Jim Cottingham shared this historic photograph of three gentlemen outside the Merchants & Farmers Bank circa 1905. His grandfather, W. T. Cottingham, is pictured at left.
Tag Archives: South Georgia People
In 2013, when I was documenting all the Crawfordite churches in Southeast Georgia, I happened upon a little church and cemetery on my way to Sardis. The church I stopped at, Bethel Methodist, was historic in its own right. It’s a white congregation, but there is a small African-American cemetery adjacent to it. It was there that I met this gentleman, who drove up in a new Cadillac. He was an old-timer, he said, and if I recall was about 80. He shared a bit of the history of why the African-American cemetery was located beside the white church, but unfortunately, I lost that information. He didn’t mind his photograph being made and when asked his name, for documentary purposes, he said to just call him ‘Champion for Christ’, no names otherwise.
I was honored to be at the ceremony dedicating a mural to one of Fitzgerald’s most accomplished native sons, Morris Berthold Abram (19 June 1918-16 March 2000). Mr. Abram was an attorney and tireless civil rights advocate who notably argued the case before the Supreme Court that ended the county unit system in Georgia that gave rural votes equal value with urban votes. The system was a juggernaut which allowed discrimination at the voting booth and gave undue power to local political bosses. The decision essentially ended voter segregation by upholding the principle of “one man, one vote”. I remember very well that many people in my hometown didn’t have a great opinion of Abram for his “meddling” in local affairs, but as a teenager I read his autobiography, The Day is Short, and developed a great respect for the man. Among Abram’s numerous accomplishments: He was appointed first general counsel to the Peace Corps by President Kennedy and served on various commissions under four more presidents; president of the American Jewish Committee; president of Brandeis University; chairman of the United Negro College Fund. My friend Richard Owens fondly recalled: Morris was George H. W. Bush’s ambassador in Geneva when I started my UN job there in 1991. It was phenomenal to have a Ben Hill-Irwin connection to a man of such stature and courage. His dinner table was famous for encouraging often-spirited debates among people from very different backgrounds and perspectives.
Penson Kaminsky, a lifelong friend of my family and scion of one of Fitzgerald’s oldest Jewish family’s, gave the invocation.
The dedication was done in conjunction with Georgia Cities Week and I must say that I was very proud of my hometown for the great job they did honoring Mr. Abram.
Fitzgerald mayor Jim Puckett presented a proclamation to Ruth Abram, daughter of Morris Abram, who was in Fitzgerald with her son, Noah Abram Teitelbaum. Ruth has been an advocate for numerous good causes and is quite accomplished in her own right. She conceived and directed the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, one of New York City’s most visited museums, and has been a tireless advocate for women’s history and scholarship. She’s also the author of Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America 1835-1920. She recalled her father’s time in Fitzgerald, and the challenges of a poor immigrant Jewish family in early-20th-century South Georgia. It was quite moving, with Noah giving voice to his grandfather’s words.
Noah Abram Teitelbaum and Ruth Abram unveiling the plaque detailing Morris Abram’s work and accomplishments.
I had a great time talking to mural artist Dylan Ross, whose work you may already know. Dylan has quickly become one of Georgia’s most sought after muralists.
Clark Stancil, of the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, designed the mural using archival images.
At just 20 miles in length and a mile wide at its widest, Lake Blackshear is one of Georgia’s smallest man-made reservoirs. It’s essentially a wide spot on the Flint River but it’s among the most popular outdoor recreation areas in South Georgia. To my knowledge, it’s also the oldest major man-made lake in Georgia, created with the damming of the Flint River between 1925-1930.
Pleasure boating and water skiing are extremely popular, as is fishing. There’s a busy put-in at Lakeshore Marine on the Sumter County side. Besides a ski shop, marina, campground, and event space, there’s the Lakeshore Grill which sells food, tackle, coolers, beer, gas and other essentials. Georgia Veterans State Park is a mile or so from here and is the primary location for public access to the lake. If you’re in the area, stop at Stripling’s for some of the best sausage around.
The lady in this photograph was Mrs. Effie Tinnell Sharp Bush [1887-1980], widow of Georgia’s last surviving Confederate soldier, William Joshua Bush [1845-1952]. ‘Uncle Josh’ as family and close friends knew him, was afforded the honorific ‘General’ Bush in recognition of his connection to the Civil War. I haven’t been able to confirm it, but it’s likely that Mrs. Bush was also the last surviving Confederate widow in Georgia. This snapshot was made in the late 1970s during a town festival by a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who graciously gave me the photograph.
Georgia’s southernmost town, St. George, is located within the “Georgia Bend” of the St. Marys River. This historic postcard, mailed from St. George, illustrates a picnic held along the river in February 1909. I have no idea what occasion warranted such a photograph. It must have been a really mild winter, though, as a few of the boys are standing in the river.
I made this photograph in 2010 and somehow forgot all about it until working on my archives today. It’s quite unusual to see a horse being hitched at a convenience store, though I’m sure Surrency once had more than its fair share of horses. These young men even made sure to “park” the horses within the marked parking spaces.
Bad weather didn’t keep people away from this year’s 34th Annual Catface Turpentine Festival in Portal, which bills itself “The Turpentine City”. The recently named Bobby Ronald Newton Turpentine Museum (background, above) is the focal point of the festival. In 1982, Denver Holllingsworth and the Portal Heritage Society suggested restoring the old Carter still and with enthusiastic community involvement, the old boiler was finally relit. The Carter still is one of only three remaining in Georgia. The two other stills are located in Tifton and Walthourville.
As he’s been doing since the festival’s inception, Mr. Roger Branch is on hand each year and eager to tell you anything you might want to know about the history of what was once South Georgia’s biggest industry. Roger is the retired chairman of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Georgia Southern University and has always been interested in preserving historical and cultural aspects of life in South Georgia. I like to think of him as the “Ambassador of Turpentine”. The calendars behind him were produced for many years by the American Turpentine Farmers Association (ATFA) in Valdosta and feature annual winners of the Miss Gum Spirits of Turpentine contests. The ATFA disbanded in the early 1990s, as commercial production of turpentine disappeared from the scene.
There are several of these old markers on the walls of the Turpentine Museum, from the Carter & Son turpentine operations. F. N. Carter, Sr., put Portal on the map as one of Georgia’s centers of the naval stores industry in the 1930s and along with his son E. C. Carter maintained this vital part of the area’s economy until the early 1960s.
David King, from the Georgia Museum of Agriculture at Tifton’s Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC), is an expert on the distillation of turpentine and runs the old Carter still at the festival.
The museum’s namesake, Bobby Ronald Newton, was a longtime volunteer at the festival and was instrumental in preserving the area’s turpentine history.
The little building beside the still is filled with all sorts of memorabilia, from signs and calendars to tools and even catfaces themselves. To those who don’t already know, the name catface was given to the slashes cut into pines to gather sap. They’re said to resemble cat’s whiskers.
Also on display are Herty cups (below left) and other early innovations for the collection of sap.
Perhaps the most popular item, though, is the hardened gum rosin itself, which has a gem-like appearance.
A variety of vendors and activities for the kids insure a good day at the festival.
Come and learn about this vital part of South Georgia’s history, and have fun in the process.
You might even try some Rosin Potatoes.