Benjamin Thomas Allen

Benjamin Thomas Allen  was born February 23, 1852 at the Metcalfe community, near Thomasville, GA. He grew up during the Civil War and Reconstruction. In 1861 his father enlisted in a company from Thomasville known as the “Dixie Boys,” Company A, 57th GA Regiment and was sent to Savannah, GA but was discharged with pneumonia and came home sick in 1862.  His father then secured a job as railroad section master which, as work essential to the war effort, exempted him from further military service.

In 1864, the family was at Johnson Station, now Ludowici, GA,  where the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad had a stop referred to as “Four and a Half.”  General Levi J. Knight, of Ray City, GA had been one of the original board members of the Atlantic & Gulf Railroad.

By the late 1860s,  Benjamin Thomas Allen and his family were residing in Berrien County on the Nashville & Milltown road about a mile east of Nashville, where he was likely attending the McPherson Academy.  His older brother, Samuel D. Allen, was attending the Valdosta Institute in Valdosta, GA where he may have been a classmate of Matthew F. Giddens and John Henry “Doc” Holiday, who attended the Valdosta Institute during the same general time period.  Some time before 1870, the Allen family moved to Valdosta, and B. T. Allen, called “Bee Tree” by his friends, followed his brother in attending the Valdosta Institute.

He also attended the Fletcher Institute of Thomasville, GA, a  Methodist boarding school and then one of the most prestigious high schools in Wiregrass Georgia. Hamilton W. Sharpe was one of the Lay Trustees for the school, which offered a “Course of Study [in] Orthography, Reading, writing, and Arithmetic,… with the higher branches of an English Education, embracing Natural, Mental and Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric Logic, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Bookkeeping, and Political Economy,…Latin, Greek, French, Algebra, Geometry, Mensuration, etc —the object of which is to accommodate young men, who do not wish to go through College, with such a course as will enable them to enter upon any of the learned professions of this country.”

In Valdosta, B.T.’s father and brother worked for the Railroad, James Allen working as a Railroad overseer and Sam Allen working as a clerk. B. T. Allen was employed as a type setter, probably for the South Georgia Times newspaper owned by Philip Coleman Pendleton.  The Lowndes Historical Society notes, “In later writings B.T. Allen mentions his experience with the Pendleton’s and the Valdosta newspaper. In 1875 he played on Valdosta’s first baseball team. In the 1880 census he is living in Quitman and is listed as a printer.

In the 1890’s B. T. Allen was editor of the Tifton Gazette.

In the 1900 and after censuses he is living Pearson, Georgia with the occupation showing lawyer or lawyer/editor.”

As editor of the Pearson Tribune in the 1920’s Benjamin Thomas Allen wrote a series of stories about growing up in Wiregrass Georgia. He published a memoir of the Reconstruction in Berrien County, GA on May 21, 1920.

PEARSON, GEORGIA, FRIDAY, MAY 21,1920
MEMORIES OF THE LONG AGO.
Nashville Young People Attend Milltown School Closing.

Monday the editor goes to the Press meeting at Nashville and Tuesday to the fish dinner at Milltown. These events, so near at hand, awakens in his memory afresh events of more than half a century ago. To be precise, it was in the Spring of 1867. In these events both Nashville and Milltown had a part.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr was principal of the Milltown School, (Lakeland, GA) in 1867.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr was principal of the Milltown School, (Lakeland, GA) in 1867.

At that time Milltown had a most excellent educational institution presided over by Elder O. C. Pope, who came to Milltown from Sandersville, Washington county, to be the pastor of the Baptist church and also principal of the School. He was a young benedict, of polished manner and thoroughly educated. He was a most competent instructor and created quite an admirable reputation for the Milltown school. His sister, Miss Virginia, was his capable assistant.

