Forsyth Fun Facts

When the telephone company constructed the communications tower on what is now North Frontage Road in Forsyth, they contracted with Native American men, who had a legendary reputation as high-rise steel workers, to do the job.  Although what Nation these men working in Forsyth belonged to is not easily determined, they may well have been Iroquois, who also constructed skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers in New York City.  While working in Forsyth, these Native Americans lived on South Lee Street in a Primitive Baptist Church that had been converted into apartments.

If they had a few extra coins  in the 1930s, citizens of Forsyth could enjoy a thirst-quenching Double Cola bottled on North Jackson Street in Forsyth.

Double Cola as a beverage derived  its name from its having twice the fluid ounces as the six ounce bottle that was the norm at the time.  Its  line of flavors included Double-Orange, Double-Lemon, Double-Grape, and Double-Strawberry.    “Double Good, Double Cola” they advertised.

The Double Cola enterprise in Forsyth reflected the entrepreneurship of two Monroe County men, Charlie Davis Little and his brother-in-law J. Willie Webb.  

Little, according to Double Cola sources, began delivering  newspapers when he was eight and eventually worked for  the Parker Railway News Company.  Its head, T. C. Parker, owned a beverage bottling plant and that got Little interested in bottling.

In 1922 Little, with another former employee of the Chero-Cola Company, organized the Good Grape Company.  A few years later they changed the company’s name to Seminole Fruit Flavor Company and from its headquarters in Chattanooga began the production of Double Cola.

In 1929 the Seminole Company opened  a bottling facility in the Rutherford and Phinazee Building at 57 North Jackson Street in Forsyth.   The opening festivities featured  a calliope which produced “plenty of music as it rode majestically over the streets” of Forsyth.  In keeping with the name of the company, Little and Webb brought in Chief Little Bear, described as “a full fledged Seminole Indian chief” whose parents had died at Custer’s Last Stand to celebrate the opening of the plant.

 J. Willie Webb with the assistance of his two sons, James and Walter, managed the bottling of the Double-Cola products here.

Harold G. Clarke in his under-appreciated memoir, Remembering Forward, wrote about watching the bottling of Double Cola on summer afternoons.  “The continuous line of bottles moving along on a track first were thoroughly washed and were then filled with soda pop and capped.  All this made a wonderful sound as the rattle of the track provided the rhythm for the harmony of the swishing washer, the scooting filler, and the popping capper. This audio turned into a video with the bottles doing a dance of wiggles and jumps on their way to become color holders of Double Orange or Double Grape.”

Double Cola continued to be bottled in Forsyth until at least the mid-1950s and while Forsyth has now lost its bottling facility, the product continues to be produced under the guidance of the company headquarters still in Chattanooga.  There it celebrated its centennial in 2022.

Gen. Lewis L. Griffin was president of the Monroe Railroad and Banking Company, but that office did not save him from a mob attack in Forsyth.  Indeed, it was because he was president that the ruffians seized him.

The company that Gen. Griffin headed constructed the railroad between Macon and Forsyth.  It was also a bank, issuing its notes that circulated as currency.  In the 1840s, the company faced financial challenges.  The rumor started that the company did not have enough specie to back up its notes.  That created pressure on the banking operation.

The story is that Gen. Lewis went to Charleston and borrowed thousands of dollars in silver to assure note holders that the company could redeem its notes in silver.

The rumor later got started that Gen. Griffin was about to flee from Forsyth to Mississippi, carrying with him the silver he had borrowed in Charleston.  On New Year's Eve, 1842, a mob attacked him on the Monroe County courthouse square and put him in a hovel for the night with ten men to stand guard so he would not escape.  He did not like that, but even more did he dislike it that the mob had opened the baggage of his wife and had waived everything she had in it--including her undergarments--in the air.

Rescued the next day, Gen. Griffin vowed to leave Georgia forever for Mississippi--and soon moved.  The Monroe Railroad and Banking Company continued to have financial troubles and went into bankruptcy.  A northern group of investors purchased its assets and successfully managed the line, now called the Macon and Western, until after the Civil War.

