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March 28, 2002

Gotta love a gourd

Wrens Better Hometown hosted its third annual Gourd festival this weekend. See more scenes from the craft booths, fly in, pageants and special presentations inside this weeks issue on page 17.

Archaeologists date graves to 1800s

Owners plan to deed cemetery to whomever the county recommends

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Joe Rabun hopes the ideas resurrected about the old cemetery on his wife's land can now be laid to rest.

Rabun and wife Emily, owner of the 4.55-acre property on Deerwood Circle off SR 88 near Wrens, have taken steps they say should remedy the question of adequately addressing the presence of an old Brown family cemetery at the rear of property where two houses are being built. Rabun said Monday they have paid for a site visit by two archeologists on March 23 and made a trip to the University of Georgia to obtain historic maps of the area.

They are having the cemetery surveyed according to the plot laid out on a 1994 survey of the property and will have it fenced, he said.

Once completed, the couple will deed the cemetery and an easement to whomever the county recommends, provided that the grounds will be kept in good repair, Rabun said.

"I think in my heart my wife has done everything she can do," he said. "We wanted to be fair. We hope this lays the matter to rest."

Rabun hired Beaufort, S.C. archeological firm Cypress Cultural Consultants to visit the property and offer their opinions of the site.

In a March 24 letter archeologist Daphne Battle said preliminary observations of the remaining headstones consist of hand-carved rock, possibly sandstone.

She said the style of the headstones likely indicates an early date for the burials and is consistent with the type associated with European settlers on the late 1700s to mid-1800s.

Unable to be determined without using additional techniques is whether the cemetery was also used as the resting place of additional family or community members.

Disturbances of the soil in the immediate area require additional techniques to more accurately determine the presence of additional gravesites.

"The recent grading of the area immediately adjacent to the remaining headstones may have disturbed and scattered any broken headstones or other types of markers that may have been present," said Battle.

The archeologists recommended the use of ground penetrating radar (GPR) to provide a non-invasive approach to determining the location of additional graves, if any. Battle said the technique is widely recognized by archeologists as the best means for detecting unmarked burial sites, even though many people who do not understand the capabilities of GPR may dispute the results. The estimated cost of the full archeological study was $3,500-5,000.

Rabun said Monday he believes the expenses he has voluntarily incurred and the upcoming donation of the cemetery site and an easement adequately addresses the issue. He thanked the Concerned Citizens, the county Building Dept., county administrator James Rogers and the county commission for their time and help in the issue.

Yet for Rabun, questions surrounding the time frame and the initiation of the complaint remain unanswered.

"Why did it happen?" he asked. "Why did they wait until two foundations and two buildings started going up before they said anything? Why didn't they say anything when the property was clear cut, when the ground was cleared and graded, when the barn went up?"

Wrens Councilman Robert Stephens passes away

By Parish Howard

Long-time Wrens City Councilman and former editor of The Jefferson Reporter, Robert C. "Honk" Stephens died Thursday at St. Joseph Hospital in Augusta.

Stephens, 79, had served the city on the council since 1983 and voters had just re-elected him to another four-year-term in the fall, but he had been a servant of the people of his hometown nearly all of his life.

"He and I didn't always agree on everything, but I can tell you he was honest in trying to help this town, he loved this town," said Mayor J.J. Rabun who served the city with Stephens during his entire 20-year-term. "He did everything he possibly could for our town."

At the time of his death Stephens served as chairman of the city's finance, streets and sanitation committees and served as a member of its police, personnel and recreation committees.

Rabun said that the city is planning to hold a special election to fill his position on the council sometime in the near future.

Funeral services were held Saturday, March 23 at Wrens United Methodist Church.

Stephens, a native of Jefferson County and son of the late Annie Barton and Charles Wynn Stephens Sr., graduated from Wrens High School.

After attending the University of Georgia and marrying the late Alice "Peggy" Steed, he served in the armed forces. For 30 years he served as Post Information Officer at Fort Gordon and during his time there directed the publication of the post's newspaper, The Rambler.

He went on to become a charter member of American Legion Post 229, serving in different offices during his 58 years of membership. After retiring from the military, hespent three years as editor of The Jefferson Reporter, and became the fourth son to serve in this capacity.

"He really looked out for the library," Rabun said. "Anytime he drove by and thought the flowerbeds needed work, he'd let us know. He'd worry them nearly about to death, but he was looking out for the library and the city. He cared how things looked."

He was a member of the Jefferson County Library Board, a past president of the Friends of the McCollum Public Library, and was serving as treasurer.

He was also involved with and a supporter of the local fire department and little league baseball teams.

Stephens is survived by one son, Robert M. Stephens of Wrens; a brother, C.W. Stephens, of Wrens; two sisters, Mary Elizabeth Stephens Richardson and Norma Stephens Godowns, both of Orangeburg, S.C.; and a number of nieces and nephews.

Audit of Wadley police department shows nearly $2,000 missing

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

An audit of the Wadley Police Dept. requested in January by incoming Mayor Herman Baker and approved by the city council shows nearly $2,000 in fines and forfeitures on the general ledger for which there are no receipts from Jan. 2000 to Aug. 2001. Baker said the results of the audit have been turned over to the district attorney.

City auditor Garry Pittman recorded five occasions in 2000 and 15 instances in 2001 where entries were made on the general ledger for which there is no receipt. The discrepancies totaled $1,918.20.

Irregularities in the accounting of fines generated by the police department surfaced in September following a complaint by a Grovetown woman who received a notice that her driver's license would be suspended even though she paid the $108 traffic fine in July. A copy of the money order, cashed by former Chief Lindon James but not logged in at the police department, was provided by the woman. An unofficial internal investigation revealed that an estimated $3,000-$6,000 in fine money was unaccounted for.

James was dismissed Oct. 2 after producing only $65 in receipts for purchasing supplies for the police department with fine money. James acknowledged that using the fine money violated city procedure by not turning the money in to city hall but maintained he was left with little option because he could not access funds from the city to run his department. He welcomed an investigation by Georgia Bureau of Investigation, adding that an investigation that started at the police department would likely end at city hall.

The audit was called for in 2001 by former Mayor Pro-tem Albert Samples and the previous city council but was not conducted until Baker took office.

The council voted 4-1 at the Jan. 14 meeting to conduct the audit. Council member Izell Mack cast the dissenting vote.

Teams prepare for cancer relays

Momentum builds as dates for relays near

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

It becomes difficult to find words to describe the efforts and outcomes, the motivation and momentum, of the Relay for Life events in Jefferson and Glascock counties as they continue to set the tone and raise the stakes year after year for similar events in Georgia and around the nation.

Yet the efforts, motivation and momentum are in high gear and, as for the outcome in terms of money raised, the results will be evident soon enough. One thing for which there is no question is that the camaraderie and fellowship, the love given and love received at the events, will have no equal.

The 2002 Jefferson County Relay will be held May 3 and 4 in front of Wrens Middle School beginning at 6 p.m. with closing ceremonies and awards presentations at 2 p.m. the following day. The theme for the event is "It's The Spirit Of the USA To Relay." Event colors will be red, white and blue.

Jefferson relay events will include the opening ceremony and survivor's lap, baby stroller parade, candle lighting ceremony, talent show, pajama walk, raffles, activities and entertainment for all ages, late night antics that can only be understood by people suffering significant sleep deprivation and, of course, closing ceremonies and award presentations.

This year's relay teams include Disciples for Life, First National Bank, Firstate Bank, Friends for Life, Glendale Nursing Home, Glit, Inc., Ingles Grill Team, J.M. Huber Corp., Jefferson Energy Cooperative, Matthews Community & Friends, Old Capitol Inn, Regions Bank, The Pacers, The Spread Oak Stompers-Stapleton Community, Walden's Methodist Church, Wrens Elementary School and Wrens United Methodist Church.

Jefferson relay corporate sponsors include Glit, A Katy Company; Regions Bank; Davis-McGraw Furniture; Firstate Bank; Matthews Community & Friends; J.M. Huber Corp.; Jebco, Inc.; M.B. Jones Oil Co./ Town & Country Gas/Sprint Food Store; The Pacers; Touchstone Energy/Jefferson Energy; Wrens Medical Associates; Ingles Grill Team; Smith Trucking; Zaxby's-Vidalia/Gordy Sidetrack Co. Inc./Wiley Brothers, Inc.; Statesboro Imaging Center/Dr. and Ms. Don Conell/Shakerag Express/Citgo/Waffle King.

Advertising sponsors include Apex, WPEH radio the The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.

Jefferson County raised $143,000 last year and received awards that included #5 in the nation in per capita fundraising for counties with populations 10,000-19,999.

The 2002 Glascock County Relay for Life will be held June 7 and 8 at Brassell Park in Gibson. Event Coordinator Gwen Couch said the theme for the fundraiser will be determined by individual teams.

Glascock relay events will include opening ceremonies and survivor's lap, talent show, pajama walk, baby stroller parade softball tournament, lighting of the luminaries, raffle drawings, the Mr. Relay contest to determine the "best looking man disguised as a woman," completely indescribable activities throughout the night by teams who must remain nameless and, lastly, the closing ceremony and awards presentations.

Relay teams participating include Bethel Church, Gibson Methodist Church, Fellowship Baptist Church, The Headhunters, The Panthers, The Sidewalk Gang and The Diamondbacks.

The event's corporate sponsor is Badcock Furniture. Advertising sponsors include WPEH radio and The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter.

Glascock County raised more than $51,000 last year and received awards that included placing #1 in the nation in per capita fundraising and #1 in communities with a population under 10,000.

Also this year, the national Relay for Life bus will make stops in Glascock and Jefferson counties May 15. The bus will end the tour across America in September when it arrives at the Washington, D.C. Relay for Life.

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Last modified: March 27, 2002