105 Years Ago this Month – Commentary by Steve Scroggins, 1/12/2010 (originally published Jan.2005)
It's difficult for the average person to fully comprehend the scope and scale of all the changes that have taken place over the last century. Not
all the changes have been for the better and not all have been for the worse. Suffice it to say that not many of us want to give up the conveniences, the extended lifespan and the leisure time that technology
has given us. Not many of us are happy with the moral decline and the disintegration of the family witnessed more profoundly in the last fifty years.
For the moment, let's mentally travel back one hundred years to a different time and try to partially
understand how different every day life was in 1905. Recently, a short list of revealing statistics
made its rounds on the Internet. I have not verified all these 'facts,' but a cursory spot check of a few sources leads me to think they're fairly accurate.
I'll just highlight a few items from the list. In 1904...
- The average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years. I find this especially meaningful since
I turn 46 in 2005.
- Only 8 percent of U.S. homes had a telephone (there were over 81,000 public pay phones).
- There were only 8,000 automobiles in the U.S. and about 144 miles of paved roads.
- Only one in ten U.S. adults could not read or write but only six percent had graduated from high school.
- Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa and Tennessee had larger populations than California.
- There were only 230 reported murders in the entire U.S. in 1904.
In 1904, the telegraph was the dominant means of rapid communications. AT&T was a struggling upstart. Radio (wireless telegraphy) was in its development stage, it
would be 10-15 years before commercial radio broadcasts were common.
In Taylor County Georgia, December 11, 1904 was a happy day. On that date, my great-grandparents were married. The following story appeared in The Butler Herald
Tuesday, December 20th, 1904.
BARFIELD--THEUS: Mr. T. L. Barfield and Miss Dora Theus were united in the holy bonds of matrimony by Elder J.F. Young, Sunday last at the home
of Mr. Thomas Theus, father of the bride. A large number of friends of the happy pair were present to wish them well.
I met the Barfields as a baby, but unfortunately, they both died before I was old enough to remember them. From
the way my mother talked about them, I wish I'd had the opportunity to know them much better.
Some of their stories, passed on by my grandmother, and a few keepsakes and some of their photos passed on by my mother are the only tangible things I have
from them. But I think it's the intangible things for which I am most grateful.
I have memories of my grandmother----a GREAT southern lady----and her sisters and brother. I have some of their spirit and their Southern
About a month after that 1904 wedding, they had some bad news. The father of the newlywed groom died. The sad news was reported in The
Butler Herald Tuesday, January 17, 1905.
The many friends of Mr. J. B. Barfield will regret to learn that he is now suffering from a severe stroke of paralysis which came upon
him at his home in the southern portion of the county last Sunday. Our informant states that it is not probable that Mr. Barfield will recover. He is
well and favorably known and his affliction will carry sadness to the hearts of many.
Since penning the above lines we are sorry to learn that Mr. Barfield died at his home near Bateman's mill at two o'clock on Monday
afternoon. He had been in declining health for the past several months but his sudden affliction and death was a shock to family and friends. Mr. Barfield
was about 65 years of age, a good citizen, an excellent neighbor, and a husband and father who was kind and who provided well for his household, always
cheerful even in adversity. He leaves a devoted wife, five sons and two daughters, Messrs. William, Berry, John, Thomas and Monroe Barfield. Miss Mary
Eliza and Mrs. Isiah Barfield besides many friends and relatives to mourn their loss.
Jesse Bud Barfield was born about 1839 in Macon County, Georgia. Jesse Bud Barfield was
the youngest of nine children; his father (Jesse M. Barfield) had moved from North Carolina to Macon County Georgia in
1833 and the senior Jesse was a farmer and veteran of the Mexican war. When another war came in the early 1860's, young Jesse enlisted in
Company A (the Macon County Guards) of the 10th Georgia Infantry Batallion and later
transferred to Company B of the 22nd Georgia Heavy Artillery where he served until the end of the war. He married in 1866
and started a family despite the hardships of Reconstruction.
Jesse Bud's son, Thomas Lafayette Barfield, would later marry the daughter of another Confederate veteran, Thomas B. Theus.
Thomas B. Theus, along with six of his brothers, served in Company C of the 59th Georgia Infantry. After fighting all over Northern Virginia,
he was captured near Appomattox on April 6th, 1865 and paroled shortly after the surrender at Appomattox. Reportedly, he walked home from Burkeville Virginia to Taylor County Georgia.
