COLUMNIST’S INTEREST IN LONG AGO

MONROE HISTORY APPRECIATED

 

 

          Some weeks ago I was in Monroe and did something I have not done in years; I walked up one side of Broad Street and then the other.  While I did not recognize but only a few establishments of recent years, it was the buildings themselves that brought to mind businesses of decades ago along with the merchants who owned or operated them.  I walked past one store front and thought, “This is where Carmichael’s Drug was.”  Further on down the street I passed where The House of Jac’s was and when I got to where Aycock’s Department Store was along with Mendel’s I could close my eyes and still envision just how the interior of those businesses were and the aroma’s associated with them. Likewise with other buildings across the street, while the interiors were different, the buildings brought happy, nostalgic memories back to me.

          John Hamm, whose character Don Draper on the tv show, “Mad Men”, made an astute observation when he commented: “Nostalgia…..it’s delicate but potent!”  For many of my generation nostalgia is what it is all about concerning our hometown.

          I learned very early in life to appreciate the town, its citizens and the news that seemed to change every week as reported by various staff members of both The Walton News and The Walton Tribune.  I was lucky in that back in the 70’s there was a writer for the Tribune, Mrs. Jeri McNeill, who shared my interest in what went on in town way back in the 20’s and 30’s.  Her column, “Looking Back in the Files”, brought back so much of Monroe’s charm and history from those era’s and thank goodness I had the interest to clip those columns and preserve them in my Monroe scrapbooks. All too sadly, those enchanting issues from that time period Jeri reported perished in two fires the Tribune office sustained, which makes the columns I saved even more special.

          This time of year when Autumn & Fall begin to make their presence known is a time when I am hit especially hard with a case of what Celestine Sibley used to call “The Down Yonders”, and nothing can bring me back to life faster than taking a trip down Monroe’s memory lane via my scrapbooks of Monroe’s history. 

          In leafing through the pages I found several of Jeri’s old columns and decided to share with my readers what was going on in town way back when as chronicled by Jeri’s keen eye.

          From the pages of the October 18, 1929 issue we learned:

          “Beauty lovers of Monroe have had the pleasure of seeing an artistic display of pottery for the past several days.  This collection is owned by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which has allowed Monroe the privilege of being the first club in Georgia to have it on display.  Mrs. Lena Felker Lewis, president of the Woman’s Club of Monroe, has the exhibit displayed in her home. This collection should be of special appreciation to the art lovers of our city.”

          A marriage of significant importance was to take place several days after the Tribune came out when it was announced:

“Miss Florence Arnold, whose marriage to Mr. Marshall Pollock will occur next Wednesday evening, is the recipient of many social attentions. The following are among the long list who are honoring Miss Arnold with parties and events: Mr. & Mrs. R. L. Nowell, Jr., Mrs. Sid Wheeler, Mrs. E. L. Almand, Jr., Mrs. Lena Felker Lewis, Mrs. W. L. Ricker, Mrs. R. L. Nowell, Sr., Mr. & Mrs. Henry McDaniel Tichenor, Miss Clara Knox Nunnally, Mrs. Allen Arnold & Mrs. Harry M. Arnold.

          This same issue of the Tribune marked the big 100th anniversary of the Monroe First Baptist Church where Mrs. B. S. Walker provided a brief history of the church and the people connected with the church in the early days:

          “The First Baptist Church of Monroe was constituted in July, 1829 with 17 members.  Happily these names together with the names of the pastors in order of their pastorates, the names of the deacons and the clerks have been preserved and will be read during the exercises on Sunday and will be recorded among the permanent records of the church.

          It is interesting to note that one of these charter members, Martha Holliday Walker, became the grandmother of one governor and the great grandmother of another.

          The church bell, still in use, was the gift of another charter member, Henry Hardin, who is the great grandfather of Mrs. V. V. Harris.

          The Monroe church was a member of the Yellow River Association until October 1838 when it withdrew and joined the Apalachee Association with which it has since been connected.  The Georgia Baptist Convention met with the church in 1838.

          It appears the first church house was erected about 1826 and that religious services were held before the church organization was perfected.  It was a plain, substantial building with a balcony in the rear.

          In this original church building in August, 1872, was held a remarkable revival, the pastor, Dr. G. A. Nunnally, doing the preaching. At a single service there were received the following members whose record of service is the glory of the church.  Miss Lula Selman, for years the talented organist, choir director and Sunday School teacher; Mr. W. H. Nunnally, for decades an honored deacon and consecrated layman; B.S. Walker, whose life was an inspiration and whose memory is a benediction; W. S. Walker, whose ministry was to be extended to far-away China and to bear fruits in the homeland as pastor of this and other churches where his ministry has borne fruit.    

          The additions included W. W. White who for years served the church as treasurer and evangelist J. Frank Jackson, whose zeal for souls won thousands to the Saviour and who now, broken in health, awaits patiently the call to the eternal homeland.

          The old church building was found too small to accommodate the growing congregation and it gave way to a more pretentious house of worship which stood on the site of the present church edifice.  It was in this house where the Diamond Jubilee was celebrated during the pastorate of Rev. John F. Eden in 1904.

          To this faithful pastor belongs the credit for the memorable event: a three day session, marked by programs of great interest.

          Pastor Eden was succeeded by Rev. L. E. Roberts.  His golden heart, his genuine piety, and scholarly attainments will always be remembered and cherished.

          The present church building was erected during the pastorate of Dr. Daniel W. Key. Mainly through his inspiring efforts, aided by Mr. B. S. Walker and Mr. Albert Mobley, funds were secured and the building paid for upon completion.”

          What a unique thrill it must have been to peruse through those very early papers and gleam tidbits from almost every page as Jeri did during her time writing her column. As the season for pause and reflection nears I am gathering up other articles that take us back many years via snippets of life in Monroe and Walton County that will show what our town was like, “way back when”.