This house, built by Whitmill Phillips Allen (6 November 1811-January 1868), was once the center of a plantation located four miles north of Jonesboro on the Atlanta Road. Allen sold the property to Robert McCord in 1858; McCord answered the call to Confederate service not long after settling onto the property. During the Battle of Jonesboro, Union soldiers set up camp on the grounds. The house survived the Civil War and when McCord returned home, he resumed operations of the farm, selling the property in 1879. My understanding is that the next owner was John Columbus Orr. It remained in the Orr family until Emily Orr Haynie transferred it to Historical Jonesboro, Inc. In 1972 the house was moved to its present location and is operated as a museum today. Georgia architect Edward Vason Jones was responsible for the restoration and noted of Stately Oaks: The house is a simple but well-proportioned country house done in the Greek Revival style. From the provincial quality of the details, it appears to have been built, as well as designed, by a capable but untrained carpenter-builder about the year 1840…The mass of the house is pleasing and the plan basically good, being typical of the majority of the rural Greek Revival houses throughout Georgia…
Some contend that the house was the inspiration for Tara in Gone with the Wind, though this can’t be proved since Margaret Mitchell didn’t confirm it [to my knowledge]. She would have known this house, however, and it is certainly of the type she would have drawn inspiration from when writing the book.
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.
This eclectic Queen Anne house is one of the largest residential structures in downtown Albany, situated on a massive lot. Its scale is quite impressive. From Trulia: This house boasts a rich history with Nelson Tift, founder of Albany, as the original landowner. The original home had 5 stories, the top two destroyed in a fire in 1956. The third floor is currently being used as attic space. The original woodwork, mantles, banisters and moldings, were hand carved. The five fireplace mantels are made of cherry or mahogany wood. The 12 ft. mantel in the front center office was purchased at the Chicago’s World Fair in 1885. This office and the stairwell both feature original Tiffany glass stained windows. This property is also home to last known artesian well in the South Georgia. The stone wall surrounding the property was constructed with local limestone. In addition to serving as a private home to Confederate Col. Edwin Wight and Dr. W.L. Davis, it served as a funeral home for 35 years.
Rock fences surrounding the property add another dimension to its character.
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.
When I was a young teenager I first visited this house with my father, who worked on the railroad for many years with owner Harold Mathews (7 August 1923 – 16 May 2004). Harold knew how much we loved history and he eagerly gave us a tour of the house and his extensive holdings of local ephemera. He also showed us the attic, where he kept his neatly organized collection of stamps and postal history. It greatly influenced my own interest in postal history, which continues to this day.
We weren’t aware at the time that this was the oldest house inFitzgerald, but research suggests that it is. It was built by a Mr. Dow in 1895, before the old soldiers’ colony was even incorporated as Fitzgerald. [P. H. Fitzgerald initiated the colonization effort in mid-1895 but the town wasn’t incorporated until 1896]. The house itself is a rambling Queen Anne, with a Foursquare design and a rear wing. Its most notable architectural features are the unusual corner porch entrance and widow’s walk.
Thanks to Michael Baxter, the present owner of the house, for inviting me to photograph. He has done a nice job of preserving this important house and is proud to be a guardian of its history.
The following history is abridged from Sherri Butler’s fascinating article, “Four generations of colonist’s family lived at Mathews Glen on Washington Avenue” (Fitzgerald Herald-Leader, 19 October 2016). Sherri is an exemplary newspaper columnist, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of my work since I first started documenting Vanishing Georgia in 2008. Her ‘Feature Front’ column is the most anticipated and most widely-read piece in each week’s paper and I am always grateful for the threads of local history she uncovers and shares with me and with the community at large. She has served as Chairman of the Blue and Gray Memorial Association and is also the co-author of Fitzgerald (Images of America), Arcadia Publishing, 2010. I’m still hoping Sherri will compile her articles into a book; her take on history is refreshingly modern, mixing old facts with reminisces of those who knew the subjects well.
