Tag Archives: Georgia Women’s History

Sibbiah Earl Blair – Revolutionary Soldier?, Brantley County

Sibbiah Earl Blair (c.1745-1815)

Cemeteries often hold mysteries, and there’s a good one in the Whitaker Hill-Harrison Cemetery, the final resting place of a woman who is said to have been a veteran of the Revolutionary War, Sibbiah Earl Blair. Sibbiah [also referenced as Sabbiah in some sources] Earl was the daughter of John Earl, who came to Screven County, Georgia, from North Carolina in 1760. She married William Blair (c.1740-c.1780) of Queensborough [now Louisville] at Jerusalem Church at Ebenezer, Effingham County, on 26 October 1771. Blair migrated to the Georgia colony with his father, James Blair, from Northern Ireland, circa 1770, and served with the Liberty Boys of St. George’s Parish [now Burke, Jefferson, and part of Screven County] as a Revolutionary soldier. William and Sibbiah had five children, Jane, William, Henry, Mary, and Martha. William died before the end of the war, whether in service or of other causes is not evident. He is believed to be buried at Whitaker Hill-Harrison Cemetery, but there is no marker, and considering that he died at Queensborough, he may have been moved from that location at some point.

The Whitaker Hill-Harrison Cemetery is located on the historic Post Road at the Brantley-Glynn county line, in an area identified on maps today as Popwellville. This was located in Wayne County until 1920, when Brantley County was created. There are no Whitakers to be found in this cemetery, so I’m presuming Whitaker Hill was an early plantation or place name.

The Blairs’ daughter Jane is the connection to this cemetery and to this section of Georgia, as she married Robert Stafford (1765-1829), also a Revolutionary soldier. Stafford most likely came to this area through land granted him for Revolutionary service. Birth and death dates for Jane Blair Stafford have not been confirmed, but she died after 1838. Other than the marker related to Sibbiah Blair and the Stafford markers, all other known burials date to the 20th and 21st centuries. [Note: The marker for Robert Stafford seems to be missing from the cemetery; there’s a photograph of it on Findagrave, but I couldn’t locate it].

Another mystery remains for me. The grave markers for Sibbiah Earl Blair and Jane Blair Stafford were placed by the Brunswick Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in the early 20th century. For such a memorial, the DAR would have vetted the service records and genealogy. My presumption is that they concluded that Sibbiah Earl Blair assisted in the war effort in Screven County, after William’s death in 1780. Sibbiah must have moved to Wayne County to live with or near her daughter Jane.

Thanks to Cynthia Jennings for sharing some of the background information.

Middlebrooks House – Sparta Female Dormitory, 1832

According to local sources, this was one of three dormitories of the Sparta Female Model School, built between 1831-1832. In contrast to the other existing dormitory, this one is in good condition and has been a residence for many years.


Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Girl Scout First Headquarters, Savannah

The Andrew Low Carriage House*, at 330 Drayton Street, was the site of the first meeting of the troop of eighteen Girl Guides who would soon come to be known as the Girl Scouts. Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born into an influential Savannah family on 31 October 1860. Her grandfather was the first president of the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia, and her father, William Washington Gordon II, was a Confederate captain, brigadier-general in the Spanish-American War, and a Georgia legislator. She attended boarding schools in New Jersey and Virginia, and a French finishing school in New York City.

After completing her education, Juliette married William Mackay Low in 1886. Low was the son of Andrew Low, a wealthy cotton factor of Scottish origin who owned homes in Savannah and the United Kingdom. The young couple spent most of their time in England and Scotland. The union turned sour when Juliette discovered that William had moved his mistress into their home. In 1902 she filed for divorce, but William’s health was deteriorating and before the action could be finalized, he died in Wales, in 1905.

In 1911, Juliette Gordon Low met Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, and got involved with a troop of Girl Guides in Scotland. She brought the movement to Savannah and the first troop of eighteen Girl Guides met in the carriage house of the Low family mansion on 12 March 1912. The name was changed to the Girl Scouts in 1913. Low’s association with the Girl Scouts continued in various capacities until her death in 1927. The organization has served over 50 million girls in its long history and while it may be best known for its annual cookie sales, has enriched the lives of those who have been associated with it.

