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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Haunted locations of Liberty County, Ga.


The Frame Gallery on South Main Street
The Haunting
The former owner of the Frame Gallery store reported hearing noises and footsteps emanating from the second floor. Store merchandise was reportedly being moved around or placed, teetering, on the edge of display tables. A candle holder was thrown across the room, former employees saw apparitions and the activity was describes as being mischievous more so than malicious. The activities increased as the Christmas Holidays approached.
This building was investigated by a paranormal group that picked up children’s voices on digital recorders as well as other unexplained voices. The investigators detected the odor of camphor in a certain room on the second floor and captured a few Orbs on camera.
The History
The building where the Frame Gallery was located was owned by Peyton Way and housed a drug store on the first floor and the first Hospital in Liberty County on the second. Dr. T. W. Welborn (1887-1962), who was a physician for the Dunleivie Lumber Company in Allenhurst, worked at the hospital and was a family doctor for hundreds of Liberty County families for more than 40 years. Welborn was instrumental in securing a Hill-Burton hospital, which became Liberty Memorial Hospital (formerly on Highway 84). Welborn was also the City of Hinesville Mayor for three terms before and during World War II several years. Welborn was married to Mary Elizabeth Sullivan Welborn and several children bur his son T. W. Welborn Jr. was accidentally shot and killed by a playmate in 1928.
The investigating crew later learned the owner of the store had found old glass IV bottles in a closet of the second floor and that the second floor had a surgery room and pharmacy. Camphor was used medicinally as a local anesthetic and camphor is commonly used today in products like Vicks VapoRub.
Were the voices and sounds collected those of former patients? Were they the children still running around their former drug store/soda pop hangout? Could one of those children be Dr. Welborn’s son?
     Ghost rating: three ghouls
This building is privately owned and not open to public investigations.
The Caswell House on North Main Street
The Haunting
A local historian once wrote about the house saying several people have died in there and one room in particular, located on the second floor, seems to be the home of a ghostly spirit. Pets reportedly refuse to enter that room and someone who once occupied the room fled the house terrified after experiencing a ghostly presence. Legend has it that a traveling salesman began courting a married woman who lived in the house around 1914 and the two fell in love. The woman’s husband eventually learned about the affair. One cold October night he hid behind bushes across the railroad depot on Main Street knowing the salesman was coming to meet up with his wife. Upon seeing the salesman the husband fired three shots and left the scene never returning to Hinesville. The salesman was brought to the woman’s room on the second floor and within the hour he died. The woman left Hinesville and was never heard from again.  Since then people have reported seeing a face or figure staring out that window.
The History
In 1904, then homeowner J. R. Bagley moved this structure to its current location at North Main and Memorial Drive (formerly Washington Street). It was reconstructed to a two story home by owners Enoch Caswell and his wife Ellen Long Caswell and the two front rooms of the first floor was the first home of the Hinesville Gazette which later became the Liberty County Herald (which is now the Coastal Courier).The Caswell’s also boarded rooms at the house and even opened a hotel just down from their home. Ernest Groover purchased the home in 1951 and he lived there with his wife, Susie Taylor Groover until the last of the two died in 1976. Since then it has been used in different capacities including a physician’s office, boarding house, psychiatry office and is currently being used as a physician’s office again.
This house has not been investigated by a paranormal group but the wood frame two-story building gives off a vibe, especially on moonlit nights. Some say the figure in the window is the salesman peering out and looking for his long lost love.
    Ghost rating: three ghouls
This building is privately owned and not open to public investigations.
The Old Liberty County Jail
The Haunting
Creaking sounds, cell doors slamming shut and unknown voices have been reported at the Old Liberty Jail. According to Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Director Vicki Davis people have been physically stopped as they try to go up the stairs that lead to her current office located inside the former prison. The building was investigated by a paranormal group in 2009 and captured the sound of a male voice saying “So sorry,” as well as a traveling flashing orb and a mist moving about the upstairs corner office that was once solitary confinement. Investigators described sensing the presence as if one hundred years worth of bad elements still lingered inside their cells.
