Category Archives: –HANCOCK COUNTY GA–

Top Ten Posts of 2022

With nearly a million views, these are our most popular posts of 2022. Thanks for traveling with me and for making all this possible.

#1- House Creek Boils, Wilcox County

#2- Apartment Houses, St. Simons Island

#3- Peches Stand, Putnam County

#4- Elizabeth Durden House, 1840s, Emanuel County

#5- Hunter’s Cafe, 1951, Shellman Bluff

#6- Package Store, Jeff Davis County

#7- Best Biskits by a Dam Site, Hartwell

#8- Flint River Diving Trees, Meriwether County

#9- Amanda America Dickson House, 1871, Hancock County

#10- Stonewall J. Williams Plantation, 1880s, Screven County


General Store, Hancock County

I believe this was a neighborhood store, out in the country, and if memory serves me correctly it’s located between Devereux and Milledgeville.

Middlebrooks House – Sparta Female Dormitory, 1832

According to local sources, this was one of three dormitories of the Sparta Female Model School, built between 1831-1832. In contrast to the other existing dormitory, this one is in good condition and has been a residence for many years.

Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Dennis Ryan House, Circa 1804, Sparta

This raised Greek Revival cottage on Maiden Lane was the home of Dennis Ryan, the local newspaper editor who covered Aaron Burr’s presence in the area after his duel with Alexander Hamilton. I believe the house has been recently restored.

Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Craftsman House, 1914, Sparta

This shingle-sided Craftsman sits on a high lot above Broad Street. It’s an unusual but nice example of the form.

Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Garland Grave Houses, Hancock County

These grave houses, which I photographed at Mt. Hope Methodist cemetery in Hancock County in 2010, are still among my favorites. Sadly, they were in poor condition and were gone by 2016. They protected the final resting place of James M. Garland (31 March 1827-19 May 1912) & Mary E. Garland (10 September 1836-9 November 1888) and though they are difficult to date, were likely placed around the time of Mr. Garland’s death in 1912.

Grave houses may be as old as architecture itself, as a protection for the deceased. There are myriad forms scattered throughout North America and they were widely used by Native peoples; in the South they are more common in mountain communities than elsewhere. The Garland grave houses are of the framed picket variety, similar to fencing.

It’s amazing to think that these lasted for a century. As with most examples made of wood, they are quite vulnerable to the elements. The first ones I ever saw, at the Dickson Cemetery in my home county of Ben Hill, were very elaborate and sadly, by the time I wanted to photograph them, they were already lost. If you see any or know of any, please share them with me.

Amanda America Dickson House, 1871, Hancock County

Known among cotton planters as “The Prince of Southern Farmers”, David Dickson was a very progressive agriculturalist whose plantation, known as “The Modern Mecca”, comprised nearly 17,000 acres at its peak.

David Dickson, Date & Photographer Unknown, Likely 1850s, Public Domain

In The Houses of Hancock 1785-1865, John Rozier notes that though Dickson was one of the wealthiest men in the state, he lived in the simple Plantation Plain house his father built in the 1790s [it was destroyed by fire in 1946]. Rozier gives a hint as to the source of his success: He trained his slaves to pick twice the cotton those on other plantations gathered. Planters came from all over the South to see how Dickson farmed. A man of little formal education, he wrote for and was widely quoted in agricultural journals, and his book on farming, A Practical Treatise on Agriculture: to Which is Added the Author’s Published Letters (1870), was still in print 25 years after his death.

Amanda America Dickson, Photographer Unknown, Public Domain

Dickson didn’t marry until he was 62, but his daughter, Amanda America Dickson, was born in 1849. She was the product of the rape of a woman he enslaved named Julia Frances Lewis Dickson, who was just 13 years old when she gave birth to Amanda. Dickson claimed paternity and brought her into his home to be raised by his mother, Elizabeth Sholars Dickson. Amanda left the plantation after emancipation and began a domestic relationship with Charles Eubanks, a white first cousin, in Rome, Georgia. Because Eubanks was white, Georgia’s anti-miscegenation laws at the time prevented a legal marriage, but the union produced two sons, Julian Henry Eubanks and Charles Green Eubanks. Soon after Charles Green’s birth, Amanda returned to her father’s plantation.

During the same year he was married, David Dickson built the house pictured here for Julia and Amanda, just up the hill from his own home [the columns are a 20th century addition]. The idea of two former slaves being afforded such a prominent gesture was not well-received by his new bride, Clara Harris Dickson. Just two years later, in 1873, Clara went home to her parents and died soon thereafter.

Amanda left Hancock County in 1876 and spent two years at Atlanta University.

Upon David Dickson’s death in 1885, Amanda inherited the majority of his estate, worth well over 8 million dollars in today’s dollars. This made her the wealthiest black woman in Georgia and among the wealthiest in the nation. 79 relatives of David Dickson challenged the will, but it was affirmed in the local courts and again when it landed at the Georgia Supreme Court. Essentially, the state court asserted that the rights of a mixed-race child born out of wedlock were no different than the rights of a white child born out of wedlock. This was quite unusual for the time.

To protect herself from her white relatives, Amanda moved to Augusta soon after David’s death and bought a home in the city’s most fashionable neighborhood, where she was generally accepted. She married Nathan Toomer in July 1892, and died on 11 June 1893. Nathan remarried upon Amanda’s death and was the father of Harlem Renaissance author Jean Toomer.

Woman of Color, Daughter of Privilege: Amanda America Dickson 1849-1893, by Kent Anderson Leslie, is the standard source for her life story, which has also been the subject of a movie, A House Divided.

Hickory Grove School, Hancock County

Hickory Grove was one of numerous schools for African-American children in rural Hancock County, and though it resembles a Rosenwald, no records can be found to indicate such a connection. It’s more likely that builders, aware of the functional designs of the Rosenwald schools, simply copied their floor plans. Hickory Grove was associated with the adjacent Hickory Grove [Missionary] Baptist Church and likely dates to the 1920s.

Consolidation of rural schools, both white and black, was responsible for hundreds of such closures from the late 1940s through the mid 1960s and concern over desegregation certainly accelerated this process. Hickory Grove, as well as 14 other Hancock County African-American schools, was officially closed in January 1960.

Bethel Baptist Church, 1828, Hancock County

By some accounts, Bethel Baptist is the oldest surviving congregation in Hancock County. Land for the first church was purchased from Benjamin Thompson in 1801 and it was constituted in October 1802 by Elders Thomas Mercer and Benjamin Thompson, with twelve members. It was located on Old Bethel Hill about three miles east of Sparta on Shoals Road.

I’m dating the structure to 1828 based on the Baptist Association Minutes of 1880, which state: This church was first located on what is now known as Old Bethel Hill about three miles east of Sparta. We are unable to tie the history of this church from its constitution, till the year 1828. In February, 1828 it was removed to its present site, six miles east of Sparta, near the banks of the Little Ogheechee [sic] river. The land for the new site was deeded by John S. Latimer, and the deed names the following trustees of the church: Jesse Lockhart, David Hitchcock, William Barksdale and Byrd W. Brazill. It’s possible that this notation only indicated that the congregation itself changed locations and the church structure came later but the minutes make no mention of this.

They also note that before the Civil War, a third of the membership was African-American, indicating that members brought enslaved people to services. After Emancipation, they formed their own church, known as Hickory Grove.

Thomas Cobb Moore House, 1830s, Sparta

In The Houses of Hancock 1785-1865, Thomas Rozier identifies this as the Thomas Cobb Moore House. Since Moore was born in 1861 and died in 1914, he would not have been the builder. I’ll update when I learn more.

Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places