Newspaper Articles We Have Written
COL. BEDNEY FRANKLIN
by Nancy Bush
The Morgan County Citizen September 2020
Any resident of Madison who has spent any amount of time walking here knows that one of the City’s great resources for both exercise and for quiet contemplation is the Madison Cemetery. It is not only beautiful—the Old and New sections of the cemetery have a number of exquisitely sculpted monuments, and some of the dedications on the less elaborate markers throughout are both poignant and heart-wrenching—but it is a great way to learn about the history of the town. The re-occurring family names and the intermarriages among them speak to the deep roots enjoyed by many of Madison’s present occupants, as well as to the origins of many of our street names and our most famous homes.
Then there are the graves that are less-noticed and more mysterious, and the grave of Col. Abednego “Bedney” Franklin in the Old Cemetery certainly fits that bill. His flat marble grave cover bears the inscription: “A native of Virginia who died at Madison Morgan County in the 39th year of his age...the 22nd December 1816.” Two questions immediately come to mind—what was the cause of his death at such a young age, and was his designation as a Colonel the result of military service or some honorific that had been given to him in some other public role?
Mr. Woody Williams grappled with those questions in a September 16, 1969, article in The Madisonian titled “He Was The Companion Of The Great.” Mr. Woody was not able to find out much about Bedney the man, but he did find that his family history was both long and honorable. He was born in 1777 in Albemarle County, VA, and was one of the last of the 11 children of Bernard and Mary Cleveland Franklin. (And yes, he had two older brothers named Meshach and Shadrach.)
The Franklin family moved from Virginia to Surry County, NC, in the 1770s, and the family’s influence in North Carolina came to be considerable. One of Bedney’s older brothers, Jesse Franklin (born in 1760 and a hero in the Battle of King’s Mountain in the Revolutionary War) went on to become a U.S. Senator from North Carolina and then its Governor in 1820—and is the man for whom Franklin, NC, is named.
Bedney’s mother’s family, the Clevelands, were similarly illustrious. Mary’s brother, Benjamin Cleveland, had been a friend of Daniel Boone’s and was one of the American militia commanders at The Battle of King’s Mountain, and one of Benjamin’s offspring came to Georgia and became the namesake of the town of Cleveland. Bedney’s connection with the Cleveland family got even more complicated in 1800 when he married Mary Graves Cleveland, who was his uncle Benjamin’s granddaughter in Surry County, NC.
How did Bedney get to Morgan County, and what did he do when he got here? According to Mr. Woody’s research, one of Bedney’s sisters had married a wealthy Morgan County planter named Robert L. Bonner, while another had married a well-known Macon attorney named James Smith. These connections apparently gave Bedney the political clout to be appointed to the position of Solicitor General of the Ocmulgee District, a job that entailed the collection of fines and bonds for Morgan and surrounding counties. The “Journal of the Senate of the State of Georgia, November and December 1815” lists Bedney Franklin in that position and notes the cash that was turned over to the state by him in that two month period.
From there, the trail take a decidedly more clouded turn. Bedney’s name is mentioned in “A Compilation of the Laws of the State of Georgia” when the 1818 Georgia legislature empowered his successor, Adam G. Saffold, to determine what monies had been received by Bedney and his predecessor, Col. Seaborn Jones, and to recover these sums for the state. The matter was apparently not quickly resolved, as the “Compilation of Laws” in 1828 shows that the Georgia Legislature requested that the Governor appoint “some fit and proper persons as agents and attorneys to prosecute a final settlement of the accounts of Col. Bedney Franklin, late Solicitor General of the Ocmulgee circuit, deceased, and of Adam G. Saffold and Seaborn Jones, esquires, his successors in office...” The Ocmulgee circuit seems to have been a troublesome one in its financial dealings with the state, and it was tempting to connect Bedney Franklin’s untimely death with these subsequent searches by the Legislature for the missing monies.
Bedney’s family seems to have survived his early demise and gone on to subsequent prosperity. His wife, Mary Franklin, had a particularly colorful widowhood. Annette Bramblett, a Forsyth County historian, wrote that Mary Franklin drew Land Lot 466 in the Gold Lottery of 1832, and that after receiving numerous unsolicited offers for her land just south of the confluence of the Etowah River and Settendown Creek, she “mounted her mule and trekked the formidable distance alone from Clarke County to investigate first hand the reason others were so eager to acquire her land.”
