Happy All Hallows’ Eve

This day has been sent through an evolutionary whirlwind through generations and today we call October 31, Halloween.  Although, in years past it was known as other names with other events taking place.  For instance, the word Halloween means hallowed evening and was formed from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve, the day before All Saint’s day.  Traditions of this day have changed as well as some spent this day “Souling” which was going door to door to pray for the dead and would receive Soul Cakes (small round cakes) from the owners of the houses; as each cake was eaten a soul was freed from purgatory.  Some would have feasts on this day and pray for the souls, which had not yet reached heaven.  Another tradition for some was to leave meals outside their doors for the ghosts of relatives who were deceased as they left for Church.  Some customs were to kneel at the graves of relatives and leave dishes of milk for them.  Others have played games on this day such as bobbing for apples, telling scary stories and some women would look into a mirror and wait for the image of their future husband to appear.   Today, we mostly think of trick or treating, however; this too has changed.  There was a time when children were safe to dress as ghouls, goblins, princesses and soldiers as they tromped free with their peers without supervision, to collect treats at the doors of their community.  Although the days and ways have changed, we can look back and analyze what has changed and what has remained the same.




The above Photographs, of Students, are from the November 11, 1961 Thomaston Mills Spinning Wheel.  The top photograph is of Mrs. Frances Black’s students and the second photograph is of Mrs. Smith’s students.

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Joe Hungate: Volunteer Extraordinaire

Fall days, for some, can cast a gloom upon their threshold, however; today our door was brightened when in walked Joe and Myrna Hungate from 2 hours up the road from Thomaston.  For many years now, Joe and Myrna have been making their way south, picking up material to transcribe from the Thomaston Upson Archives.  We have countless resources, which Joe has transcribed which have assisted researchers all over the World.  Not only do these resources help researchers more easily read the material; but this method also preserves these priceless documents as they encounter less human contact due to Joe’s benevolent deeds.   We literally use these resources daily in the routine of our own endless research and assistance to researchers who visit our facility.  What makes this phenomenal feat much more impressive is, although his wife Myrna is from Thomaston, most notably East Thomaston, Joe is not from Upson County, not even from Georgia.   Below is a photograph of Joe and his latest finished remarkable endeavor of transcribing the 1930 Upson County Census.  Anyone who has attempted to do such knows how incredible this is.  His next projects are to transcribe the 1910 and 1920 census.  Below is a photograph of Joe and his 1930 Census he just donated.  Furthermore, below this photograph is an example of the work Joe has donated to the Archives. Not only the Archives but from researchers the world over, THANK YOU JOE!

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Martha Mills: The World Rode on Her Cotton

Most of us go through life not knowing the details of the essentials we depend upon.  As a result, a common axiom has made its way into the lexicon of our existence, which is “we do not want to know how the sausage is made”.  However, some things are more interesting than sausage and therefore; if we were to hear just a hint of the process we would realize it was worth learning.  For instance, who, which did not have previous knowledge; ever looked at a large rubber tire and thought that cotton would be involved in its making.  The fact that the rubber was not purely synthetic is mind boggling enough but this process first utilized by the Mesoamericans over 3000 years ago, as well as the Vulcanization of rubber by Charles Goodyear, is for another time.  Nevertheless, the Textile Mill, Martha Mills, operated under the focus of making Tire Cord utilized in rubber tires out of Cotton.  Try as I might, this writer would fail to reach the top of the mountain of explanation of this process, leaving us all down in the valley of ignorance.  Although, this process went through many changes, Archivist Bonnie Smith found an explanation of the early process at Martha Mills from 1934.  This explanation was found in a Business and Professional Women’s Club handout from July 1934 written by a Mrs. Flora Ozburn of the State Commission of the Georgia Century of Progress, after a tour of Martha Mills.  Therefore, the below information, although not taken in exact quotes, was derived from Mrs. Ozburn’s stellar explanation of this process.

