I’m not sure if this is still standing; it was a landmark of my travels on the old River Road for many years. I made the photograph in 2010.
Category Archives: –DODGE COUNTY GA–
In her History of Dodge County (Atlanta, Foote & Davies, 1932), Mrs. Wilton Philip Cobb wrote: Situated about eight miles north of Eastman, on the Southern Railway, is the little town of Gresston. This town was named for Mr. G. V. Gress, who in 1883 built one of the largest sawmills in the South at this point. In connection with the sawmill was a large dry kiln plant, the first of its kind in this section. Although here was the best yellow pine timber, which was both plentiful and cheap, the mills at that time were having trouble in disposing of their lumber…because of low price and the lack of demand. G. V. Gress was quick to see the advantage of selling a finished product, and he made a trade with a Mr. Moore, of the Moore Dry Kiln Co., to build these dry kilns, which were among the first in the South.
…the Gress mill had a big advantage over the less progressive manufacturers and as a result the Gress Lumber Company built up a profitable business…
…The mill town of Gresston grew and flourished for many years, but like all sawmill towns of those early days, when the mills were through and moved away, the town also went. All that is left of this once flourishing town are a few residences and a mercantile establishment and a large ginnery that are owned and operated by Ragan Brothers…Claud and R. T., of Eastman.
After retiring from the lumber business, Mr. Gress moved to Atlanta, where in 1889 he presented the city with the menagerie that would become today’s Zoo Atlanta. He also purchased the Cyclorama in Grant Park and presented it to the city. He later moved to Jacksonville, Florida.
Jerry Whigham writes: This is my grandfather’s (Jim Whigham) house that he built by hand in 1951. He lived here until 1990. In 1951 power lines were run down this highway. He was already living on this property in an older house near the old barn about a quarter or half mile back from the highway, but it was cheaper for him to build a new house near the road than to have electrical service run back to the existing house. He used his own trees for lumber which he took to the sawmill. He used his own labor. He also used parts and pieces from the old house. My father (Joseph Neal Whigham) wired or helped him wire the house.
The loss of this house would be a real shame, but it’s not abandoned, and the owners may list it for sale in the future. It served for many years as a law office and is still in relatively good condition. At least a window has been boarded to keep out the elements and varmints of the two- and four-legged varieties. It’s design is an amalgam of several styles and since, as I often note, I’m not an architectural historian, I’m at a loss to properly classify it.
The vintage Plymouth Fury III parked beside it is a wonder in itself.
Designed by the great courthouse architect J. W. Golucke (Golucke & Stewart), Dodge County’s historic jail was built by the Pauly Jail Building Company, which is still in business today. It originally featured a three-story tower in the center, but that was removed during a roof renovation. It closed in 1973 upon the completion of a more modern facility.
The detailed metal window arch inserts are quite decorative for a jail. As evident in this photograph, serious structural damage is an immediate threat.
A hanging room with trap door and lever are still intact, but leaks and continued neglect will need to addressed soon to stabilize the structure. Hopefully, Dodge County will utilize the jail in the future for a cultural resource center or something of that nature. Since its inclusion on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2010 Places in Peril listing, little, if any, restoration has been done.
National Register of Historic Places
Designed by E. C. Hosford, Dodge County’s Neoclassical courthouse is still in use. It’s the second courthouse in the history of the county; William Dodge had a two-story frame courthouse built at his expense as an appreciation for the county having been named in his honor. It was torn down in 1906 or 1907 and replaced with this structure.
National Register of Historic Places
Besides its fascinating history, Orphans Cemetery is a real gem of landscape architecture and cemetery design. It’s one of the most beautifully maintained in the state, and the rare cedars and other trees make it feel more like an arboretum than a burial ground. Interred in the mausoleum are Albert Genavie Williamson (1 August 1854-4 December 1925) and Martha “Mattie” Jane Buchan Williamson (10 April 1858-11 May 1938). Jay Gould Williamson, the nephew and adopted son of the Williamsons depicted as a young boy in the memorial, was born on 17 August 1893 and died on 23 September 1982. He spent his last 35 years on St. Simons Island and is buried at historic Christ Church Frederica.
