These ruins in downtown Eatonton were recently brought to my attention by Dutch Henderson, who notes that they may soon be demolished. Dutch is quite knowledgeable about obscure historical locations in the area and has shared some fascinating places with me over the years.
Henderson notes that the owner, who is a preservationist/historian, believes the structure dates to circa 1818. He has actively sought a preservation solution for the ruins, but they are very compromised by long-term neglect and rapid urbanization and there may be very few options.
The structure was dated circa 1853 and identified as “Brick warehouse” when nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. This date may have been related to an advertisement for the business in the 23 May 1854 edition of the Eatonton Independent Press. David Kaminsky’s 1975 photograph for the nomination form shows that the roof was still in place at that time, and that at least two modern businesses, one known as Bailey’s Garage, were located in the building at some point.
The advertisement, shared by Mr. Henderson, identifies the business as “Marshall, McKavitt & Co., Manufacturers of Carriages, Rockaways, Bugies (sic), Two-Horse Wagons, &c.” [The National Register form misidentifies McKavitt as McKavilland, and includes and extra partner in the business, by the name of Rice].
The bricks were probably made on-site or nearby. Their dependence on the rich red clay dominant in the area is obvious.
There are but a scarce few surviving antebellum industrial structures in Georgia, so I was grateful to be able to document this one. I will update with more information as it becomes available.
Eatonton Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This is one of the oldest surviving houses in Lowndes County. Built circa 1857 by Mills Murphree Brinson (1812-1860), it was later purchased by his son-in-law, Remer Young Lane (1826-1917). Lane was married to Brinson’s daughter, Henrietta (1836-1918). Remer Lane was a successful banker and in the 1890s was a principal investor in the Strickland Cotton Mill in Valdosta. When it opened in 1899, the surrounding mill village was named Remerton in his honor.
Lane’s son, Mills Bee Lane, Sr. (1860-1945) was the next owner of the plantation, which he named Henrietta for his mother. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Citizens and Southern (C&S) Bank and under his leadership it became one of the most profitable financial institutions in the nation.
Though some sources note that a John or Thomas Gilbert constructed the first mill, now known as Chappell’s Mill, on Big Sandy Creek [South Sandy Creek] in northern Laurens County circa 1811, it is more likely that it was James Stanley II (1771-1841), a settler from Jones County, North Carolina, who purchased nearly 2000 acres surrounding the millpond. [Primary sources are not available to me, so I cannot be certainof the date of the purchase, but the Stanley family migrated to Laurens County in 1811. It seems more than coincidental that the date of their move happens to be the date generally accepted for the construction of the mill]. He also operated a mercantile on the site.
The millpond site is considered to be the oldest man-made landmark in Laurens County. The old mill house, seen in the first two photographs, dates to the 1840s and was built after the original structure, which stood on the north side of the pond, washed away during a flood.
The stone work in the foundation certainly indicates the work of early craftsmen, almost certainly enslaved laborers.
Upon Stanley’s death in 1841, his son Ira B. (1802-1858) took control of the operations. He served Laurens County as sheriff in the 1820s and state representative in the 1830s. Until just after the Civil War the site was known as Stanley Mills, but in 1868 Ira’s son-in-law, James W. Chappell, gained majority interest in the mill. It has since been known as Chappell’s Mill.
Ira Stanley Chappell (1859-1931) was the last member of the Chappell family to own the mill. He sold it circa 1917 to Allen J. Dixon who sold it in 1943 to Dr. T. J. Blackshear.
Dr. Blackshear eventually sold it to Alex Dixon’s grandsons, James and Forrest Townsend.
During their ownership, the mill was expanded and electrified (1950s).
The Townsends always felt that water power resulted in a superior meal but the volume of work mandated the modernization.
At its peak, production ran to over 15,000 bushels per year.
The mill remained in operation until 1997. Its importance is not only in its longevity but in the fact that various structures associated with different eras of milling, from water power to electricity, as well as a mercantile and various barns, remain largely intact, and illustrate the evolution of what was one of Georgia’s most important early industries.
I am grateful to the caretaker for allowing me to photograph. It is private property and he noted that law enforcement often has to disperse trespassers. It’s an invaluable historical resource and the owners have been good stewards.
Situated on a large plantation among thousands of acres of managed Longleaf Pine near Pavo, Bethel Primitive Baptist Church is among the oldest congregations in this section of Georgia, constituted on 2 September 1826. Elders Benjamin Manning, Matthew Albritton, Henry Melton, and Deacon William A. Knight were the original Presbytery. Charter members were Melus and Sarah Thigpen, Archibald and Luander Strickland, and Henry C. and Sarah Tucker. Thigpen served as the supply pastor until 1828, when the Reverend Matthew Albritton was called to the charge of Bethel.
I am unsure as to the date of construction, but the church is of a vernacular style widespread in Georgia in the late 19th century. The church was unpainted at least as late as 1968. The grounds are beautifully maintained and an historic cemetery is adjacent to the church, serving as the final resting place of many area pioneers.
Named for their slate roof, the Slate Row Houses were built to house the engineers who were constructing the grand home of William Johnston [now known primarily as the Hay House]. They are considered to be among the earliest apartment buildings in Macon. Architecturally, they’re described in the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places (1973) as a simplified version of the Second Empire style apartment house that has been converted into a modern condominium building. James B. Ayers, the contractor hired by Johnston, employed numerous enslaved artisans, according to research by Mercer Law student Nathan Corbitt. One of those artisans was Primus Moore, who worked on the construction of the Hay House. He was also responsible for all of the plaster work at Macon City Hall and was even paid by the city after Emancipation to continue the work.
