Philologus H. Loud; Man of many Hats and Mysteries
by William W. Waldrop
Using a diving bell to look for gold on river bottoms in the mid 1870’s was a novel idea; to bring one to the remote mountain town of Dahlonega in those days was unimaginable. Philologus Hawkins Loud would do just that in 1875. Today we wonder, “What would drive a man to do such a thing?” The answer lies within his unique family, his upbringing, his varied business connections and his desire to support his family in a ruined post war south.
Philologus, whose name means “Lover of the Word,” began his eventful life in Philadelphia on October 6, 1824. Named after his father’s younger brother, he was the second son born to John and Caroline Cooke Loud whose union was more than one of love; it was one of north and south. His father’s family lived in the north and were primarily manufacturers of pianos; his mother’s family lived in the south, and were merchants and businessmen.
John Loud was one of the senior partners at the Loud Brothers piano factory in Philadelphia. With business doing well in those early years, the family maintained their home in that city. The tragic death of Caroline in November of 1829 and the Georgia gold rush would change everything and ultimately have a huge impact on P. H. Loud's life. His father must have had his hands full with two young sons to raise; the oldest around 7 and Philo soon to be 5. The demands of the family business and a looming desire to do some gold prospecting would for a time, pull him away from his boys. Out of necessity, Philo and his older brother, John W. C. Loud, were placed in the care of their aunt, Sarah Loud Smiley.
The Georgia Gold Rush
Whether John Loud learned of it from associations he belonged to, read about it in the newspapers, or heard about it from his wife’s uncle, Roswell King, is unknown, but family lore and old deeds from Habersham County, Georgia reveal that the Loud brothers were purchasing land and prospecting for gold in that county in the early 1830’s. They were initially successful and founded one of the most productive mines in the county. It was near present day Loudsville, Ga. and to this day is still called the Loud Mine. Ground water filling the deep open mine and a rapid decline in land values would eventually force them to sell their land and mine.
John Loud returned to Philadelphia in 1833 and the family was reunited upon his second marriage to Marguerite St. Leon Barstow. The piano business, visiting family in the south and a second attempt and investment in a gold mine near Fredericksburg, Va. would keep the family on the move. Unfortunately, this mine proved to be a bust for the Loud brothers and coupled with the financial “Panic of 1837”, would end the existing family piano business.
P. H. Loud must have grown up hearing about those stories of prospecting for gold, and the time he spent with his southern relatives would have a lasting influence on him as well. An old journal written by his granddaughter, Cary Vaughan, states that; “He grew up in Savannah, Ga. until 1845 when he went to Florida, lived there until 1850.” His exact movements during these formative years still remain a mystery; he did have his mother’s sister, Catherine Cooke Lewis, living in Savannah so he may have lived for a time with her and her husband, Robert Adams Lewis. Proof of his being in Florida is found in his purchase of 80 acres in Columbia County, Florida in late 1848 when he was just 24 years old. In time, he would be purchasing more land… much more.
By early 1850, Philo would relocate to Montgomery County, Georgia where he would marry into a prominent southern family. The bride was Sarah Elizabeth Williams, daughter of Charles Dixon Williams and granddaughter of Brigadier General Thomas Flournoy of Augusta, Ga. With these family connections, Philo soon began to purchase thousands of acres of land in Emanuel County, Ga. These timberlands were excellent sources for turpentine production as well as timber harvesting for a growing merchant fleet and nation.
The Life of a Commission Merchant
The decade prior to the outbreak of the Civil War appears to have been one of prosperity for P. H. Loud. With his huge landholdings, his growing business as a commission merchant and experience dealing with cotton, his future prospects looked very bright. He and Elizabeth began their own family with the birth of a daughter, Sarah D. Loud in 1852 followed in 1854 with a son named Charles Dixon Loud. The family had relocated to Savannah, Ga. by the time their daughter Bessie was born in 1857. Shortly after her birth the entire family would move north to New York where P. H. Loud would explore new business opportunities. He had been preceded by his father and brother who were already involved in several business ventures, as well as his maternal aunt, Catherine and uncle, Robert A. Lewis.
