Tag Archives: Georgia Superlatives

Pope Park, 1910, Sylvester

Georgia is lucky to have three landmark minor league parks dating to the 1920s [Golden Park in Columbus (1926); Grayson Stadium in Savannah(1926); and Luther Williams Field in Macon (1929)], but none is as old as Sylvester’s historic Pope Park. It’s been in continuous use as a baseball venue since 1910.

Named for Colonel John D. Pope, it has hosted amateur, semi-pro, American Legion and county league teams throughout its history. It’s presently home to the Worth County Rams high school team. The wooden grandstand is a rare sight in the modern era of baseball and is the centerpiece of Pope Park. The property is maintained jointly by the City of Sylvester and Worth County High School.

Central State Hospital, Milledgeville

Central Building [now known as the Powell Building], Central State Hospital, National Register of Historic Places

The Georgia Lunatic Asylum opened on the outskirts of Milledgeville in 1842, its name only slightly more benign than the original “Lunatic, Idiot and Epileptic Asylum” conjured at its establishment in 1837. The need for such a facility was precipitated by the social reform movements popular in the early 19th century and at first, especially under the guidance of Dr. Thomas A. Green, patients were treated as humanely as possible. Green was responsible for attempting to humanize the plight of the asylum’s population, removing chains and restraints and even taking meals with them. Within its next century, though, the institution occupied over 200 buildings on nearly 2000 acres. At its peak, there were nearly 13,000 souls residing here, making it the largest state mental institution in the nation.

Victorian Building, Central State Hospital

Unfortunately, after the Civil War, the institution experienced rapid growth, as many communities warehoused “undesirable” people from their communities to what was essentially a prison sentence at Milledgeville. This included thousands of veterans whose maladies deemed them impossible to treat in their resource-strained communities. This growth lead to a 100:1 physician to patient ratio that persisted for nearly a hundred years. In 1897, the facility came to be known as the Georgia State Sanitarium. But to most Georgians, it was simply known as “Milledgeville”. It was universally known in the state as a place to avoid. Walking the immense grounds today, one has to feel sorrow for the souls who were put away here, and a sense of anger at the horrible way we treated the mentally ill until the recent past.

Storehouse, Central State Hospital, National Register of Historic Places

By the 1960s, pharmaceutical advances helped reduce the number of patients who were subjected to such horrific treatments as electroshock therapy and lobotomies. For much of the 20th century, the institution was essentially an experimental laboratory of psychology, doing greater damage to its residents than good. The name of the property was changed to Central State Hospital in 1967 and by the 1970s, the population was in rapid decrease.

Auditorium, Central State Hospital

Today, fewer than 200 residents are in treatment here and a goal of phasing out the facility altogether is closer to reality. Most of the buildings are in ruin and while anyone is welcome to walk around the grounds, it’s illegal to enter any of the structures. A round-the-clock security team strictly enforces this mandate.

Nevils Creek Old Line Primitive Baptist Church, Bulloch County

Nevils Creek is the oldest church in Bulloch County and one of the oldest Primitive Baptist churches in Georgia. It was constituted in 1790. A single headstone is located beside the church: John Neville served in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment during the Revolutionary War. He may have been the founder of the congregation.

Fresh Air Barbecue, Jackson

Dr. Joel Watkins began selling barbecue here in 1929, making it the oldest pit-cooked barbecue establishment in Georgia still in its original location. Upon Dr. Watkins’ death in 1945, the business was purchased by longtime manager, George W. “Toots” Caston, who is credited with making Fresh Air Barbecue into the institution it is today. Caston made improvements to the cooking process, the sauce, and the Brunswick stew recipe and expanded the business from a drive-in to a dine-in. Even the coming of I-75 couldn’t keep people away from Fresh Air, with many travelers taking the exit just to experience the legendary fare of the “Barbecue Place”. Still boasting one of the shortest menus in the business, there are no frills here, just barbecue, Brunswick stew, pickles and potato chips, and pecan, lemon or Reese’s pie for desert if you need something sweet for the road. And you can buy a whole ham if you’d like.  There’s a Macon location today that has a few additional items, but you really should go to the original first.