She found not only gold on the property but also a number of claim jumpers, which she quickly evicted with the help of a trusted friend of her late husband. The husband of her daughter Ann, Charles McDonald—who went on to become Governor of Georgia from 1839 to 1843—owned the adjoining lot, and he and Mary eventually formed the Franklin-McDonald Manufacturing Company and employed “northern capitalists” and their capital to manage the company and improve the processes for mining the gold. Unfortunately, a series of tragedies—a massive cave-in that killed a number of enslaved laborers, an accident that killed Mary’s son Bedney II, and Mary’s own death in 1858—resulted in the demise of the gold mining operation and the sale of the lots to the Creighton Mining Company in 1883. But it was estimated that Mary Franklin and her children had realized about $50,000 during their operation of the mine—an amount that would equate to something in excess of $1.2 million today.
So from the Revolutionary War to the Georgia Gold Rush and beyond, from Virginia to Cleveland, GA, from early widowhood to success as an entrepreneur for Mary Franklin—all of that new historical knowledge started with the perusal of one somewhat innocuous grave marker in the Old Madison Cemetery. How many more of those stories are waiting to be told?
TABITHA WILSON'S CAST IRON GRAVE COVER
by Deneice Rice
The Morgan County Citizen January 2020
Although not much is known of her life in 19th Century Morgan County, Tabitha Wilson’s death is marked by one of the most unique graves in Madison’s Historic Cemeteries.
Located in Old Cemetery, the domed cast-iron grave cover is the only one of its kind in the cemeteries. The incredibly ornate monument is a testament of her husband’s devotion to his “beloved wife” (as he referred to her in his will) as well as a statement of his wealth and standing within the community.
The cover is highly ornamented, somewhat resembles a roasting pan top, and is topped by the figure of a shell. A six-inch cast-iron railing encircles the monument, which sits on a slab of concrete. A circular metal disc inside the railing includes the following inscription from Isaac Watts’ 1707 hymn, “Resurrection of the Saints”:
God my Redeemer lives
And often from the skies
Looks down and watches
All my dust
Till He shall bid me rise
Cast-iron grave covers, caskets, and other mortuary items were most prominent in the 1870s and 1880s following the Industrial Revolution’s transition from hand production to machinery. Joseph R. Abrams holds the earliest patent application (1873) for “Improvement in Grave-Coverings.” However, cast-iron grave covers have been identified elsewhere that list death dates earlier than that, according to an article in the 2015 annual journal for the Association for Gravestone Studies, which also notes it is possible the grave covers were installed years after the death dates of the deceased.
It is generally recognized that cast-iron grave covers are extremely rare and are usually found in the South. Pioneer Cemetery in Abrams’ hometown of Greenville, AL, boasts several examples, but that is highly unusual. Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery currently has stored in its Bell Tower one cast-iron cover for the grave of Myrtis Jentzen, who died in 1873. Other Georgia examples listed in “Adventures in Cemetery Hopping,” a blog by Tracie Rylands, include cemeteries in Fairburn, Canton, Duluth, Hampton, Americus, and Macon.
Madison’s Tabitha Wilson was born in Jasper County in 1809 to Gilbert Shaw, a Revolutionary War soldier, and his wife Mary Davidson. She married Leroy Montgomery Willson in 1831 probably in Jasper County.
In 1840 the Willsons lived in Jasper County in a household of 14, eight of whom were slaves. By 1860, they resided in Madison, where Leroy was a farmer and shoe dealer. His real estate holdings totaled $6,500, and his personal estate value was $22,500. The war years depleted his wealth, however, for by 1870, Leroy’s real estate value was set at $3,000 and his personal estate value at $1,025. The US Census that year listed Tabitha’s occupation as “keeping house.”
The Willsons had one son and four daughters, according to Leroy’s will. Their son Pleasant was a doctor who served the Confederacy as an assistant surgeon and later practiced medicine in Morgan and Newton Counties.
Tabitha died August 16, 1873, at the age of 64. Leroy died January 1, 1880, at the age of 70 of “dropsy of the chest.” Leroy’s obelisk grave marker stands high in contrast to Tabitha’s beautiful linear cast-iron grave cover in the Willson family plot. Interestingly, Tabitha’s last name on her monument is spelled with one “L” while her husband’s marker spells his name with two “Ls” - another mystery in the Historic Madison Cemeteries.
