I have been loosely following the 34th Division and my father during World War II.  They landed in Algeria and fought Rommel in Tunisia.  Then all the way up the Italian Peninsula.  The maps below show their route.   We arrived in Civitavecchia and travelled north to La Spesia.  Tomorrow we head north to Como.

From Clif Hullinger's blog  https://hullingerwwii.blogspot.com/

Videos https://109thvideo.blogspot.com/

South of Florence

I joined "B" Co. 109th Engineers, 34th Division in Nov 1944. but we were about fought out by then and after some attacks which didn't go anywhere, the generals went on hold until spring. We still got involved in patrolling, mines, and maintaining roads and mule trails and had a few narrow escapes but nothing major. 

Morale was pretty low, especially in the Infantry. By this time they had most of the 21,000 casualties that the Div. had by war end. The few old timers that were left had been overseas 3 years and knew that the only way to survive was to get wounded bad enough to be sent home. From where we were in the mountains, we could look north and see the tops of the Alps on a clear day. We figured we would be there for the next winter and they were higher and colder than anything we had seen so for. 

Anyway, quite a few would deliberately do something to be court martialled and put into the stockade. For a while, we would take details of stockade prisoners out to work on roads but they knew we had no way to make them work and we hated the job anyway.

Some of them were battle fatigued enough so they should have been sent back. As soon as a shell came in they scattered like a covey of quail so Headquarters stopped that practice. We had been a very good division when we came to Italy but were never very good after Cassino. But after a winter of not much fighting, and with the weather warming up, things started looking up again. I was promoted to 1st Lt. which was fairly automatic at this time.

Po Valley

The European front started to collapse in the spring and by the time we jumped off in May, the Germans didn't have much left and we broke into the Po valley and it was a rat race from then on. We first swung left up to block any Germans in the mountains west of Bologna, and then made another loop across the Po to trap the Germans who had been on the France/Italian border west of Milan. The whole division was on the road with our lights on as we moved west towards Milan when we met a convoy of Germans in trucks driving in blackout. They were full of soldiers heading for the Brenner Pass. There were no guards or anything and we never knew if they had already surrendered or not. If not, meeting a full division with lights on coming from what was your supply line and homeland, would be a real morale buster.

Thanks for the copies of the maps from, with a nice history of Private Ricardo de Lama and the 34th in Italy.


Beth and I are on a Med cruise in May 2022, roughly following the path that the "Red Bull" 34th National Guard Division and my father followed 80 years ago.  They came from Northern Ireland through the straits of Gibraltar, fought Rommel in Tunisia, and then slogged all the way north through Italy - Salerno, Monte Cassino, Anzio, etc. We arrive in Tunisia today, then up the Italian Peninsula. I have been to most of their battlefields, with Monte Cassino being the worst terrain for an offensive campaign.

The 34th Infantry Division had more combat days than any other United States Infantry Division in WWII. 

They got in on the ground floor of the war. More about them at:

Craig Harlan Hullinger

The Cost of Housing in the USA


The cost of housing in parts of the USA have gotten very high. People in those communities who do not already own a home have a very difficult time in buying or renting.  Many solutions are proposed, but the problem is very difficult.

For an individual who can work remotely, the solution is obvious. Move to a much more affordable community and telecommute. This solution does not work for people who must be present at their workplace. 

Click to view the interactive map, illustrates costs per square foot for selected counties.


Tanks For The Memories

The United States Marine Corps is getting rid of tanks.  This is quite controversial, but the recent evidence from the Ukraine - Russian war indicates that tanks are sitting ducks, destroyed by low cost drones and man packed anti tank missiles.  It seems likely that tanks are going the way of World War II Battleships - outmoded by technology.  Smart weapons have made them outmoded.

Just in case this is wrong I think the Marine Corps should mothball it's tanks, and keep its two Reserve Tank Battalions. Low cost insurance. 

Tariff on Russian Energy Exports

The sanctions that the nations of the world have placed on Russia will drive their economy far down. And the withdrawal of international companies from the Russian economy will likewise drastically impact Russia.  Hopefully this will lead to a negotiated settlement with Ukraine. And hopefully this debacle will bring about the end of Putin.

