Tag Archives: Slavery in Georgia

Chappell’s Mill, Circa 1811, Laurens County

Though some sources note that a John or Thomas Gilbert constructed the first mill, now known as Chappell’s Mill, on Big Sandy Creek [South Sandy Creek] in northern Laurens County circa 1811, it is more likely that it was James Stanley II (1771-1841), a settler from Jones County, North Carolina, who purchased nearly 2000 acres surrounding the millpond. [Primary sources are not available to me, so I cannot be certain of the date of the purchase, but the Stanley family migrated to Laurens County in 1811. It seems more than coincidental that the date of their move happens to be the date generally accepted for the construction of the mill]. He also operated a mercantile on the site.

The millpond site is considered to be the oldest man-made landmark in Laurens County. The old mill house, seen in the first two photographs, dates to the 1840s and was built after the original structure, which stood on the north side of the pond, washed away during a flood.

The stone work in the foundation certainly indicates the work of early craftsmen, almost certainly enslaved laborers.

Upon Stanley’s death in 1841, his son Ira B. (1802-1858) took control of the operations. He served Laurens County as sheriff in the 1820s and state representative in the 1830s. Until just after the Civil War the site was known as Stanley Mills, but in 1868 Ira’s son-in-law, James W. Chappell, gained majority interest in the mill. It has since been known as Chappell’s Mill.

Ira Stanley Chappell (1859-1931) was the last member of the Chappell family to own the mill. He sold it circa 1917 to Allen J. Dixon who sold it in 1943 to Dr. T. J. Blackshear.

Dr. Blackshear eventually sold it to Alex Dixon’s grandsons, James and Forrest Townsend.

During their ownership, the mill was expanded and electrified (1950s).

The Townsends always felt that water power resulted in a superior meal but the volume of work mandated the modernization.

At its peak, production ran to over 15,000 bushels per year.

The mill remained in operation until 1997. Its importance is not only in its longevity but in the fact that various structures associated with different eras of milling, from water power to electricity, as well as a mercantile and various barns, remain largely intact, and illustrate the evolution of what was one of Georgia’s most important early industries.

I am grateful to the caretaker for allowing me to photograph. It is private property and he noted that law enforcement often has to disperse trespassers. It’s an invaluable historical resource and the owners have been good stewards.

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Filed under --LAURENS COUNTY GA--, Chappells Mill GA

Hatoff Church & Mt. McCrae Cemetery, Laurens County

I haven’t been able to locate any history of this congregation, but it was traditionally known as Hatoff Church, as the road sign confirms.

It’s possible that a later congregation used the facility, as the adjacent cemetery is known as Mt. McCrae.

There are several interesting headstones in the cemetery, including these traditional wooden markers.

Such markers are found in African-American and white burying grounds alike.

Reverend R. W. Wiggins (?-1952)
Ned Wiggins (1862-27 March 1939)
Baptismal, erected in 1956.

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Filed under --LAURENS COUNTY GA--

Midway C.M.E. Church, 1897, Thomasville

My friend, the photographer Mandy Green Yates, has found and documented numerous forgotten places in South Georgia in recent years but when she found this church, she decided to get involved with saving part of its history. At first, she was fascinated by the structure but soon realized the forlorn cemetery was even more important. While photographing the property, she met Aundre Walker, who has connections to the congregation and has been working to clean up the property and the cemetery with no outside help for at least three years. Mandy put her principles to practice and has been helping with the cleanup ever since. She created a Facebook page to schedule volunteers, as well as a GoFundMe page for donations. And apparently, the project is moving along quite successfully, with lots of volunteers and progress being made. I am amazed at what she and Mr. Walker have been able to accomplish.

The congregation was established by recently emancipated freedmen just after the Civil War and became associated with the Christian Methodist Episcopal sect in the early 1870s. Like many white churches, it got its start in a brush arbor or “hush arbor” in the parlance of African-Americans of the time. This indicated a private place for worship, away from whites who often monitored their activities. It also served the community as a school for a time.

The church itself is typical of the construction of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The congregation officially disbanded about 15 years ago and many members joined nearby churches.