MADISON'S SPANISH FLU EPIDEMIC
by Patsy Harris
The Morgan County Citizen September 2019
Married only 2 1/2 years and soon to give birth to her first child, the always sunny and cheerful Hawesie Moore was tragically stricken with one of the last local cases of Spanish Influenza. A few days later, her infant daughter was delivered stillborn, followed in two hours by Hawesie’s own death. That winter of 1920 mother and child were placed in one casket and buried in Madison’s Old Cemetery.
Their story was one of The Madisonian’s two-year-long stretch of articles about locals suffering and dying from this devastating strain of a virus which targeted not only the young and old, but especially healthy young adults.
One modern study points to the newly mutated form as having arisen in the town of Haskell, Kansas in January 1918, others to one U.S. Army cook at Camp Funston in Kansas who reported ill on March 4, 1918. Hours later hundreds of trainees at the base had flu symptoms. The close and crowded life of an Army at war fueled this first wave of influenza to the rest of the world.
But it was the second wave in the fall of 1918, mid-September to mid-December, that proved the most harmful, due to the Spanish flu’s surprisingly deadly secondary infection of bacterial pneumonia. In a modern report, the National Institutes of Health explained, “The pneumonia was caused when bacteria that normally inhabit the nose and throat invaded the lungs along a pathway created when the virus destroyed the cells that line the bronchial tubes and lungs.”
Months before that deadly second wave, during May of that year, many cases of pneumonia had been reported in the newspaper, and could have been due to early Spanish influenza. The Bostwick correspondent wrote, “There seems to be an epidemic of lagrippe (flu) and pneumonia in and around town.” One Greensboro man’s May obituary stated that pneumonia “seems to be fatal this year in many cases.” Edward Lamar Knott of Apalachee was attending the Georgia School of Technology, was only 21, and died of pneumonia there.
Also that month, Bessie King explained her absence from her Red Cross work and thanked her friends in a Madisonian article for their help during the illness in her family - Rev. Wilson D. King, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, 39 years old, was sick with pneumonia and their two children, 20 and 15, were ill with lagrippe. That family survived, but the newspaper editor noted later in the fall, ”It is very fatal among the colored population especially about Madison.”
The Madisonian’s very first two mentions of locals with Spanish influenza were of a young soldier and sailor during that second wave - September 1918. Navy man Hope Richey was noted being in a base hospital with the Spanish Influenza, and in that same issue it was reported that a young man from Eatonton had died of the flu at a training camp in Boston.
The U.S. Public Health Service described the disease as resembling “a very contagious kind of ‘cold,’ accompanied by fever, pains in the head, eyes, ears, back or other parts of the body and feeling of severe sickness. In most of the cases the symptoms disappear after three or four days, the patient then rapidly recovering (but some) develop pneumonia, or inflammation of the ear, or meningitis, and many of these complicated cases die.”
The Madisonian editor described this illness as “more deadly than ordinary grippe. The tendency toward pneumonia seems to be strong, and complications set in rapidly and fiercely.” He also said it was “like death riding on every passing breeze.” It would be many years later that penicillin was in use for bacterial infections.
To minimize the risk of catching the disease, Madison citizens were instructed to have a “proper proportion of work, play and rest,” main-tain a good diet, drink milk, and avoid over-crowded homes, public places such as streetcars, and especially people who cough or sneeze. Treatment for the virus was basic – go to bed, collect sputum and other discharges on small pieces paper or gauze and then burn them, drink water for fever and headache, apply cold compresses to the forehead. Caregivers were instructed to wear a fold of gauze over nose and mouth and a covering over clothing while in the sickroom.
With a sharp increase in local cases, in mid-October 1918 Madison’s Mayor and City Council closed all schools and banned public gatherings, even church services, “until further notice,” which came in December. New cases dropped, and after the Christmas holidays, schools reopened and life returned to relative normalcy.
A milder wave of the epidemic swept the globe in the winter and spring of 1919, and a fourth in 1920, the one that killed Hawesie Moore and her baby.
