Editor’s note: This story is part of an occasional series about local items of historic, noteworthy or unusual significance gleaned from nearly two centuries of Telegraph and Macon News archives.
Even the strongest of men could not overpower this petite woman from Milledgeville.
Dixie Haygood weighed just shy of 100 pounds. The crowned heads of Europe, emperors and other world nobility were awed by her feats of physical strength.
“She picked men up and threw them down, she turned them over and tumbled them under,” according to an excerpt from The Borsen Courier in Berlin, Germany, that appeared in The Telegraph on Oct. 29, 1893. “She outpushed, out-pulled, held, lifted, twisted tumbled a dozen men and was not tired a bit.”
Haygood, called “The Little Georgia Magnet,” would press one end of a billiard stick against her chest and have strong men in the audience try to push the other end of the stick in an attempt to move her.
Legend has it, no one could.
Impressed by a 1885 performance by Lulu Hurst, a Vaudeville performer from Polk County, Haygood was inspired to learn secret techniques so that she, too, could perform magical exhibitions of strength.
Within a month of watching Hurst’s performance at the Opera House in Milledgeville, Haygood developed her own act and got a gig at the Academy of Music, now the Grand Opera House, in Macon.
Haygood started performing across the state, the country and then the world.
Though her stage name, Annie Abbott, garnered headlines worldwide, her 1915 death was largely unnoticed.
Haygood’s story has been passed down for generations. She is known in Milledgeville as one of the city’s most famous ghosts and some even call her a witch.
Magic and Tragic
Tragedy struck Milledgeville in 1886 when Haygood’s husband, Deputy Marshal C.N. Haygood, was shot to death during an argument after a large crowd had just broken up from hearing speeches in the street for and against prohibition. It is said he was the first police officer to be killed on duty in the city’s history.
A couple years later, in Augusta, she met a man named T.D. Embry. Embry would follow her through Alabama and Tennessee before marrying her in 1888.
That marriage, too, would end tragically.
The couple traveled to Cincinnati. At a hotel there, Embry told Haygood he was fearful she would lose her money so volunteered his services as treasurer of the family.
Haygood agreed to allow him to keep $60, all the money she had, “and then, without even a parting kiss, skipped out, leaving his wife penniless in a strange land to care for herself the best she could, and from that day to this her eyes have never beheld him,” according to Telegraph archives.
Embry had someone write letters to Haygood stating that he was dead, but when Haygood visited his relatives in Kentucky, she learned he was alive and well in Mississippi. The couple divorced after only five months of marriage.
But the Little Georgia Magnet would not be tarried with lost love.
In fact, she went on to travel the world and wowed world leaders.
In 1894, she returned to Macon with fame, jewels and extravagant gifts from abroad.
By then, she was “not only to be recognized as one of the world’s greatest wonders, but also one of the greatest celebrities that ever appeared on any stage,” The Telegraph reported.
When Haygood delivered a private performance at the New York World office in 1894, all but one reporter was impressed.
Nellie Bly, a famous journalist, was skeptical and began experimenting to see if she could replicate some of Haygood’s acts.
“The only secret to the whole thing is that of placing one’s self in such a position that a man uses his force against himself,” Bly told fellow reporters at the performance, according to archives.
When Bly asked to see Haygood’s feet while she performed, Haygood could not complete the act and “accounted for her failure by saying she wasn’t well, didn’t feel in any condition and had not proper surroundings,” according to archives. “The whole thing is poppycock.”
Bly exposed the trick of equilibrium.
Haygood was living in New Jersey the following year when the New York World reported she was in trouble and “keeping away from this city carefully to avoid payment of a judgment and possible arrest on a charge of perjury.”
The jewels and valuable expensive souvenirs Haygood collected in her travels made her a target to thieves. She was robbed on several occasions. She once was robbed in New York of a satchel containing nearly $30,000 worth of jewels, according to a 1909 edition of The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina.
In 1897, when Haygood was living in Columbia, her 14-year-old son and a man who was working in the freight yard there were jailed for stealing diamonds, watches and other expensive jewelry from a trunk in her bedroom, The State reported.
When her son, Fred T. Haygood, was returned home, “she threw her arms around him and wept, exclaiming, ‘Oh, Fred, how could you do your mother so?’ Then she fainted and fell to the floor,” The State reported.
For a while in 1906, Haygood’s friends and family thought she died in an earthquake in San Francisco.
Fred Haygood reportedly sought help finding her from Macon’s mayor, who sought aid from the mayor of San Francisco. Haygood was unharmed in the natural disaster but her return to town was not well documented.
The same year, a man from Tacoma, Washington, was jailed on charges including bigamy for marrying Haygood while he was married to Lulu F. Day, who had been admitted to a mental health asylum at the time her husband met Haygood.
Day and Haygood met each other and compared notes, according to a 1906 article from The Tacoma Daily News. The women were friendly, but then Haygood took out warrants on Day for allegedly stealing photos and trinkets from her. Day then sued Haygood for $10,000 in damages for slander.
At some point, Haygood moved to a house on Lawton Street in Macon and began using her maiden name, Jarratt.
In 1912, The Telegraph reported Haygood said she “thinks her power, which she terms magnetism, is dwindling and does not know whether she could perform the feats of strength now that she was capable of several years ago.”
That same year, she took her son Fred to court and accused him of threatening her with a pistol. She also claimed he was not her biological son and that she adopted him shortly after the death of her real son.
Days after the court appearance, Fred Haygood took out a write of lunacy for his mother and she was booked in the county jail. In court that summer, Fred Haygood told jurymen that she “would go into the back yard in the wee hours of the morning and there, in utter darkness, remain for hours at a time playing with toads,” according to archives.
In the end, Fred Haygood received from the sale of her land only $403.66 after all creditors and lawyers were paid. There was no mention of inherited jewelry or household items.
Haygood was released after 13 days in jail.
She died about three years later.
A brief obituary in a 1915 Telegraph edition mentioned Haygood, a “mysterious actress ... appeared before virtually all the royal houses of the world.”
Haygood was buried in an unmarked grave beneath a cedar tree in what is now Memory Hill Cemetery. In years past, her story has been told as part of the annual Haunted Trolley Tours in Milledgeville.