Monday, June 30, 2014
Today, Jeralean Kurtz Talley turns 115 years old. Mrs. Talley, a native of Montrose, Georgia, holds on to her official title as the oldest living person in the United States and the oldest living person outside the country of Japan.
Mrs. Talley was born on May 23, 1899 to Samuel James Kurtz and Amelia Kurtz. William McKinley was President of the United States. On May 23, 2014, some nineteen presidents, fourteen hundred plus full moons and 41,725 sunsets later, Ms. Jeralean reaches yet another milestone in the time line of her longest life.
Jeralean, who was among a dozen children of Samuel and Amelia Jones Kurtz, grew up in the outskirts of Montrose, Georgia in western Laurens County, Georgia. Her grandfather, Andrew J. Kurtz, husband of Rachel Kurtz, was most likely a slave owned by Dr. William J. Kurtz, who owned nearly two dozen slaves during the Civil War.
Jeralean and her family moved to Inkster, Wayne County, Michigan during a vast migration of African-American farm workers who left Laurens County in the 1920s for Detroit, Michigan. That group includes the family of world champion boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson and Ford Motor Company inventor and innovator, Claude Harvard.
Jeralean married Alfred Talley, who died in the 1980s. Although she was from large family, Jeralean had only one child, a daughter, Thelma Holloway, who is now seventy-five years old. She has three grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
As for Talley, she credits her God for her longevity. When asked by Congressman John Conyers as to what her secret to a long life was, she pointed upward and said, "The good Lord up above. If it wasn't for Him, none of us would be here."
Talley was almost 107 before she moved out of her home and into her daughter's home. She gave up bowling when she was a mere 104. And, she scored a very respectable 200 in her last game.
With 115 years behind her Jeralean has many stories to tell. One of her favorites is the tale of her first and only attempt to drive a car.
"I tried that one time," in her 30s, she said.
"I didn't hit the right one to make it go forward and it went backwards," Talley told Elisha Anderson of The Detroit Free Press.
When her husband Alfred yelled at her, she opened the door and got out of the car and never drove again.
A verified supercentenarian is a person who is at least 110 years old and whose age is documented by at three or more reliable documents as determined by an international body - the most respected organization being the Gerontology Research Group.
The world's oldest verified person ever was a French woman Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of 122 years, 164 days. Today, the oldest living person is a Japanese woman, Misao Okawa, who is 14 and one half months older than Talley. As of today, Jeralean Talley stands as the 31st oldest verified living person since 1955 and is poised to move into 25th place within nine weeks. If Talley lives until July 18 of next year, she will be the 10th oldest verified person since 1955. Verification before 1955 was often difficult because of unreliable or non-existent birth records. .
Happy Birthday Ms. Jeralean!
The Great Equalizer
John Collier Hart was born in Greene County on July 1, 1854 near Union Point, Georgia. He saw the ravages of the war first hand. His mother, Maria Collier Hart, operated a wayside home for travelers in Union Point. During the Civil War, thousands of soldiers from both sides of the battle lines, along with politicians and travelers, partook of her graciousness. His father was a farmer and the owner of a small country store. The Harts lived in the celebrated "Jefferson Hall," a colonial home in Greene County. His father, James Hart, was a successful farmer with vast farming interests. When he wasn't in school, John worked as a day laborer.
John Hart attended law school at the nearby University of Georgia. He graduated in 1875, along with Andrew Cobb, son of Howell Cobb; Samuel Guyton McLendon, William H. Fleming and Hamilton McWhorter. While in school, Hart excelled in the literary fields. He edited the Georgia University magazine. An outstanding debater, Hart was a Junior medalist in the Demosthenian Society.
Following his graduation and admission to the bar, John C. Hart located his law office in his hometown of Union Point. His father's untimely death that same year, which left the young attorney with a burdensome debt, forced Hart into apportioning his time between the family farm and his law practice. The young lawyer had two choices - sell the farm or start farming. James Hart never forced John to work on the farm. There was no financial need to do so. Unaccustomed to the daily rigors of farming, Hart devoted his soul to duplicating the success of his father. John Hart utilized his university training and, after a careful analysis of the farm's accounts and hiring practices, radically changed his father's unprofitable practices.
