If the resource I’ve used is correct, this structure was known as the Johnson cabin and expanded circa 1855 into the present Greek Revival form for use as the headmaster’s home. It is the last surviving significant structure of the Rose Hill Seminary, established by Zion Episcopal Church founder Reverend Richard Johnson, who came to Talbotton in 1846. The expansion of the house may have taken place at the direction of Reverend Wesley Gahagan, who came to Talbotton in 1852 to manage the school. Reverend Gahagan died in 1857 and the school closed soon thereafter. [Thanks to Jim Bruce for further confirming some of this history].
Trae Ingram notes that the house suffered serious damage during a tornado a few years ago.
According to the 1973 nomination form which added this property to the National Register of Historic Places: Construction of the housebegan in 1828. It is an amalgamation of two two-story…houses to which was added a mid-19th century portico and several 2oth century rooms…[the house] is an example of what happened to vernacular architecture in Georgia as a family and its needs and stylistic wants grew and changed…
The house is also known as the Towns-Persons-Page House. After Towns left the governorship and moved to Macon [circa 1852], the house was sold to the Persons family, who occupied it until 1968, when it was purchased by the Gary Page family.
George Washington Bonaparte Towns (1801-1854) was born in Wilkes County, though his family soon moved to Greene County, and then on to Morgan County. He moved to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1821, and operated a pub while studying law. He was admitted to the bar in 1824. He also briefly owned a newspaper, the Alabama Journal. His first marriage, to Margaret Jane Campbell in 1826, ended tragically. His bride, who had been in poor health, died just a few days after the ceremony. [He married Margaret Winston Jones of Virginia in 1838].
Towns moved to Talbotton in 1828 and served as one of its first commissioners. He was also one of the first attorneys in the new town, owning a very successful practice. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1829 and 1830. He served in the state senate from 1832-1834. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1835 but resigned in 1836 over concerns that the legislature might be forced to pick a Whig as President in the upcoming election. Instead, a Whig won Towns’s seat, but he successfully won re-election to the seat in 1837 and served until 1839. He continued to practice law and served one more term in Congress, in 1846, but lost re-election to John W. Jones, a Whig.
In 1847, Towns was elected governor of Georgia in a highly contested race against the Whig candidate, Duncan L. Clinch. He served until 1851 and died in Macon in 1854.
Robert H. Dixon, a state senator and state representative, owned this land from 1827-1857 and built the main house, seen above, circa 1840. The property was sold to Daniel G. Owen (1830-1892) in 1858, and was held by his heirs until 1967. Owen was a Confederate soldier, taken prisoner by the Union, who came back to a different plantation after the war. He was a model farmer. Instead of dwelling on the loss of his slaves, he went about making the property work with one-third the labor of plantations of similar size. (Please note that this is private property. I’m grateful to the property owner for permission to photograph the grounds).
His waterworks, built in 1886, was considered his greatest modernization and received much attention in the press. The water tower is the tall feature covered with vegetation.
Numerous outbuildings survive on the property.
I cannot identify each outbuilding, but each had its own specific function. Descriptions and a much more detailed chronology of the property can be found on the National Register nomination form.
Jim Luckey, the present owner of the property, writes: Mary Elisabeth Hargis Luckey, great niece of Collier Vines Mills along with her husband James Milton Luckey jr. Purchased The Elms from Ed and Cheryl Smith in 2005 bringing the property back into the family. Since the time we purchased the mule barn was razed as it was too far gone to restore. However the stacked stone foundation was left in place. We replaced the roof in 2013 and found the underlying heart pine boards to be in perfect condition. In addition crickets were made and installed behind each chimney and flashed with industrial powder coated metal to divert water and all gutter-downspouts and underground drains installed.
One point which needs correction is the structure being called a guest house (I made a guess that this was a guest house) was indeed either the overseer’s cottage or the cook’s cottage. We think most likely the cooks as the overseer would have been on higher ground and the cook closer to the main house. The Elms is our favorite place and we love being the caretakers of this beautiful piece of history. We are delighted to see the interest this article has created. Any questions we would be pleased to answer contact Luckeyjim@gmail.com
Elaine Kilpatrick Tyler, a former resident, writes: My family and I lived at this farm in the 1950s. We moved there from Talbotton, Georgia. I was in the 11th grade at Talbot County High School in Talbotton. I cherished this farm place with so much history. My childhood dreams of having a horse came true and I ended up with 3 horses. My brothers refinished the floors at the guest house. The lady that owned the place at that time lived in Macon, Ga. (I think) . Anyway I loved all the history of this place, the jail under the house, the milk cellar, the cemetery, and so much more. I hope I can go there and see the place this spring. I see some changes in the front at the entrance…there used to be a very large muscadine arbor to the left of the as you went onto the porch.
Built for John Thomas Blount, this Greek Revival cottage was later owned by the McCoy and Maxwell families. It became a focus of statewide attention when, on 5 April 1896, Emma Owen was shot and killed while visiting Jenny McCoy here. A local dentist, Dr. Will Ryder, had become enamored of Ms. Owen and had apparently been stalking her. At the time of the murder, Emma was sitting beside the front window of the home, in the company of her boyfriend, when Ryder fired shots into the parlor. After committing the act, the doctor fled to his nearby office and attempted suicide, but was rescued by friends. He was later charged with murder but was lynched while awaiting sentencing. Blood stains from the murder are still visible on the wood floorboards and the house is widely believed to be haunted.
This grand home was built by attorney Joseph Pou and soon thereafter to sold to a Dr. Hill, who was a professor at the LeVert Female College. Dr. Hill, who later practiced law in Macon, became a chancellor of the University of Georgia and is credited with transforming its focus from teacher education to a broader academic spectrum.
This photograph dates to 2009 and as of 2016 it’s still standing but very overgrown. I’ve been trying to identify this Greek Revival cottage, which I knew to be early, for almost a decade. Thanks to Luke Moses, who shared this: According to William Davidson’s A Rockaway in Talbot (Volume I, pp. 86-88), this is the Radcliff-Spivey House, built about 1835. This confirms the early date and makes even more critical the need for its stabilization.
This beloved landmark was built as the LeVert College for Young Women by Lazrus Straus, a Belgian merchant whose business was the forerunner of the Macy’s chain. This was a Methodist school and merged with Collingsworth Institute in 1879. It closed in 1907 and was used as a public school until 1926. Many years after moving away from Talbotton and founding Macy’s, the Straus family made gifts to ensure the preservation of this important structure. Madame Octavia Walton LeVert, for whom the LeVert Female College was named, was the granddaughter of George Walton, a Georgia Signer of the Declaration of Independence.
LeVert Historic District, National Register of Historic Places