In its 200 years Forsyth has had a number of banks–but only one national bank.  Before  1901 when the First  National Bank of Forsyth opened its doors, there existed banks in town, but none of them was a national bank.

“National” in its title made the Forsyth National Bank distinctive.  It had its charter not from the state but from the federal government, which authorized national banks such as the one in Forsyth to issue notes that  circulated.  

A leading Forsyth capitalist, James M. (“Captain”) Ponder, and his son-in-law, the attorney Samuel Rutherford, opened the doors of their new bank in January 1901 with cash capital of $30,000.  Ponder was president and Paul A. Bowden cashier.

Other leading Forsyth capitalists initially held stock in the bank.  These included R. P. Brooks, J. W. Newton, and Charles A. Ensign.  Before the end of the year, however, Brooks, Newton, and Bowden sold Ponder and Rutherford their stock, making the bank essentially an enterprise of Captain Ponder and his son-in-law.

The bank moved into its permanent home at  what is now 35 West Johnston Street in the fall of 1902 and celebrated with a reception to show off their “elegant and costly” building and furnishings.  Today Pickled Okra occupies that spot.

Soon members of the Hill family began to work there.  William C. Hill became cashier in 1903 and a few years later, his brother, Charner W. Hill, assumed those responsibilities.  The Hill brothers went on in 1908 to establish the Monroe County Bank, having gained banking experience at the First National Bank of Forsyth.

As a bank in an agricultural society, the First National Bank accepted  a variety of collateral.  In 1906, for example, collateral was a nine-year-old medium size blue horse mule, one medium size black horse mule and a small bay horse mule five years old.  The bank had to foreclose on the borrower and sold the mules  on the courthouse steps.  In 1914, the bank lent to farmers with cotton in any warehouse in the county with the ginned cotton as collateral

When the First National Bank installed a new security system in 1908, it took advantage of the improvement to advertise, “Deposit your money with the First National Bank where thieves do not ‘break through and steal’ on account of the Patent Burglar Alarm which would surely give them away.”

After fifteen years in business, the First National Bank of Forsyth ceased operation.  According to the Advertiser, this was a “voluntary action on the part of the stockholders” and the “bank’s affairs are in excellent shape.”  When it closed its doors in January 1916, all but $9,260 of its notes had been redeemed.

What happened to the $9,260 in tens and twenties of the First National Bank of Forsyth  that went unredeemed?  Dealers in old currency know of none to have come on the market.  Chip Davis, a currency guru, suggests that a single such note might fetch between $10,000 and $20,000–a thousand times its face value–but as none has surfaced, who knows how much or how little it might bring at auction.

Twelve years after Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention, the telephone, in 1876, residents of Forsyth were beginning to install the new communication technology.

In 1888 the local newspaper, the Advertiser, reported that “Forsyth is catching on to the telephone fever.”

Evidently the telephone fever was not too widespread, though, for the news article revealed, “There are now in operation in the city, three telephones put up for individual

use, and running from the business houses of the owners to their respective homes.”

With the introduction in Forsyth in 1895 of an exchange, so called because connections could be made at a switchboard between any two parties subscribing, telephone users in Forsyth could call a larger number of persons.  That is, if they paid the charge of a dollar a month.

The man behind the creation of telephone service in Forsyth was Dan H. Green, whose business was first at 44 North Jackson Street. [The name plate Green and Hale is still there, Odolphus O. Hale being his brother-in-law.] A Horologist trained at the Rockford [Illinois] Watchmaker’s Institute, Green could “design, make, and repair timepieces of every description.”

He advertised that he could also repair guns, pistols and sewing machines.

Although his first exchange was probably at 44 North Jackson, in 1900 Green moved his company to 16 North Jackson on the square.  He built a second story to his store for the office of the exchange. From this second story telephone operators made their connections and conveyed local news.

Green oversaw the expansion of telephone service from Forsyth to Cabaniss, Smarr, Bolingbroke, and then eventually to Macon. The line from Forsyth to Macon featured chestnut posts and two no. 12 copper wires for better transmission.