As is evident in this image, the steeple has long ago been compromised by the loss of its roof and has begun to collapse.

Though the cemetery remains the primary focus, it would be nice if the church could be saved, as well. Unfortunately, the area it is located in is undergoing rapid urbanization.

When I looked around the cemetery, I could only imagine the sadness and determination Aundre Walker felt when he decided to begin the reclamation. The grounds are quite large and looked nothing like this three years ago. It would have looked more like a forest than a graveyard.

Doing all of this work by hand has been a labor of love and a means of respecting the lives of those who would have otherwise been forgotten had he not taken on this project. I’m sure he is grateful for the new attention that Mandy Green Yates has brought to the work, though neither of these people is doing it for praise or recognition. In my opinion, they deserve it.

Most of the graves weren’t previously documented, but Mandy enlisted help from our friend Cynthia Jennings, who added the known burials to Findagrave.

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Filed under --THOMAS COUNTY GA--, Thomasville GA

Bold Springs United Methodist Church, 1874, Grady County

Bold Springs has been called the “Mother of Methodism in Grady County”. The South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church notes: Founded in 1863 by Reverend Robert B. McCord from Walton County, Georgia, Bold Springs United Methodist Church was born in Thomas County, though it is in Grady County as of 2017. “He brought his family, a few slaves, and a love for his church,” reported his youngest son who passed the story down to a grandson. Both the son and the grandson, J. D. McCord, became ministers.

The eldest McCord quickly settled in and looked for a site to build a church. He found a good spring on J. T. Drew’s property about two miles east of the McCord’s home and the Drews deeded four acres to the church. Sometime later, the church built a parsonage on fifty acres deeded by Mr. McCord to the church and the first minister, Rev. P. C. Harris, moved in.

In the 1930s, Miss Bessie Miller urged the church to build a community house. The Woman’s Society of Christian Service raised the money to complete the building and porches.

Once boasting as many as 400 members, the congregation is considerably smaller today, but remains active.

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Filed under --GRADY COUNTY GA--

The Slate House, Circa 1860, Macon

Named for their slate roof, the Slate Row Houses were built to house the engineers who were constructing the grand home of William Johnston [now known primarily as the Hay House]. They are considered to be among the earliest apartment buildings in Macon. Architecturally, they’re described in the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places (1973) as a simplified version of the Second Empire style apartment house that has been converted into a modern condominium building. James B. Ayers, the contractor hired by Johnston, employed numerous enslaved artisans, according to research by Mercer Law student Nathan Corbitt. One of those artisans was Primus Moore, who worked on the construction of the Hay House. He was also responsible for all of the plaster work at Macon City Hall and was even paid by the city after Emancipation to continue the work.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --BIBB COUNTY GA--, Macon GA

Major Edward White House, Circa 1806, Milledgeville

This house is believed to be the oldest in Milledgeville. It was built circa 1806 for Major Edward White (1758-9 January 1812), a Massachusetts native who served as Adjutant to the Marquis de Lafayette during the Yorktown campaign. Major White’s wife, Mildred Scott Stubbs (28 September 1775-23 July 1825), was the niece of General John Scott, who built the state capitol in the newly established seat of state government. Upon the death of Major White, his son, Dr. Benjamin Aspinwall White (2 January 1793-11 April 1866), inherited the home. Dr. White served as mayor of Milledgeville in 1840 and Surgeon General of the Georgia State Troops during the Civil War. He was also a founding member of the board of the Georgia Lunatic Asylum.

The house was originally located on West Greene Street and was moved in the late 19th century to its present location. It maintains much of its historic integrity.

Milledgeville Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --BALDWIN COUNTY GA--, Milledgeville GA

Pearson House, Circa 1798-1805, Hancock County

This important house is little-known outside Hancock County and its specific early history is apparently lost, but a new look into available genealogical records sheds light on the story. It is certainly among the oldest extant houses in the county and, through oral tradition, has long been known as the Pearson House. I am grateful to Bud Merritt for bringing it to my attention. Bud writes: We “discovered” it this week and were clueless at the time to its status. It is close to the road but barely visible and in my opinion could collapse at any time. The brick first floor has many separations and the second floor in the rear is completely unsupported. It unleashed several loud creaks while I was photographing it.

