Tag Archives: Georgia Engineering

Archibald Butt Memorial Bridge, 1914, Augusta: Georgia’s Only Titanic Memorial

The Major Archibald Willingham Butt Memorial Bridge [shortened to Butt Bridge, locally] is Georgia’s only monument to a victim of the sinking of RMS Titanic and is also one of the most unusual. In terms of sheer size it’s likely the largest such memorial in the nation. Four regal lions guard the corners of the bridge and bald eagles perch atop lighted globes on both sides. The pedestrian friendly structure is also a great place to view the historic Augusta Canal.

It is quite an ostentatious tribute and by nature a “living memorial”, carrying thousands of cars per day over the Augusta Canal at 15th Street. Nisbet Wingfield, the city engineer and commissioner of public works for the city of Augusta, was the engineer for the bridge; William Henry Deacy, who specialized in memorials, was the architect; and the W. W. Leland Company was responsible for the whimsical decorations. [The reinforced concrete bridge is 52.8′ at its largest span, has an overall length of 155.8′, and has a deck width of 55.8′. It is a T-beam, designed to look like an arch form]. By 1994, the future of the bridge was uncertain, but citizens rallied to save it, with the phrase “Save our Butt” a common refrain throughout Augusta. It took over 20 years for everything to fall into place, but in 2017 rehabilitation of the bridge was complete and the future of one of the city’s most unique monuments was insured.

Major Archibald Butt (26 September 1865-15 April 1912) was born to a once-prominent Augusta family who had fallen into poverty after the Civil War. While attending the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, Butt developed an interest in journalism, eventually editing the school newspaper. Before moving to Washington, D. C., Butt worked at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Macon Telegraph. Upon arriving in the nation’s capital, he covered the government as a correspondent for a syndicate of newspapers in Nashville, Augusta, Atlanta, and Savannah. Through his skillful journalism, he made valuable connections with Washington’s high society and this ultimately landed him a job as the first secretary of the American Embassy in Mexico (1895-1897). Over the next few years Butt continued to write. He also served as a quartermaster in the Spanish-American War, noted for saving the lives of some 500 mules by turning down poor conditions in Hawaii and sailing on to the Philippines, where he remained until 1904. His logistical skills as a supply manager drew much praise, and he later served as Depot Quartermaster in Havana during America’s 1906 occupation of Cuba.

Bronze relief of Major Butt by Henry Price

In March 1908, he began serving as the military aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt, and retained that position with the incoming Taft administration. The military aides-de-camp of this time were essentially protocol chiefs and had close working relationships with presidents. Taft considered Major Butt a close friend, and the Taft family, as a result, were fond of visiting Augusta.

Butt never married and was the housemate and companion of the American painter and sculptor, Francis Davis Millet. Millet had been peripherally associated with the salon of John Singer Sargent and knew many of the finest artists in America during his lifetime. In 1912, Butt took leave from his White House job when animosities flared between Taft and Roosevelt, and he and Millet had been vacationing in Europe, highlighted by an audience with Pope Pius X, before embarking for home on the Titanic. It was said that both men helped women and children onto lifeboats before losing their lives, though this may be apocryphal. Taft was known to have been deeply saddened by Butt’s death.

Major Archibald Willingham Butt (detail of circa 1909 photograph) via Library of Congress. Public domain.

A fountain dedicated to the memory of Butt and Millet was placed in President’s Park at the White House in 1913. In April 1914, former-President Taft visited Augusta to pay tribute to his close friend, and spoke at the dedication of the Memorial Bridge.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge, 1901, Forsyth County

Cherokee chieftain George Welch built a mill near this site circa 1820 and built an uncovered bridge sometime thereafter. As a result of the Cherokee removal in 1838 the land was sold to Jacob Scudder. In 1880, it was purchased by Dr. M. L. Poole. The original bridge washed away in 1899 and was replaced with this covered bridge in 1901. The builder, Bud Gentry, built it in the Town lattice design, common among Georgia’s covered bridges. The mill was abandoned in 1946 and burned in 1959.

After periods of disrepair, the structure was converted from private ownership and dedicated as a county park in 1997. It is a free site and a wonderfully maintained park.

National Register of Historic Places

Water Tower, 1914, Milstead

This water tower supplied the mill village of Milstead. It reaches a height of 100 feet and is 14 feet in diameter. It was built by contractor J. B. McQuary for $3000 and was used until 1965.

Water Works, 1892 & Electric Light Plant, 1901, Albany

The Albany Water Works (left) was built in 1892 by engineer John C. Chase. By 1901, the Electric Light Plant was added to the complex by the firm of Moore & McCrary.

Bridge House, Circa 1857, Albany

This unassuming structure on the banks of the Flint River in downtown Albany is significant as the only surviving bridge house in Georgia, a relic of a time when bridges were huge moneymakers for those who financed them. This example was commissioned by the Connecticut-born entrepreneur and founder of Albany, Nelson Tift, circa 1857-1858. The second floor was known as Tift’s Hall and served as a concert and performance space.

An even greater aspect of the structure’s significance is that it, and the bridge it served, were built by Horace King, who rose from slavery to become a highly successful architect and Reconstruction-era Alabama state representative. He was one of the most respected men of color in the 19th-century South.

The Bridge House was purchased by A .P. Keenan in 1916 and served a commercial use for much of the 20th century, first as the Empire Smithing Company and later as Keenan Auto Parts. Since 2008, it has been home to the Albany Welcome Center.

National Register of Historic Places

Chappell’s Mill, Circa 1811, Laurens County

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 certain of 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.

Logging Tram, Long County

I photographed this logging tram in 2011 near the Long/McIntosh County line and am not sure if it is still intact. Floods over the past decade have been common in the area. I’m not precisely sure how they utilized it , but there were numerous versions of these in the Southern swamps at the turn of the last century, when the timber industry was dominant and most of the old growth forests were being decimated. This one may date to the 1920s or 1930s, but could be earlier. Discussions with a friend with knowledge of the area suggest there are several other surviving remnants of old logging roads/railroads in the area and I plan to try to document some of them in the future.

Euharlee Creek Covered Bridge, 1886, Bartow County

This Town Lattice covered bridge, the only one remaining in Bartow County, was built on Euharlee Creek in 1886 by Washington W. King. King was the son of former slave and master architect and bridge builder Horace King.

The historical marker erected in 2000 by the Georgia Historical Society and the Federal Highway Administration notes, in part: In 1886 the county contracted with Washington W. King…and Jonathan H. Burke for the construction of this 138-foot bridge…This bridge replaced several previous structures, the last having been built two years prior.

The bridge remained in use until the completion of a modern bridge circa 1980. Much of the material used to build the massive Plant Bowen nearby was hauled over this historic bridge.

Lowry Grist Mill Ruins, Euharlee

Euharlee was originally known as Burge’s  Mill, for the grist mill Nathaniel Burge operated on Euharlee Creek. The earlier mill burned around 1880 and was rebuilt by Daniel Lowry. Sections of the foundation are likely remnants of the original antebellum mill. A plan to rebuild the mill has been proposed, but I’m unsure of its status at this time.

Harris Neck Army Airfield Bunker, 1942

This structure served as the munitions bunker for Harris Neck Army Airfield. Earthworks surround three sides. A review of contemporary U. S. Geological Survey maps indicates that this was likely the only one ever built on site. It’s a fascinating relic of World War II.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge