Category Archives: –BEN HILL COUNTY GA–
This was home for many years to Fitzgerald’s last door-to-door pedestrian mail carrier, Richard Mathis. It was originally owned by his father, I believe. Richard graduated from high school with my grandmother and was one of my Sunday School teachers at Central United Methodist Church.
South Main-South Lee Streets Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This was the home of Fitzgerald pioneer settlers Dr. Arthur Howell Denmark (1872-1957) and Bertha Twiss Denmark (1879-1949) and was owned by their descendants for over a century. His daughter, the late Frances Denmark Hiers (1909-2010), spent most of her life in the house. She and her husband Jimmy opened Hiers Jewelers in 1945 and Frances later served as the first woman president of the Georgia Jewelers’ Association.
She earned a degree in Drama from the State Normal College in Athens (now UGA) and taught “expression” at Fitzgerald High School for a number of years. She directed the first production of the local historical pageant, Our Friends the Enemy, but is best remembered for directing over 1000 weddings. I was a member of one of those wedding parties and have fond memories of Mrs. Hiers. She was all business and didn’t suffer foolishness but was an absolute delight. Her civic involvements were legion and included service on the boards of Central United Methodist Church, the Pilot Club, the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill Arts Council, and the Blue and Gray Memorial Association.
South Main-South Lee Streets Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This was the home of William Joshua Bush (1845-1952), Georgia’s last surviving Confederate veteran. For his service to the Confederacy, he was afforded the honorific “General” in his last years. The historic marker at the site, first erected in 1954, reads: This was the home of General William Jordan Bush, last survivor of the 125,000 heroes from Georgia who fought for the South. Gen. Bush was born near Gordon, Ga. July 10, 1845, and died here Nov. 11, 1952. In the War Between the States he was a private in Co. B, 14th Ga. Infantry, under Capt. Tom Wilcox and Gen. John B. Gordon. His title of General was won through offices held in the United Confederate Veterans. Active until a few weeks before his death at 107, Gen. Bush attended all UCV reunions and danced at public functions.
His stepdaughter Janie Law was a classmate of my grandmother and on several occasions in the late 1980s and 1990s shared her memories of him with me. They were similar to the following article by Wylly Folk St. John, published in the Atlanta Sunday magazine on 24 April 1949:
Georgia’s last Confederate is a spry old soldier of nearly 104, who lives in a little confederate-gray house in Fitzgerald, Georgia. He is “General” (an honorary title) William Bush, of Company B, 14th Georgia Infantry. He was a teen-aged private when he fought the Battle of Atlanta. He is regarded with appropriate awe throughout the state, as the last living Georgian who wore the gray during the War Between the States – the only flesh and blood contact with the Lost Cause that is left to us on this Memorial Day.
The General is Fitzgerald’s most famous and most carefully taken care of citizen. The UDC offers him everything he could possibly want to make him comfortable, the State Patrol drives him home in state when he’s out late, the Ordinary not only brings him his pension check but also the $75 to cash it with, he is always being asked for pictures and autographs, and he gets sheaves of fan mail. He is senior deacon of his Baptist church, and received his “diploma” as a Mason in 1888.
For a man who’ll be 104 next July 10, he is astonishingly vigorous. He can read his Bible without his glasses, he can hear well with no artificial aid, his blood pressure is perfect and his heart is okay. He can still dance a jig if you dare him to, and sings “Dixie” in his quavery brave old voice. Until a few years ago, he walked downtown every morning to talk over old times with his friends. Now he has to call a taxi when his wife’s back is turned. Sometimes, when Mrs. Bush, who teaches the sixth grade, misses him, she finds out he has dressed up by himself and “gone out with the girls” to the UDC meeting. Mrs. Bush has celebrated her 27th wedding anniversary with the General, whom she married when he was 76 and she was 34. He lived with his first wife 48 years before she died, and had six children.