Hart devised a scheme to prevent the erosion of the precious top soil on his farm. He planted Bermuda grass to block the flow of alluvial soils causing the formation of terraces where drainage ditches once evolved into gullies. The reluctant farmer knew that the success of farming depended on diversification. He maintained moderate herds of cattle, swine and sheep as well as the staple crops of cotton, corn, beans and potatoes. Discounting his skills as an inventive farmer, Hart credited his success to divine providence.
At the age of thirty, Hart was elected by his fellow Greene Countians to represent them in the Georgia legislature. He served from 1884 to 1885. In 1887, at the ripe old age of thirty-three Rep. Hart took the hand of Miss Irene Horton of Augusta. The Harts have five children; Henry John C. Jr., George, Annette and Irene "Dolly." John Hart returned to Atlanta for the 1888-1889 session to end his legislative career.
In 1890, John Hart led the thirty-four-mile extension of the Union Point and White Plains Railroad south from Union Point through Sparta and down to Tennille, where it joined the arterial railroad of the Central of Georgia. Hart worked on the extension of the Gainesville, Jefferson and Southern Railroad from Jefferson to Athens, giving the city a standard gauge railroad connection with Savannah.
At the age of forty, John C. Hart was elected judge of the Ocmulgee Judicial District of Georgia. The eight-county district was composed of Wilkinson, Baldwin, Jasper, Greene, Jones, Putnam and Morgan counties. Laurens County was a part of that district from 1891 to 1907.
After an eight-year term in office, Judge Hart conducted a successful campaign for the post of Attorney General of Georgia in 1902. The Harts removed to Atlanta, where they lived in a handsome home at 761 Peachtree Street. He won the Democratic nomination without opposition and was elected to office in the 1902 general election. He opened his campaign for governor in 1910 in his hometown. He vowed not to spend a single dollar in the race. Hart dropped out of the race in favor of his friend Governor Joe Brown.
Judge Hart was a leader in the conservation of the state's natural resources. He was elected president of the Georgia Conservation Association in October 1910. He joined a committee headed by Georgia governors Joseph Brown, Joseph Terrell and Hoke Smith. The organization was designed to foster discussion of the resources, their utilization as well as their conservation. Though he had become a public official, Hart maintained a successful cattle farm back in Greene County. The Association formulated a plan which created a state board of conservation, composed of the governor, the state geologist, state entomologist and a state commissioner, all charged with the responsibility to conserve, manage and preserve the lands of Georgia.
Inequity and cronyism in the taxation of property in the state was a vital issue during the 1912 campaign. The legislature passed sweeping reforms which were intended to equalize the way land was taxed in Georgia. Hart's superior knowledge of tax laws led to his appointment by Gov. Slaton as the state's first tax commissioner on August 14, 1913. As tax commissioner, Hart successfully led the state through a series of highly controversial litigations against Georgia's most powerful railroads. Hart set out to end a long used and abused process of unequal taxation among Georgia's counties. In some counties, political favoritism and virtual incompetence led to the non taxation of many thousands of acres. Hart was so successful in his endeavors that wealthy businessmen across the state lobbied their representatives for a repeal of the equalization law.
On December 7, 1918, while on a hunting trip near his home, Judge Hart's gun accidentally discharged as the judge stumbled while crossing a stream. The round entered his head causing near instantaneous death. Gov. Hugh M. Dorsey ordered that all state flags fly at half-mast for thirty days after his death. In one of the state's largest funerals, Judge Hart was mourned by nearly a hundred of the state's most prominent government officials, jurists, attorneys and physicians. His eulogies praised his judicial work, but hailed his work as tax commissioner as his most valuable contribution to Georgia. At the time of his death, Hart was still considered as one of the state's most promising candidates for the highly coveted office of governor.