No one has talked about this possible saction, but it would be very effective. The nations of the world could enact a substantial tariff on Russean energy imports and direct the money for weapons and aid to Ukraine, and then towards rebuilding the buildings and infrastructure destroyed during the war. Say 20% on all energy exports from Russia. The impacts of this tariff would be felt in both Russia and the world energy market and would hurt the world economy. But it would be temporary and hopefully end the war.  And it would hurt Putin and Russia more than the balance of the world.

Not all of the world would go along, but enough would to make it effective.  One more way to whack Putin.

Madison, Georgia April 1, 2022


Established in 1809, Madison is the seat and the largest town in Morgan County. The early town flourished as a stagecoach stop and an in-town residence for planters' families. Principal streets were patriotically named for presidents and the community prided itself on its schools, literary, and philosophical societies. 

For the most part, Madison's antebellum architecture survived because Mayor Joshua Hill, a strong Unionist who had resigned his Congressional seat in 1861 to return to Georgia, developed an gentlemen's agreement with General Sherman's detachment. Turn-of-the-century prosperity added a large number of commercial and residential buildings that were Victorian in style. 

Twentieth century development, formerly insensitive and sprawl-oriented, is now guided to respect the local sense of place and style. Madison values what many communities have lost - an identity and historic integrity.


More photos


Sanctions on Putin

The sanctions that the nations of the world have placed on Russia will drive their economy far down. And the withdrawal of international companies from the Russian economy will likewise drastically impact Russia.  Hopefully this will lead to a negotiated se5 ttlement with Ukraine. And hopefully this debacle will bring about the end of Putin.

No one has talked about this possible saction, but it would be very effective. The nations of the world enact a substantial tariff on Russean energy imports and direct the money for weapons and aid to Ukraine, and then towards rebuilding the buildings and infrastructure destroyed during the war. Say 20% of all energy exports from Russia. The impacts of this tariff would be felt in both Russia and the world energy market and would hurt the world economy. But it would be temporary and hopefully end the war.  And it would hurt Putin and Russia more than the balance of the world.

One more way to whack Putin.


Covington, Georia April 1, 2022

We are visiting Covington, Georgia, a lovely town east of Atlanta. It was the home of the father of my wife Beth Smith Ruyle, and she spent a good deal of time here in the summer.  Covington has been used in filming numerous tv shows and movies.

"In Covington alone, the real-life classic southern scenery has served as a backdrop for more than 100 feature films and television shows. The town’s historic square, with its iconic courthouse featuring a clock tower, is instantly recognized by many viewers as the fictionalized version of Sparta in the TV series In the Heat of the Night. To another generation, Covington is Mystic Falls, the imaginary small-town setting for The Vampire Diaries."

Covington has been featured in numerous TV shows and movies since the 1950s.[16]


"Dixie Manor" was owned by Billy and Irene Smith, Beth's cousin.  It is a lovely home built in 1838. When Atlanta hosted the International City Managers Association Conference many years ago, Beth was on the host committee.  Their survey indicated that many people wanted to visit "Tara", the mythical southern mansion featured in Gone with the Wind.  Tara is ficitional.  Billy and Irene Smith saved the day by opening Dixie Manor to the ICMA tours, serving mint julips. 

Billy tells a funny story, complaining about the expense of paying for a historical accurate new metal roof on the 4 hole brick outhouse.


Dixie Manor is brick antebellum home in Covington with its distinguished English Regency architecture. The home has been featured in the movie Miss Evers’ Boys, the HGTV series If Walls Could Talk, In the Heat of the Night, and The Vampire Diaries. Irene and Billy Smith raised their family in the home.

The cabin used as the set for "My Cousin Vinnie" was owned by Billy Smith.


Click for more photos:


Right to left - Serena, Beth's sister, Beth, Craig in Covington

Funny story here. A few years ago we joined Beth's cousin in a nice restaurant on the square in Covington.  I carried Beth's purse as we walked outside. Seven gentlemen were smoking cigars seated outside the restaurant. I thought for moment to hide the purse, but instead opted to carry it openly and say "It takes a lot of courage and a lack of judgement for a damn yankee to carry a purse in Georgia."  They loved it.