By the end of 1899, Green could provide telephone connection to New York, too. He celebrated the expansion of service by allowing people in Forsyth to call their friends in New York free.

In 1904 the Southern Bell Telephone Company got the telephone franchise for Forsyth and Green became manager of the operation. Southern Bell, though, immediately caused a ruckus in the community: the company increased the monthly rates to two dollars for a household and three dollars for a business. Irate citizens in Forsyth held a public meeting at city hall to protest, but probably to no avail.

In the long history of the male-dominated Forsyth newspaper, the Advertiser, two women, Ada O. Sanders and Jane Lanyon Leeder, have been at the helm.

James P. Harrison established the newspaper in 1867, replacing the Educational Journal established by William C. Wilkes, the president of Monroe Female College, later Tift.  

Harrison's first press was the Washington press that Henry W. Watterson had used to print his Chattanooga Rebel, the mobile newspaper the great Southern journalist Watterson published during the Civil War.  The typestand that Joel Chandler Harris used to set the type for the Advertiser's earliest issues is now in the Museum of the Monroe County Historical Society.

In the Advertiser office in Forsyth in those early years, a freedman, Tyler Slaughter, was the pressman.  Newspapers throughout the state in 1880 carried notice of Slaughter's death from dropsy in 1880.

After Harrison, various men including Mayor William E. Sanders, owned the paper. When Sanders died, his widow, Ada O. Sanders, assumed management of the newspaper, publishing it with the assistance of Mary ("Mamie") Pinckard, a daughter of the attorney James Steptoe Pinckard and his third wife, Mary Sharp Pinckard.

The Rev. Jack H. Clarke owned and edited the Advertiser from 1917 until 1946, when he was elected Monroe County school superintendent.  After 1946 it went through a succession of owners, among them the Canadian-born Jane Lanyon Leeder, who served as its editor along with her son Richard Cox.

In the early 1970s, the Advertiser petered out during the editorship of Gainer E. Bryan, Jr., unable to meet the vigorous challenge of the Monroe County Reporter that Don J. Daniel had started in 1973.

With a Kynette Methodist Church, a Kynette Street, and a Kynette Park, the name Kynette is a familiar one in Forsyth. But where did this name come from? Many places named in Forsyth—Ponder Street, Morse Street, Cabaniss Avenue, Elrod Drive and Sharp Street—reflect the names of influential Forsyth families. It seems, though, that no one named Kynette ever lived in Forsyth.

In fact, the Kynette name comes from Alpha J. Kynett (1829-1899), a Methodist minister from Pennsylvania who was active in the Anti-Saloon League and who supported the ordination of women. He lived in Philadelphia, more than 800 miles from Forsyth. So how did this man from so far away come to have well known places in Forsyth named after him?

[Before 1844 in the United States almost all white Methodist churches were part of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It split over the issue of slavery in 1844 and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was organized.  The Forsyth Methodist Church was a part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South until 1939. In that year the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South merged. They called the new arrangement simply the Methodist Church.]

The origins of Kynette Methodist are from after the Civil War when formerly enslaved people established churches independent of white congregations. Many identifying as Methodist built churches designated African Methodist Episcopal [A. M. E.] which were independent of the white-dominated Methodist churches in the United States. St. Luke A.M.E. on College Street was one of those in Forsyth.

Kynette, though, experienced a different development. A black Methodist Church was established on Culloden Road by at least 1873. That first church borrowed funds from the Methodist Board of Church Extension and was unable to repay. The denomination’s Board of Church Extension foreclosed, and they bought the property at a courthouse auction.

A church continued on the property, but it became connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church, the national Methodist organization. The name of this church became Kynette, for Alpha J. Kynett, the secretary of the Methodist Board of Church Extension whose job it was to support new Methodist Episcopal Churches.

So, this is how one of Forsyth’s beloved houses of worship and later a neighborhood street and park came to be named for a man who lived far away but was influential in the development of new Methodist churches throughout the region.

Note: The name in Forsyth is commonly spelled “Kynette.” The Methodist minister spelled his name “Kynett.”

