Monday, March 26, 2012

Blips on a Map.....Wilsonville, Hannah, and McWhorter

We tend to think the little towns and communities we are so familiar with today are the same ones that existed years ago, but it just isn’t true.   For the most part when examining old maps we do see some of the same names, but there are always unfamiliar ones.

Take the following map from 1883 I’ve posted below.   We can distinctly see a separate Douglas County and Campbell County since our county was formed in 1870.  

Feel free to click on the maps to get a closer view....then you can return to this article by hitting the back button.

Douglas County, 1883
Focus in on the words "Campbell County" and then let your eyes move to the left a bit.  Within Douglas County you clearly see the word "Wilsonville."


Why is it on the 1883 map, but isn’t widely known today? 

Places just don’t disappear, right?  

Fannie Mae Davis’ history of Douglas County advises one of the first settlers in the southern part of what would one day be Douglas County was a man by the name of Moses Wilson.  He packed up his wagon and along with wife and young boys he made the trek from North Carolina to Georgia in 1829 after the Indian removal.  Sources tell me when Moses first reached Georgia the land he settled on was actually along the Chattahoochee River in Carroll County, but once Douglas County was created he found himself to be a citizen of Douglas.
Over the next few years Moses Wilson added to his land holdings until he had acquired several hundred acres of land.   In fact, I located one such property transaction between Cheadle Cochran and Moses Wilson recorded in Deed Book C, Pages 228-229 for Campbell County dated October 9, 1839. There were obviously many others that can be located within the old records of Carroll and Douglas Counties, too.

Moses oldest son, Peter, stayed on the property and per Fannie Mae Davis he eventually took over his father’s holdings.   Another son named Joseph traveled over to Villa Rica which was a rough and tumble gold mining town at the time, and he opened a general store. Years later, his two sons….Ulla and Wallace became leading Villa Rica merchants.

Moses youngest child….John A. Wilson, had been born in North Carolina in 1828, and was no more than a year old when the family traveled to Georgia.   John traveled again….but this time a shorter distance….when around 1850 he left his father’s home and moved to Hurricane Creek just a little further north from his father’s holdings.  There along the creek, John had a wool carder as well as grist and saw mill.

Community names seemed to spring up around the mail stops, and in this case since the post office was located on Moses Wilson’s land the area became known as Wilsonville.  George W. Burnett was listed as the postmaster as well as a physician in the area. 

The 1881 Georgia Gazeeteer indicates the area received mail four times a week.  Isham N. Brown was also listed as physician, V.P. Burnett was Justice of the Peace, W.L. Davenport was a Methodist preacher and saw mill owner, E.H. McWhorter was also a Methodist preacher and blacksmith, Allen Manning was mechanic along with J.S. Moss and Samuel Pate.   J.J. Shadix was a Baptist preacher, S.A. Steed was the constable and Moses youngest son, John A. Wilson…. was the grist mill owner.

One of the Douglas County little courthouses was placed at Wilsonville as well…..the little courthouse for the Fairplay District Courthouse….. where justice of the peace cases were heard and citizens could vote during elections.

Douglas County established its first Board of Education on March 25, 1871 and John A. Wilson was installed as the first president.  Flint Hill Academy was one of the first schools organized.  It was a one room cabin and was located on the back of the lot where Flint Hill Methodist Church stands today.

By 1879 the Georgia Gazeeteer indicates 75 people were living at Wilsonville.   Mail arrived weekly by horseback.  By this time there was a shoemaker in the little village named J.J. Kimbrell.

In 1880, a terrible fire destroyed the mills belonging to John A. Wilson.   By this time he and his wife, Lucinda, were elderly, and they decided not to rebuild.   The post office moved a few miles south and for a time mail in the area was addressed “Hannah” instead of Wilsonville since John’s daughter-in-law, Hannah Wilson (married to Noah) took over the duties of postmistress.   A school by the name of Mt. Zion was close by and took on the name Hannah as well.   Hannah was very close to the area where Tyree Road intersects with Post Road today.

