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Title: John Porter Fort - A Memorial, and Personal Reminiscences
Author: Fort, Martha Fannin, Fort, John Porter
Language: English
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       *       *       *       *       *

  John Porter Fort

  A Memorial
  Personal Reminiscences

  The Knickerbocker Press

  New York





The reminiscences of his life and work were dictated to me by my
father during the summer of 1916. He touched only upon the main
events. There are countless unmentioned things that would add to
this story of a wonderfully full life, but I leave it just as he
told it to me as we sat together on the porch, or in the library by
the open wood fire. To these I have added a few tributes and some
clippings from Georgia newspapers.


[Illustration: Jno P. Fort (Handwritten signature)]


    The sweep of sky at eventide
    That melts within the majesty of pine;
    The hush that breathes serenity of space
    Where summer twilights linger long
    In benediction;
    Beauty of leaf and bird,
    Of blossom and star,
    Of sea and furrowed lands,
    Of storm that cracks the mountain peak to flame;--
    These were his soul which reaching held the universe
    Within the circle of his brotherhood.
    To their haunts they called him,--
    Note of thrush
    And wild heart of the trees.
    There 'mid glooms of cypress brooding moss
    And lakes of ebon pearl,
    With shy wood denizens and mist of boughs
    He met his God.
    Day beckoned him, and forth among the fields
    He stepped and sowed his spirit.
    Sowed that man might eat and live and "thank the Lord,
    Giver of all good gifts."
    And as of old did Jacob dig a well,
    And Moses smite to life the desert rock,
    So with prophetic eye
    He saw the hidden rivers of the earth,
    And brought forth drink,
    Praising the kind Beneficence "who fills
    All nature with his plenteousness,"
    Flashing anew the ensign of his life
    That "man is made to overcome the world."
    Years sped on and still his soul unfurled
    From out the snowy petals of his dreams,
    Still buds burst greening from his pruning hook
    And little children smiled
    In answer to the welcome of his voice.
    While from the sky
    The titmouse came,
    Leaving her nest and company of wings
    To perch upon the friendship of his hands.
    And so
    Through victory of his spirit barrens bloom
    And earth unlocks her prisoned waters,
    And places that he knew are touched with light
    As from diffused transcendence of his life
    And hallowed by the passing of his feet.


[_Editorial from "The Constitution," Atlanta, Ga., Sunday, February
18, 1917_]


No man of his day accomplished more in the nature of everlasting
benefit for the state in which he lived than the late John P. Fort
did for Georgia.

He was a man of vision--a dreamer--but with the energy and the faith
and the resourcefulness to push ahead, explore his vision, and make
his dreams come true; and in the doing of which he made of himself a
notable public benefactor.

Especially thankful should south Georgia be for the very
revolutionizing of the health conditions of that section which he
did so much to bring about.

South Georgia was once afflicted with a malarial condition which
seriously impaired the many advantages of that part of the state.
The development of the country had been held back through generation
after generation, despite its fertility and adaptability to
agriculture, simply because of malarial conditions.

John P. Fort turned his attention to the problem.

"It's the water," he said. And he set himself the task of finding a

With no guide save his reason and determination, he managed somehow
to bore a hole into the earth more than five hundred feet deep;
and was rewarded by a stream of pure, life-giving water. That was
Georgia's first artesian well; and, as he says in a remarkable
letter to Alfred C. Newell, written in October, 1907, and reproduced
in the magazine section of this issue of _The Constitution_:

     "The well has furnished drinking water during the summer time
     mostly for a circular area of ten or more miles in diameter for
     twenty-six years, parties coming in wagons with utensils to
     convey the water away for drinking purposes."

That well, still flowing undiminished, proved the rejuvenation of
South Georgia. It was followed by the boring of hundreds of others,
and the result is that to-day residents of South Georgia are as free
from the taint of malaria as are those of "the hills of Habersham."

The genius of the man again was manifested when, sensing the
possibilities of the timber resources of south Georgia swamps,
always before his day looked upon as worthless and inaccessible,
he managed to get capital interested, and, under his guiding hand,
the cypress lumber production of the state became one of its great

What he did for the fruit--especially the apple--industry in North
Georgia is known to every man at all conversant with the state's

A lake in the southern part of the state covered acres of fertile
soil. Generation after generation of men had found no means of
drainage. Fort found one. He studied the geological formation of the
country, applied the knowledge he had gained by his artesian well
operations, and reasoned that probably the lake could be drained--as
no man ever had drained a lake before--from beneath. So he exploited
his theory, bored a hole straight downward in the center of the
lake; and the waters ran out, leaving the bed ready for the plow.

"The inhabitants of the pond were left on the muddy bottom," he
writes to Mr. Newell, "among which was a large alligator. A strange
and wonderful sight to behold!"

And thus he spent his useful, constructive, busy life; doing
original--often daring--things, all for the good of mankind and the
development of his country.

It is exceedingly gratifying too, that, unlike most men whose names
illuminate the pages of our history, Fort lived to see his good
works, or many of them, fructify. He was honored in life, and was
appreciated for what he had done; but with the passing of time that
appreciation of him and his life work will grow, and the future
generations will honor and revere his name, it is safe to predict,
more pronouncedly even than do we who were contemporaneous with him.

As time goes on undoubtedly the real greatness, the constructive
genius of Fort will become even more generally recognized than it
is to-day. The value of his great service to the community will
become more apparent in the future than it has in the past; and he,
in the sphere of practical scientific achievement and agricultural
and industrial development, will be given rank in history along with
Sidney Lanier, in poetry; Alexander H. Stephens, in politics; and Le
Conte in science.


My father, Dr. Tomlinson Fort, was born in Burke County, Georgia,
July 14, 1787. He was the son of Arthur Fort, who was a soldier in
the Revolutionary War and a prominent man in the pioneer days of
Georgia. My father studied medicine at the Philadelphia Medical
College under the famous Dr. Rush to whose memory he was ever
attached. He returned to Georgia settling at Milledgeville, then
the capital of the State. He had a large medical practice, the most
extensive in middle Georgia, which he kept up until ill health
forced him to retire only a short while before his death in 1859.
He represented his county twelve years in the State legislature,
and his district two years in Congress. He was for years president
of the State Bank and trustee of the University of Georgia. He then
retired from political life. He served as a captain in the War of
1812, and was severely wounded while fighting against the Indians in
Florida. Had he lived until the Civil War I am sure that he would
have opposed secession. He was strong for the Union, and much
opposed to negro slavery. I remember hearing him say that he could
never look upon his slaves, which were about fifteen or twenty,
with any degree of satisfaction. He was a quiet, grave man of great
sobriety and learning. For general information I have never met
his equal. He had the confidence of all that knew him, the love of
family and friends. He was a most kind and sympathetic father. He
was the greatest man I have ever known.

My mother, before her marriage in 1824, was Miss Martha Low
Fannin of the Fannin family of Georgia. She was a woman of great
charm and of great strength of mind and heart. She had a large
family--thirteen children--nine of whom lived to be grown. Her
household consisted of ten or eleven servants. Ours was an open
house, friends and relatives always coming and going. Mother was a
busy woman and a very economical one, knitting our stockings and
making our cloth caps. She loved her children devotedly, which love
was returned by them.

I was born in Milledgeville, August 16, 1841; there I passed my
boyhood and youth. My early education was at a common school. The
school was carried on under the principle of the lash. It was
thought necessary to force knowledge by whipping. A child missing
two words in a lesson was usually whipped. My first teacher was an
Englishman named White. His invariable rule was to whip a pupil
found not studying his lesson. In one of my first reading lessons
I had to repeat "As high as the sky" in a peculiar singing manner,
which I could not do to please him. He stood over me with a hickory;
I was only a little boy, seven or eight, and I was frightened. At
last I said it in a way that suited him. He then grabbed me up, put
me on his shoulder, and marched around the room. Our next teacher,
Little, also whipped for the slightest offense. One day after school
hours several boys, among whom was I, went to the schoolhouse and
for revenge broke up the furniture. Fights between the teachers and
larger boys were the natural outcome of such system.

When a boy I was very fond of the woods and streams, and everything
connected with nature. My father took great pains to instruct me
in these matters, and in talking to him and asking questions, I
obtained a large insight into nature--much more than is usual with
boys of my years.

I was interested specially in birds. I remember that a couple of
bluebirds built their nest in a hole in a mulberry tree that grew
in the yard. One day I announced that the young had hatched, as
I could hear their chirpings when the parent birds approached the
nest. No one else could hear them and I was blindfolded to prove
my statement, which I successfully did. I timed the visits of the
old birds. On the average, once in twelve minutes a worm or some
insect was brought to the young. At about that time I had a small
collection of birds, which I had skinned and stuffed. These I
kept in my room. One day an old gentleman, Mr. Armstrong, who was
visiting in our house, when told of my fondness for birds, said to
me, "Young man, I have never known any one with an interest in such
things who ever amounted to anything." I was greatly mortified by
this harsh criticism, and made a bonfire of my birds. My mind and
temperament from childhood have been those of a naturalist.

Milledgeville is on the Oconee River at the mouth of Fishing Creek.
Swimming was the favorite sport with the boys of the town. I was in
the water a great deal and was a fine swimmer. To give an incident
I remember well: A boyhood friend, Joe Bell, was drowning; I caught
him by the hair and pulled him out, thus saving his life. At a later
time he saved mine in the following manner: During the Civil War, in
a mix-up in a swamp, we were fired upon by some of our own men.
Just as one of them had his gun leveled on me, his officer, who was
Joe Bell, recognized me and threw up the man's gun. We were quits.


When sixteen years of age I entered the Freshman class of Oglethorpe
College. This was a Presbyterian school, situated at a little town
called Midway, about two miles from Milledgeville. The president
of the college was Rev. Samuel Talmadge, an eminent Presbyterian
divine. Two members of the faculty, Mr. James Woodrow, Professor
of Chemistry, and Mr. Charles Lane, Professor of Mathematics, were
living until a few years ago. I walked to and from college for four
years, carrying my dinner bucket. There were usually five or ten of
us walking together. I remember on one of these walks killing a dove
with a throw of my Latin grammar. There were two literary societies
at college, the Phi Deltas and the Thalians. I was president of the
Phi Delta during my senior year, but I never took a high stand in my
class, as I was not a student. I was more fond of nature. Especially
during vacations I was in fields and woods with rod and gun, and
became a proficient sportsman.

Two of my classmates are still living, Samuel Quarterman and his
brother Pratt. Sam lives near Albany, Georgia, and Pratt in Quincy,
Florida. Sidney Lanier, Georgia's most distinguished poet, was in my
class. I remember him as a slender young man of medium height, light
hair, hazel eyes, and aquiline features--an ideal picture of the
poet and musician he afterwards proved to be. I do not remember that
he was especially studious or wrote poetry while at college. I do
remember, however, his proficiency in playing the flute. The strains
of melody brought forth from this little instrument dwell with
me until now. Lanier learned so easily that he carried off first
honor in his class. Later we renewed friendship of college days. I
remember going with him to Brunswick, Georgia, and viewing with him
the broad marshes, which inspired his celebrated poem, _The Marshes
of Glynn_.

College days came to a close, and I began the study of law in the
office of Mr. William McKinley in Milledgeville. I was not old
enough to vote, but I was an ardent follower of Stephen A. Douglas
in the presidential election of 1860, and because of this, was
called by the boys at college the "Little Giant" although I, in
no way, resembled him in stature. I took a lively interest in the
stirring events of the time. The question of negro slavery usurped
the place of all other questions. Then came John Brown's raid which
created an incredible excitement. No "Free Soilers" like Horace
Greeley or William Lloyd Garrison dared visit the South for fear
of actual violence. Then came the secession of South Carolina,
Mississippi, Alabama, Florida. Georgia felt in honor bound to
follow. Then came the inauguration of President Lincoln and the
firing on Fort Sumter.

The proclamation of Mr. Lincoln calling for volunteers to overrun
the South consolidated the people of Georgia, and as one man we
offered our services in defense of our homes. The excitement was
intense. I know my father, if he had been alive, would have opposed
secession. Although she greatly disapproved of war and secession
my mother did not put a veto on her three sons going. On the night
that Georgia seceded all the houses in Milledgeville were illumined
except ours.

