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Posted on: May 3, 2018

Oak Grove Mystery revealed by PHS impersonators

Oak Grove Cemetery

 Lucy Brown Coleman, Marguerite Smith, Pennie Hardin, and Eugene Talmadge were brought back to life and honored by the Pioneer Historical Society on Friday and Saturday, May 4-5, 2018. These are the first four Telfair County citizens who are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in McRae-Helena that were characterized for their contributions to the community during their lifetimes. All four contributed in their own way to the history of the community. 

We had a sold out crowd on Friday night and a smaller crowd on Saturday morning. Overall, for our initial event, we successfully brought back the life experiences of four incredible McRae-Helena citizens. Our actors were exquisite and did an outstanding job of portraying these individuals. A few of the memorable highlights are as follows:

Lucy Brown Coleman (aka Laurel Straughan): Lucy was the oldest of a set of twins that lived to be over 100 years old. As Lucy explained in her congenial Southern accent, Lucy and her sister Lizzie are world record holders, being included in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the only set of living identical twins to reach at least 100 years old, a 700,000,000 to one odd. At their 100th birthday celebration, the likes of the National Enquirer, three TV stations, and over 1200 guests were present to help Lucy and Lizzie honor their achievement.

Marguerite Clark Knight Smith (aka Jean Graham): Marguerite Smith was one of the original founders of the Pioneer Historical Society and was instrumental in getting the South Georgia College auditorium building on the National Register of Historic Places. She was also a speech writer and great speaker. She married T.J. Smith, Jr. soon after his wife Lucille passed away. She succeeded her husband as the Treasurer of the Camellia Society of America. Her mother always said "she was from a family of crows, but she was the prettiest crow in the flock." 

Pennie Hardin (aka Eileen Clyne): At 4 years of age, Pennie Hardin could play the piano by ear. She was the pianist at McRae Methodist Church for over 40 years and memorized every song in the book. She would start playing before the congregation could open their hymnals to the appropriate page. She gave piano lessons to a number of McRae children with private lessons, and for years, taught piano in the public schools. Miss Pennie was a stern taskmaster and was always brutally honest with parents about their child's talents, telling one parent that her child had no talent.

Eugene Talmadge (aka Jim Wooten) is perhaps the most famous citizen of Telfair County. Eugene Talmadge was elected Governor of Georgia on four separate occasions. He was known as the Wild Man from Sugar Creek because of the location of his farm and for his devotion to the poor and downtrodden. He married Mit (Mildred Iona Thurmond) whom he met in Ailey, Georgia and moved to the Talmadge plantation where they farmed and he practiced law. His burial tomb is a replica of the Talmadge House at Sugar Creek. 

PHS thanks the people who attended our first event and hope we will be able to bring more of the same type of programming to Telfair County in the future.

As written by Robert Herndon and published in The Telfair Enterprise

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