During the 1930s "The Columbia News" had as the Grovetown correspondent the newly arrived Presbyterian minister the Rev. Ira Tapper Hawk. In his weekly newspaper articles under the pen name of "The Wayfarer," he would chronicle 1930-40 events in Columbia County's history as he saw and experienced it, with humorous and informative descriptions. He seldom missed a week in submitting an article.
Hawk's church circuit covered several counties and many miles that he traveled by car, and he always drove in second gear. He was pastor to several little Presbyterian churches from the one (still) in old Bath, to several in Lincoln and Wilkes counties. He established and built the little Presbyterian church in Evans that has now been torn down.
Rev. Hawk was an honor graduate from Yale and also graduated from Iowa State University. He had been the general secretary of the YMCA and at one time was the chaplain of the state prison at Madison, Iowa, before moving to Grovetown in 1929.
But as he told several local townspeople, he was ready to enjoy the kind of peace that living in a small town provided. His knowledge and experience shines through his writing as he not only described in detail the events, people and surrounding countryside of his time, but also later on as he intellectually expressed his concerns and opinions on the coming World War II.
As "The Wayfarer," Hawk satisfied his insatiable curiosity by roaming around Columbia and the surrounding counties. Whenever he came upon a new construction site or community he wasn't familiar with, he just invited himself in and got to know the workers or residents there. Sometimes he described what he found in his columns, such as the "new" Kiokee Baptist Church under construction in Appling or a description of the then-thriving little community of Ficklen in Wilkes County or the half -thrilling/half-frightening experience of being stranded overnight by rising flood waters at the Little River in Lincoln County, or of visiting the old Paul Hamilton Hayne homestead with the writer's library intact 50 years after his death.
Some of Hawk's contemporaries were men who would go on to be leaders in our county, and he generously noted their efforts and accomplishments in his column. Otis Johns saw that Grovetown had a new school in 1937 and here from one of his articles is described in one of the first technical school classes in the county:
"...On Monday evening, Mr. Otis Johns came honking by with his new Ford speedwagon. He had gathered up neighbor Walter Gibson and taking The Wayfarer in tow, he rolled away toward Leah. There was found the gymnasium all lighted up and hard by the workshop humming. Before assembling in the gym, we visited the workshop. It consisted of two large rooms well lighted. In it were gathered a group of young men working under the supervision of instructor Mr. Guy Fleming. We were told that this was a class of advanced craftmanship consisting of young men from 18 to 25. It was quite apart from the High School, but might be classed with adult education...
"Mr. Jack Eubanks furnishes the lumber from his ample timber lots. One boy had a thick piece of black walnut that he was dressing on the planner so that such cabinet wood is provided. Isn't it great to be a school boy in 1941? But do not think that work cannot be done with less equipment. Mr. Johns of Grovetown showed The Wayfarer a rocking chair that they had made in their school shop with only a jig saw and a buzz saw for machinery."
Home base for the Hawk family was the Grovetown Presbyterian manse, later known to locals as Miss Ruby Banks' house on the corner of Hayne and Ford Drives. It was one of the old sprawling summer homes originally owned by the Barretts of Augusta, and had lots of windows and a long porch along its front. On summer evenings when folks came out on their porches after supper to enjoy the end of the day, Mrs. Hawk, an accomplished pianist, would sometimes provide an evening concert as she played the piano in front of those big open windows. The neighbors always knew the free concert was at an end when she played "Danny Boy" for her little dog Danny.
Both before and during World War II, Hawk's articles gave the readers a synopsis of what was happening overseas and to their boys. He kept Grovetown folks up to date with letters from Tommy McLendon and Elmer Paul, two local boys whom everyone knew.
When war was declared and Camp Gordon construction began, Hawk was treated to a ride through the area and recorded:
"Neighbor Drummond invited the Wayfarer to ride through the camp Sunday afternoon. What a city is growing up! ... Soon we saw the little spire of a new chapel, then another and another, and a fourth one further west. This is the first time, we believe, that the army has erected chapels in the temporary cantonments and shows what America thinks of religion as a help to man and morals."
In his delightful way, The Wayfarer left us a snapshot of wartime rationing as he explained to his faithful readers how complicated getting a rationed tire for his automobile was... ..
"with four tires on the wheels, 2 of which were badly worn, and a spare in the trunk that was not worth reaping, the problem of climbing the rubber hill looked serious. A trip to Appling to see the chairman of the emergency board, another to Harlem to get an ok for a new tire. Then back to Appling to get the application approved by the board only to find that ministers and joy riders were not included in the emergency list of car owners. Then a trip to Augusta and a chance to buy 2 recapped tires. And finally the news that Uncle Sam had relented and ministers might buy a new tire when needed."
The aggravation of those rationed tires must have stayed with him and at war's end in the January 23, 1947 edition, The Wayfarer encouraged locals to "visit Camp Gordon to see the thousands of vehicles that are stored up for who knows what. Thousands of rubber tires rotting in the sun. Thousands of houses, the deserted barracks, shedding their white paint and soaking in the rain."
In January 1949 Grovetown lost one of its sterling residents when Rev. Ira Tapper Hawk passed away. At the time of his death he was still actively pastoring the Bath and the little Evans Presbyterian churches. His obituary in The Columbia News stated "He lived abundantly," and that really seemed to sum up his eager approach to all that life entailed. Hawk had quickly made himself a friendly, working part of our community, searching out the new and exciting events and happenings around the area and reporting them in explicit detail in his weekly column. He was enormously well-liked by all who knew him and left us quite of gift in his articles. He is another vital part of Columbia County history.
Kathy Ruddy is a Grovetown writer and historian.
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