It was in the springtime, the latter part of May, the school was to have special closing exercises. The people of Milltown were putting forth every effort to make it, an event to be long remembered — I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Invitations had been sent to the young people of Nashville to attend this school closing. So arrangements were made whereby a number of Nashville’s girls and boys could go, among them my brother, Sam, [and] myself. My brother was just home from school at Valdosta and ready for an outing. But there was a dark obstacle in the way of brother and I going. Mother was practically an invalid at that time/a laundress could not be secured to put our underwear in condition for us to wear, and brother had about given up the trip and made his supposed disappointment known by his ill humor. This editor confesses he wasn’t as sweet as a peach over the prospects.

It was Wednesday morning prior to the eventful day, mother called me to her and said: “Son, I am sad over your apparent disappointment and want to suggest a way to overcome the obstacles. You’ve played the part of cook and housemaid all the year, suppose you try your hand at laundering. I believe you, with my instructions, can do the laundering all right.”

That afternoon I got busy; selected all the necessary pieces for brother and I, gave them a thorough washing and rinsing. The next morning, under the direction of mother I prepared the starch and starched the clothes and put them out to dry. That afternoon I dampened and ironed them. Mother all the while, was near at hand to explain every detail of the task. [Boys, never for get your mothers; they are your dearest friends on earth.]

To the average boy laundering does not appeal as a manly task, but I was proud of my first experience. Mother approved it as a real neat job. I was proud of it because it drove away disappointment and would please brother Sam, who was not wise to the effort I was making to overcome the obstacle in the way of the Milltown trip. Early Friday morning we were ready, looking just as trim and neat as any of the boys who made the trip.

Our home was about a mile east of Nashville and on the then Milltown road, and we were to be picked up on the way. There was three two horse wagons, furnished by Judges James F. Goodman, H. T. Peeples and E. J. Lamb, and when brother and I got aboard there was no room to spare. As I remember the party, the ladies were Mrs. McDonald, the widowed daughter of Judge Peeples, and her step daughter, Miss Virginia McDonald, Misses Helen, Carrie and Annie Byrd, Poena Goodman, Victoria Dobson, Lula and Mary Morgan, and Miss Simpson whose given name have escaped me; the gentlemen were Dr. H. M. Talley, Silas Tygart, John Goodman, Henry Peeples, W. H. Griffin, William Slater, Arthur and John Luke, brother and myself. It, was a jolly party, sure enough!

The party reached Milltown about 10 o’clock. The way we had to go it was seventeen miles from Nashville to Milltown. The school was housed in a large two story frame building, erected conjointly for a Masonic Lodge and School. The exercises had begun and the building or school room crowded to its utmost capacity.

At noon, a bountiful and splendid basket dinner was served on a lawn under some wide spreading oaks.

Very few of the country folks who lived closed by remained for the exhibition at night, so there was plenty of room in the auditorium and everybody got a seat. It was too far for the Nashville party to go home, they remained for the exhibition and were entertained for the night in the hospitable homes of Milltown. Brother and myself spent the night at the home of Elder Pope. Milltown, at that time, was an important trading point and had been for years. The people of the town and adjacent country were well to-do—-some of them wealthy —refined and cultured, and it was a delight to mingle with them. It was on this, my first visit to Milltown, I formed the acquaintance of Judge Lacy E. Lastinger, who has just celebrated his golden wedding anniversary; he was single then. Judge Lastinger’s father, William Lastinger, built the original Banks’ mill and created the mill pond from the waters of which the fish for the Editors’ dinner is to be caught. At the time of which I write he had already sold the property to Henry Banks, a wealthy North Georgian, and it is still the property of his estate according to my best information.

Related Posts:

Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

Lowndes Immigration Society, 1867

Richard Augustus Peeples, Clerk of the Berrien Courts

Matthew F. Giddens ~ Teacher, Businessman, Public Administrator

The Booby Clift Affair in Valdosta

General Levi J. Knight ~ Railroad Tycoon

Joshua Berrien Lastinger

 

Elixir of Death

1

Patent medicine being poured into a measuring spoon.

In 1886, when Berrien County desperado Ben Furlong overdosed on laudanum  some thought it was accidental, others thought intentional. By the time of Furlong’s death, the dangerous potency of patent medicine narcotics was well known.  In Georgia newspapers and elsewhere overdose deaths of adults were frequently reported as suicides.

