The community of Hillsboro is just broke out with history but without Bessie Mae Turner to help me I feel lost.
Hillsboro, being on Highway 11 South (formerly the Macon to Athens road) got a lot of old time traffic. The community was established about 1795. General Sherman came through after crossing the Ocmulgee River and did a lot of plundering there as noted in earlier articles.
Also, Stoneman came through on the Stoneman raid and pilfered again, but Hillsboro hung on and survived intact.
Most of the old houses and buildings in town were not burned and some are still standing. Many interesting things happened in this community, let me tell you more.
Young Brooks Turner, joined the Army in 1918 and was sent to France as a machine gunner. This was WWI, wet and muddy in France and communications were not nearly as good as they are today. Later the family received an official notice from the War Department that Brooks Turner was missing in action and had been killed in action in France.
The family of course was in shock and a memorial service was held at the local Methodist Church.
There was a big crowd there to honor the hero including a 12 year old girl named Bessie Mae White whose father, John White, had a Planer Mill in Hillsboro and had moved down from North Carolina earlier. Later that same month, Brooks Turner showed up in person and it was discovered that he had been erroneously reported dead but it was another soldier by the same name.
Quite a bit of jubilation prevailed and interestingly he later married the young Bessie Mae White. This also made headlines in papers and books all over the country, “Young lady attended the funeral of the man she later married.” What a story, but only in Hillsboro.
Another Hillsboro story that brought national attention was that of the trial of Preston Cobb, a 15-year-old black male, who was convicted of killing local respected farm owner Coleman Dumas, Sr. in 1961. This was a big time trial that involved many people from all over the country since the boy was age 15 and black.
Eleanor Roosevelt got into the fray as well as some people that came from as far away as Germany and the Netherlands. It made a lot of headlines in the national media. District Attorney George Lawrence led the state’s prosecution and the jury convicted Cobb of murder and sentenced him to death. However, because of appeals he ended up spending considerable time in jail, before being pardoned a few years later. He died in 2004 after having a storke.
As a thriving and prosperous community, there were a lot of stores, churches, shops, a bank and an old school in Hillsboro in the very early years. The old two story school building built about 1917 still stands, as shown in the picture above, and is now the community center for special events and dinners.
Odd, but the gym and stage were on the second floor of the building and are still used for community dances with Harry Lynn Manville and the Star Dusters formerly playing there. Great parties and happy times happened in that old building. The building is still in good shape and used regularly. The only second story fire escape is a wooden ladder nailed to the building beside a window, only in Hillsboro.
A fire station was constructed in 1980 next door to the school and every day all the local “good old boys” gathered for bull sessions.
Hillsboro was a very close knit community and still is, and they are quite proud of this. They played great baseball and softball and excelled in all or at least led you to believe they did. Most of the old timers are gone now but it is still a proud community.
Let me tell you a great true story of one of its residents. It is told that Scotty Dumas, a grandson of the late Coleman Dumas, Sr., was working for a big auction company in Macon and his job was to precede the auction and gather local data about the property.
One day on a return flight from Houston he was sitting by a businessman who asked, “I’m from Kansas City son, where are you from?“ Scotty replied “Hillsboro, Ga. sir” and the man said “Hillsboro, Georgia? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of that city.” And then Scotty replied,” don’t feel bad sir, a lot of people in Hillsboro ain’t never heard of Kansas City.”
Only in Hillsboro, the very proud community of Jasper County.
Excerpt from the Monticello News