Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Merry Christmas

The MHS met on Sunday, December11th, 2011 for its annual Christmas Party and Dinner.  They began at Greenville’s new art museum for wine and hors d’oeuvres and enjoyed a tour of the All Things Christmas exhibit.  Toots Hobson was as much a delight speaking to adults as she has been to children and students as they tour.  The club then enjoyed a lovely meal prepared by Chad Garrett from Dinner’s Ready.  Several members in the society had each decorated a dining table and the guests enjoyed the atmosphere and fellowship. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Author Dot Moore weaves recounts story of John Wallace

The Meriwether Historical Society met on Sunday, October 30, 2011 at the Meriwether Courthouse to accommodate the large crowd there to hear author Dot Moore. Moore’s first work, Oracle of the Ages: Reflections on the Curious Life of Fortune Teller Mayhayley Lancaster, received the Georgia Historical Society’s 2002 Lilla M. Hawes Award for the best book of Georgia county or local history published the year before. Today, the hardback edition is sold out. Her latest work, No Remorse: the Rise and Fall of John Wallace is an exciting and thought provoking biography which includes Wallace’s early life through his trial and execution.

Moore, who attended Alabama State College for Women and earned her Masters at Auburn University is not slowing down in “retirement” and has traveled and talked extensively since she finished the Wallace book.  She brought with her Wallace’s pistol, Bible, and pocket watch which many viewed and photographed.
She began by answering the question most asked to her: how did she get interested in the Wallace story? She came to John Wallace through Mayhayley Lancaster, she said.  She had read Murder in Coweta County by Margaret Anne Barnes and decided to write about Mayhayley who lived right up the road from her in Coweta County.

Lancaster, Moore said, was an informer-she turned people in who came to her to ask their fortune and if they would be caught at what they did.  John Wallace was one who believed Mayhayley’s stories. Moore working with John Wallace’s letters and courthouse records knew that Barnes story of the murder had its errors. She also read A. L. Henson’s Confessions of a Criminal Lawyer which portrayed a different version of the trial. Henson was Wallace’s attorney. The crime and trial were covered by the Atlanta Journal, the Atlanta Constitution, the LaGrange Daily News, Newnan Times, and Columbus Ledger-Enquirer-all telling different accounts.

Moore began by explaining some of the background of Wallace who was born in Chambers County, Alabama, in Glass.  From a prominent family Wallace’s father died when he was eleven surprising the family by leaving behind overwhelming and embarrassing debts.  He and his mother were helped by her Meriwether County relatives, the Stricklands. Wallace later attended Gordon Military Academy then Young Harris. He was drafted in 1918 but had the Spanish flu, a sweeping epidemic that killed more than World War I did. He spent the war recovering in Auburn or Ft. Meade, Maryland and received an honorable discharge after World War I.

Wallace and his mother built a home on Wallace Road near Pine Mountain or Chipley as it was known then. Wallace was known to be generous and have many friends. He acquired property and farmed. Making moonshine during Prohibition sent him to the Atlanta Penitentiary for two years where his cell mate was his Uncle Mozart Strickland. He meets and later marries Josephine at the resort at White Sulphur Springs on New Year’s Eve 1931.  Wallace was 35 and Josephine was 18.

The murder story begins in 1948 when Wallace and his friends were looking for cows that had been stolen.  Wilson Turner was arrested for the theft. Moore turned to A. L. Henson’s book Confessions of a Criminal Lawyer to learn another side of the story from the one Barnes presented.From her research, Moore is convinced that when Herring Sivell and John Wallace caught up with the fleeing Turner at the Sunset Tourist Camp in Coweta County, and were seen beating him and putting him in Sivell’s truck, he was alive when taken back to Meriwether County. If this was indeed so, Coweta County should never have been the site for his trial as the murder would have happened later in Meriwether.  The body was to have been burned in a well one night which assumption most say could not have been done so quickly. Such fascinating but conflicting “facts” fill this story and make for a great read as Moore has done her research well.

Moore is helped in piecing together the story becasue Wallace was an excellent writer and sent many letters from jail.  She has his letters to and from relatives in Texas, to Josephine and Dorothy Dunlap. From Coweta, Wallace went to the federal penitentiary where one Wallace letter admitted, “it’s up” and he made his funeral plans that were remarkably different from usual post execution procedure which gave rise to the story he was not executed. He told Atlanta Journal Constitution writer Celestine Sibley he found religion before his execution.