The History
Placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1992 the old Liberty Jail housed the county’s prisoners from 1892 until 1969. When it was built it contained modern amenities such as indoor running water and toilets. For almost one hundred years it housed Liberty County’s criminal elements and was a co-ed facility with cells in the front portion of the building housing women. In 1970 the jail was purchased by the Liberty County Historical Society. It was later donated to the City of Hinesville. The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce briefly used the building and occasionally it was used as a haunted house for Halloween activities. Former Liberty County Sheriff Paul H. Sikes served at the jail from 1936 until his death in 1959 during his term in office. His son Robert Vernon Sikes was elected sheriff shortly afterwards and served for roughly 50 years, minus one term when he chose not to run and Bill Phillips was elected. Phillips was in the middle of his second term when he died in office and Sikes ran again and won serving until J. Don Martin was elected sheriff in 1992. Sheriff Martin passed away during his term in May 2010. Liberty County’s current sheriff Steve Sikes is the grandson of Paul Sikes. The jail sat in disrepair for several years before being restored in 2008. Peeking through the wrought iron bars on the exterior windows, the cells lead base paint was chipping away and the cob webs were strewn across the cell room doors while the building sat in disrepair for several years. It looked creepy and even with a fresh coat of paint and some upgrades many say it still feels creepy.
 Are the spirits of the former prisoners still serving their time? Is the former sheriff still keeping a watchful eye over his inmates?
     Ghost rating: four ghouls
The old jail currently houses the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority. The facility frequently hosts art exhibits and social community events. Folks are encouraged to visit the facility to learn more about the jail’s history. To inquire about tours call 877-4332.
Midway Cemetery
The Haunting
The Midway Cemetery is among the more notable spots in Liberty County known for its share of ghosts. The most well known tale from the cemetery is that of the crack in the wall on the north side of the cemetery. During the construction of the cemetery, the brick walls were placed together using the labor of slaves. Two slaves began to argue and were forced to work late since they had fallen behind on their work. Instead of working the two became entangled in a fight and one man was struck in the head with a brick and killed. The other man buried the body within the wall of bricks and the next day told his co-workers that the other man had run away. Within days the brick wall started to crack and shift. Years later, they discovered the man’s treachery when they found the bones in the wall. After the bones were taken out, the wall was repaired. But, to this day, the crack in the wall remains. On the west end of the cemetery people claim to see the apparitions of two young lovers Anthony and Sylvia. Sylvia’s father did not approach of their budding romance and hung Anthony from a tree branch and stabbed him with a knife to the heart. Upon discovering her lover’s fate Sylvia used the same knife to kill herself. Many local residents have claimed to see ghostly apparitions in civil war attire walking about the cemetery grounds. Others say they have seen ghosts sitting on top the brick wall as they drive by the cemetery.
The History
The Midway cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1973) and the oldest grave is from 1754. The tall monument in the center is dedicated to Revolutionary War heroes Daniel Stewart and James Screven. The cemetery and the adjacent historic Midway Church are part of the Midway Historic District. The settlers in this area were very political and took an early stand for independence. In May of 1775, Lyman Hall (a Midway Church member) was sent to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as a delegate from the parish of St. John (now known as Liberty County). A year later Hall and St. John's Parish resident Button Gwinnett signed the Declaration of Independence. Another Midway resident, Nathan Brownson, served in the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1778.
Are the ghosts of the city’s former settlers still keeping a watchful eye over their church and grounds? Are former lover still meeting? Is the slave still looking for his murderer?
     Ghost rating: five ghouls
The Midway Cemetery is privately owned and managed by the curators of the Midway Museum. Every year the cemetery offers a “Tales and Legends Tour” recounting the stories about the cemetery and information about its history. For more information on the Museum, cemetery or church call 884-5837.
Dorchester Civic Center
The Haunting
Even before being restored the Dorchester Civic Center (formerly the Dorchester Consolidated School) was said to be haunted with the spirits of former pupils and teachers. Folks claimed to hear children’s voices and laughter especially in the common area used as the auditorium/cafeteria. Some folks swear they heard someone playing the old piano, even though it was broad daylight and no one else was in the building. Footsteps could be heard throughout the hallway and some folks have captured what appear to be children peering out the school windows, even when there was no window glass in place. Paranormal investigators captured several bright orbs and picked up children’s voices on audio. One investigator posed the question, “Do you prefer duck, duck, goose or itsy bitsy spider,” and receive a child’s voice replying, “Duck, duck,” on audio.