From the marker placed by the Georgia Historical Society, Orphans Cemetery Association & Dodge County Historical Society in 1999: Albert G. Williamson, a Dodge County entrepreneur, donated land for a burial place in Orphans community following the death of a neighbor´s child, George P.A. Barnes, in 1887. The community was named in honor of the six orphaned Williamson brothers who moved here in 1873-74 from North Carolina. The earliest burials were children of the Thomas, Weldy, and Lashley families. Other common names in the original acre are Hardy, Manley, Steele, Stuckey, and Williamson. The statuary above their mausoleum depicts A.G. and Martha Buchan Williamson and their nephew, Jay Gould.
The mausoleum was erected by the Cordele Consolidated Marble Works on 17 August 1912. The statuary was cut from a photograph made in 1903. The details and life size depiction of the Williamsons is a stunning work of public art. Mr. Williamson’s Magnolia, as this giant tree is known, was planted in 1887. Today it provides a spot for refuge and reflection, with two swings hanging from its branches.
Mr. Williamson’s obituary provides more background as to his life and activities in Dodge County: Hon. A. G. Williamson, for fifty years one of Dodge County’s prominent citizens, died at his home in the city Friday night about nine o’clock, following an illness of more than a year, during which time he was practically an invalid. Mr. Williamson’s body was embalmed by J. W. Peacock Co., undertakers, and according to instructions previously given by him, was deposited in a vault at Orphans Cemetery at sundown Sunday afternoon. This vault, above which rested life-size statues of Mr. Williamson, Mrs. Williamson and J. Gould Williamson, a nephew and adopted son,, was erected by Mr. Williamson about fifteen years ago, and full directions were given by him as to the disposal of his body at death. The body, lying on the left side, reposed on a cedar cot, which had also been provided by Mr. Williamson, and in this position was deposited in the vault. The funeral service, which was conducted by Rev. Frank Adams, of the Christian church, consisted only of scripture reading, prayer and two songs. The scripture was from the 14th chapter of St. John, the second to fourth verses, inclusive. The songs ” I Shall Know Him, ” and “Asleep jn Jesus, ” were rendered by a double quartet composed of O. V. Lashley, Henry Manley, Robert Bennett, Mrs. Jeter A. Harrell, S. H. Goolsby, H. E. Dickens, John Parkerson, Mrs. C. F. Coleman. The active pallbearers were the following: W. Fitzgerald, W. H. Smith, C. F. Coleman, C. H. Peacock, R.G. P. McKinnon, C. C. Burch. An honorary escort was composed of C. D. Phillips, W. J. Deffinall, C. B. Murrell, J. H. Rogers, W. W. Puett, J. C. Wall. The floral offerings were banked about the mausoleum in abundant profusion and were magnificently beautiful. A throng of about one thousand people was in attendance.
Mr. Williamson was born in Columbus County., N. C., and was 71 years old August 1st. He came to Dodge County 52 years ago and secured employment as woods-rider for Coleman & Sessoms, a naval stores firm. Soon afterwards he was married to Miss Mattie Buchan, daughter of Dr. James Buchan, by whom he is survived. Being a man of keen and accurate judgement, he early realized the value of lands in this section of Georgia, and through this judgement and his untiring energy, he acquired as the years went by, 8,000 acres of Dodge County land, also large holdings in Eastman city property and government bonds. His estate is valued at between $400,000 and a half million dollars. Several months ago he deeded a large part of this property to relatives, his wife and adopted son being the principal beneficiaries.
Mr. Williamson united with the Christian church when quite a young man, and as long as his health would permit, took a very active interest in its affairs. He built the Christian church at Orphans and was an important factor in the erection of the Christian church in Eastman. To both of these institutions he was a strong pillar and liberal contributor.
Mr. Williamson was Ordinary of Dodge County two terms, beginning about 1895. His administration of this office was marked by splendid efficiency and admirable economy, he rendered to the people the same fine business management that characterized his personal affairs.
Mr. Williamson’s life and character constitute a remarkable demonstration of what a man may accomplish through the exercise of economy, energy and industry, coupled with the practice of hat rigid honesty and justice that marked all of his transactions.
Source: Tad Evans, Dodge County Newspaper Clippings Volume IV1920-1928.
National Register of Historic Places