The carriage house has served various purposes within the Girl Scouts organization over the years and is presently a museum. It was the first structure in Savannah to receive National Historic Landmark status.

*-Designed by architect John Norris to complement the adjacent Andrew Low House, circa 1848-1849, this structure originally served as the carriage house and living quarters for domestic slaves. Thomas “Tom” Milledge (1818-1886) was the most entrusted of the domestic slaves and after emancipation, remained in the employee of the Low family as a butler. He lived in the carriage house with his wife Mosianna (1844-1909) and their children.

Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, Savannah National Historic Landmark District

Warren House, 1870s, Augusta

This exemplar of the Sand Hills Cottage style is a particularly nice example, with a Greek Revival facade. It was built for Captain William Henry Warren and his wife, Mary Moore Warren. Mrs. Warren was involved in benevolent projects, including the Mizpah Circle of the International Order of the King’s Daughters, which sought to improve the lives of its members through service to those less fortunate. Upon Mrs. Warren’s death in 1903, her estate set aside money for the establishment of the Mary Warren Home on Broad Street (later in Summerville) to care for indigent women and children. It served the community for many years.

Greene Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Dr. J. B. Kay’s Obstetric Clinic, 1930s, Byron

This unusual structure, essentially two shotgun offices connected by a central hallway, was built circa 1919. Beginning in the 1930s, it was the office and clinic of Dr. James Benjamin Kay (1890-1960) and was the first obstetrics clinic in Georgia. Dr. Kay delivered over 3500 babies during his long career and also practiced general medicine

Byron Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Lawrenceville Female Seminary, 1855

A young ladies’ finishing school known as the Lawrenceville Female Seminary was established here in 1838. One of the trustees, Daniel Killian, was responsible for its construction. That structure, apparently very similar to this one, was destroyed by fire and was replaced by the present structure in 1855. It served as a seminary until 1886. In its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, it was described as simple, rather masculine, late-Federal early-Greek Revival. It is the most significant early public structure surviving in Lawrenceville.

The Lawrenceville Masonic Lodge No. 181 began using the second floor in 1860 and made it their home until the 1970s. Over the years the lower floor was occupied by various tenants and was also used as a public gathering place. It serves as the Gwinnett History Museum today.

National Register of Historic Places

Johnstonville School, 1915, Lamar County

The Johnstonville School is a landmark of rural education and an excellent example of the use of the Craftsman style in public architecture.

The school closed in 1945 [one source dates the closure to 1939]. It serves as the Johnstonville Community Clubhouse today.

The Johnstonville Women’s Club was organized in 1924 and helped oversee the care of the school and were involved in the preservation of the historic structure for many years.

Johnstonville-Goggins Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Boggs Academy, Burke County

The Reverend Dr. John L. Phelps (8 December 1866-15 November 1937), a reform-minded Presbyterian minister, established Boggs Academy in 1906, and gave a detailed account of its origins in “A New Institution – Boggs Academy“, published in the June 1911 edition of the Home Mission Monthly, a journal of the Woman’s Executive Committee of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church. It’s amazing that this small, church-based school, established at a time of particularly bad race relations in the South, grew to become one of the most respected black boarding schools in the United States throughout its nearly 80 years of operation.

Boggs Dining Hall, 1924, rear view. This structure, the oldest remaining on campus, is in immediate need of stabilization.

He wrote: In the early summer of 1906…the idea of a Presbyterian Church and industrial school for colored people in the rural district of Burke County, Georgia, took its beginning...I was anxious to go with my family into the darkest corner, and…work among the negroes of the “quarter” and on the large cotton plantations, were it not for the race prejudice and the misunderstandings that are certain to cause dangerous friction. [I was assured] that the better element of the white people stood ready to co-operate…[with] good wishes and financial help…

Morgan Chapel and Manse Across the street from the Boggs Memorial Building. Published in the Home Mission Monthly, June 1911. Public domain. [This building burned in the late 1920s* and was replaced with the Memorial . -*Some sources note that Morgan Chapel burned in 1930; however, a bronze plaque on the Blackburn building dates to 1928.]

