Moore's Ford Lynching (part I)

Part I (Background)
From Moore's Ford Lynching

65 years ago, as of the publishing of this post, a terrible event occurred in the vicinity of the place where we all live. When you hear of tragic events like this, a part of your mind thinks, maybe wishes, that it is only a thing of the past to be forgotten like the Horse & Buggy or the 8-track tape. But there is a danger in forgetting too much history, especially the parts that make us nervous or queasy. My attempt to alleviate the perils of history forgotten will stand with the GABEO, and there presentation of the events surround the last mass lynching in the United States, or what is most commonly referred to as the Moore’s Ford Lynching.

The Dark event occurred on July 26, 1946 (Time Article). Not so long ago that there aren’t people still alive who remember the event. Four black people, George & Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger & Dorothy Malcom, were taken from a car at the bridge across the Appalachee River at the Walton-Oconee County Line, where they were repeatedly shot, some reports say 60+ shots were fired, ending their young lives. There is much more to the story: It came during a period when the idea of lynching a black person was something society knew was a practice, especially in the South. It came at a time prior to the rise of Civil Rights leaders such a Martin Luther King, and any real semblance of equal citizenship for black Americans. This was the way things were done in that period of American History, as ugly as it may be, we do ourselves great harm if we look away.

The Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials (or GABEO) feels the same way. And for the past several years they have held a commemorationof the event of that dark July night. This year is was this past Saturday, July 23rd. The first purpose is to keep this unsolved case from seeping out of our collective memories. The second purpose is that it stands to reason that somebody who lives in the area may have information that could bring the perpetrators of the murder to justice.

The Day began with a rally at the First African Baptist Church of Monroe at Noon. I can attest by my present that all were welcome to attend this event. It gave the organizers about two hours to get everyone together to make the trip around Monroe. During this time, Black elected leaders, community leaders, and religious leaders spoke to edify and amplify the attendees. There was also a fair amount of music and an introduction of the actors.

The first scene was done at the church. The players were Barnette Hester, Roger Malcom and Dorothy Malcom. Apparently, Barnette had made some disparaging comments about the propriety of Dorothy Malcom, and Roger aimed to do something about it. Roger confronted Barnette and a scuffle ensued. In the melee Roger stabbed Barnette and then fled. The historical versions of this event say that Barnette was armed with a pitchfork, and that it may have been sexual advances or even actions toward Dorothy that raised Roger’s ire. Any way you slice it, it was not a good time in history for a black man to stab a white man. Roger ended up caught and imprisoned for 11 days. In the past this part of the reenactment was held in front of Barnette Hester’s house at 2932 Hester Town Road. But due to logistics, and some trepidation, they decided to do this part at the church.

Click here to continue to PART TWO

Moore's Ford Lynching (Part II)

Part II – The Graves and Sites
From Moore's Ford Lynching

There then was a break from the action. They had made a decision to visit the graves of the victims and they were buried in three separate locations. The first stop was the Mount Perry Missionary Baptist Church in Appalachee, Morgan County. Here the bodies of George and Dorothy (Malcom) Dorsey were interred side by side. Most of the graves at the cemetery were simple wooden crosses, and when the Dorseys were buried they had the same. The Moore’s Ford Committee placed granite markers on all the lynching’s victims some years back. In front of George’s grave, there was a plaque recording his military service record, including the three medals he earned in service for our country during WWII. A prayer was said over the grave and we moved on to cemetery #2: Chestnut Grove Baptist Church in Rutlege, Morgan County, where Roger Malcomwas buried. Roger’s grave looked pretty much the same as the other, an elegant granite slab replacing the modest original marker. After the benediction here, we moved to another headstone, that of Lynn McKinley Jackson who died on August 8, 1982. Lynn was found hanging from a tree in Walton County, and even though most might think it suspicious, the local authorities ruled it a suicide. According to the GABEO leaders, they believe he was lynched as a result of his being involved in interracial relationships. After a prayer over Mr. Jackson’s grave, we moved on to the final gravesite.

The entire motorcade journey would wind up taking us better than 60 miles in total. The distances between the gravesites were the most substantial being 15 miles or better. The path to Mae Murray Dorsey final resting place took us through Hestertown. Hestertown, if you recall, was where Barnette Hester’s farm was and where the first scene was supposed to take place. Along the road, there were several old houses and barns, forming what might be almost a stereotypical idea of what rural country life in Georgia is like. The strange thing was the number of folk sitting on their front porches watching us drive slowly down there road. Many of them waved at me. This would normally be an endearing portrait of Southern warmth, if the fact was not known that there was little doubt someone from there either knew something, or knew someone who knew something about the unsolved murders. Were they greeting us or letting us know they had their collective eyes on us. It was an eerie experience.

