I believe this farm now serves another purpose, but the old barns recall the earlier days of commercial poultry, Georgia’s dominant agricultural commodity. I believe Northeast Georgia is still the top region for production and was an early leader in innovation.
The Elisha Winn House was built about 1812 in what was then Jackson County, and is perhaps the oldest extant house in the Atlanta metro area. Winn, who was a Justice of the Inferior Court, purchased the land, with Roger and Elijah Pugh, in 1809. It was part of a 7300 acre tract bordered by the Apalachee River. It became part of Gwinnett County on 15 December 1818, when the Georgia legislature created the counties of Gwinnett, Walton, and Hall, in part from Jackson County, as well as from former Indian lands.
The property is also significant as the first de facto center of government in Gwinnett County, hosting the Inferior Court and the first county elections. A barn on the grounds [no longer extant] hosted the Superior Court. Elisha Winn served as a judge of the Inferior Court from 1820-1825. He also served as a state senator for Gwinnett County in 1826, and a state representative in 1830, 1833, and 1837.
Lawrenceville was established as the Gwinnett County seat in 1821 and the Winns relocated there circa 1824.
Historic Structures Relocated to the Elisha Winn Property
Several structures representative of 19th and early-20th-century history in Gwinnett County have been relocated to the Winn property over the years. A representative mule barn [built in another county in 1917], can be seen in the background of the photo below.
Old Lawrenceville Jail, 1820s
The first jail in Gwinnett County was located on the Winn property but was demolished in 1933 by Jack Sims, who owned it at the time, and his employee Amos Hutchins, who lived most of his life on the old Winn place. As part of a collection of historical buildings, the old Lawrenceville jail [above], built in the 1820s and similar to the original jail, was relocated here for preservation. [Moravian missionaries who refused to get permits to live in Cherokee territory were briefly held in this structure before being transferred to a larger jail in Walton County].
Walnut Grove Schoolhouse, 1875
Typical of rural one-room schoolhouses of the era, the Walnut Grove school was originally located near Walnut Grove Church and the Methodist Campground. It was donated to the Gwinnett Historical Society in 1986 and opened for tours in 1988.
Cotton House, Early 20th Century
Structures of this type would have been present on working cotton plantations and farms in late-19th and early-20th century Gwinnett County. This example was donated to the historical society in 2001.
Alfred R. Clack Blacksmith Shop, Circa 1910
Dr. Donald S. Bickers, who also donated the cotton house, donated this structure to the historical society in 2000. It was built circa 1910 by his grandfather, Alfred R. Clack, who used it until late in his life. He died in 1948 and Dr. Bickers kept the structure in good condition.
National Register of Historic Places [Elisha Winn House, excluding other structures]
The house pictured above originated as a log cabin, built by Joseph Emmanuel Lyon in the 1820s. It was expanded in 1853 and again in 1893, when it took on its present appearance. It is one of the oldest houses in DeKalb County and Lyon family descendants remained on the property until 2007. Slaves from the early days of the farm remained in the area and later established the Flat Rock community nearby.
The house is reminiscent of the Plantation Plain style, but with two bays on one side and one bay on the other, is a bit unusual in its layout.
The gateposts are local granite, as are the boundary stones and flower bed areas.
Grape arbors were common features of many farms; this one was likely added in the 20th century.
The historic smokehouse, thought to be the oldest overall structure on the farm, was recently restored.
Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area
A thriving community of African-Americans existed around Arabia Mountain in the years following the Civil War, but by the early 20th century, a mass exodus saw many families joining the Great Migration in search of better conditions in the North.
There were a few communities, such as Flat Rock, that continued to thrive. T. A. Bryant, Sr., born in 1894, was a leader of this community, his church, and a Master Mason, and he worked hard to keep it intact.
He bought his first 43 acres from J. W. South, a descendant of slave owners, in 1925, and saved the Flat Rock community in the process. For over 60 years, Mr. Bryant bought and sold land to people in the community in an effort to keep it intact. Flat Rock actually grew during the Great Migrations, while many historic African-American communities completely vanished.
His small working homestead was self-sufficient and typical of similar farms in early 20th century Georgia.
The property is now home to the Flat Rock Archives, a museum of local African-American history, and open by appointment.