The house has appeared in print at least twice: 1}In The Early Architecture of Georgia (1957), Frederick Doveton Nichols, identifies it as “Undocumented cottage…east of Devereux”; 2}Nichols’s work was later incorporated in The Architecture of Georgia (1976), with photographs by Van Jones Martin. It may have also been photographed for the Historic American Buildings Survey in the 1930s by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Curiously, it is missing from the two best-known architectural surveys of Hancock County: 1}Architecture of Middle Georgia: The Oconee Area (1972), by John Linley; 2}The Houses of Hancock 1785-1865 (1996), by John Rozier.

Further documentation was made by Catherine Drewry Comer in her thesis, Preserving Early Southern Architecture: The Antebellum Houses of Hancock County, (University of Georgia, Master of Historic Preservation, 2016). Comer doesn’t associate the house with a builder, either, but gives the best description of its style: [It]…appears based on its construction to be remarkably early. Its two basement-level fireplaces are almost identical to those that could once be seen at Old Dominion before it was lost in the 1980s...This house is of a very early style that was common in the Mid-Atlantic states such as Virginia and North Carolina. [It] is of frame construction on the second story, which rests on top of a brick first story…[and] has one chimney on each gable end with two doors to enter the first floor on the front and one door on the rear. Comer refers to its architecture as “Tidewater”, a popular description of the style.

Of the interior living space, Sistie Hudson notes that she was able, 35 years ago, to look inside via a ladder [and] discovered that it had paneled wainscoting and curved stairs to the half story above and that it would have had staircases from outside to the second floor. She further confirms its local identification as the Pearson House and its presumed construction date as “the late 1700s”. Mark Phillips, a longtime student of architecture in the region, adds: I have always understood that this was the original Pearson home…the Pearson-Boyer house being later built by a son

Making the connection between the presumed builder, Stephen Edward Pearson, Sr. (1774-1854), and the house requires a review of the available genealogical record, which has been graciously shared with Vanishing Georgia by Cynthia Jennings. Pearson was born to a wealthy family at Padget’s Creek, Newberry County, South Carolina. He married Mary Polly Fletcher (1775-1833) on 28 November 1798. It is believed they moved to Georgia and built this house soon thereafter, as one record notes he settled around 1795-1805 in the “watery fork of Buffalo (Creek)”. It is likely the new couple brought a number of enslaved individuals to Georgia; he owned over 80 human beings at the time of his death, including several of advanced age. They would have been involved in all aspects of the home’s construction, from milling the lumber to making the bricks. [The undeniable similarities between the Old Dominion fireplaces and those in this house are significant. If the work of the same mason, perhaps an enslaved man, they help validate the “1795-1805” time frame. Old Dominion was built in 1806].

Mary Fletcher Pearson bore Stephen no children, but research on Ancestry.com suggests he fathered a child with an enslaved woman named Cilla Chapman; the child, named Cilla Pearson, was born in 1805. Mary died in 1833 and Stephen married Catherine Garland in 1834. Their son, Stephen Edward Pearson, Jr., was born in 1836. He built a home nearby, circa 1854, now known as the Pearson-Boyer House.

Zach Hedgepeth writes: This house was in my grandfathers family for many years. A brick in the chimney had 1834 carved into it so I believe that is when it was built. The house used to sit closer to the road but when the road was paved in the 1990s they moved the road over. You can still make out the parts of the old dirt road. Over the years passers by have taken pieces of the house little by little leading to its current condition.[I believe it is likely that the dated brick commemorated the marriage of Stephen and Catherine and not the date of the house, as the conclusion of architectural historians is that the house is very early and 1834 wouldn’t be considered early in Hancock County].

This post represents the research of numerous people, to whom I’m indebted, but in no way purports to be definitive. I hope it is a catalyst for further research, and as always, welcome new facts that can be validated through primary sources. The house is unlikely to survive but I am glad to further document it as an important relic of Georgia history.