Columbia County Courthouse, 1856, Appling

Columbia County was created in 1790. The area was settled by Daniel Marshall and the Baptists in 1772. The dead town of Cobbham served briefly as the first county seat, followed by Kiokee, near the Savannah River. Because Kiokee was considered too far from much of the population to be a practical site, William Appling offered land for a new county seat and it was named in his honor. The first courthouse in Appling was built around 1793, followed by a more suitable structure in 1812. It served until the construction of the present courthouse in 1856.

Columbia County is perhaps unique in Georgia in that it has essentially two county seats. By the 1970s,  this courthouse was in a bad state of deterioration. Since the county was in the midst of a population boom and the majority of the population was clustered near Evans, the Appling courthouse was no longer adequate for housing all the offices of local government. Around 1980 a new Columbia County Government Center was constructed in Evans, with additional facilities following in the 1990s. Most functions of local government are now carried out there, while a few offices are maintained in this historic antebellum courthouse.  Some court proceedings are still held here, making it the oldest courthouse in the state still in use.

National Register of Historic Places

Jesup Drive-In, Valentine’s Day

Jesup Drive In Theatre Valentines Day Date Night Crowd Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Valentine’s dates were bumper to bumper at Jesup Drive-In tonight. It’s one of the few places in Georgia where you could experience a tradition like this, and it’s the oldest drive-in in the state.

Old Government House, 1801, Augusta

The central section of this structure housed the old Richmond County Courthouse, making this the oldest standing courthouse in Georgia. [The oldest in its original form is the 1825 Fayette County Courthouse]. Sold in 1821 to mayor Samuel Hale, the building was expanded for use as a residence. The family of Dr. Eugene Murphy were the last private owners, selling it to the Augusta Junior League in 1952. It is depicted on both the Augusta city seal and flag. A ginkgo on the property is thought to have been planted on the lot in 1791 to commemorate George Washington’s visit to the city.

National Register of Historic Places


Jesup Drive-In Theater, 1948

jesup drive in theatre photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2014

Opened in 1948 by Ward Riggins, Sr., as the Family Drive-In, the Jesup Drive-In Theater is the oldest and one of just four remaining in the state of Georgia. It was briefly closed in the 1960s, reopened as the Jesup Twin Drive-In and has been going strong ever since. Today it’s owned by Ralph and Jamie Hickox, who have really improved it while keeping its nostalgic feel. It’s a real treasure for Southeast Georgia.

jesup drive in theatre theater movie wayne county ga marquee at night photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2014

Oldest Jail in Georgia, Circa 1783, Warthen

Aaron Burr Apocraphyl Presumed Oldest Jail in Georgia Warthen GA Washington County Political Prisoner Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Located today on private property, this structure is nonetheless accessible and widely visited. Thought to be the oldest standing jail in Georgia, it’s better known as the Aaron Burr Jail. The former Vice-president is said to have been held here overnight during transport to Richmond for his 1807 trial for treason. A granite-and-bronze marker was placed at the site by the Governor Jared Irwin Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution. However, research and evidence suggests that this story is apocryphal. A 1906 newspaper article by Col. Macon Warthen, Sr., gave a very detailed account of Burr’s movements from Fort Wilkinson (Milledgeville) to Shoals of Ogeechee in Hancock County. According to Col. Warthen’s research, Burr spent the night in Shoals of the Ogeechee, not in Warthen (then known as Wicker).

Aaron Burr Jail Warthen GA Washington County Political Prisoner DAR Bronze Marker Plaque Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

It reads: “Site of First Washington County Jail – Erected 1783 of Logs – Aaron Burr Incarcerated Here 1807, En Route to Trial for Treason“. I believe this claim is possible, but I wish there were further documentation.

Aaron Burr Oldest Jail in Georgia Warthen GA Washington County Political Prisoner Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Different sources list different years for the date of construction, generally ranging from 1783 – 1793. Since there’s no way of specifically dating it, my source is John Linley’s Architecture of Middle Georgia: The Oconee Area (UGA Press, 1972).

