Saturday, April 20, 2019

What Exactly is the Georgia Piedmont?

*originally published at The Piedmont Chronicles in 2013 

This is a blog post I've wanted to do for sometime. Some of my readers in the Georgia area probably already know the basics behind this question, but I'm sure there might be others who don't really know what exactly makes the Piedmont the Piedmont. Since this geographic region is the namesake of this blog, I thought I'd do a little primer. Hope you enjoy...

From Natural History at
First off, one must remember that the great state of Georgia is fairly unique in that it has five different, defined geographic regions: Appalachian Plateau, Ridge and Valley, Blue Ridge, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. And in actuality, you could say we have six regions if you separate the Coastal Plain into upper and lower as many do. Very few states in the Union share this much physiographical diversity.

The Georgia Encyclopedia has a very good write -up on the Georgia Piedmont so check that out when you can. Basically, this region is characterized by rolling hills and gentle valleys. Most of the region lies on large pieces of rock and granite (think Stone Mountain) but with a thick layer of saprolite on top. Saprolite is the famous Georgia red clay that many of us here are quite familiar with.  The Piedmont region begins up north at the edge of the Appalachian mountains and goes down to the fall line that separates it from the Upper Coastal Plain.

Cities like Atlanta and Athens are in the upper part of the Piedmont region while Macon and Augusta are right at the edge to the South. Many of the counties I've written about in the past such as Newton, Morgan, Jasper, and Walton are pretty much right in the middle.

For many folks, what makes the Georgia Piedmont such a beautiful place are the trees and vegetation. Thick with Oak and Hickory varietals, the woods of our area are truly sights to behold. For more information on this aspect of the Georgia Piedmont, please visit the Georgia Nature Blog and read specifically about the trees and flowers that are indigenous to this area.

For more information on the Georgia Piedmont, visit these following sites:

Monday, January 14, 2019

Georgia Historical Markers

As anyone who has ever lived in or driven through Georgia can tell you, we are fortunate to have a ton of historical markers dotting the landscape of our fine state. If you've ever wondered about one, or have been curious to learn of others, here is where you need to go:

Warning! You can spend hours on this. It is so interesting! You can also search at the Georgia Historical Society, but I feel that Georgia Info is the much better resource.

So, learn a little bit about the great state of Georgia, and have a blast!

P.S.--National Register of Historical Places is also a great website to visit if you've got some spare time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Time’s A Comin’

*from the December 2009 issue of About Covington to Madison magazine

Hey everyone. So glad to be back with you again. Wow, December already! It’s hard to believe. Time really does seem to speed up as we get older. But the Holidays are upon us once again and that makes me very happy. Christmas…man, it just doesn’t get much better. A celebration of faith, love, and fellowship—it’s obviously a very special time of the year.

What is Christmas exactly? That answer can be as varied as the people you ask. For a lot of us, Christmas is a celebration of the Lord Savior Jesus Christ as we remember his entrance to our earthly world. But Christmas is also simply about love. Love of our fellow man. Love of our families and friends. And love of the things we hold most dear. While Thanksgiving is certainly about giving thanks, Christmas, for me, is just as much about gratitude. It is also about the spirit of giving. But what about the history of Christmas?

The roots of Christmas go back to the Romans. They had a festival called Saturnalia that celebrated Saturn, the god of agriculture, marking the end of the fall harvest and honoring the winter solstice. During the heyday of Rome , this was the festival and was considered the most important time of the year. Other cultures and other peoples in other parts of the old continent also had celebrations around this time of the year. In the early years of Christianity, church leaders were looking for ways to help spread the Good Word, so in the 4th century A.D., they adopted the time of Saturnalia as the “Feast of the Nativity.” Within a couple of centuries, it had stuck and December 25 to this day remains the celebration of Christmas. 
For many of us, Christmas always brings back memories of being young and anxiously awaiting Santa. The origins of Santa Claus are as interesting as the origins of Christmas itself. It starts with St. Nicholas, a monk born in the 3rd century who gave away all of his wealth to help the poor and sick. He was known as “Sinter Klass” by the Dutch and this would turn into Santa Claus by the 18th century. The image of Santa that most of us have with his red suit, large belly, and white beard can be traced back to the drawings of Thomas Nast in the 19th century and further reinforced with ads from the Coca-Cola Co. in the 1930’s.