Moore autographed her book after answering questions from the audience. Several in the audience knew Wallace, knew of his brutal but also generous ways and told their stories.

Before Moore’s program, the historical society held its business meeting. The Greenville United Methodist Church donated $1000 toward the parking lot paving and graveling at the society’s headquarters as the church uses the facility frequently. The heating and air conditioning problems were discussed with plans to further investigate what was needed. The society will again be selling Honey Baked Hams at Thanksgiving.

President Mabon recognized Sally Neal, Linda Wilburn, and Sally Estes and thanked them for their work on the Greenville Streetscapes. Phase I is finished and Phase II funds are being procured to complete the west side of the square and the courthouse retaining wall. The group has to raise 20% of the $375,000 to match the $300,000 grant. Wilburn noted there will be more pavers sold as Phase I raised over $20,000 on the sales which have been popular as many people walk the sidewalks to read the pavers.

Wilburn was asked to explain her private venture into Greenville’s downtown development as she has bought and renovated the Charles Jones Print Shop to be an art museum for local county artists.  Toots Hobson and Sally Neal explained that the first exhibit opening in November is called All Things Christmas and will be open for school tours and to the public.  The exhibit features Christmas customs and traditions from around the world and features over seventy Nativity scenes, varieties of Christmas trees and decorations, Santas, Nutcrackers, snowmen and more. Mabon thanked the Wilburns for embracing our community and investing in it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dot Moore and her latest book . . .

The Meriwether Historical Society is pleased to announce that author Dot Moore will return to Greenville this Sunday, October 30th to speak about her recent book, No Remorse: the Rise and Fall of John Wallace.  Moore spoke to a packed courtroom in Greenville several years ago when she published her first book Oracle of the Ages about the life of fortune teller Mayhayley Lancaster. The public is invited to this second program to be held on the second floor courtroom at 4 pm.  There is no admission charged, and Moore will have her book available for sale for $24.95 with part of the proceeds going to the Meriwether Historical Society.
   The story of Meriwether farmer John Wallace who killed his farm hand William Turner earned a nationwide audience when reporter Margaret Ann Barnes of the Newnan Times-Herald wrote Murder in Coweta County in 1976. The book was made into a movie starring Andy Griffith as Wallace, Johnny Cash as Coweta Sheriff Lamar Potts and June Carter as Mayhayley Lancaster.
   Meriwether residents who knew Wallace and the fateful day when Turner was released from jail in Greenville have long taken a different view of what should have followed.  Most contend the murder occurred in Meriwether, not Coweta County, which would have placed Wallace in front of a Meriwether County jury instead of a Coweta one.
Author Dot Moore has used courthouse records, letters written by Wallace, and other documents to compile the biography that makes for a good read and a fascinating court case discussion. She brings with her items owned by Wallace.
   Again, the public is invited to attend the program in Greenville at the courthouse at 4 pm.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