Forsyth has many traditions, among them the Forsythia Festival and the Mary Persons football rivalry with Jackson,  but perhaps the oldest is Confederate Memorial Day.  Now more than 150 years after its first observance the tradition continues every April in the Forsyth City Cemetery.

There is no good evidence known today for when the first observance of this day happened in Forsyth, but by 1870 it was being observed–although in that year it was postponed from April until May because there were not enough flowers yet available to decorate the graves.

The Ladies Memorial Association was then the sponsoring organization and established the formula for the earliest observances.  Always there was an orator who was obliged to pay eloquent tribune to the Confederate soldier.  There was also a parade from the town square to the cemetery in a prescribed order, typically the marshal in the lead, followed by the Quitman Guard.  Next came the women of the Memorial Association, the clergy with students from Monroe Female College and Hilliard Male Institute in tow.  Members of the city council preceded the citizens who were divided into two groups, those on foot and those in carriages, who came last.

When in 1886 there seemed to be a problem with decorum in the parade, the ladies of the Memorial Association announced that the order of marching would be strictly observed “to prevent confusion” so “that everything may be done decently and in order.”

At the cemetery itself, those who were present put “fresh spring flowers, wreaths, and immortelles” on the Confederate graves.  [“Immortelles” were made of dried natural or man-made materials and would last longer than fresh spring flowers.]

The Ladies Memorial Association organized Memorial Day observations until about 1915 , when they turned that responsibility over to the Thomas B. Cabaniss Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), which had been organized in 1900.  Today, more than 150 years after the first Memorial Day in Forsyth, the women of the UDC maintain that tradition.

In this year’s observation,  there was no Quitman Guard to fire a concluding salute, but Co. G, 27th Ga Re-enactors fired their guns and cannon, sending dogs howling in an otherwise quiet neighborhood.

Lap Ponder  (1904-1980) became legendary in the 20th century in Forsyth because of his ability to throw a baseball over the Monroe County courthouse.

His birth name was Lewis A. Ponder, Jr., but throughout his life he was called by his initials, Lap.  He lived on family property; he hunted.  His obituary said that he was a tree farmer.

No one knows exactly how Ponder came to master throwing a baseball.  Perhaps it was on a field on the family farm on Ponder-Trammell Road.  Perhaps it was while he was in school, the few years that he attended.  Perhaps it was because of his own gritty determination.

For years he came into Forsyth on his birthday to demonstrate that he still could throw a baseball cleanly over the courthouse, a two-story structure with a rooftop 57 feet from the ground.  He did this consistently until about 1978, when asthma began to take its toll on his body.  He died in Atlanta, the city identified with his beloved team, the Braves, in 1980.

The facade of 7 West Johnston Street is an ever-present reminder of Bramblett and Brother’s hardware store that served Forsyth under the Bramblett name until it became Forsyth Hardware in the 1940s.

In May 1870, Augustus W. and Alfred H. Bramblett arrived in Forsyth, having left Hawkinsville, where they had gone after the Civil War, each having five dollars in his pocket.  

In Hawkinsville, the brothers had set up their tin and hardware shop on Commerce Street at the sign of the big coffee pot.  They lived in the same building where they worked, using their coats for pillows and their work benches for a bed.

In May 1870 they moved to Forsyth and opened their business on the east side of the square.  [Karl Bramblett Hill said that the men had come to know Forsyth when they had a contract to make gas lamps to illuminate its town square.]  Three years later they purchased property at the north west corner of Lee and Johnston Streets, built a store, and  Bramblett family  men operated their business from that spot for more than seventy years.

The crest of their new building reflected their skill in metal work.  The design, remains of which still exist, came from the drawing board of August A. Rauschenberg, the German-born architect who lived in Forsyth at the time.

Good businessmen, the brothers looked for other opportunities beyond the operation of their hardware store.  When Frank N. Wilder died in 1884, they purchased his undertaking business and employed George Banks to manage it.  The family sold the funeral home when Dr. Walter Bramblett began to practice medicine in Forsyth.  His father said that he didn’t want to have to bury his son’s mistakes.