Mae Murray Dorsey was buried at the now defunct Zion Hill Cemetery at 224 Alcovy Street in Monroe, Georgia. If you go to this site, you will notice a small office park with numerous small businesses. We parked there and in a field adjacent to the parking lot there were a fair number of graves marked with simply wooden crosses. We made our way down to the granite marker commemorating Mrs. Dorsey’s death. The marker has been place in the field apparently next to the grave of a member of Mae’s family because the actually grave is somewhere under the paved parking lot. A sad story true, but no more than the entire situation.

We then made our way to the Monroe Courthouse Annex IV at 203 Milledge Avenue in Downtown Monroe. In 1946, this building served as the jail where Roger Malcom was kept for the stabbing of Barnette Hester. At this site there were two reenactments. The first was of Eugene Talmadge’s stump speech taken from notes and recordings of the day. Mr. Talmadge had arrived in Monroe, two day s after the Hester stabbing. In this speech, he makes several references to purifying the Democratic Primary saying that black can vote in this election, but if elected he’ll make sure blacks won’t be voting in the next. The implication is that a racially inflammatory speech might have riled the mob into action against Roger Malcom. Some sources imply there was a direct deal between Talmadge and the Klan that their version of Justice would be permitted. The second reenactment centers around a man named Loy Harrision. Mr. Harrison had been George and Roger’s employer and apparently Mae and Dorothy were able to convince him to put up the $600 to get Roger out of Jail. Loy, pulled up in his car, along with George and the two women, and bailed Roger out. For the moment, the four were happy and filled with a spirit of reunion. They would work off their debt to Mr. Harrison and life might just return to normal.

But that brings us to the final reenactment, we drove down to Moore’s Ford Bridge. On the way, we saw the historical marker at the corner of Highway 78 & Locklin Road. Continuing down Locklin, 2.4 miles later we were at the bridge. The exact location is Mt Carmel Church Road, where the Appalachee river divides Walton and Oconee Counties. We had to walk about a half mile down to the bridge. It is now a concrete modern bridge, but at the time of the lynching it was a simple wooden structure. There is a signpost for Moore’s Ford Road, but there really is nothing there but a dirt path. At this place, the final confrontation was dramatized. For some unknown reason, Mr. Harrison decided to drive this circuitous route how with his four black travelling companion. We piece together the event of the day based on Loy’s testimony. First, armed Klansmen stop the car at the bridge, they pull the George and Roger out kicking and screaming. Roger’s crime was known to all, but apparently George had become to uppity after the coming back from the war or possible he was too friendly with white women. Mae recognized one on the armed men, and then the women had to be dispatched because they could have no witness. The four were tied together with a rope and shot over sixty times to make sure they were dead. They were then left in the field to rot. Hours later, funeral director Dan Young came to pick up the bodies for final preparation. Prayers were said and songs were sung concluding the reenactment.

Click here to continue to PART THREE

Moore's Ford Lynching (Part III)