Bush was a bare 16 when he joined the Gray army. “I told a lie to get into it, and I’d have told another to get out,” he says, and then immediately retracts “No, I wouldn’t either. I fought to the end and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He was “near-bout” the whole time with General Gordon, but part of the time with General Johnston. When asked if the young army did much training before it went into battle, he replies “We didn’t waste no ammunition practisin. When we shot, we shot to kill – it was hand to hand fightin” He brought home a big Confederate flat from the last Gettysburg reunion that he carries in all the Memorial Day parades.
Until a few years ago, there was also one Union Veteran left in Fitzgerald, Henry Brunner. On Memorial Day, the two old soldiers would go to the cemetery together and put flowers on the graves of their fallen comrades, General Bush decorating the Northern graves and General Brunner the Southern. When his friendly enemy died, General Bush sent a wreath “from the last of the Gray to the last of the Blue”.
Now General Bush has to place, tremulously, the flowers and laurel wreaths for both of them. There will be tears no doubt, when emotional Southern ladies see his lone indomitable figure in the parade this year, the Last Confederate, wearing his Gettysburg medal and carrying his Confederate flag.
The other men in Gray are all gone. Now at the cemetery, when the bugle softly plays Taps, it is for ALL the Confederates – except Josh Bush. There is no other man left alive in Georgia today who fought in ’61. It is a lonely emenence.
Here is Georgia’s Last Confederate.
A friend recently reached out to let me know that I should photograph this Fitzgerald landmark because it’s about to be razed for redevelopment, as are all the other adjacent commercial structures. (Thanks, Sara Padgett). The little brick building at the corner of Merrimac Drive and the Ten Mile Stretch will always be remembered as Floyd’s Hamburger Shack, but its history goes back a bit further.
Francis Marion “Frank” Malcolm II (1874-1954) came to Fitzgerald from Waycross in 1906, and in 1910 he bought the largest single tract of land (11 acres) in the city, to which he moved a home from Alapaha Street (still standing) and built other structures over time. [A house he built across the road from his own, in 1948, is where I spent the first six years of my life]. His grandson, renowned artist David Malcolm, told me that the ‘Floyd’s’ building was built in 1930 as a cannery, which employed young women. He even related that my grandmother, Nettie Pate Brown once worked there before she married my grandfather. After the cannery shut down, it was a Venetian blind shop and later, a grocery store.
The association with Floyd’s came in 1952 when J. W. Floyd moved his popular short-order business from the Five-Story Building (Garbutt-Donovan) to this location, which was closer to the new homes and subdivisions being built on the west side of Fitzgerald.
Later owners were Wade and Myrtice Malcolm and their daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Varnell Hendley. Walter Owens and C. L. Martin also operated a barber shop in the connected space next door to the restaurant.
Hamburgers topped with grilled onions, a concoction known as Mama’s Stew, and barbecue smoked in the pit out back were required eating by generations of families in Fitzgerald. The barbecued goat was a particular favorite.
Pam Hunter, daughter of Barbara and Varnell Hendley, kindly shared the recipe for Mama’s Stew. [Mama was Pam’s grandmother, Myrtice Malcolm]. She writes: I think great recipes are made to pass down to future generations and share with friends! You will need 2 lbs. Ground pork*, 4 lbs. Ground beef and one diced onion. Brown this up in a large pot and drain off the grease. Cover all this with water and add salt and pepper to taste. Next dice 6 large baking potatoes and add to the mixture. Make sure water still covers all. Cook until potatoes are tender. Now add 2 cans of cream corn, one can of LeSueur English peas(drain), 3 cups of Heinz ketchup, and 3/4 cup Heinz 57 sauce. Do not substitute . It will not taste the same! Go easy when adding salt as the ketchup and 57 are both salty, but those taters need some salt when cooking! I hope your families enjoy this as much as mine does! Don’t forget the crackers and salad! This makes a lot, but you can freeze it and it is still good!
*Ground pork and sausage are not the same thing, if you’re wondering. You can find ground pork in most groceries and specialty meat markets.
An iconic hamburger sign was located on the side of the building and was synonymous with Floyd’s.
This was the home of sisters Dorothy Wilcox and Irene Jones. Dorothy was the Church Secretary at Central United Methodist and Irene worked at Sears for many years. Thanks to Jan Stokes for assistance with the identification.
South Main Street-South Lee Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places