The Death of an Icon
Exactly a one and one half centuries ago, the face of Laurens County changed forever. The date was April 26, 1856. The news traveled slowly at first and then rapidly throughout the countryside and across the nation. Governor George Michael Troup was dead! No Georgian in the first half of the 19th Century was more revered and reviled at the same time. Troup actively engaged in public service for three decades. From his Laurens County home, which he called "Val d'osta" or simply "Valdosta," George Troup served his country as a senator and congressman and his state as one of its most popular governors. His last two decades were spent in virtual isolation from the political world which he dominated with unwavering boldness and the conviction that the states' inalienable rights to determine their laws. Many of his last years were spent in ill health, which prevented him from serving his nation and state which he loved so well.
It was about the 19th of April that a message came from Governor Troup's plantation in the western portion of Montgomery which later became Wheeler County. William Bridges, the plantation's overseer at what the Governor called the "Mitchell Place," summoned the venerable sage to come to the plantation to quell an acrimonious slave. Troup, one of the richest men in Georgia, owned more than four hundred slaves, some of whom, were fathered by his brother R.L. Troup and some possibly by his son George and possibly by the governor himself. It was a common practice in ante bellum days for slave owners to father children with slave women with the intention of improving the Negro race.
Troup called for Madison Moore, his trusted coachman, to prepare his coach for the thirty-five mile ride to the Mitchell Place. Apparently order was restored with little or no violent punishment. Troup was known as being a firm and deliberate master, and not one to flog his slaves. The hasty trip was too much for the failing seventy five year old Troup. Troup collapsed and was gingerly taken from his meager home at the Mitchell place to the home of overseer Bridges, where he lingered in pain and anguish for five days. A local physician was summoned. His efforts to save the dying Troup failed, and wise old gentleman quietly passed away.
Bridges ordered Smart Roberson to take a fine horse and race to Savannah to inform Thomas M. Foreman, the widower of Troup's recently deceased daughter Florida. Before Roberson could reach Foreman, his horse gave out. Undaunted and determined to deliver the dismaying news, Roberson set out on foot to reach the Foreman home. On a separate course, Madison Moore sped his empty coach back to Valdosta, where the governor's daughter Oralie was unaware of her father's death. The other child, George, Jr., his whereabout's unknown, seemed to have suffered from some malady, either physical or mental, which caused his untimely death in 1858.
Word quickly spread throughout the community. The governor's corpse had to be prepared for burial immediately. A coffin was made from the suitably wide and yet un-nailed boards of Peter Morrison's front porch. John Morrison, his son Daniel, and Duncan Buchanan fashioned the lumber into a fitting coffin. Peter Morrison, the village blacksmith, wrought the nails. Troup was well known in the community. In remembrance of their dear friend, the coffin makers carefully arranged a series of brass tacks forming the words "An Honest Heart" on the lid of the governor's primitive coffin. Mrs. Elizabeth Morrison carefully unrolled a bolt of white linen cloth. With the devotion of a caring mother, Mrs. Morrison formed a tightly fitting cloth to enshroud her beloved friend.
Originally it was intended that Governor Troup be brought back to Valdosta for a burial befitting the man he was. But owing to the delay and the increasing temperatures it was decided to lay him to rest at his Rosemont plantation (overseer's house at Rosemont left) in present day Treutlen County. Eight years before in 1848, the governor and his son had erected a handsome sandstone, granite and marble monument to his brother, Robert L. Troup.
In the center of the seventeen by twenty-five foot sandstone enclosure is a ten foot shaft, which had been formed in Augusta and bears the memorial "Erected by G.M. Troup, the Brother and G.M. Troup, Jun., the nephew, as a tribute of affection to the memory of R.L. Troup, who died September 23, 1848, aged 64 years. An honest man with a good mind and good heart."
Owing to the lack of space, the governor was laid to rest to the right of spire, carefully placed so as not to disturb its foundation. Following his death, Troup's family had a marble slab, two feet by three feet, recessed into to the base of the shaft. It reads " George Michael Troup. Born Sptr 8th, 1780, Died April 26th, 1856. No epitaph can tell his worth. The history of Georgia must perpetuate his virtues and commemorate his patriotism. There he teaches us the argument being exhausted to stand by our arms."