Part Three – Conclusion

From Moore's Ford Lynching

In the interest of fairness I want to address a few issues that cause some turmoil around these reenactments.  The first is the strange call for accuracy.  A number of people thing that the reenactment is inaccurate, but the presenters know full well that there is not a valid account of the murders.  If there were then the perpetrators would have at least been tried.  If you rail about inaccuracy then you probably know something and should assist the authorities to finding justice.  Aside from the actual shooting, they point to the story of Dorothy Malcom’s pregnancy  as being apocryphal.  Laura Wexler, who wrote the definitive book on the subject, Fire in a Canebrake, as well as her family members disagree with this stance.  The presenter of the reenactment claims that he was told of the pregnancy by the funeral director Dan Young.  This idea is even recorded, using the word “reportedly” on the historical marker.  Those who believe the story even gave the child a name a few years ago, fittingly, it was “Justice Malcom.”  To those who object to this story, I say who really cares if she was pregnant or not?  Does it make the crime of murdering four people better?  As if somehow, a person might think I can live with you accusing me of murder, but don’t you dare label me an abortionist.  Albeit if it were true, it would add a fifth lost soul to the mix.  If the idea gets you riled, I think that’s the point.  They want you to come forward and set the record straight.  If I were making stuff up, I would do a lot more than just have the one girl pregnant.  I might go with the one report that had the Klansmen having sex with children, animals, and other men in a bloodlust frenzy.   You can’t tell me it didn’t happen, unless you know something and should come forward for the sake of justice.
The second thing to note is that this is not the last lynching in history.  We already talked about Lynn McKinley Jackson’ s story at Roger Malcom’s gravesite.  I was also told the story of Fredrick Jermaine Carter, who appears to have been lynched way back in December of 2010.  Sure, this wasn’t Georgia, but rather Mississippi, and it was ruled a suicide, but it has all the earmarks of good old fashioned mob justice.  These stories make us all understand the importance of remembrance.  We need to be vigilant against the atrocities that mankind is capable of so that we can minimize, stop, or prevent the darkest side on the human soul from gaining control.  I would be nice to think this American problem of lynching has been solved, but you would be kidding yourself. 
The final thing is probably the most scary to me, personally.  I’ll start by addressing the most frequently asked question: “If Dorothy, Mae, Roger and George were shot, why is it called a lynching?”  A lynching can mean the hanging of a human by rope from a tree and that may be the most common form of these murders, but in a more general sense it means putting someone to death without legal means, most often by  a mob.  That was the case in the Moore’s Ford murders.  The thing that scares me is the lynch mob mentality I see around us every day.  And it’s more than a black and white problem.  We sit a mere month out of this big Casey Anthony trial in Florida, and although acquitted, I’ve heard more than one person say she should be killed.  It’s a running meme on the internet to get Dexter and Casey introduced.  The comedians are joking about her guilt without regard to the justice system.  But a day like last Saturday helps me realize that the very same passions and rage which stopped the car at the Moore’s Ford Bridge, which led to the shooting death of four black people, are the same passions we kindle today.  We must learn to not just love justice, but to respect it.  To understand that the trial by jury is the seed from which all democracy and freedoms grew, planted in the Magna Charta centuries past.  If we can’t respect Justice in our community, then we no longer have a community and have digressed to the worst possible outcome of democracy: Mob Rule. 

Serenbe Farms

Up and Went, Palmetto, GA  Map
From Serenbe Farms

When somebody uses the words, “organic farming community,” my first thoughts are of some kind of hippie throwback community with folks who make their own clothes and odors of patchouli drown out odors of, well, other things. Not exactly my primary thought when I’m looking for a getaway with my significant other. But so many Atlantans just love the place. It usually wins the readers polls for best daytrip. So when the right moment came, this monkey made an afternoon trip to Serenbe Farms in Palmetto, Georgia.

Serenbe Farms is exactly as it states a farming community using organic principles to emulate sustainability. Its produce can be sampled at three dining establishments in the area, as well as some Atlanta restaurants like Restaurant Eugene or Holeman & Finch. For the record, I like the principle of sourcing things locally and understand that if there was only organic farming, there would be a lot more starvation in the world. I think the folks at Serenbe get the idea: if you are blessed with the prosperity to allow yourself to make more environmentally friendly decisions, you really ought to, but I digress.

What you get to see at Serenbe is three basic elements. First, there are the Farmlands, which radiate a well maintained and rustic beauty. Farm Tours are available, but take some prior arrangement that we did not make, but one can still walk along the path enjoying its aesthetic beauty without understanding the agricultural science behind it. Second, are the shops and services. The reputation Serenbe has garnered has made it attracted a number of shops for your perusal. They are pricier, high end, sort of things, I would rarely buy from, but often find it fun to stop and look around. I will note that the wine store had a significant number of items under $20, so kudos to them for having something for the everyman.

Finally, and probably, the most notable attraction at Serenbe are the Restaurants themselves. There is a quaint little bakery shop called the Blue Eyed Daisy, which seems to be open most of the day, and doubles as the area’s grocery store. And then there’s the two major restaurants, The Hil, a more upscale eatery in the commercial district, and the Farmhouse, which is part of the original Farmhouse and Inn, where we chose to eat. Both places take and basically need reservations, and as I have said, we just up and went with no planning, but both offered to seat us without reservations, as long as we arrived immediately upon opening at 5pm (the website now says they open at 6p). We considered this generous and gladly accepted.

From 4-5pm outside the dining area at the Farmhouse, they had significant drink specials for happy hour. If my memory serves, mixed drinks were half off, and this wasn’t in the advertising. So we had a drink and waited for the doors to open. Then menu was simple, choice between two starters ($6), two entrees ($18), and two desserts($5). This made the deciding process quicker, but might hamper the more finicky eaters. I had the pork chops over grits, while my companion had the chicken dish. All the food was organic and local and very tasty. The menu does change regularly, but the format remains the same. We had planned to spend the afternoon at nearby Cochran Mill Parkexploring the trails, waterfall, and mill ruins, but the necessity of being at the restaurant at exactly 5pm curtailed that excursion.