“The pandemic (worldwide epidemic) …was the deadliest disease outbreak in human history, killing between 50 million and 100 million people,” said Smithsonian Magazine. “Some 670,000 Americans died.”
Click here for Hawsie Moore's obituary.
Prussian Carves Toddler’s Headstone
by Patsy Harris
The Morgan County Citizen April 2019
Sally Saffold was just two years old in 1855 when she died and was buried in Madison’s Old Cemetery. Her father was a wealthy farmer, merchant, and politician in Madison. Soon after death, the toddler was commemorated with a marble headstone made in Augusta by the firm of Theodore Markwalter.
Markwalter was born in 1820 in Konigswinter, Prussia, now Germany. After initial schooling, Markwater joined in his family’s quarry business as a stonecutter. At age 34, he and his brother immigrated to New York where they worked on the Erie Canal. From there he moved to Charleston, SC, and then, in the 1850s, to Augusta where he lived the rest of his life.
Markwalter was a pioneer in marble statuary portraits in the South, his first being of Dr. James D. Mackie (1818-1854) in Augusta’s Magnolia Cemetery. He also was the creator of the marble likeness of Alexander H. Stephens which stands in front of Stephen’s home in Crawfordville.
His work was lauded in an 1886 advertising pamphlet as “of the high artistic quality of his talent, as well as of beauty of workmanship and design nowhere surpassed.” His business “is one of the largest and oldest in the State, and the specimens of his work can be found in almost every cemetery in the South. He does an extensive business in all sorts and grades of marble and granite work, having steam power and the most perfect facilities procurable, as well as employing numerous skillful and competent workmen.”
Markwalter died in 1896 and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta with his wife Fredricka who had died in 1872 at 33, their four-year-old son John Henry who died a year later, and their daughter Anna who died a few weeks after her first birthday in 1862.
Click here for more about Theodore Markwalter.
MILON MIKOLASEK & HARRIET CARTER
A Tale of Love and Tragedy
by Ken Kocher
The Morgan County Citizen March 2019
Walking through Madison’s Fairview Cemetery, one may come upon the Carter family plot where a stone bears a name seemingly out of place: Milon J. Mikolasek. The story of Milon and the Carter family is one of love, war, tragedy, friendship, and family.
It began in Madison in 1937 with a school assignment. Harriet Carter and her classmates exchanged correspondence with students in other countries. Harriet’s letters made their way to Milon in Brno, Czechoslovakia in whom she found a kindred spirit. She loved literature, he loved language, and their exchange of words eventually lead to romance. The couple became engaged to be married.
The German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 put these plans on hold. Under a forced labor order, Milon’s language skills were put to use, first as an interpreter at a concentration camp, then as a French-German-Czech business correspondent in a factory, and finally at a bank. Meanwhile, Harriet had no idea whether her fiancé was safe or even alive. Late in the war, Milon and his family helped a crew of American airmen escape Czechoslovakia after their plane was shot down. At the border, Milon handed them a letter to send to Harriet.
Following the Allied victory in 1945, Milon began planning his passage to the U.S. Finally, at the end of July 1946, he boarded a plane to New York to begin his journey to his love, Harriet Carter, in Madison, Georgia. He met Harriet’s mother, Mrs. Hattie May Carter, at her home on Billups Avenue. Mrs. Carter had the sad task of informing Milon that her daughter Harriet had died the previous year following an appendicitis attack. Milon’s letter had arrived a month after Harriet’s death. Mrs. Carter had tried to contact Milon, but none of her letters reached him.
Milon’s connection to the Carters did not end here. He accepted Mrs. Carter’s invitation to live with her while he studied International Relations at UGA. After graduation, he gained his U.S. citizenship and joined the State Department. While on assignment in Munich, Germany in 1953 tragedy struck again. Milon was taken ill with a terrible headache and died of a brain hemorrhage.
Mrs. Carter had the body returned to Madison for burial in the Carter family plot. Harriet’s and Milon’s markers seem to embody a song she wrote for him as she pined for him in distant Europe, “So Near, So Far.”