But many victims were infants and children fatally overdosed with mislabeled narcotic patent medicines by their well-meaning parents. “Hints to Mothers,” in 1865 observed that “three-fourths of all the deaths that take place from opium occur in children under five years of age, and it has been alleged  that thousands of babies died from patent medicines which were eventually identified by the medical community as “baby-killers.”

For centuries parents had been told teething was a particularly dangerous period of childhood development, perhaps because teething  coincided with infant mortality from causes which were not at all understood.    Doctors routinely reported teething on mortality schedules as a cause of infant death. The anguish of teething infants was met with anxiety by 19th century parents. Marketers of patent medicine teething elixirs  preyed on the fears of parents and offered the promise of science and medicine to protect the lives of their children.

In the 1880 Berrien County  mortality schedule deaths of two white infants were attributed to “dentition” and “teething” by attending physician Dr. H. M. Talley.  Cause of death for a black infant attended by Dr. James A. Fogle appears to have been initially recorded as “Elixir of Joseph Bain,” but that notation was crossed out and replaced with “poisoned.” Elixir of Joseph Bain, one of the first cocaine-based patent medicines, was introduced after the Civil War. Cocaine drops were used in the treatment of dental pain.  Three children in Lowndes died of teething, two in Brooks County.

Among the most notorious of “baby-killer” patent medicines was “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup” for teething infants.

From its introduction in 1849, Mrs. Winslow’s advertisements and testimonials appeared almost continuously in Georgia newspapers and elsewhere.  One 1880 testimonial published in the Columbus, GA Daily Enquirer claimed “Vast quantities of the Soothing Syrup are daily sold and used here [New York]. We think Mrs. Winslow has immortalized her name by this invaluable article, and we sincerely believe thousands of children have been saved from an early grave by its timely use and that millions yet unborn will share its benefits, and unite in calling her blessed. No mother has discharged her duty to her suffering little ones, in our opinion, until she has given the benefit of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. Mrs. Winslow’s claimed to contain “no narcotics, nor harmful ingredients of any kind.” But, like laudanum, Mother Winslow’s was in fact opium-based.

Mrs, Winslow's Soothing Syrup

Mrs, Winslow’s Soothing Syrup

 

Elixirs were made of all kinds of narcotics. Patent medicines eventually recognized as “baby-killers” included concoctions like:

  • Dr. Fahrney’s Teething Sirup – Alcohol, chloroform, and morphine
  • Hodnett’s Gem Soothing Sirup – opium
  • Dr. Winchell’s Teething Sirup – morphine
  • Children’s Comfort – morphine sulfate
  • Dr. Fehy’s Pepsin Anodyne Compound – morphine sulfate
  • Dr. Fowlers Strawberry and Peppermint Mixture – morphine
  • Dr. Grove’s Anodyne for Infants – morphine sulfate
  • Hoopers Anadyne, Infant’s Brand – morphine hydrochloride
  • Jadway’s Elixer for Infants – codeine
  • Dr. James Soothing Syrup – heroin
  • Koepp’s Baby’s Friend – morphine sulfate
  • Dr. Miller’s Anodyne for Babies – morphine sulfate and chloral hydrate
    Dr. Moffet’s Teethina Teething Powders – powdered opium
  • Victor Infant Relief – chloroform and marijuana

 

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was available for teething and colicky babies. The company claimed that this product would greatly facilitate the process of teething, allay all pain and spasmodic action, regulate the bowels, and “give rest to mothers and relief and health to infants.” However, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup contained morphine and alcohol, and caused coma, addiction and death in infants.  – Food and Drug Administration

 

These were the days before the Food and Drug Administration. There were no laws regulating the sale of narcotics and medicines were not required to disclose what they contained…The children’s deaths did not go unnoticed. By the 1880s, doctors and journalists were starting to crusade against Winslow’s and its contemporaries…. In 1911, the American Medical Association added Winslow’s to its list of “baby killer” patent medicines.  A 2018 Smithsonian Magazine article called the era, “America’s first opioid epidemic.” In his 1998 book, “The Excruciating History of Dentistry,” James Wynbrandt called those days, “The golden age of drug abuse.” Fueled by doctors and journalists like Adams, Congress finally passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. It required medicine labels to clearly disclose what they contained. Opiates weren’t actually regulated until the Harrison Act of 1914.- Baby-Killer Drug Invented in Maine

