Friday, January 25, 2013

22 January 1897: Prisoners Saw Bars Off Cells in "Daring Escape" from Clarke County Jail

On this day (well, earlier this week) in 1897, the Weekly Banner shared this daring story of a six-person escape from the Clarke County jailhouse:

Physical descriptions of the suspects were provided in the paper:

John Spratlin is about 22 years old, 6 feet tall, weight about 180 pounds, ginger cake colored.
 Taylor Findley, about 27 years old, 5 feet 10 inches, weight about 160 or 165 pounds, ginger cake color.
Linton Findley, black, about feet 10 inches, weight about 160 pounds, short beard on face when escaped, about 27 years old. 
Robert Harris, mulatto, about 22 or 23 years old, thin mustache, right leg a cork one, weight about 130 pounds. 
Henry Armstrong, about 23 or 24 years old, 5 feet 7 inches, weight about 150 pounds, black. 
George Whitfield, very black, about 5 feet 10 inches high, weight about 160 pounds, 22 years old.

The escape actually occurred several days before, but daily papers from the week of the event are not available. Despite one of their escapees having only one good leg, the sheriff and the special deputized officers searched all night and found "not a clew," calling the escape with a saw "a profound mystery." The paper reassured its readers that "It is believed they will be captured...sooner or later."

By February 26th, the $25 reward offered for Armstrong, Harris, and Whitfield were withdrawn, but kept in place for the Findley brothers and John Spratlin. Linton Findley was later caught in Putnam county in March, where officers there collected a $175 reward (the $25 from Clarke and $150 offered by the state of Georgia). He was tried and found guilty of murder in April, and scheduled to hang on May 7th. There is no mention of his brother or the other escapees being captured within the next year.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

18 January 1831: A Local Census Tally

On this day in 1831, the Athenian posted this breakdown of the population count for Clarke county and the city of Athens:

In 1831, Clarke county was significantly larger than it is today, including all of the land now in Oconee county, which cut Clarke in half when it was created in 1875.

The black population is almost equal to the white population, but most interesting is the 29 "free colored" people living in Clarke county in 1831. Georgia had some of the harshest laws for free blacks, including forbidding them from becoming masons or mechanics, skills that would likely lead to economic stability. Georgia and Virginia were the only two southern states that did not allow free blacks to vote.

The state also gave anyone who suspected their supposedly white neighbors of  only pretending to be white to take them to court to make them prove they had less than 1/8th "Negro blood," lest they continue to have the privileges of marriage, literacy, suffrage, and professional employment. However, despite such hardships, free African-American communities did exist, such as Springfield near Augusta, Georgia.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

14 January 1903: The Athens Chamber of Commerce Is Organized

On this day in 1903, the initial members of the newly created Athens Chamber of Commerce elected their first officers and formally established the organization and committees. 

The officers were L. F. Edwards, President; W. F. Bryan 1st Vice President; M. G. Michael, 2nd Vice President; T. W. Reed, Secretary; and C. H. Phinizy, treasurer.

Earlier in the month, the Weekly Banner published this list of charter members of the Athens Chamber of Commerce:

Abbott, S. K.
Abney Brothers Co.
Anderson, J. T.
Arnold Grocery Co.
Arnold, John L.
Ash, W. C.
Athens Banner, The
Athens Gas Co.
Athens Hardware Co., The
Boley, Sidney
Bondurant, E. J.
Brandt, R.
Brooks, A. L.
Bryan, W. T.
Burnett, W. B.
Carithers, J. Y.
Collett & Ingle
Conway, H. C.
Cooper, J. C.
Darwin, John A.
Davison, A. H.
Dearing, A. P.
Dornblass, J.
Dorsey & Funkenstein
Dorsey, E. H.
Dorsey, J. H .
Dozier & Co.
DuBose, R. Toombs
Edwards, L. F.
Eppes-Wilkins Co.
Flanigen, C. D.
Fleming, T. & Sons
Fleming, W.
Globe Racket Store
Green, T. F.
Griffeth Implement Co.
Griffeth, J. H.
Griffith, A. E.
Griffith, C. B.
Haselton, D. P.
Head & McMahan
Hodgson Cotton Co.
Hodgson, A. H.
Hodgson, C. N.
Holder, Jr., B. F.
Hulme & Co., Geo.
Humphrey, J. E.
Hunnicutt, J. A.
Johnson, M. C.
Joseph, Max
Kenney, D. M.
King & Co., J. S.
Klein & Martin
Lipscomb, F. A.
Mallory, W. A.
McCurdy, J. M.
McGregor, D. W.
McMahan, J. C. C.
McNeely, W. A.
McWhorter, Hamilton
Michael Bros.
Miller, D. F.
Morton, I. P.
Morton, John White
Moss, R. L., Jr.
Motes, C. W.
Nicholson, G. R.
Nicholson, M. G.
O’Neal, W. B.
Orr Drug Co., The
Palmer, H. R. & Sons
Peeples, W. J.
Petrie, C. B.
Philpot, S. T.
Phinizy, Billups,
Pitner, J. A.
Quillian, D. D.
Reed, T. W.
Rhodes, Alex
Rhodes, J. F.
Shackleford, T. J.
Sizer, R. W.
Skalowski, M. H.
Sledge, E. D.
Smith, E. I.
Stern, Chas. & Co.
Strickland, J. J.
Talmadge Bros. & Co.
Talmadge Hardware Co.
Thomas, W. W.
Tuck, H. C.
Turner & Hodgson
Vincent, T. P.
Vonderau, W. P.
Webb & Crawford
Wilkins, J. J.
Williamson, G. H.
Willis, E. F.
Wingfield, W. C.

Mayor J. F. Rhodes was chairman of the committee to draft a constitution and by-laws for the organization, and after his presentation, both passed with "a few minor amendments." 

The meeting schedule would be on the 2nd Tuesday of every month, with quarterly items on the agenda in January, April, July, and October, and their annual meeting in January. 

A total of 17 committees were being formed, covering Agriculture, Education, New Enterprises, Express Service and Railroad Transportation, Advertising and Publicity, Postal and Telegraph Service, and one covering Streets, Roads, and Parks.

The Board of Directors would be the officers and the chairmen from the Arbitration, Finance, and Manufacturers committees. Once committees were organized, they would "take up several matters of importance to the city and discuss and act upon them."

Stated the Weekly Banner, "It is the universal opinion that this new business organization will do much toward advancing the interests of the city."

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

12 January 1911: Hookworm Experts Are Here!

On this day in 1911, a small notice appeared with other brief local news items in the Athens Banner:

The doctors were in Athens as part of the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease. In the report issued a few weeks later by the commission, they singled out the State Normal School's initiative:

In the State Normal School, at Athens, Georgia, the student teachers are being given instruction in hookworm disease to the end that they as teachers may be able to give definite instruction to the children in their own schools.
 The work done at the Normal School was part of the report focusing on educating primary school children about "the dangers of soil pollution and how to avoid them." 

In the early 20th century, hookworm was a common problem in the United States, especially in the South, where the warm, humid weather allowed hookworm larvae to thrive. The hookworm larva typically infects through the sole of the foot, migrates through the bloodstream to the heart and lungs, and then matures to adulthood in the small intestines of its mammal host. Though it is only infectious in its third larval stage, that stage can last three to four weeks. Once inside the host, the worm can get as long as 11 millimeters and live for over two years.

Rockefeller used a part of his vast fortune to fight against hookworm infection in the United States, starting in 1910. Though some people would only have gastrointestinal symptoms when infected with a few hookworms, poor diet and/or a severe infection caused anemia and protein loss. 

The Sanitary Commission helped fund outhouses at schools and stressed the importance of rural children to wear shoes to avoid infection. Within just five years, the organization had made great headway and significantly reduced the number of infected individuals.

Today, there are approximately 576 to 740 million people infected with hookworms worldwide, primarily in developing countries. Doctors who treat people with hookworm, however, began to notice that children with hookworms had far fewer occurrences of asthma and weaker reactions to allergens, which has led to controlled experiments with hookworm infection in healthy individuals in hope of isolating the way the worms slow down the immune system and alleviate allergy symptoms. The plan is to reproduce the mechanism the worms use, since actual infection with hookworms is both dangerous and disgusting.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

9 January 1903: Nine-Month School Year and Night Schools Are Established in Clarke County

On this day in 1903, the Weekly Banner noted the changes to the Clarke County school year gave it the distinction of being "the only county in the state of Georgia...that can boast of a system of rural schools of nine months term each year."

