Category Archives: –LAURENS COUNTY GA–

Dudley Motel, 1958, Dublin

This community landmark, while in sound condition, has been closed and vacant since the 1980s and was recently named, along with Dudley’s Retreat and Amoco Station No. 2, a 2023 Place in Peril by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s an important resource and part of a larger story of an amazing family of entrepreneurs who provided travel options for the African-American community during the Jim Crow Era.

Mr. Herbert “Hub” Horatio Dudley (1892-1965) was the most successful black man in Dublin during his lifetime and had numerous businesses in the neighborhood. As anyone who’s seen the movie Green Book would understand, travel from town to town was dangerous during the Jim Crow Era and African-Americans relied on publications to direct them to safe places.

Mr. Dudley’s entrepreneurial spirit, along with a genuine concern for his community, led him to establish this property, which opened in 1958.

The rear of the Amoco Station [at left in this photo] was adjacent to the motel, which featured 12 rooms in several units with all the modern amenities. The Retreat cafe was also on the same property, which allowed patrons to move about more freely at a time when just being on the street after dark could be ominous. The architecture is a type of vernacular commercial construction which is quite rare in Georgia. I’ve seen similar properties in older beach communities in Florida.

As the epicenter of black culture and business in Dublin, Dudley’s Motel hosted many luminaries of the day, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Ralph David Abernathy, Maynard Jackson, and many prominent entertainers.

I hope the property survives and perhaps becomes a museum or community resource center.

REFERENCE: I’ve already linked these sources in my other posts about the Dudley family, but I’ll share a list here. They will provide more detailed information: Laurens County African-American History; Herbert Dudley; Dudley Funeral Home; and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

Dudley’s Retreat, 1940s, Dublin

This structure was built to house the growing food business of the Dudley family when Dudley Funeral Home became the sole occupant of the nearby C. D. Dudley & Sons General Merchandise building. Herbert (Hub) and Mayme Ford Dudley were already leaders of the black community of Dublin and their Retreat Cafe became a community center. Well-known entertainers, including Little Richard, James Brown, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe all visited here while traveling through Dublin. I met a nice lady while I was photographing the property who remembered Mrs. Mayme Dudley quite well.

Original neon “EAT” sign, dating to World War II

During World War II, Mr. Dudley operated a USO in this building for Black servicemen. The structure remains sound today but was listed as a 2023 Place in Peril by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation because it has been in disuse for many years.

Dudley Funeral Home, Dublin

I’ve admired this structure for many years, thinking that it must have originally been an automobile dealership, but in the process of documenting some historic properties of the Dudley family, I discovered it is actually a well-established funeral home, celebrating its centennial this year. It is one of the best-known landmarks of Dublin’s African-American community and features some of the finest commercial brickwork I’ve seen in rural Georgia.

The brickwork is what first caught my eye and is obviously the work of a very skilled mason. Dudley Funeral Home notes that the building originated as a general merchandise store circa 1900, one of the first black owned businesses in Dublin. In 1922, the funeral home was established in the store building, typical of the era. Other business originated here, as well, including a barber shop, casket showroom, and realty and investment business. During the early 1940s, the funeral home and casket business had grown to a point that they occupied the entire building; the other businesses were relocated. The present brick facade was added at this time.

Jackson Chapel C.M.E. Church, Dublin

Though I can find no indication that this church is still in use, it is a wonderfully preserved example of a town church in the two-steeple style that has come to be associated with African-American congregations.

African-American brick masons were often highly skilled and sought after in their communities and the CME relief in the eave of this church is a good example of the craft.

First African Baptist Church, Dublin – Site of the First Public Speech of Martin Luther King, Jr.

With a history dating back to 1867, on this site, First African Baptist is the oldest Black congregation in Dublin. It is well-loved community landmark but has a special place in the history of the struggle for Civil Rights, as the first place Martin Luther King, Jr., ever made a public political speech.