There are many wonderful Christmas stories throughout the annals of history but perhaps there is none better than the story of the WWI Christmas truce. In 1914, on the fields of Flanders  German and British troops were squared off in their trenches fighting a terrible war. Then on Christmas Eve, German troops lit candles and started singing Christmas carols. The British followed suit and in no time, a truce had been called and the fighting stopped. Germans and Brits exchanged gifts, spent time together, and even played soccer. This phenomenon occurred in several other places along the battle lines and in some cases lasted all the way until New Year’s Eve. To me, that is a story that truly captures the Christmas spirit. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The History of Starrsville, GA

  *originally appeared in About Covington to Madison magazine.

 Starrsville, GA

Howdy folks! Hope everything is going everybody’s way. I’m glad so many folks enjoyed the last column on the “lost towns” of our area. It really is fascinating stuff! And a special thanks to the Mansfield Garden Club for inviting me to speak to their organization about that and other local history. I had a wonderful time and really enjoyed talking with you wonderful ladies. This month—the long-awaited write-up on Starrsville.
Starrsville, GA
Approximately 6 miles southeast of Covington , Starrsville is one of the oldest communities in Newton Co. Originally settled in the early 1820’s by the Starr family, it would become a full-fledged community by the early 1830’s with a general store, a church, several farms, and a post office. It was situated at the intersection of Dixie Rd. and what we now call Hwy. 213. The centerpiece of this village was the Starr Store Building that was originally run by George Leak and John Starr. It would later be known as King’s Grocery. That building no longer stands but a historical marker can be found at the site that gives more information. The aforementioned church, Starrsville Methodist, is one of the area’s oldest churches as has been a pillar of this community for upwards of 180 years. This area would come to be known as Old Starrsville. More on that in just a bit…

As was mentioned in the Hayston column, when the C of G (Central of Georgia) ran the RR tracks, some towns were created ( Mansfield ) but some locations were picked because there was an existing village (Hayston). Starrsville was an instance of the latter with a bit of the former. Originally, the tracks were going to be brought right through the heart of Starrsville by the general store, but these plans were changed. I read in one resource that it was changed to go further north based on a decision by the C or G presumably based on cost-analysis or feasibility. But in doing a bit more research, I’ve discovered that possibly the residents of Starrsville at the time did not want the tracks and that’s why it was moved. Regardless, the line was moved and so a new village sprouted up in the 1890’s and was called New Starrsville. Old and New Starrsville remained intertwined as a community.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What the old folks used to say vs. that's what they say

*originally appeared in The Covington News in May of 2017

As a young boy I fondly remember my Grandmother talking oftentimes about what the old folks used to say. The old folks used to say this; this old folks used to say that. The old folks had a lot of things they used to say, and I always got a kick out of hearing about it. As a rule, the old folks were good people who believed in doing the right things and doing things right. They believed in hard work, fair dealing & living the Golden Rule (the original one, not the other one). They sounded like good old folks to me.

One thing that really stuck out to me, as a child, was just how old these old folks must have been. Because if my Grandmother was talking about them, they had to be fairly old, because my Grandmother was old. But then she'd talk about hearing about what the old folks used to say when she was a little girl. "Man," I thought to myself, "these old folks sure were old!" She would also talk about her Grandfather, my 2nd great grandfather, and the man I was named after, talking about what the old folks used to say, and that got me really thinking about how old these old folks were. But once I heard from my Grandmother that he remembered his parents and other older relatives talking about hearing what the old folks said when they were children...well, I knew that we were talking about some really, really old people here.

The old folks used to say you never should plant your garden until after Easter. Now, I didn't have any real scientific data on this or anything, but I can recount at least a few instances in the past few years where people I knew who planted their crops before that holy day ran into trouble because of a late frost. So, don't plant until after Easter. That's what the old folks used to say.

A lot of what the old folks used to say were basically proverbial sayings, or proverbs. "You can catch more flies with honey than you can vinegar," or, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," and many others of the like. Based on what I've found, at least some of these probably wind their way all the way back to the days of antiquity. Regardless of how old the saying, expression or thought was, it seemed to be carried through generations and generations of existence through oral tradition. Folklore. So, there again, when we're talking about what the old folks used to say, we are indeed talking about some really old folks.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