When the city put in a municipal water system in 1897, the brothers saw an opportunity to go into the plumbing business, taking advantage of the new utility.

When Monroe County farmers began commercially to grow peaches, Alfred H. Bramblett with some other capitalists in Forsyth organized the Forsyth Canning Company, a business that combined Bramblett’s interest in agriculture with his knowledge of using tin to can.

In 1946 when Augustus Walter Bramblett, the son of Augustus Wildman Bramblett, retired from the family business, he sold his interests to Charlie D. Hollis and Louis E. Zellner, who then changed the company’s name to Forsyth Hardware Company.  That company closed its doors in the late 20th century, after a hardware company had functioned in that spot for more than a century.

Several little boys who once walked the streets of Forsyth later became men of national prominence.

James M. Nabrit, Jr.  was a young boy when his father served as minister to the congregation at St. James Baptist Church.  Although the family lived in Macon, Nabrit doubtlessly accompanied his father to Forsyth for services, walking down James Street from the depot to the church.  Years later Nabrit, an attorney, served as president of Howard University for almost a decade.

Nabrit’s brother, some five years younger, probably wasn’t walking when his father left the pastorate at St. James.  This younger brother, Samuel, became a marine biologist holding a Ph. D. from Brown University.  Dr. Nabrit later served on the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission.

Thomas A. Dorsey was a tot when he trudged behind his father, who had come to Forsyth as a Pentecostal minister.  Years later, Dorsey, by then an accomplished musician, experienced a personal tragedy, the death of his wife and infant son, that resulted in his writing the gospel hymn “Take My Hand Precious Lord.”  He also wrote “Peace in the Valley.”

Born in England, T. Addison Richards was in his teens when his family moved to Forsyth so that his father could teach at the Forsyth Female Academy.   Here he probably first heard about the high falls of the Towaliga River.  Some years later he visited the falls with his artist brushes, creating an image he used in the book, Georgia Illustrated,  which he and his brother published.  Years later Richards, ensconced in the artistic circles of Manhattan, became corresponding secretary of the National Academy of Design, serving for forty years.  He not only continued to paint but he also edited the first major guidebook to the United States and Canada with information on transportation, hotels, sites to visit.  It naturally included illustrations by Richards.

Unlike the others mentioned here,  Maceo Hubbard was born in Forsyth and grew up here, but left his hometown to attend Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.  In 1926,  he was graduated from Harvard’s law school, one of the few from Forsyth ever to have done so.  During World War II he was an attorney for the Fair Employment Practices Committee and after the war joined the Justice Department.  There he helped fashion the legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

To establish  a “first”  in the 200 years of Forsyth’s long history requires indisputable evidence.  We have that with the first person to own an automobile in Forsyth.

In March 1906, the local newspaper, the Advertiser, proclaimed that Charlie Sanders had become the first Forsyth citizen to own an automobile.  “It is,” the paper reported, “a very neat machine of the Olds make.”  This would have been   the curved dash Olds with its chain drive and 4.5 horsepower engine that the company made  between 1901 and 1907.  

Sanders himself was the young son of the late W. E. Sanders, a Forsyth businessman and one-time Mayor od Forsyth.  His mother was Ada O. Sanders, who briefly edited her husband’s paper, the Advertiser, following his death in 1898.  W. E. Sanders  left his heirs  real estate in the downtown area, which may have enabled the son to enjoy his man-about-town social life sporting his new automobile.

Charlie Sanders worked for a while as a grocer and at one time kept books for H. E. Newton’s furniture store.  Still later, he was owner with Oliver Morse of Red Cross Pharmacy, until Dr. R. C.  Goolsby bought the business.

Residents of Forsyth were not unfamiliar with automobiles when Charlie Sanders rode his into town.  R. V. Connerat of  Savannah driving his Pierce motorette  came through Forsyth  in August 1902 headed for Atlanta as part of a two-state tour to show that the horseless carriage could get about over country roads.   He left Macon at 1:00 and reached Forsyth at 2:45.  By 5:00 he was in Griffin, and he arrived in  Atlanta at 9:00, an eight-hour trip covering 110 miles.

