This barn likely dates to the 1930s [perhaps 1920s], when tobacco production became a larger sector of the commercial agricultural economy in Georgia. Before that time, production was scattered and more specialized. An interesting feature of several tobacco barns I’ve documented in Long County is their height, which is notably shorter than most barns found elsewhere in Georgia. I’m unsure as to the reason for this.
Local historians have referred to this as the Barwick House but it is best known as the Elizabeth Durden House. Elizabeth Ann Barwick Durden (16 December 1820-20 December 1909) was the daughter of Nathan B. Barwick, Sr., (3 August 1782-5 April 1868) and Elizabeth Whiddon Barwick (1782?-October 1880). Theirs was a large and prosperous family of pioneer settlers who came to Emanuel County (Bulloch, at the time), from Dubose Ferry, South Carolina, circa 1810. His obituary noted that he lived in the fork of the Ohoopee River and that he was buried on the land on which he lived, which is not this property. Elizabeth Ann Barwick married William Durden (15 August 1817-October 1864) in 1838 and they likely built the house soon thereafter. They had 12 children, 11 of whom lived to adulthood.
NOTE: The house is located on private property and is not accessible to the public in any way. I’m grateful to two of Mrs. Durden’s great-great grandsons, Hudak Hendrix and Von Wilson, for arranging my visit, and to the property owners for allowing me to photograph it.
It is likely the second oldest surviving structure in Emanuel County [after the Rountree House near Twin City] and may be slightly older than the date I have indicated, perhaps as early as 1838.
It has remained in the ownership of Mrs. Durden’s descendants throughout its existence and their good stewardship has made possible its survival.
It is of statewide importance as a vernacular dwelling, especially since the owners have been sensitive to retaining the original walls and footprint of the house.
As it stands, even with the modifications, it’s one of a very small number of log structures of this era remaining in Georgia.
Shed rooms [next two images] and a modern chimney have been added to the original single-pen log house over its long history.
Shed rooms were common additions to utilitarian structures and were usually porches which were transformed into rooms by the addition of new walls.
The kitchen is of particular interest, as it contains the original rear wall of the house. As was the convention of the time, a free-standing kitchen originally served the Durdens but it has long since vanished.
The front porch, though featuring a new roof and floor, appears to retain its original footprint, as well.
The photograph below has become an iconic Georgia image. It graces the cover of Vanishing Georgia, [no relation to my website], a book highlighting the amazing collection of vintage photographs of the same name held at the time of publication by the the Georgia Department of Archives and History and now in the stewardship of the University of Georgia.
[This replaces a post by the same title originally published on 19 February 2019.]
James Vann (1765, or,1768-1809) was the son of a Cherokee mother, Wa-wli, and Scottish father, Clement Vann. By 1800 he became a principal leader of the Cherokee, due to his wealth and influence as a planter, tavern keeper, trading post operator, and general entrepreneur. In fact, he was thought to be the wealthiest of all Cherokee.
This home, the first of brick construction in the Cherokee nation, was built between 1804-1806. It served as the seat of James Vann’s extensive plantation on Diamond Hill. It was called the “Showplace of the Cherokee Nation”. Its success was dependent upon the labor of over 100 enslaved people, who were housed in 42 dwellings on the property. Vann was known to be quite cruel to his slaves, or to tolerate cruelty among his overseers, and this is rightfully reinforced through interpretation at the property today. Sometimes described as a “hard drinking business man”, he nonetheless encouraged cultural and educational opportunities for the Cherokee, through his assistance in the establishment of the Moravian mission and school at Spring Place. James Vann was murdered in 1809, presumably as retaliation for killing his brother-in-law in a duel the previous year. He left his home and property to his son Joseph (often referred to as Rich Joe). Joseph was also a Cherokee chieftain. An overnight visit by President James Monroe, traveling from Augusta to Nashville in 1819, was indicative of the prominence of the family and the quality of the house.
It is believed that a man named Vogt [possibly James Vann’s brother-in-law Charles Vogt] and Dr. Henry Chandlee Forman were involved in the construction of the house.
Diaries of Moravian missionaries at Spring Place indicate that Byhan and Martin Schneider were also instrumental in the construction. It incorporates both Federal and Georgian design elements.
A Moravian settler named Robert Henry Howell is believed to have been the brick mason. The stylish interior elements were added during the ownership of Joseph (Rich Joe) Vann and may have been the work of John and James McCartney. Further documentation of this is needed.
After the Cherokee were driven west on the Trail of Tears, the house was sold and over the next century would have 17 different owners.
By the time Dr. J. E. Bradford, who had purchased the home in 1920, sold it to the Georgia Historical Commission in 1952, it was in a state of serious disrepair.
An historically accurate restoration of the interior began in 1958 and was completed circa 1964.
The Slave Experience at the Chief Vann House
The historic site uses three-dimensional models and the words of Moravian missionaries to interpret the slave experience at the Vann House. North Georgia was not a stronghold of slavery, so the example of the Vann plantation is exceptional. The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story by Tiya Miles, focuses on this subject, and incorporates previously overlooked primary sources.
