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Growing pains as Army established Camp Stewart

Chaos reigned for Hinesville residents

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POSTED: September 10, 2012 1:33 p.m.
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The old United Methodist Church was renovated, moved and turned into a grocery to accommodate the crush of new customers.

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While looking through some old papers I found a very interesting article that was printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution during the summer of 1941 by Mary L. Rogers. It gives a very detailed picture of what life was like in the city of Hinesville at the beginning of Camp Stewart. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

 

“The building of Camp Stewart, antiaircraft base, with its thousands of workmen, plus still more thousands of soldiers, has brought a general “fruit-basket-turn-over” situation to our little city of Hinesville, Ga. Renters of homes and business houses have played “kitty wants a corner” over and over again, but still no one is out of doors and all industries are going strong. We have become so used to the erasure of familiar landmarks, to seeing something grow up today where there was nothing yesterday, that we are no longer even conscious of change. We leave it to the visitors to do all the o-o-ohing and a-a-ahing, for the rest of us just don’t have time to waste breath in the general rush.

The Confederate soldier on the courthouse square stands guard over the Military Police stationed in Hinesville. The grounds adjacent to the National Guard Armory have become a free trailer park for workmen from Camp Stewart. Whole blocks of stores have sprung up on the once cluttered vacant lots. A picture show building has risen over last year’s dog fennels. A survey of homes and building shows 17 new businesses, 15 renovations of businesses already established and 15 new homes all built or put under construction in the past five months. This work has been going on alongside the huge construction projects at Camp Stewart.

Last October, the people of Hinesville gazed in wonder at the new brick printing office building going up around the old wooden structure. The press went on rolling out work at its old stand while the workmen hauled brick and mortar up the fast growing walls. Finally, the old frame was torn down gradually, while the press was moved to the back of the new brick building.

To almost every citizen of Hinesville this old building had some association. The writer’s grandfather was a clerk here when it once held the village store. Two generations of editors ran the county paper in this building. The dusty second floor, with its piles of yellowed newspapers, was an invitation to those who liked to rummage among accounts of their forefathers in Liberty County.

Second of the freaks occasioned by the boom would make Mr. Ripley himself believe he was “seeing things.” We have watched the gradual evolution of Hinesville Methodist Church into a modern grocery store. The building and lot were purchased by M.F. Price, of Vidalia, Ga. First of all, the tall steeple had to come down. Passersby jumped at the fram-fram of the gingerbread shingle trimming as it dropped from the lofty frame. Then, blocks were set under the building, which was moved by a machine resembling a boy’s homemade merry-go-round, with men pushing the wooden bar to wind up the strong cable.

Bad weather delayed the process of moving for a few days. The felling of a large magnolia tree took still more time. The roof of the building was torn by the oversweeping branches of an oak tree. In the midst of the moving process, it was discovered that the church had not removed the chandeliers. Strange to say, the fixtures were not harmed by the violet swaying and were taken down without breakage. Finally, when the large wooden building was squared with the street, it was found that the vestibule of the former church extended too far into the street and it had to be lopped off.

In the meantime, the laborers were having their own troubles. One man lost his pillow when the church belatedly moved its possessions from the temporary boarding house which the men had set up among the pews and altar posts. At night, the workmen could be seen cooking and eating by the campfire in the church square. By day the men carried on the various activities usually conducted in a camp. At one time they had a syrup can set on the coals to heat water for shaving. Visitors to the Women’s Club meeting in the Community House were shocked to see two men take seats on posts near the fire and solemnly lather their faces for shaving right out in the open!

Now, the crystal panes of the church, with their border of multicolored glasses were taken down. Modern blue lights shone down of a concrete floor and on out through a modern store front of glass windows and doors. The preacher must feel queer to see his former pulpit occupied by a huge wooden refrigerator. The choir finds its space filled by rows of canned goods. The alter railing is replaced by a large refrigerated showcase full of bologna, ham and sausage meat. Flowers contributed by the Missionary Society are now replaced by bunches of celery, turnip greens and cauliflower. 

One of the school children came to his teacher last week with the worried exclamation, “Miss Davis, what are we going to DO? They are tearing up the BANK!”

To him, this was just the last straw. He thought the world was ready to come to an end right then. However, business is being carried on as usual in a corner of the building while workmen prepare the enlarged vault. The note department has been removed to another building temporarily. The president of the bank has his office in his car parked just outside the building.

At Camp Stewart itself, the Georgia pines which once cast shadows on a floor of palmettos and wiregrass, now gaze down on asphalt pavement or sawdust walks. A huge water tank rears its gold and silver checkered head above rows of army tents and dozens of mess halls. Locomotives go puffing back and forth on tracks set between long warehouses. The officers’ quarters have been completed and landscaping has been started in front of the buildings.

Plans are under way for digging a 65 mile drainage ditch through the county, the construction of a sewerage system and the building of miles of roads through the camp. The Federal Housing Authority has begun plans to the construction of 100 homes for officers. Part of this work will be done by contract and part by WPA.

In order to keep pace with the rapidly growing number of unemployed caused by the releases from government projects at the camp and by stoppage of industries in areas to be evacuated, the Liberty County Commissioners have employed a full time WPA interviewer. The Dept. of Public Welfare now has a child welfare worker employed for the cantonment area of the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

The Farm Security Administration has a staff of four people who are working together to aid persons moving from the area to be evacuated for Camp Stewart. Those who are unable to move without assistance are given a grant for moving and a small amount for subsistence if this was thought necessary. A large tract of land has been bought near Hazlehurst and families will be moved to this project as soon as the prefabricated houses can be set up.

The extra-cantonment health unit has been organized with a medical director, two public health nurses, a clerk, an engineer and a number of other workers for special surveys. The unit also has supervision of the health programs in counties of the cantonment area with a nurse in Long County, a nurse in Bryan County and a nurse at Dorchester Academy for NYA work. Venereal disease clinics are held regularly by the nurses and the local doctors. Clinics are held at convenient locations in the cantonment area and are free to all persons. Diphtheria and smallpox vaccines are offered free at the clinics also.

All of these changes are just as palatable to us as a face-washing is to a 3 year old. Like him, however, we will strut about when it is finished and will enjoy looking at ourselves all dressed up in paved streets, buildings and well-landscaped yards.

 

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