Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Social Network Along Sweetwater Creek

Think back to the street you grew up on.  If you grew up before the 1980s I'm thinking you would be able to tell me the name of each every family that lived along your street and possibly tell me some intricate details regarding what the inside of each house looked like down to the design of the kitchen counters.

Young people who have grown up from the mid 80s to the present have a harder time doing this because most people...even those who live in traditional longer know their neighbors to the extent people did in the past.

Close-knit neighbors are a rarity...They do occur, but it's not the norm any more.  

It would seem that during the 1800s it would have been difficult for folks to know their neighbors.  

In a world where transportation consisted of your feet or a a world where receiving a letter was an "event" a world with no a world where neighbors were several hundred  acres apart or even miles down the just seems impossible a close-knit community could be formed.

Yet my research indicates folks had no problem interacting with their neighbors, getting around, forming business partnerships, or finding folks to marry.....

Take for example an Atlanta Constitution article from May 4, 1882 titled "Sweetwater Scenes" article that was supplied to the Constitution more than likely by Charles O. Peavey, the editor of the Weekly Star, Douglasville's paper at the time.  

This particular article is interesting in that it paints a picture for us regarding property owners along Sweetwater Creek during the early 1880s.   It's almost as if we are on a tour floating down the creek and a tour guide is giving us information regarding the various property owners along the route.

The text of the actual article is in italics.  I've added additional information in regular type.  

After watching several years the cars have made their appearance in our county.   They moved across the Sweetwater Creek last Wednesday and moved into Douglas County last Friday, on the Georgia Pacific railroad, two and half miles west of the Sweetwater Creek.  New life seems to take hold of our people at once.

As I explained in an earlier post titled How the Railroad Built Our Town work to build a rail line out of Atlanta heading west had begun in the 1850s before the Civil War, but problems and a bit of apathy plagued the project.  Numerous attempts were made in the 1870s to revive the interest in the railroad but the cleared right-of-way just sat idle for many years.

Once the process had begun to set the tracks citizens understood the huge significance to the surrounding area and the papers reported new details of the railroad's process every day.  

Sweetwater Creek is one of the best streams in any section of this state for mills and factories.

It's very obvious the tone of the article reads not only as a road map regarding the property owners along Sweetwater Creek, but as an advertisement for others to come to the area to make their home and to build their businesses.

Coming from your city to Douglasville by the Tallapoosa Road you will enter Douglas County at Love's Bridge, and you will pass through the farm of Colonel D.K. Love, which has been in cultivation many years.  Indeed no small part of it was cultivated by the Indians.

Of course the Tallapoosa Road was the forerunner of Bankhead Highway today.

Colonel D.K. Love was David Kolb Love (1844-1892) who was born in Campbell County.  He married Margaret Catherine Baker in December, 1861.  She was the daughter of Absolum Baker (1811-1876) who ran the ferry....Baker's Ferry.....that crossed the Chattahoochee River close to where Six Flags happens to be today.

You rarely see a tree or stump on the plantation and the land is still good and produces well.  

Love operated a gin and grist mill along Sweetwater Creek at Salt Springs in the 1870s.   During the 1880s when this newspaper article was written....he also had a mill and fertilizer store at Salt Springs with his brother, Charles B. Love (1847-1911).

Back of the residence of Colonel Love in a pine orchard old Sweetwater, the chief of the Cherokee Indians, is buried.  Sweetwater Creek takes it's name from him. 

Near the grave of this Indian during the war a [Confederate soldier] stood and shot down a Yankee by the side of General Kilpatrick on the opposite side of the creek.   The headquarters of Kilpatrick, on the farm of Colonel Love, were also the headquarters of Sweetwater.

This page gives a good idea regarding the situation with Union troop movements around Salt Springs during October, 1864.

The next farm you pass is that of Judge J.C. Bowden, which is a splendid place, containing several hundred acres.

I've written about Judge Bowden before here.  Originally, I used information obtained from one of his great granddaughters stating he owned 5,500 acres, but as this article states it was more than likely several hundred acres.

On this place you will find the Salt Springs.  You can take the water and boil it down to salt.  The mine has never been worked to any extent.   Denmead and Johnstone leased it and worked it a short time during the war, but were driven off by the enemy before they had worked it to any extent.  