National Infantry Museum

September 2011

On Saturday, September 10th, 2011 the Meriwether Historical Society traveled to Columbus to the National Infantry Museum on the outskirts of Fort Benning, home of the Infantry. Opening in 2009, the entrance to the grounds of the 190,000 square foot museum and its impressive atrium were breath taking.
   The museum is imposing and meaningful from the entrance throughout. Its centered entry reminded the group of the Jefferson Memorial, having a columned rotunda and dome with such a wonderful expanse of physical space that you never feel crowded. Featured beneath the dome is a dramatic sculpture depicting the infantry motto, "Follow Me": A soldier in full combat WW-II uniform dashing ahead, shouting (the motto, no doubt) with right hand pointing ahead, the left carrying his rifle.
    Members were impressed with the docents who welcomed and helped us along. They seemed really to enjoy being there, wished us the same, and
 were "on fire" in their desire to impart with passion their knowledge of the various wars represented.
    All felt that "The Last Hundred Yards" was the most impressive exhibit. The museum's signature exhibit unfolds scenes from eight wars in our country’s infantry history, and it features figures cast from real soldiers. The title defines the infantry`s job: taking the last hundred yards in battle. Here visitors walk through realistic dioramas representing scenes from all U.S. wars. Each has a well-placed video making it come alive and each showing uniformed infantrymen of the period. The 
high tech visuals of sight and sound immersed the viewer into feeling he or she were there at the front-lines.
    After lunch at the Fife and Drum, the excellent restaurant in the museum, the group spread out to some of the many rooms honoring different periods in our national history. Every detail in this fine museum is carried out to perfection.
   Centered on the gallery level is the Hall of Honor. It has walls of glass through which rows of soldiers’ photographs can be seen with each being an Infantry Medal of Honor recipient. Because the Infantry receives more fatalities than any other branch of service, it has the most recipients of this high honor.
   Some of the group also visited Heritage Walk which connects the museum with the parade field. It is lined with the flags of all the states rising above rows of polished granite pavers donated by families to commemorate their heroes.
  The trip was an unforgettable experience for the members and highly recommended by our local patriots and lovers of history. The next meeting of the Meriwether Historical Society will be Sunday, October 30th, and will feature author Dot Moore who enthralled the community on her last visit with her book Oracle of the Ages or the stories about Mayhayley Lancaster.  Moore has recently published No Remorse: The Rise and Fall of John Wallace. The program will not be held at the historical society headquarters but possibly at the Meriwether Courthouse to accommodate the expected crowd.

Monday, April 11, 2011

White Sulphur Springs

The Meriwether Historical Society met on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at White Sulphur Springs near Pine Mountain to see the restoration of the historic resort and learn what owner Steven Stuart has planned for the healing waters.
Historical Society President Sallie Mabon welcomed the large crowd attending the meeting that was held in the spring house of Chalybeate Springs used in the 1970s as a barbecue pit and restaurant. Mabon thanked Rosla Plant, Linda Supanski, and Mary Anne Harman for their work on the Christmas party and dinner. Fifteen pavers for Greenville’s new streetscapes sidewalks were purchased for historical society presidents costing $3,750 with past officers donating $1,400 to the fundraiser.
Mabon introduced Stuart who purchased White Sulphur Springs three years ago. He said he had been driving by the springs for seventeen years without knowing they were there but had read about the healing waters of various Meriwether springs and was interested. His first work was to bring in bulldozers and clear the jungle that had grown up over the years. He is currently working with engineers, contractors, and bottlers to put the healing sulphur water in a marketable form.
The water has a high PH of 7.6 to 8 and brings with it a number of minerals that are thought to heal acid reflux, help with diabetes, joint problems, and more.  The high levels of manganese are thought to help those with Alzheimer’s. The springs output is about one gallon per minute. Several springs are located there-Chalybeate, Rock Sulphur, Black Sulphur, and Red Sulphur Springs all feed into White Sulphur Creek.
Stuart has enjoying learning about the various owners and history of the resort. The Marks brothers of Columbus owned the land in the 1800s when it was called Pine Knot. 1906 saw a lot of activity as there was a two story hotel there run by owners Scoville and Tigner. People visited for the health benefits but also pure recreation. There were a number of cottages and activities on the grounds from a casino, dance hall, billiards, steam rooms and more. The grounds provided all the vegetables and meats for the dining room. Historical society members enjoyed pouring over the hotel register dating from 1906 to 1922 and noting signatures by the locals from our county staying there as well as noted figures like John D. Rockefeller, George Vanderbilt, J. P. Morgan, Cason Callaway, and FDR.
Stuart showed the club framed photos of Franklin Roosevelt on possum hunts where the animal was hunted and caught, fed out for several weeks and then eaten.  Ben and Martha Tigner were shown serving the then Governor Roosevelt at the famous “Possum Supper” where thirty possums were cooked and served.
The hotel burned two times with the last opening February 12, 1948. The club enjoyed touring one of the cottages complete with rustic wainscoting, wall molding pegged to hold items like clothing, and plastered walls and ceilings that were in remarkably good shape.
Stuart provided members a gallon jug so they could each take home the healing waters from Red Sulphur Springs. Several members enjoyed soaking their feet in the Chalybeate Springs water while the society enjoyed refreshments and chatting. The society will again hold a summer luncheon and fundraiser possibly having Herb Bridges, called the world’s leading authority on Gone with the Wind memorabilia, as the guest speaker.