A year later George Napier according to the Advertiser “automobiled”  from Macon to Forsyth, doubtlessly to visit his  Napier relatives living here.

If Sanders were the first Forsythian to own an automobile, he did not hold the title of only automobile owner for long.   The local newspaper soon  reported that Forsyth citizens were taking to such places in the country as Plum Hill on Sunday-afternoon drives in their motor cars.

By 1909  the aggressive businessman Hugh Hardin, once a buggy distributor, had purchased a big Buick.  He raced his Buick against Frank N. Wilder from Macon to Forsyth.  Hardin left Macon six minutes after Wilder but managed to pass him before getting to Forsyth.

“Our horses,” observed the Advertiser, “will someday get familiar with the ‘honk’ of the automobile and view the other wonders of modern Forsyth without fear and trembling.”  They quickly did.

The five commissioners appointed to lay out the town of Forsyth in 1823 may be called the founding fathers of the city, but we know relatively little about them. Their names we readily know because they are inscribed on an aging historical plaque on the courthouse lawn: James S. Phillips, John E. Bailey, Samuel Drewry, Hugh W. Lumpkin, and Anderson Baldwin. Newspapers from the period have few references to James S. Phillips and John E. Bailey. Samuel Drewry did manage in the 1820s the Globe Inn located “on the southwest corner of the village.” Drewry brought experience in hotel management; he had had an inn in Eatonton before coming to Forsyth. But in general, these founding fathers seem quickly to have disappeared and seem to have had little involvement in the development of their offspring, the town of Forsyth. Henry W. Lumpkin does have some notoriety but much of that comes from familial associations. His brother Joseph Henry Lumpkin was the first chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and a co-founder of the law school, which bears his name, at the University of Georgia. Another brother was Wilson Lumpkin, the governor of Georgia who goaded the national government in expelling the Cherokees. Henry W. Lumpkin ran a tavern in Forsyth in the 1820s, but eventually moved to Marion County. Anderson Baldwin’s name does crop up in Georgia newspapers of the period. He was responsible for administering several estates, selling enslaved persons on the steps of the Monroe County Courthouse in doing so. He owned Union Hall, an early hotel in the town, probably naming it to reflect his political sentiments. He was politically active–and a strong Union man at the time of the nullification crisis with South Carolina. He was a member of Holy Grove Church and was involved in the controversy about the theology of its minister, the recently deceased William Henderson. He evidently loved women. He married his first wife when she was about fourteen. She died in 1835 and five months later he remarried. When his second wife died, he soon married a third wife. Baldwin was patriotic and was involved in Independence Day celebrations, on one occasion being selected to read the Declaration of Independence. He was a trustee of the Southern Botanico Medical College. He also sought economic opportunities, and this accounts probably for his moving to the fresher farmlands in Russell County, Alabama in the 1840s, leaving the town for which he had been a commissioner in 1823.

Willie D. Upshaw

For many women in Forsyth–and the men who dated students at Tift College–the dormitory named “Upshaw” brings back great memories.   The Upshaw name, though, has little identification with Forsyth except for this building.  Addie H. Upshaw, for whom the dormitory was named, was never a resident of Forsyth—but her son was, and it was because of him that the trustees dubbed the building Upshaw.

Willie D. (William David) Upshaw in the early 20th century lived in Forsyth while he was financial agent for Monroe Female College, later Tift.   His primary responsibility was to raise $25,000 for another dormitory and an additional $5,000 for equipment needed at the college.

The college’s president, Charles H. S. Jackson,  was intent on expanding the enrollment and did, but the school needed additional dormitory rooms to accommodate more students.  Thus William D. Upshaw’s appointment.

Upshaw cut a singular figure.  When he was 18, he suffered a spinal injury.  He never fully recovered, using crutches for almost the rest of his long life.  While an invalid, he wrote Echoes from a Recluse and began to lecture, demonstrating great skill in speaking and in selling his book.