The history
The school was built in 1927 and was used to consolidate the schools at Sunbury, Colonels Island, Riceboro and Jackson Chapel. The school served grades one through seven. The original building burned and new one was constructed on the same site 1938. The school was used until 1951. In 1958 the Dorchester Civic Center purchased the building from the Liberty County Board of Education for $10 and it became a meeting place and community center. Over the years the building was less used and fell into disrepair and closed. 
Are the former students still having play time? Are the teachers still holding class?
     Ghost rating: four ghouls
In 2008, Dorchester Civic Center, Inc. reactivated and began a concerted effort to restore the historic building and it’s currently used today to host community events. The 7,400 square foot building includes a large auditorium, five classrooms, which can be used as meeting rooms and a full kitchen. For more information call 884-2026.
Other notable sites:
·         Walthourville Cemetery: The Walthourville cemetery was established in 1872 and is the burial ground for many of the people who settled Walthourville. One of the legends surrounding the cemetery is that of the Walthourville witches. There are three graves where the frames over the tombs were made of galvanized wire over concrete. Many claim it is because these were three sisters who were considered witches at the time. They say the concrete was used to ensure their evil spirits remained buried. Two of the three small tombstones face west instead of east, a nontraditional placement of a tombstone considering the religious background of the folks in Walthourville. The cemetery was investigated by a paranormal group who found that other than a few orbs caught on camera, the cemetery was tranquil and historical significant.
     Ghost rating: two ghouls
·         Mills House on Highway 84: The 124 year old structure that sits on the corner of Highway 84 and Memorial Drive (formerly Washington Street) served, for some years, as the office of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and the Development Authority. When those two entities moved to their new locations (see below) the house sat abandoned for a while and was vandalized. Partially obscured from the road by glorious oak trees the house began to take on an ominous appearance. Some folks claim to see lights come on and off and reported hearing noises emanate from the house. Paranormal investigators captured relatively little evidence inside the structure but found many interesting anomalies and orbs present within the exterior grounds of the property. The building was donated to the Midway Museum in 2009 but funds to move the building are still needed. In the meantime several community organizations have received permission to use the facility to host fundraisers and community gatherings.
Ghost rating: one ghoul
·         Bryant Commons/ The Liberty County Development Authority Building (both on Highway 84): The two sites sit on an old battlefield (Skirmish at Hinesville 1864) and folks report hearing the sounds of cannons and muskets firings as well as see weird lights. The former home of Glenn E. Bryant is currently the Independent Telecommunications Pioneer Association’s National Office and Museum and is reportedly haunted. Paranormal investigators did capture strange voices and anomalies in several photographs taken there.
Ghost rating: two ghouls
·         Old hospital site on Highway 84(Liberty Memorial Hospital): This is another location where folks have experienced strange lights and sounds even though the building has been demolished for years and the land is currently vacant.
     Ghost rating: two ghouls
·         LeConte Woodmanston Plantation (Riceboro):  The Plantation was established in 1760 by John Eatton LeConte as a working inland swamp rice plantation. One of LeConte’s sons Louis trained as a medical doctor. He put his training to use in caring for his family, slaves and other families in the area. By 1813, due to his keen interest in botany and horticulture, he began developing a botanical and floral garden at Woodmanston that soon became internationally famous. The plantation is located in the Bulltown Swamp and was the site of a battle that took place during the American Revolutionary War. John LeConte first home was burned during that battle by the British. Louis LeConte is reportedly buried somewhere on the Plantation. The LeConte’s owned around 231 slaves who worked the rice fields, gardens and plantation grounds. Many plantation workers faced disease and malaria during the harsh summers. Paranormal investigators captured the sound of a musket gun firing while recording around the former hunting lodge building. Several orbs and strange mists were captured on camera around the area where the slave cabins reportedly once stood. LeConte Woodmanston is open by appointment only. Call 884-6500 to schedule an appointment.
