Friday, May 31, 2013

Judge William Dubberly-The Squire of Glennville

Judge William Dubberly-The Squire of Glennville

By Dylan Edward Mulligan

One of the most well-known figures in the history of Glennville is William "Squire" Dubberly, my great-great-great grandfather. Born in Tattnall County November 22, 1827, he was the son of Joseph and Holland Anderson Dubberly. Joseph (1788 - 1855), a veteran of the War of 1812, was one of the original settlers of Philadelphia (now Glennville) in the 1820s. Joseph's father was Tattnall County pioneer and Revolutionary War veteran John Dubberly, who settled in Tattnall County after its creation in 1801.

The Dubberlys settled at the village of Philadelphia, which sprang up around the intersection of two important roads-the Reidsville - Johnston Station (Ludowici) Road and the Hencart Road, which wound its way from present-day Richmond Hill to present-day Hawkinsville, and was an important trade route into the Creek nation.

The earliest settlers were Reverend Seth Knight (1795 - 1853) and Elijah Padgett, who received land grants in the 1820s. They were immediately followed by Joseph Dubberly, John J. Baxter, Asa Barnard, Hardy DeLoach, Joshua Groover, Dempsey Griffin, and Gideon Poppell. Seth Knight was one of the most prominent citizens of the area, serving as Treasurer of Tattnall County and a justice of the inferior court. In 1845, he built a plantation house (now known as the Knight - Dubberly House) facing the intersection at Philadelphia. His large plantation comprised of some 700 acres, the chief crops being Sea Island cotton and rice.

Philadelphia continued to see growth throughout the 1800s. A milestone in the town's history was 1857, which saw the establishment of Philadelphia Baptist Church (now First Baptist Church) whose first pastor was Reverend Hopkin Padgett, who married William Dubberly's sister, Mary Ann. It was during this era of prosperity that William was raised. The happiness was not to last, however, as the clouds of war loomed on the horizon.

At the Secession Convention at Milledgeville in 1861, Tattnall County's delegates Benjamin Brewton and Henry Solomon Strickland voted against secession; however, the subsequent War for Southern Independence brought much hardship to Philadelphia as young men marched off to battle. As the war raged on, the Confederate lines gradually became exhausted, until there was nothing standing between General William Sherman's army and Savannah. The citizens of Philadelphia could do nothing but wait for the true horror of war to come home. They would not have to wait long.

On December 14, 1864, a band of Sherman's army under Colonel Smith Atkins forced their way across the Canoochee River at Taylor's Creek and invaded Liberty and Tattnall Counties. The Yankee invaders forded Beards Creek and marched into defenseless Philadelphia, where they camped in the front yard of the Knight - Dubberly House. On or about December 15, the troops awoke and awaited orders from Colonel Atkins. As they had already done much damage in other parts of the county, Philadelphia seemed fit for the torch. Before ordering the destruction of the plantation and the surrounding village, Colonel Atkins entered the deserted house, where he discovered a Masonic emblem displayed on the mantel. He had received orders from General Sherman not to lay a hand on any property belonging to Masons, as Sherman himself belonged to the brotherhood. Atkins begrudgingly ordered his troops to leave the village, claiming that there wasn't much worth burning there anyway. Despite his orders, some renegade troops had already ransacked part of the property, doing no significant damage. And thus, the Knight - Dubberly House was the savior of the village.

On December 15, 1868, on the fourth anniversary of the sparing of Philadelphia, the old Knight house came under new ownership-that of William Dubberly. With most of the founding fathers of Philadelphia dead, the burden of leadership passed to William, who had by this time been elected justice of the peace. A constable was selected, and law and order came to town. Judge Dubberly used his home as a courthouse and held court there regularly until his death. Because he was the central authority in the town, Dubberly earned the nickname "Squire," which denoted a lower-ranking nobleman or, in his case, a justice of the peace.
Knight-Duberly House c. 1905

With order restored after the war, Philadelphia again began experiencing growth-growth like it had not yet seen. Newer, more substantial buildings began to replace the older ones, and more settlers arrived and established farms and businesses. By 1889, there was a need for a closer post office than the one located several miles away at Matlock Plantation, so, with the help of local schoolteacher Glenn Thompson, a post office was established at Philadelphia. The name "Glennville" was selected in honor of Thompson's hard work in securing the post office. By 1894, the population and economy of Glennville made it impossible to refer to it as a village anymore. On October 6, 1894, Glennville was incorporated as a town, after a petition was signed by sixteen local citizens, including Squire Dubberly's son, Edward. The aging Squire had lived to see his village achieve the rank of town. He passed away peacefully at his home March 29, 1895. The Knight - Dubberly House, now the oldest structure in Glennville, still stands solemnly at Hilltop as a sort of memorial to its former occupants, the founding fathers of Glennville.

William Dubberly first married Mary Louise "Lanie" Kicklighter (November 1, 1828 - February 1, 1868), the daughter of Tattnall County pioneers Jesse and Luvisa Thomas Kicklighter. Jesse Kicklighter was the patriarch of one of Tattnall County's largest families, so it was only natural that his children should marry into other prominent families in the area. William and Lanie had ten children together: Edward Miles, Jesse Thomas, John Daniel, Henry Joseph, Nancy Luviney (Kennedy), our ancestor Isabelle Sophronia (Smiley), Manning Jasper, Charles Beauregard, James Jackson, and Melissa Dubberly (Easterling).

After Lanie's death, William married Mary Ellen Smiley Curry (November 10, 1832 - February 20, 1902), the daughter of Archibald and Sarah Dreggors Smiley of Liberty County. William and Mary had six children together: Sarah Jeanette (Godwin), William Archibald, Mary Temperance, Horace Columbus "Uncle Gundy," Russell Clayton, and Leila Augusta Dubberly.

                                                                                     William and Mary (Smiley) Dubberly

                                                                               Knight-Dubberly Hous 2011, photo by Dylan E Mulligan

Sources: Philadelphia to Glennville: A Backward Glance by D. Mark Baxter, Carroll L. Cowart, Joseph T. Grice, and Alec F. Thompson; Sketches of By-Gone Days by Joseph T. Grice; information from the Glennville-Tattnall Museum; local historical tradition and legends; written and oral family histories.

Previously published in The Heritage of Tattnall Co., GA - 2011 used with permission of the author

All Rights Reserved
Teresa McVeigh 2013


  1. Thank you for posting this. William Dubberly is also my great great great grandfather through his son William Archibald. It was very interesting to learn more about him.

  2. We are heading to the Dubberly-Smiley reunion this weekend in Savannah!

  3. We are heading to the Dubberly-Smiley Reunion in Savannah this weekend!