Tag Archives: Georgia Commissaries

Stonewall J. Williams Plantation, 1880s, Screven County

This massive Folk Victorian house sits at the end of a row of majestic cedars, which appear to be well over a century old.

Cedar lanes were once a popular landscaping choice but most of the old ones are long gone, lost to disease or storms over the years. These have somehow miraculously survived.

The house appears to date to the late 19th century.

An historic commissary stands at the front of the property, confirming that this was once a very busy plantation. It is still part of a large working farm. I walked up the lane to try to find someone to tell me about the place, to no avail. I imagine they were out in the fields busy with the cotton harvest.

This is one of the most pristine historic plantation properties I’ve ever seen and the owners have done a wonderful service in their efforts to preserve it. Thanks to Dale Reddick, and other members of the Screven County history group on Facebook, for the identification.

Commissary, Lyneville

This structure is part of what appears to have once been a large working farm. It was likely a commissary and/or general store.

Dawson House, Circa 1820, & Commissary, 1920s, Putnam County

This impressive house is the center of a large historic farm property, still active today.

Though it has been modernized with new windows, porch, and wings, it still retains elements of its early appearance and likely dates to the late 1810s or early 1820s.

The bricks on the two original chimneys appear to be slave-made. The porch and unfinished timber posts are likely later additions. A circa 1920s commissary is also present.

Sawdust, Georgia

Saw Dust, as its post office was known when it operated between 1852 and 1895, was the first settlement in the area that would later come to be known as Harlem. Its name came from the presence of three sawmills, which derived their power from Big Kiokee Creek. The town had a raucous reputation for its numerous bars and saloons and this prompted a name change from community leaders. This structure was likely a commissary or general/grocery store.

Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm, Jackson County

This property was originally settled by Joseph Shields and sons James and Patrick in 1802.

Date Plate from Restoration of Main House [1914]

With two slaves, they cleared and cultivated the land.

Log Cabin

When Joseph died in 1818, he willed the land to his son, James and by 1860, 20 enslaved people worked the land.

Commissary [1900]

James died in 1863 and in 1865 his widow, Charity, signed a contract with three of her former slaves, providing them housing and food in exchange for their work on the farm.

Blacksmith’s Shop & Carpenter’s Shop [1900]

When James and Charity’s son, Joseph Robert Shields, returned home from the Civil War in 1866, he built the main house and soon applied the sharecropping system to the entire farm, managing many of his former slaves alongside poor white farmers.

Tractor Barn

By 1890, the farm had grown to 1000 acres.

Warehouse

In 1897, Joseph Robert’s daughter Susan Ella returned to the farm with her husband Ira Washington Ethridge.

Cotton Gin [1910]

Joseph Robert Shields died in 1910 and Susan Ella and Ira inherited the house and surrounding property.

Gin Office [1930]

To hedge his bets against increasingly unstable cotton prices, Ira Ethridge built a self-sustaining sharecropper’s “village” near the main house.

Gin Office Interior

In 1914, “Mr. Ira” transformed the main house from its historical Plantation Plain appearance to it present Neoclassical appearance by adding columns and raising the porch.

Gristmill

The structures seen today were built between 1900-1930. Most of the sharecropper housing is gone today, but a few scattered examples survive.

Seed House

When Ira died in 1945, his son Lanis understood that the farm would soon be changed by mechanization.

Teacher’s House

He diversified and in the early 1950s began breeding cattle and slowly expanding pastureland on his acreage.

Well House [Reconstruction]

At his death in 1970, the sharecropper’s village was long abandoned.

Water Tower [1913]

His widow, Joyce Ethridge, began documenting the history of the farm.

Corn Crib

In 1994 she and daughters Susan E. Chaisson and Ann E. Lacey gave 150 acres of the farm to the Shields-Ethridge Farm Foundation to preserve the site as an agricultural museum.

Shields-Ethridge Family Cemetery

Joyce’s research also led to the listing of the property on the National Register of Historic Places.

Milking Barn

The Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm is the most intact collection of historic farm structures in their original location in Georgia.

Mule Barn [1913]

It is truly awe-inspiring and worth a visit.

Garage

As someone who has spent years seeking out structures like these, I can’t tell you how important this place is.

Wheat Barn [1910]

You must see it for yourself.

Tenant House

National Register of Historic Places + Georgia Centennial Farm

Note- This replaces a post originally published on 11 July 2021, necessitated by formatting issues.

Shingle House, 1880s, Cherokee County

The iconic “Shingle House”, so named for its shingle siding, is the last remaining structure related to the Franklin-Creighton Gold Mine near Ball Ground. The mine had its origins circa 1832, when Mary G. Franklin obtained 40 acres along the Etowah River in the Gold Lottery of 1832. It became the Franklin, or Franklin-Creighton Mine circa 1883 and was said to be one of the most productive in the area, until1907, long after other area mines were long exhausted. The structure has reportedly served as a commissary, post office, and boarding house.

The community that grew up around the mine was known as Creighton, and the post office was operational from 1887-1918. The property is part of Gold & Grass Farms today.

Brown Farmhouse & Commissary, Emanuel County

This historic farm is still largely intact, with barns and outbuildings, as well as the commissary seen below. The house dates to circa 1900 and the commissary circa 1920.

Commissary, Sandy Bottom

This was likely a turpentine commissary or general store, based on the floor plan.

Commissary, Washington County

This structure is located across the highway from the house in the previous post. I would have included it with that post, but I’m not sure if it’s part of the same farm. I’ve preliminarily identified it as a commissary, since it has windows, but I can’t confirm. It’s a great little building, whatever its past purpose.

Montour Mill Store & House, Circa 1857, Sparta

Montour Mill Store, Circa 1857; photographed in 2014.

When I photographed these forlorn structures in 2014, I felt they had an important history but also realized they probably didn’t have a promising future. My fears were confirmed last week when James Woodall reported they had been torn down.

Montour Mill House, Side View, Circa 1857; photographed in 2014. 

Further conversation with Karen West and Sistie Hudson highlight their importance and the tragedy of their loss. The structures were apparently the last two survivors of the antebellum Montour Mill village. The mill, chartered in 1857, was anchored by a four-story brick factory building. It was likely devastated by the Civil War and attempted a return to production, but was finished by 1884. The property and village was large enough to have been considered as a location for Georgia Tech in 1883. In Houses of Hancock 1785-1865, John Rozier notes: Even in ruins, the big brick factory was a Sparta landmark until it was taken down in 1951.

Karen West: It was originally a mill store owned and operated by a Jewish immigrant. He wrote 15 articles for the Sparta Ishmaelite about life in Czarist Russia. He extended credit to whoever needed it, regardless of race or religion. So sad to see a piece of Sparta history so disregarded. Hopefully someone has pictures of earlier, happier times for that little store.

Sistie Hudson: I took pictures, too—have admired it since I was a little girl…Jacob Nagurya [also written as Nagiiryn] was a Polish Jew. He was a favorite of Editor Sidney Lewis, hence the articles in the Ishmaelite. He owned the first phonograph in the county and sold them as well. He also served as rabbi for the Jewish Community in Sparta. I remember when there was still a row of mill houses across the street from this store. I am so sad about this loss—I have admired it for over 60 years.