Ghost rating: four ghouls


Monday, May 16, 2011

Statue of Erk project picking up speed

To say that Derek Sills loves Georgia Southern University and legendary football coach Erk Russell is an understatement. A walk through his home is like visiting a museum dedicated to the iconic coach and a tribute to Eagles football.
But Sills does more than simply follow the Eagles. An alumnus of GSU, he sits on the school’s alumni board, the GSU Athletic Foundation board and is a member of the presidential steering committee working on developing new GSU football facilities.
What’s more, Sills is president of the Coastal Eagle Club based in Midway, and the Liberty County resident said he is proud his local alumni club is spearheading a project he and many others feel was a long time in coming.
The Erk Russell Project was born after a series of events left Sills wondering why the father of GSU football wasn’t recognized by a life-size statue as other coaches have been. Sills said he read an article in Sports Illustrated containing an interview with Urban Meyer. The story included information about a bronze plaque being placed at the University of Florida football field containing a quote by star quarterback Tim Tebow. This led Sills to investigate a bit deeper.
“I started doing research on the Internet about iconic coaches and southern football,” Sills said. “You know the Bear Bryants, Vince Dooleys and Bobby Bowdens of the world. And they all have statues of themselves at their respective stadiums. And I thought, well that’s not right. Erk is as loved as any of those guys are throughout the state of Georgia. He is probably one of the most recognized names in football in Georgia.”
Then, in November 2010, Sills flew to Delaware to attend the Football Championship Series semifinal game between GSU and Delaware.
After landing in Baltimore, Sills and company decided to visit the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame. While touring the facility they saw a statue of Testudo, the Maryland Terrapins’ mascot.
“And I was like ‘Oh no, if the turtle gets a statue, Erk is going to get a statue,’” he said.
That moment was the birth of The Erk Russell Project.
 Sills started making phone calls to Eagles fans, alumni, former players and college coaches. He spoke with the sculptors who created statues of Dooley, Bowden and at Notre Dame.
Through word of mouth, Sills began collecting donations and as word spread, so did support. He even got a letter and donation from Dooley, once Russell’s boss at the University of Georgia.
Russell served as defensive coordinator under Dooley for 17 years and led the famed “Junkyard Dawgs” defense before he became head coach at Georgia Southern in 1981.
Along with the donation, Dooley wrote, “I was very excited to learn there is a movement to have a lifetime statue erected at Georgia Southern in memory of my longtime good friend and coaching associate, the late and beloved coach Erk Russell. It will be a fitting tribute to one of the great all-time football coaches and one of the great all-time people that I have ever known. I never knew a coach that was more loved and respected as Erk Russell. His record as a coach speaks for itself.”
Sills said GSU President Dr. Bruce A. Keel is excited about the project.
“He was the very first person from GSU that donated money and he said, ‘I want this to happen,’” Sills said. “You know, GSU is working to build a new football facility at the stadium. I sit on that committee and we were at a meeting at GSU about a month ago, and the very first topic of business that was brought up by the president was not the football facility but ‘Derek, how are we doing with the Erk Russell Project.’ Dr. Keel is keenly aware what Erk Russell means to GSU and is completely behind this.”
The project even has the support of current GSU football coach Jeff Monken.
Just this week, ESPN guest analyst and Atlanta Journal Constitution freelancer Tony Barnhart, a former GSU student known by many as “Mr. College Football, tweeted, “Georgia Southern boosters are raising funds to build a statue of Erk Russell at Paulson Stadium. I’m in.”
Barnhart followed up his tweet with an email to Sills saying, “I am sending my contribution today and I am doing so with great enthusiasm. Erk Russell was the greatest motivator of people that I have met in my 35 years of covering college football. Like so many others, he touched my life and my career and I could never thank him enough for it. We all miss him.”
Sills said the plan is to erect the statue along the sidelines of the new football facility.
Currently, there is a bust of the legendary coach near the field.
“Our thought was the players get to touch the head busts, but that’s just for the players,” Sills said. “We wanted something that the public could access and have their picture taken by a life-size statue of Erk. When I was talking to the guy who built the Vince Dooley statue, he said it was probably the most visited thing in Athens right now. Every nickel that I raise goes to this project. And I am bound and determined that Erk Russell will eternally stand guard over his house. This is the Eagle Nations’ chance to do right by Erk.”