All my strongest feelings were aroused. I felt called to defend
my country. In May, 1861, I joined a company from my home town,
called after my father's old company, the "Baldwin Volunteers." I
entered as a private soldier. I was entirely ignorant of everything
pertaining to military affairs. If I had known as I afterwards did
the difference between the status of a soldier in the ranks and
a commissioned officer, I doubtless would have aspired to, and
obtained, a commission, but I refused to consider the matter at all.
I preferred to handle a gun, as this appealed to me as being more
in accordance with the patriotic fervor that encompassed my being.
I was a slender, immature young man of nineteen. It looked as if I
would be unable to endure the hardships of camp life, but I soon
became hardened to it, and became an efficient soldier; always up
on the company's line; always up on the march; always ready for any
duty. The rigor of camp life agreed with me and from one hundred and
thirty pounds I soon weighed one hundred and sixty.

It was the 9th of June, 1861, before arms could be obtained. Then
our company was transferred to a camping ground at Atlanta, where we
all duly signed articles of enlistment. We were attached to the 9th
Georgia regiment. We were the first regiment to enlist for the war.
All enlistments before that time had been for twelve months. The
magnitude of the peril and the hardship, blood, and strife incident
to our enlistment were not in the slightest anticipated. We thought
it would be a short campaign. We knew nothing of the disposition
of our opponents and of the bitterness and bloodshed that were to

Our officers were all elected by ballot. The colonel was a Mr.
Goulding, who soon dropped out. The captain of my company was
Benjamin Beck of Milledgeville. I was made first corporal without
asking for the position. Afterwards I was made a sergeant and acted
for a while as first sergeant. I had reason to know afterwards that
any office is preferable to the position of a private.

About the middle of June we were transported by rail in cattle and
box-cars to Richmond, Virginia. There the regiment was drawn up in
line of battle and we had our first dress parade. Our regiment was
soon ordered to Strasburg, Virginia; there we disembarked from the
train and commenced our march down the beautiful Shenandoah Valley
to Winchester. Large wagon trains were in attendance to transport
our tents and camp equipage. How great a change gradually came over
our transportation department! From several wagons to a company, we
were reduced eventually to one to the regiment, known as the skillet
wagon, as the men kept their cooking utensils in it.

Our regiment was armed with an ordinary smooth-bore musket which
shot a cartridge loaded with a ball and three buckshot. By actual
trial our guns with such a cartridge were only effective a short
distance, and would not bear the ball and shot at direct range more
than eighty yards. Our cartridges were gradually changed to one with
a single ball. Each soldier carried a belt of leather around his
waist to which was attached a cartridge box containing forty rounds
of cartridges and a cap box with about fifty percussion caps. This
musket was used up to the end of the war, although a large part of
the army gradually changed for Enfield rifles, a better gun with a
range two or three times as far as a muzzle loader. The Federals
had an immense advantage with their superior breech-loading Spencer
rifles, which carried three times as far as our rifles, and shot ten
times to our one. Toward the end of the war this was equivalent to
doubling the Federal force.

During our first marches our knapsacks and all camp equipment were
hauled in wagons. But soon we were required to carry our knapsacks;
but we eventually threw them away, and carried our clothing in a
roll. The shoes I wore were splendid,--made by a shoemaker at home,
and my socks had been knitted by my mother.

At Winchester we were attached to Gen. Francis S. Bartow's brigade.
The army was in command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who rode down
our line, and I had my first sight of our commanding general. After
remaining in camp at Winchester, we were ordered to march farther
down the valley toward Martinsburg. Near there we were drawn up in
line of battle expecting an attack. While waiting we were suddenly
ordered across the valley toward Manassas Junction. We marched
all night; when the sun rose not more than one-fifth of the men
had reached our destination. I was among the foremost. In this
connection I wish to state that I had an extraordinary endurance on
long fatiguing marches. I never met a man in the army whom I thought
my superior in endurance.

Our brigade waited by the railroad expecting to be transported to
Bull Run. But as transportation was very limited the 9th Georgia was
left behind. We could hear the roar of battle, and early next day
we were upon the historic field of Bull Run, generally known as the
First Battle of Manassas. We marched over the battlefield only to
see the dead and wounded Federals. I saw the first dead I had ever
seen. It made an impression of horror upon me that I remember to
this day.

I recollect a day or two after the battle I came upon a horse,
wounded in the shoulder, standing in the shade of a tree. The wound
was such that he had no power to twitch or move the muscle of his
shoulder to frighten the great number of horse flies which were
sucking his blood. I was struck with the wise provision of nature
that gives the horse the power of shaking off insects by a twitch of
the skin.

General P. G. T. Beauregard, who commanded the Confederate forces,
rode down our line. We gave him a cheer, and I remember crying out,
"Let us go forward." My impression was the right one. If our victory
had been followed up, we could easily have captured Washington, and
the outcome of the war would have been very different. But we waited
and gave the aroused North full time to recover from their defeat,
and place large armies in the field.

While on picket duty on the hills in sight of Washington, our
regiment was under fire for the first time. I remember on one
occasion I had been standing with my hand upon a plank--I moved
away. A second afterwards a bullet struck the plank.

We remained several months inactive in camp, losing valuable time.
Camped near us was the 28th Georgia in which was my brother George
as a surgeon. We were also within a few miles of the 1st Georgia
Regulars, a splendid body of men, in which my brother Tomlinson was
a first lieutenant. So I had the pleasure of being near and seeing
my two brothers.

During the winter of 1861-1862 the hardships of camp life, caused
more than anything else by bad food and water, enfeebled my health.
While lifting a heavy log I sprained my back, and was ordered to a
hospital in Richmond. In Richmond I met my brother George, so did
not go to a hospital, but stayed with my brother, who, on account
of his poor health, was forced to leave the army. The surgeon who
examined me thought I was permanently disabled, so I obtained my
discharge from the ranks and went home with Brother George. At home,
in a few months, I partially recovered my health and insisted on
again entering the army. My mother would not consent to my entering
the infantry, therefore I bought me a good horse and proposed to
ride down to the seacoast where I would consider the matter, as
I was at that time exempt from service. But I went to Bainbridge
instead, intending, with a Mr. Campbell, to organize an artillery
company. But while there I met some college friends who had enlisted
in a cavalry company for the coast defense. I joined them as a
private and did some hard riding for three months along the Florida
coast. We were stationed at Newport, which is near the mouth of
the St. Mark's River in northwest Florida. This company was a
finely appointed body of men. They furnished their own horses and
were splendidly mounted. They were all young men of position and
education. There seemed to be no distinction between the officers
and men. I do not think there was a mess in the company that did not
have several servants to cook and wait upon its members.

I became a good rider, and before I left I was one of the best in
the troop. I was well mounted upon a fine horse I named "Red Robin."
I exchanged this horse for one called "Flying Ant," which was
considered a very vicious and dangerous animal, as she had disabled
two men before I took her in charge. I simply wished to show the
company that I could manage her, and I did. She was a splendid
horse. On leaving the cavalry for the infantry service I sold her,
including my fine cavalry saddle and equipment, to a prominent man
in Quincy, Florida, for fifty-five dollars in gold, which I was to
receive in a few days, but which I never did.

In January, 1863, I joined the 1st Georgia Regulars as second
lieutenant of Company B. The regiment had been ordered from Virginia
to Georgia to recruit its ranks. From there they were ordered to
Florida near the junction of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, and
there I joined them.

I shall not attempt to give in detail my life in this regiment--its
toils and privations, marches and battles. I shall only give
incidents in our campaigns that are personal, and I may often with
but a line pass over long periods of time.

At the time I joined the 1st Georgia, it was commanded by Major R.
A. Wayne. The colonel, and lieutenant-colonel had been disabled by
wounds and illness and never rejoined the regiment. Major Wayne
became colonel. He was personally one of the most fearless men I
have ever known. He was a gruff man, short and peremptory in manner,
in camp disliked by his officers and men, but in time of battle,
especially in great danger, commanding the respect of all.

During the spring and summer of 1863 we performed picket duty
along the coast near the mouth of the Appalachicola River. This
was useless from a military point of view, and our ranks were
more decimated by malaria than if we had been in many battles. We
were under the immediate command of General Howell Cobb. I have
never been able to understand why he kept us there with the daily
report of sickness and death. Oh! the chills and fever--and no
quinine! This medicine, so necessary in the treatment of malaria,
the enemy refused to pass into our lines. Three-fourths of our men
and officers were prostrated, many of them dying. It was a shameful
waste of life. The memory of the sufferings in those sickly camps
will remain with me always.

My brother Tomlinson was the captain in Company L in the regiment.
He was a good officer, beloved of his men and respected by the
officers of the command. He had been wounded twice severely, in the
Virginia campaigns, on the field of Malvern Hill he was left for
dead with a wound in the chest from a piece of shell, and at Second
Manassas with a ball through his leg. He was carried home from our
camp on the Appalachicola River so wasted with malaria, that I never
expected to see him again. All in the regiment were sick with this
disease that summer and I felt the effects of it through the entire

Early in 1864 we were ordered to march in all haste to Quincy, and
from there to entrain to Lake City. We rejoiced to leave our sickly
camp. Shortly before we left we were joined by a company of men,
which had been raised in Savannah as a command to operate heavy
artillery. They were men over fifty and boys under eighteen years of
age. They presented a most unmilitary appearance in motley civilian

A large force of Federals had landed at Jacksonville and intended to
march to Tallahassee and take possession of the State of Florida.
Their cavalry were marching upon Lake City and were within a few
miles of the city when we arrived. Our small battalion and a company
of Florida cavalry were all the troops we had to receive them. About
a mile from Lake City where we expected to meet the enemy we formed
a line in the pine woods. Soon they were in sight, and, on seeing
our skirmishers, dismounted and proceeded to attack us. It was a
foggy morning and the enemy approached within seventy-five or one
hundred yards before we perceived each other. I was given command of
the skirmish line. I was instructed to try to draw them near to our
line. Both sides commenced firing. Soon the mists rose. The enemy,
seeing our line of battle, retreated with haste. They outnumbered
us two to one. We lost no men. While walking along the line of
skirmishers I was aware of bullets whistling near me, one going
through my cap. Then I realized that the white blanket strapped
to my shoulders made a target, I pulled it off and the firing,
especially at me, ceased.

After this skirmish fighting our forces were joined by Colquitt's
and Harrison's brigade and we marched forward at once and met the
enemy on the ever memorable battlefield of Olustee. It was not the
intention of our commanding officer, General Finnegan, to fight the
battle where it was fought. About a mile to the rear our line of
battle had been formed with a protection on one flank of Ocean Pond
and a swamp on the other. A regiment was sent forward to entice
the enemy to our line of defense; they became engaged and regiment
after regiment was sent forward to support them until the engagement
became general, resulting in a complete victory for our forces.

The battle of Olustee was fought in the open pine woods. The victory
was attributed to the courage and determination of the soldiers.
There were no special tactics or generalship displayed. It was
simply a continuous charge of the enemy to break our irregular
lines which had been formed behind logs and trees. In this strong
position our regiment of one hundred and fifty men was at the
extreme left, with a depression filled with logs in front. Here we
remained many hours resisting every attack of the enemy, who were
many times our number, to dislodge us. They were in plain view and
being above us presented a fair mark. At last under shot and shell
we rose and charged them. We had already withdrawn our skirmishers,
so we overran their skirmish line with our line of battle. They now
hastily withdrew and our victory was complete. The battle lasted
from noon until night. I think it probable that we killed and
wounded more men than we probably had in our command.

During the battle we were commanded by Capt. Henry A. Cannon of
Wayne County, Georgia. At the beginning of the battle, after all our
men were in position, I was standing within a few feet of Captain
Cannon. I whispered in his ear that it was his duty to lie down, or
protect himself behind a tree as I was doing. The enemy was charging
in front of us, and I was satisfied no one could stand before such
a fire. He refused to move, but stood with his sword drawn calling
on the men to be steady. I had hardly spoken before a ball struck
him. He staggered backward saying, "I am a dead man." With my left
arm under him I lowered him to the ground. He died at once. He was
a good officer and a brave man. We were together in the same mess.
I wrote to his wife an account of his death and sent her a small
amount of Confederate money that Captain Cannon had left with me.
The day before the battle, while riding near a great live oak tree,
he had said if he should die in battle he would like to be buried
under its branches, so he was wrapped in his military cloak and
buried there. In this battle I lost another friend, Lieutenant Dancy
of Lake City, Florida.