So why do I think people love this place? Because it is sort of an oasis from what you normally see on a day to day basis in the Atlanta Area, and the food is authentic, organic, and really good. The Farmland and the area around the Farmhouse was the most beautiful. The commercial district was little weird to me, as I have a guttural disdain for planned playgrounds that only the affluent can enjoy, that comes from so much of my life being lived in the Shadow of Disneyworld. The Farm seems real and true to its purpose, the business district seems to be an overpriced and fairly surreal, a place where people should visit like a museum or a zoo but not live.

Restaurant Fundamentals

The Farmhouse at Serenbe
Address: Hutcheson Ferry Rd, Palmetto, Georgia
Hours: Thu & Fri 6-9pm, Sat 11:30-3pm, 6-9pm, Sun 11:30-3p
Phone: 770.463.2622
Website: Serenbe Farmhouse

Cultural Significance: B
Food Quality: A+
Healthiness: A
Price: B
Value: A

Overall Rating: A

Recommendations: I would suggest you order as much local vegetables and sides as you can. The Fried Green tomato on the salad was probably the best I’ve ever had.
Significance: Sustainable, organic, Farm to table restaurant ahead of its time.

Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Still Got that New Park Smell Map
From Chattahoochee Bend

It’s been 20 years since the State of Georgia has opened a new state park. Not that I’m complaining, they do an excellent job with the parks they run, but when a new park opens after that many years it’s kind of a big thing. The Georgia State Parks department is planning two new parks in the near future, and the good news is that they are both relatively close to Atlanta. The first to open just this month is called Chattahoochee Bend State Park, located about an hour and twenty minutes outside of Atlanta on the Western edge of Newnan in Coweta County.

Now, I live in Gwinnett County, so it’s a little further for me, but I bet that most of you have friends or reasons to be out that way. I have a good friend who lives in Peachtree City and I used the opening of the new state park as good excuse to spend the day with him and his 12 year old son.

Everything there is brand new. The visitor center is pristine, with a half dozen rocking chairs on the porch. The bathrooms are new. The Gift Shop is new. I’m sure the campsites are new too. But what is most interesting to me is that the trails are new. According to the map you can get at the visitor center, there are two hiking trails: One from the visitor center to the campground and the other, which seemed more interesting to us, the one along the Chattahoochee River itself.

To reach that trailhead, continue driving on the park road till it pretty much dead ends. There is a good size parking lot near the boat launch area. The trailhead is to the right of the launch about 150 feet. There were a good number of people using the area not just to get their boats into the water, but to cool off from the hot Georgia Summer. By the looks of things, the water is pretty shallow and calm there.

The trail is a pretty flat walk that goes all the way to the bend that gives the park its name. To be honest, I have to sort of trust them as we didn’t have the time to get there. According to the Friend of the Bend site there’s five miles of trail (and then you’d have to trek back, I don’t know if you can subtract the campground trail). We went up no more than three miles before turning around, but I believe you get the flavor of the trail in that time. The one thing that is notable about this trail is that the river is a little further away from the shore than I might like. And because it’s so new, the small side paths down to the water don’t exist as of yet. But we had fun fighting our way down to the shore in a couple of places. Who knows, somewhere down the line, our trails might become the trails. Along the path, there’s a nice, newly built lookout platform (that probably works better in the winter months), and a part where there’s an internal clearing on the non-river side where we saw a few deer run through.

So if you’re in the Newnan area, or are looking for an easy boat launch, or just want to see the new place, head on down to Chattahoochee Bend State Park. For me, it was a very nice day in nature with a good friend. His son really liked the place (lots of bugs and branches to play on), so I’d give it a better rating for kids. The only drawback was the July Heat, which I can’t fault the park for (The trail is mostly covered and there was a noticeable decrease in temperature on the trail itself).

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 3-3.5 hours
Approximate Distance: 10 miles round trip
Trail Surface: Compact Soil, Sand
Features: Riverside Walk

Overall Rating: B

Scenic Quality: C+
Athleticism: C+
Solitude: B+
Value: B+
Parking: State Park Fees ($5)
Hours of Operation: 7am-10pm
Facilities: at Visitor Center
Maps: At Vistor Center, white blazed
General Maps: here or here
County: Coweta

Hurricane Shoals Covered Bridge

New Look at Something Old map
From Hurricane Shoals Park

Now there’s something about a covered bridge that transports some of us to a different time and place. They are highly romanticized. But what is it about them? Is it their age? I ask this because I see a small trend in Modern Covered Bridge Building and wonder if it deserves the same notice as the old ladies that stand guard atop our Georgia Rivers. I tend to lend toward thinking so, and thus the story of the Hurricane Shoals Covered Bridge in Maysville, GA.