Maps will locate this at Stonecrest, a recently incorporated city in DeKalb County, but as with other such locations in Vanishing Georgia, I prefer to help keep the historical name alive, hence my location of the Bryant property at Flat Rock.
Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area
DeKalb County was still largely rural and one of the leading dairy counties in Georgia in 1947 when S. B. Vaughters built this barn to house Jersey cows at his farm, one of the most successful in the area. It later housed Angus cattle and horses, before being sold to the state for perpetual preservation in 2002. Restored in 2018, the barn is located on Panola Mountain State Park and is part of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area.
Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area
I made this photo about ten years ago. The barn was a bit of a landmark traveling west on Georgia Highway 32 past Leesburg. I’m not sure if it’s still standing.
This historic farm in northern Dodge County is amazingly intact and a wonderful example of a self-sufficient agricultural enterprise. It likely dates to the late 19th century, with expansions made over the years.
The farm is anchored by this Folk Victorian house, an outstanding example of the form.
The defining features of the house are the cutout porch posts. Whereas most Folk Victorians use machine-turned posts to embellish an otherwise plain structure, these examples appear to have been personally designed by the home’s builder, who obviously had specialized carpentry skills.
In addition to the majestic cedar trees flanking the house, camellias planted long ago continue to thrive.
Several historic outbuildings survive, illustrating the progression of the property well into the 20th century.
The structures of this historic farm have long been abandoned but indicate that it was once a very prosperous operation. The Victorian farmhouse (above) is nearly gone.
A garage and hay barn remain on the property.
This is one of six known barns of this style located within about a 30-mile radius in Southeast Georgia. As a group, they are a significant vernacular resource among agricultural structures in the Coastal Plain. They were likely copied from memory or inspired by patterns seen in plan books but their prevalence in such a small geographical area is more than coincidence. Since the best known barn, at the old Coleman Farm, is known locally as the “Big Barn” and even has a road named for it, I’m calling these all “Big Barns”, even though the two at the Brinson farm are much smaller versions. All the barns, except for a garage barn at the Coleman Farm (now lost), are hay/stock barns and are characterized by ornamental trellis work. This one seems to be the most vulnerable. I’m sharing the other examples below.
“Big Barns” of Southeast Georgia
Bryant W. Corbett (1857-1917) built this hall-and-parlor farmhouse circa 1878-1879 and it served as the anchor for his growing family, which with his wife Rebecca Ann Carter Corbett (1855-1940) eventually included three children. In its early days the farm was focused primarily on corn, with a planting of peanuts done prior and left as feed for the hogs that did the work of rooting the fields. The description of Mr. Corbett’s farm in its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places could describe many such farms in Georgia in the late 19th century, as farmers of that time were really renaissance men when it came to the ways of the land. Their work was done with mules, incorporated available natural amendments to the soil, and was sustainable. These men did it because they had to, and the land often rewarded them for it. Mr. Corbett sold some of his corn for income, had some of it milled, and used the remainder as feed for his livestock. The livestock was used for milk and food. There were also mulberries and plums on the property which not only gave the family fruit for jams and jellies but attracted the bees which pollinated the farm. Pecans, walnuts, and grapes were also present on the farm.
Several historic outbuildings survive on the property, including this reconstructed well house. The wash shelter which stood behind it appears to have been lost in recent years.
As farms evolved over the years, owners usually built a utilitarian shed/barn specifically for the purpose of protecting their automobiles. We had a couple of car barns on our farm and I remember them well. They varied in style from simple shelters to sided barns with shelves and pigeonholes for storing tools. Other buildings noted in the National Register form included a chicken house and tobacco barn, which appear to have been lost over time.
It is not a stretch to say that Georgia was built on farms like this, often with the labor of immediate and extended family and hired men, and sometimes with sharecroppers. The hardships that these tenacious small farmers faced, along with their self-sufficiency and economy, often allowed them to save money and acquire more land and influence. Many families abandoned farming altogether between the arrival of the boll weevil (circa 1920) and the advent of the Great Depression (circa 1930) but those who prospered stayed and became leaders in their churches and communities. The Corbett family has done just that and has been the only family associated with this property since its purchase. Numerous family members have been good stewards of this property for nearly a century and a half. In understanding its importance and preserving it for future generations, they really are helping to tell the real story of Georgia, especially as it relates to agriculture and the rural experience.
National Register of Historic Places