By mid-1859 another son and last child had been born to P. H. Loud and his wife, he would be named Philologus H. Loud Jr. As 1860 dawned, all of these families were living near one another at Port Richmond on Staten Island, NY. The Louds had a business on Coenties Slip in lower Manhattan and while there, it is entirely possible that they witnessed Professor Benjamin S. H. Maillefert using his diving bell to blast and remove the hull disemboweling rocks of nearby Coenties reef. His activities always drew a crowd and the explosions were quite a spectacle. The airlock passage tube on Maillefert’s diving bell closely resembled the one P. H. Loud would use 15 years later.
Business would soon send P. H. Loud on possibly two different long voyages across the Atlantic. His passport application dated April 14, 1860, not only revealed that his uncle, Robert A. Lewis, vouched for his citizenship, it also gives a physical description of him. He was 35 years old, 5’ 11 ¾” tall, had grey eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. Philo must have had many adventures and definitely traveled widely between this time and April of 1861 when he returned to New York harbor. Much had happened in the interim; not two weeks after his passport application had been completed, his father had been killed by an accidental discharge of his own pistol. War clouds had also been gathering during his travels. Within days of his arrival in New York, Fort Sumter was attacked. The time for talk and saber rattling was over… it was time to choose sides.
Brother against Brother
Whether it was from his time spent as a youth with his mother’s family, the years he spent conducting business and living amongst his wife’s relatives or his vast real estate holdings in Georgia, it is clear that unlike his stepmother, and step siblings, his loyalties were firmly with the south. At the outbreak of hostilities, he immediately left New York for Georgia where he would enlist in the Confederate Army.
His unit was transported to Richmond, Va. for training and soon his company was combined with others and became Company H, of the 10th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He became the Captain of his company and served honorably through the Peninsula Campaign, the battle of Crampton’s Gap, Antietam where he was wounded and Fredericksburg. Near the end of 1862, he would be promoted to the rank of Major. By the spring of 1863, he had contracted a disease called “Endocarditis,” which would hospitalize him and eventually lead to his retirement from the service.
Trying to hold on
Business was never far from his mind and before the war was over, he had resumed his career as a commission merchant. When the Civil War ended, the south was in ruins and it is evident that P. H. Loud did all that he could to support his family. During the mid to later 1860’s he would join with several businesses in Macon, Ga. buying and selling all kinds of dry goods as well as produce and cotton. He also obtained the rights in Georgia to sell a new kind of concrete building block and by the end of the decade; he even tried his hand as a practitioner of “Animal Magnetism.”
Despite all his efforts in a variety of enterprises, the decade of the 1860’s apparently took a terrible toll on his personal wealth. On the 1860 census, Philo reported that his real estate was valued at $30,000. His wife Sarah, who also owned real estate under a trust from her mother, reported its value as $30,000 as well. Ten years later on the 1870 census, Philo reported his real estate was only valued at $1,000 and there was no entry for his wife’s real estate at all. Curiously, the value reported for their personal estate remained the same at $1,050 for 1860 and 1870
The early 1870’s would find him selling his home in Jonesboro, Ga. and relocating to Atlanta, Ga. where he became a dealer in coal and lime. In time he would expand his interest into other enterprises. In February of 1872, he along with many others, were petitioning the Superior Court of Fulton County to incorporate a business called the “Steam Road Wagon Company” to manufacture steam road engines and wagons.
By August of 1872, it appears that the Loud family penchant for gold prospecting was now in his blood. P. H. Loud along with his eldest son Charley, and three other men would seek and be granted incorporation of the Georgia Gold Mining Company by the state of Georgia. An old deed from Douglas County, Ga. reveals that an arrangement had been made with a Mr. O. Rockwell for a partial interest in land as collateral for an investment in “a certain gold mining operation in the Chattahoochee or Chestatee Rivers.” This is the first recorded indication that he wanted to look for gold in the rivers of Georgia.
1873 would not be a good year for P. H. Loud or the nation. America’s first great depression, the “Panic of 1873” would among many other things, raise interest rates, hurting those who carried a lot of debt. P. H. Loud would have land in Cobb, Fulton and Douglas Counties placed on the auction block by the courts to satisfy liens against him. To make matters worse, in June of 1873, a news article appeared in the Chicago Tribune stating: “Philologus H. Loud of Chicago” was filing a bill of complaint against Robert L. Crandall for fraudulently acting as his agent for the sale of thousands of his acres in Emanuel County. Loud charged that Crandall intended to sell his land and pocket the money for his own use.
