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.
Perhaps the most significant of the remaining dependencies at West Hill is the plantation schoolhouse.
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.
The joinery, though crude by today’s standards, has survived for over a century and a half.
This structure did double duty as the plantation commissary and meat storage facility.
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.
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.
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.
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.
National Register of Historic Places