Happy Thanksgiving from Thomaston Mills Spinning Wheel

Two of many incredible resources we have at the Thomaston-Upson Archives are the newsletters from both Martha Mills and Thomaston Mills.  Both publications are filled with priceless and rare information as well as photographs about life in the villages.  The Martha Mills publication was known as the Silvertown Chord and the Thomaston Mills newsletter was known as the Spinning Wheel.  Recently, as I was researching, I came across a Spinning Wheel from 1968 announcing that Thanksgiving would be on November 28 that year.  I thought this was a very interesting coincidence, as Thanksgiving will also fall on November 28 this year.  Many things have changed in the last 45 years but, as eternal hope perpetuates, perhaps some things have remained; so that people in this country will want to congregate with the ones they love and give thanks.  

Below is an image of the Thomaston Mills Spinning Wheel November 22, 1968. 



The Inspiring Florine Watson Harper

Some of us crave inspiration. We thirst for it as if it were the last drop of water only if to wet our lips in this unfruitful vast desert we walk. Unfortunately, it is just as rare and therefore just as precious.  More times than not, just like with all great things, it is impossible to find when consciously sought after, but rather found when we unexpectedly take a hiatus from the hunt.  This when I answered the phone at the Thomaston-Upson Archives.  While carried away by toil, I abandoned the quest and unsuspectingly the voice coming through the line was that of the inspiration we all seek.  The caller was of Florine Watson Harper and the inspiration to be later discovered would prove indelible.  The conversation we had was remarkable and left a great impression on me.  However, the fruit of the conversation is what left me moved to write this piece. 

As we spoke, Mrs. Harper informed me that she was sending more of her things as an addendum to her collection that we have here at the Archives.  A few days later her items came by mail and, as I opened the boxes and began to process the collection, the inspiration was unavoidable.  I knew that the lady that was born in the early hours of May 6, 1917 and married Buford Orton Harper in 1941, left an undying impression on me as well as all she has encountered.

One would not be required to perform an exhaustive examination of Florine Watson Harper’s life to ascertain inspiration.  Any one of the numerous events, which have transpired in the days of Mrs. Harper, is capable of leaving the researcher spellbound and inspired.  Perhaps it would be her independence and determination to succeed when she caught a bus by herself with little money for Bob Jones College in Cleveland TN where she had to wait tables and set hair to pay her tuition.  Conceivably, it could be the intelligence she displayed with the highest grade on the English placement test and performing in the upper ranks of the Otis Intelligence Scores at West Georgia College while earning her normal degree.   Just maybe one would be stirred by her performing in a Clown Unit at, to only name a couple, hospitals and retirement homes.  Other examples could be offered and I am convinced that I could look daily and find something inspirational in the life of Florine Watson Harper.  However, the proverbial pot of gold at the end of this magnificent rainbow that is Florine Watson Harper, was her tenure at the Tennessee School for the Blind.   While serving as a Brownie Leader and Camp director at Happy Haven Camp; her scout troop took a trip to the Tennessee School for the Blind.   While there, perhaps caught unawares such as me, Mrs. Harper uncovered a fountainhead of inspiration in the students which led to her desire to work with the visually impaired; which undoubtedly inspires us all.  After 25 years removed from teaching, she went back to school at Peabody College to complete her Bachelor’s degree.  As a result, in 1968, she received her degree in Special Education in order to work with the very students who were responsible for the inspiration.  Upon this completion Mrs. Harper met with the Principal of the Tennessee School for the Blind and he offered her a job if she would train as a speech therapist.  In true Florine Watson Harper fashion, she pressed on and went back to school to earn her Master’s degree in 1970.  When hired at Tennessee School for the Blind she initiated a program by testing the hearing of all the students then identifying those in need of speech correction.  Mrs. Harper taught at the Tennessee School for the Blind for 14 years and was the school’s first speech therapist.  During her professional career she had articles published by Tennessee Teacher, Peabody Reflector, Education and the Visually Handicapped, International Journal, Wesley Christian Advocate, several newspapers and an incredible poem in the George Peabody College’s Trek