This house is believed to be the oldest in Milledgeville. It was built circa 1806 for Major Edward White (1758-9 January 1812), a Massachusetts native who served as Adjutant to the Marquis de Lafayette during the Yorktown campaign. Major White’s wife, Mildred Scott Stubbs (28 September 1775-23 July 1825), was the niece of General John Scott, who built the state capitol in the newly established seat of state government. Upon the death of Major White, his son, Dr. Benjamin Aspinwall White (2 January 1793-11 April 1866), inherited the home. Dr. White served as mayor of Milledgeville in 1840 and Surgeon General of the Georgia State Troops during the Civil War. He was also a founding member of the board of the Georgia Lunatic Asylum.
The house was originally located on West Greene Street and was moved in the late 19th century to its present location. It maintains much of its historic integrity.
Milledgeville Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This landmark example of the Milledgeville Federal Style was completed circa 1818 and has been moved four times throughout its history. It originally stood at the northeast corner of Clarke and Greene Streets, was then moved to the northwest corner, then turned to face Greene Street again in 1901. In 1991, it was moved to its present location facing South Clarke Street.
Milledgeville Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This important house is little-known outside Hancock County and its specific early history is apparently lost, but a new look into available genealogical records sheds light on the story. It is certainly among the oldest extant houses in the county and, through oral tradition, has long been known as the Pearson House. I am grateful to Bud Merritt for bringing it to my attention. Bud writes: We “discovered” it this week and were clueless at the time to its status. It is close to the road but barely visible and in my opinion could collapse at any time. The brick first floor has many separations and the second floor in the rear is completely unsupported. It unleashed several loud creaks while I was photographing it.
The house has appeared in print at least twice: 1}In The Early Architecture of Georgia (1957), Frederick Doveton Nichols, identifies it as “Undocumented cottage…east of Devereux”; 2}Nichols’s work was later incorporated in TheArchitecture of Georgia (1976), with photographs by Van Jones Martin. It may have also been photographed for the Historic American Buildings Survey in the 1930s by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Curiously, it is missing from the two best-known architectural surveys of Hancock County: 1}Architecture ofMiddle Georgia: The Oconee Area (1972), by John Linley; 2}The Houses of Hancock 1785-1865 (1996), by John Rozier.
Further documentation was made by Catherine Drewry Comer in her thesis, Preserving Early Southern Architecture: The Antebellum Houses of Hancock County, (University of Georgia, Master of Historic Preservation, 2016). Comer doesn’t associate the house with a builder, either, but gives the best description of its style: [It]…appears based on its construction to be remarkably early. Its two basement-level fireplaces are almost identical to those that could once be seen at Old Dominion before it was lost in the 1980s...This house is of a very early style that was common in the Mid-Atlantic states such as Virginia and North Carolina. [It] is of frame construction on the second story, which rests on top of a brick first story…[and] has one chimney on each gable end with two doors to enter the first floor on the front and one door on the rear. Comer refers to its architecture as “Tidewater”, a popular description of the style.
Of the interior living space, Sistie Hudson notes that she was able, 35 years ago, to look inside via a ladder [and] discovered that it had paneled wainscoting and curved stairs to the half story above and that it would have had staircases from outside to the second floor. She further confirms its local identification as the Pearson House and its presumed construction date as “the late 1700s”. Mark Phillips, a longtime student of architecture in the region, adds: I have always understood that this was the original Pearson home…the Pearson-Boyer house being later built by a son…
Making the connection between the presumed builder, Stephen Edward Pearson, Sr. (1774-1854), and the house requires a review of the available genealogical record, which has been graciously shared with Vanishing Georgia by Cynthia Jennings. Pearson was born to a wealthy family at Padget’s Creek, Newberry County, South Carolina. He married Mary Polly Fletcher (1775-1833) on 28 November 1798. It is believed they moved to Georgia and built this house soon thereafter, as one record notes he settled around 1795-1805 in the “watery fork of Buffalo (Creek)”. It is likely the new couple brought a number of enslaved individuals to Georgia; he owned over 80 human beings at the time of his death, including several of advanced age. They would have been involved in all aspects of the home’s construction, from milling the lumber to making the bricks. [The undeniable similarities between the Old Dominion fireplaces and those in this house are significant. If the work of the same mason, perhaps an enslaved man, they help validate the “1795-1805” time frame. Old Dominion was built in 1806].
Mary Fletcher Pearson bore Stephen no children, but research on Ancestry.com suggests he fathered a child with an enslaved woman named Cilla Chapman; the child, named Cilla Pearson, was born in 1805. Mary died in 1833 and Stephen married Catherine Garland in 1834. Their son, Stephen Edward Pearson, Jr., was born in 1836. He built a home nearby, circa 1854, now known as the Pearson-Boyer House.
Zach Hedgepeth writes: This house was in my grandfathers family for many years. A brick in the chimney had 1834 carved into it so I believe that is when it was built. The house used to sit closer to the road but when the road was paved in the 1990s they moved the road over. You can still make out the parts of the old dirt road. Over the years passers by have taken pieces of the house little by little leading to its current condition.[I believe it is likely that the dated brick commemorated the marriage of Stephen and Catherine and not the date of the house, as the conclusion of architectural historians is that the house is very early and 1834 wouldn’t be considered early in Hancock County].
This post represents the research of numerous people, to whom I’m indebted, but in no way purports to be definitive. I hope it is a catalyst for further research, and as always, welcome new facts that can be validated through primary sources. The house is unlikely to survive but I am glad to further document it as an important relic of Georgia history.
It’s no longer red, but to my understanding, this has always been known as “The Little Red House”. One section of the house is an early log cabin, purportedly dating to circa 1797. The addition was made later, probably before the Civil War, and may have been done to accommodate an office. Sistie Hudson notes that it will soon be home to a museum of local history.
Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places