Upon Mrs. Ozburn’s arrival at Martha Mills in 1934 for her tour given by Mr. Sam Black, the Mill produced nothing but fabric for tire cords in Goodrich Silvertown Tires.    As the largest facility of that time producing primarily tire fabric, there were 137,000 spindles in operation with a capacity to utilize 15,000 bales of cotton with 5,000 as the average.   As Mrs. Ozburn and the other ladies made their way through the Mill, they learned terms such as twisters, picking and carding, ropers, speeders and slubbers.  Their first official introduction was to the Raw Cotton complete with the dust, motes and waste which come with it.  There was even a Waste Division.  At that time, the waste cost the Mill thousands of dollars but could be partially made up by the sale of the waste to make such things as low-grade hose.  Also in this area, they learned about the grades and colors of Cotton and how both determined its worth.  During this process, the cotton was stapled to determine the length and hardness of the fiber as Martha Mills only used long staple Cotton.  The grading had to be done in a special type of room, which was arranged where there were no shadows and  was kept at 60 degrees.

The ginning of this cotton, which consisted of separating the seed and lint from the cotton, was done by placing three bales together and putting the cotton through a series of mixing chambers, as it was combed by a steel “picker”.  Due to this process, the cotton became clearer as the waste dropped below like ashes “from the firegrate of a furnace”.  Mrs. Ozburn also comments on the fact that in a matter of minutes the loss could have been extraordinary in these chambers, as fire due to the combustible material was common.

Once this process took place the cotton tended to come out in strings which were pressed into a sheet like manner at which point they were blown into pieces yet again through a cylinder.  After which, the cotton came out looking like batting as Mrs. Ozburn explains “such as what most of us have seen our mothers and grandmothers use in making old fashioned quilts.”

The material which resulted, which was called laps, was rolled onto a large beam and taken to the “card room” where it was separated by “ropers”.  After passing through the steel combs the “rope” exited in a mist-like thread.  However, this was not the end process as this thread was still destined to travel miles throughout Martha Mills as Mrs. Ozburn states” from carding machines to drawing machines, from speeder to spinning room” as it became more twisted and drawn out.  During this process, the thread moved through the “traveler”, which was a device that turned at 18,000 revolutions a minute in order to wind a single thread on a spool.  All the while blowers were utilized to keep the yarn free from dirt and lint.

Mrs. Ozburn also spoke of a machine, which in 1934, had an automated light that would signal when the thread broke.  This was undesirable as broken threads resulted in a reduction in the ply of the cord.  Furthermore, Mrs. Ozburn stated that the ladies operating these machines had “automatic know-tyers on their hands”.  Nevertheless, the thread was wound on a bobbin, which weighed 500 pounds.  After which, the thread made its way to workers called “warpers” which operated a machine that automatically stopped if a single thread broke, she then had to make adjustments and restart the machine which, like all of the jobs, must have been very fast paced and stressful.

The end result of this process consisted of the thread becoming three or five ply cord which was placed on a paper bobbin, inspected and then shipped to Akron, Ohio to be placed in the rubber material which would be known as B.F. Goodrich Silvertown Tires.  Due to the high standards of Silvertown and B.F. Goodrich Tires, testing was constantly performed to ensure no knots were present, lest they create air holes in the tires and could cause blowouts.

Although paraphrased by the writer, this was a fascinating insight from Mrs. Flora Ozburn who explained the journey of Georgia Cotton; from farm, to Martha Mills, into the tires, which would keep the cars of the early 20th century rolling toward progress.

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The Natives and the Remnants Thereof

Long before our days, and long before our fathers’, this piece of Georgia was walked upon by native people who loved this land and depended on her bounty to survive.  They were here to greet Oglethorpe when he made his fateful landing in 1733, they were here to see the Spaniards arrive 190 years before that and many moons before.  Of course, with any human endeavor, there has remained a debate on the particular nomenclature to label this proud and honorable group.  Nevertheless, a more specific title would be the Creek Nation of both the Lower and Upper divisions of this tribe.  The Upper Creeks lived west of the Chattahoochee River whereas the Lower Creeks lived east of the Chattahoochee and inhabited essentially all of Central Georgia.  It has been told that the Upper Creeks were more warlike and the Lower Creeks were not.  It has been told that they lived off only what they needed and left the rest alone.  It has been told that many treaties later, in this area, they are no more.  Although, behind them they left the tools of their survival, and today the fortunate and observant have followed their footsteps to collect the remnants of these proud and abled souls.  Fortunately for us, we have a collection of these pieces housed at the Thomaston Upson Archives from two very astute and accomplished collectors.  One of the collectors is Jeremy Strom and below are his incredible finds.

