The Creation of Bleckley County 1912
The Cochran Journal led the fight for the new county. In 1910 Thomas Lee Bailey purchased the two-year old newspaper and served as editor. He admitted to purchasing the Journal initially with the aim of using it to promote the formation of a new county. Bailey (1865-1949), the son of a physician was born in Americus. He and his wife Kitty Chaudron Blevins of Calero, Alabama arrived in Cochran in 1892. In 1896 he organized the Cochran Lumber Company. Bailey, a Mason and Methodist who soon became active in community affairs, and his family blended well with Cochran. The Journal, which he edited for fifteen years mirrored Bailey's personality and philosophy. Folksy, outspoken, upbeat, Bailey's Journal promoted what Bailey considered progressive.
Bailey's friend, Dr. Tom Walker, whom he frequently met at the ice plant and conversed with so long that the ice he bought melted, also promoted a new county. Walker worked diligently to secure approval for the separation. His efforts included strong letters to the Journal urging residents to support the division from Pulaski. Joel T. Deese, Longstreet landowner of almost a thousand acres of what was once George Walker's land, joined Bailey and Walker with supportive articles. Although born in adjacent Wilkinson County, Deese spent his boyhood days in Hawkinsville, attended West Point, and moved to Longstreet in the early 1890s. Immediately he became active in promoting better roads and a county library. Although Bailey, Walker, and Deese considered themselves progressive in advocating a new county, they referred to themselves as Old South sons "to the manor born."
The drive for a new county began in 1910 with mass meetings. At the Opera House in Cochran on June 20, representatives from Cochran community districts east of the river met and voted unanimously for a new county. At that time the Hawkinsville delegation that attended expressed only regret, and not opposition, to a new county. Hawkinsville's attitude, however, soon changed. While Hawkinsville's population was more than double than that of Cochran, 4,076 more residents lived in east Pulaski County. The east Pulaski Mitchell District of 1,556, extending from Hawkinsville to Dodge County south of Hartford, never was part of the Cochran community. The 2,475 Hartford residents, living between Hawkinsville and Cochran, divided their loyalties between the two towns.
The proposal for a new county divided Pulaski at Mobley's Crossing leaving the old county with about 725 land lots and seven districts. The new county would consist of about 600 land lots and the districts of Cary, Cochran, Frazier, Manning, Salem, Trippville, Walker, and a part of Hartford. After mass meetings in Hawkinsville, the committee to discuss the separation divided into advocates for a new county and the opposition. A verbal battle erupted between the advocates led by the Cochran Journal and the opposition led by the Hawkinsville Dispatch & News. The Dispatch reported overwhelming sentiment against division, an exaggeration except for possibly Hawkinsville. State Representative Z. Vance Peacock, who moved from Cochran to Hawkinsville in June, nevertheless agreed to introduce a bill to create a new county. The Southern Pacific promised to provide special trains to Atlanta for the opposition from Hawkinsville and the advocates from Cochran. J. P. Peacock from Cochran explained that sufficient passengers for only one special train materialized although Cochran planned to bring five hundred advocates. Of the one hundred and fifty Pulaski County citizens who attended the legislative meeting, only eight represented the opposition forces. The supporters included a broad representation from town and country in east Pulaski. They presented the petition for a new county signed by between eleven and twelve hundred Pulaski County citizens. The lawyers and citizens from both sides presented arguments. The opposition brought in their big gun, J. Pope Brown, who had moved to Atlanta. Attorneys Thomas R. Felder of Macon and Warren Grice represented Cochran along with such citizens as County Commissioner J. B. Hinson and F. D. Wimberly, both large farmers. The legislative committee, however, decided against the division.
Cochranites refused to accept the rejection with the Journal headlining their stand: "The Fight for the New County Not Lost But Just Begun. The new county advocates turned to the election of state representative. In a public letter, Dr. Walker, landowner and investor L. S. Phillips, and Cochran School Superintendent L. H. Browning asked Candidate Joel Deese about a new county. Deese, a leader in the new county movement, naturally responded that he would work as a legislator to secure the division. Deese won the election was appointed to the Committee on Constitutional Amendments. Leo Browning and State Senator Isaac Williams joined with Deese and lawyer Herbert Grice in speaking for a new county. This time the Committee recommended a new county by a vote of eleven to seven. The General Assembly, however, did not pass a creation bill for Bleckley County that session.
Success for the supporters of a new county came in 1912 when Joel Deese's bill to create Bleckley County with Cochran as county seat passed the House 131-27 and the Senate 39-0. The bill obtained approval on July 30, 1912 contingent on ratification by the voters. Cochran celebrated Bleckley County's creation with a barbecue on Saturday, August 10. A special train with three coaches carrying Georgia notables, including the majority of the Senate and several representatives of the House, arrived in Cochran for the event. A delegation of automobiles and the brass band met and escorted the dignitaries to Green's Park. Cochran and the surrounding country furnished an abundance of food to a crowd of three to five thousand. Acting Governor John Slaton predicted a brilliant future for a county named after the distinguished Judge Logan E. Bleckley. The voters approved the creation referendum on October 2, 1912 with even Hawkinsville relinquishing half of its county seat territory gracefully, 180-69. Editor Bailey attributed the victory to "In Union There is Strength" and announced in a banner headline, "Bleckley County Glorious Reality."