Tag Archives: Georgia Pioneers

Christian Camphor Cottage, 1760s: The Oldest Building in Savannah

This saltbox cottage, built some time between 1760-1767 and raised in 1871, is believed to be the oldest surviving structure in the city of Savannah [Wild Heron Plantation, outside the city, is the oldest structure in Chatham County, dating to circa 1756]. The balcony was remodeled in 1907. I have not been able to locate any information about Christian Camphor, however.

Savannah National Historic Landmark District

Harmony Baptist Church, 1927, Putnam County

This church has a long and varied history, best detailed on the marker placed by the church and the Eatonton-Putnam Historical Society in 2001: August 29, 1807, marks the constitution date of the church, originally named Salem Baptist Church, and located on the west bank of the Oconee River on land now in Morgan Co., across the river from the Salem Community in Greene Co. Shortly before July 14, 1821, the church officers were ordered to sell the original building site and the church constitution moved to Kingston District in Morgan Co. and renamed Concord at Kingston. On Oct. 25, 1828, the church moved again, renamed Harmony, to a site offered by T. J. Davis located across the road from the present Jefferson Baptist Church. After Davis’ death clear title could not be obtained and the fourth and present site was bought April 30, 1844 from William S. Scott for $25.00. The fourth building, dedicated in April 1855, after construction costs were turned in by William Rowell Paschal in Nov. 1854, served the congregation until destroyed by fire in March 1926. The fifth building was completed in 1927. No minutes exist before Saturday, June 5, 1819, but are complete fro that date on. They tell a poignant story of dedicated and faithful members who have kept the church alive while surviving pioneer hardships, schisms over missions, the loss of members to newer lands opening to the west, the Civil War and segregation and reconstruction, economic uncertainties, national depression and migration to the cities. Many outstanding ministers including the first, John Dingler (1807), Richard Pace (1824-1837), and Asa Monroe Marshall (1860-1912) who served Harmony, Eatonton, and Ramoth for over 50 years, have stood in the pulpit here. Pioneer families associated with this church include Alford, Alliston, Batchelor, Boatright, Bryant, Cogburn, Davis, Denham, Ingram, Kilpatrick, Kimbrough, Little, Marshall, Mason, Nelson, Newman, Pace, Paschal, Reese, Scott, Tuggle, Wallace, Walton, Weaver, Wynn, Zachary and many others who lie buried in its historic cemetery.

Mt. Ararat Methodist Church, 1870s, Dennis Station

The congregation of Mt. Ararat Methodist Church was organized in 1824. The sign on the church notes that the church was built in 1824, but a marker at the entrance to the cemetery notes that the church was destroyed by Sherman’s army in the winter of 1864. It’s possible that elements of the old structure were incorporated into the present structure.

The vernacular Greek Revival form was very common in 19th century Georgia.

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.

Elizabeth Durden House, 1840s, Emanuel County

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.

Original section of house, southeast corner

It has remained in the ownership of Mrs. Durden’s descendants throughout its existence and their good stewardship has made possible its survival.

Original section of house, front

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.

Original section of house, northeast corner. Note the lack of chinking on the rear wall, possible because of the shed kitchen behind it.

As it stands, even with the modifications, it’s one of a very small number of log structures of this era remaining in Georgia.

Original section of house, southwest corner. Windows have obviously been replaced, but have the same placement as the originals as best I can tell. .

Shed rooms [next two images] and a modern chimney have been added to the original single-pen log house over its long history.

Shed room [bedroom], west side of house

Shed rooms were common additions to utilitarian structures and were usually porches which were transformed into rooms by the addition of new walls.

Shed room [kitchen], rear of house

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.

Elizabeth Durden with her grandson, Verdie Ricks, on her front porch, circa 1900. Copy of a family photograph, shared with permission.

Elisha Winn House, Circa 1812, Dacula

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]

Lyon Farm, 1820s, DeKalb County

Side view of Lyon House, showing attached kitchen and restored smokehouse

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.

Front Elevation

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.

Gate posts

The gateposts are local granite, as are the boundary stones and flower bed areas.

Raised flower bed

Grape arbors were common features of many farms; this one was likely added in the 20th century.

Grape arbor

The historic smokehouse, thought to be the oldest overall structure on the farm, was recently restored.

Lyon smokehouse

Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area

Aaron & Margaret Parker, Jr., House, Circa 1830, Rockdale County

Aaron Parker, Sr. (1758-1831), and his family migrated from Caswell County, North Carolina, to Georgia in the 1820s. His son, Aaron Parker, Jr. (12 November 1788-5 January 1881), and his wife Margaret Browning Parker* (30 June 1789-6 August 1871), bought three land lots on the east side of Panola Mountain in what was then known as the Brushy Knob District. It was part of Henry County until 1870.

*-I have learned that I am a cousin of Margaret Browning Parker.

Aaron, Jr., and Margaret were successful in Franklin County (now Clarke County) and were eager to invest their capital in the Georgia frontier. The Plantation Plain house they built circa 1830 became the center of a 2700 acre cotton farm, worked by as many as 24 slaves, and represents the first wave of white settlement into newly opened Native American lands.

The house was restored in 2016 and is part of the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. It is among the oldest standing structures in Rockdale County.

National Register of Historic Places

Swanscombe, 1828, Covington

Swanscombe was built by the first white settler of Covington, Cary Wood, and is the oldest house in the city. It was originally a more simple form; the columns were a later addition, but they were present before the Civil War. The descendants remained in the house for several generations until selling the property to Thomas C. Swann in 1884. The name Swanscombe was given to the house during his ownership.

Floyd Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Weaver-Dallas House, 1820s, Thomaston

According to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation: The earliest version of the Weaver-Dallas House dates to the 1820s, as a one-room house and separate doctor shop, making it the oldest house in Thomaston. Additions in the 1830s and 1840s created a 1 ½ story cottage with Federal and Classical Revival elements. Stepping on site today reveals that not much has changed since then. Located on .98 of an acre, the property includes two smoke houses, a garden shed and a 1930s car shed, and is as close to a time capsule of Georgia history as one may find today. The house has been in the same family since it was purchased by Travis Weaver in 1840.

Thanks to the efforts of the Georgia Trust, the home has a new owner.