Category Archives: –THOMAS COUNTY GA–

Memories of Meigs, Georgia

Big Mamma’s House, Meigs

Mary Williams recently reached out to me to share her childhood memories of Meigs. I am always grateful for local history, from the people who lived it, and for many of our smallest towns, it’s all we have. Mary writes: My grandparents lived in Meigs all of their lives, and my great-grandparents before them. I have so many fond memories of the town. It is unfortunate that it is almost gone now. My great-grandparents built their home on the corner of old US 19 now called Church Street, and the main road thru town now called Depot street. My great-grandmother had a beautiful yard with lots of flowers. Folks going to Florida would often stop and ask her about the flowers. My great-grandmother came from a farming family who had been in the area since the late 1700s. Her husband was not a farmer, so her father gave them land in town when they married. They always had chickens and a cow and a large garden, but no farm. My grandparents built their house next door-just to the east of my great-grandparents. My great-grandparents originally owned the whole lot bordered by Mill Street, Depot Street, Church Street, and what is now East Marshall Street. They sold the back corner-on the corner of East Marshall and Mill street-to my Grandfather’s uncle, who built a house and barn on the lots. Eventually, they sold off the other two corner lots.

Big Mamma’s House, after remodeling

The drugstore in your pictures was never the bus station. It was always a drugstore. Mims Aultman was the pharmacist, and Mable Aultman was his wife. Their son, Mims, Jr. became a physician, and was career military. He never came back to Meigs to live. They built the drugstore and lived just next door on the north side. Behind the drugstore there use to be an old Quonset hut that was open on both ends, and black ladies would take in washing in there. I guess they washed by hand, because I don’t remember any washing machines-just tubs and lines of laundry hanging to dry, and the smell of clean soap. There were two coton gins in Meigs then, and when they were ginning cotton they would line the bales up in front of my great-grandparents’ house and on down that road to the east, until they could get loaded on the train. We loved to play around the bales. That was also where the big carriers for the new Fords would park to unload cars for the Ford place. Across from the gin on the corner of Depot street and Mill Street there was a peanut drying station. Across old US 19 from the drugstore was the Ford place, and across the street from the Ford place on the other corner was a gas station-so the four corners of US 19 as it went thru Meigs were occupied by Aultman’s drugstore, the Ford place, Gasset’s service station, and my Great-grandparents’ house. Next door to the gas station running west on that side of the road was Buck’s Jewelry store, Leon Banks’ Barber shop, Ms. Laws Cafe, Hewell’s dry goods, the hardware store, the dime store, Bolton’s Drug store with Uncle Leo’s law office behind it on the alley. A small walking alley, the post office, the beauty shop, and the Snack shack. Across the street from the Snack Shack going west was the small police station sitting in the middle of the parking lot for the train depot, and then the train tracks and the city hall-which included the jail and waterworks. Going down the other side of the street from the depot to the drugstore was the store you have a picture of that when I was a child, was a grocery owned by my cousin, Dan King. then there was a walking alley, and the next building was the Bank with Dr. Izlar’s office above it. At one point, the operator for the telephone company was also upstairs. Then there was Wurst’s grocery, and another grocery, but I don’t remember the name, then the Ford Place. The farmers would bring their fresh produce to town, and I remember watermelons stacked on the sidewalk outside the stores. The old men sat on benches and watched everyone going up and down the street. They chewed tobacco, and if you were a barefoot child you had to be careful of where you stepped because they spit on the sidewalk.There were apartments upstairs over the stores, but I never knew anyone who lived there. Going back to the depot and the street that ran south to north from Dan’s grocery, there was a furniture store. I think it was Dasher’s. The back of the furniture store was open to the grocery. Next to that was the movie theater-until it burned and was not rebuilt, and then the pool hall and the icehouse. The pool hall was across from an open storage area for things that came in or were going out on the train, and I could always find my Uncle Leon under that shelter playing checkers. At the end of that street was the sawmill.

When I was a child the garbage was picked up in a mule-drawn wagon. The driver was a mentally-challenged man named Maurice. The mule would stop and Maurice would get off the wagon, empty the garbage can into the back of it, and get back on the wagon and the mule would go to the next stop. The mule knew the route, and it gave Maurice a job. I don’t know what happened when the mule died.

One of the cotton gins was down from my grandparent’s house on the corner of what is now Mill Street. The teenage sons of the Cotton gin’s owner set up a hamburger stand during ginning season, and that was the first hamburger I had ever eaten-no fast-food chains at that time.

There were two churches in downtown Meigs when I was a child-the Methodist and the Baptist. The Methodist church didn’t have services every week, so when they didn’t have services all the Methodists went to the Baptist church. The Methodist church had a great organist who practiced every afternoon, and would play hymns on the chimes that you could hear all over town. During Christmas time he would play carols. On Sundays he would start in the morning. When the Methodist church burned they didn’t rebuild. It was located on US 19 just south of downtown. Between it and the main street was another gas station on the west side of the road, and that was where the bus station was located. So you had Gasset’s gas station and going south there was an alley that ran behind the south side of the main street, a boarding house, and then the gas station where the bus station was located, a street, and then the Methodist Church.