The walls of the enclosure were constructed from sandstone which was quarried from Berryhill's Bluff by slaves and hauled the short distance to Rosemont. A beautiful iron door was furnished by D.W. Rose of Savannah at the entrance to the enclosure, which is set low to the ground forcing the visitor to stoop to enter the inside. Just inside the entrance on the right is a wild climbing rose. It was placed near the grave by a grateful slave woman in fond remembrance of her fallen master. The rose still blooms even day, sometimes during the dead of winter in January.
For decades after the Governor Troup's burial, the monument suffered from a series of a attacks by miscreant vandals and the ignorance of apathetic citizens. The State of Georgia, which had originally planned to make the monument the center piece of "George M. Troup State Park in the mid 1930s, restored it to its present state of acceptable repair.
It was in the early 1900s, that J. Tom White and a group of enterprising Dublin businessmen sought out and were granted permission by some of the governor's descendants to have his bodies of the governor and his brother disinterred, the enclosure disassembled and removed to the courthouse square in Dublin for a proper memorial in the bustling city as opposed to the remote regions west of Lothair in Treutlen County. Obviously the movement never materialized.
To view this marvelous structure and pay homage to arguably the most important resident of our county and our state as well, follow Georgia Highway 199 from East Dublin south to Lothair, where you turn right and follow Spur 199 to the grave site which is situated on a one acre plot of land owned by the state of Georgia.
A Dandy of A Yankee Doodle
Patrick Martin Stevens II was born on the 17th day of April in 1874 in Bairdstown, Georgia. He was a son of Capt. Patrick M. Stevens, C.S.A. and Martha Brooks Stevens. Patrick attended Georgia Tech before working intermediately for his brother-in-law William Shackleford as a printer’s devil in the newspaper office of the “Oglethorpe Echo” in Lexington.
But Patrick Stevens was destined for a military career. He descended from a long line of Stevens, Stewart and Bufords, who were 18th Century military officers. One of his ancestors, Colonel John Floyd, served in the southern theater of the American Revolution before being captured in Charleston and imprisoned in England. He managed to escape and was aided in his return to America by Benjamin Franklin.
After the war, Floyd became a close associate of Daniel Boone. His son, John became a governor of Virginia and his grandson, John Buchanan Floyd, was Secretary of War under James Buchanan and a general in the Confederate Army. His father William Floyd, my fifth great-grandfather, enlisted as a drummer in the Colonial militia at the age of fifty after serving in the French and Indian Wars.
In the summer of 1898, the United States of America declared war on Spain. The war was fought on two fronts, in Cuba and throughout the Philippine Islands. It was during that time that Pat moved from his native home of Maxeys to Dublin, where he served in the office of the Dublin Dispatch. Despite the relative shortness of the conflict in Cuba, calls were sent out for more volunteers to preserve the peace in the volatile Pacific island chain.
Stevens answered his country’s call, and in September 1899 traveled to Framingham, Massachusetts, where he enlisted in the 46th U.S. Volunteer Infantry, which was assigned to duty in the Philippines. Private Stevens was quickly promoted to corporal. In the fall of 1900, he wrote a letter back to his friends in Dublin. “No, the war in the Philippines isn’t over,” Stevens said in contradiction to the opinions of leading American newspapers. American generals returned home to tell the nation that the fighting had ended, but Stevens retorted, “I think they are sadly mistaken.” The young corporal attributed the adversities which American troops had endured in the Philippines were a result of “mismanagement that began two years ago and hasn’t yet ended.” Stevens believed that insurgent attacks had only grown worse since his arrival eleven months earlier in December 1899. “The attacks are more determined and bolder than ever,” said Stevens, who believed more troops were necessary to suppress the fighting.
In the winter of 1901, the highly efficient Stevens was promoted to Company G of the Forty-sixth infantry regiment. His excellence in the performance of his duties, led his superiors to recommend him for a commission as an officer. President McKinley issued an order appointing Pat M. Stevens (his military name) as a second lieutenant. The notice was sent to his former home in Dublin, but lay unclaimed until a friend found it and forwarded it to the emerging officer.
