Many of the folks who subscribe to the Douglas County Sentinel no longer reside in the area. They subscribe to the paper so they can keep up with the news in a place they once called home and may still have family. This is a practice that has been going on since the paper was first printed in 1902.
In 1923, the paper sent out a call for former residents who subscribed to the Sentinel to send in a letter regarding their memories of living in Douglas County. Some of these letters are treasure troves of information for someone like me.
The 1910 Census indicates Thompson S. Butler lived in Douglasville on Factory Street, the early name for today’s Church Street as shown on early Sanborn Fire maps. He lived in Douglasville with his wife Mary and three sons, Dewitt, Glenn, and James and indicated his profession at that time was “photographer.”
By 1923 Butler was living in Fulton County. It was from there he sent his letter to the Sentinel regarding life in the earliest days of the county.
Here are the contents of Mr. Butler’s letter:
“In the first place I have known Douglasville from what you might call a new ground to its present state.
Arriving there in May 1874 it was nothing more than a brush heap, logs, and rocks. Yet it somehow began to grow. People bought lots, built shacks, put up shops, stores, etc.
You will pardon personal mention for claiming the honor, if there is any, of selling the first lemonade sold in the town on the Fourth of July 1874 at a Fourth of July celebration. Also of blowing the first steam whistle about ten o’clock one night at a ginnery.
I also remember the first interment in the present cemetery (Douglasville City Cemetery).
Making mentions of a few of the first comers, Col. Joe James put up or opened up the first hotel. Everybody then seemed full of life, fun, and jokes. One morning Joe found a card on his hotel with this inscription — “Price Avenue and McCarley Street, James Hotel and nothing to eat.” [Today, Price Avenue and McCarley Street do not intersect due to O’Neal Plaza, but at one time Price became McCarley after crossing Strickland Street.]
Among those putting up shops were Millwood and Pile and one Henry Mattison Marton.
Millwood and Pile ran a kind of repair shop and some of the jokes accused them of making horses. To carry the joke further, some of them found an old poor horse tied to a sapling. They attached a card on each side of him on which was written: Millwood & Piles, Makers, and rode the old horse up and down the road.
This caused a row, but don’t remember the outcome.
Henry Mattison Marton made bedsteads, tables, and cupboards that he sold to the countryside like hotcakes, especially to the newlyweds. He could also tell some big tales about himself. He said he had lived in seventeen incorporated towns and [had spent] not less than ten years in each town, yet he was a young man…Also, that he swam the Mississippi River on a mustang pony with seven bushels of buckshot in a sack.
S.N. (Samuel Newton) Dorsett was the first postmaster.
In those days we had what they called Road Overseers that would notify the hands that on a certain day to meet to work the roads. They would leave it to the hands as to what to do with a delinquent or if a man failed to appear to work.
So, Mr. Dorsett claimed he was exempt from road duty because he was the postmaster. Our overseer held different and asked us what we would do, put a fine on him or let him go. So we lined up and voted on it.
We voted for a fine.
(Dorsett was one of the original partners in a general store that was located at the corner of Campbellton and Broad Streets where today’s Precedence Inc. is located. The men decided Dorsett’s fine would be three pounds of stick candy, which then cost ten cents.)
We finished the road and went to Dorsett’s Store and reported to him what we had done. We got the candy and ate it Johnny-on-the-spot and licked our mouths for more.
(Dorsett) may have been exempt (as postmaster), (but he didn’t dispute the fine).
We did not look up the law, but we got the candy.
(signed) Thompson S. Butler”
I’m grateful Mr. Butler took the time to write. Perhaps some of you Sentinel readers who now live out of town could forward an email or letter regarding some of your memories of times past.
Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book “Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County” online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her book can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art and the Douglasville Welcome Center located at O’Neal Plaza in the former Douglasville Banking Company building.