By C. D.
Trouble began soon after Reverend
Lorenza Dow, worn and foot sore, wearily trudged into the small, but busy,
pioneer town of Jacksonboro, Screven County, Georgia, one Spring afternoon
in 1821. Certain chemical
elements, kept separate, are harmless, but when put into the same bowl
become dangerously explosive.
So it was when Lorenza Dow and the devil got into the same
town. The devil had run
Jacksonboro a long time, when Dow, an itinerant Methodist preacher arrived
there. He spent less than
twenty four hours in the town yet his contact was so explosive that all the
county felt it, and his name and deeds have been a household discussion for
one hundred and thirty five years.
He became the hero of a people whose religious zeal he
awakened. Many Screven County
children were named for him.
Dow was born in Coventry,
Connecticut, October 16, 1777.
He became a worldwide itinerant preacher. He was one of the most remarkable
men of his day. His irresistible
zeal, fire, energy, and his devotion to the cause of religion led him to
sublime heights, and quite as often to fist fights and jail. He gave and asked no quarter of the
devil. His eccentric dress and
character attracted great attention to him wherever he went. His travels were mostly on
foot. He literally translated
into action Jesus’ injunction, “Go ye into all of the world,
etc.” He preached in
England and Ireland, as well as covering the United States several times. More people heard the gospel from
his lips during his ministry than from any other person. He was called to preach while still
a youth, and although he died at 57, he spent forty years in his travels. Most of these years were spent up
and down the Atlantic seaboard, with at least one sojourn of three years
into the Indian country of Alabama and Mississippi. He kept a diary of his travels and
ministry and in 1816 he published a large volume of them. In the book he reviews the eventful
occurrences of his ministry, including the vicissitudes which were
many. If prenatal emotional
upsets influenced the character of the unborn child, as many believe, then
surly the turbulent times of the Revolutionary War marked him with a
flaming soul and courage undaunted for the task God gave him. Dow made three tours of Georgia
before his book was published and at least one other, in 1821, the time of
Jacksonboro too was a child of the
Revolution. After 1775 a few
settlers located, and formed a small community called Bascom, in the
Georgia pine lands in the fork of Brier and Beaver Dam Creek, about midway
between Savannah and Augusta.
They were industrious and good people. When in 1793, Screven County was
created, it was logical that the county seat be placed near the center of
population. In 1796 Bulloch County
was cut off from Screven, and in 1797 a site was selected on the north bank
of Beaver Dam Creek near the Bascom community. Fifty acres of land was purchased
from Solomon Gross upon which to build the town. It was named Jacksonboro for the
then Governor of Georgia, General James Jackson. Jacksonboro was then the most
western frontier town of the United States. A land office was opened and to it
flocked both adventurers bold and fugitives from justice. With little or no civil authority it
became one of the wildest frontier towns of American history. No western town of fact, fiction, or
screen was rougher than Jacksonboro.
It is said that there were as many saloons as all other businesses
combined. There was one church
and one school. The jail was
near the creek and the court house was upon the hill near the church.
It can be said to the credit of
Jacksonboro that many of America’s finest citizens of today can trace
their ancestry back to this once wicked town. When Dow came to preach the bad element
dominated the place. Some of
these lived in the town but many were from the nearby rural area. When Dow reached Jacksonboro it
appeared peaceful and beautiful.
Spring was in full bloom.
He went through the town passing out hand bills, as was his custom,
announcing his meeting for the night at the local Methodist Church. No sooner than the handbills
announcing the meeting were distributed the devil went to work. In the saloons they were read by the
bar keepers and night revelers.
By sun down plans had already been made to break up Dow’s
meeting. The lone
representative of the law for the entire area was Sheriff Solomon
Kemp. He had the moral support
of the good people but they were not crusaders.
One of the religious leaders was
Kemp’s son-in-law, Seaborn Goodall, Clerk of the Superior Court. Goodall was one of the outstanding
Georgians of his day. He
carried the torch for law, order, and church in the large pineland area of
Southeast Georgia that was almost without civil government. By the time for Dow’s
scheduled meeting a crowd had gathered in the saloons and there was heavy
drinking. The Church, only a
few hundred yards from the saloons, was a frame, rough clapboard, unceiled
and unpainted building with board shutters over open windows. A brick chimney with fire place
afforded spare heat for the building in winter. Inside furnishings consisted of pine
plank seats. A raised dais in
the rear supported the small lectern, a table, two chairs and a
substantially built chancel. An
ornate candle fixture was the church’s only claim to
pretentiousness. Reverend Dow
was a guest in the house of Seaborn Goodall, which was the county’s
most imposing home.
Leaving Dow with Mrs. Goodall and
the children Goodall went ahead of time to open the door and shutters of
the church, light the candles and ring the bell. With the door and windows open the
building was soon filled with the jasmine scented spring air. Dow soon arrived along with a
congregation that filled the little church. Dow’s fame as an evangelist
was well known all over Georgia at that time. Besides summoning the people the
ringing of the church bell was the cue for the crowds in the saloons to get
busy. After “raising”
several hymns Goodall presented Rev. Dow, and then hell broke loose. Besides throwing pieces of brick and
stone into the open windows the crowd, outside shot off pistols in the air
and gave many deep throated yells.
The lights were extinguished but the roar from the outside
continued. Dow was forced to
close the meeting. The congregation,
under the leadership of Mr. Goodall, quietly withdrew from the building
onto the outer darkness and returned to their respective homes.
Having broke up the meeting the
hoodlums seemed satisfied with what they had done. The eccentric and raging soul of Dow
would not permit him to withdraw from the battle without further fight. He would fight the devil from the
pulpit when he could, but he would just as eagerly engage him in hand to
hand combat if he must. He left
the church in a rage and shadowed his disturbers until they returned to one
of the saloons. Dow then
charged into the saloon.
Alone. He seized an iron
tool, broke in the head of a barrel of whiskey, and overturned its contents
on the floor before the amazed customer of the bar could stop him. He was pinned to the floor by his
enemies and would have very probably suffered bodily injury except for the
timely arrival of Mr. Goodall who rushed in and dragged him away. Goodall took him to his home, bathed
his bruises and put him to bed.
He advised Dow not to try to preach in the town.
The next day, about mid morning,
Dow started on his way South from Jacksonboro. He was again seized as he passed a
saloon, but one tried to hurt him.
Dow, who was a partial hunchback, was told that they wanted to
straighten his back for him. He
was placed between two wide boards, sandwich-like, and the men sat upon the
top board. After this indignity
they let the raging soul go.
was yet to be Dow’s. He
retreated to the bridge over the Beaver Dam Creek, turned, and faced his
tormentors. Affecting a return
of his dignity and ecclesiastical manner he dramatically stamped the dust
from his feet, and pronounced an anathema upon the town, asking God to destroy
it, excepting only the home of Mr. Goodall.
few years every building except one was gone. For more than one hundred years the
home of Seaborn Goodall has stood, testamentary, to the truth of Dow’s
handbill as he admonished the town, “If a man abides not in me, he is
cast forth as a branch and withers.”
“And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it.”
Brier Creek Chapter
Daughters of the American Revolution
This house was entered on the National Register of Historical
Places on October 17, 1977.