My grandfather was the Day policeman in Meigs from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. That meant he was also the fireman, the dogcatcher, the meter reader, the jailer, and in charge of water works. It was a wonderful place for us as children to visit. On Saturday nights in the spring and summer my grandfather would close the street downtown so that the kids could skate. During vacation Bible school-which lasted two weeks in Meigs at that time-the kick- off would be a parade through town, and my grandfather would crank up the old fire engine to lead the parade. The theater would have new movies every week, and as children we saw them all. I can still see my grandfather leaning against the back wall of the theater checking on us. Meigs was a vibrant, active town, full of sweet people. I hate to go by now and see the changes. My great-grandparents house burned, and there are now mini warehouses on that lot. I prefer to remember it as it was.

Warehouse, Coolidge

This large warehouse is presently owned by Coolidge Fertilizer and likely has performed other functions to local agribusiness over the years. I believe there was another long frame building across the tracks until a few years ago.

Midway C.M.E. Church, 1897, Thomasville

My friend, the photographer Mandy Green Yates, has found and documented numerous forgotten places in South Georgia in recent years but when she found this church, she decided to get involved with saving part of its history. At first, she was fascinated by the structure but soon realized the forlorn cemetery was even more important. While photographing the property, she met Aundre Walker, who has connections to the congregation and has been working to clean up the property and the cemetery with no outside help for at least three years. Mandy put her principles to practice and has been helping with the cleanup ever since. She created a Facebook page to schedule volunteers, as well as a GoFundMe page for donations. And apparently, the project is moving along quite successfully, with lots of volunteers and progress being made. I am amazed at what she and Mr. Walker have been able to accomplish.

The congregation was established by recently emancipated freedmen just after the Civil War and became associated with the Christian Methodist Episcopal sect in the early 1870s. Like many churches of the era, it got its start in a brush arbor or “hush arbor” in the parlance of African-Americans of the time. “Hush” indicated a private place for worship, away from whites who often monitored their activities. It also served the community as a school for a time.

The church itself is typical of the construction of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The congregation officially disbanded about 15 years ago and many members joined nearby churches.

As is evident in this image, the steeple has long ago been compromised by the loss of its roof and has begun to collapse.

Though the cemetery remains the primary focus, it would be nice if the church could be saved, as well. Unfortunately, the area it is located in is undergoing rapid urbanization.

When I looked around the cemetery, I could only imagine the sadness and determination Aundre Walker felt when he decided to begin the reclamation. The grounds are quite large and looked nothing like this three years ago. It would have looked more like a forest than a graveyard.

Doing all of this work by hand has been a labor of love and a means of respecting the lives of those who would have otherwise been forgotten had he not taken on this project. I’m sure he is grateful for the new attention that Mandy Green Yates has brought to the work, though neither of these people is doing it for praise or recognition. In my opinion, they deserve it.

Most of the graves weren’t previously documented, but Mandy enlisted help from our friend Cynthia Jennings, who added the known burials to Findagrave.

Imperial Hotel, 1949, Thomasville

Harvey and Dorothy Lewis Thompson opened the Imperial Hotel in 1949, as the only reliable lodging option in Thomasville for African-Americans. At the height of the Jim Crow era, when the simple act of travel could be dangerous for black people, the Imperial Hotel was listed in the Negro Motorist Green-Book travel guides, made famous by the 2018 motion picture. Dorothy’s brothers, the Lewis Brothers, were skilled brick masons and built the structure from the foundation to the top. The hotel featured eight bedrooms, a restaurant and barber shop. It closed in 1969 and has been in a state of decline since being abandoned in 2001.

Local historian Jack Hadley (of the Jack Hadley Black History Museum), who purchased the hotel in 2018, has been leading an effort to restore the property for several years. It inclusion in this year’s Places in Peril by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has brought the attention of CEO Mark McDonald, who has committed assistance to the project and expresses great enthusiasm for its future. To donate, visit Thomasville Landmarks.

In the end the property may reflect its original role as a hotel; plans to make it an Airbnb are presently in development with Florida A&M University architecture students and other consultants.

I’m unsure if it’s related to the hotel, but this shotgun house is located on the same property.

Queen Anne House, Ochlocknee

Folk Victorian House, Ochlocknee

Gordon Avenue Apartments, 1929, Thomasville

This Tudor Revival apartment complex was designed by architects Sydney S. Daniell and Russell L. Beutell and built in 1929 to meet the immediate housing needs of the growing middle class community of Thomasville.

Each section of the complex has a slightly different design giving a bit a whimsical tone to the whole structure. It’s an early example of this process, commonly used with condominiums and apartments today.

National Register of Historic Places

Pittman House, 1888, Thomasville

Dawson Street Residential Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

W. C. Pittman House, 1922, Thomasville

Dawson Street Residential Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Ephraim Ponder House, 1856, Thomasville

Built for Ephraim G. Ponder, a slave trader, this house originally featured a square cupola at the center of the roof. Ponder enslaved the Flipper family and one of their children, Henry Ossian Flipper (1856-1940), was the first black cadet to be admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, in 1877.

Detail of albumen cabinet card of Lieutenant Henry Flipper by Kennedy of Wilberforce, Ohio, circa 1877.  Courtesy U.S. House of Representatives. Committee on Military Affairs. Public domain.

Flipper earned a commission as a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army. He was also the first black officer to lead the buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. He went on to serve in the Apache Wars and Victorio’s War but was troubled by rumors that led to his eventual court martial and discharge. He continued to work for the United States, as an assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in Mexico and Central America. Flipper’s family sought and received a complete pardon in 1999. It’s a nice irony that the slave trader is largely forgotten today while Mr. Flipper is honored with an annual award in his name at West Point.

Dawson Street Residential Historic District, National Register of Historic Places