It is thought there is a good salt mine here.

This article was written prior to any of the water from the springs being bottled or sold and prior to the fabulous hotel and Chautauqua grounds being built.  The book On the Threshold of Freedom:  Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia by Clarence L. Mohr confirms Denmead and Johnstone leased the property during the war (1862) with a labor supply comprised of slaves.

The next place is the farm of H.P. Howell....or Humphrey Posey Howell (1819-1891) who partnered with D.K. Love with the gin and mill.   The article states...On this place Mr. Howell and Colonel Love have a cane mill and cotton gin and a supply of water power enough to run four times the machinery they have.  

Howell's Find-A-Grave entry tells of the tragic death of Lula Howell, his fifteen year old daughter in 1883.  

The next place, going south is the farm of J.A. Watson....James Anthony Watson....He has just purchased this place containing one thousand acres on both sides of Sweetwater Creek and from the way he moves things around, it appears he will make as good a farmer as he does a merchant.   He has 500 acres sown in oats, which are looking fine.

Records indicate Watson operated a dry goods store in Atlanta from 1870-1896 at 20 Mitchell Street.  During the 1880s he also had a store in Salt Springs, and in 1894 he served as the major and later a councilman at the springs.  

Watson is best known for partnering with E.W. Marsh, S.M. Inman, Henry W. Grady and several others in the development of the Piedmont Chatauqua, and he's responsible for the Sweetwater Park Hotel.

Going on down Sweetwater you pass the splendid farms of Cooper, White and Columbus Blair, who has one of the best places in our country and is one of our most successful farmers.  

I'm still researching the names Cooper and White, but Columbus Blair (1836-1901) was a state representative for Douglas County in 1895.   His children include Judge Daniel Webster Blair of Marietta an Ruth Blair, director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History and Georgia historian for many years.

After leaving  Blair's, the next place is the farm of Angus Ferguson.  On this place the shoals properly begin.

Mr. Ferguson owns a fine mill on this place and water power to run a large factory.  

Ferguson moved here from North Carolina and set up a mill at Factory Shoals that was operational during the Civil War.   While the New Manchester mill was destroyed there are conflicting stories in the research that Ferguson's mill was not touched.   Ferguson is an interesting man, and I continue to collect information regarding his life and property.  I hope to be able to devote a full column to him soon.  His grave lies within the boundaries of Sweetwater  Creek State Park.

One mile below this mill is the site of the New Manchester factory.  This factory was owned principally by ex-governor Charles J. McDonald and was in successful operation up to and during the war, until a few weeks before Atlanta was taken and burnt by order of General Sherman, which was a great loss to this section of the country.  The old brick walls are still standing.

The property has been sold and is now owned by A.C. McIntosh of Powder Springs and S.N. Dorsett of Douglasville and is for sale.

Dorsett was very involved with business and politics in Douglasville.  He served as the first Clerk of the Superior Court and....I will be writing about his interesting relationship with A.C. McIntosh very soon.

From this place to Aderhold's Ferry there is 190 feet of falls and water plenty to run six or seven factories as the old New Manchester factory.  This is a field for persons wishing to run cotton mills by water power.  

This is good country for capitalism.  It is undeveloped.  About two-thirds of our land is original forests.   With railroad facilities we are bound to prosper.  Land is cheap and plenty for sale.

Aderhold's Ferry was located where Riverside Parkway cross Sweetwater Creek.   

Getting back to my original thoughts....we like to think about how advanced we are today with various communication devices, various forms of media outlets streaming news twenty-four hours a day...yet, the people who lived along Sweetwater Creek in 1882 seemed to have a great social network themselves.

The folks along the Sweetwater corridor supported one another, went into business together, married into each other's families, and formed a thriving community yet they did it in a very simple way.

I have to wonder....we may be advanced technologically, but are we any further along socially?

The pictures with this post were taken along Sweetwater Creek by Mike Shirley, a longtime Douglas County resident.  You can find MIke's blog, "Dinner Table Stories"  here.


  1. .even those who live in traditional longer know their neighbors to the extent people did in the past. new social network

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  3. This is a great article. I really am enjoying your research. Carol Short


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