Tag Archives: Georgia Politicians

Captain C. C. Grace House, Circa 1864, Screven

Nine years ago, Lindsay Thomas, Jr., whose family owns and maintains this wonderful Georgia Centennial Farm, reached out to me about photographing the old home place near Screven. Lindsay’s father served in the United States House of Representatives from 1983-1993. Lindsay was very interested in documenting the large number of catface pines and Herty cups on the property. I still haven’t gotten around to making those photographs, but hope to someday soon. [For those not in the know, catfaces are the scars left behind by the collection of pine sap for the manufacture of turpentine. The naval stores business was dominant in this region until at least the 1950s.]

The farm, known as Grace Acres today, was established by Captain C. C. Grace, circa 1864, and the house was likely built around that time. The family has maintained a presence in the area ever since and they’re not only good stewards of the land, but they do a fine job of maintaining this historic home.

Judge David A. Vason House, 1855, Albany

This is the most important architectural landmark in Albany, and one of the most significant surviving Greek Revival homes in Southwest Georgia. It was built by Judge David Alexander Vason (12 February 1818-13 July 1891). Judge Vason, who was married three times, was the grandfather of one of Georgia’s most prominent architects, Edward Vason Jones. Edward grew up in the house [the Georgia Archives holds a photograph of the infant Edward with his African-American nurse, Leila Perkins] and later restored it to a state befitting its elegance.

Nelson Tift Monument, 2013, Albany

As part of an initiative to place more public art in downtown Albany, this sculpture of Nelson Tift was commissioned by the city and placed in 2013. Gayla Catrett is the artist responsible for the work.

The accompanying marble column notes: Nelson Tift settled the area as a commercial venture in 1836 in the hopes of establishing a cotton trade using the [Flint] river to transport the crop to market. He named it Albany, in honor of Albany, New York, which was also the head of the navigation on the river.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Tift was a man of his time, committed wholly to slave society, Tift worked tirelessly to protect both the party and the “peculiar institution.” Starting in 1841 he translated his economic leadership into political office, serving three terms in the Georgia legislature. He supported the reopening of the international slave trade as a means to extend ownership of enslaved laborers to all white Georgians and chastised white artisans for opposing the use of enslaved craftsmen. Although not an advocate of immediate secession he accepted the final decision and lent his services to the new nation. During the Civil War (1861-65), Tift built gunboats for the Confederate navy and supplied the Rebel army with beef and hardtack produced by his factories at Albany and at nearby Palmyra in Lee County.

W. E. Smith House, 1860, Albany

The historic marker for the house, placed by the Georgia Historical Commission in 1958, is titled “Albany’s First Brick House”.

It gives this brief overview of the home’s history: Built of brick hauled from Macon by wagon, this house was completed in 1860 by Congressman William R. (Tete) Smith for his bride, Caroline Williams Smith. The interior trim and mahogany stair rail came from New York; the furnishings were imported from England. Flower beds were laid out in Masonic designs with statues of Minerva and Flora prominently displayed. Captain of the Albany Guards of the 4th Ga. Regt., Smith lost a leg in the Battle of King´s Schoolhouse, Virginia. Member of the Confederate Congress and, later, of the U. S. Congress, he was an able lawyer and a beloved citizen of Albany.

National Register of Historic Places

Berrien House, Circa 1791, Savannah

Considered one of Georgia’s most iconic houses, the Berrien House was built circa 1791 for Major John Berrien (1759-1815), a hero of the Revolutionary War.

Major Berrien left college in New Jersey to enlist in the American Revolution. Quickly rising through the ranks, he was commissioned Captain of the first Georgia Continental Brigade in 1777, under the command of Lachlan McIntosh. Berrien followed General McIntosh to Washington’s Headquarters and served, at age 18, as Brigadier Major of North Carolina Troops at Valley Forge and Monmouth. Washington is believed to have made his headquarters in Berrien’s ancestral New Jersey home, Rockingham, and may have written his Farewell Orders to the Armies from that location. The Berriens were close personal friends of General Washington. After the war, Berrien returned to Savannah with his family and became very prominent in local affairs. He was Collector of Customs and an alderman and also served as state treasurer at Louisville (1796-1799).

John Macpherson Berrien, by John Maier, 1870. Public Domain

Major Berrien’s son, John Macpherson Berrien (1781-1856), began the practice of law at Louisville in 1799. After service in the War of 1812, Berrien was elected to the Georgia senate and served as a United States senator from 1825-1829. From 1829-1831, he served as Andrew Jackson’s attorney general; from 1845-1852, he again served in the United States senate. Berrien County is named for him.

