowd of Liberty Countians gathered dockside in Savannah on April 18, 1859, when the steamship Star of the North made port. They were there to welcome home Rever­end Robert Quarterman Way. He was returning from Ningpo, China, where he had served as a missionary for 16 years.


There was sometimes a note of mystery, never fully ex­plained, about events in Liberty County just before the Civil War. On September 28, 1859, a letter, signed only by the initials of a Liberty Countian, appeared in a Savannah newspaper. It said: “I send you the following case for the benefit of your readers. A few days ago, on a plantation in Liberty County, near Midway Church, a human being was raised from the grave though buried, yet unborn-lived, notwithstanding all. The child is now living, and the owner has called his name Lazurus.’


A mounted patrol operated privately by coastal plantation owners in Liberty County for many years, primarily to keep an eye on their slaves, became official on December 13, 1859. The General Assembly on that date established a Board of Police for the 15th Militia District. The old mounted patrol and the new Board of Police were one and the same.


Three days after Christmas, 1859, the sloop Star, based at Sunbury, sank at her wharf at the lower rice mill in Savannah, Georgia. Her cargo of corn, sea island cotton, and sundries was lost. Cause of the disaster was unknown, but the sloop was later raised and saw duty again.


By 1859, virtually all travel and commerce between Liber­ty County and Savannah, Georgia, was by rail. It was now convenient for Liberty Countians to attend dramatic produc­tions at the Atheneum Theater in Savannah, and watch performances of Robinson and Lake’s Greater Menagerie and Circus, which played in Savannah in February 1860.


On January 6, 1860, the Savannah newspapers reported the latest fashion news from Paris, France. The reports said that winter bonnets for ladies were much larger, and the most fashionable made of two-colored velvet.


If you had attended worship services in the Gum Branch Primitive Church during the period 1856-1860 you would have listened to sermons by its pastors, Reverend Isaac New­ton, Reverend John Tatam, and Reverend Lewis Price Jr. Church clerks during the same period of time were I.S. Flowers and A.B. Flowers. Some members of the church were Lewis Price Sr., James N. Mobley, Charles Flowers, John Flowers, Albert Mobley, Evan Wells, W.J. Mobley, Samuel Swindle, Charles E. Dickerson, Mary Price, Eliza­beth Mobley, Eliza Flowers, John Dickerson, John Way, and William A. Curry. There was no music in the worship service and in 1858 the congregation was debating whether or not to adopt the Primitive Baptist religious custom of “foot washing.”


By 1860, most of Sunbury had been converted into corn­fields. The port, with one official, was used infrequently. The Sunbury Baptist Church remained and was still used as a house of worship.


In early November 1860 the state legislature voted to call a “Secession Convention.” Counties were instructed to elect delegates to the convention. On November 20, 1860, some of the most influential citizens of Liberty County met in the Liberty County Courthouse for a “southern rights meet­ing”, They met again on January 8, 1861, and considered William Bennett Fleming, Leander Varnedoe, and William B. Gaulden delegates to the Secession Convention. Fleming and Varnedoe were chosen.


The Secession Convention was held at Milledgeville, the state capitol. Its delegates adopted the Ordinances of Seces­sion by a vote of 208 to 89 on January 19, 1861.


Forty-two delegates from South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida met in conven­tion in Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4, 1861. They adopted a provisional constitution of the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, pro­visional president, and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, provisional vice president.


Gilbert William Williams of Liberty County was a delegate to the Congressional Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, when a flag was chosen for the Confederate States of America. His son, Aaron D. Williams, 16, wanted to be the first person in Liberty County to fly the Confederate flag.


Gilbert William Williams arranged with his friend, William T. Thompson, editor of the Savannah Morning News, to tele­graph details of the flag’s design to his son as soon as they were adopted. For several nights the Williams youth waited at the Johnstons Station telegraph office to receive the message.


The word finally came late at night on March 4, 1861. The youth rushed home to his mother, where the tri-colors they had heard would be used in the flag were partially assembled. They worked through the night, and by morning the first Confederate flag in Liberty County was complete and flying over the Williams home. That home was in a part of Liberty County, which became Long County in 1920.