The 10 Most Famous Historic Homes in Newton County, GA

/ Categories: TourismBlog

The 10 Most Famous Historic Homes in Newton County, GA

For those of you who enjoy studying history and historic homes, Newton County, Georgia is a treasure trove of beautifully preserved homes and commercial edifices that make the community so unique. Many of the buildings located in the heart of Georgia’s Historic Heartland have been a part of the local landscape since the 1800’s, and you can find historic relics all over the area.

Because we offer historic homes in many different architectural styles that span the last 200 years, Newton County is a very popular hub for film and TV productions that shoot on-location in Covington, Oxford, Mansfield, Newborn, and Porterdale. Learn more about these locations in the following list of the 10 most famous historic homes in Newton County with a detailed description of their history, and what makes them so significant in our community:


10. Orna Villa
famous historic homes

Located in small-town Oxford, Georgia, is a beautiful historic home that predates the Civil War. Named for his love for ornithology, Alexander Means purchased the home now known as Orna Villa or the “Bird House” from a Virginian named Richard Keenon Dearing. Dearing originally acquired 2,000 acres of land in 1825 and built a plantation house made from hand-hewn logs. When Means purchased the plantation home from Dearing, he remodeled it into the picturesque Greek-revival style home we see standing today.

Fans of locally-lensed The Vampire Diaries will recognize this home used to depict a fraternity house from the episode in Season 4 where Whitmore College students attend a “Murder House” party.

The historic legend of Orna Villa also lives on in the many ghost stories and hauntings reported there. Read this article by the Newton County Film Commission to learn more.


9. Starrsville Plantation
famous historic homes

Starrsville is a small, unincorporated historic community just off County Highway 213 in Newton County. Scenic Starrsville Plantation was established in 1822 on 753 acres of beautiful countryside. The estate features a breathtaking pecan orchard, farm land, the original 4,000 sq. ft. barn, and the main house built in 1836.

The location is a popular wedding venue in addition to being used for film. Recently, Amazon Prime’s original series, Lore, shot on-location at Starrsville Plantation for various episodes. Tune in to this new series on October 13th to see if you can pick out scenes at this historic site!


8. Burge Plantation 
famous historic homes

Burge Plantation is located just off the beaten path in Mansfield, Georgia. When Wiley Burge first purchased the 202 acre land lot in 1809, the acreage was used for farming. The original house on the property is believed to have been built by Wiley Burge, but disappeared by the 1840’s. Wiley’s son, Thomas, inherited the land from his father, and added to the estate in the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s. In the 1830’s Thomas Burge built a house for his family on the site of the current family home.

The diary of Dolly Lunt Burge documents her firsthand account while watching Sherman’s troops march onto the land and raid their home. It’s quite a riveting story! You can read her diary entries and learn more here.

The land was used for farming and sharecropping for many years, but the property is now a popular wedding and banquet venue today.


7. Sandtown Place
famous historic homes

Also located on the outskirts of Newton County in Mansfield, Georgia is the historic property known as Sandtown Place. This home was built in 1840 for Mr. John Broughton and provides a glimpse into our local history. Sandtown Place has been completely restored since it was originally built; however, the rich history at this location is still visible to visitors. The home features its original hand-hewn timbers as well as wide board floors and ceilings. The site also houses a general store built in 1880 on the property.

Sandtown Place is known as a popular venue for prom photos and wedding parties with its picturesque double stairway leading up to the front porch of the home.

6. The Corley House
famous historic homes

This house, located on historic Floyd Street in Downtown Covington, was onced owned by Star Corley— hence the name, The Corley House. The home was erected in 1923, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Recently, the home was featured in The Case for Christ, produced by Triple Horse Studios and filmed locally in our community. The film just released earlier in 2017, starring Mike Vogel and Erika Christensen.

