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Historic Courthouse snapshot
Historic Courthouse snapshot
Haralson County
Historical Society


Karen Higgins, President
PO Box 585 - Buchanan, GA 30113
Telephone: 770-646-3369
Fax: 770-646-1103
Web site:

DECISION   1 8 5 6


For immediate release - 18 September 2006
Contact: Ron Feigenblatt, 770-646-3369
A copy of this release is online at:


On Saturday 16 September 2006, a mock election for President of the United States in the year 1856 was held at the fair in Buchanan celebrating the 150th birthday of Haralson County, Georgia.

The voting pavilion featured a large kiosk decorated with various 1856 political campaign items. This included the lyrics of nine songs and a dozen cartoons of that year. Also posted were large photographs of the three historical candidates, annotated with simple captions written in 2006. The captions read as follows:

Vote Democratic - James Buchanan for President - Preserve the Union Vote American - Millard Fillmore for President - Keep America American Vote Republican - John Fremont for President - Contain Slavery

Any person visiting the voting booth was eligible to cast a vote - even the very smallest child. Every voter was encouraged to review the three short mock candidate speeches posted and was also given a special voting token. When the voter had made up his mind, he would record his vote by dropping the token into one of three sealed pipes, opened just far enough on top to receive it. This design frustrated those fond of hard cider on election day!

A total of 175 votes were cast over 4 hours of open polls. The final vote was:

Millard Fillmore

72 votes


James Buchanan

67 votes


John C. Fremont

36 votes



175 votes


In the original 1856 election held in Haralson County the voting went very differently. Fremont, a militant critic of slavery, was on the ballot in only two Slave States, Maryland and Delaware, and so could receive no votes here. Mr. Buchanan bested Mr. Fillmore by an enormous margin in Haralson County, receiving between 80% and 90% of the vote. In 1856, less than 1 of every 13 people in Haralson County were enslaved. In Slave State counties with so very few slaves, it was quite typical for voters to favor Buchanan over Fillmore.

The program originally scheduled live speeches by three amateur actors, each representing a candidate. The venue for these speeches was a stage backed by an 1856 US flag with 31 stars - one for each of the 31 states in the Union. Music associated with each of the three candidates was heard on the day of the fair.

Ward Mabry prepared to portray James Buchanan, but sadly was prevented from doing so by a sudden serious emergency. Julius Davenport portrayed Millard Fillmore, giving a short speech at noon promoting his candidacy. Before and after his speech he also worked the fair crowd to build support. During part of the day he was joined by Patrick Clarey, who portrayed John C. Fremont, and handed out brochures promoting his candidacy. Both these men were also supplied with calling cards to help voters remember for whom to vote. To prevent "electioneering" near the polling place, all candidates had to keep a distance of at least one full inch!

Voters were rewarded for participating with an outdoor sticker memorializing the county's 150th anniversary. They also had a chance to win one of two $25 cash prizes via a ticket stub drawing. It took 7 random stub draws to find the winners: Jerry Burrows, a vendor at the fair, and Karen Higgins, president of the Haralson County Historical Society.

The voting machine used was an object of great curiosity. In ancient times, the Greeks would vote by using sea shells as voting tokens, inspiration of the word "ostracism." The mock election in Buchanan used special small nails as tokens and water pipes as token collectors, as might an imaginative farmer faced with building an honest voting system using common items.

The election was supervised by a middle-aged man with a full beard claiming to be a farmer who had moved to Haralson County from Ohio in 1840. He bore a remarkable resemblance to Ron Feigenblatt, current publicity chair of the Haralson County Historical Society. At the front of his overalls, which held a corncob pipe in one pocket, hung a simple cloth label bearing the hand-written word "OFISHIL". In mid-19th century America about 90% of white people 20 or older could read. But spelling was not universalized and unique phonetic word renderings were not uncommon.

An enormous amount of additional information on the world of 1856 is available at the Web site of the Haralson County History Society. Find this special section at:

Photographs follow below

Click on these thumbnail versions for full-sized photos

Still-shot photography of Ward Mabry courtesy Jody Harper.
Videography for all other snapshots courtesy Benjamin "Buster" Biggers.
Ward Mabry of Haralson Co. as James Buchanan Julius Davenport of Buchanan as Millard Fillmore
Patrick Clarey of Tallapoosa as John C. Fremont The voting pavilion: two kiosks and voting machine
May the best man win! "Millard Fillmore" (left) and "John Fremont" (right) shake hands by the Haralson County Historic Courthouse. Missing is "James Buchanan", detained by vital emergency. County namesake "Hugh Haralson"(+), portrayed by Donny Boswell (right), takes his hat off to the victor, "Millard Fillmore" (center). The election "OFISHIL", played by Ron Feigenblatt (left), places hand over heart as Hail to the Chief plays. (+) A ghost: Haralson died two years before 1856!