President Jackson obviously thought Upshaw could raise the money from Georgia Baptists–and “Earnest Willie,” as he was known, did, operating from his base in Forsyth.

After being a fundraiser for the college,  he began publication of “The Golden Age,” described as a magazine of militant Christian citizenship, notable for its employment of women on its staff.  “The Georgia Cyclone'' as he was also known embraced the prohibition movement and worked to make Georgia the first dry state in the South.  He lobbied members of Congress to pass the Volstead Act.

Having gained an understanding of how Congress operated, “Earnest Willie” ran for the House of Representatives in 1918–and won, serving four terms.  In Washington,  he continued his campaign against liquor, gaining the reputation of being the “driest dry” in Congress.  In 1932 he was the Prohibition Party’s candidate for president.

Perhaps it was from his experience with students at the women's college in Forsyth that led him to support the 19th amendment, the only Georgia representative to do so.

The support for progressive measures in Congress by this former resident of Forsyth must be seen, though, against his defense in the 1920s of the Ku Klux Klan.  Most notoriously he proclaimed the Klan’s Imperial Wizard, William J. Simmons, a man of “sterling character” who was “incapable of an unworthy, unpatriotic motive, word, or deed.”

It was for “Earnest Willie’s” mother, Addie H. Upshaw,  though, not for this  defender of the Ku Klux Klan, that the dormitory in Forsyth was named.


Among the sons of Forsyth who made a mark in the wider business world, Hal Dumas stands out.

Reared in Forsyth, he was the son of Captain Jeff Dumas, one of the immortal six hundred.  [That designation, “the immortal six hundred,” refers to 600 Confederate officers who were prisoners of war.  In 1864 they were placed near the Federal batteries on Morris Island in the Charleston harbor.  Soldiers in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts guarded them there.  Later the “immortal six hundred” were transferred to Fort Pulaski near Savannah.]

When Hal Dumas graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (A. P. I.)  in Auburn,  Alabama, his senior prophecy was “If he doesn’t raise peaches, he will be president of the American Telephone Company.”

By the time of his graduation,  Dumas had had experience with peaches, having managed a peach orchard to order to pay his way through school, first at North Georgia Agricultural College at Dahlonega and then at A. P. I., where he majored in electrical engineering

After he graduated at 18, he took a job with Southern Bell, at first climbing poles and earning $50 a month.  Soon he was a district traffic manager and by 1943 he was president of the company.

Even though he had secretaries, he had a reputation for answering his own telephone.  Residents of Forsyth who knew him would call him directly , going to the head man as it were, when they had difficulties with their telephone service.  He was unfailingly courteous.

He never became president of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T)  but in 1951 he became executive vice-president of AT&T with headquarters in New York.  He served until 1956. And on his desk, there in Manhattan was a Confederate flag.

After AT&T came under attack from the Truman administration in an antitrust action, Dumas was important in thwarting the federal efforts to break up the company, conferring with Eisenhower’s attorney general Herbert Brownell and opening the path to the negotiations that left AT&T essentially intact.

Even though he had not lived in Forsyth since his youth, Dumas wished to be buried in the Forsyth City Cemetery and was.  His marker contains this tribute from his employees:  “The toughest and fairest president of any company.”

Labor Agents

In 1918, Forsyth’s Mayor Frank N.  Wilder and the Board of Alderman perceived a new threat to the good order of the city:  labor agents who were recruiting local workers for jobs in the north.

In its March 15th meeting that year the aldermen adopted an ordinance entitled:  “Taxing Agents Who Come into the City….For the Purpose of Soliciting Labor For Other Points Within the State of Georgia.”

The ordinance required these labor agents, as they were known, to purchase a license at $500 “per annum or any fractional part of a year.”  [The figure $500 converts to about  $12,000  in today’s dollars as determined by a conversion calculation.]

Convicted violators were subject to a fine of at least $50 or if the fine could not be paid, the convicted labor agent could  work on Forsyth’s streets for up to sixty days.

