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February 1901, read all about it in The Herald

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

One hundred and ten years ago to the month, The Herald was filled with news, both international and local with coverage ranging from the death of the England's Queen Victoria to the mysterious deaths of local pets.

A near lynching due to electricity problems

February 1901 nearly brought an end to the life of a group of firefighters and the chief of the department when a lynch mob formed and threatened to hang them, not for some dereliction of duty, but for having the gall to put out a blaze at the city's electric power plant.

It all started on the morning of February 9 when Albany Mayor S.B. Brown and a man identified only as "Electrician Sweet" were looking over parts of the new plant when a cylinder head from one of the engines blew out, taking out a wall and narrowly missed striking the two men on its way out.

"A few minutes before 7 o'clock Saturday night there occurred at the city electric plant on North Street an accident that may well be called serious and, but for what seems almost to have been providential interference, might have proved fatal," a Herald reporter writes.

A few days later on Valentines Day, another engine blew, causing a citywide blackout and "calamity" among residents. The damage prompted the city council to call a special meeting to authorize the purchase of a new boiler for the plant and to allow Brown to travel to New York to borrow up to $10,000 to get the city through the Summer months.

Despite the council's efforts, the plant's third and final engine blew on February 20 causing another citywide blackout, prompting even a comedian in town doing a show by candlelight at a local theater to crack, "What's wrong with your city's lights?"

The problem with the plant came to a head a few days later when the plant caught fire and six firemen -- the chief, the assistant chief and four firefighters -- put out the blaze.

When the fire started, "hope rose in many breasts," a Herald reported wrote.

"Last night there was a formidable movement in the city to lynch a fire chief, assistant chief and four firemen. There was great indignation that the old blacksmith shop on North street had not been permitted to peacefully cremate in its own grease, but cooler counsel prevailed and the threatened lynching was averted."

W.E.B. DuBois Sings Dougherty County's Praises in Washington Speech

Founder of the NAACP and famed intellectual and civil rights pioneer W.E.B. DuBois praised the way African Americans in Dougherty County were advancing here during a speech in February 1901 in Washington.

According to the Herald, DuBois was speaking before the Industrial commission when he referenced Dougherty County, saying that African Americans in the county owned roughly 15,000 acres of land which was more than they had ever owned previously.

The speech was made almost seven months after DuBois left Albany after having spent the Summer here studying African American life in the rural South.

Mysterious creature found to have killed cats, dogs and chickens

A general alert was sounded in the February 1911 editions of The Herald for what was described as a mysterious beast that many believed was responsible for killing area pets and small animals.

Predicted to be the work of a "large catamount" -- a word describing a large breed of cat such as a cougar, mountain lion or lynx -- many had reported that dogs, cats and chickens had fallen prey to the animal.

J.D. Sumner is government reporter for The Albany Herald. E-mail him at j.d.sumner@albanyherald.com.