eBay, the online auction company, recently had an interesting item for sale: a postcard of the Cartersville depot from about a hundred years ago. Of the dozens of Cartersville postcards I’ve seen, this is my favorite. It shows the depot, of course, but also the city park that used to be on the west side of the depot, complete with water fountain, large trees, and benches. Across the street, you can see Young Brothers’ Pharmacy and Gilreath’s Hardware. It’s a beautiful picture, full‑color.
According to the seller’s description on eBay, the card was postmarked in Palestine, Texas.
I was instantly intrigued, because I knew of a story that connects Cartersville and Palestine.
In February 1891, Cartersville’s Sam Jones, the South’s most famous evangelist, was in Palestine to deliver a lecture. This was Jones’s second visit to the Texas town; he had been there the previous November for a series of revival services. During that revival, he preached loudly against alcohol (he was also one of the nation’s leading prohibitionists) and accused the political leaders of Palestine of being in cahoots with the saloon owners (a charge he repeated, incidentally, in practically every town where he spoke).
- J. Word, the mayor of Palestine, was out of town at the time of the revival, but when he returned and heard what Jones had said of him, he promised to avenge his good name.
Mayor Word had his chance three months later, in February. He went to the depot as Sam Jones was preparing to leave the morning after his lecture. “Is this Sam Jones?” he asked the evangelist, and Jones replied, “That is my forgiven name” (a play on “given name”). Hearing that, the mayor hit Jones with his cane, leaving a deep slash on his face, and followed it with two more strikes to the head. Jones quickly recovered from the blows and wrestled the cane away from Word, turning it on the mayor and delivering much more than he had received. The fight ended with both men bleeding, but with Word on the ground and Jones still standing, triumphant.
The scuffle made the national news. Back in Jones’s home state, the Atlanta Constitution wrote that “the Bible admonished him to turn the other cheek, but Georgia grit inspired him to ‘close in’ on his antagonist.”
In the Cartersville Courant‑American, editor David B. Freeman noted that Jones “certainly did raise cane in Palestine” and suggested that the “P” in Samuel P. Jones stood for “pugilist.”
Jones’s strong stance on prohibition got him in trouble a number of times, including here in Cartersville. He almost came to blows with Walter Akerman, the town’s postmaster, when he accused Akerman of supplementing his government paycheck with the sale of homemade wine and thus “dealing out damnation” to the men of Cartersville.
On another occasion, several pro‑liquor men in Cartersville dynamited his buggy house and threatened to do the same thing to Rose Lawn, his home, if he didn’t quit stirring up trouble. (He didn’t, and neither did they.)
Anyway, here was this postcard on eBay, showing Cartersville, Georgia, and postmarked from Palestine, Texas. I knew the Sam Jones story that linked these two small towns, and I thought maybe the postcard had something to do with that story. Perhaps the card had a message: “Dear Sally, I’m writing from the town where our Sam Jones beat up the mayor,” that sort of thing.
I wrote the seller for more information, and she responded that it seems to have been just a coincidence. I don’t know how a card from our town made it to Texas to be postmarked from Palestine. But it has served a good purpose by providing us with an excuse to tell a good story. We can now add a new title to a famous Cartersville figure: Sam Jones, evangelist‑‑and fighter.