At that time I had but three or four men in my company. They were
tried and true soldiers and were too few to require any attention
from me. So I went into the battle with the arms of a private

On hearing of the battle of Olustee my brother Tom returned to the
regiment, a very ghost of his former self. He was wholly unfit for
any kind of service and had to have a negro man to accompany him.
Strange as it may appear, camp life seemed to agree with him and he
soon reported for duty.

Our camp life in Florida's piny woods was varied with sham battles
between different regiments; the men used lighted pine burrs at
night as ammunition. Another entertainment was digging gophers
and often a rattlesnake out of their holes. We ate the gophers and
killed the snakes. I remember one rattler that measured over ten
feet and whose head was as broad as my hand, to stuff its skin took
a bushel of bran, and a straw was run through the hollow of its
fangs. I have never before or since seen such a serpent. It came out
of a gopher's hole to warm in the sun and its head was cut off by an
officer's sword.

The troops of both armies soon left Florida. Our regiment was
partly filled up with returning invalids and recruits. We stopped
at Savannah and were sent on Whitemarsh Island to aid in the coast
defense. There and upon Wilmington Island we performed picket
duty upon an extensive scale. For a short time we were engaged in
guarding a large number of Federal prisoners, who had been brought
from Andersonville to be turned over to the United States fleet
stationed at the mouth of the Savannah River. The United States
Government refused to exchange prisoners of war with the Confederate
States. The Confederate authorities wished to avoid feeding and
guarding so many prisoners. So several thousand were forced on
their government on the plea of sickness, although not one in ten
was really sick. These prisoners were taken down the river on flat
barges. I remember their shout of joy when they saw the Stars and
Stripes floating from the masts of the transports which waited to
receive them.

About this time General W. T. Sherman commenced his famous march
through Georgia, with nearly one hundred thousand men in his
command. There was no force to oppose them. And their course was
marked by fire and pillage. My mother's house in Milledgeville was
robbed of everything of value. My mother and sisters fled to Macon
just before this army of robbers had reached Milledgeville. All the
men that could be gathered together opposed Sherman's army as it
approached Savannah. Our regiment marched from Whitemarsh Island
and occupied a prominent position in the breastwork of defense.
General Sherman and his army confronted us and although twenty
times our number they refused to attack us, although we offered
them defiance for several days. General Sherman's tactics as a
general was exemplified here. He opposed us with an entrenched
line more than equal to ours and sent a large force to occupy
our flank, thus forcing us to retreat. Our regiment of about two
hundred and fifty men was commanded by Colonel R. A. Wayne, a cool,
fearless, officer. I was on duty as adjutant of the regiment. We
felt the hazard of our position. The rumor came along the line
that we were to be surrendered as prisoners. We were determined
to resist to the utmost. Suddenly at nightfall we evacuated our
entrenchments and crossed the Savannah River, leaving the city to
be occupied by General Sherman and his army. It was on a bitter
cold night, December 23, 1864, when we crossed the river. The scene
of our army at midnight crossing the river on the pontoon bridge
lighted by bonfires and the excitement over the evacuation are all
vividly impressed on my memory. The next morning when the sun was
barely above the horizon I looked across the wide rice fields of
Carolina, and saw the United States flag floating above the City
Hall of Savannah. The Federal army was delighted at the capture of
Savannah, especially of twenty-five thousand bales of cotton, which
were stored there. Though this was private property, it was ordered
shipped and sold for government account.

Our army when we left Savannah was under the command of General
Hardee. It contained only about eight thousand men, mostly reserves,
old men and boys. We never attempted seriously to oppose General
Sherman in his march through South Carolina. The march of that
army was a trail of fire and desolation. Their acts of vandalism
accomplished nothing except to embitter Southern people. Pillars of
smoke arising from barns and peaceful dwellings gave us notice that
Sherman's army had commenced its forward march. Our little regiment
was the rear-guard in nearly all of our march through the State. I
shall not give in detail the various scenes and incidents connected
with our marches and countermarches in front of the great Federal
army, nor shall I describe the scenes of confusion among the people.
We had less than ten thousand men of all arms, of these about five
thousand were infantry. The enemy pursuing us had more cavalry than
our entire force. We, who brought up the rear, would form in a good
position and dare this cavalry to attack us. They invariably refused
to do so. We were then forced to withdraw before their great force
of infantry could arrive to overwhelm us. Because of exhaustion and
sickness we lost probably about one-fourth of our army before we
reached Augusta. We passed below Columbia, but the main body of the
Federals took a direct line to South Carolina's capital with the
avowed purpose of its destruction.

I will now pass over the incidents of our Carolina campaign, until
we reached Cheraw on the Santee River. The enemy evidently expected
that we would give them battle here, because at this point we
had large commissary stores. But General Hardee had no idea of
attempting battle, except skirmishes. So we used every exertion to
get our army with all the supplies possible across the Santee River
and then burn the bridge.

Our little regiment, comprising less than two hundred men, was given
the dangerous duty of guarding the river until our cavalry could
retire behind us and then we were to cross the bridge ourselves.
Very soon we saw a dark line of horsemen among the trees. At first,
we supposed that they were the enemy, but they proved to be our
cavalry, about five hundred men. They came thundering down the road,
crossed the bridge, and were soon in our rear. Then in the woods
we saw a long line of infantry with their skirmishers in front
advancing slowly to attack our skirmish line. The immediate command
of our skirmishers was given to my brother, Captain Tomlinson Fort,
a calm, fearless officer. I, as adjutant, was instructed by Colonel
Wayne to ride along the line and to tell the men to fall back slowly
before the overpowering forces of the enemy. In returning to my post
beside the colonel, as was my duty, I had the narrowest escape from
death or capture that occurred to me during the entire war. I was
aware of the great danger I was incurring as I swiftly galloped
back in front of our skirmish line along the public road to rejoin
Colonel Wayne. As I emerged from the pines along the road, riding
very swiftly, suddenly I came upon two or three of the enemy's
skirmishers who had been firing at Colonel Wayne. I came into the
main road a few steps ahead of these men. I pulled up my horse and
suddenly turned to the left and at the same instant the men threw up
their guns and fired. By reason of my sudden turn I feel satisfied
that the balls all went in front of me. As I rode down the open road
a dozen or more skirmishers had some nice target practice at me,
but they did very poor shooting. A cup was cut from my haversack, I
think my hair was touched, and my horse was skipped by a ball. We
arrived at the bridge--with a large body of enemy skirmishers about
fifty yards behind us.

The bridge, a wooden-covered structure, had been saturated with
turpentine and rosin by a squad of our men who had instruction to
burn it as soon as we had crossed--I was among the last to cross.
The bridge was then smoking and burning, I remember being partly
stifled with smoke as I entered, with difficulty forcing my horse
through. The bridge burned like tinder and a few minutes after we
were across the flames were fifty feet high.

After we had marched a few hundred yards, our regiment received
orders to return to the bridge and see that it was entirely
destroyed. I never saw a better exhibition of discipline and courage
than was shown by our tired men. With no protection, and only a
narrow river separating them, they turned to face a force ten times
their number. Fortunately there was a natural entrenchment by the
river into which we filed and which fully protected us from the
enemy's fire across the river. Our situation was changed--the heavy
line of enemy skirmishers was along the open river and our men who
had been so long pursued were protected, so we had our revenge.

My brother Tomlinson, was stricken with a most acute case of
inflammatory rheumatism and had to be carried by his men, as he
did not wish to be left to fall into the hands of the enemy. After
we had crossed into North Carolina I managed to have him sent in a
wagon to Raleigh where he was taken care of by a kind lady, Mrs.
Polk, until his recovery.

I asked our commanding colonel that I be relieved from my position
as acting adjutant, and that I be assigned to command of Company
L, my brother's company. It now had no commissioned officer. My
request was complied with. Colonel R. A. Wayne called a meeting of
the officers of the regiment and proposed that on my being relieved
of my position that the thanks of the regiment be given to me. It
was agreed. The regiment was drawn up in line of battle, arms were
presented, and in the language of the order--"Thanks are returned to
Lieutenant Fort for his coolness and courage under fire." I was much
gratified at this compliment. I have the paper written in pencil by
Colonel Wayne, and have preserved it for my children so as to show
them that their father did not lose his presence of mind in times
of great danger, and that they are the children of a Confederate

General Hardee's brigade was now joined to the army of General
Joseph E. Johnston. At Bentonville, North Carolina, Johnston
gathered together what forces he could, and fought the last great
battle of the war. It was a bloody, indecisive battle, and ought
never to have been fought. We were confronted with a force over four
times our superior in number and ten times in equipment. No valor or
strategy could overcome such immense odds.

On the evening of the last day our rifle pits on the extreme angle
in front of our main line were captured. To recapture them a
detail of ten men from each company in the brigade was made and I
was detailed to lead it. It appeared a very hazardous undertaking,
but we retook the pits with but little loss. I was the third man in
the pits. At midnight our army retreated across the river.


As soon as we had a safe distance between us and the enemy, an order
came to send an officer from our division to Georgia to collect all
soldiers possible and bring them to the army. This order was given
to our regiment. Every officer except myself applied for the place.
Colonel Wayne was indignant at so many applications, and ordered me
to go. I at once made quick preparations to leave for Georgia. I
had written orders signed by the adjutant-general of General Joseph
E. Johnston's army for all authorities to forward me on my journey
with all means in their power. I was aided some by the railroads,
but I mostly depended upon walking, carrying a knapsack weighing
twenty-nine pounds. On my journey through the Carolinas and Georgia
I witnessed many scenes and incidents, some of an amusing, others
of a pathetic nature. I made a remarkably quick trip. A day or so
after I left the army a reorganization was made of our division. Our
regiment was raised to over one thousand men. Although not present
I was advanced to senior first lieutenant of the regiment. Many
officers were put back into the ranks.

While on the road I heard of the surrender of General Lee. It seemed
unbelievable, and I denied the report. I arrived in Macon two days
before its capture by General Wilson. An organization of cavalry
was hastily formed in which I was to receive an independent command
and join General N. B. Forrest in Alabama. But before this could be
accomplished in quick succession came General Johnston's surrender,
the capture of President Davis, and the death of the Confederacy.

In conclusion, Stonewall Jackson defined war as "Death." General
Sherman as "Hell." Whatever may be its definition it is always
unjustifiable, inhuman, barbarous; the cause has nothing to do with
the issue of the conflict. Success attends the side with resources
sufficient to overcome their opponents. For the last year of the
war it was the pure white flame of patriotism which alone sustained
the Confederacy,--its material resources were exhausted. No valor,
however great, could withstand the resources of the North sustained
by immigrants from Europe. The frown of civilization was upon the
institution of negro slavery and it had to go.

     NOTE--At Cornelia, Georgia, on March 25, 1917, a little group
     of patriotic women met to organize a Chapter of the United
     Daughters of the Confederacy, and when asked to select a name
     for the Chapter, the name of John P. Fort was suggested and
     unanimously adopted, the ladies being anxious to show, in some
     measure, their appreciation of his splendid war record and of
     his loyal and unselfish devotion to this section of the State
     since the War.

  MRS. R. L. DECK,

  Pres. John P. Fort Chapter, U. D. C.


When I returned from the army I had a severe cough and was in
a very run down condition. Brother George feared that I had an
incipient case of tuberculosis. So in the fall of 1865 I went down
to a plantation in Sumter County to try to recover my health by
living out of doors. That winter I lived the life of a hunter, the
gun constantly in my hand. During the four years of the war the
game had not been hunted at all, consequently it had increased
in great abundance. I was very successful in killing game of all
kinds--quail, ducks, wild turkey, and deer. To show the abundance of
the game, and my success, I remember that in fourteen turkey hunts I
brought home a turkey every time but one. There were several large
ponds in the place to which the ducks, principally mallards, came in
great flocks to roost. One late afternoon I saw two trumpeter swans
coming in to a pond. From a distance of one hundred and forty yards
I raised my rifle and shot one of them dead. It was a magnificent
bird, weighing thirty-nine pounds and measured nine feet from tip
to tip of the wings. There were coon hunts at night, and many hours
spent with the fishing rod. On many of the trips I was accompanied
by a faithful negro named Squash. My health improved, my cough
disappeared, and I went back to Macon a well, strong man.