To be fair, it wasn’t like the folks of Jackson County just up and decided to build a new modern covered bridge one day. This new bridge is built on the site of the “Old” Hurricane Shoals Covered Bridge (photo here) erected way back in 1882, when the area had need of a bridge for the nearby mills. That 127 foot town lattice style bridge was burned to the ground after 9 decades of service by heartless vandals on Memorial Day of 1972.

After years of effort, funding was made available to rebuild this bridge in 2002. The bridge has the same dimensions and style but is clearly built with modern know-ho. This re-envisioning of the romantic countryside sentry is definitely an interesting object to contemplate for a moment. How many great things of the past can we actually improve on? Or does this modernism diminish its aesthetic purpose? I won’t answer these questions for you, but I do promise to show a few other modern bridges on this site in the future.

This bridge stands as a connector between the two parts of Hurricane Shoals Park in Maysville. On one side you have the tumbling waters of the North Oconee River and the other you have the old building of their pioneer village, which were discussed at length in previous articles.
From Hurricane Shoals Park
What you have in the Hurricane Shoals Covered Bridge is a nice modern interpretation of a classic idea. It sits just a pretty as the others, if not a little cleaner, and maybe a little happier. This bridge is a welcome addition to the Georgia Landscape.

Gorges State Park NC
(Horsepasture River)

One, two, three, four…4 beautiful waterfalls bah ah ah Map
From HorsePasture River Falls

I always feel a little guilty when I talk about something not in Georgia, like I’m abandoning my adoptive home state for something I think is better in a new state. It’s not like I’m cheating on my wife or anything. The point of this website is to show really cool places to hike or visit within a reasonable drive of Atlanta, normally 3 hours. This place Google maps puts at 3 hours and 16 minutes from downtown Atlanta, but you know the way we drive, if you can’t make up the 16 minutes on the road, then you’re probably not from Atlanta. And this place is really cool, I am talking about the Waterfall Hike on the Horse Pasture River very near Gorges State Park in Sapphire, NC, North Carolina.

I read about this hike in the Back of the Dillard House Cookbook. It seemed almost too good to be true with 4 waterfalls in such a short distance. But If you are going to spend three hours in the car, you want something kind of special. When we got there, it was just a pleasing as advertised. I must note that you should beware of other information on getting to these falls. North Carolina State Parks closed one path in May of 2009 and set up the new path out of Gorges State Park (the Cookbook’s directions were to the old spot). You drive into the park about two miles, and the parking is clearly marked and as of Oct 2010 free. There are two paths leading out of the parking area, and the way to Horse Pasture River is the one on the right. The path actually takes you out of Gorges State Park and into Pisgah National Forest, so when you see the signs saying you are leaving the State Park, you are going the right way.

The first 1.5 miles of the trail is rather uneventful. At about 1 mile you start seeing the river downstream of the falls. In this area, there is a small falls (about 5 feet) called Hidden Falls. At 1.5 you see the granddaddy waterfall of the trip Rainbow falls, dropping a majestic 150 feet. You can view this fall from just about any angle you want but be careful, as this point is the only point that has any kind of precautionary railings.

About .25 mile up from Rainbow Falls, you come upon Turtleback falls, this is one of those falls just perfect to play in. I’ve seen kids slide down the 20 foot falls and cool off in the waters below. There isn’t the kind of danger here that the 150 foot falls presents. If you continue about .25 miles up from here you will get to the edge of the public land and can view Drift Falls. Remember, Drift Falls in on private property and if you get caught in it, you will be fined. Somewhere downstream from Rainbow Falls is Stairstep Falls, to which I didn’t travel. It is supposed to be about a mile downstream from Rainbow Falls.

So if you, like me, like waterfalls and a good hike and don’t really mind a three hour car ride, Gorges State Park offers tremendous bang for your buck by these criteria. I know a lot of folks have recommended several places for me to visit in NC. If they are half as good as this one, then you know I will be back.

(in the video I mistakenly refer to Hidden Falls as Stairstep Falls)

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 2-3 hours
Approximate Distance: 4.5 mi round trip
Features: Waterfalls, Riverside Walk

Overall Rating: A

Scenic Quality: A+
Athleticism: B+
Solitude: B
Value: A
Parking: Free
Hours of Operation: Daylight hours for Parking
Facilities: None (Oct 2010, but there are plans)
Maps: Downloadable on this page
County: Jackson County, NC


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