While several activities are being planned to raise money, local residents have the opportunity to participate in an event that will coincide with the Coastal Eagles Club annual alumni meeting. Tickets are being sold for a party May 27 at Sills’ Bluff Creek home. Tickets are $20 and guests will be treated to food, beverages, music, a chance to win $5,000 and the opportunity to mingle with the entire GSU coaching staff.
Sills said the IT department at GSU is working on developing a website for the project. In the meantime, folks can learn about the project and make donations online by visiting http://southernboosters.chipin.com/erk-statue-project.
Donations can be made payable to Georgia Southern Athletic Foundation by mentioning The Erk Russell Project in the memo line and mailing checks to 170 Bluff Creek Drive, Midway, Ga., 31320.
For more information about the May 27 party and the Erk Russell Project, call 408-6521.


Don’t know who Erk Russell is? Read my next blog to learn why so many people think the project is a worthy cause.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Summer is rearing its pretty little head


Despite a few days of slightly lower temperatures, there is little doubt that the extreme heat of summer is just around the corner. Being from Florida I don’t mind the intense heat and humidity that make up the ‘Dog Days.’ I can tolerate the heat much better than I can handle the cold that always seems to creep into my toes and fingers during the winter.
As a sports writer for the Coastal Courier, summer time means no high school sports. Sure there are still plenty of local sports to cover but last year I made a decision to try something completely different, a non-traditional sport, so to speak, and ended up covering the Savannah Derby Devil boot camp for the newspaper.
It was a great opportunity to introduce a local team doing a local sport that was quickly flourishing across the nation.
As most of you know that little adventure turned into a new athletic career for me. My first official bout was on April 2 and although we lost, I’m looking forward to the next bout and I’m completely devoted to the sport.
With summer quickly approaching I’m pondering what other non-traditional athletic activity readers would enjoy learning about?
Some of my ‘so called friends’ know of my intense fear of flying and have suggested I should face my fears by doing a tandem sky dive or hang-gliding. I wonder if they truly want me to face my fear or if they’re just merely waiting for me to post the video of me screaming like a banshee for their amusement. I bet it’s more the latter.
Others have suggested I should go on a kayaking excursion highlighting local spots in the pristine coastal waters off Georgia’s coast.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf…not just normal surfing mind you...nay that would be too easy. I want to learn how to kite surf and glide across the ocean top while taking intermittent leaps into the air catching some wind and soar across the beach front…..BUT….only if I could wear a full body suit. This body ain’t ready for normal beach wear…not quite yet.
I’m sure there are a bunch of activities I haven’t even thought of and I’m hoping you guys will give me some input before I make my final decision as to what adventure this summer will bring. Heck I might even try more than one thing…if I survive.
Send me your suggestions: pleon@coastalcourier.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

A devilish good time for a cure; Skate with the Savannah Derby Devils to help stop Diabetes


The Savannah Derby Devils, an all-female flat track roller derby league team, is offering a unique opportunity to mingle with the skaters and raise funds for the American Diabetes Association’s annual Kiss-A-Pig campaign.
The Devils are participating in this year’s campaign as the ‘Squeals on Wheels,’ and will be hosting a Business after Hours event from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Wednesday March 23, at Star Castle Family Entertainment Center in Savannah.
Participants will get the chance to skate with the Devils while enjoying some retro tunes, snacks and refreshments. There will be games, raffle drawings and prizes will be awarded. No skates or gear required but if you have a pair of skates, you are encouraged to bring them with you and lace up for the cause.
Tickets must be purchased online and no later than 3 p.m. the day of the event. No ticket sales are available on site. The $25 registration includes a ticket to the Savannah Derby Devils’ April 2, home opener bout against Charleston, debuting at the Savannah Civic Center.
Proceeds from the skating event will go to the American Diabetes Association’s Kiss-A-Pig Campaign which helps to raise awareness and aides the ADA in finding a cure for America’s ‘Silent Killer.’