2nd Lt. Stevens was assigned to the 23rd Infantry, which served in the Pacific and stateside. The young officer took the hand in marriage of Hattie Mitchell. Hattie was a daughter of Nancy Ann and Robert David Mitchell, a prominent businessman and three-time mayor of Gainesville. Hattie, a graduate of Brenau College, was an accomplished musician and music teacher.
Their first child, Patrick III, was conceived while the couple was stationed in the Pacific, but was born in Gainesville after Hattie endured a long and arduous, but exciting, journey through the Suez Canal and Europe. Their second son, Robert, was born in Fort Logan in 1914. After serving in various locations around the country, Mrs. Stevens and the boys returned to Gainesville when it appeared that the United States would enter World War I.
As the climax of World War I approached, Capt. Stevens was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre for extraordinary heroism for his action south Spitaal Bosschen, Belgium on Halloween Day in 1918. Capt. Stevens was also awarded the Purple Heart for a battlefield wound. Capt. Stevens’ acts of bravery were so outstanding that he was nominated for the Silver Star Medal for gallantry and intrepidity in action.
After the war, the Stevens lived primarily in Georgia and Florida. In 1933, Patrick M. Stevens, II retired as a colonel in the United States Army. The couple returned to the Stevens’ family seat of Oak Hill in Oglethorpe County, where they lived until the late summer. At the age of ninety-two, Col. Stevens was badly burned while burning a pile of leaves. He died on September 5, 1966 after lingering for several days in a nearby hospital. Hattie lived a decade longer before she died on September 20, 1976. They are both buried in the Stevens’ family cemetery at Oak Hill.
PAT M. STEVENS, III
PAT M. STEVENS, III
The name of Pat M. Stevens continued to be recognized for the remainder of the 20th Century. Pat and Hattie’s son, Pat III, (ABOVE) served in World War II and afterwards served in the United States, London and Okinawa. Like his father, Pat Stevens III, retired from the army as a colonel. Pat Stevens III and his wife Grace Marshall Stevens, were the parents of Pat M. Stevens, IV, (LEFT) a graduate of the United States Military Academy, who recently retired as a Major General in the army.
One never knows what the future holds for those among us. A century of dedicated and outstanding military service all began when a twenty-five-year-old printer’s devil working in a Dublin newspaper office answered the call of his country and followed the traditions of duty to his country.
"The Prentiss of Georgia"
Considered a genius by everyone who heard him speak, Robert Augustus Beall, Jr. a former Twiggs County lawyer, was enumerated among the most celebrated members of the Georgia bar during the first half of the 19th Century. He was described by W.H. Sparks as "a genius of a higher nature," ambitious and partisan his beliefs.
Robert Beall was born in Prince George County, Maryland on November 16, 1800. His parents removed to Georgia in 1808 and settled in Warren County during one of numerous migratory waves of which characterized the early decades of the 1800s. When Robert was fifteen years old, his father sent him to North Carolina to attend a more challenging elementary school in Raleigh. Upon reaching the end of his primary education, Beall returned to Georgia to study law under Judges Montgomery and Reid in Augusta. Just after attaining the age of majority, Beall took the oath and was admitted to the bar of Superior Court and set out to practice law.
The enterprising Beall chose the burgeoning county of seat of Marion, Georgia to establish a meager law office. Situated in the geographical center of the state in Twiggs County, Marion was an ideal location for the base of his practice in the surrounding courthouses in Central Georgia. Beall formed a successful law partnership with Thaddeus Goode Holt. When Holt accepted an appointment as Judge of the Southern Circuit in 1824, Beall was appointed by Governor George M. Troup, of Laurens County, to the position Solicitor General of the circuit, which included the counties of Laurens, Montgomery, Pulaski, Telfair, Twiggs and Houston. Beall served in that position for a short time, from December 23, 1824 until the first of the following summer.