While the kitchen is very stylized and includes typical interpretive aids related to work, it stands out for the figures representing specific slaves who lived on the property along with brief anecdotes about their lives. The Moravian missionaries wrote in the their mission journal on 25 November 1810: “...a person named Patience caused us to feel much pity. She arrived in Charleston with some other Africans some years ago in the wintertime and afterward came to Vann’s plantation barefooted. She lost both of her feet because of the frost and now has to scoot on her knees…”
Though the Moravians frowned upon individual members owning slaves, the church could purchase and assign them to missionary families as needed, and their views were ultimately aligned with those of other whites of the time. A middle-aged woman named Pleasant (1758?-1838) was purchased in April 1805 by the Home Church in Salem, North Carolina, and came to Spring Place to serve the missionary couple John and Anna Gambold. She was pregnant at the time. On 21 December 1805 Christian Lewis Benzien wrote to the Unity Elders Conference of the Moravian Church: On Sept. 29 on the way to Spring Place [Pleasant] gave birth to a mulatto infant which was baptized in Spring Place on October 20 with the name Michael…“
Michael was given the honor of learning to read and often read the Bible to the Cherokee children at the Moravian school and was highly regarded by his owners, but typical of teenagers, he grew restless. In 1819, at the age of 14, he ran away from the Gambolds and when captured was sold away from Pleasant.
Reconstructed Historic Structures of Chief Vann House State Historic Site
To illustrate the contemporary vernacular architecture that would have been present on the Vann property, the Georgia State Parks division has reconstructed representative structures from the area, and built at least one from the ground up [kitchen], for this purpose.
The vernacular architectural forms and the use of available material are representative not only of the Cherokee of the area but of the increasing numbers of white settlers, as well.
National Register of Historic Places
Like the nearby Brotherton and Snodgrass farmhouses, the Kelly House is an historically accurate reconstruction of a typical single-pen dwelling of the era. It has been an integral part of the Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park since its inception in 1890.
In their Historic Resource Survey (1999) of the park, Hanson & Blythe note: The Kelly House was a landmark for Union forces moving to extend Gen. Rosecrans’s left on September 18 and 19. The Union left dug in around the Kelly Farm at the north end of the Chickamauga battlefield and repulsed repeated Confederate assaults. [It also] served as [a] field hospital [like other cabins throughout the area] during and after the Battle of Chickamauga.
Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park + National Register of Historic Places
There were once about 24 working farms on the land that now comprises the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Three were reconstructed as commemorative interpretive aids sometime before the incorporation of the property as the first National Military Park by President Benjamin Harrison in 1890*. This single-pen farmhouse, or cabin in the parlance of the National Park Service, is a reconstruction of the home of George Washington (September 1806-4 October 1869) and Mary Carter Brotherton (16 December 1812-24 March 1900) and their children.
An interpretive panel at the site notes: At the time of the Battle of Chickamauga, George and Mary Brotherton and their children lived in a log house here. In the surrounding fields they grazed cattle and grew corn and hay. To escape the battle, some of the Brothertons and other local families took refuge in a ravine about a mile from here. There they endured hunger and cold, and prayed for their boys serving in the Confederate army.
Tom Brotherton, one of the sons, played a key role in the battle. Because Tom “knew every pig trail through these woods,” General Longstreet, commander of the Confederate left wing, employed him as a scout. Tom served with pride, telling his brother Jim, “It’s a sorry lad that won’t fight for his own home.” Jim Brotherton also fought for the South.
After the battle, Adaline Brotherton, the youngest daughter, returned to the cabin in search of food. Finding four of their cows who had miraculously survived the battle, she prepared milk for the refugee families. However, the hundreds of wounded Union and Confederate soldiers she saw here aroused her sympathy, and she gave the milk to them.
Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park + National Register of Historic Places
This single-pen log house was originally located on Dunbean Hill on the Old Federal Road between Jasper and Tate. Dunbean Hill was named for Charles “Tsali” Dunbean, a Cherokee who was forced to relocate to Oklahoma in 1838 during the Cherokee Removal. It is thought that he was the builder of the cabin, which would likely date it in its original form to the mid-1830s. The Dunbean Hill property was purchased in 1862 by Stephen Kirby who established the first school in Pickens County, known as Kirby Academy. Around 1870, Kirby expanded the cabin to accommodate his growing family.
Former Congressman Ed Jenkins discovered the log cabin among the ruins of a burned out house on Dunbean Hill and gave the remains to Tom Quinton, a Jasper County Middle School teacher, who restored it for future use as an educational site. After Quinton’s death, the cabin was moved to this location.
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
I find a few of these amazing vernacular landmarks in my travels, and sometimes they have been moved and are used as everything from barns to hunting lodges. They also usually contain an added room, for obvious reasons. This one appears to have been recently exposed by the cleaning of brush and likely has always been at this location.
This focal point of this farm is the old central hallway house, which was expanded a couple of times over the years.
A couple of outbuildings survive on the property.