His essay, “The Negro and the Constitution” won first place in a contest sponsored by the Colored Elks Clubs of Georgia. At their state convention in Dublin, on 17 April 1944, King read it before the Elks in the sanctuary of this historic church. He affirmed this fact in his autobiography. [The text of the speech follows].

THE NEGRO AND THE CONSTITUTION
By Martin L. King, Jr.

Negroes were first brought to America in 1620 when England legalized slavery both in England and the colonies and America; the institution grew and thrived for about 150 years upon the backs of these black men. The empire of King Cotton was built and the southland maintained a status of life and hospitality distinctly its own and not anywhere else.

On January 1, 1863 the proclamation emancipating the slaves which had been decreed by President Lincoln in September took effect, millions of Negroes faced a rising sun of a new day begun. Did they have habits of thrift or principles of honesty and integrity? Only a few! For their teachings and duties had been but two activities, love of Master, right or wrong, good or bad, and loyalty to work. What was to be the place for such men in the reconstruction of the south?

America gave its full pledge of freedom seventy-five years ago. Slavery has been a strange paradox in a nation founded on the principles that all men are created free and equal. Finally after tumult and war, the nation in 1865 took a new stand, freedom for all people. The new order was backed by amendments to the national constitution making it the fundamental law that thenceforth there should be no discrimination anywhere in the “land of the free” on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Black America still wears chains. The finest Negro is at the mercy of the meanest white man. Even winners of our highest honors face the class color bar. Look at a few of the paradoxes that mark daily life in America. Marian Anderson was barred from singing in the Constitution Hall, ironically enough, by the professional daughters of the very men who founded this nation for liberty and equality. But this tale had a different ending. The nation rose in protest, and gave a stunning rebuke to the Daughters of the American Revolution and a tremendous ovation to the artist, Marian Anderson, who sang in Washington on Easter Sunday and fittingly, before the Lincoln Memorial. Ranking cabinet members and a justice of the supreme court were seated about her. Seventy-five thousand people stood patiently for hours to hear a great artist at a historic moment. She sang as never before with tears in her eyes. When the words of “America” and “Nobody Knows De Trouble I Seen” rang out over that great gathering, there was a hush on thee sea of uplifted faces, black and white, and a new baptism of liberty, equality and fraternity.

That was a touching tribute, but Miss Anderson may not as yet spend the night in any good hotel in America. Recently she was again signally honored by being given the Bok reward as the most distinguished resident of Philadelphia. Yet she cannot be served in many of the public restaurants of her home city, even after it has declared her to be its best citizen. So, with their right hand they raise to high places the great who have dark skins, and with their left, they slap us down to keep us in “our places.” “Yes, America you have stripped me of my garments, you have robbed me of my precious endowment.”

We cannot have an enlightened democracy with one great group living in ignorance. We cannot have a healthy nation with one tenth of the people ill-nourished, sick, harboring germs of disease which recognize no color lines, obey no Jim Crow laws. We cannot have a nation orderly and sound with one group so ground down and thwarted that it is almost forced into unsocial attitudes and crime. We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flaunt the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule. We cannot come to full prosperity with one great group so ill-delayed that it cannot buy goods. So as we gird ourselves to defend democracy from foreign attack, let us see to it that increasingly at home we give fair play and free opportunity for all people

Today thirteen million black sons and daughters of our forefathers continue the fight for the translation of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments from writing on the printed page to an actuality. We believe with them that “if freedom is good for any it is good for all,” that we may conquer southern armies by the sword, but it is another thing to conquer southern hate, that if the franchise is given to Negroes, they will be vigilant and defend even with their arms, the ark of federal liberty from treason and destruction by her enemies.

The spirit of Lincoln still lives; that spirit born of the teachings of the Nazarene, who promised mercy to the merciful, who lifted the lowly, strengthened the weak, ate with publicans, and made the captives free. In the light of this divine example, the doctrines of demagogues shiver in their chaff. Already closer understanding links Saxon and Freedman in mutual sympathy.

