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.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Green-Rice Mill on Anneewakee Creek

Anneewakee Creek
Anneewakee Creek rises to the south of Douglasville and runs southeastward to join the Chattahoochee River at a point a little downstream and opposite the site of the old town of Campbellton.

The name is from the Cherokee language….possibly from a Cherokee family name.   Some researchers think members of this family might have lived along the creek. However, I need to point out Anneewakee Creek actually flows through land that was part of the Creek Nation….not the Cherokee. 

A Cherokee name in Creek Country is not so strange because around 1815 Cherokees were under the impression they would be able to settle on Creek lands as far south as today’s Heard County.   In fact, there was a line of land designated as no-man’s land that ran from the river up to and across the ridge where Broad Street is in downtown Douglasville where both tribes hunted.   It makes sense there would be some overlapping and mixture.  The boundaries kept changing as white settlers began moving in and began their plans to seize Native American lands no matter which tribe claimed the lands.  

In 1821, both tribes agreed to yet another boundary line that began at Buzzard’s Roost Island on the Chattahoochee River where Douglas and Cobb Counties meet and ran westward to the Coosa River in Alabama.  The line passed far above the head of Anneewakee Creek.

When looking to early industry in Douglas County you have to zero in on the area along Anneewakee Creek. By the 1830s two important mills were situated on the creek and shared a property line.   I wrote about the Alston Arnold mill here.

Today the spotlight turns on the mills originally belonging to William Ely Green who came to Georgia via his home state of New Jersey in 1831.  Green brought along his wife, Mary Stiles Green, and their children.   His first stop was the area of Georgia where Morgan, Oconee, and Walton Counties converge.

An article by Arden Williams at the New Georgia Encyclopedia advises “after the War of 1812 some southern leaders, in an attempt to duplicate the prosperity of cotton mills in New England, built textile factories in the South.  Many of the earliest factories were in Morgan and Wilkes County.  The idea faltered a little, but due to an economic depression in 1837 alternative sources of revenue for southern businessmen was needed, and the mills began to prosper.

William Green and his family were welcomed to Georgia by a relative….Ephraim Stiles Hopping….Mary Stiles Green’s cousin.   Hopping had been living in Georgia since 1825 when after graduating from Princeton he headed south to accept a teaching job at the University of Georgia.  Then he decided he would build a mill.

The 1840 census shows William Ely Green living in Morgan County, and by 1846 Hopping’s High Shoals Factory was in full operation and remained so for years, however, at some point Green and Hopping parted ways.  Perhaps they had a disagreement, perhaps they had an amicable parting, or perhaps Green wanted to stake a claim of his own where new unclaimed lands awaited near Campbellton, Georgia following the Indian Removal.

At any rate Green did purchase a strip of land along Anneewakee Creek that Fannie Mae Davis describes as “laying off Anneewakee Road.”  It was there William Ely Green began a couple of mills – one for making cotton cloth and thread and a second mill for creating rope.   My research indicates the rope mill was the only one at the time in north Georgia.   Both mills were fully operational by 1840, but the process could not have been easy. 

The area at that time was a wilderness with few folks in the area.   It was a full thirty years before Douglas County would exist and at that time the city of Douglasville wasn’t even a thought.   The area where our old courthouse stands today was merely an intersection of Indian trails close to an old skint chestnut tree. 
Green had to physically clear the land with no modern equipment other than an ax.  Once trees were cleared those same trunks had to be fashioned to use for building structures.  It was back breaking and time consuming work.   There were no corner groceries, so the family had to set to planting crops immediately to sustain them.

Fannie Mae Davis’ information regarding Mr. Green and his mill explains census records for 1850 and into the Civil War years clearly shows both mills employed men and women on an equal basis.  For the most part women didn’t work outside the home during antebellum years, but a few women were forced to out of need.   Mrs. Davis names one such woman – a 65-year old widow named Mary Frails.   She worked in the mill alongside two of her daughters.

Site along Anneewakee Creek where the Green-Rice Mill stood   
Besides providing jobs for those in need Mr. Green’s mills also provided an important market closer to the folks who were raising cotton along the Chattahoochee River and on the Chapel Hill plantations.   

Green then shipped his finished products out to various towns that existed near and far.  He used ox drawn wagons as his method of transport.   Davis states, “A round trip to Atlanta took the wagons four days….a trip to Villa Rica would take two days.” 
One of Green’s first team drivers was Wylie Preston Tackett.  He began driving a wagon for the mills in 1848 when he was only ten years old!   Driving the wagons was lonely and dangerous work.   The roads weren’t roads that we know today.  They might have followed some of the same routes but they were more or less Indian trails that were barely wide enough for wagons let alone people.   Wild animals such as wolves and mountain lions were prevalent.
Some of the towns could be a little scary, too.  In 1848, Villa Rica was a rough and rowdy gold mining town.

Fannie Mae Davis advises her source for the information regarding Tackett comes from a written account his daughter left behind following her death in the 1960s.   The daughter advised Tackett held the job driving the wagons until he was 23.  At that point he volunteered to serve in the Confederate army.

