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A Debt Repaid

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It is always uncomfortable to come across family members who participated in the reprehensible practice of slavery but this story, passed down through the generations, is worth telling. Just prior to the Civil War, a young Georgian farmer named Thomas Reese, purchased a slave named Nathan to help him work his fields. A short time later, Nathan asked Thomas if it were possible for him to purchase another slave, a woman named Adeline, who worked on a neighbor’s farm.

Thomas did and shortly thereafter Nathan and Adeline were married. Thomas then presented Nathan with two sets of documents and told him to keep them safe. They were emancipation papers. Nathan couldn’t read but believed what Thomas said so he locked them in a box he kept on his fireplace mantle. When told that they were free to go, neither Nathan or Adeline had that desire. “Where would we go? We don’t know any other place.” They chose to stay and work the farm alongside Thomas’s family. The family referred to them as Uncle Nathan and Aunt Adeline. All this happened before Fort Sumter was fired upon, marking the beginning of the Civil War.

Nathan and Adeline remained on the farm throughout the entirety of the war. During its waning days, a group of Union soldiers under the command of General James Wilson was sweeping through the area, tasked with destroying any property that could be used by the Confederates. They came upon Thomas’ farm while Thomas was away. As they prepared to set fire to the buildings, Nathan came out and asked why the soldiers were going to burn the place down. The officer replied that all slave-holders’ property was to be destroyed.

“But we ain’t slaves!” Nathan exclaimed and ran off to get the papers he had safely stored years ago. The officer read through the documents and then told his men to stand down and move on. Thomas’ farm was one of the few places in the area that was spared destruction.

Thomas Clopton Reese was the great-grandfather of my grandaunt.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Good For What Ails You

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Dating back to colonial America and reaching its peak of popularity in the 19th century, “magic elixirs” were sold with the promise that they could cure just about every ailment known to mankind. In the 1800s, snake-oil salesmen would travel from town to town, selling their questionable and highly unregulated patent medicines to unsuspecting citizens. Some examples include “Morley’s Liver & Kidney Cordial,” “Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic,” and Dr. Potter’s “Chock-A-Saw-Sagwa Tonic.” Oftentimes, these “medicines” contained alcohol, cocaine, or heroine which may have relieved pain but were also highly addictive, all but assuring a strong repeat customer base for the salesman.

It is amazing to find any that have survived and continue to exist. And yet, there is at least one.

In 1826, as a reward for a kindness done to one of their chieftains, the Creek Indians bequeathed to Captain Irwin Dennard of Perry Georgia the formula for a treasured remedy made from swamp sumac from Alabama, Queen’s Delight (a root from South Georgia), and sumac from North Georgia. Dennard sat on the formula for a few decades but eventually passed it onto Charles Swift who partnered with Henry J Lamar, the great grandfather of my grand aunt. Henry suggested moving to Atlanta to take advantage of the transportation benefits of the railroads to be found there as they grew their new company.

Marketing the formula as SSS Tonic (the three S’s stood for Swift’s Southern Specific) the owners claimed that it was an effective treatment for dyspepsia, cancer and syphilis. In the 1950s, singer Eddy Arnold made a commercial touting its ability to enrich the blood with iron. The original formula of roots and herbs has not significantly changed since its early days although it is now fortified with iron and vitamins. 

SSS Tonic continues to be sold today. In 1997 it earned nine million dollars in annual sales and is still paying dividends to some of our family members, or so I’m told.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Laurens Lodge No. 75

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There is no definitive answer as to when Freemasonry “began” although most seem to point to the stonemason’s guilds of the Middle Ages. While it has been linked to any number of conspiracy theories due to its use of symbolism and secret rituals, it professes to emphasize personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy.

The Lodge is the basic organizational structure of the Masons. The first lodges that operated in America were based in Pennsylvania as early as 1715. The 75th lodge to be established in the US was the Laurens Lodge of Dublin, Georgia in 1848. It’s earliest members were considered to be the elite in Dublin’s business and government communities. Included among them was John M. Dasher, the first cousin (three times removed) of my grand-uncle.

