Friday, April 24, 2009


The Negro students of Dublin did not have a permanent school building during most of the 19th century. Students studied in church buildings in the same manner as many county school students in the earlier part of the century. Jacob Moorman and Rev. Norman McCall were early leaders in the system. Near the end of the century, the city organized its school system for both white and colored students. The city of Dublin purchased a tract of land on the Telfair Road at the southwestern corner of the Currell property in 1888. It was bounded on the east by the Telfair Road, on the west by present day Joiner Street, and on the northeast by a branch. The site is occupied today by the Georgia National Guard Armory.

The list of principals at Telfair Street School included S.H. Daley, L.P. Pinkney, Isiah Hayes, D.M. Smith, E.L. Wheaton, N.W. Clark, Roscoe Appling, J.C. Brookins, and H.B. Rice. Some of the teachers at the school were Lucille Battey, Laura Proudfoot, Julia Hudson, Mary Boggs, Madora Jefferson, Gussie Proudford, and Emma G. Reader. In 1914, the school was moved to a new location on Taylor and Pritchett streets. The new school later became known as Taylor Street School, but to some it retained its original name. In 1920, one of Dublin's foremost educators, Susie Dasher, took over the principalship of the newly created Telfair Street Elementary School. Susie Dasher helped to establish the first Parent Teacher Association in 1923. The Telfair High School students joined the Scottsville School students in a new building known as Washington Street High School.

The growth of the northeast quarter of Dublin led to the need for a Negro School in the area. A site was chosen on North Decatur Street opposite the Second African Baptist Church in a community known as Scottsville. The community grew up around the furniture factory of the Dublin Furniture Factory Company. The Board of Education voted to build the Scottsville Elementary School in 1908. The first principal was E.L. Hall with Pearl Simmons and E.B. Caldwell as his assistants. Unfortunately, the school burned during in its tenth term. Students were quartered in churches while the city pondered whether or not to rebuild the school. The city chose to establish a new school close to the area because of the rapid growth in the southeastern quarter of the city, a school was built on South Washington Street and became known as Washington Street Elementary.

Following the destruction by fire, of the Scottsville School the city erected a new school for colored children. A site was chosen near the middle of the two most populated areas. The new Washington Street School was built in 1918 in an area known as Pine Park on the site of the colored baseball field. Eventually, the students from the Telfair Street School came to the school. The school was located on South Washington Street on the lot adjoining Howard Chapel Church. The school eventually moved to new quarters at the end of Washington Street under the new name of Oconee High School. The school was located between the present day Howard Chapel Methodist Church and the Katherine Gray Library. Susie White Dasher, one of Laurens County's most legendary educators, began her teaching career in 1896at the age. Mrs. Dasher, a native of Macon, Ga., attended Morehouse College, Fort Valley State College and graduated from Tuskeegee Institute in 1896. Mrs. Dasher retired for over a decade to rear her two children. Mrs. Dasher began her career here as a first grade teacher at Telfair Street School in 1914. The school had just been relocated from the south side of Telfair Street just before its intersection with Smith Street to the corner of Taylor and Pritchett Streets. Mrs. Dasher took over as principal of the school in 1920 and made great improvements, such as adding lights and a lunchroom - making sure each child received one well balanced hot meal each day. Three years later she organized the first P.T.A. at the school, which raised money for needed equipment. Susie Dasher's long career of dedication to her students and her community led to the naming of an elementary school in her honor. (Information courtesy of Alpha Kappa Sorority, Inc.)


One hundred years ago, there were thirty three county schools for colored students. There were two line schools which were shared with adjoining counties. Of the thirty six teachers, thirteen were male and twenty three were female. There were eight assistants. The enrollment was 2,240 with an average daily attendance of slightly over thirteen hundred.

Due to a lack of taxpayer funding, most, if not all, of the schools were held in local churches. The schools of 1898 were : New Providence, Cave Springs, Green Hill, Donaldson, Sandy Ford, William's Chapel, Valdosta, Dexter, Garbutt, Rose Mount, Spring Hill, Montrose, Poplar Spring, Laurens Hill, Mount Pullen, Oaky Grove, Rocky Creek, Oconee, Brewton, Shewmake, Hickory Grove, St. James, Eason Hill, Buckeye, Holly Grove, Byrd Hill, Fleming Chapel and Holly Springs.