The area surrounding Green’s mills became a little community since he and the neighboring mill Alston Arnold owned provided housing for many of the workers.  A thriving community store was set up to help those who lived in the community.  Arnold’s property adjoined Green’s tract of land making the area along the banks of Anneewakee Creek a thriving community for that time period.  

In fact, the area was populated to the point that Campbell County leaders placed a district courthouse in the area much like our own mini-courthouses (see my article here) from the past.   The district courthouse was basically a rough log cabin and when it was not in use for government purposes it served as a school as well as a religious meeting house.  I know that seems strange today with the constant cry for the separation of church and state, but this was a frontier of sorts.  Necessity was more important than matters involving how a government building was being used.   Since public education didn’t exist at the time the school would have been a private concern and folks could make a choice regarding sending their children.  There was also a post office.  The Anneewakee Factory Post Office was a log structure on Green’s property.  Fannie Mae Davis states the building stood until well into the 20th Century.

Of course, the mill provided Green and his growing family with a nice living.   It is reported he had one of the first fancy buggies in the area.    His transport wagons were known to carry cotton cloth and rope out to customers, but would return with such things as a fancy cook stove for his wife’s kitchen and a piano for his daughters to play from such places as Charleston.

A millstone from the Green-Rice Mill along Anneewakee Creek
The Green mills survived the Civil War even though Union soldiers were aware they existed.   Perhaps Green’s Yankee heritage helped him keep his property intact. 

Even so, the Civil War impacted William Ely Green and his family.  His son Henry Martyn Green was killed in action at the Battle of Fort Stevens near Silver Spring, Maryland.  Green’s first-born, Robert Edgar Green also served in the Confederate Army.   He came home from the war and attended medical school while overseeing some of the operations at the mill, but he soon tired of it.  Mill work wasn’t for him.   Dr. Green departed for Gainesville where he would end up making his home.   He actually began the city’s first street car line and served as Gainesville’s mayor in 1879. 

William Ely Green eventually sold his business to his son-in-law, Major Zechariah A. Rice.  Major Rice served in Cobb’s Legion during the early days of the Civil War, and during the last months of the war he was an officer with the Fulton County Home Guard.  Fannie Mae Davis quotes the deed of sale as, “Deed book U, page 504, for 870 acres of land lots 100, 101, 102, 103, 112, 113, 1st District, 5th Section, Douglas County – Factory House and all machinery appertaining to it.”

Major Rice and his wife Louise lived on the property, but he maintained his interests in Atlanta as well.   Rice was actually returning  to a “home place” of sorts.  You see, Rice’s mother was a member of the Bomar family and his grandfather….Armistead or A.R. Bomar built the Sprayberry-Henley home I wrote about here.

Wylie Preston Tackett returned from the war as a captain and became Rice’s foreman.  Fannie Mae Davis states Tackett, “operated the factory and rope business almost single-handedly.”  He and his family….wife Melissa J. Underwood Tackett and his daughter Ella Virginia (1870-1956) lived in the area.   Tackett was also a Mason.  He died in 1907 and is buried at New Hope Baptist in the Chapel Hill area.

While the business did continue after the Civil War it never operated at the same level as it did before the war.  William Ely Green died on April 14, 1867 and is buried in Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery (see my article here) in Block 95, Lot 1.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Early City Ordinances and Fines

Well, television has the Emmys and the world of cinema has the Academy Awards, but one of my favorite awards is the Stellas.

Not familiar?

The Stellas are given to people who file frivolous lawsuits.   They are named after Stella Liebeck….the woman behind the words “Caution- Hot!” on each and every cup of McDonald’s coffee.    While I realize Ms. Liebeck….and elderly woman…was burned terribly and McDonalds had been warned for years via customer complaints their coffee was too hot there are other Stella award winners that are beyond reasonable and reach the bizarre and brazen category. 
One Stella award winner was attacked by a squirrel outside a shopping mall and claimed her injuries could have been prevented if the mall had warned her that squirrels were living outside the mall doors.


I’ve never actually seen an attack squirrel.  I have some that squeal their gibberish and peer over the gutters at me, but attack?   Hardly.   Perhaps it’s the mall variety of squirrel that’s the most dangerous.

 Another plaintiff who won a Stella award blamed Mazda Motors for her injuries in a car wreck claiming the company failed to provide instructions regarding the safe and proper use of a seatbelt.


Perhaps each vehicle should come with its own private stewardess so we can receive the seatbelt, exit and life vest tour every time we venture from our driveway.

I really shouldn’t be surprised.   There are and have been all sorts of crazy laws throughout history…..

Laws are necessary.  You simply can’t live with a group of humans and not have laws.   While laws certainly don’t prevent bad things from happening…..they can serve as a deterrent and the consequences for breaking laws can eventually protect us from those who can’t seem to follow laws.  

But, sometimes laws are passed because someone wants to promote something or someone did something stupid.  Also, from what I can see it’s much more fun for our lawmaking bodies to pass laws than it is for them to repeal them….especially when they have become antiquated.   It’s interesting to see what still remains on the books in some jurisdictions.

