E. G. M. Fletcher House, 1880s, Irwin County

irwin county ga elbert fletcher house photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

If you’ve ever traveled Georgia Highway 125 between Fitzgerald and Tifton, you probably recognize this house, situated slightly west of Irwinville. I’ve been seeing it my entire life and only learned some of  its history today. It was the home of Elbert George McClellan Fletcher (1866-1952), likely built around 1889, when he married his first wife, Mary Jane Elizabeth (Polly) Hobby Fletcher, who died in 1916. Upon Polly’s death, Elbert married Ruth Turner Fletcher (1870-1956) in 1917. The house was built as a dogtrot, and originally contained an annexed kitchen, which has since been removed. It would have been a “fancy” dogtrot compared to the cruder log structures usually associated with the style.

irwin county ga historic fletcher house photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Winston McDuffie shared these memories of the house: Elbert was quite dignified, handle-bar mustache, and walking stick, sitting on the front porch in his rocking chair. I can’t remember him talking much, and Toby and Ruth were together talking so there was not too much for a 5-6 yr old boy to do. There was a fence across the front, the gate had a chain with a weight to pull it closed, and there was a pomegranate bush beside the gate, always a pleasure to pick one. There was a cane-grinding set-up in the right-hand corner (towards Tifton), under the Oak tree. We attended a cane-grinding a couple of times. There was a barn on the left side, back behind the house. I remember Mama and Deal would pick cotton for John (son) all during school. The house had a dog-trot hallway, with 4 doors (2 per side), and opened onto a porch all across the back of the house. There was another dog-trot off the porch to the separate kitchen. The first door on the left was the sitting room, and the other 3 were bed-rooms. Toby and I slept in the one adjacent to the sitting room when we spent the night. There was a full grand-father clock in the room, but I can’t remember what any other furniture was like. No grass in the yard, it was swept clean with gall-berry brooms.

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Gopher Tortoise, Ben Hill County

ben hill county ga gopherus polyphemus gopher tortoise photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that this species is threatened because I see them quite often in my rambles on dirt roads throughout South Georgia, but it faces numerous challenges. Gopher Tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are emblematic of the upland pine habitat that once blanketed the Southeast but is now greatly reduced due to changes in land usage and myriad environmental factors. The Gopher Tortoise Council is a wonderful place to find information of these beloved symbols of our Southern forests.

ben hill county ga endangered gopher tortoise photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

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Abandoned Tenant House, Ben Hill County

ben hill county ga vernacular farmhouse photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

I’ve been photographing this house in the Salem community for ten years and it hasn’t changed at all. It’s built in a T-pattern, with the left side likely added at some point to accommodate a growing family. Mateus Brown notes that it has always been referred to as the Shelley place.

ben hill county ga vernacular tenant house tulip road photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

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Gable-Front House, Fitzgerald

fitzgerald ga italianate gablefront house photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

The Italianate eave brackets give this a bit more character than the average gable-front house.

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Harvey & Lydia Jay House, 1934, Fitzgerald

fitzgerald ga harvey lydia jay house photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

This home was built by local architect Lauren Parrott for $5000 in 1934 for Harvey & Lydia Jay. Mr. Jay was a well-respected Fitzgerald attorney for many years and also served as mayor. Thanks to his daughter, Lydia, for the history.

South Main-South Lee Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Clayton & Bessie Jay House, 1926, Fitzgerald

fitzgerald ga clayton bessie jay house photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

This Craftsman-style house has recently been restored by Scott & Susan Spivey. It was built by Fitzgerald pioneers Clayton and Bessie Jay in 1926. Their granddaughter, Lydia Jay Mason, writes: My granddaddy was three-term mayor, drew the map up for the creation of Ben Hill County when it split from Irwin in 1906, practiced law for 50 years, bought property for Evergreen Cemetery and planted Magnolia trees at its entrance, and drew and designed the city parks on Main and Central. Very quiet but well respected man! They first lived at 810 South Lee Street (beginning in 1906) but felt it was too far out, so in 1926, they built this house at 415 South Main. My aunt Ruth Jay moved back about 1969 to care for my grandparents. After their deaths, she continued to live in the house until the Lathams (Maynard & Mickey) moved in.

South Main-South Lee Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Farmer-Powell House, 1905, Fitzgerald

fitzgerald ga farmer powell house elks lodge photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Though it’s best known as the Elks Lodge today, this is one of Fitzgerald’s oldest houses. It was built by local banker E. K. Farmer in 1905. Originally a wooden edifice, it was much smaller than it is today and had no columns. The wings were not part of the original, either. In 1918 the Powells purchased the property and remodeled it to look like FDR’s home, Springwood, in Hyde Park, New York, adding the brick, round portico, and side wings. The Fitzgerald Elks Club purchased the property sometime in the late 1950s and added a ballroom to the rear of the house. The present owners, Mark & Anna Oliver,  added a courtyard and carriage house across the drive which includes the tenth bedroom. Anna, who shared the history, writes: In the main house there are nine bedrooms, three baths upstairs and three half baths downstairs. Originally we think it was a six bedroom house. It was built with a central vacuum system in the walls and a basement. The house is presently for sale and would make a wonderful investment. A commercial kitchen and ballroom are included. Brenda Seabrooke recalls: The house was for sale in 1941. It didn’t sell so the Powells ran it as a florist in the 1940’s. I remember seeing buckets of flowers in a room off the kitchen. There was one bedroom with a full bath I think to the left of the ground floor stairs. In winter those rooms were an ice cave. Bamboo grew along the back and east side to screen the turpentine distillery and Kicklighter’s service station.

 

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