[MBM] - Reaching Nirvana Through Lawn Maintenance

The Esoteric South 
Reaching Nirvana Through Lawn Maintenance

By Marshall McCart

* originally appeared in The Covington News in 2016
Cutting grass is a passion of mine, and I believe it to be good for the soul. I truly do.
Now, that statement probably comes as a great surprise to some of my neighbors in and around the North Covington historical community. They'd probably speak to this in the contrary, and, if so, I'd probably not have much to say to dispute it. However, I think I've got a pretty good excuse. For most of the last year or so our lawn mower has been broken, and while we've tried to pay folks to cut it a fair amount, it's just so much harder to put it high on the priority list when we have to dish out money. In addition, I've been known to have a propensity for laziness, and it's just been so hot! And maybe the whiskey sometimes plays a role...
In fact — truth be told — the last time the grass was cut, after our lawn mower was fixed, it was my lovely wife who cut the grass.
There was a time in my life when I used to concern myself whenever she'd cut the grass (so you can tell it's been more than once). I'd think to myself something along the lines of: "Man, the folks around here are going to think you're a total and absolute no-account." I used to concern myself with this but not anymore. No, I finally learned to embrace it. It's like the lyrics to "Good Hearted Woman." I realized, ultimately, that it was a win for Yours Truly. "That rascal Marshall McCart," they'd say. "He won't even cut his own grass. Poor ole Ann has to do it."
For the record, she says she likes to cut grass. Therefore, in my mind's eye, I'm just helping her to be happy and reach Maslow's concept of Self Actualization, right? We do what we can here, folks, I'm just happy to help!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

John Williams Saga

John Williams Saga (Peonage Murders)

The Dark Tale of John S. Williams, Part I
*author's note: much of my research for this series of articles was found in "Lay This Body Down", a book by Gregory Freeman that details this horrific story. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to get more in-depth information on this tragic tale. 

One of the most heinous crimes to occur in this area happened about 90 years ago. In April of 1921 at the courthouse in Covington, GA, John Williams was found guilty of the murder of Lindsey Peterson, a black peon who had worked on the Williams farm. That in and of itself was bad, but what made things so terrible is that he was also charged in the killings of 10 others--all black men, known as peons, who had worked on the Williams Plantation in Jasper Co., GA. It was a monumental shift in Southern justice as it is widely believed that Williams was the first white man convicted of murdering a black in the Deep South since Reconstruction. The trial was considered one of the biggest in Georgia up to that time and received national headlines as the “Murder Farm” trial.

The word peon is known today simply as a derogatory term; however, years ago it described someone, usually black, who was forced to work for someone, usually a white plantation owner, to pay off fines or debts. Usually, the fine was minor—maybe $5 and for something as simple as loitering. Unable to pay the fine, a farmer could come along and pay it off and the prisoner was released into his custody and the peon would “work it off.” Usually, fuzzy math was employed and the debt would never get repaid. It was a de facto form of slavery and while the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment had technically ended the “peculiar institution”, the peonage system would last well into the 20th century and all the way to the 1960's in some Southern states. But not in Georgia. After the John Williams case, the horrible practice quickly started to disappear.

This sordid tale started with the escape of Gus Chapman who had been held against his will at the Williams farm as a peon. On his first escape attempt in 1920, he was hunted down and given a terrible beating, but the second time he succeeded and made it to Atlanta. Once there, he was able to meet with two agents of the Bureau of Investigation (the precursor to the FBI) and tell a tale of indentured servitude that included beatings, whippings and improper living conditions. The Feds were looking to get tough on peonage since the awful practice was getting bigger and bigger in most of the cotton states despite being expressly outlawed in 1867.

(Next edition: Williams Decides to “get rid of the evidence”...Murder and Mayhem in Jasper, Co.)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A History of Georgia Railroads” - by Robert C. Jones
- a book review by Marshall McCart

* originally appeared in The Covington News, July, 2017

If, like me, you have long been fascinated by and have had a long, deep-rooted interest, perhaps since you were a young child, of trains, railroads, and things of the like, then I think I may have just the book for you. Published by The History Press and authored by Robert C. Jones, “A History of Georgia Railroads” had its first edition published earlier this year in 2017.

Truly a fine book, Mr. Jones has a fun and interesting writing style in which his passion for all things trains and railroads is quite obvious. He also doesn’t mind interjecting his own thoughts and experiences in this work, like when he recounts the times he’s ridden the Southern Crescent - the well-known, long-time passenger train which can actually take you all the way from New York to New Orleans with a couple of Georgia stops in between.


Thanks for swinging by.

What Exactly is the Georgia Piedmont?

*originally published at The Piedmont Chronicles in 2013  T his is a blog post I've wanted to do for sometime. Some of my readers in t...