“When Ransom Mathews pulled up stakes in South Dakota and came to settle in the Union veterans’ colony in South Georgia, he had new calling cards printed. He wanted everyone to know of his service in the Civil War – the units in which he had served were listed below his name: 47th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, 16th Regiment of New York Volunteers, 60th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers and 193rd Regiment New York Volunteers (In the latter, he received the rank of first lieutenant).“
“Born in Potsdam, N.Y., in 1839, he was the 10th of 11 children of David and Lory Mathews…from age 17 until the beginning of the Civil War he lived in Massachusetts...[After the war] like so many others, he headed west...Mathews first went to St. Louis, and in 1867 he traveled Missouri, representing a fire insurance agency. He also married the former Lizzie Gowen…The next year found him in Fayette, Iowa. He stayed there until 1880, working for a brick company. Lizzie died in Iowa in 1878, but the couple had two children. Their son, Harry, was described as being in the “fruit business” in Louisiana…He joined his father in Fitzgerald in 1917. The Mathews’ daughter, Fannie May, was a graduate of the Broad Street Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia…In 1879, Ransom Mathews married Mrs. Mary J. Gillespie. From Iowa, he went to Kingsbury County, South Dakota, where he lived in a community called Nordland for three years. In 1883, he bought a hotel in the village of Arlington. He named the hotel, located a block from the Northwestern depot, Mathews House.“
“In 1899, he purchased the Washington Avenue home from a Mr. Dow, who had built it four years earlier. For Mathews, it would be both home and business, as he operated it as a boarding house…he ordered stationery imprinted with ‘Home of Ransom Mathews, Mathews Glen’. He quickly became part of the community, active in the GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] and also the short-lived Blue and Gray Association that united Confederate and Union veterans…When the Georgia Division of the United Confederate Veterans held its Re-Union in Fitzgerald in 1915, Ransom Mathews was there at the Ben Hill County Courthouse to welcome the old Confederates on behalf of the Grand Army of the Republic…[His] second wife died in 1914. Ransom died on 22 August 1918, at the age of 80.”
“[After growing up in Iowa and South Dakota, Ransom’s son, David Harry Mathews (4 November 1871-22 August 1952), who was a musician who formed the DeSmet Kid Orchestra in DeSmet, South Dakota…] lived in Hammond, Louisiana, for much of his life. He was 46 when he came to Georgia. A farmer, he had also been a pitcher for the New Orleans Indians and often wore his uniform when he went to watch baseball games at Blue and Gray Park...”
Harry’s son, Harold Ransom Mathews, inherited the house upon his father’s death and lived there until his death in 2004. He and his wife Montine, raised their children, Janice and Ramsey, here. Montine was the former Montine Mizell, daughter of Hamp Mizell. Hamp was one of the pioneer white settlers of the Okefenokee Swamp and owned one of the swamp’s most famous fishing holes, known as Suwanee Lake. He was a contributor to one of the first histories of the Okefenokee and was a favorite subject of folklorists, including Francis Harper and Delma Presley. There is at least one photograph of Montine as a young girl in Dr. Presley’s Okefinokee Album.
This was the home of William Joshua Bush (1845-1952), Georgia’s last surviving Confederate veteran. For his service to the Confederacy, he was afforded the honorific “General” in his last years. The historic marker at the site, first erected in 1954, reads: This was the home of General William Jordan Bush, last survivor of the 125,000 heroes from Georgia who fought for the South. Gen. Bush was born near Gordon, Ga. July 10, 1845, and died here Nov. 11, 1952. In the War Between the States he was a private in Co. B, 14th Ga. Infantry, under Capt. Tom Wilcox and Gen. John B. Gordon. His title of General was won through offices held in the United Confederate Veterans.Active until a few weeks before his death at 107, Gen. Bush attended all UCV reunions and danced at public functions.
His stepdaughter Janie Law was a classmate of my grandmother and on several occasions in the late 1980s and 1990s shared her memories of him with me. They were similar to the following article by Wylly Folk St. John, published in the Atlanta Sunday magazine on 24 April 1949:
Georgia’s last Confederate is a spry old soldier of nearly 104, who lives in a little confederate-gray house in Fitzgerald, Georgia. He is “General” (an honorary title) William Bush, of Company B, 14th Georgia Infantry. He was a teen-aged private when he fought the Battle of Atlanta. He is regarded with appropriate awe throughout the state, as the last living Georgian who wore the gray during the War Between the States – the only flesh and blood contact with the Lost Cause that is left to us on this Memorial Day.
The General is Fitzgerald’s most famous and most carefully taken care of citizen. The UDC offers him everything he could possibly want to make him comfortable, the State Patrol drives him home in state when he’s out late, the Ordinary not only brings him his pension check but also the $75 to cash it with, he is always being asked for pictures and autographs, and he gets sheaves of fan mail. He is senior deacon of his Baptist church, and received his “diploma” as a Mason in 1888.