The Kiss-A-Pig Campaign pits local teams against each other to see who can raise the most funds and earn the right to kiss Armani the pig on May 7. Until 1921, there was no treatment for diabetes. The discovery of insulin, originally derived from the pancreas of a pig, sustains life for those who are insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetics. Therefore, the event honors the pig for saving countless lives.
Diabetes is the nation's fifth deadliest disease, killing more than 220,000 Americans each year. It is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, adult blindness, kidney failure and non-traumatic amputations.
Join the Devils and skate for a cure during this unique After Hours event.
To purchase your tickets online Visit: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/160386
For more information on skating with the Devils call Sue Burke Lydon at (912) 441-9743.
If you can’t make the event, but still want to help the ‘Squeals on Wheels’ kiss the pig, donate online at: http://main.diabetes.org/site/TR?px=6207444&pg=personal&fr_id=7670
Star Castle Family Entertainment Center is located at 550 Mall Blvd., Savannah.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Roller Derby Rocks


As some of you are aware, last June I covered the Savannah Derby Devils’ Roller Derby boot camp by participating as a skater during the one-week event. Before June 6, 2010 I had not been on quad skates in more than thirty years.
The experience completely changed my life – for the better I might add. I was hooked since day one. Not only was the exercise starting to feel good but the women involved with the Devils’ organization were kind, patient, and fierce and all are professionals in their ‘day-time’ jobs.
At the end of boot camp there was a chance to try out for the team, but I missed this opportunity because I was out of town for my birthday. I was extremely bummed but was told I could continue to participate by joining the referees.
I studied the rule book, passed my test and wore my stripes for the Fresh Meat scrimmage and three regular bouts thereby earning my official Derby Devil Jacket.
I attended as many practice sessions as I could, skating around the perimeter of the track – watching, learning and absorbing as much derby knowledge from these pros as I could.
And I wanted more.
In October there was a secondary open tryout and I took my chance. I passed tryouts and was now well on my way to becoming ‘bout’ ready but big challenges were still forthcoming.
In the meantime I continued to attend as many practice sessions as possible and shed 30 pounds in the process.
I pushed through the pain of the lactic acid building up in my ankles and my lungs frantically gasping for every ounce of air I could muster through the cardio circuits. I nursed every bruise earned from learning how to hit or taking a hit and fall. Excedrin Pain Relief and I became best buddies and I waddled into work every morning after practice looking like I just survived a train wreck.
But I pushed on.
The day came to pass the skills test required to become eligible for a bout. I did the knee falls, I weaved, I hit and eventually did the dreaded 25 laps in five minutes (Actually I did 26).
I was bout certified.
On March 12, the Devils hosted the Erin-Go-Brawl. It was an inter-league scrimmage with the new girls (B-Team girls, we are called the Hostess City Hellions) against the veteran team of All-Stars (The veteran Derby Devils). We were given a bit of an advantage by having the veteran Jammers (the girls who score the points) on our team for the scrimmage.
Either way it was my first bout and I was nervous as all heck.
Would I survive the hits, would I survive being in front of a huge crowd, would I mess things up for my team, would I lose my lunch on the track?
It turns out I did survive and our team won 137-77.
I made the hits and took quite a few. And I owe it to the veterans who always pushed me…just a little harder. The veterans who always told me…try this…or try that…keep your feet moving…hold your head up…be aware and GO, GO, GO.
Some of the veterans told me I was a pretty hard hitter…..AWESOME!!!
And now I REALLY want more.
With the scrimmage under my belt and a decent practice attendance record, I just earned a spot on the Hellions first regular season bout debuting at the Savannah Civic Center on April 2. We will be the game opener battling the Bruising Betties of Charleston before our Devils’ All-Star Team takes the track against the Low Country Rollers.
Once again I’m a bundle of nerves…..
I try even harder at practice now and take every bit of advice the pros give me to heart. I still come to work feeling like a train wreck but at least I’m still on the track and rolling forward. And still losing weight (WooHoo)!
Will keep you posted and in the meantime come out and watch the Devils in action. It’s one HELL of a good time.
Patty Leon
Aka: Eada Chiquita