Related Posts:

Civil War Service of James Madison Baskin

James M. Baskin, early settler of the Ray City area, fought in the Civil War.  He owned many slaves who worked at his farm, cotton gin and other enterprises.  At the start of the war he was about 32 years of age, and like other able-bodied southern men he joined the Confederate army.  He left behind his wife, Frances Bell Knox Baskin, to care for their young family and to administer the Baskin farm and business interests.

On May 6, 1862 he enlisted at Nashville, GA and was organized along with other recruits into the 54th Georgia Volunteer Infantry at Savannah, Georgia on June 5.   James Baskin became a private in Company E, a company of men from Berrien County under the command of Captains J. H. Evans and H. M. Tally. The regiment served for some time in the department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. From January-February, 1863 they were south of Savannah,  with Company E stationed at Coffee Bluff. The orders from March 1863 show they were among the troops assigned to the Savannah River Batteries and other  defenses. In July of 1863, Company E and other infantry units of the 54th Regiment were moved up to the Charleston area, where they were involved in numerous engagements. On July 16th, they fought in the engagement near Grimball’s Landing, James Island, South Carolina. From mid-July to September 1863 they were involved in the defense of Charleston Harbor at Battery Wagner on Morris Island.

James M. Baskin may have returned home some time around June of 1863 as his wife, Frances, delivered the couple’s first son, James B. Baskin, on February 9, 1864. Or perhaps Frances traveled to Savannah to visit him that summer of 1863.  Martha Guthrie and other housewives of Berrien County are known to have made this trip to see their husbands the following year.

The 54th Georgia Regiment was reconstituted on April 22, 1864. They moved to Dalton, GA arriving on May 2, 1864 and went into action in the Atlanta Campaign. They fought almost daily engagements: from May 7-13 demonstrations at Rocky Face Ridge; May 14-15 actions at Lay’s Ferry, Oostenaula River, GA.; May 17 engagement at Adairesville,Ga.;  May 19 combat near Cassville,GA.; May 25-26 Battle of New Hope Church.

On May 25-June 5  the 54th Regiment was participating in operations on the line of Pumpkin Vine Creek, Paulding County, just north of the town of Dallas, GA.

On June 10-July 3 Operations about Marietta and the Pine Mountain-Lost Mountain line; June 27 Battle of Kennesaw Mountain;  July 5-July 17 Operations on the line of the Chattahoochee River; July 20 Battle of Peachtree Creek.

During the Battle of Atlanta, on July 22, 1864 , James M. Baskin was wounded in the hip – one of 83 casualties the Regiment suffered in that engagement.

“He lay all night on the ground. The next day he heard a rustling in the grass and called out.  He was rescued by a Yankee soldier.”

He spent time in  hospital in Lagrange, GA until in April 1865 he was furloughed ‘wounded’  and returned to his home to Berrien County.  While James was away, Frances ran the Baskin farm and cotton gin.   With the end of the war, James Baskin returned to farm life.  After the Baskin’s slaves were freed, most made their homes on the farm and lived out their lives there

While working in the gin Frances had contracted a form of tuberculosis. She died on June 3, 1885 in Rays Mill (now known as Ray City), Berrien County, Georgia.

The widower James Baskin, with minor children still at home, decided to re-marry.  On December 30, 1885 he married Mary Ann Harrell of Lowndes County.  This union produced six children.

In his old age, James M. Baskin applied for and received an annual Indigent Soldier’s pension.  His applications stated that he applied on account of “age and poverty.” He was in bad physical condition and suffered from rheumatism. His application stated his wife owned a small farm where they lived with five children, and up until that time he was “trying to farm” and “made a scant living.’