Although minutes of the city council provide no context, history does.  The period of the 1910s marks the beginning of the Great Migration, that movement of black Southerners away from the American South to northern, midwestern, and western states  in search of better employment and living conditions.   Labor agents came from industries in the north specifically   to negotiate labor contracts with these ambitious   workers and to arrange for  their transportation.

The movement threatened the supply of inexpensive black workers in the South, and governments, such as the Forsyth City Council, acted to protect this source of inexpensive labor by squeezing labor agents with absorbent license fees and heavy penalties upon conviction.

The ordinance made an exception for “farmers residing in Monroe County soliciting labor for work,” something that farmers particularly did during cotton picking season–the boll weevil had not yet struck Monroe County–when seasonal “help” or “hands” were needed in the fields.

The ordinance limited its scope to agents who sought labor for employers within Georgia because going beyond the borders of Georgia might call into play the interstate commerce clause of Article I of the United States Constitution, which assigns to the Congress control over interstate commerce–an authority that the courts have traditionally construed rather broadly.

An examination of bookings at the jail in Forsyth for eight years after the passage of this ordinance shows arrests for dog and hog stealing, for putting ties on the railroad tracks, for poisoning chickens and  for wife beating  but no arrests for labor agents.

There is, however, a Flewellen family tradition that the school teacher Elizabeth Washington of Bolingbroke was once charged with being a labor agent.  She worked closely with her brother, John Henry Flewellen of West Virginia,  who did recruit men from Monroe County to work in the coal mines there without, it seems, being arrested

In the 19th century “Chinese laundry” became almost synonymous with Chinese entrepreneurship.  This  niche business, started on the West coast, in time reached Forsyth.

Economic dreams drew Chinese to the west coast following the 1849 gold rush.  Also In the mid 19th century, railroads anxious for inexpensive laborers, arranged for the transportation of  workers from China to  construct such important lines as the Union Pacific.   When the demand for railroad construction declined, these men sought alternative employment, such as offering laundry services..

These immigrants, unlike those from Europe, were overwhelmingly male.  The Page Act of 1875 in practice excluded most  Chinese women.  The prejudice against these Asian immigrants developed so fast that in 1882  Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited the immigration of Chinese save for a few exceptional categories.    The act did not, however, require the expulsion of Chinese already in the country.

The first documented Chinese laundry was in San Francisco in 1851 , but soon this type of enterprise spread to other parts of the United States and eventually to  Forsyth.

The history of clothes washing is hardly a hot topic for historians; none the less it can reveal a great deal.  In Forsyth in 1850 for example, we can assume that clothes washing was a time-consuming and labor-intensive procedure, requiring drawing of water from a well, building a fire around an iron kettle to boil the clothes, pounding them, and then hanging them on a clothesline to dry.   

Many households in Forsyth in  the late 19th and early 20th centuries  depended on black women who took in washing to do their laundry.  Seeing these women returning the clean laundry to white homes in the early twentieth century, carrying the bundles on their heads, was not an uncommon sight.  Head-carrying, practiced in Africa, was one cultural practice that the Middle Passage and enslavement did not eradicate.  

Giving competition to these women were Chinese laundries in Forsyth.  There were at least two.

In 1902 John Lee had a laundry under the telephone exchange  on North Jackson Street next to the gunsmith shop.

In the 1910s, there was another on East Johnston Street right behind the Bank of Forsyth on the corner of East Johnston and North Lee.  Joe Hop operated this one.

Hop’s advertisement reveals a great deal about his business.  It seems to have catered to men, perhaps bachelors living in Forsyth’s boarding houses.  He charged ten cents for plain shirts. Separate collars and cuffs were charged differently:  two cents for a collar, four cents for a pair of cuffs.  For drawers, Hop charged six cents, as he did for undershirts.  Vests, which presumably took more effort, were fifteen cents.  

For women, he had only two categories:  shirtwaists from  fifteen to twenty-five cents and skirts from twenty-five to thirty cents.  He did not do, it seems, ladies’ unmentionables.  

In the early 1920s,  the Chinese laundry business came to an end in Forsyth with the arrest of the operator on charges of violating federal immigration laws.