John was appointed the masonic position of “Tyler.” As I understand it, the post is often held by an officer or sometimes a Past Master. Armed with a sword (kept drawn), he would be tasked with guarding the outer door of the lodge against ineligible masons or malicious people. He would be required to examine the Masonic credentials of anyone wishing to enter the Lodge, admitting only those qualified to attend the current business. 

Some lodges permit the Tyler to “tyle from within” which would allow him to participate in the business portions of the meeting while still manning his post. 

Freemasonry grew dramatically during the 1800s and many communities came to depend upon them. As our federal government was still in its infancy, there were few social programs to be had. The Masonic tradition of building orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only kind of security that many people knew.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Physician, Heal Thyself

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Georg August Benjamin Schweickert was born in Zerbst, Germany in 1774, the son of a pastor. It was initially intended for him to follow in his father’s footsteps and he began his studies in theology, but upon his father’s death, switched his interests to medicine. 

Upon completing his studies and receiving his degree, he married and began his private practice in his home town of Zerbst. But when his wife died two years later, he became unhappy in Zerbst and took an opportunity to move to Wittenberg to become an Lecturer in Obstetrics. In 1812, he was appointed Director of the French Military Hospital in Wittenberg but was so outspoken about his German nationalism that the French courtmartialed him and sentenced him to death. Two days before his execution, the Prussians captured Wittenberg and liberated him.

He moved to Grimma and became the city physician. Keeping up with new trends in medicine, he began reading Samuel Hahnemann’s writings on homeopathy and began conducting clinical trials on this new method. In 1824, he put himself on homeopathic treatment for a persistent abdominal complaint and the successful results made him a most fervent advocate for this developing field. When a homeopathic hospital was created in Leipzig, Georg offered to take charge at no fee. He was appointed director in 1833.

His conversion was remarkable for its time. Albrecht wrote this about him, “He ranked among the most eminent advocates of Homeopathy and, to a certain extent, with justice. He was a singular character, and his experience in the practice of medicine was most remarkable. At first, devoted heart and soul to Allopathy, experimenting and curing by purgatives, emetics, bleeding, leeches, bucketfuls of infusion of Peruvian bark (in scarlatina), the towns of Wittenberg and Grimma not only experienced, but suffered, from his practice. Suddenly he abandoned his allopathic principles, resigned his office of physician of a public school, and like a genuine Paul, he became a convert to Homeopathy.”

His interests seem to have passed on through the family. Not only did his son Julius became a well-known homeopathic physician in his day but they are related to us through my daughter-in-law, a Chiropractic doctor and Reiki Master practicing in Colorado.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Manhunt

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John Wilkes Booth’s escape from Ford’s Theater after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln prompted one of the largest manhunts in American history. 

After leaping from the balcony to the stage, breaking his leg in the process, he managed to hobble into the back alley where he was joined by accomplice David Herrold who was standing by with the getaway horse. Together, they rode off into southern Maryland eventually arriving at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd who agreed to splint Booth’s leg and allow them to rest the night.

They continued moving south on horseback, hiding from view in swamps and a dense pine thicket. Eventually they reached the shores of the Potomac River and managed to cross it to enter Virginia, a state they believed to be more sympathetic to the Confederacy. 

For twelve days, they evaded capture even though there were a thousand Union soldiers tasked with tracking and apprehending them.  One of these soldiers was Eustace Tower, a distant uncle of my brother-in-law. In a letter he wrote to his cousin, Eustace, a private in the 13th Independent Battery of the Michigan Artillery, stated that he was “out two weeks with the detectives going night & day on the track of Booth. We captured one of his boots (which was cut off his injured leg) and the razor that he shaved his mustache off with. And we arrested the Doctor who set his leg and two or three other men that will swing at the gibbit.”

Booth and Herrold were cornered by Union soldiers as they took refuge in a tobacco barn on the Virginia farm of Richard Garrett. Herrold surrendered immediately but Booth indicated that he would fight his way out. In the confusion that followed as Union troops set the barn on fire, Booth was shot in the neck by sergeant Boston Corbett. He died around five hours later.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.