In 1864 my sister Julia, Mrs. E. D. Huguenin of Macon, then a widow,
died as a result of a runaway accident. She left five children to my
mother's care. She bequeathed to my mother her home and servants in
Macon, and made brother George executor of the estate. The family
then moved to Macon, where we lived for about twenty years. The
family life was a most harmonious one. The household was presided
over by my mother, assisted by sister Kate.

In the spring of 1866 brother George died. He had been in poor
health for a long time, but, in spite of that, he had made a
splendid success of his profession, and had acquired a good deal
of property. He was the kindest and best of brothers. After
brother George's death I applied for testamentary letters for the
administration of the Huguenin estate. The letters were granted _de
bonis non cum testamentor nexus_. The estate consisted principally
of three large plantations in Sumter County. At Colonel Huguenin's
death there had been about three hundred slaves. I assumed the
position of manager of the estate, which occupied most of my time
for many years. When I took charge the estate owed about twenty
thousand dollars to Mrs. Rosa E. Delony, Athens, Georgia, a daughter
of Colonel Huguenin by a former marriage. I succeeded with great
effort in paying off this indebtedness, although the extreme low
price of cotton and the contraction of the currency made the
payment very difficult to make. Some years I was not able to make
any at all. At one time attempts were made to sell the plantations
at public sale. But I managed to pull through. My commission for
administrator averaged about eight hundred a year.

I resumed the study of law under the tutelage of Mr. L. N. Whittle
in 1866, and I was duly admitted to the Bar in the following year.
On account of the fact that the Sumter County plantations kept me
so busy, I was only able to devote a limited amount of time to the
practice of law. I was reasonably successful in my profession. I had
a good clientage who felt that their affairs were in safe hands.
Some of my cases involved interesting questions of law, several
being taken to the Supreme Court. I believe my greatest triumph was
the case of Mrs. Martha F. Woodson _versus_ Bodeing & Company, in
which the opposing counsel was Mr. Benjamin H. Hill, in which I
achieved a great victory. I retired from the practice of law in 1885
and turned my entire attention to agriculture.

During my life in Macon I was interested in the welfare of the city.
Under the auspices of the Ladies' Memorial Association, I erected
the Confederate monument which is standing to-day at the crossing of
Cotton Avenue and Mulberry Street.

My niece, Martha Huguenin, married Mr. J. Marshall Johnston of the
firm of R. T. Wilson & Co., bankers of New York City. Mr. Johnston
and I purchased large plantations in Houston, Lee, and Dougherty
counties, twelve thousand acres in all. The title was conveyed to me
and Mrs. M. F. Johnston. The affairs of the Huguenin estate being
now wound up I could give most of my time to agriculture on the
newly acquired plantations. The price of cotton continued very low.
I do not think at that time any one made money planting cotton.

At just about that time the cotton caterpillar appeared in the
fields of southern Georgia and bid fair to destroy the crop. Cotton
growing seemed doomed as a profitable undertaking. One day while
out in the fields I noticed that the moths, the parents of the
cotton caterpillar, were flying very slowly, as if sick. I captured
some of these moths and took them back with me to Macon, where with
the aid of a compound microscope I discovered they were infested
with a parasitic insect. This parasite killed them in a short
time. I, at once, communicated this discovery to the Entomological
Department in Washington. But they refused to agree with me in
this, the true reason for the quick disappearance of the cotton
caterpillar. Although I had testimony that the same trait of slow
short flight was noticed in the moths all over the country, I do
not know if any credit has ever been given to my discovery by the
Department, or how they finally accounted for the disappearance of
the caterpillar from the cotton fields.

In the year 1876, a society for the promotion of agriculture was
formed, with headquarters in Washington City. The organization
spread with astonishing rapidity, the farmers looking to it
for assistance. At a general meeting in Atlanta of the Georgia
organization, of which I was a member and officer, a resolution
was passed requesting the legislature to form a Department of
Agriculture. I was requested to prepare a bill. I had no guide
before me; but I drew the bill, defining its object in various
matters, and giving the commissioners power to prescribe rules,
and to prohibit the sale of worthless fertilizers in this State.
I handed the bill to Mr. Bacon, speaker of the House, and it was
introduced by Mr. Butt of Marion County. The bill passed without
amendment after much discussion, and was soon a law. A similar bill
was passed almost at once by several other States.

Among the plantations in the western part of Dougherty County,
purchased by Mr. Johnston and myself in 1879, was a body of land
of twenty-five hundred acres known as "Hickory Level." The land
was very fertile, there was no superior in that entire section of
the State. The plantation was very sickly, no white man but one
had ever lived on it for two consecutive years. Malaria in its
worst form was very prevalent. The death rate among the negroes was
alarming. At that time, the theory of the relation of the mosquito
to the spreading of malaria had not been advanced. I considered the
sickness to be due to a great extent to the very bad water, being
what is known as "rotten limestone," which was drunk on the place.
The question of obtaining pure water became so important that at
one time it looked as though the place would have to be abandoned
if some solution were not found. I thought first of building large
cisterns with sheds to catch rain water, but that plan involved
so many details, and expense, and there was the danger of easy
contamination, so I gave up that plan. I suggested then that we
bore an artesian well, as I had been investigating that subject and
believed that a well could be bored with success. The question was
discussed between Mr. Johnston and myself but held in abeyance on
account of the expense and the uncertainty of the enterprise.

During the summer of 1880 there was a great deal of sickness on the
place. There was very little rain. Water was difficult to obtain
and was of a milky color. During that summer I tried to interest
the town of Albany and the Central of Georgia railroad in the
enterprise of boring an artesian well to obtain good water. At that
time Mr. Nelson Tift, Sr., was Mayor of Albany; General W. S. Holt
was president and Mr. Shelman superintendent of the Southwestern
railroad. As best I could, I laid before these gentlemen, the
importance of good water to that section and what the benefit would
be to the town of Albany and to the railroads. I explained why I
believed artesian wells could be bored with success in this section.
And as I felt financially unable to undertake the experiment of
the first well, I wished to get financial assistance for the
undertaking from those who would ultimately be benefited. I received
no encouragement. I wrote articles for the _Macon Telegraph_ and
the _Albany News and Advertiser_, explaining fully my reasons for
believing that artesian wells could be bored in southern Georgia. My
theories were ridiculed, and received no serious attention.

At last, I determined to commence the undertaking myself. I had the
consent of my partner, Mr. J. M. Johnston. We were jointly to bear
the expense. I again laid the matter before the managers of the
Central and Southwestern railroads for assistance. I saw Mr. Shelman
in person. All he would do was to give me a free ticket over the
Southwestern road for the man whom I had engaged to commence the
well. This amounted to three dollars and fifty cents, which was all
the assistance I received from the railroads, and that was done in
anticipation of the freight charges that were to be on the engine
and other material that were to be brought from Selma, Alabama, to
Ducker Station for the purpose of boring the well. I had written to
a friend in Selma, Mr. J. C. Campton, to recommend to me a man who
was accustomed to boring artesian wells in that section of Alabama.
He employed for me a Mr. Jackson from Selma at the price of five
dollars a day, for his services, and use of his friction clutch and
windlass. I purchased an engine and steam pump and commenced work on
February 1, 1881.

My reasons for the faith I had in the practicability of artesian
wells being bored in Georgia was a matter of thought and observation
extending from my boyhood. One day while riding in a buggy with my
father in the lower part of Baldwin County, we crossed a little
stream known as "Reedy Creek," that flowed over many small round
pebbles that looked like birds' eggs. The banks, too, of the stream
were covered with these round stones imbedded in the earth. I got
out of the buggy to get some to carry home as checker rocks for my
sisters. My father then explained to me, that at an ancient period
of time this had been the shore of the ocean that had extended over
what is now southern Georgia, south of a line drawn from Augusta
to Columbus. I was interested in the facts explained to me by my
father, and remembered the conversation.

Many years afterwards while on the southern Chattahoochee River I
noticed cut by the river bank a stratum of blue earth, which I felt
assured was an ocean deposit known as blue marl, a deep-sea ooze.
This ooze is impervious to water, preventing the water underneath
from rising to the surface in springs. I noticed this deposit on
the west bank, the Alabama side, and that it was sloping downward,
eastward, and toward the south. I crossed over to the east bank,
the Georgia side, none was to be seen. But the natural supposition
was that it was there only lower than the river bank. This was near
Eufaula. As this marl appeared again at the surface near Brunswick,
I took what seemed to me to be a logical position that this deposit
extended under all southern Georgia, far down in the earth.

There were other phenomena I had observed on this subject. During
the Civil War, I was attached to a cavalry scout service with
headquarters near Saint Mark's, Florida. One day I went with a
comrade, Jim Denham, in a skiff up the Wakulla River to the Wakulla
Spring, about five miles from Saint Mark's. This spring is said to
be the largest in the world. It is a great natural curiosity. Here
was a river as large as the Chattahoochee or larger, rising up out
of the ground. Whence came this water? The natural answer seemed: an
underground river flowing under Georgia, which had been prevented
before from rising to the surface by some natural obstruction,
namely, earth impervious to water. The water had sunk into the
earth in the northern plateau and mountains of Georgia, where there
were no water-tight strata. I was greatly awed and interested in the
Wakulla Spring. At first my ideas of its origin were only vague and
crude, but became more definite and crystallized as time went on,
and as I added to my observation and thought on the subject.

There had been several attempts to bore artesian wells in Georgia.
In about 1850 an attempt was made to bore a well in Albany; which
proved a complete failure. They were wanting in continuous pipes to
reach water-tight strata. The water would seep out and never reach
the surface. Mr. Jones of Newton, Georgia, was the contractor for
the Albany well. I wrote to him upon the subject. He answered with
a most discouraging letter, stating that when a young man he had
lost a good deal of money in that enterprise, which he had never
been able to recover from the town of Albany. Another attempt was
by a Mr. Walker, called "Rich Billy Walker," a very wealthy man of
Pulaski County, who bored two wells near Longstreet, Georgia, both
of which were failures, although he went over six hundred feet deep.

My attention was also called to the fact that scientists and
especially the famous geologist, Joseph Le Conte, had said that
artesian water could not be procured in Georgia. In the face of all
this discouragement I am astonished that I was still determined to
go ahead, and too my finances were very low. In after years, in
thinking this over, I have sometimes felt that I was compelled to
continue the undertaking by some power outside of myself.

Commencing February 1, 1881, I continued the work through the spring
and summer. My tools were so inferior that I almost had to abandon
the well, especially when a boring tool, a reamer was broken off
in the bottom of the pipe. My well seemed to be a failure and was
ridiculed by some of the citizens of Albany. I remember one day
on the street that a Mr. Bazemore, a warehouseman, stopped me and
laughingly said that he had an injunction against me, because I
was trying to rival Noah,--the difference was that Noah wished
to rescue from a flood while I wanted to flood the State. Such
ridicule only made me more than ever determined to go on. With great
difficulty I succeeded in getting the reamer out. At about the depth
of four hundred feet I reached the water-tight stratum, a deposit
of deep-sea ooze known as blue marl. I had been looking for this
water-tight envelope and felt greatly encouraged.

On August 1st, I returned to Macon leaving word to continue work
until my return, which would be within a few days. On August 4th, at
ten o'clock in the morning I received the following telegram, "Water
flowing at seven gallons per minute." I was greatly gratified at
this, which was a triumph for my belief and for my perseverance. I
took the next train accompanied by Mr. Harry Edwards of the _Macon
Telegraph_. We arrived at Ducker Station the next morning, Sunday,
and went out at once to see the little well. It was an inspiring and
gratifying sight to see the water flowing from the pipe.

The country was in the grasp of a parching drouth, and presented the
appearance of a country in a great need of the blessing of water. A
great number of awe-struck negroes had assembled. They regarded me
with great wonder and astonishment. It was thought that the Almighty
had informed me to strike at that special spot, and I was likened to
Moses, who in the wilderness struck the rock from which water gushed
out. The news spread. The well was visited by many people who came
to wonder and drink the splendid water. An account of my success was
published in many of the State papers. The first being the _Macon_
_Telegraph_ with an article by Mr. Edwards in which I was much

This gem of a little well, five hundred and fifty feet deep, of the
purest life-giving water, of less than one hundred grains of any
substance to the gallon, flowed nineteen years without diminishing.
Its diminution at the end of this time was caused by chemical
corrosion of the pipe, a hole being made, through which the water
passed into the great sand bed above the water-tight strata. I
successfully telescoped the pipe with a smaller one. The well had
only ceased to flow two or three days.