By chance, if this uncertain world creates a moment of doubt and malaise overwhelms you, I encourage you to come by the Thomaston Upson Archives and peruse the collection of Florine Watson Harper.  Although I believe your spirit will lift immediately, I am certain the clouds will part when you come upon Mrs. Harper’s time at the Tennessee School for the blind and the inspirational students she taught.  Previously, I believed that the populace of this world was broken down into the categories of the inspired and the inspiration.  However; now I know of the third, more extraordinary category, of which Mrs. Harper is a part.   Now I know that Florine Watson Harper is the one that can inspire the inspiration.          Image

Photograph from the “Mocking Bird” Yearbook Tennessee School for the Blind Nashville, TN. Vol. 19 May 1970



Photograph of Florine Watson Harper while teaching at the Tennessee School for the Blind

Searching for Photographs of Veterans

Never one to give up, Grady Kelley is continuing to do his fine work in honoring those who have perished by helping those left behind to find them.  Grady’s incredible services are well documented and just recently we have added his work of compiling a resource of Spanish American soldiers and their burial places.  Furthermore, Grady has completed two volumes of Confederate Soldiers and their graves for descendants and researchers to utilize.  Now we find ourselves upon the Wars of the 20th century and Grady would like to honor them as well.  As a result, Grady is out canvasing the local cemeteries in order to photograph the graves of the veterans from these wars and when the pages are created, for each soldier, Grady would like to include a photograph of the Soldier if possible.  Therefore, we would like to enlist the public’s assistance in this endeavor by asking for photographs of anyone from Upson County who fought in World War I, World War II, Korean War or Vietnam War, who is now deceased.  You can send a copy to Claude C. Burgess at cburgess@upsoncountyga.org or bring it by the Thomaston Upson Archives where we can scan the copy to give back to you immediately.  This is truly a worthwhile journey and when this project is complete, it will honor those who fought for this world to be a better place.  

Victorian Symbolism in the Cemeteries We Walk

What does it all mean?  In the daily transaction of the human’s day, this question often scrolls across the ticker of our brain.  What does that sign mean, what does this song mean, what does this life mean?  All very good questions in their own right and the answers are all too various and complicated for this writer to explicate. However, we do have one exposition for those of curiosity in the necropolises as The Thomaston Upson Archives Director and Archivist, Penny Cliff, has spent many hours in her research regarding one question many may have.  As those who congregate to the cemeteries of this world, the observant and inquisitive may encounter symbols in which they wonder, what does this mean.  As a result, Penny Cliff has compiled a tour and brochure for the Victorian Symbols which adorn the gravestones of the departed.  As it turns out, those who could afford and chose to do so, would choose for their headstones an image, which was symbolic to their walk in life, or walk in death.  Nevertheless, the images are beautiful and ornate as they speak to us all from a different time, a different day, but for the same reason we still desire to tell the world the “wonders of me”.  The below images are from the magnificent tour and brochure Penny Cliff and Jonathan Williams compiled and their narrative which you will see is a much better explanation than above.  


John Houstoun NSDAR Display

Thomaston and Upson County is filled with wonderful organizations the Archives is fortunate enough to work with.  One of these incredible organizations is the John Houstoun Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.  The fine ladies in this organization are always involved with incredible events and we are honored to have them involved with the Thomaston Upson Archives.  One involvement we have with the local Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is the priceless resources of theirs, which they have graciously placed in our facilities.  Many questions daily are answered due to these incredible resources and we are very grateful.  Another recent involvement is the beautiful display the local chapter has organized for the viewing and educational enjoyment for all, who visit, to see.  Everyone who crosses our threshold loves to look upon the beauty and history of this display.  Below is a photograph of the display along with local member Linda Hallman.  Mrs. Hallman is the Registrar for the John Houstoun Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and everyone who knows her delights in her charm, kindness and extraordinary knowledge.  In addition to all of the incredible events she is involved with, Mrs. Hallman will also be a speaker in the upcoming, November 16, 2013, Upson Historical Society’s Veteran’s Program as she gives a presentation regarding Ms. Grace Hallman.  Director of the Thomaston Upson Archives Penny Cliff penned the synopsis of this incredible presentation best as she wrote; “Upson County’s Linda Hallman will share stories on her husband Ed’s second cousin, Army Nurse Corps. Ms. Grace Hallman who was on the infamous Bataan peninsula in the Philippines in 1942. All the nurses left Bataan the night of the surrender, April 8, 1942, for Corregidor.  “In an effort to get as many nurses off Corregidor before the final surrender, military commanders succeeded in evacuating 22 women to Australia.”  Two of these nurses were Grace Hallman of Upson County and her friend Mary Moultrie of Meriwether County.”    This presentation is not to be missed.