America experiences a new birth of freedom in her sons and daughters; she incarnates the spirit of her martyred chief. Their loyalty is repledged; their devotion renewed to the work He left unfinished. My heart throbs anew in the hope that inspired by the example of Lincoln, imbued with the spirit of Christ, they will cast down the last barrier to perfect freedom. And I with my brother of blackest hue possessing at last my rightful heritage and holding my head erect, may stand beside the Saxon, a Negro, and yet a man!

An historic marker placed in 2008 summarizes: On April 17, 1944, in the 1st A. B. Church of Dublin, Georgia, fourteen year old Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his first public speech, “The Negro and the Constitution.” At this site a seed was planted in his heart that would grow into his life’s work. His journey to the mountain top began here.

Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trail

Folk Victorian Farmhouse, Laurens County

Examples of this typical hip-roof style are often enhanced by a Queen Anne gable, as in this endangered example.

Board-and-Batten Farmhouse, Laurens County

This house originated as a central hallway form but was later expanded into a gabled-ell.

Like most vernacular forms, this once-common rural house type is rapidly vanishing from the landscape.

Central Hallway Cottage, Dublin

Chappell’s Mill, Circa 1811, Laurens County

Though some sources note that a John or Thomas Gilbert constructed the first mill, now known as Chappell’s Mill, on Big Sandy Creek [South Sandy Creek] in northern Laurens County circa 1811, it is more likely that it was James Stanley II (1771-1841), a settler from Jones County, North Carolina, who purchased nearly 2000 acres surrounding the millpond. [Primary sources are not available to me, so I cannot be certain of the date of the purchase, but the Stanley family migrated to Laurens County in 1811. It seems more than coincidental that the date of their move happens to be the date generally accepted for the construction of the mill]. He also operated a mercantile on the site.

The millpond site is considered to be the oldest man-made landmark in Laurens County. The old mill house, seen in the first two photographs, dates to the 1840s and was built after the original structure, which stood on the north side of the pond, washed away during a flood.

The stone work in the foundation certainly indicates the work of early craftsmen, almost certainly enslaved laborers.

Upon Stanley’s death in 1841, his son Ira B. (1802-1858) took control of the operations. He served Laurens County as sheriff in the 1820s and state representative in the 1830s. Until just after the Civil War the site was known as Stanley Mills, but in 1868 Ira’s son-in-law, James W. Chappell, gained majority interest in the mill. It has since been known as Chappell’s Mill.

Ira Stanley Chappell (1859-1931) was the last member of the Chappell family to own the mill. He sold it circa 1917 to Allen J. Dixon who sold it in 1943 to Dr. T. J. Blackshear.

Dr. Blackshear eventually sold it to Alex Dixon’s grandsons, James and Forrest Townsend.

During their ownership, the mill was expanded and electrified (1950s).

The Townsends always felt that water power resulted in a superior meal but the volume of work mandated the modernization.

At its peak, production ran to over 15,000 bushels per year.

The mill remained in operation until 1997. Its importance is not only in its longevity but in the fact that various structures associated with different eras of milling, from water power to electricity, as well as a mercantile and various barns, remain largely intact, and illustrate the evolution of what was one of Georgia’s most important early industries.

I am grateful to the caretaker for allowing me to photograph. It is private property and he noted that law enforcement often has to disperse trespassers. It’s an invaluable historical resource and the owners have been good stewards.

Strawberry Chapel A.M.E. Church, Laurens County

Established by enslaved people on the Cooper Plantation by Reverend George Linder in 1859, Strawberry Chapel is the oldest African-American congregation in Laurens County. This structure, though perhaps not the first that they built, was in use well into the 20th century. My guess is that it dates to the late 19th or early 20th century. The congregation, now known as Greater Strawberry A.M.E. Church, has a newer facility just down the road.