ImageJeremy 111 Jeremy Copy1 (2) Jeremy Copy1 (1)

Upson County Gold: Martha Pennyman

Lightening watched her run, hoping to be as fast but it was not to be.  Her name is Martha Hudson Pennyman and in 1960, she won a Gold Medal in Track and Field in Rome, Italy. She was known as Martha Hudson or “Pee-Wee” as her friends called her then and greatness has never outpaced her.

It all started at Twin City Elementary and High School where Martha’s uncanny speed caught the attention of one of her coaches.  At that time, Martha was a star basketball player but was encouraged to focus her attention of Track as one of her coaches suggested.  It was this decision, which ultimately changed Martha’s life and gave the World one of the great athletes of our time.  Due to Martha being a standout track star in eighth grade, she was invited to the Tuskegee Relays in Alabama. While there, tearing up the track as she was blowing away the competition, Martha once again caught the eye of another coach, this time it was Coach Ed Temple of the famed Tennessee State University Tigerbelles; and he recruited Martha to come and be part of the renowned team.   After graduating from Twin City High School as Salutatorian in 1957, she won the AAU 100-yard dash and set the record for the 75-yard dash while at Tennessee State.  Furthermore, while setting the stage for her history-making run, Martha and her relay team set a record by winning the 4×100 in the 1959 Pan Am Games in Chicago.  However, it was in 1960 when Martha and her teammates, Lucinda Williams Adams, Barbara Jones Slater, and Wilma Rudoph, would run before the World and, in this sprint, dash the hopes of all who dared to run against them.  Once again, time was no match as they sliced through the Italian night air and set a world record in this Gold Medal run with a time of 44.3 seconds.  Martha must have yearned for the big stage; she must have craved the competition, as she was responsible for running the first leg of the relay.  However, anxiety would find no quarter with the world class athlete as even though she was the shortest competitor, she set a pace so fast, that although two of her teammates faltered, the record and Gold was still theirs.

After the Olympics, Martha continued to compete in all parts of the world, even the Soviet Union as she was on the first U.S. track team to visit the Communist World power while competing in the Goodwill Games and in 1962, Martha graduated from TSU with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. After which, Martha moved to Thomaston where she changed the lives of countless children each year as she enlightened them for 37 years as an elementary school teacher.  The Tennessee State Hall of Fame inducted Martha in 1983; the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame did the same in 1986 as well as the Thomaston Upson Sports Hall of fame in 2005 and the Bob Hayes Hall Fame in Jacksonville Florida in 2006.  Also in 2006, Upson Lee High School held the inaugural Martha Hudson Pennyman Invitational Track Meet and on the same day both the city of Thomaston and the county of Upson declared March 26, Martha Hudson Pennyman Day.  In 2010, Martha was honored with a monument placed at track where the Upson Lee Track team performs and the Macon Telegraph awards the Martha Hudson Pennyman Scholar Athlete of the Year to a deserving High School Athlete each year.

Just as everything else she raced against, Martha’s record setting days are behind her.    Although, Mrs. Pennyman stops by from time to time and we always enjoy her company.  She is always so very kind and humble and if to meet, one would have to know of her success beforehand, as she is not one to brag.  Therefore, if Gold Medals were given for being an incredible person, Martha Hudson Pennyman would win every time.

Copy of 10-15-2012 01;05;46PM2 Martha Hudson as a Tigerbelle at Tennessee State University

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Left to right : Wilma Rudolph, Lucinda Williams, Barbara Jones and Martha Hudson