The home, which was in bad condition for many years, has been exquisitely restored by one of Berrien’s descendants, Andrew Berrien Jones, and is a wonderful example of preservation.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

Burwell-Goss House, 1906, Sparta

This imposing Neoclassical Revival mansion was built for William H. Burwell, the first man to live here. Burwell served as a mayor of Sparta and a state representative.It has recently been purchased after years of limbo, and will soon be restored.

Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Smithonia, Oglethorpe County

Situated on some of the most idyllic land in Oglethorpe County, the historic property known as Smithonia was for a time perhaps the largest single farm in Georgia, eventually encompassing nearly thirty square miles. It was a self-contained enterprise, with its own railroad, commissary, and enough tenants to necessitate a post office, which operated from 1889-1907.

This may have been the post office. I will update when I can confirm.

James Monroe Smith (Jim) was born in 1839 near Washington, Georgia. The lifelong bachelor built an agricultural empire on the gently rolling hills around this exceptionally large house (built circa 1866), and by the turn of the century was a millionaire. The three large brick barns (the first a stable) were built circa 1888 at the height of the farm’s productivity. They remain its most significant architectural legacy.

The primary means by which Smith amassed his fortune was the use of laborers he “rented”from the state’s prison camps, and nearly all of them were African-American. Many had been Smith’s slaves on whom the irony of being back in his “employee” was surely not lost.

Smith’s wealth and desire for influence led him to politics and he served terms in both the Georgia house and senate. He made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1906.

He died on the farm in 1915 and due to his bachelor status, his estate was unsettled for many years. Numerous claims were made for his land and considerable fortune.

Numerous owners have owned parts of the property over the years, including country music legend Kenny Rogers. The most recent owners, Pam and Dink NeSmith have made improvements to various aspects of the sprawling landmark and have recently listed it for sale.

National Register of Historic Places

Crawford Long Childhood Home, 1810s, Madison County

Also known as the Crawford Long Childhood Home, this Federal style house was built by Madison County pioneer James Long, circa 1817. James long was the father of Dr. Crawford Williamson Long, the first man to successfully use ether as an anesthesia for surgery. The elder Long came to Georgia with his family from Pennsylvania in 1790 and was a successful planter and merchant and was one of the founders of Danielsville in 1812-1813. He was among the first in newly created Madison County (1811) to receive a license to sell liquor. His holdings in the area eventually reached 13,000 acres and at least 22 slaves. He married a local girl, Elizabeth Ware, on 8 December 1813 and their son Crawford was born on 1 November 1815, presumably at an earlier, though undocumented, home the family owned in Danielsville proper.

The land where this house is located wasn’t purchased until December of 1817 and wasn’t located within the city limits. Because of the low tax evaluation of the property at that time, it is presumed the house was not present at the time of the purchase. James Long was active in local politics and early sessions of the Inferior Court met is his home. He served as Clerk of the Superior Court, Danielsville postmaster, and in both houses of the Georgia legislature. According to the nomination form which added the house to the National Register of Historic Places, it is the only extant, authentic structure associated with his [Crawford W. Long’s] life.

After the sale of the house by the Long heirs in 1874, it has had several owners, including the Thurmond, O’Kelley, Thompson, and Sorrow families. They have kept a watchful eye over it. Crawford Long lived in the house until he left for nearby Franklin College (University of Georgia) in 1829. Local oral traditions suggests that Dr. Long was actually born in the house, which would place its construction date in the 1813-1815 range, but since no primary evidence exists to prove this claim, a debate continues. Either way, it’s significant as a residence of one of the most important figures in 19th century American medicine.

Dr. Crawford Williamson Long. Photo Source: A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography, Volume 2, 1913. Public Domain.

The National Register nomination also notes: Architecturally, the Crawford Long Childhood Home has significance as a refined example of federal period architecture used in the construction of dwellings on the upper frontier portions of Georgia during the nineteenth century. The style of the structure is more refined than other extant vernacular houses of its area. A graphic reconstruction of the structure, with its original federal pedimented porch would reveal a definite change in character from its present appearance and would distinguish it from other houses in that early nineteenth century period and locality. The interior of the building is indicative of an imported eastern taste transferred into the upper Piedmont of Georgia. The wood paneling and graining found in the formal rooms of the house reflect quality craftsmanship and are a noteworthy accomplishment for that early date and time. The two second-story fireplace surrounds also convey a quality of craftsmanship. The smooth finishing of the interior wood indicates great care in construction as well…

National Register of Historic Places

Rockwell After Restoration

I previously featured this house when it was a derelict concern for many historians and preservationists. Though I’m a bit late to the game, I wanted to share a photo of its present state, which gives an idea of the thought and work the new owners have put into its preservation. Some of their work is detailed here.

National Register of Historic Places

Lockett-Hamilton House, 1830, Clinton

This house was built by James Lockett. After the Civil War, it was home to James H. Blount, a lawyer who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1872-1892.

Old Clinton Historic District, National Register of Historic Places