Laurens County teachers a century ago included:, P.R. Butler, Mary Devise, Rosa Dasher, Nettie Freeman, Mamie Grant, Leila M. Grant, G.C. Grant, F.D. Griffin, J.S. Houston, Emma Hines, Charlotte Johnson, Sallie Kellum, C.E. Lewis, Virgil Lewis, W.L. Miller, Fannie Moore, Clara Moorman, Lucretia Neal, Dr. B.D. Perry, Lillie Walden, Mary M. Smith, Sarah Smith, H.L. Rozier, Flora Troup, Ella Troup, W.B. Troup, John Tucker, C.D. Wright, Ella White, and A.J. Harris. Dublin teachers were Isaac H. Hayes, Kate Dudley, and Theodocia Hinton. Enrollment in the city school was about eighty.

These early scHools for Laurens County were pretty much like their white counterparts. Each school was understaffed and underfunded. The agricultural economy took precedence over school work. When the fields needed working, school was put off. During the first two decades of the 20th century, there was a major shift in the education of black Laurens County children. Illiteracy rates were cut dramatically. This progress was a direct result of the dedicated men and women who made it their life's mission to teach their children.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The Story of Laughing Ben Ellington

     One of the most popular members of the Dublin community in the early years of this century was a Black man known as "Laughing Ben" Ellington. Ben Ellington (left on right) got his name from his loud laugh and humorous story telling. Ellington toured the country performing at festivals, fairs, and expositions. For a time he was managed by Captain Hardy Smith. G.P. Houser and Jule Green visited the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901. They reported that Ben was one of the more interesting attractions at the exposition. He allegedly celebrated his 100th birthday, while performing at the Centennial Exposition of the Louisiana Purchase. Ben claimed to have been born in 1804 and lived as a slave for sixty years or so.

     Ben's favorite story involved his former master. The master promised Ben that he would give him a quarter for every chicken that Ben could fetch. Ben went to the plantation coop and picked
up a fat fryer. The master told him to put the chicken in the coop and gave Ben the quarter. Ben had the last laugh. "I stole that chicken seven times that night. Then I went back and stole him
again and ate him myself."

     One day Ben was summoned to testify in a blind-tiger liquor selling trial.  A lover of whiskey, Ben was reluctant to testify against a man who might supply him a drink in the future.  When Ben, refused to testify, Judge Hart sent out a deputy to arrest Ben and bring him to court.  Once Ben arrived, Judge Hart realized that Ben would never testify, so he the judge just ordered him to laugh before moving on to the next witness.

     Ben took a job with a traveling carnival after returning from the Pan American Exposition. When the carnival went bankrupt at Brunswick, Ben was stranded with no money. Ben telegraphed his friend W.W. Robinson to send ten dollars from his checking account. Mr. Robinson instructed the Brunswick bank cashier that Ben would laugh for his identification. This was probably the only time in history that a cashier required a laugh before cashing a check.

     Ben was quite the local celebrity in Dublin.  Whenever a prominent visitor came to Dublin, some one would fetch Ben to have have him laugh for the guest.  Although, he laughed for living, Ben always acted surprised and laughed louder when we got a tip.  Even when he received not a penny, Ben would laugh anyway and smile as he walked away.

     After he returned to Dublin, Ben went to the state fair in Valdosta. He disappeared for several months. His wife finally received a letter from Ben who was performing in San Francisco. After returning home by stage coach, Ben left for Coney Island, New York, where he was a big hit and made a lot of money. During his visits to Dublin, Ben was a mail carrier on the Dublin to Stephensville Route. He was loved by everyone he met. While visiting in Dublin, Gov. Bob Taylor of Tennessee invited Ben to come and live on his farm.

     Ben's last known appearance was at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis working along "The Pike" (left) and entertaining the patrons.  When Ben arrived at home, his health began to fail.

      Ben died at his home in northern Laurens County in 1905.  He claimed to be more than 100 years old, but was most likely 80 to 90 when he died.   Everyone smiled when they remembered "Old Ben." When Ben's laughter or funny story brought a smile to the face to of someone who was sad, his mission as a comedian was accomplished. It is true what they say - "laughter is the best medicine."

     Ernest Camp, editor of "The Dublin Times", penned his thoughts about Ben Ellington is this poetic obituary:


He laughed down here in Laurens an' he laughed
throughout the state,
An' jes' everywhere he traveled he would
laugh an' imitate;
He laughed from sunny Dixie to the deep
Pacific shore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any

He laughed sometimes for money an' he
sometimes laughed for fun,
He would laugh in bleakest weather and
then laugh beneath the sun,
He would laugh in such a manner as you
you never saw before,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any

He would laugh for any person an' he'd
laugh at any place,
There was allers laughter runnin' down each
wrinkle on his face,
He would oftimes laugh at nothing till his
very sides were sore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any

He laughed because he liked it - ne'er a
shadow out for him,
An' he often carried sunshine where the hope
was growin' slim,
But he laughed his way to glory, far beyond
this mortal shore,
But never in this country will be ha-ha any more!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

DUBLIN'S FIRST COLLEGE - The Harriet Holsey Industrial School

The Harriet Holsey
Industrial School
Statewide vocational education in Georgia began during World War I after the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. The act was authored by Cong. Dudley M. Hughes of Danville. Prior to that time, a few counties and communities provided some courses in vocational education. Most courses in these schools focused on agricultural and domestic subjects. Funds for public schools were scarce, but industrial/vocational schools were very rare in rural Georgia.