All photographs were provided by Martha Pennyman

Written by Claude C. Burgess

Searching With But Only a Clue

As we are all too familiar with, time has a way of erasing the once was as if it were actually a myth perpetuated by the imaginative.  Although this has been occurring for millennia it seems mankind will never adapt to this realization.  Most often it is the departing of our youth and the anthology of joy it carries that we feel torn from our grip and other times it is the more tangible brick and wood that either reached its finite existence or civilization decides to raze it from our view.  Nevertheless, rarely do these defeats reach the next generation for they will be confronted with their own losses to dwell upon.  However, there actually seems to be a certain populous which desires to view the lost remnants of the previous generations. Even from the cave drawings of the Magdalenian to the cameras of today, we have all desired to create images that regardless of motive can be used for future generation’s informative pleasure.  Though lost are these images more than preserved which creates a void that is irrevocable.  As a result, many will come to the Thomaston Upson Archives in search of a photograph of a location they remember or once heard about.  At times we can accommodate the curious yet other times the image failed to make the passage to our collection.  However, recently the contrast to this request occurred when an out of town researcher brought a photograph hoping to find where an image was once located.  Photographed was a very nice home taken from the side and a church steeple in the dim background, with trees blocking the view of the church from the early 20th century with no date save for the knowledge that it was taken before 1930. This was a daunting task which would be an extended undertaking as the only clue I had was the name of the occupant of the home when the photograph was taken which was his grandfather.  At this time I went to the 1920 census and found the address of his grandfather during this survey to be North Church Street but with no house number.  Essentially, I could have rested with this knowledge however; good enough is never good enough at the Thomaston Upson Archives because it is not greatness.  For this reason, I darkened the office door of, our resident Sherlock Holmes, Bonnie Smith for her assistance.  Now that we knew the street, we were now faced with the desire to find the exact location and we felt our only hope was the vague view of the steeple in the background of the aged black and white photograph.  At this point we knew to look in Upson Historical Society’s Upson County A Pictorial History compiled by the publication committee of Jimmy McKinley, Harolyn Castleberry as well as Melba and Gordon Brown.  Amazing falls short in the description of this book and it often answers numerous questions with just a turn of the page.  Bonnie knew exactly where to turn in the book as there is a section for Churches and as we compared steeples; Bonnie knew she had found the one when she gazed upon page 69 at the Thomaston Presbyterian Church at the corner of Thompson and North Church Street.  Now we have a location of the home and it corresponds with the churches location, yet; the problem at this point is that the structures are no longer there.  For most this would be sufficient but we wanted certainty.  Fortunately, I remembered I have a 1927 and 1928 aerial view of Thomaston saved to my computer. With a quick scan we found the home adjacent to the church in a view that left no doubt.  For the record this type of find is implausible without the proper resources which allowed us to find the image and location of two unidentified buildings which exist no longer.

Thoughts are occupied by days and ways which will never be again with times remembered simpler, regardless if they were or not; and the mind is never so vivid as the photographs that take us back to when we were young.  Therefore how majestic is an image of a time we did not witness and how sweet when you call upon someone to identify the view and they actually have the ability to do so?

RE Rushin Home

Photograph we were first working from circa 1910

RE Rushin Pres. Church next door

Photograph of Church which can be seen in background(This image is from the incredible resource Upson County A Pictorial History published by the Upson Historical Society)

Downtown 1927

This is an up close version of an aerial view of the home from 1927 Thomaston.  The arrow denotes the home.  Notice the Church adjacent to the home with steeple.

Downtown 1927 full

The entire aerial view of Thomaston in 1927.  The arrow denotes the location of the home.  Note the church adjacent to the home.

Written by Claude C. Burgess

Growing Up in East Thomaston


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Children’s days should not be filled with toil and strife but with enjoying the freedom only youth can offer.  We, here at the Thomaston Upson Archives, often have visitors who grew up in East Thomaston who love to reminisce about their childhood in the Mill Village.  They enjoy looking through the old Thomaston Mills Spinning Wheels and telling stories of days spent tromping the streets with little care in the world.  The streets were safe as everyone knew everyone else and when the children were out of school recreation was on their minds.  If one tries, they too can envision this life with an early morning exit out the door to go meet up with friends for the day’s adventures.   Some days were greater than others but always a lesson to be learned as the formative mind was at work.   When the sun left the day to go greet the other side, it was time to reluctantly wash off the dirt of the day’s journey and off to bed to dream about doing it all over again tomorrow.  The former residents tell of hot days in the cold swimming pool, barefooted ball on the diamond, boxcar races and any other sport they chose.  One gentleman stated that when he was a child, “all we had to do was tell Thomaston Mills what we wanted and they built it for us, they made sure we had everything we needed”.  Fond memories float the air when stories like these are told and below are photographs from those who lived them.

-Photographs are from Thomaston Mills Spinning Wheels and the Gilbert English Collection

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Written by Claude C. Burgess