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Filed under --HANCOCK COUNTY GA--

Early Hill, Circa 1825, Greene County

Early Hill is a magnificent example of a transitional Georgian-style/Greek Revival house of the early 19th century, commanding views of some of the most beautiful pastureland in Georgia. The house has undergone major remodels throughout its history, beginning as early as the 1840s, but these do not detract from its historical importance. The plantation community surrounding the house was once known as Dover.

The builder, with the labor of enslaved men, was Joel Early, Jr. (1793-1851), a brother of Peter Early, who served as Georgia governor from 1813-1815. Joel Early, Jr., was not a typical man of his time nor his class, as he freed 30 of his slaves in 1830 and through the American Colonization Society sent them to Liberia. He actually corresponded with one of them. He still held slaves after this gesture, but that he did it all makes him an exceptional figure in upper class antebellum Georgia.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --GREENE COUNTY GA--

Mount Cavalry Baptist Church & Cemetery, Ben Hill County

Mount Cavalry Baptist Church is an historic African-American congregation in Ben Hill County and has an equally historic cemetery. Many members of this venerable church served our nation in the armed services, with veterans of both world wars, Korea, and Vietnam among them.

The following photographs from the cemetery are presented in no particular order.

Henry William Fair (13 February 1861-16 July 1958) Headstone. Mr. Fair, a Mason, was memorialized with a headstone, and a footstone in the shape of a cross. There are several other vernacular monuments in the cemetery, as well.
H. W. Fair (13 February 1861-16 July 1958)
Unknown
Cornetta Fair (11 April 1894-1 April 1970)
A. Mardella Dixon (12 January 1881-15 February 1926)
Melcena Hill (10 October 1897-8 July 1922)
Mandy Andrews (1832/1833-20 April 1918)
Mrs. Jimmie Lee Hunter Matthews (24 August 1926-4 April 1991)

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Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--

Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church, Spring Bluff

Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church is an historic congregation, but other than its association with a tragic unsolved murder case, I haven’t been able to locate any of its history. It’s one of several important early Black churches near the Satilla River in Camden County.I determined it’s an old congregation due to the historic cemetery.

Though the congregation has not allowed itself to be defined by a well-known tragedy, and has thrived in fact, Rising Daughter has been known to the outside world for the events of 11 March 1985. At a missionary meeting on that date, a white man interrupted the proceedings and senselessly shot and killed Deacon Harold Swain and his wife Thelma inside the church, with no apparent motive. Witnesses noted that the intruder pointed to Harold Swain and specifically asked to speak to him. As Mr. Swain walked toward the entryway to speak to man, his wife followed. She was shot once and Mr. Swain was shot four times. The only real evidence was a pair of glasses left by the shooter at the scene, and a composite sketch made by descriptions from some of the ladies who were in the church for the meeting. No one was arrested for nearly 15 years.

A new investigator came on the scene in 1998 and his focus turned to Dennis Perry, who was arrested and ultimately convicted of the crime in 2000, an election year. Perry had been an early suspect, based on an identification made from the composite sketch and the presumably false testimony of a woman (now deceased) who collected a reward, unbeknownst to jurors at the time. Fast forward to 2020, and Dennis Perry has been exonerated, thanks to the work of the Georgia Innocence Project and irrefutable DNA evidence. Today, he is a free man.

A possible DNA match is being investigated by those who have reopened the case and hopefully justice will finally be done, most importantly for the loved ones of the Swain family.

Rising Daughter Cemetery

Rising Daughter Cemetery has quite a few important vernacular monuments, including two of the Madonna monuments detailed here. A few random examples are documented below.

Butler Baker (23 March 1906-11 December 1970)
David Scott (22 March 1895-15 August 1958)
Bertha Ann Hampton (20 May 1952-17 September 1952). The headstones of the two Hampton children feature a cross made from readily available bathroom tile. A nice touch is the pink tile for the daughter and the blue tile for the son.
Michael E. Hampton (5 July 1952-18 July 1958)
Sylvia Scott (6 January 1860-27 March 1938)
Ester Flagg (9 December 1915-1 July 1943). The name on the headstone is “Easter”.

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Filed under --CAMDEN COUNTY GA--, Spring Bluff GA