R.E. Lee State Champions! 25th Anniversary Part 4

If the R.E. Lee Rebels had not shown their strength throughout the season, they had one more time to warn the state of Georgia of their power before the state playoffs began.  The Rebels would be home for the final regular season game against Perry and would have very little trouble as they would win 42-15.  The scoring would be done by Douglas Stanley, Tim Perry, Randy Marshall and the extra points were provided by usual from Troy Woodard.  Randy Marshall had 140 yards in this game as the defense stormed Perry’s lines led by Marcus Hollis, Anthony Thornton, Brian Johnston and Eric Skelton.  Now that the regular season was over Lee would wait to see who their first opponent would be in the first round of the Region playoffs as they would attempt to once again make it to the State Championship game as they had two times previous.

The above was paraphrased from the Below 1988 Program



Below is another incredible resource by Jim Fowler.  Copies can be found at the Thomaston Prescription Shop and from Jim Fowler who can be reached at 706-647-2306.  Each copy is only $44 and is an incredible price for this type of incredible piece of history.  This book would make for an incredible Christmas Gift for anyone.



UHS Veterans Program Nov. 16 2013


Recognition of Woman in the Armed Forces

“Recognition of Women in the Armed Forces” will be the focus of the Upson Historical Society Veterans Day Progam.  The program will be held at the Memorial Hall, Senior Center, on Saturday, November 16 at 11:00 a.m., it is free and open to the public. Presented by several talented ladies, this program will feature several fascinating stories of the contributions of women in the armed services and those ladies on the homefront. Retired Navy Chief Pauline Hendron will be the emcee.  Along with retiring after a full career with the Navy, Chief Hendron taught Naval Science at Upson Lee High School from 2000 to 2011.

Intriguing stories will include information on the Women Ferry Pilots as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).  Margaret Hardy Reviere, daughter of former Thomaston Times editor J. B. Hardy, was one of these amazing women.

Author Regina T. Hawkins will speak about her Aunt Hazel Raines, one of 25 American women who flew with the Air Transport Auxiliary in England.  Her aunt grew up in Macon, Georgia.  Mrs. Hawkins has taken the letters written by her aunt and compiled a book, Pioneer Lady of Flight.  A few quotes from one synopsis of the book states: “Hazel Raines’ wartime experiences in England included a Christmas visit with Lady Astor at her Cliveden Estate, and crashing a Spitfire through the roof of an English house. After returning to the United States, Raines joined the WASPs, organized in 1943, by her friend and mentor, Jackie Cochran.”

Upson County’s Linda Hallman will share stories on her husband Ed’s second cousin, Army Nurse Corps. Ms. Grace Hallman who was on the infamous Bataan peninsula in the Philippines in 1942. All the nurses left Bataan the night of the surrender, April 8, 1942, for Corregidor.  “In an effort to get as many nurses off Corregidor before the final surrender, military commanders succeeded in evacuating 22 women to Australia.”  Two of these nurses were Grace Hallman of Upson County and her friend Mary Moultrie of Meriwether County.

Following these stories of these incredible women, Chief Hendron will honor the ladies on the homefront and a list of 32 women veterans from Upson will be read.

Refreshments will be provided by the John Houstoun Chapter of the NSDAR.