HARPER & LOUISA GOLDWIRE
An early influential African-American family
by Melissa Piche & Patsy Harris
The Morgan County Citizen February 2019
Behind Calvary Baptist Church on the hill sloping away from Old Cemetery toward Round Bowl Spring Park lies a mysterious meadow dotted with a few lonely headstones. A dedication marker erected under the direction of Historian Woody Williams notes the unmarked burials of African Americans, including slaves, too poor to purchase permanent headstones. However, just beyond Calvary’s back door, stands a 6-foot obelisk marking the family plot of Harper Ridges Goldwire, a testament to Goldwire’s hard work, success, and sorrows.
Born in Cobb County in 1850, Harper Goldwire moved to Madison and married Louisa in 1870; he was 20 and she was 18. Nothing is currently known about their childhoods.
Goldwire became a much-respected wheelwright, blacksmith, and citizen. Advertisements and articles in the Madisonian and in Atlanta papers attested to Harper’s outstanding abilities and character.
Unfortunately, most articles were complementary of his work yet derogatory of his race. One writer stated, “A man of this kind, no matter what his color, is an acquisition to the community, and deserves the confidence and good will of its best people.” Goldwire’s successes are astonishing given the barriers he faced as a black man late in the 19th century.
Goldwire owned multiple lots in Madison, including his home on North Main and his carriage and blacksmith shop on the corner of First and Burney streets. Louisa sold the properties in 1922, 21 years after Harper’s death.
Goldwire was working in Atlanta when he died of the grippe or flu. He was 51 years old leaving Louisa $2,000 in life insurance. His will was probated in Fulton County and administrated by Dr. Donarell Green, a black physician who had begun his medical career in Madison. A friendship with the Goldwires had likely been cultivated in Madison, as Green was described as a dear friend in Louisa’s will.
Below Goldwire’s name on his headstone are the names of five children who died in infancy. By the age of 29, Louisa had given birth to eight children. Even with all of their success, how sorrowful their lives must have been.
After her husband died, for 30 years Louisa was a “trusted servant” of the Murchison Thomas family in Savannah and Atlanta. She died in 1936 during the Great Depression. Her 1918 will directed she be buried in her Madison family plot with Harper and her name be engraved on the obelisk, a task never accomplished, potentially due to the Depression. The epithet engraved on the stone reads “Devoted Husband and loving father. There is no death what seems so is transition: This life of mortal breath is but a suburb of the life elysian, whose portal we call death,” the last portion quoted from a Longfellow poem.
Click here for the Goldwire obituaries.
ROBERT EBERHARD LAUNITZ
The Father of Monumental Art in America
by Deneice Rice
The Morgan County Citizen January 2019
Madison’s Historic Cemeteries are home to more than 4,000 burials – some marked by simple, handmade memorials, some by elaborate and towering marble works of art, and, sadly, some not marked at all.
The “maker’s marks” of at least 17 different stone carvers or their companies have been identified in the cemeteries. These specifically identifiable craftsmen are responsible for some of the more striking tombstones. A maker’s mark is the personal mark, often the name of the artist or company, engraved on the stone.
“The majority of tombstones do not bear the maker’s name, so being able to identify 17 stone carvers in the older two of our four cemeteries is remarkable,” said Melissa Piche, Cemetery Stewardship Commission (CSC) member, who has discovered most the marks.
One of the most famous of the 17 artisans is Robert Eberhard Launitz, who created the Stokes-McHenry and the Wade family monuments, both located in Old Cemetery. Known as the “father of monumental art in America,” Launitz was born in 1806 in western Russia. Although his parents wanted him to pursue a classical education and military career, his sculptor uncle took him to Rome where they both studied under the internationally known Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
Launitz came to the United States in 1828 and worked his way into a partnership with the renowned American marble worker John Frazee in New York. In 1845 he began work on his most famous large monuments with a marble statue of a 17-year-old girl whose death and poignant monument tweaked the public interest. Shortly after, the New York Fire Department commissioned Launitz to sculpt a marble memorial to its fallen firefighters. According to one source, “It was the first large monument erected in a cemetery in the United States, and the first one that paid tribute to an element of general human sympathy.”
Launitz designed other private and public monuments of note, including the 55-foot Pulaski monument in Savannah, GA, and a 65-foot monument commissioned by the state of Kentucky and dedicated to those who had “fallen in defense of the country.” He also designed a large white marble stone, which was installed in 1853 on the interior of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. Launitz died in 1870 and was buried in New York.
Click here for more information and photographs of his work.