Warthen Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Cumorah Church, 1907, Coffee County

historic cumorrah church lds douglas coffee county ga photograph copyright brian brown vanishing georgia usa 2021

Thanks to Jaci McKinnon for first making me aware of this interesting and little-known aspect of Coffee County’s history. In his History of Coffee County (1930), Warren P. Ward notes that Mormon missionaries came to the area in 1898, led first by Elder Nephi Henderson and an Elder Brewer. Elder Ben E. Rich established the church in Coffee County. He was succeeded by Elder Charles A. Callis. Early families who converted to the Mormon faith were those of Calvin W. Williams, Dan P. Lott, and Joseph J. Adams.   “Many citizens of the county were excited over the appearance of the Elders. Some regarded them as messengers from Heaven, gave them shelter and lodging…Others regarded them as emissaries of the devil, wrecking homes and carrying away women…Coffee County has been a fruitful field for the Mormon Church, it having grown to a membership of over seven hundred. There are two churches in the territory-Cumorrah Church in Coffee County and the Utah Church in Atkinson County, formerly Coffee.” I’m not sure what happened to the congregation but will continue to research it and will photograph the nearby Mormon Cemetery the next time I’m in the area. (Thanks are also due to Andrew P. Wood for pointing me to Ward’s history of the Mormons in Coffee County).

historic cumorrah church lds interior douglas coffee county ga photograph copyright brian brown vanishing georgia usa 2021

D. O. Adams writes that this is the oldest standing LDS church in the Southeastern U. S. He also kindly shared the following history, which is the most detailed account I’ve ever seen regarding Mormons in South Georgia.