I have a photo of the Theus family from 1915 given to me by my grandmother's sister. My great-aunt was not yet born when this photo was taken
just three years before Grandpa Theus died. The photo has a "Tobacco Road" quality to it and clearly shows that they were hard-working farmers. Thomas B. Theus is in the center
holding my Aunt Ethel (his grand-daughter) in his lap. My great-grandparents Tom and Dora Barfield are to the left of him. My grandmother is a toddler sitting in her mother's lap.
My Aunt Ethel (Barfield McInvale) was a real pistol. She stood about 4 feet eleven inches tall and weighed about 80 pounds soaking wet. She was quick to smile and had an infectious laugh. She dipped snuff and could spit and
ring a coffee can on the floor across the room. She was a great fisherman and made fantastic boiled peanuts. When I view the photo of the older Dora Theus Barfield,
my Aunt Ethel looked just like her.
My Grandmother, Oleta Barfield Jones, was a great lady, too. She worked 30 years in Thomaston's Martha Mill (textiles, tire cord) after her husband died very young. She always
had a huge garden, she made fantastic quilts with very ornate designs and no one on earth knew how to cook better. She always had rough hands--because they were hard-working hands that
were always busy. She had a paddle hanging on a nail by the kitchen door. My brother and I (and my cousins) learned early that she would use it---there was never any doubt
who was 'boss' in her house. I was surprised to find a newspaper clipping a few years ago revealing that at the age of 13, she was voted the "prettiest girl" in her school. When I was very young, we spent a lot
of weekends at her house---there are many fond memories there for me. She had a loud laugh that I can still
hear to this day.
On January 19, 1905, her grandfather---my great-great grandfather---Thomas B. Theus, was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor by the Butler Georgia Chapter of the United Daughters
of the Confederacy. In the early part of the twentieth century, the ladies of the UDC were busy putting up monuments to the heroes of the South, the men
who had sacrified everything to defend their homes and their right to self-government, in almost every county in the South. They were giving awards to the remaining Confederate veterans before it was too
late to thank them. Jesse Bud Barfield died just a short time before he could get one.
I don't think it was a coincidence that the award was presented on January 19th. That day has long held special meaning to Southerners; it's
the birthday of Robert E. Lee. Both my parents graduated from R.E. Lee Institute, the high school in Thomaston, GA, which was located on ---you guessed it----Lee Street. As a child, I remember every calendar that I looked at marked January 19th as Lee's birthday. Today, political correctness
reigns supreme. There are virtually no calendars that acknowledge the birthday of this Southern hero. Efforts are constantly underway to rename schools and streets named for him all across the South.
There remains a number of Southerners who honor Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson every January, but we must acknowledge that we are
the shrinking minority. A number of Southern states still observe Lee's birthday as a holiday, but the official recognition is taking a lower and lower profile as time passes.
One hundred years after that period of active memorialization by the UDC, the forces of Political Correctness are working feverishly to discredit, destroy
or hide every vestige of Southern heritage. The Lee painting was removed from the Savannah City Council chambers in December. The Confederate flag (Second National) was
removed from the Riverwalk in Augusta earlier in the year. Similar ethnic cleansing is occuring constantly, steadily all across the South and the United States.
One hundred years from now, what will our descendants remember about the 19th and 20th centuries? Will every positive vestige be erased and
replaced with a sanitized P.C. version of history? And who will be the next target of the revisionists? World War II vets? Who will be next after them? Since the WWII vets are dying at an alarming rate,
who will be left in 100 years who remembers any of them?
One thing's for certain. If we don't pass on what we know about true American and Southern heritage to our children and grandchildren,
many of the better parts of our history will be lost forever. The character, the work ethic, the courage, the honor and the faith of our ancestors
deserves better. For the sake of our future and that of our children, we must preserve and restore our heritage, our true history. As Winston Churchill
said, “A nation that forgets its past has no future.”
is Commander of the Lt. James T. Woodward Camp 1399, Sons of Confederate
Veterans, in Warner Robins, GA and a frequent GHC contributor of parody
and political cartoons and graphics.
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- "He alone deserves to be remembered by his children who treasures up and preserves the memory of his fathers." --Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
- If you don't know history, you don't know anything. You're a leaf that doesn't know it's part of a tree. ----Michael Crichton
- "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know where it is today..." --Gen. Robert E. Lee
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A brief history of Thomaston Mills