John A. Wilson and his wife moved to Douglasville.  Fannie Mae Davis surmises they probably left with a heavy heart since “they [were leaving] the village they had built and loved.”  The Wilsons moved into one of the first houses along Bowden Street and John was appointed postmaster of Douglasville in July, 1890.  Later his wife took the position in 1893.

Notice the changes on the  1899 map of Douglas County I've included below.    You no longer see the name Wilsonville, however, you see the community of Hannah…..and there’s something new in the vicinity…..the community of McWhorter.

Douglas County, 1899

By 1883, three years after the Wilson mills were destroyed by fire...the Wilsonville area had become known as McWhorter.

When the Hannah post office closed in 1885 the mail was sent to a popular store in the area operated by Dave Tolar.  The name was then registered as McWhorter since the store was located on land belonging to Matthew McWhorter and his recently deceased brother, Elijah H. McWhorter who had been a pastor in the area.

The little courthouse was moved to McWhorter.  Fannie Mae Davis relates, “As people were saying, “It takes a post office and a courthouse to start a town.”

The area had been once been known as Skinner, but the young people had a different name referring to it as Tight Squeeze or Fitsquese.   I have yet to discover the reason why, but even the local Douglasville paper referred to the area as Fitsquese.

An issue of The Weekly Star, dated 1886 mentions “Fitsquese is on the boom.”

In fact, the 1886 Georgia Gazetteer provides the names of some thirty-six farmers working the surrounding countryside.  By 1887 the population had increased to 160 and by 1880 there were 200 souls calling McWhorter home.

McWhorter wasn’t just a community or a mail stop….it was a town!

McWhorter news regularly appeared in The New South….a paper published in Douglasville.  In June, 1883 the paper published a story concerning McWhorter.   The article stated, ”Our town is on the boom.  Town plots are selling at $150 each, which is considered a fair price for suburban lots.   The Methodist have just completed the best house of worship in the county (Flint Hill).  It has a Masonic and Alliance Hall over head….We have a splendid school….We have two doctors in our town, G.W. and W.K. Burnett, who do a driving business.  They both keep fast horses.  They run a drug store and have an extensive farming business.  M.R. McWhorter is the blacksmith and politician of the town.  Dan Gaston of the firm McWhorter-Gaston is the woodwork man.  G.T. Giles and S.A. Griffin are real estate agents for this section.

The paper also published social news as well…..” J.T. Bartlett while engaged in rolling a log into his saw mill carriage had his head and nose badly mashed.  His wife hardly recognized it as the lovely nose of yore.  James Gaston and Joe Barron have each lost a mule recently.”

By the turn of the century there were new businesses…a barber shop, ginnery, and shingle mill….two additional doctors….W.L. Friddel, a native of Douglas County and Delvous Houseworth of nearby Clem, Georgia which was between Carrollton and Whitesburg along State Route 27.   Mrs. Lizzie Griffith operated a millinery store at McWhorter as well.

Flint Hill Academy had become Flint Hill High School serving grades 1-9  in a larger building and two churches had been added to the area……Basket Creek and Fair Field Methodist which Fannie Mae Davis advises were the Black churches in the area.

By 1914, a telephone exchange was installed in a store owned by O.H. and Joseph Hines, but by 1923 it was discontinued as Southern Bell had entered the scene and modern phone service became the norm.  Eventually roads were paved and unfortunately that meant the growth of McWhorter would stall since     people were able to move around the county a bit easier and reach the larger stores of Douglasville and even Atlanta.  Stores in McWhorter began to close and finally the intersection of Highways 5 and 166 began to take on the appearance we see today.

The final map I’m posting is from 1999, and as you can see…..Wilsonville, Hannah, and even McWhorter are just historical footnotes.

As Fannie Mae Davis states, “Two great highways cross paths where years and years ago, a dozen or more business places were in operation.”    People zoom by each and every day without a thought to the thriving town that once existed there.

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