_U. S. Geological Survey_

                                                     Thickness  Depth
                                                        Feet     Feet

  A few feet of surface clay, followed by limestone
    bowlders                                             65       65

  Limestone with silicified layers containing
    shells--Traversed by subterranean streams            85      150

  Blue marl (clay?)                                      15      165

  Shell rock, sand rock, and marl (clay); water rose
    to within 14 feet of surface                         95      260

  Sand tinted blue; layer of very fine white sand
    at 370 feet, below which was some coarse
    sand with shell fragments and sharks' teeth         120      380

  Blue clay and sand rock in alternate layers            30      410

  Blue clay with soft sand rock to flowing water         80      490

  Sand and clay, forming water-bearing stratum           40      530

  Hard rock                                              17      547

My successful boring of this well was quickly followed by the boring
of others. The town of Albany and the Central railroad bored two
at once, showing that they recognized the fact that it would be of
value to them. Soon there were wells in Jacksonville and Sanford,
Florida, and Brunswick and Savannah, Georgia. Other places quickly
followed, getting their entire water supply by this means.

Gradually the excitement occasioned by my well died out. By many
it was looked upon as an accidental discovery and I was put in the
list of cranks. I believe that it even caused my credit to suffer,
for the banks of Albany, looking upon me as a crank, refused to
lend money to a visionary. Nor has the Central of Georgia railroad,
which more than any corporation was benefited by my success, ever
acknowledged it in any way, or ever extended to me any special
courtesy. The boring of my well, which cost eleven hundred dollars,
was never a help to me financially. But it was a great satisfaction
to me, to know that I was instrumental in procuring the blessing of
good water for a great section of my native State, and to know this
has been recognized and praised by many.

During the first ten years my little well was used by a large circle
of the surrounding population who daily hauled barrels of water
from the plantation. No charge for this water was ever made. It was
free to all. It was a great satisfaction to me to see how the health
on the plantation was improved. Malaria decreased, and hemorrhagic
fever, the great curse of the country, almost disappeared. Pure
water is a great preventive of sickness.

Times were hard, but I met all my pecuniary obligations, although
sometimes paying as high as fourteen per cent. for money loaned on
my real estate as security, taking it as valued at one dollar per

I consider the year 1881 the brightest in my life, as it contained
two momentous happenings; in August the boring of my artesian well,
and in October my marriage to Miss Lulah Hay Ellis of Atlanta, which
event was the most important in my life.

I brought my wife to Macon where we lived three years. I then gave
up entirely my law practice, and left Macon. I took my family,
my wife and two little daughters, to spend the winter months on
Cooleewahee, one of my plantations near Albany. My wife became
devoted to this plantation. We lived a healthful and happy life in
the open. As game was plentiful, Lulah, with her fishing rod, and I,
with my gun, supplied our table.

I now return to my work with the water of south Georgia.

During the boring of my artesian well we drilled through a
limestone stratum, eighty feet from the surface to one hundred and
ten. When this stratum was reached all the water which could be
pumped down the pipe would disappear. I considered this a strange
thing. I inquired of contractors in Albany and the neighborhood
if they had met with similar strata. They informed me that they
had. On receiving this information, I felt confident that water
let down into this stratum from a pond would disappear. I became
so interested in this proposition that I determined to make the

This section of Dougherty County is not over two hundred feet above
the sea level and has on it a great many shallow ponds which have
no natural drainage and which, because of the flatness of the land,
cannot be drained by ditching. Near the artesian well on my Hickory
Level plantation there was a pond of this character. It was not over
twelve feet deep and covered several acres of ground. I thought
that this stagnant water contributed to the sickness of the place,
and to the high death rate from malaria. Later scientific research
concerning the mosquito has proved the connection of stagnant ponds
and malaria.

I determined to drain this pond into that subterranean limestone
stratum eighty feet below the surface. I had a boat built and
transported pine logs to the center of the pond, laid them in a
square, building this up until it was above the surface. I then
had a platform put upon this crib, connected a small derrick,
made a large swinging maul, and drove a three-inch pipe down to
the hard-rock stratum. I then attached a chisel to a two-inch
pipe which was let down in the three-inch one and cut the rock by
continually raising it up and down, thus cutting through the rock
until we reached that honeycombed stratum which I was looking for.
When the chisel struck this porous rock it fell about two feet.
A large quantity of air rose to the surface, startling the two
negroes who were working on the chisel. The top of my three-inch
pipe was several short pieces screwed together. I now unscrewed
and left open at the bottom of the pond the three-inch pipe. The
roar of the water as it went into this subterranean cavity sounded
like a small cascade. The water in the pond decreased gradually for
about two weeks, when it disappeared. The drained bottom presented
a remarkable sight--many fish, alligators, and trunks of ancient
trees were exposed to the sun.

This was a complete drainage and cost about one hundred and fifty
dollars. By preventing the pipe from being stopped up with debris,
the pond was kept successfully drained for several years. But,
finally, through the difficulties of keeping it open, as there were
only negroes on the plantation, and because of general inattention,
the pipe became stopped up and the pond filled again.

I would here like to state that to my knowledge this method of
subterranean drainage has been taken advantage of, in several
localities. One that has been specially drawn to my attention is
the drainage with six pipes by Mr. T. F. Putney, of Albany, of
several hundred acres. This has greatly increased the value of his
land. There are many ponds in south Georgia that I believe could be
drained in the same way, as I feel assured that this same porous
limestone stratum extends under that entire section.

I believe that this method could be the answer to the great problem
of draining the Everglades of Florida. That State is now spending
large sums of money on the attempt to drain parts of these vast
swamps by canals and ditches. I believe that under this section of
Florida is the same geological formation as under Dougherty County,
Georgia, and into which could be drained the surface water. And at
only a fraction of the cost of the system now being attempted.

I also hold the theory that the earth slides at the Panama Canal
could be remedied in the same way, these slides being caused by very
wet earth. The geological formation at the Isthmus is volcanic,
resting on tertiary. Where the slides occur is one hundred feet
above sea level. I think that a system of pipes, from the surface
into a sand stratum which runs under the Isthmus, would remove the
water from this wet earth. I shall not here go into my theory in
detail. I have suggested it to Mr. Goethals, the engineer of the
canal, and state it here not only as a theory of mine, but as a
prophecy of the system that will ultimately be used.

As I became more and more convinced of the immensity of the
underground waterways of Georgia, vast underground rivers making
their way to the sea, and as I realized more fully the inexhaustible
supply of good water to be obtained, I had the vision of a large
area of our State being made more healthful because of pure water,
and prosperous by the use of that same water for the irrigation of
the land in the growing of crops.

I had always been interested in the problem of irrigation. Many
years ago, a Mr. H. S. Orme moved from Milledgeville to Los Angeles,
California. When on a return visit of Mr. Orme, I asked him what
was the most wonderful thing he had seen in the West. He replied
that which most impressed him was the fact that on a piece of land
watered by irrigation such splendid fruit and vegetables were raised
that it was worth five hundred dollars an acre; adjoining this tract
was land which could be bought for one dollar per acre because it
could not be reached by water. This showed the great value of water,
both pieces of land being of the same fertility.

There is no section of Georgia that is arid, but a large section of
southern Georgia is subject to prolonged summer drouths, when the
crops burn badly, sometimes being totally destroyed. It is good land
and with the help of commercial fertilizer and water could make over
one hundred bushels of corn and two bales of cotton to the acre.
This section is geologically in the tertiary system and I believe
that in it artesian water is everywhere obtainable.

I was so impressed with these facts and my belief in the underground
waters of the State was so strong, that I determined, if I were ever
financially able, to make a practical demonstration of what could
be done in this section by the help of irrigation from an artesian

In late years, with much difficulty and limited means, I have
illustrated the truth of my theory. I have, ten miles from Albany,
a plantation known as Tompkins. The land is good and well suited to
my purpose. On this plantation I determined to make an irrigation
plant. With difficulty, in spite of accidents, I succeeded in boring
a well five hundred and fifty feet deep. From a pipe six feet above
ground there now flow thirty-five thousand gallons per day. This now
fills a reservoir which holds four hundred thousand gallons. This
reservoir is about four feet above the field to be irrigated. I was
financially unable to make a cement reservoir which would have cost
between three and four thousand dollars. I made a cheap substitute
of sand and clay at the cost of about one hundred dollars. I
plastered the sides and bottom of my reservoir with sand and clay,
and which I had mixed by dragging a log back and forth across
it. The log acted as a trowel, and made the reservoir perfectly

This reservoir now irrigates a field of fourteen acres. On this
tract I have for the last three years averaged per acre two bales of
cotton, and over one hundred and fifty bushels of corn, and over
four hundred bushels of fine onions.

Mr. Milo Williams, a United States irrigation engineer, on looking
over my plant, said that this large section of Georgia was worth
from three hundred to five hundred dollars per acre, that is, if
the water supply was equal to what I believe it to be, and if the
availability of the water became generally known. He said, too, that
this land compared favorably with lands that were selling at that
price in the irrigated section of the far West. The United States
Department of Agriculture was interested in my work and gave me
practical advice on the irrigation of my field, but on account of
some technicality in the irrigation appropriation I was given very
little financial assistance. I had hoped that the Department would
take up my idea and do some developing on a large scale as they have
done in the West.

I wish again to state more fully my reasons for my confidence in
the possible development of the underground resources of Georgia--a
matter I believe most important. There is a surface geological
formation called eocene commencing near Dublin in Laurens County,
extending in a southwesterly direction through the counties of
Pulaski, Dooly, Sumter, Lee, Dougherty, Early, and Decatur, across
a narrow strip of West Florida. I feel confident that under this
formation flows a great river with collateral branches which comes
to the surface at Wakulla Springs. Wherever this eocene formation is
clear and distinct I believe an artesian well may be obtained, and
that my well taps that great underground river.

There are other underground waterways taking different directions
and different surface formation that flow under southern Georgia
and Florida. There is a large quantity of fresh water that comes
up in the Gulf of Mexico near Cedar Keys, Florida, another in the
Atlantic Ocean at Sheep Island, near Brunswick, Georgia. Brunswick
has excellent artesian wells.

I believe in the future this water power will be developed for
irrigation. It will not require much capital, if the inexpensive
furrow system of irrigation is employed, and the well once obtained
is permanently there. I picture that part of the State prospering
with the raising of cereals and cattle. There will be beautiful
farms and comfortable homes. Thus showing that adding water to the
other bounties of nature, this land can yield abundant crops with
the aid of the wisdom and industry of man.

We shall now turn our attention to my work in fruit growing in
northeast Georgia.

In the summer of 1886, we decided to spend the summer months in
the cool and healthful climate of north Georgia. We bought a small
cottage in Mount Airy, Habersham County, where my family have
spent the subsequent summers. The last fifteen years being spent
in a large comfortable home on the highest point in the village,
with magnificent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding
country, and beautified with a profusion of flowers with which my
wife has great success.

In north Georgia my first work was with grapes. In 1890 I bought
some land near Mount Airy and planted out a vineyard of Concords
and Niagaras. I raised splendid grapes. I have never seen their
equal, being superior in quality to those grown in New York State.
Our climate made them especially sweet and tender. I did not make
much money with my vineyards as the prices were low and express and
commission so high. The grapes were attacked by the black rot. I was
unable to eradicate it, although I tried the best means then known
to the United States Department of Agriculture. So I was compelled
to abandon the cultivation of grapes on account of this disease
which became uncontrollable.