(click to enlarge image)

Though the article comes across as more town bragging by the editors of the Banner, they were right that the nine-month school year was an outlier in American public education at the time. 

In the early 1900s, children in the United States encountered school years that were typically 4-5 months long (officially 147.2 days as an average), and attendance was closer to 3-4 months (101.7 days were average) every year. The low attendance is likely a side effect of the expectation that children had to help support their family, either with planting, harvesting, or other areas of the family business.

Also announced in this article were the night schools established at two of the primary factories in town. These schools were aimed at children who worked at the factories (and often lived close by) to make it possible for them to gain a basic education despite the economic demands placed on them. Children who worked elsewhere, such as making harnesses or buggies or being apprenticed to a blacksmith or another trade, were also welcome at these evening classes.

The National Child Labor Committee, a group advocating for child labor restrictions, formed in 1904, but federal regulations and oversight would not be passed in the United States until 1938.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Please Note Our Holiday Hours!

On this day, we want you to be aware of the holiday hours for the library and the Heritage Room collection. We will keep our normal hours most days during the season, but will have some changes.

For the Christmas holiday, the library will be closed on 

  • Monday, December 24th, 2012.
  • Tuesday, December 25th, 2012.
  • Wednesday, December 26th, 2012.
The library will reopen at 9am on Thursday, December 27th, 2012. 

For the New Year holiday, the library will close at 6pm on Monday, December 31st, 2012, and be closed on Tuesday, January 1st, 2012. 

The library will reopen at 9am on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2012.

While we are closed, you can still do genealogy research using our GALILEO databases from home, such as Fold3 and HeritageQuest.  

You can also access the Athens Historic Newspaper Archive and the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in the Digital Library of Georgia from the comfort of your decorated living room.

We hope you have a great holiday season!

Friday, December 21, 2012

21 December 1906: Heavy Sleet Takes Out Trolley

On this day in 1906, news of long delays in service for the Athens Electric Railway's trolley service was published in the Weekly Banner:

"Quite a while" in this case was until early January, 1907, when the company began installing new poles and stringing "heavier" and "much better" wire throughout the system. It was promised that "there would be no further delays caused by broken wire." (This promise was kept until a severe sleet storm in February, 1908.)

The first successful electric railway system was developed by Frank J. Sprague, who created the suspension and pulley system that became the standard for cities all over the world. It was installed over 12 miles of tracks in Richmond, Virginia, in 1887, and by 1895, 900 U.S. cities had electric railways, with 11,000 miles of rails. 

Most cities had privately run systems, such as Athens Railway & Electric company, which ran the trolley system until March, 1930, when they changed over to a short-lived city bus system.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

18 November 1921: "Give Kodak This Christmas"

On this day in 1921, this one national Kodak ad was run in the Athens Banner for two local businesses:

The more expensive Autographic Kodak cameras had been introduced in 1914, and allowed the user to write the date (or other information) on the film. When developed, the picture included the data written at the time the photograph was taken. 

Though George Eastman had paid the inventor of this system $300,000.00 (akin to millions today) to use it exclusively for his Kodak cameras, changes in photographic technology made it unworkable by the 1930s. 

The Brownie had been introduced in 1900, and was the first camera made for the every man, woman, and child at a price of $1.00, akin to about $30.00 in today's money. You can see images of these early Brownie cameras by clicking here.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

15 December 1909: A "Christmas Suggestion"

On this day in 1909, the Southern Land Company offered a free piano to anyone buying one of the few remaining lots in the relatively new Lynwood Park subdivision.

Lynwood Park was originally part of the Ferdinand Phinizy estate, near the Cobbham area. In 1906, the suburb was mapped out into lots, spanning from Milledge Avenue to the city limits, and included the West Hancock and Reese Street areas. It became "a little town within itself" for the African-American doctors, dentists, educators, builders, ministers, business owners, and other professionals lived and worked.

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