No two persons ever influenced the education of white Liberty County children over such a long period of time quite so much as James Sharp Bradwell and his son. Samuel Dowse Bradwell. Their ancestors went back to the very beginning of Liberty County.
Isaac and Nathaniel Bradwell, brothers, and Hugh Dowes, all residents of Dorchester, South Carolina, received 500 acre grants of land each in Liberty County in 1752. Hugh Dowse had a son, Gideon Dowse, who married Ann Elliott in 1766. When she died in 1771, he married Susannah Bradwell, daughter of Isaac Bradwell. Their children were Hugh Jr., Susannah. May, and Samuel Dowse.
Isaac Bradwell had a son, Thomas Bradwell whose wife Mary, died in 1796. Their children were Thomas Jr., John, James Sharp, and Hannah Ginn Bradwell. James Sharp Bradwell married Isabel Fraser of Liberty County in 1838. Their children were Isabella, Mary, and Samuel Dowse Bradwell.
James Sharp Bradwell was assistant headmaster of McIntosh County Academy in 1840 when he was offered the position of headmaster of Hinesville Academy. He resigned his position, accepted the new position, and built a home in Hinesville.
Samuel Dowse Bradwell graduated from college in 1860 and became a lieutenant and then captain and commanding officer of the Liberty Volunteers during the Civil War. He was known as the “Boy Captain” because of his youthful appearance at the age of 21 when he became a Confederate Army officer.
He was severely wounded during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864, but somehow managed to make his way back to Hinesville. He was still recovering from his wounds when federal troops invaded Liberty County in December 1864. His relatives hid him in their homes to prevent his capture by the federal troops.
When the Civil War was over, Bradwell and other persons in Liberty County founded the Hinesville Educational Society. For five years they refurbished buildings of the Poor School near Hinesville and Hinesville Academy.
When reconstruction of Georgia ended in 1870, Bradwell established a tuition school for boys in Hinesville’ Academy and called it the Hinesville Male Academy. He opened classes in the Poor School a short time later when state and county funds became available for its operation.
The year of 1872 was one of change and achievement for Bradwell. He changed the name of the Hinesville Male Academy to Bradwell Institute in honor of his father who died in 1866. He then went to the Liberty County Superior Court and got the school incorporated for 20 years. He traveled to Pennsylvania, bought a small printing press, and brought it back and installed it in a small building on the grounds of his home. He established the Hinesville Gazette and late in 1872 the first issue of the newspaper rolled off the press.
In the midst of all this activity, Bradwell managed to find time to court and marry Elizabeth Clifton. They had two children and resided with his mother in her home just off courthouse square in Hinesville.
As the student load increased at Bradwell Institute, another teacher was employed by the county to teach at the Poor School. Bradwell then devoted all of his time to the operation of his newspaper and enlarging the scope of instruction at Bradwell Institute, which evolved into a school for males and females.
Although Bradwell Institute was a commercial venture, it received both state and county public funds. Liberty County, in later years, contributed funds for its operation from such activities as the sale of stray cattle rounded up by county rangers. One of those rangers was Harold R. Rogers Sr., whose son, Harold R. Rogers Jr., was the Liberty County Administrator when he died. His son, Harold R. Rogers III, became a member of the Liberty County Board of Commissioners.
The first staff writer employed by the Hinesville Gazette was Daniel Webster Folsom of Mount Vernon, Georgia. He went to work for the newspaper just after graduating from Bradwell Institute. His son, Horace B. Folsom, newspaper editor and historian, was the main speaker during the annual meeting of the Midway Society in Midway Church in April 1939.
The Hinesville Gazette was issued each Monday morning and carried legal advertisements for Liberty and neighboring counties. The subscription rate was $1 a year. During the early days of the newspaper, postal service had not been restored from Walthourville to Hinesville. As soon as an edition came off the press, Folsom would deliver copies of the newspaper on horseback to McIntosh for delivery by train to Savannah advertisers.
The building in which the Hinesville Gazette was established became the home of J.R. Bagley when he married Eva Hendry, his first wife. The building was moved by sections in 1904 to the corner of North Main and Washington streets in Hinesville. It was then reconstructed into a two-story home by E.C. and Ellen Long Caswell when they moved from their farm near Canoochee Bluff. The two front rooms of the first floor of the building was the first home of the Hinesville Gazette.