In my observation of the country around Mount Airy I became
satisfied that a large section of the dividing ridge between the
Chattahoochee and Savannah rivers, on which ridge Mount Airy is
situated, was specially adapted to the growth of peaches. My
principal reason for this belief was the freedom of this ridge from
late frosts. This absence of frosts is caused by oscillation of
the atmosphere--the cold air from the high lands draining to the
valley. Frost does not form when the air is in motion. My theory
that peaches planted on these ridges are not killed by a late frost
has proved to be correct. I did not reckon with the cold winds that
swoop down on this section from the northwest, the temperature going
very low, sometimes to zero, and killing the fruit buds. This fall
of temperature often comes after comparatively warm weather, which
had caused the buds to swell. I determined to plant a peach orchard
on one of these ridges. In 1895 Mr. R. H. Plant, of Macon, and I
purchased some land splendidly situated about three miles west of
Mount Airy. We planted about twenty acres in peaches. This orchard
is known as "Clear View." Later I became the sole owner of this
orchard. I also planted orchards in the other side of Mount Airy. I
increased my orchards until I have one hundred and twenty acres in
peaches--about twelve thousand trees. I, at first, planted a good
many varieties, but my greatest success has been with Elbertas,
Georgia Belles, Crawfords, and Fox's Seedling. In good seasons I
have shipped from fifteen thousand to eighteen thousand crates to
markets at Boston, New York, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Chicago. I
have obtained net, as high as $1070 for a car, my peaches selling as
high as $3.50 a crate in New York. But this was by no means always
the case. Some seasons on account of the glutting of the market it
hardly paid to ship.

The fruit is of great beauty, of large size and bright color, and
delicious flavor. My example has been followed by many others, and
now from several miles above Mount Airy to Alto, ten miles below,
are hundreds of acres planted in peaches, as many as six hundred
cars being shipped out of this section in one season. I believe as
a whole the growers have made money. Land has greatly advanced in
price. When I first put out my orchard, ridge lands sold at two
dollars per acre. Now it is worth from fifty to one hundred and
fifty dollars.

It has been very gratifying to me to see an industry, in this
section in which I was the pioneer, flourish and bring prosperity to
the people. During peach season as much as thirty thousand dollars
are paid out for labor alone.

I now wish to speak of another experiment of mine in fruit culture.
Although this experiment has not proved a financial success, it is
of interest, and I believe that yet through scientific work it will
be made a success. I speak of my cherry orchard. My largest orchard
of cherries is at Clear View. I planted the large leaf variety of
sweet cherry--the large leaf protecting the tree from the sun,
which is too hot for them in this climate. I planted a variety of
Bigarreau cherries that holds its leaves longer than most varieties.
Though splendid trees, and generally blooming profusely, there is a
lack of fertilization of the bloom, and what few cherries are made
fall before maturing. I believe this condition is mostly due to the
lack of moisture at the season of blossoming. I now have some ideas
that may be able to correct this, and I believe my cherry orchard
will yet prove a success. Man is made to overcome all obstacles.

I have been interested in the growing of many kinds of fruits. I
have large pear orchards on my south Georgia plantations, Le Conte
and Keifer pears. The trees have been badly blighted but have been a
moderate financial success.

I now come to what I consider the most successful undertaking of
the latter part of my life--the growing of apples in Rabun County,

I shall begin with a few words on apple culture in Georgia. Draw
a line through our State from Augusta through the cities of
Milledgeville and Macon to Columbus, and we will note at these
cities that our rivers break over the granite rocks, and from thence
flow gently to the ocean. Below this primary geological formation is
nearly two-thirds of the area of our State, none of which is more
than five hundred feet above sea level. This large area is classed
as tertiary, and presents a soil and climate in which the apple has
never been successfully grown.

Immediately north of this line we come to the granite formation
known as primary--comprising a large portion of the State, in which
are included the red hills of Georgia. In this section certain
classes of apples succeed well. This type may be illustrated by
the Red June and Horse apple for summer; and the Yates and Terry's
Winter for winter. These apples succeed better the higher altitude
we reach in this primitive area of the State. They seem to approach
a higher degree of perfection as the altitude above sea level

I am inclined to think that climate and altitude above the sea level
are the two most important factors in successful apple-growing in
the State of Georgia.

We will now consider that area of our beloved State from which arise
the headwaters of our streams that flow into the Atlantic and Gulf.
This is termed the mountain section, and embraces that portion of
Georgia lying from 1800 to 3000 feet above sea level.

To go back to the beginning of my interest in this question,--I
moved in the fall of 1898 to Demorest, a few miles from Mount Airy,
for the winter months, for the purpose of putting my children in
school, Demorest having good educational advantages.

Through Demorest there used to pass covered wagons full of apples on
their way from the mountains to Athens. I was struck with the beauty
of these apples, especially with an apple called the "Mother" apple
which was capable of a very high polish and very free from blemish.
On talking to the wagoners I found that they came down from Rabun
County, Georgia, and near Shooting Creek, North Carolina, and that
they grew their apples with very little care or cultivation. I was
so interested that I went up to Rabun to study the apple question.
I applied for the government meteorological maps of this section.
I was struck by its heavy rainfall. An area of about thirty miles
square with the center at Clayton, Rabun County, and extending
into North Carolina, has the largest rainfall of any part of the
United States, except Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast--a rainfall
averaging from seventy to one hundred inches per annum. This does
not come in floods, but all through the year in continual showers.
I have often stood in Rabun Gap and been struck with wonder at the
mist being drawn through Rabun, Hiawassee, and Crow Gaps, forming
clouds laden with moisture to be deposited upon the mountains and
vales of this favored country. They often present scenes of sunshine
and clouds so inspiring and grand that they seem to encircle us with
the majesty of Almighty Power. This rain upon a well-drained soil
is very adaptable to the growth of splendid apples. On seeing what
fine apples could be grown without cultivation, one naturally asked
what could not be done with modern scientific culture. I wished very
much to plant an orchard in that favored section. At first I tried
to interest persons with capital in this enterprise, which I felt
confident would be a profitable investment. I met with no success
so, in spite of my limited resources, I determined to make the
venture myself.

In pursuance of my long contemplated desire, I purchased in 1906
fifty acres of land near Rabun Gap in northeast Georgia, for the
purpose of planting an apple orchard. The position chosen was within
a mile and a half of Rabun Gap, on the Tallulah Falls railroad. The
place was known as Turkey Cove, situated on Black's Creek which
forms the headwaters of the Tennessee River. There were upon the
place about fifty apple trees that had been planted fifteen or
twenty years. They were overgrown with wild vines, and presented
a very neglected appearance. I had the old trees cared for and
I planted a young orchard of twelve hundred trees of approved
varieties of apples. The young apple trees I planted grew, and the
old trees responded to the care given them. After the first year's
care and cultivation, I noticed in the old orchard four trees that
produced a red apple that surprised me with its splendid appearance.
They ripened about November 1, 1908.

About this time I received by mail a pamphlet stating that there was
to be held at Spokane, Washington, the first National Apple Show. A
prize was offered for the best two barrels or six boxes of apples
grown in the sixteen Southern States. This prize was called the
"Southern States Special" and was divided into first, second, and
third prizes. I decided to send six boxes of my apples to contest
for the "Southern States Special." I had about twenty-five bushels
from the four trees. I shipped six boxes by express. In return I
received a check for $50 for the second best apples--North Carolina
receiving the first prize, my apples the second, and apples from
Oklahoma the third prize.

Being elated with my success I had my four apple trees specially
cared for. On November 1, 1909, they presented an appearance
superior to any similar sight I had ever beheld. The National Apple
Show was again held in Spokane in November, 1909. I again contended
for the first prize, "Southern States Special," with superior apples
to my entry in 1908. They were awarded the first prize of $100 above
all competitors. The chairman of the committee making the award is
the most renowned pomologist in our county--Mr. H. E. Van Deman, of
Washington, D. C. I obtained also a diploma for the best new variety
of apples.

The cancelled check of one hundred dollars for this prize was
applied for by a trustee of Mr. Ritchie's school, near Rabun Gap,
and is now framed and hung upon the schoolhouse wall, to remind
the children that their county can produce the best apples.


This apple, having been pronounced a new variety and worthy of being
put upon the pomological books at Washington, was listed and given
the name of Fort's Prize. The apple has demonstrated those qualities
that make a financial success, such as appearance, color, taste, and
above all, keeping without decay until the spring.

Anticipating that an orchard of this new variety of apple will be
valuable, I have obtained grafts from the old trees and have put
out an orchard of them. I have a confident hope and belief that
this variety of apples will become very valuable in future to apple
growers, and that they will become money-makers, such as the Baldwin
and Ben Davis are among apples; the Elberta peach, among peaches;
the Concord grape, among grapes. It originated in Georgia. I am
gratified that I brought it to public attention.

This season, 1916, my orchard at Turkey Cove has an abundant crop
of splendid apples, and I hope in the next few months to harvest
a crop of two thousand bushels. I have just returned from a visit
to my orchard, and it presents a beautiful sight. My youngest son,
William, has the active management of my orchards.

  October 22, 1915.

  Mount Airy, Georgia.


     I received the basket of apples about a week ago and thank you
     for them. You have no idea how much I appreciate a kindness like
     this, particularly when it comes from the man who has rendered
     the greatest service to Georgia of any living man.

  Yours sincerely,


There are now thousands of acres planted in this section of the
State, and it bids fair to be one of the most profitable of
Georgia's industries--an industry attributable in a great way to my

I now wish to write a few words on my interest in the culture of
pecans. When a boy in Milledgeville, in the year 1849, my aunt, Mrs.
Moses Fort, widow of my father's brother, returned from a visit to
one of her sons in Louisiana. She brought with her a little sack
holding about a quart of pecans. She divided them among my father's
children, my share being about twelve. The others ate theirs, but
I planted mine in the back of the garden, marking the places with
stakes from my bird trap. They came up that spring and some of them
are now immense trees, sixty feet tall and bearing bushels of
pecans. As far as I know these are the oldest pecan trees in the
State of Georgia. About thirty years ago I planted a small pecan
orchard on Tompkins plantation. They were not budded and were a poor
variety, and for many years they were neglected. But about three
years ago I had them budded and I believe that in a few years they
will yield a profitable crop. The pecan industry in Georgia bids
fair to be a very large one, as hundreds of acres have been planted.

My belief in the agricultural possibilities of Georgia is so great,
especially in the growing of fruits, that I wish to mention all my
work in this line, the successful experiments and the ones that
have not yet, from one cause or another, proved successes, such as
my cherries in north Georgia, and my experiment with figs in south
Georgia. The latter proved a failure because of the avidity and lack
of coöperation of the railroads. Figs are too perishable to stand
shipping. I wished to can the figs in glass jars at the orchard, but
the freight rates on fruit in glass jars were so high and as there
was no local market I abandoned the orchard. It would have proved a
difficult undertaking anyway as I could not be in that section at
the time and the work would have lacked the master's eye.

There is one more experiment in agriculture that I wish to mention
which has been a success. I thought of growing vegetables in north
Georgia to ship to Florida after its crop was over. So I planted
half an acre in tomatoes to be shipped to Savannah and Jacksonville.
The railroads considered shipping vegetables to southern points such
an uncertain and foolish thing that they required me to give bond
on the freight. My experiment was a great success, the commission
merchant, Mr. Putzel, of Savannah, wrote me that in his twenty-seven
years of experience he had never handled such stock. The half-acre
netted me one hundred and fifty-nine dollars. My example has
been followed by others, and vegetables are now being shipped in
considerable quantities from Cornelia to south Georgia and Florida

In June, 1909, when in Athens to attend the graduation of two of
my sons, as an appreciation of my work for the State agriculture,
I had conferred upon me by the University of Georgia, the degree
of "Doctor of Science." That the trustees of the University
contemplated this was entirely unknown to me. This honor was
conferred before a large audience and was very gratifying.


My irrigation plant in south Georgia having proved a success, the
Department of Agriculture at Washington sent a special irrigation
engineer to Tompkins plantation to make a report. Such a good
report was made that the Department conferred upon me the title of
Collaborator of Irrigation, giving me a diploma stating this fact.

As I stated near the beginning of this story of my life, I believe
that my mind and temperament are those of a naturalist. From my
boyhood my interest in birds has never abated. I know their habits,
I can distinguish the notes of all the birds of our woods and
recognize them by their flight as far as my eyes can see.

This spring (1916) while seated on the porch of our home, at Mount
Airy, I have succeeded with great patience and with the enticing
power of the peanut, in getting a gray-crested titmouse to light on
my hand, and to take a peanut from between my lips. And I persuaded
a nuthatch to come within a foot of my chair. The titmouse knew me
so well that when I was several hundred yards from the house it flew
down from a tall tree and took a peanut from my hand. This was in
the season when food was plentiful.