History of the Douglas Branch – Cumorah Church

Given by John (Son ) Adams in 1934, and recorded by his daughter Elsie Adams Sharp. Typed on computer by John (Son) Adams’s grandson Donald Orson Adams Sr. of Douglas, Ga. in the month of June 2001.
The History:
In as much as I John Adams President of the Douglas Branch, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was requested by President Le Grande Richards of the Southern States Mission to write a brief history of this branch. I shall try in a few words to give a brief sketch of the rise and progress of this Branch.
In order to do this it will be necessary to go back 35 years ago. The exact date I can’t remember but it was the 2nd or 3rd Sunday in June 1899.
My father, Joseph Adams was visiting at Benjaman Irving Spivey, his son-in-law. On Saturday evening Elder Nephi Jensen and Elder Sellers came to Brother Spivey’s home. The Elders began to teach the restored Gospel. All the evening they sat and discussed the Gospel with my father and brother Spivey. The Elders spent the night at Spiveys and on the next day, which was Sunday, the Elders had appointed a meeting at a church by the name of Old Mt. Zion of the Baptist profession. Father went over to hear them, but when he arrived the members of that Church were gathering in order to keep the Elders from preaching in the Church. Some of the men had knives and some of them had guns. There was one of the members had a little of the Spirit of the Lord, whose name was Frank Griffis. He told the people if they objected to the Elders preaching in then house that he would go in the church and bring out some benches and a little table and the Elders could preach outside under the oak trees. After having done all this the meeting continued. After the meeting was over with Mr. Frank Griffis, the man who had brought the benches out, said to his brother Hare, “You will have to meet that sermon in judgement for it is the truth.” Then father came forward and told the Elders that they were welcome at his home any time they would come.
Father arrived home late Sunday night and the next morning at the breakfast table father said, to the school mistress, “did you ever hear a Mormon preacher”. She said that she had never heard one so father began to tell the story of having met the Mormon Elders at Brother Spivey’s. He said, that those were the smartest men he had ever heard preach and that they were coming to his home the next day and preach.
From that time on the Elders visited us, also they found other homes and friends. I want to mention here, at this point of our history that the Elders began to canvas the country finding some very staunch friends, and among these were Uncle Dan Lott. He went to hear the Elders preach and he liked it very much.
Here is what my wife tells me for she is the daughter of Uncle Dan and remembers what he said, to his wife, Aunt Tilda, “if I have ever heard the Gospel I heard it tonight.” Uncle Dan had already said , that there was something wrong with all the other churches, but when he heard Elder Jensen it opened up the mystery to him and so the Gospel began to take root here. On October 15, 1899 Dan Lott was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. the foundation began to be layed which since then has grown to be a branch of the Church
I would like to mention here, that everything was not pleasant with the Elders. We know in all ages of time when God has put forth his hand to do a work among his children Satan has tryed to stop the work from progressing. The Elders were forced to sleep out in the woods with ” Uncle Sam” on account of the people not taking them in.
Here is an incident that happened near Uncle Dan Lotts home. I think it was in the late summer of 1899. Elder Nephi Jensen and companion while traveling through the country preaching and tracting were trying to make their way back home; ( or what they called home was Uncle Dan Lotts). They got lost and it was getting late at night so they stopped at farm house and asked for intertainment but were denied. The man finally told them they could sleep on the porch.
They awoke the next morning and found that they were only about one mile from Uncle Dans. They hastened on home and were just in time for breakfast. On another occasion rotten eggs were thrown at the Elders.
Now as the year 1900 comes in with more blessings. The Elders had been away for sometimes; as it was the custom for the South Georgia Elders to labor in Florida in the winter and here in the summer. The South Georgia District belonged to the Florida Conference.
I want to say that in the year 1900 and especially in the spring and summer of this year that it brought many, wonderful blessings.
My mother and several others who now belong to the Axson Branch were baptized into the Church. This made two groups that were baptized here. Uncle Dan Lott and Richard Jewel belonging to the first group that joined the Church. Leavey Jewel also was baptized in the first group. The Gospel began to make great progress in spite of opposition.
Now I come to the part of this history that is very strange to me. It is here that I felt like writing the words of the poet. God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform, he plants his footsteps on the sea and rides upon the waves. The part that is strange happened in the year 1900.
The first few months of the year come very pleasant weather. Everything acted, as if, we were going to have a prosperous year. The crops were up growing fine and then it began to rain. It rained as I have never seen before are since then. We didn’t make athing and father was certainly worried. He then began to make an effort to sell out his farm.
At that time there was a tract of land near Douglas, the county seat, that father could buy. He then made arrangements to sell his farm and in turn bought this one near Douglas where our Branch Chapel now stands.
I shall pick up the other family that helped to make the Douglas Branch possible which family is Uncle Dan Lott.
As I said, before on account of the rain father sold out his old farm and moved. Along about this time Uncle Dan was having trouble also with his financial, affairs. He also sold out his farm near Pearson, or Kirkland, I might say and bought a farm joining the one dad had bought. All of this transactions seems to be the providence of God.
When all this trading was made known to me it pleased me very much, for this selling and buying brought the Adams family and Lott family closer to-gether; who were to build the Douglas Branch up.
Here is the main reason that the selling and buying of these (2) two families pleased me so much and, that is, that I had my eye on the girl that was to be my wife who was the daughter of Uncle Dan.
We all moved to our new homes late in the year 1900 and also early in 1901. Then for several years these two families worked very hard trying to overcome the bad luck that they had the years before.
During these years the Elders continued to labor in our midst preaching first at fathers place then at Uncle Dan’s.
God certainly moves in a mysterious way his work to perform. The time had come for these two families to prune the Lords vineyard and it commenced in this way. In the month of July 1907, Elder George L. Tate and Elder Foote were holding a meeting at Uncle Dans’ home and after the meeting was dismissed the subject was brought up of building a Church house. In a few minutes it was decided upon and my father gave the land on which the little chapel was built. Soon the work was began and Elder Tate gave the first dollar toward the work. The construction of the chapel began in the latter part of July 1907 and in five weeks the little Chapel was ready for use. Elder Nephi Jensen preached the first sermon in it on the 5th Sunday in August 1907. At this time Elder Jensen was on a short term mission. The little chapel was named by Elder Tate , and he saw fit to name it Cumorah. The name was recently changed by President Richards as the Douglas Branch.
The Sunday School was organized August 4, 1912. C.H. Williams as superintendent, B.B. Adams as first assistant and John Adams second assistant. The Sunday School remained like this until 1916 it was disorganized . B.B. Adams was elected as superintendent , John Adams first assistant. This organization continued until November 23, 1919. Bro J.L. Henderson was appointed 2nd assistant.

Note: This is the end of the history of the Douglas Branch ( Cumorah Church) as given by my Grandfather John “Son” Adams” to his daughter Elsie Adams in 1934. Elsie Adams married Earnest Sharp in 1941 and lives in Huntington, West Virginia. ( Typed on computer June 10, 2001 by Orson Adams of Douglas, Ga.)
Historial information from 1934-1975( Some events taken from the Douglas Branch Historical Record in the possession of Orson Adams , Douglas, Ga. )
In the early part of 1934, President Le Grand Richards of the Southern States Mission organized the Cumorah Church into the Douglas Branch with John “ Son” Adams as it’s first President. In the fall of 1934 an MIA was organized making the Douglas Branch a more fully organized Branch of the Church.