Bicentennial Committee to host marker ceremonies
By Dianne Yost
The Morgan County Bicentennial Committee will host three special Bicentennial Marker ceremonies on Monday, August 4 to honor significant and historic sites that mark Morgan County’s legacy. The public is invited to attend each ceremony beginning at 1:30p.m. at Hard Labor Creek State Park, at 2:30 p.m. in the Mallory Community and at 3:30 p.m. in the southwestern tip of Morgan County at the site of a World War II airplane crash that claimed the lives of five American heroes.
Members of the Morgan County Bicentennial Committee began dedicating the commemorative markers last year. “We continue to dedicate the markers throughout the county to commemorate and honor Morgan County. We especially wish to invite the public to join us in celebrating our unique history,” said Morgan County Bicentennial Committee Co-chair and Madison-Morgan County Chamber President Marguerite Copelan.
Last year the committee dedicated seven of the Bicentennial markers. By the end of the year Copelan says a total of 21 will be dedicated throughout the county.
The Hard Labor Creek State Park ceremony at 1:30p.m. in Rutledge on August 4 will take place inside the park at the park office that houses the gift shop. The marker describes the historic significance of the park. It reads as follows:
“The park was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal program sponsored by President Roosevelt. It was administered as a division of the U.S. Army to reclaim unusable farm land, create recreational areas, and teach young men a skill or trade. Enlistees of the CCC were paid about $30 for a six-month enlistment, $25 of which was automatically sent to the enlistee’s family. There were two CCC camps housed at the Park.
The first camp, District “B” Company 459 Ga. SP-8, Rutledge, GA, operated from 1934-1939. The second one, 3442nd Company CCC Camp Ga. SP-11, Rutledge, GA, operated from 1935-1937. The National Park Service designed the park’s layout. The site had been a vacant, overworked agricultural land at the time the government purchased it for a recreation demonstration project. The plan included the construction of two lakes, camping areas, observation tower, boat house, trails and other amenities. A February 1935 nursery plan included the cultivation of over 850,000 trees on site including pines, oaks, maples, and sweet gums to reforest the park. These CCC camps, together with the U.S. Forestry service, are responsible for many of the park’s original structures and landscapes. They built roads, bridges, retaining walls, Camp Rutledge, Lake Rutledge, the superintendent’s home, and several structures located at Camp Daniel Morgan. Much of the work stopped at the start of World War II. Hard Labor Creek Park became a National Park in 1939. It served as a National Park until 1946 when it was turned over to the state of Georgia, which continues to operate and maintain it today.”
The Mallory Community marker ceremony begins at 2:30p.m. on August 4 at the intersection of Mallory Road and Bostwick Highway (Highway 83). The marker commemorating the Mallory Community formed in the 1840s, reads as follows:
The early tax records of Morgan County indentify the family of “Malry” in the Harris Militia District as early as the 1840s. By the turn of the 20th century, the community of Mallory existed in the area owned by this family.
By 1897, the Mallory community boasted a church, Mallory Chapel, and a school, Mallory School. By 1911, a second school, Longs Academy, served the Harris District. There was also a general store and a post office.
The application filed with the Postmaster General in 1890 indicates that the post office would serve a community of approximately 2,000 individuals, and noted that, “the proposed office is in the midst of an intelligent community that is densely populated.”
In close proximity to the center of the Mallory Community was a grist mill on Big Sandy Creek operated by the Gibbs family. There were also two cotton gins in proximity to the community. One was located approximately two miles south at the intersection of present-day Bostwick Highway and Sandy Creek Roads.
The other was located approximately two miles north at the intersection of present-day Bostwick Highway and Nolan Store Road, a community that later was identified as Drexel. Because of the individuals who take pride in this community, Mallory is recognized as a significant part of our county history.
The third August 4 ceremony takes place at 3:30 p.m. to honor the rare site of a World War II B-25C airplane crash site which took place in 1945 and claimed the lives of five Americans. The marker will be planted at Godfrey Road and Walton’s Mill Road which is located in the southwestern tip of Morgan County where the county line meets Putnam and Jasper Counties.
The marker tells the story of the crash and honors the lives of American heroes. It reads: In the early afternoon of January 10, 1945, residents of the southwestern portion of Morgan County were witnesses to the crash of a B-25C airplane in a field near the intersection of present-day Godfrey Road and Walton’s Mill Road.
The plane had taken off from Greenville Army Air Base in Greenville, South Carolina, and it was on a low altitude rendezvous mission at 500 feet. Witnesses to the accident reported seeing the airplane flying below altitude and very close to the trees. According to published reports from Army Air Forces, after striking a tree the plane crashed to the ground and burst into flames.
Witnesses reported seeing smoke coming from the plane before it crashed, suggesting mechanical failure. The official report filed with the AAF Office of Flying Safety identifies a possible loss of power on the right engine as a contributing factor to the crash, but the underlying cause is listed as “unknown.” Casualties were: Lt. Calvin Elden Stocking, 21, pilot, Greenville, S.C.; Lt. Samuel James Strong, 21, co-pilot, Bakersfield, Ca; Lt. Frank H. Bartels, 25, bombardier-navigator, Ronceverte, W.V.; Cpl. William E. Thrash, 20, engineer-gunner, Murphreesboro, AK, and Cpl. Robert Deana Rodgers, 19, radio-gunner, Maplewood, N.J.
The local newspaper The Madisonian noted on January 19, 1945, “the sympathy of the people of Morgan County goes out unstintingly to those whose homes are bereaved by this unfortunate accident.” Because of the sacrifice of these men, we commemorate our WWII veterans.