A challenge, a common occurrence when political opinions clashed in those days, arose between Beall and Thomas D. Mitchell, who had succeeded Beall's successor James Bethune in November 1825 as Solicitor General. The affair arose when disparaging comments were made at the dinner table of Martin Hardin, Esquire. The combatants, through their duly appointed agents, arranged a duel on the Carolina side of the Savannah River, opposite the city of Augusta, where such duels were allowed. Dr. Ambrose Baber, a former Laurens County physician and a resident of the new town of Macon, was standing by to tend to any wounds Beall might suffer. Two shots were fired. Neither struck their intended targets. Major Pace mediated the dispute and the men went home, much to the delight of their friends and family. Thomas Mitchell's volatile temper led to another duel. A year after his abruptly ended gunfight with Beall, Mitchell lay dying on the dueling ground, the result of a well-placed pistol ball in his abdomen.
Though dueling was frowned upon as a means of settling disputes, Beall enjoyed a renewed admiration for standing up for his beliefs. Supporters of the Troup party encouraged the twenty five-year-old Beall to offer himself as a candidate for a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. The Clark party candidate managed to win the election over Beall, though only by a small margin of votes. When Moses Fort resigned his seat in the House, Beall, a Major in the Georgia Militia, once again competed for the post. He won the election, defeating Robert Glenn, the county's most ardent Clark party member. Beall's eloquent orations drew the admiration of the members of the House and the audience of the gallery. He was modest and self respecting, courteous in debate and extremely affable in his manner. A larger majority of the voters of Twiggs County reelected him in the election of the fall of 1826 in his last House election contest.
Rep. Beall represented his friend Judge Moses Fort before a committee hearing in the House of Representatives. Col. Joseph Blackshear, of Laurens County, had charged the judge with irregularities in the handling of his case against Archibald Ridley and his wife byt the estate of his brother, Joseph Blackshear. The Blackshear vs. Ridley case was one of Laurens County's most celebrated cases ever, drawing the most prominent and highly paid squads of attorneys as could be employed with the fruits of the Blackshear's fortunes. Though a rebuke was passed by the house, it failed for the lack of a necessary majority in the Senate.
Beall developed a friendship and working relationship with Stephen F. Miller, another prominent attorney of the county. He was the author of "Bench and Bar of Georgia," a landmark biographical work on the early lawyers of Georgia. In 1828 Beall lost his passionately sought after election for Brigadier General of the Georgia Militia, to Lott Warren, of Laurens County. Beall married Caroline Smith, daughter of the wealthy Richard Smith of Twiggs County. After the marriage, Beall entered into a partnership with Miller and returned to the private practice.
Governor George Gilmer appointed Beall to his staff of aides-de-camp in 1830 and continued his service as a Lt. Colonel in the Georgia Militia, which continued to train in defense of the state. In the winter of 1832, Col. Beall moved to Macon, which had become the commercial center of the western regions of Georgia. He purchased an interest in the local newspaper, The Georgia Messenger, and began proclaiming his staunch opinions of the national issues of the day as the paper's chief editor. His beliefs were warmly accepted by members of the State Rights party, who encouraged him to run against Gen. Glascock for a vacancy in the national House of Representatives. Beall lost by a slim margin in a bitterly contested vote. Beall continued to represent the voters of his district in the Anti-Tariff Convention of 1832 and the State Rights Convention of 1833. When Macon's Wesleyan College became the world's first chartered university for women in 1835, Beall was named one of its first trustees.
Though hailed as a brilliant orator and a man without fear, Beall never enjoyed perfect health. Prone to debilitating and often severe attacks of colic, Beall frequently was prevented from his attendance in court and military functions. Near the end of his all too short life, Beall joined the Methodist Episcopal Church in Macon. He was dying. By the spring of 1836, when his friends and fellow citizens of Bibb and Twiggs County were off to war with the Indians and southwestern Georgia and the pernicious Mexicans in the Republic of Texas, his will to life succumbed to his mortal illness.
Robert Beall lingered for months and died in his sleep on July 16, 1836 at the age of thirty-five. His dedicated life of public service had come to an end. Honors were bestowed upon the memory of this man, possessing gifts of extraordinary talent and marked character. In summing up Beall's character, Sparks wrote, "he was man of rare genius, ardent in his temperament and fearlessly brave, and of course had positive friends and implacable enemies."