A modern community center provides the focal point for residents in the northwestern section of Columbia County. The building was named for Eubank Blanchard, a longtime resident of the Leah-Phinizy area whose two-story home was a landmark for many years.
Before the Civil War, this forested region was part of a vast plantation-type domain. It was broken up into sharecropping plots after the dreadful conflict.
There was a well-known village in this part of the county. It was named Eubanks and had a post office from 1831 to Nov. 15, 1905, with John D. Lane serving as its last postmaster.
A while back, a segment of highway near the former rural district was named in honor of politician Jack Eubanks, a descendant of founding pioneers. Later on, a nearby little colony known as Bohler offered postal service, but it has long since disappeared, as well as another area called McCord. The outer perimeter saw the hamlets of Cluese, Hazen and Phinizy.
Opinions differ about the identity of Leah. Some say the "town" of Leah came into being not too long before the turn of the 19th century, and that tradition has it that the biblical-sounding name was a play on the letters from the names of prominent families of this sector: L for Lamkin, E for Eubanks, A for Anderson and Avery, and H for Hardin.
Some say that Jabez S. Hardin, a businessman and Columbia County school superintendent for 28 years, named the town. The county's performing arts center in Evans bears his name.
But in all likelihood the honor of naming the community belongs to a long-forgotten Confederate veteran named Caesar S. Bond. It was with his pen that he wrote in 1891 to the U.S. Post Office depot in Washington, D.C., for a post office with the suggested name Leah or William. The postal service accepted the request and named it Leah.
Bond, along with the others listed below, served as postmasters in Leah. The last three went on to serve in the Columbia County political arena:
Caesar S. Bond: Nov. 7, 1891.
Leonidas E. Blanchard: Aug. 18, 1893.
Oventon McDaniel: Oct. 21, 1896.
The location of the post office then moved 1 1/2 miles.
Jabez S. Hardin, Sept. 29, 1905.
Deliveries from the Leah post office discontinued July 31, 1916, with mail services transferred to the Appling post office.
Caesar Bond was one of the last veteran residents of the old Confederate Home for the Aged and died there in 1930. He is buried at Dunn's Chapel United Methodist Church cemetery in Leah.
Travelers on Highway 47, the road between Leah and Phinizy, can see a weather-worn obelisk beside the highway. It is a tribute to Thomas Blanchard, a local farmer and inventor. Blanchard's son, then clerk of court, placed the marker there in his honor in 1905. Blanchard is buried at Sharon Baptist Church in nearby Winfield.
Probably the best-remembered structure of this locality was the old Leah School. It was founded as Columbia Institute in 1911, with Hatcher Hogan as the first principal. A storm claimed the cupola of the original edifice, and it was later replaced with a conventional sloping roof. The teachers quarters across the road were part of the original Dunns Chapel school of the early 1900s.
Many Columbia County residents with a touch of gray in their hair are alumni of the Leah School, which was finally abandoned in 1956. For years after, School Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard kept the old principal's desk of Hatcher Hogan in his office.
Boating and fishing marinas abound in the Leah area today, providing recreation to many families at Little River and Clarks Hill Lake. Years ago, Lockhart's Ferry traversed the river to the Lincoln County side. Lake Crossing Health Center is an up-to-date care facility for the elderly located here. Postal service for all these locations is handled via rural free delivery from Appling.
Damascus Baptist Church, established circa 1820, Dunn's Chapel, circa 1848 and Rehoboth Baptist Church circa 1867 and Word of Life Ministries are among the houses of worship in the vicinity.
Whether it is an old Bull Durham sign on a weatherbeaten store facade, the deserted fire tower erected in the 1950s, or the recent rediscovery of the old Leah School arch, a relic placed by the WPA in 1935 under Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal," all are part of the fading memories of another time and place in Columbia County's historic past.
(Charles Lord, of Grovetown, is a Columbia County historian.)
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