As an agriculturist as well as naturalist I have been always
interested in the insectivorous birds as a great aid to man in the
destruction of insects. I know of no bird that does not eat insects,
except the goldfinch. I remember once examining the stomach of an
American swift, it contained a mass of insects, six hundred and
fifty mosquitoes and gnats which had been caught on the wing that
day. Especially valuable is the purple martin because he can be
attracted to our fields and orchards if the proper kind of house is
made for him. He arrives from the tropics very early in time to meet
the first flight of many noxious insects such as the cuculio which
is so destructive to the peach and similar fruits.

When I built for irrigation my reservoir holding four hundred
thousand gallons, I was afraid that it would be a great breeding
place for mosquitoes. I placed around the reservoir boxes and gourds
on poles as homes for the purple martin, so that the birds would
destroy the mosquitoes. At the same time I had put in the water
small fish to eat the wiggletails, the larvæ of the mosquito. The
fish and martins have largely eradicated this noxious insect from
the plantations.[1]

  [1] Acknowledgment of Mr. Fort's observations on mosquitoes has
  been made in _The Mosquitoes of North and Central America and West
  Indies_, pages 178, 403, vol. i. Authors: Leland O. Howard, Harrison
  G. Dyar, Frederick Knabe.

At the present time the boll weevil has made its appearance in most
of the cotton fields in southwest and middle Georgia. I believe
that the ravages of the weevil cannot be stopped, but they can be
checked and reduced to a minimum. In studying the history of this
insect, I find that it is food for birds of the class hirundo, or
swallow. When the boll weevil, which is one of cuculio, makes its
first flight over the cotton fields before depositing its eggs in
the cotton squares is the time that it is caught by the swallows
and martins. The weevil is slow in flight and easily caught. If
the first brood is caught it will decrease them by the million,
as it has been calculated that the progeny of one female, if not
destroyed, would by the end of the season be two million. I have had
placed around my cotton fields forty martin boxes. I am confident
that these birds will greatly lessen the depredation of the boll
weevil in my fields. As the martin returns every year to the same
home, each year I hope to have a larger colony.

We must protect the birds. A great French savant has said that in
seven years, without the help of insectivorous birds, the world
would become uninhabitable by man. The destruction of insects is
greatest during the nesting season of the birds, as a young bird is
a small mill continually grinding up insects. Birds should have our
special protection at that season. A young bird just off the nest
is a prey to almost everything; cats, hawks, snakes, are among its
principal enemies. The wanton destruction of bird life by man has so
decreased them that it threatens the world with a great calamity.
We must teach the young generation to refrain from this destructive
work, and that the birds are our useful friends. Teach them to love
the birds, to admire their plumage and song, to study their habits,
and to realize that they contemplate the work of a munificent
Creator who has fashioned these beautiful inhabitants of the air.

I now bring to a close these brief reminiscences of a long life,
dictated to my daughter at her request. They are for my six
children, being a short record of the life and work of their father.



_The Macon "Daily Telegraph," Saturday Morning, May 11, 1907_


Speaking of John P. Fort reminds me that to him is due the credit
of introducing artesian wells in southwestern Georgia, where he
owned large farming lands. He desired to protect and improve the
health of his tenants and other laborers by freeing them from
the necessity of drinking the rotten limestone water in shallow
wells which was considered productive of chills, fever, and other
sickness. So this progressive Maconite decided to experiment with
artesian wells and he had one bored on one of his plantations from
which a splendid flow of fine water was obtained. The result was
so gratifying that he had other wells bored and the health of the
people on his farms became first class. The glad news was spread
throughout all that section of country, and other planters followed
Captain Fort's example, and in a short time the boring of artesian
wells became common in that territory. An official publication says
that the sanitary advantages that have resulted to many towns and
localities all over the southwest Georgia coastal plain through the
pure, wholesome drinking water of the artesian wells, are seen in
the fact that sections once dreaded as malarial and sickly are now
considered among the most salubrious in the State and are increasing
more rapidly in population than even the hill country of north
Georgia. The average depth of the wells in south Georgia is about
four hundred and fifty feet, and as the various strata penetrated
are comparatively free of rock, the wells are bored at small cost.
Bulletin No. 7 of the State Geological Survey says: "While there is
much yet to be learned about the underground water system of the
coastal plain, there is, nevertheless, sufficient known already to
warrant the statement that almost this entire portion of the State
is underlaid by pervious beds which will furnish large quantities of
pure, wholesome water when pierced by the drill." When Captain Fort
drilled his first artesian well he bored better than he knew. The
Maconite became a public benefactor. Georgia is due him much for
his foresight and progressiveness, his philanthropy and humanity.


_From the Albany "Herald" of Friday, November 1, 1912_

The observant people of Georgia have long been aware of the
blessings many enjoy through the inducting philosophy of a
distinguished and unpretentious son of our State. Our university has
honored him and itself by the degree, Doctor of Science. Dr. John P.
Fort was the first who made evident how practical and how beneficent
are those artesian wells whose copious and healthful supply are now
gushing in every community and on many farms in that fertile empire
known as South Georgia.


_The Albany "Herald," February 11, 1913_

I never see or hear anything about the country around and about
Albany that I do not think of Jno. P. Fort.

Colonel Fort, by his wise experiment and persistent efforts, made it
possible for white people to live in a country which had heretofore
been regarded as almost uninhabitable.

Colonel Fort called on me as he passed through Macon last week
and on his way to his farm in south Georgia. Like myself, he is
rapidly yielding to the weight of years as they carry him along
the down-hill of life, but oh, what a halo of business glory will
brighten and bless forever the memory of southwest Georgia's
greatest benefactor!

A grateful people will never be able to build a monument high enough
to signalize the debt they owe to Jno. P. Fort. But as the good that
men do lives after them, all coming generations will breathe out
prayers of praise for him who made it possible for their ancestors
to know the eternal joys that flow from the bosom of Mother Earth
through the life-giving arteries of artesian wells.

In the meantime you will continue to preach to the farmers of
Georgia the gospel of truth and righteousness from the text--"The
Life Worth Living," which, when illustrated, means--peace, health,
happiness, and prosperity, for all who learn to live at home and
board at the same place.


_The Clayton "Tribune," Friday, May 9, 1913_

Col. John P. Fort, a graduate of Oglethorpe College, and one of the
men who first got a vision of the future possibilities of Rabun
County's apples, was in Clayton, Wednesday. Colonel Fort owns one
of the finest orchards in the county at Mountain City, and has done
more in the way of growing fine fruits and advertising northeast
Georgia, thereby enhancing the value of our mountain lands, than
any other one man. Colonel Fort is now about seventy-one years of
age, but is still very active. He joined the Confederate army in
the beginning of the Civil War as a private, but was promoted and
at the close he came out with honors and as a lieutenant. As Dr.
Fort is able to talk with nature, we might compare him with Benjamin
Franklin; he has been honored by our University with the degree of
Doctor of Science. Dr. Fort was not satisfied with growing apples
in northeast Georgia (in Rabun County), which took the prize in
Spokane, Washington, at the great apple show, and for the last
year or so he has been studying the conditions and needs of south
and southwest Georgia, and while he was on duty as a Confederate
soldier, he saw the beautiful Wakulla River on the coast of Florida,
as it bursts forth into the Apalachee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Fort's ability to reason and know things told him that this
beautiful clear river had its origin away up in the "old red hills
of Georgia," and last year he made another trip to see this great
spring or bay and to learn more about it. Dr. Fort traced the
formation and vegetation up through Florida and on through the
counties of Decatur, Grady, Early, Miller, Baker, Mitchell, Calhoun,
Dougherty, etc., and he is satisfied that it heads in the counties
of Laurens, Twigg, and Bibb. Dr. Fort owns a large plantation in
Dougherty County, containing some three thousand acres, and last
year he bored an artesian well on this farm about seven hundred
feet deep, at an expense of about three thousand dollars, and not
to his surprise, but to the surprise of his neighbors, Georgia,
and our United States Government, he tapped the undercurrent of
the beautiful Wakulla River and through a three-inch pipe, it has
been estimated, a flow of eighty thousand gallons per day can be
attained, and the expense of obtaining this flow and building
reservoirs from which to conduct the waters to the crops is much
cheaper in comparison with any other method of irrigation known
to the world. This discovery by Dr. Fort will probably make it
possible for other such discoveries to be made, and it has more
than doubled the value of the farming lands in south Georgia, which
are so subject to drouths. This theory of Dr. Fort's is thoroughly
demonstrated as the water of this well rises and falls with the
Gulf tide and the water is inexhaustible and his discovery is
so highly prized by the Irrigation Bureau of the Department of
Agriculture, that it has conferred upon Dr. Fort the signal dignity
of "Collaborator," and monthly there comes and will come to him
during his life a treasury draft as a token from his country of its
government's appreciation and value of his discovery, and the time
is now here that not only northeast and southwest Georgia will tip
their hats to Dr. Fort's name, but the whole nation will recognize
Dr. Fort's ability as a scientist, and his name will go down to
future generations as one of America's greatest men.

_Macon "Daily Telegraph," September 30, 1913_


Colonel John P. Fort is one of the sure-enough progressives of the
State. His progressivism is not destructive like that of the Western
politicians, but is of the sort that promotes the welfare of his
State. It is well-known that he gave to Georgia her first artesian
well. Albany followed his example and became the "Artesian City,"
appropriate sobriquet--for it is a city of artesian wells.

Some couple of years ago or more Colonel Fort decided to experiment
with truck gardening on his Dougherty County farm. He built a huge
reservoir for the purpose of irrigation. Speaking of this a few
evenings since, sitting on the veranda of the Albany Inn, Colonel
Fort said:

"I'm glad to say my experiment is a success. Irrigation is not
needed so much here as in the West, still we have dry spells, and
to make truck growing a successful enterprise, I prepared for
seasons of dry weather. This year I will make 176 bushels of corn
per acre in the range of the reservoir, and I gathered onions until
we were fatigued gathering them and preparing for market. And all
other truck, such as beans, tomatoes, okra, lettuce, salads, grew
abundantly. After gathering the onions the land was planted in corn,
which is now in the roasting ear stage, and at this season roasting
ears are in good demand. To prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the
reservoir, I put into it fish, which destroy the larvæ, and also
erected martin poles with old-fashioned martin gourds around the
basin of water. Martins, you know, feed on mosquitoes. On the ponds
on my place I pour kerosene oil, so the plantation is free from
mosquitoes--resulting in health for all on the farm. Besides my
manager after rains goes through the quarters of the laborers and if
there is any water in pans or cans or old vessels they are emptied.
Thus by a little precaution my plantation is clear of mosquitoes.

"Then to assist in truck growing it is important to conserve bird
life. Every vegetable seems to have its insect enemy. Nature
provides its checks and balances. But for years and years, reaching
back for nearly a century, we have been killing the birds. They are
here as nature's remedy to feed upon insects. It will take years
to restore nature's balance which we have been upsetting by our
war on birds. Take the red-headed woodpecker, the blue jay, the
yellow-hammers, partridges, larks, and the oriole family of birds,
and they all feed upon insects. The orioles are especially fond of
boll weevils, and it is said the blue jay and partridges are very
destructive of them. But we destroyed nature's balance by indulging
the pleasures of sport. Had we conserved bird life--nature's
remedy--insects and boll weevils had not been so destructive.

"Fortunately there is a nation-wide campaign for the protection of
birds. Congress has taken hold of the matter and our new tariff bill
prohibits the importation of wild birds' plumage for commercial
purposes. It will also abolish in the United States and its
territorial possessions the traffic in the skins and feathers of
wild birds. This national conservation of bird life, supplemented
by vigorous State action protecting our home birds, will in time
restore that balance nature provided for preserving food crops
and fruits from insect ravages. It seems almost incomprehensible
that we destroyed nature's remedy for protection to our crops. The
unthinking will continue to destroy our birds if not prevented by
the strong arm of the law."

It is always interesting to listen to Colonel Fort. He is full of
wisdom, and to be with him is as if sitting at the feet of Gamaliel.
He is deeply interested in apple culture in Rabun County, but his
peach orchards around Mount Airy, his home, this year did not bear
to any great extent. In his quiet, unassuming way Colonel Fort
preaches diversification of crops and raising home supplies, and he,
unlike most reformers, practices what he preaches. His younger days
were spent in Macon, and he has great affection for Macon and is
interested in her progress and welfare.