I’ve been told when you visit the City of Gainesville, Georgia, you must eat your fried chicken with your hands.  Now, if you happen to know that Gainesville considers itself the chicken capital of the world then it makes sense they want to promote eating fried chicken with your hands…..but a law?   Any tried and true Southerner would know to eat fried chicken with your hands.

At one time in the city of Columbus, Georgia it was against the law to sit on your front porch in an indecent position.  First of all…..what I might consider indecent you might consider decent.
Second….I’d love to hear the story behind that little law. 

It is also rumored the state of Georgia still has at least 75 laws on the books dealing with rice paddies.

Yes, rice paddies.

This dates back to a time when rice was the number one crop before the Civil War along the Savannah, Altamaha and Ogeechee Rivers.   Later a hurricane damaged most of the coastal rice fields and they were never replaced, but the laws remain…..just in case, I guess.

The City of Douglasville is no different.   If you go back through the Douglasville city ordinances during the late 1800s some things stand out……

For example, citizens would be fined if they tied a mule, a horse, or a cow under a tree and left it there for any amount of time.

Since automobiles weren’t around then it makes sense that folks would travel to town using animals…..and if they had to go into the courthouse or one of the businesses along Broad Street the animals had to be hitched up somewhere, right?  

The downtown parking lot didn’t exist then…..and at the time I write this it doesn’t exist either due to construction…..but that’s another column for another day, so I would guess the appropriate place back then would have been the road outside the buildings, but apparently some folks wanted to tie their animals up underneath the trees around the courthouse or even James Grove.    I guess with the animal droppings and the animals grazing on the grass and flowers the ladies had planted in James Grove… it would have become an issue.

Docket’s for the Mayor’s Court indicate Tom McElreath’s horse, Julia Clayton’s cow and George Gamble’s mule were all found tethered beneath trees within the city limits.   All three were fined one dollar.

On the subject of animal droppings…….another early town ordinance called for all males between the ages 16 to 45 to work on the city streets for 15 days a year or pay $1.75 if they refused.  I would imagine since the roads were dirt back then the road work would have consisted of filling in the constant mud holes……there was a large one at the intersection of Campbellton and Broad.  Folks finally named the hole because it couldn’t be maintained due to the traffic.  They called it Hog Wallow if I remember correctly.   It would also take a regular crew of folks to keep the animal droppings off the streets.   I don’t guess folks were given baggies back then to keep the area around their horse or mule neat and tidy.

Some men were exempt from the road crews including men missing an arm or leg.  The Mayor was exempt along with the councilmen and licensed ministers.

During the late 1800s men who were missing an arm or a leg were very commonplace as they were more often than not Civil War veterans.  I can understand their exemption, but the other exemptions seem a little extreme to me.   What about those men who were “filled with the Spirit” and “called to preach the Gospel”, but were not licensed?  I guess they had to draw the line somewhere….

Also….why was the mayor and councilmen exempt?   It wouldn’t have been the first time a politician was known to shovel the……oh, never mind. 

 Traffic violations during the late 1800s were also recorded in the Mayor’s Court dockets, but they didn’t involve automobiles.   Early research indicates two men were fined one dollar each for riding their mules on Douglasville’s sidewalks.

 In the early days Sundays in Douglasville were spent resting, visiting, and going to church, however, some early Douglasville citizens had a choice….and used  the day to pursue other activities such as shooting craps, playing cards or making a little wager on a game of pool at one of the local saloons.

 Bars in Douglasville dated back to 1877 when the first license to sell liquor was issued to G.R.Turner, Douglasville’s City Treasurer.  Four years later Mr. Turner would obtain a license that allowed him to offer a pool table for his customers to use.  

Other saloons followed including one owned by G. G. Stewart.   Licenses to serve liquor were $37.50 per year.   I’ve written about Douglasville’s Saloon Era here for a more complete picture of that time.

There were other entertainments….

In June, 1880 G.B. Stewart obtained a license to operate the first ten pin bowling alley.
During this time if city ordinances were broken citizens would appear in Mayor’s Court.  Most of the court cases involved fighting and failure to pay taxes.  Back then taxes ranged from twenty cents to one dollar.   Failure to remit your tax meant you might be sentenced to work on the city streets and/or pay a three dollar fine plus court costs…..or a week in jail.   Fines for fighting were around one dollar.

Hmmm….I know some people I’d be willing to smack for a dollar fine.  How about you?

Fines were also issued within the city limits for cussing (two dollars), for discharging a firearm within the city limits (two dollars or five days), for disturbing a meeting of the medical society (three dollars) and for getting on or off a moving train (one dollar).  

Just like today laws were usually passed to solve a problem, so I have to wonder about the story regarding the disturbance at the medical society meeting.   I wonder what went on there…..

The more information  I find through my research….the more questions I have.

Have a great week!!!

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Some of this information regarding city ordinances first appeared in a 1960s column Robert Griggs had in the Sentinel.

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