The Union Recorder

Local News

October 27, 2010

‘An Evening with Dixie Haygood’ is Thursday

MILLEDGEVILLE — While walking the peaceful lanes of Memory Hill Cemetery, the essence of the past mingles with fall breezes of today. Sun-dappled headstones and ornate markers on the horizon withstand weather and the passage of time. These are silent testimonies to lives lived and history made. Sometimes history bears repeating.

“If we’re not trimming around headstones, straightening flower pots or sprucing up plots,” said Dr. Susan Harrington about her and husband Hugh Harrington’s moments spent at Memory Hill, “we can be found most any time taking a brisk walk around the cemetery.”

It was through their dedication and work at Memory Hill as well as a keen interest in genealogy and Hugh’s fascination with history that the Harringtons were intrigued by one of Memory Hill’s most interesting and long-forgotten residents, Dixie Annie Jarratt Haygood, also known as “The Little Georgia Magnet.”

Little was known about Haygood, who rests beneath an unassuming headstone next to her first husband, Charles. Through one of her diaries kept during the height of her career and notations in her personal autograph book, the Harringtons were able to delve into the intimate and fascinating details of Haygood’s life.

“It was a stroke of luck that we were contacted by one of her descendants,” Sue Harrington said recently. The descendent had Haygood’s diary and personal autograph book stored in a garage. The Harringtons drove to Tennessee to pick up the treasures, and the pieces of the puzzle began to fall in place. Through her papers, they were able to form a timeline of her life and piece together the intricate details of her travels, relationships and, to some extent, her powers.

As a young widow of her time, Haygood had few opportunities to make a living on her own. During that particular era in the south, a woman’s place was thought to be cemented in family and civic duties filling long, hot days. Haygood wanted more.

Haygood watched with keen interest a traveling exhibition presented by Lula Hurst, known as “The Georgia Wonder,” at the Opera House. Hurst demonstrated incredible strength while still maintaining an outward air of femininity. Haygood sought to recreate the performance and take it on the road adding her own spin and twists to capture and keep the attention of her audience. She was good.

Always with a male manager to facilitate the essence of polite decorum, Haygood performed on stage during the late 1890s and early 1900s under the moniker of Annie Abbott. Eventually known worldwide as “The Little Georgia Magnet,” she had the ability to stick to the ground and not be moved when she willed it. The fete was accomplished with several burly men from the audience who at first were able to lift the 96-pound woman with little effort. The men were asked to lift her a second time as she willed herself to remain firmly planted. Astonishingly, they were unable to move her from the spot.

Haygood had several more powers she demonstrated all the while seemingly exerting very little energy, such as toppling a chair containing several men with the twist of her hand or holding a pool cue steady with two fingers while a grown man actively attempted to force it to the ground. These are a few of her abilities scientists and medical professionals of the time were unable to explain. Haygood easily captured the attention of the world, its European royalty and even the famous magician Harry Houdini.

In honor of Dixie and to celebrate her awe-inspiring life, The Old Capital Historical Society will present for the first time in nearly a century “An Evening with Dixie Haygood” performed at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Goldstein Center of the Performing Arts on the Georgia Military College campus. Susan Harrington will portray Dixie Haygood and a portion of her stage show as well as present snippets of her life. This spectacular evening will be filled with the magical mystery that surrounds Dixie Haygood as the woman she was and Annie Abbott as the mystical being she portrayed on stage.

“The event began as a book signing and talk,” said Susan Harrington. In preparation for the discussion, a different idea struck the couple, and Dixie Haygood began to come alive. Portrayed in the first person as Dixie herself, Harrington will display exhibitions of strength against three burly GMC football players as well as other fetes particular to Haygood’s famed stage performance.

“The performance will be historically accurate and performed as if Annie Abbott herself is on stage,” added Harrington.

A donation to Georgia’s Old Capital Museum will be accepted as admission to the event. The Harringtons will sign copies of their book “Annie Abbott: ‘The Little Georgia Magnet’ and the True Story of Dixie Haygood,” which will be available for purchase following the performance.

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