_The Albany "Herald," Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1917_

News of the death of Colonel John P. Fort at Tampa, Florida, where
he was spending the winter, will carry sadness to all parts of

For Colonel Fort was a distinguished citizen of this State, and was
widely known as a pioneer in many fields of activity. He it was who
bored the first artesian well in Georgia. A great many men laughed
at him when he declared, after carefully studying the geology of
this section, that he would sink a well to water-bearing strata
several hundred feet below the surface, and that through that well
purer water than the people of south Georgia had ever drunk would
flow to the surface. That was thirty-five years ago, and Georgia's
first artesian well, bored on one of Colonel Fort's plantations in
Dougherty County, is still flowing. It is a simple but eloquent
memorial of the man whose faith was not without works, and whom the
ridicule of those with shorter vision could not discourage.

To-day the health of no section of Georgia is better than that
enjoyed by the people in the region of which Dougherty County is the
geographical center, and much of the credit for the present splendid
prosperity of southwestern Georgia is due to the man who was not
afraid to "invest several thousand dollars in an auger hole in the
ground," as some wise observers expressed it thirty-five years ago.

Colonel Fort has also been a pioneer in the field of irrigation
in this section. Several years ago he publicly proclaimed the
belief that a series of inexhaustible water-bearing strata runs
beneath thousands of square miles of southwest Georgia territory,
and he predicted that in time these strata would be tapped at many
points, and drawn upon for water which would make garden spots of
innumerable farming districts. He again showed his faith in what he
proclaimed by drilling another artesian well on one of his Dougherty
County plantations, where he has constructed and operated an
irrigation plant that has given splendid practical demonstrations of
the possibilities of this kind of agriculture in southwest Georgia.

Colonel Fort has also made valuable contributions to the advancement
of horticulture, and his apple and cherry trees, in north Georgia,
are famous throughout the United States. He has raised the finest
apples ever produced in the South, and several years ago the
University of Georgia conferred upon him the degree of Doctor
of Science, in recognition of what he had done for Southern

Colonel Fort was a gallant Confederate soldier, and personally
was beloved wherever he was known, particularly in Albany, Macon,
Atlanta, Athens, and Mount Airy. His death is a distinct loss to

_The Albany "Herald," Wednesday, Feb. 14, 1917._


It was the belief of the late Col. John P. Fort that much of
southwest Georgia, including all the western part of Dougherty
County, would one day blossom into a veritable garden spot as the
result of a peculiar natural condition.

Colonel Fort bored the first artesian well in this section, and had
made a lifelong study of the geology of the southern part of the
State. He contended that a flowing artesian well might be secured
almost anywhere in this region, but it was his belief that in the
territory where he had made especially careful investigations,
including West Dougherty, a vast water-bearing stratum, or perhaps
several such strata, lay below the surface and that the supply of
water held there could never be exhausted. Many springs in south
Georgia and Florida, including the great Wakulla spring and a number
that boil up from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, were fed from
this stratum, according to Colonel Fort's idea.

The picture in the mind of Colonel Fort, as he often spoke of this
rich blessing enjoyed by our section, was of a region to the surface
of which a part of this water supply had been brought for use in
irrigation plants. He himself built such a plant on one of his
Dougherty County plantations, and gave practical demonstrations of
what it was possible to accomplish. The United States Government
became interested in the experiment, and sent experts to make
observations and lend assistance.

Colonel Fort did not expect to live to see his dreams come true, but
he believed they would materialize for other generations. He knew
that in the rich soil of this section wonderful crops could be made
under irrigation, and that with an inexhaustible water supply a few
hundred feet below the surface, the development he foresaw would in
time come to pass.

Colonel Fort was no dreamer, though some persons thought he was when
he began boring the first artesian well in Georgia. He lived to see
hundreds of flowing wells and thousands from which pure water is
pumped, and another generation will no doubt see his vision of a
section made fabulously rich by irrigation likewise realized.

_Macon "Telegraph," Feb., 1917_


I received a letter from Mr. Alfred C. Newell concerning a memorial
to the memory of Col. John P. Fort. The letter in part reads:

"I note that John P. Fort, of Mount Airy, is dead. I write you
this because it seems to me a movement should be initiated by some
one to establish a memorial to this great man. He would not want
a monument. He would be the last man in the world to care for
anything like display. It seems to me, however, entirely fitting
that a special appropriation could be made by the board of county
commissioners of every county in south Georgia to the end that a
small mountain school might be established somewhere about his
beloved Mount Airy.

"What William H. Crawford, Charles F. Crisp, and Alfred H. Colquitt
were to Georgia in a public sense; what Sidney Lanier and Joel
Chandler Harris were to the State in a literary way; and what Henry
Grady was as an editor-statesman, John P. Fort has been to Georgia
as the practical scientist.

"In other words, his name deserves to be perpetuated in the
immediate set of the biggest men in the State's history.

"I don't think I am going too far when I say that he probably did
more for Georgia in a practical way than any other one man. I have
a long letter from him which he wrote some years ago telling me how
he first came to think of drilling the original artesian well on
his place near Albany. This was in 1881. You know, of course, the
transformation which followed in this section.

"It was through his efforts that the apple culture was introduced in
the north Georgia mountains.

"He was a dreamer who dreamed dreams as well as a scientist who knew
how to work out these dreams with a table of logarithms.

"His father before him was a great man, old Dr. Tomlinson Fort--the
greatest antebellum physician of his day."

It is certainly appropriate that some steps be taken at once to
erect a memorial to Colonel Fort. Nothing would be more fitting than
a "mountain school." It is better than brass or marble. Mr. Newell
has communicated his suggestion to Editor Henry McIntosh, of Albany,
and also to Hon. Clark Howell.

The thought-forces worked strongly in Colonel Fort, making him
a centrifugal force, a builder for humanity. He lived to see
his visions become realities--blessings to mankind. He felt the
responsibility resting upon him. He never permitted his faith to
trail, but walked uprightly, full of good deeds and useful thoughts.

Colonel Fort was certainly the "practical scientist." Albany is
known as the "Artesian City." Colonel Fort gave to Dougherty County
its first flowing artesian well. His apples from the "hills of
Habersham" and Rabun took the premium over all others at the fairs
of the great Northwest.

Throw a rock into the air and by force of gravitation it falls. Yet
right in the face of that power of gravitation, that life-giving
principle called sap, flows to the top of the tallest tree,
resuscitating its remotest branches. Colonel Fort's attempt to
discover flowing artesian water was likened by his friends to the
rock that falls to the ground. But his thought-forces within, in the
face of discouragement, were like the ascending sap, bounding in
hope and carrying triumph and beauty and health to every branch of
his tree of endeavor.

Every flowing artesian well in Georgia is a never-ceasing tribute to
Colonel Fort--the "practical scientist," as Mr. Alfred Newell calls

Colonel Fort drove mosquitoes from his Dougherty County plantation
by the simple device of putting up martin-gourds and bird-houses
at the homes of his tenants. He had discovered that the swallows
and martins fed on mosquitoes, and determined to locate them on his
premises by building little houses for them. On his recent visit
to Macon he told the writer, his countenance lighting up with
expressions of pleasure over his triumph, that his experiment had
been a success and that the health of his tenants was excellent.

Two years ago he advised me to try the martin. But the tenants
considered martin-gourds a relic of slavery times, and in their
superstition would not erect the martin-poles. Colonel Fort also
said the martins fed on boll weevils, and he expected to largely
increase the number of martin-houses. And this was our last
conversation, not many weeks ago. Yes, he was like Colonel Hunt, of
Eatonton, "a practical scientist"--the most useful of men.


Editor the _Journal_: I notice in a recent issue of the _Journal_
the death of Colonel John P. Fort at Tampa, Fla., on the 12th inst.
His home was in Mount Airy, Ga. In 1863 President Davis appointed
John P. Fort a lieutenant in the First regiment of Georgia regulars,
stationed at Hammocks Landing on the Appalachicola River, in
Florida. The first time I saw Lieutenant Fort under fire was at Lake
City, Fla., on the 10th of February, 1864. He was in command of
the skirmish line of the regulars, trying to hold in check General
Seamore's advance cavalry, who had dismounted and were fighting on
foot. The cavalry were too strong for the lieutenant and forced his
line back on the regiment, then mounted their horses and retreated
toward Jacksonville. As a reminder of the fight they left Lieutenant
Fort with a bullet hole through his hat. While Lieutenant Fort was
a gallant soldier, he was a gentleman in the true meaning of the
word, with his heart overflowing with kindness for his fellow-man.
One by one the regulars are crossing over the river to join their
comrades on the other shore, who are sleeping beneath the shade of
the beautiful trees in that home where all good soldiers who did
their full and complete duty are at rest. The last three to cross
were General King, General Lane, and Major Howard. There were about
eighty officers who served in the regulars during the war, and I
know of only eight who are still in the land of the living--General
Harrison, General Kirklin, Colonel Twiggs, Captain Wyley, Captain
Anthony, Captain Myers, Lieutenant Palmer, and Lieutenant
Blance--and they are swiftly gliding over the sea of time, waiting
to hear the keel of their lifeboat grate upon the other shore. Yet
a little while and the last Confederate soldier will have crossed
over the river, and their like will never be seen again. They fought
for the love of home and country, fought without reward or the hope
of reward, fought to the last ditch, and when all was lost except
honor, furled their flags for the last time, outnumbered five to
one, but never whipped.

Sweet be the sleep of Colonel John P. Fort. I loved him while living
and will cherish his memory until I am called to answer the last
roll call, and then I hope to meet him in the home of the blest.


  Late Orderly Sgt. Company M, First Ga. Regulars.
  20 Hayden St., Atlanta, Ga.



Since our last annual meeting death has removed one of the most
honored members of our association.

We not only owe his memory a page in our minutes but the younger and
especially the future members, those who shall preserve this valued
organization, would name us recalcitrant to the true interests of
our society if we failed to pay tribute to this advanced thinker,
practical scientist, friend of humanity, evinced by his lifelong
devotion to horticulture, and advocate of all rural betterments.

Thus from the mountains to the sea in our State his name will
ever be recorded in nature's annals; sung by her fountains and
embroidered by her flowers, and men shall remember and repeat his
name with thanks when they lift the crystal goblet to their lips,
or breathe the perfume of earth's sweetest benefaction,--an apple

From hidden and unknown depths the divining rod of his vision
found and brought the sparkling water to refresh the low lands of
Georgia. In common clay, unseen and unknown to others, he found the
lusciousness of fruit, the bloom and fragrance of orchards to crown
the peaks of Mount Airy.

The mountain elevation of his north Georgia farm, its granite
foundation, its copious rainfall he truly foresaw must become the
home of the apple industry.

The pioneer makes possible the success of the economist who later
benefits from the foresight of the prophet.

Every member of this society appreciated the act of the State
University in conferring on him the degree of "Doctor of Science."

It was a deserved tribute, fully earned.

His life's work is done, and this tribute can only be an inspiration
to the living.

May it be assigned a page to be set apart in our records, as a
memorial to his memory.


WHEREAS this City Council has heard with profound sorrow of the
death of Col. John P. Fort, for many years a resident of this City,
which occurred on Tuesday, February 12th, in the City of Tampa,
Florida, and,

WHEREAS the said Col. John P. Fort was honored and loved by everyone
with whom he came in contact, a man of a lovable character, a friend
to everybody, a loving husband and father, a man of the strictest
honor and integrity, a man of great public spirit, who loved this
section and its people, a man who has proven a public benefactor of
this section and State by his introduction of artesian wells, and
bringing the same into universal use,


I. That we deeply deplore the death of this great and good man,
and tender to his bereaved family our most sincere and heartfelt
sympathy in this their great sorrow.

II. That these Resolutions be spread upon our minutes and a copy of
the same furnished to the family.

III. That as a further token of our respect and esteem of our
departed friend this Council attend his funeral in a body.

       *       *       *       *       *

I certify that the above is a true extract from the Minutes of
Council held February 13, 1917.

This 12th day of March, 1917.

  Y. C. RUST,
  _City Clerk_.

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