Vernacular Greek Revival Cottage, Ellabell

Though its most noticeable feature may be the Victorian scalloping around the porch, this is most properly a vernacular Greek Revival cottage. It’s perhaps the most iconic structure in Ellabell and is very endangered. I don’t know if it was a house or a store or office, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Though the following account isn’t related to this house, I’m placing it here because this is the most popular of the Ellabell posts. I’m grateful to Lawrence Hyde for sharing.

Origins of Ellabell, Georgia – by Lawrence Hyde

If you have ever wondered how the community of Ellabell got it’s name – Here is the story.

My Great-Great Grandfather, John Morrison, set up a Turpentine Operation in Bryan County and named it for his daughter, Ella Bell, my Great Grandmother. Originally spelled “Ella Bell” somewhere over the years the words got mushed together into “Ellabell”. Here on out – to avoid confusion – I will refer to her by the family nickname “BG”.

When John Morrison married his wife, Iola Bell (Seriously – I can’t make these names up!), a young minister fresh out of seminary performed the ceremony. His name was Henry Van Dyke. He would become a prominent author and speaker later in life with his inspirational books and poetry. My favorite of his books is THE STORY OF THE OTHER WISEMAN. He also wrote the lyrics to Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.

When BG was about 4 or 5 years old, the French Actress, Sarah Bernhardt played Savannah. With a reputation for being a Huntswoman, John Morrison invited her out to hunt on the Turpentine Plantation. Family Lore has it that her private railcar was brought out to Ella Bell for a day or so. Iola Bell sent BG down with a pitcher of Sweet Milk. Sarah Bernhardt pulled her up on her lap and spoke to her in French while her maid translated. One of the family treasure is the milk pitcher that Sarah Bernhardt used.

BG graduated from the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens. She was a talented artist and we still have a number of her paintings spread out among the family. This is my painting from her and it is the only one that she added LCI under her signature.

BG met and married my G Grandfather, John Carlton of Elberton when he took a job as the telegraph operator at Ella Bell. Thus the old joke – he married the boss’s daughter.

Plans for a real town – churches, fountain in the square, etc etc – were drawn up but the town never took off.

While John Morrison set up a few Turpentine Operations around the South, after Ella Bell – he set up another operation in Moultrie, where He and Iola Bell, John Carlton and BG, and my own grandparents are buried. I always crack the joke with roots so deep in Moultrie – that I am related to 1/2 the town by birth and the other 1/2 by marriage.


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