The first mention of an vocational education school for the Colored students of Laurens County appeared in an advertisement in an 1886 issue of The Dublin Post. A.S. Dickson, President of the Dickson Institute, invited all of Dublin to join with him and Vice President Pinkney Hughes in a meeting to solicit funds for the school. In December of 1905, the Congregational Methodist Episcopal Church purchased an acre of land. Bishop L. H. Holsey appointed Rev. W.A. Dinkins as President of the Dublin Normal and Industrial School. Rev. Dinkins was a graduate of Paine Institute in Augusta. The school was located in a small wooden building at 292 East Jackson Street at its intersection with Decatur Street. School officials planned to model the school after Booker T. Washington's school in Tuskeegee, Alabama. Poplar Springs Industrial School was established later in that same year of 1906. The Poplar Springs school was sponsored for the most part by the members of Poplar Springs North Baptist Church.

A fair was given for the purpose of promoting the Industrial School in the fall of 1908. Bishop Henry M. Turner of the Congregational Methodist Episcopal Church gave the address to a crowd of thousands. Fair exhibits included agricultural products, equipment, and techniques, as well as cooking, laundering, furniture making, sewing, and art work. The fair committee was composed of Rev. W.A. Dinkins, President, and committee members C.H. Williams, R.H. Ketchum, F.C. Kiler, P.B. Baker, A. Walker, Wm. Blackshear, and A.B. Jackson.

In 1908, the school staff was composed of Rev. W.A. Dinkins, President; Professor Noah Clark, Principal; Mamie Dinkins, Music Teacher; Daisy White and Mary Snelson, Teachers; and Mrs. M.J. Dinkins, Matron. The yearly matriculation fee was only two dollars per student. In 1909, R.A. Carter, A.J. Cobb, and Lee O'Neal, all from the Atlanta area, purchased thirty acres of land which included the former Dublin Furniture Factory on Ohio Street. They sold one block of the land to L.H. Holsey, G.L. Ward, J.H. White, P.W. Wesley, R.A. Carter, A.J. Cobb, Lee O'Neal, W.T. Moore, E. Horne, and C.L. Bonner as Trustees for the Harriett Holsey Industrial School. The school provided education in agriculture, domestic science, and other technical skills and was open to all of the Negroes of Laurens County.

The college was housed in building of the old Dublin Furniture Manufacturing Company, which was established in 1898. The area came to be known as Scottsville, named for the Rev. Scott, who was an early resident of the area. The owners of the surrounding lands subdivided the furniture factory field into building lots for the workers. Several cottages and a boarding house were constructed along with a factory building. The company, headed by J.M. Simmons and several of Dublin's leading businessmen, specialized in medium-priced bedroom suites. The location was chosen because of its proximity to the Oconee River. Lumber was transported by river which lies within a half-mile of the factory. The choice of the location turned out to be a poor one. The waters of the Oconee came flooded the area when the river was high.

The school became known as the Harriet Holsey Industrial School. The subdivision around the homes was renamed Holsey Park. Streets in the subdivision were named after some of the United States. The college, located in Block 11, was bounded on the north by Georgia Street, west by Ohio Street, south by an unopened portion of Columbia Street, and east by an unopened portion of California Street. Bishop Holsey was given a lot in anticipation of the construction of his home near the college.

By the beginning of 1916 the school ended its operations. While the school was somewhat successful on a local scale, it never progressed as its trustees had planned. The trustees sold their interest to Katie M. Dickson who planned to keep it open as a convention school. The dormitory was converted into a workshop and a new building was planned. Mrs. Dickson still continued the dream to model the school similar in design to that of the Booker T. Washington School in Tuskeegee, Alabama.

Today, all signs of the Harriet Holsey Industrial School have vanished. In the early 1950s Charles McMillan and M.C. Mallette, operating under the name of M & M Packing Company, purchased much of the property, and constructed a meat packing plant and slaughterhouse on the site. In the latter half of the 1980s Roche Manufacturing Company purchased the property and built a large cotton gin on the college site. Bishop Holsey's lot is now the site of a small park belonging to the City of Dublin.

So ends the story of the Harriet Holsey Industrial School. It is deserving of more attention and research. Perhaps there is more information hidden away somewhere that will bring to light more information on Dublin's first college.