2018-10-11 / Sports

A hundred years of football makes field ‘hallowed turf’

The Standard Oil Company wagon parked in front of the grandstand, stables, and outbuildings at the Fairgrounds, now Tiger Stadium. The Standard Oil Company wagon parked in front of the grandstand, stables, and outbuildings at the Fairgrounds, now Tiger Stadium. Next year, 2019, is the 100th anniversary of football at our local high school. In 1919 the school was called simply Washington High, one of several secondary schools scattered around Wilkes County, but the only one with a football team. Originally nicknamed “Terrors,” the squad brought excitement to the town in that post-World War I world.

Games were played in the same location as they are today. What we now call Charlie Davidson Field at Tiger Stadium was, one hundred years ago, known as “The Fairgrounds.” It may well be the oldest continuously occupied high school football field in Georgia!

When the large estate of Samuel Barnett was converted into smaller lots and sold off in 1911, the main house (now the Washington Historical Museum) was retained by the family, but the expansive acreage was opened for the construction of many cottages to the east on Grove, Water, Pecan, and other tree-named streets. One area was preserved and designated Barnett Park. On that site was established the Wilkes-Lincoln Fair in 1913. It became known as the East Georgia Fair two years later and, after the war, the American Legion Fairgrounds.

There were a number of buildings to house livestock and display handicrafts and exhibits. There was an oval racetrack for horses, track meets, and even early automobile racing—though not at the same time, of course! A partially covered grandstand overlooked the baseball diamond where Washington’s “Million Dollar League” professional team played in its only season of 1920. Local semi-pro and high school teams, though, were regular occupants for years.

The football field also utilized these same grounds. In 1919 there were no bleachers, the goal posts were rickety wood, and the field was bumpy and uneven. Fans not only lined the field, on a few occasions they even rushed onto it. The Thanksgiving 1922 game versus Lincolnton witnessed fans in a grand altercation which caused a cessation of the beginning rivalry in its first year. The teams would not play each other again for seventeen years!

But stories were being written, memories were being made, legends were growing. Tom Nash Sr. (later Georgia Bulldog All-American and Green Bay Packers All-Pro) smashed over defenses. Speedy John Ivey left defenders in the dust. The 1940 Tigers allowed nary a point scored on them all season. Four state championships were claimed in the Sixties. George Cullars terrorized visiting offenses in the Eighties. Daccus Turman eclipsed Herschel Walker’s Georgia high school single season rushing record in 2000.

This field is a hallowed turf.

Return to top