02/22/04 — Who came up with 'The Garden Spot' for LaGrange?

View Archive

Who came up with 'The Garden Spot' for LaGrange?

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 22, 2004 2:04 AM

LaGRANGE -- The great-granddaughter of the man credited with giving LaGrange its nickname "The Garden Spot" in the early 1900s has written a children's book honoring her family's history.

Judith Shaw was born and reared in Brooklyn, N.Y., but visited relatives in LaGrange often while growing up. She has taught jewelry design at the Newark Museum in New Jersey and has taught English as a second language in New York. Last June, she made the move to LaGrange.

She said she decided to take some of her family history and turn it into a children's book, which she entitled "Papa and the Secret Train." The story is told through the eyes of two fictional characters, Josephine and Kayla.

Her inspiration was her great-grandfather Eugene Jim Shaw, the first black switchman and fireman employed on the Atlantic and East Carolina Railroad that traveled between Goldsboro and Morehead City.

"My father always told us stories about my great-grandfather," she said. "I always had an affinity for the things that he did."

She said that on one of the train runs that passed through LaGrange, he announced the stop by calling out, "LaGrange, LaGrange, the garden spot." It caught on and became a popular reference for the community.

Ms. Shaw has completed the children's book and said it will be one of three revolving around her family. She decided she will self-publish and plans to have it on the market by May.

She has involved the talents of local residents in putting the finishing touches on her work. Students at Frink Middle School in LaGrange have contributed illustrations, as has Maxine Cooper, principal of LaGrange Elementary School.

Artist Chick Wooten of LaGrange, who has rendered work of Tip O'Neal and other dignitaries, will be the illustrator for the book's front cover. "He knew my great-grandfather and has given me lots of facts about him," she said.

She said she wanted to make the book an American story and that it crosses color lines.

"My great-grandfather loved people and that's what I wanted to get across in the book," she said.