For a man who’ll be 104 next July 10, he is astonishingly vigorous. He can read his Bible without his glasses, he can hear well with no artificial aid, his blood pressure is perfect and his heart is okay. He can still dance a jig if you dare him to, and sings “Dixie” in his quavery brave old voice. Until a few years ago, he walked downtown every morning to talk over old times with his friends. Now he has to call a taxi when his wife’s back is turned. Sometimes, when Mrs. Bush, who teaches the sixth grade, misses him, she finds out he has dressed up by himself and “gone out with the girls” to the UDC meeting. Mrs. Bush has celebrated her 27th wedding anniversary with the General, whom she married when he was 76 and she was 34. He lived with his first wife 48 years before she died, and had six children.
Bush was a bare 16 when he joined the Gray army. “I told a lie to get into it, and I’d have told another to get out,” he says, and then immediately retracts “No, I wouldn’t either. I fought to the end and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He was “near-bout” the whole time with General Gordon, but part of the time with General Johnston. When asked if the young army did much training before it went into battle, he replies “We didn’t waste no ammunition practisin. When we shot, we shot to kill – it was hand to hand fightin” He brought home a big Confederate flat from the last Gettysburg reunion that he carries in all the Memorial Day parades.
Until a few years ago, there was also one Union Veteran left in Fitzgerald, Henry Brunner. On Memorial Day, the two old soldiers would go to the cemetery together and put flowers on the graves of their fallen comrades, General Bush decorating the Northern graves and General Brunner the Southern. When his friendly enemy died, General Bush sent a wreath “from the last of the Gray to the last of the Blue”.
Now General Bush has to place, tremulously, the flowers and laurel wreaths for both of them. There will be tears no doubt, when emotional Southern ladies see his lone indomitable figure in the parade this year, the Last Confederate, wearing his Gettysburg medal and carrying his Confederate flag.
The other men in Gray are all gone. Now at the cemetery, when the bugle softly plays Taps, it is for ALL the Confederates – except Josh Bush. There is no other man left alive in Georgia today who fought in ’61. It is a lonely emenence.
This well-maintained landmark was built by Confederate veteran Josiah Davis. Davis was a farmer who raised cotton and corn. Upon his death, his widow lived out the rest of her life here. The Peacock family purchased the home after Mrs. Davis’s death.
This imposing Greek Revival plantation home, situated on a high point overlooking acres of gently rolling hills and pristine farmland, was built by William Jackson for his son, John Swinney Jackson and his first wife, Artemesia Hall. The elder Jackson acquired the property from William Knowles in 1832. John Jackson, who had lived all of his life in Hancock and Greene Counties developed the property, through slave labor, into a thriving agricultural operation. At the outset of the Civil War, Jackson owned over 1000 acres and 38 enslaved Africans. Like most Georgians, Jackson served the Confederate cause and the futile effort ended in his loss of the plantation. It was purchased by Robert M. Grimes in 1870 who sold it to James M. Harris in 1874. Grimes reacquired it in 1880, but after a lawsuit over debts sold it back to Harris in 1881. Harris sold it to Henry Thomas Lewis in 1900. Lewis was an Associate Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who lived in Greensboro and Siloam, keeping the plantation as a country retreat. After Lewis’s death, his widow sold the plantation to Jeff W. N. Lanier, whose family owned neighboring lands. Subsequent owners were D. B. Taylor and Dorsey L. Campbell. Campbell’s daughter, Alice Hartley, deeded the house back to the Lanier family in 1982.
The property is known today as Shoulderbone Plantation, for the historical Shoulderbone Creek which runs nearby.
Also known as the Knight-Jarvis-Senft House, for some of the 11 owners who have called it home, this Madison landmark was built by Dr. Gazaway B. Knight, who commanded the locally organized Panola Guards during the Civil War. Dr. Knight’s wife, Isabell, was the daughter of U. S. Senator Joshua Hill. After a fire in 1915, the house, originally a 2-story Colonial, was redesigned to its present appearance. Many original features survived the fire and the house is an outstanding example of the blending of historical and modern amenities.
Madison Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Built by Francis Colley for his son, Henry F. Colley and his wife Isabella Harris Colley, this home stayed in the same family until 2005. Captain Henry F. Colley was killed in action in the Civil War in 1862.
East Robert Toombs Historic District, National Register of Historic Places