By 1874, Loud had left the Atlanta area for parts unknown. From this point on until his reappearance in Dahlonega in August of 1875, his life remains a great mystery. Where he was living, what he was doing and who he was associating with, are all questions whose answers may reveal where the diving bell was built, who his partners were and where he got the money for such an expensive endeavor.
“I have seen something new”
August 14, 1875 he reappears in Dahlonega, Ga. where the local paper, The Mountain Signal would report that, “Messrs. Loud, Cook and Seiclen, of NY. were in our town this week looking after the mining interests of our section.” This would be the beginning of his attempt to use a diving bell to search the river bed of the Chestatee for gold. Diving bells had been around since the time of Alexander the Great. They had been used for many purposes in oceans, bays, tidal rivers and lakes. To take one to a mountain river and use it to prospect for gold, must have been a first.
Loud’s attempt is a story of one man’s desire to use a new method to mine for gold in places that others could not reach. A diving bell and all kinds of machinery would have to be manufactured, transported and assembled on a specialized boat to be built on the side of a river prone to flash floods. Before it was over, he would have problems with machinery repairs and modifications, flash floods, armed conflicts with the law and hounded by workmen he owed money to and other creditors. Just as Custer found himself surrounded at the Little Big Horn in June of 1876, the Loud's too were encircled with no easy way out. Coincidentally, Benjamin Maillefert, whose diving bell may have inspired the one Loud had built, would at the same time be declared bankrupt in Charleston, SC.
It all came to an end for the Loud Mining Company on October 18, 1876 when the boat sank at its mooring against the bank of the river. It could be said that the Loud boat site is a crime scene as the newspapers of the day suggested that it may have been purposely sunk by, “some wretch having revenge in his heart.” A local story has it that his 22 year old son Charley, intentionally sank it because his father was squandering their inheritance. Interestingly, research has revealed that after 1876, Charlie moved away from the family, became a lawyer and settled amongst his Williams relatives near Soperton, Ga. He soon moved to nearby Mount Vernon and started his own practice as a lawyer. It appears that he rarely visited his family after this misadventure in Dahlonega. To date, no descendant has been found that even has a picture of him.
Although P. H. Loud's enterprise ended in failure, he had paved the way for others to one day mine the bed of the Chestatee River with improved equipment. As for Philologus and his family, they would leave the Dahlonega area, eventually settling in South Carolina where he had Johnson family relatives. By the fall of 1878, he had accepted a position as principal of Johnston County High School in Edgefield County, SC. His two daughters would also be involved in the school. Bessie would serve as her father’s assistant and Sarah would be in charge of the music department. P. H. Loud was not through with gold mining though, he soon became interested in a local gold mine called the “old Quattlebaum mine.” In June of 1879, he had taken over as superintendent of that mine and begun operations.
By 1880 the family had moved to Williston, SC. Now 56 years old, P. H. Loud was showing no signs yet of slowing down. In the 1880 census he gives his occupation as, “Dealer in Machinery.” Indeed he must have been, in the next few years he would receive patents for several inventions, among them an improved version of the diving bell he used in the Chestatee River. He also appears to have divided his time between Williston and Augusta, Ga. where his eldest daughter, Sarah and her husband, Robert H. Mixon, lived for several years.
In his later years, he still remained active. He would be involved in the growing of fruit, kaolin mining and selling insurance. He would also attend Confederate reunions with his old regiment and in 1898 he would join the Confederate Survivors Association. On his application it asked where he was born, he humorously stated that he was, “born in Philadelphia (by accident).” His very active life drew to a close on December 14, 1905. An all too brief obituary appeared in The State of Columbia, SC. December 19, 1905. Among other things it would say that, “he was severely wounded at Cramptons’ Gap and Sharpsburg, from which he never fully recovered. After the war he was engaged in Life Insurance in Augusta but later made his home with his son in law, R. M. Mixon” (by then of Williston, SC.).
Philologus Hawkins Loud has the distinction of having two monuments to bear witness to his walk upon this earth. One of them stands over his earthly remains in Williston Cemetery. Near the bottom is engraved, “A Brave Confederate Soldier.” The other stood in the Chestatee River for 104 years and marked the site of one of his boldest ideas. Today, we call it, “The Chestatee River Diving Bell.”