West Hill, Circa 1836, Stewart County

Main House

The land which today comprises West Hill was first acquired by William Cunningham of Pulaski County in the Land Lottery of 1827. Cunningham never occupied the property and sold it to David Harrell about 1836, when the Greek Revival main house* is thought to have been constructed. He sold the property to William West (1799-1873) in 1853. By 1860, West had 3500 acres in cultivation and 2000 acres in timberland, making him one of the largest plantation owners in Georgia. He was also a leading cotton producer, with a record of 430 bales produced around 1860. Slave labor was integral to the operation.

West deeded the property to his daughter, Annie Crooks West, in 1867. She later married James Nelson McMichael and they lived in the main house the rest of their lives. After Mrs. McMichael’s death in 1915, estate administrators operated the farm until it was purchased by her nephew, L. M. Moye, Sr., in 1929. His descendants continue to own the property. I’m most grateful to Mac Moye for a generous tour of the grounds. The property is inhabited and private.

*-Mac Moye notes the similarity of the main house to the Bedingfield Inn in Lumpkin, suggesting they were likely designed by the same builder. This must be considered more than coincidental, considering the rural nature of Stewart County in the 1830s.

West Hill Dependencies

The historical importance of West Hill is most evident in the surviving dependencies that were the hallmark of self-sustaining plantation life. That the West descendants have maintained these structures in such authentic condition for more than a century-and-a-half seems nothing short of miraculous. Other than the absence of the original wooden shingles, the outbuildings are true to their original condition.

Schoolhouse, Circa 1853

Perhaps the most significant of the remaining dependencies at West Hill is the plantation schoolhouse.

Schoolhouse, Foundation Stones

One of the first schools ever built in Stewart County, its use by neighboring children was strongly encouraged by William West, who even brought a tutor from New York to teach his children here.

Schoolhouse- Dovetail Joinery

The joinery, though crude by today’s standards, has survived for over a century and a half.

Commissary/Meat Storage House

This structure did double duty as the plantation commissary and meat storage facility.

Kitchen

Kitchens were always built away from the main house, and this was even true for much smaller properties. The threat of fire and the ability to control it led to this convention.

Cook’s House

Among the domestic staff, no one was more important than the cook; it was common on large plantations for one or two members of the kitchen staff to have their own separate dwelling.

Blacksmith Shop

Another person essential to the continued success of a large working farm or plantation was a blacksmith, as much of what was needed for repair and production weren’t locally available, and tools and implements needed to be forged on site.

Privy

The essential privy…in this case, a five-seater.


West Hill Dependencies- Slave Dwellings of “The Grove”

Few properties in Georgia retain the dwelling places of enslaved persons, so the survival of these three at West Hill is extraordinary. All of the slave dwellings are believed to be contemporary to the construction of the main house, dating them to circa 1836. Though they have been maintained by the family for their historical value, they are the most endangered, and arguably the most important structures on the property. Located bout a quarter mile from the main house in an area referred to as “The Grove”, these single-pen houses were used as tenant homes long after emancipation. As a result of their later use, two were slightly modified. One has an extra room and shed room, while another has a shed room. Like the dependencies at the periphery of the main house, these structures were of log construction with siding and would have originally featured wooden shingles.

Slave Dwelling No. 1

Slave Dwelling No. 1- Interior Detail

Slave Dwelling No. 2

Slave Dwelling No. 2- Interior Detail

Slave Dwelling No. 2- Hearth

Slave Dwelling No. 2- Rear Perspective

Slave Dwelling No. 3

Slave Dwelling No. 3- Rear view showing shed room

National Register of Historic Places

8 thoughts on “West Hill, Circa 1836, Stewart County

  1. mildredsmithgruner

    Wonderful, Mildred Smith Gruner

    On Sun, Aug 26, 2018 at 9:10 AM Vanishing South Georgia Photographs by Brian Brown wrote:

    > Brian Brown posted: ” The land which today comprises West Hill was first > acquired by William Cunningham of Pulaski County in the Land Lottery of > 1827. Cunningham never occupied the property and sold it to David Harrell > about 1836, around when the Greek Revival main house* ” >

    Reply
  2. Janice Ligon

    What a majestic southern “mansion”. That is what we said about it when we would pass there. Your Mama and Daddy always kept it up so good. It is still beautiful.

    Reply
  3. Wendell O summerlin

    Brian would you happen to have any houses that was circa 19 35 farmhouse? My family home is built in 1935 and I’m trying to do some history on it. I can send you some pictures of it if you like. metter Georgia is where bits located

    Reply
  4. ben dooley

    Thanks for the great pictures but even more thanks for the history of this beautiful old home. We have been passing it several times a year for many years on our way to the Gulf. Everytime l think about how it would be nice to know more of the story of this very fine pre Civil War plantation house. Thanks for letting us see the surviving accessory buildings too. I had no idea they still existed.

    Reply
  5. Dan

    Brian,

    Your incredible documentation of what truly (and tragically) is an integral part of the remembering of history.

    These photos will lead me to ponder deeply the foundations of our country, current mileau, and future visions of “All Men are Created Equal.”

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.