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Bulloch History by Roger Allen

Changing time in Bulloch

    Everyone knows how important it is to be “on time.” Consider, then, how confusing it was back before time was standardized, when each town’s time was truly its own. From the very beginning of Bulloch County’s settlement, all activities were ruled by the rising and setting of the sun.
    Therefore, noon in every town was determined when the sun was directly overhead at a specific spot in each town, usually the city hall (referred to as “sun” or “mean” time). In the case of Bulloch County, that meant noon came when the sun was overhead of the Bulloch County Courthouse.
    As early as 1883, America’s railroads had devised a standardized time system upon which they hoped to run their railroads more safely. Not surprisingly, when trains left cities hundreds of miles apart heading towards each other on the same tracks, they had developed a really bad habit of running into each other.
    As a matter of fact, the famous Ball watches were developed after jeweler Webb C. Ball witnessed a particularly nasty train crash between Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railways trains at Kipton, Ohio. He contacted the railroads and devised a reliable time piece specifically for the train engineer.
    So, railroad superintendents and engineers established dividing lines in this set of time zones along railroad boundaries at through railroad division headquarters. Savannah, Ga., was at first the dividing line between the Eastern and Central Standard time zones until the line was moved westward.
    That meant that trains leaving Savannah going north and east used Eastern time, while trains going west or south left on Central time. That meant that the Central of Georgia Railroad and the Seaboard Air Line Railway trains were leaving Savannah on the new Central time, one hour later than the trains of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad heading for points north running on Eastern time.
    Statesboro, therefore, as well as all of Bulloch County, was eventually forced to come to grips with these timely changes. So, on Sept. 27, 1905, the newspapers announced that the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners had decided to bring their county, which was served by many railroads, into line with the new Central time zone.
    What did this mean to the ordinary Bulloch Countian? Well, for starters, county commissioners decreed that beginning on Oct. 15, 1905, everyone had to adjust their watches and clocks back some 36 minutes, as that was how much difference there was between Statesboro’s noon and that witnessed in Savannah.
    There was some dissension. Some preachers thought that this act of man was defying God’s hand. Some employers and employees thought that they would get paid more or less for working less or more on that fateful day. Some people just didn’t like the idea of change. Nevertheless, the courthouse clock was changed to reflect the new time as ordered.
    It wasn’t until March 18, 1918, that this railroad standard time system was finally adopted by the Federal government. That is when the Standard Time Act was approved by Congress. There were several reasons. It divided the U.S. into five time zones (of 15 minutes of latitude), which were to be called the East, Central, Mountain, Pacific and Alaska time zones.
    Once the government got into the act, the Eastern and Central time zone boundaries were moved twice, first to western Georgia, and then again, this time to the Alabama/Georgia border. As such, the clocks across Bulloch County had to be set back one hour in 1918, in order to now reflect the Eastern time which the region now fell into.
    Now that’s all the time I have!

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bullock County’s historical past. E-mail Roger at rogerdoger53@hotmail.com

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