A church was opened for worship in the community in December 1906 with eight original members. It was named Morgan Grove Presbyterian Church, for Morgan Walker, who gave the land on which the church was built. I believe it may have been associated with another black Presbyterian congregation known as Spread Oak but haven’t confirmed that yet.

Virginia Boggs Memorial Hall near Keysville, Burke County, Georgia April 1910. Published in the Home Mission Monthly, June 1911. Public domain. [This building has long been lost though I’m unsure as to a date].

In January 1907, a school was opened within the walls of the church, and named Boggs Academy, for Virginia P. Boggs, who served for many years as the Corresponding Secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen.

Rev. John I. Blackburn Memorial, 1928
John I. Blackburn Presbyterian Church, (Annex), 1962

At the time of Phelps’s 1911 article, the campus consisted of six buildings situated on 40 acres. The Virginia P. Boggs Memorial Hall, which cost $5000 to build, was the main school building. The four acres on which it stood were donated by R. C. Neely of Waynesboro, whom Phelps considered “one of the school’s best friends”. Enrollment was around 100 students, with four teachers. Two were paid by the Freedmen’s Board of the Presbyterian Church and the other two were paid by the Burke County Board of Education. 25% of the students in 1911 were boarders from other communities. Focus in the earliest days was on normal and domestic curriculum, with industrial and agricultural instruction coming later. Boggs Academy held twice-yearly farmers’ conferences to help educate local black farmers on newer and more economical methods of production and they were supported by white farmers in this endeavor.

Boggs Academy President’s House, 1928

After a long and prosperous history, Boggs Academy officially ceased operation in 1986. The last class matriculated in 1984. An active alumni association still keeps the history of the institution alive and takes a keen interest in its preservation.

Dairy Building
C. W. Francis Community House (Gymnasium), 1958. Named for Rev. C. W. Francis, a former superintendent.
Classroom Wing & Shop, 1950s. This structure was used for vehicle maintenance, Shop classes, and the Home Economics and Science laboratory.
Swimming Pool & Pool House, 1973
Mural, 2007
Phelps Building, 1967. Toombs, Amisano & Wells, Architects.

The newest structure on campus, the Phelps Building was constructed during the administration of Dr. Harold N. Stinson.

It is still used by the Boggs Rural Life Center, which was incorporated in 1990

Identifications for structures were found in the Boggs Charrette Report, prepared by the Center for Community Design and Preservation, College of Environment and Design, University of Georgia, prepared for the Boggs Rural Life Center in 2016.

Allen’s Invalid Home, Milledgeville

This is one of two nearly identical structures that were later built on the site, and is the only surviving remnant of the sanitarium. From limited sources, I have preliminarily identified this as the administration building and Dr. Allen’s residence, though it has also been identified as the dining hall and women’s building.

In 1890, Dr. Henry Dawson Allen, Sr., bought the old Oglethorpe University property in the Midway community and in 1891 opened a private hospital for chronic incurable cases, likely as an alternative to the less personal care offered at the nearby State Lunatic Asylum.

Allen’s Invalid Home for the Treatment of Nervous Diseases was among the first private psychiatric institutions in the Southeastern United States. Dr. Allen was very progressive and bought up as much of the surrounding land, on which were grown a great variety of vegetables and stock for the use of the institution. Patients weren’t required to work but could if they chose to. Dr. Allen’s sons, Dr. H. D. Allen, Jr., and Dr. Edwin Whitaker Allen, Sr., eventually practiced alongside their father.

Rear of the building, showing the addition.

Abandoned Interiors of Allen’s Invalid Home

Please note that this is private property. I had permission to photograph. If you wish to photograph you may wish to make a donation to the Maranatha Mission, which oversees the property.

Olivia Thomas House, Circa 1900, Milledgeville

This was the home of Olivia Thomas, a legend of the Eddy community who was known as “The Guardian of the Old Governor’s Mansion”. Ms. Thomas served as a tour guide and caretaker of the mansion for 39 years, serving under five college presidents: Dr. Wells, Dr. Stanford, Dr. Lee, Dr. Bunting, and Dr. Spier.

Milledgeville Historic District, National Register of Historic Places