5. Gaither Plantation
famous historic homes

William Hulbert Gaither bought 875 acres of land and built the Gaither house around 1850. The home was lived in until about 1950 and was the center of a rural Georgia farm for 100 years. In 1881, Gaither deeded the house to his wife, and in 1890 he died. His wife, Cecilia, moved her and her son to Covington in 1906. However, they kept the plantation.

Many grandchildren and great-grandchildren of William Gaither remembered happy memories on the plantation. Memories of this gorgeous historic property live on in the many Hollywood productions that have featured scenes at this location, like Bobby Jones: A Stroke of GeniusThe Vampire DiariesMadea’s Family Reunion, and Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.

4. Lee-Porter Mansion
famous historic homes

This historic home is another local favorite among film and production crews. The home is called The Lee-Porter House, built sometime after 1912 by Lester Lee. The Lee Family resided in the home until 1924. The property was then sold to O.W. Porter on July 31st, 1924.

This home featuring beautiful Greek-revival architecture can be seen on the small screen in The Vampire Diaries, as it was used for Elena’s “safe house” in episode 17 of Season 2, Know Thy Enemy. The location was also used for filming many portions of HBO’s Bessie, starring Queen Latifah. The homeowners have shared us what an amazing experience it was to meet Queen Latifah and just how down-to-earth she was!


3. Dixie Manor
famous historic homes

Dixie Manor is located just off the square in Downtown Covington. What truly makes this home stand out is its architecture and ghostly legends. The house was built in 1838 by Judge Thomas Franklin Jones for his wife, Elizabeth Scott. During this time, most wealthy families in the area were moving into Greek-revival style houses.

What distinguishes Dixie Manor is its early English Regency architecture, and the fact that it’s the only two-story brick antebellum home in Covington. This historic property is another relic that’s featured in productions like The Vampire Diaries.


2. Worthington Manor
famous historic homes

Worthington Manor is also just off the square in Downtown Covington, and is known by most as Lockwood Mansion from The Vampire Diaries. This home was the setting for many parties and celebrations throughout the series, and was also the venue for the famous Steroline wedding in the series finale. The location was also used for filming an episode of Sleepy Hollow. But the history of this historic home wasn’t always so glamorous...

The entire house had to be renovated and remodeled before the current owners could move in. The original hardwood floors rotted, and the bathrooms had to be removed and relocated due to coding and plumbing issues. But, that doesn’t mean the integrity of this historic home was completely removed. Many original windows, doors, and bricks were salvaged and reused when possible. Today, this property is stunning!


1. The Twelve Oaks
famous historic homes

Of all the famous historic homes in our area, The Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast is by far the most notable. This iconic antebellum home has been located just off the square since 1836. The mansion was originally built by Judge John Harris, but changed ownership throughout the decades as more improvements were added to the structure of the home. Robert Franklin Wright purchased the property after the Civil War and named the house The Cedars. He added a boxwood garden in the backyard of the home. Then, in 1903, the home was sold to Nathanial S. Turner.  Turner was an affluent cotton broker who owned the Covington Mills. The location eventually acquired a new name, Whitehall.  He added the third floor with the dormer windows, an expanded colonnade, and a second-floor.

We actually have Margaret Mitchell to thank for the current title of the property, named for her famous novel Gone with the Wind. In fact, Mitchell found the local Covington mansion within the Atlanta Journal in 1939 as she was searching for inspiration for the film based on her novel. The Bed & Breakfast has this page on display on which Mitchell wrote “I like this for Ashley’s home.” She also added another small note which reads “‘Twelve Oaks.’ This was not far from Atlanta.”

Since then, the Twelve Oaks has many claims to fame, including being featured in many publications and Hollywood productions like Vacation [2015], The Vampire DiariesIn the Heat of the Night, Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, HBO’sBessie, and a national Rooms To Go commercial with Cindy Crawford.


If you would like to learn more about the most famous historic homes in Newton County, plan a visit to experience this rich local history for yourself! Many of these homes are included in our historic home tour, or can be admired from the public sidewalk if you do your own self-guided exploration. Stop by the Newton County Visitor’s Bureau just off the Downtown Covington Square for information.