Tag Archives: Homes of Civil War Veterans

Mathews Glen, 1895, Fitzgerald

When I was a young teenager I first visited this house with my father, who worked on the railroad for many years with owner Harold Mathews (7 August 1923 – 16 May 2004). Harold knew how much we loved history and he eagerly gave us a tour of the house and his extensive holdings of local ephemera. He also showed us the attic, where he kept his neatly organized collection of stamps and postal history. It greatly influenced my own interest in postal history, which continues to this day.

We weren’t aware at the time that this was the oldest house in Fitzgerald, but research suggests that it is. It was built by a Mr. Dow in 1895, before the old soldiers’ colony was even incorporated as Fitzgerald. [P. H. Fitzgerald initiated the colonization effort in mid-1895 but the town wasn’t incorporated until 1896]. The house itself is a rambling Queen Anne, with a Foursquare design and a rear wing. Its most notable architectural features are the unusual corner porch entrance and widow’s walk.

Thanks to Michael Baxter, the present owner of the house, for inviting me to photograph. He has done a nice job of preserving this important house and is proud to be a guardian of its history.

The following history is abridged from Sherri Butler’s fascinating article, “Four generations of colonist’s family lived at Mathews Glen on Washington Avenue” (Fitzgerald Herald-Leader, 19 October 2016). Sherri is an exemplary newspaper columnist, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of my work since I first started documenting Vanishing Georgia in 2008. Her ‘Feature Front’ column is the most anticipated and most widely-read piece in each week’s paper and I am always grateful for the threads of local history she uncovers and shares with me and with the community at large. She has served as Chairman of the Blue and Gray Memorial Association and is also the co-author of Fitzgerald (Images of America), Arcadia Publishing, 2010. I’m still hoping Sherri will compile her articles into a book; her take on history is refreshingly modern, mixing old facts with reminisces of those who knew the subjects well.

When Ransom Mathews pulled up stakes in South Dakota and came to settle in the Union veterans’ colony in South Georgia, he had new calling cards printed. He wanted everyone to know of his service in the Civil War – the units in which he had served were listed below his name: 47th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, 16th Regiment of New York Volunteers, 60th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers and 193rd Regiment New York Volunteers (In the latter, he received the rank of first lieutenant).

Two-seater privy, built to match the house.
Mathews Glen barn.

Born in Potsdam, N.Y., in 1839, he was the 10th of 11 children of David and Lory Mathews…from age 17 until the beginning of the Civil War he lived in Massachusetts...[After the war] like so many others, he headed west...Mathews first went to St. Louis, and in 1867 he traveled Missouri, representing a fire insurance agency. He also married the former Lizzie Gowen…The next year found him in Fayette, Iowa. He stayed there until 1880, working for a brick company. Lizzie died in Iowa in 1878, but the couple had two children. Their son, Harry, was described as being in the “fruit business” in Louisiana…He joined his father in Fitzgerald in 1917. The Mathews’ daughter, Fannie May, was a graduate of the Broad Street Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia…In 1879, Ransom Mathews married Mrs. Mary J. Gillespie. From Iowa, he went to Kingsbury County, South Dakota, where he lived in a community called Nordland for three years. In 1883, he bought a hotel in the village of Arlington. He named the hotel, located a block from the Northwestern depot, Mathews House.

Mathews family at Mathews Glen, date unknown. Archival photograph courtesy Michael Baxter via Janice Mathews Sykes.

In 1899, he purchased the Washington Avenue home from a Mr. Dow, who had built it four years earlier. For Mathews, it would be both home and business, as he operated it as a boarding house…he ordered stationery imprinted with ‘Home of Ransom Mathews, Mathews Glen’. He quickly became part of the community, active in the GAR [Grand Army of the Republic] and also the short-lived Blue and Gray Association that united Confederate and Union veteransWhen the Georgia Division of the United Confederate Veterans held its Re-Union in Fitzgerald in 1915, Ransom Mathews was there at the Ben Hill County Courthouse to welcome the old Confederates on behalf of the Grand Army of the Republic…[His] second wife died in 1914. Ransom died on 22 August 1918, at the age of 80.”

Mathews Glen, early 20th century. Archival photograph courtesy Michael Baxter via Janice Mathews Sykes.

“[After growing up in Iowa and South Dakota, Ransom’s son, David Harry Mathews (4 November 1871-22 August 1952), who was a musician who formed the DeSmet Kid Orchestra in DeSmet, South Dakota…] lived in Hammond, Louisiana, for much of his life. He was 46 when he came to Georgia. A farmer, he had also been a pitcher for the New Orleans Indians and often wore his uniform when he went to watch baseball games at Blue and Gray Park...”

Harold Mathews as an infant. Archival photograph courtesy Michael Baxter via Janice Mathews Sykes.

Harry’s son, Harold Ransom Mathews, inherited the house upon his father’s death and lived there until his death in 2004. He and his wife Montine, raised their children, Janice and Ramsey, here. Montine was the former Montine Mizell, daughter of Hamp Mizell. Hamp was one of the pioneer white settlers of the Okefenokee Swamp and owned one of the swamp’s most famous fishing holes, known as Suwanee Lake. He was a contributor to one of the first histories of the Okefenokee and was a favorite subject of folklorists, including Francis Harper and Delma Presley. There is at least one photograph of Montine as a young girl in Dr. Presley’s Okefinokee Album.

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Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--, Fitzgerald GA

Home of Georgia’s Last Confederate Veteran, Fitzgerald

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.

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Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--, Fitzgerald GA

Josiah Davis House, 1869, Emanuel County

This well-maintained landmark was built by Confederate veteran Josiah Davis. Davis was a farmer who raised cotton and corn. Upon his death, his widow lived out the rest of her life here. The Peacock family purchased the home after Mrs. Davis’s death.

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Filed under --EMANUEL COUNTY GA--

Colonel Edward Bird House, 1870, Guyton

Colonel Edward Bird (1825-1893) was a successful timber and turpentine operator before the Civil War. He joined Company A, Squadron B, Georgia Cavalry, as Captain. It was nicknamed Captain Bird’s Mounted Company, 2nd Battalion, Georgia Cavalry. Captain Bird was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 17 May 1862 and took command of the 2nd Battalion. He transferred to the 5th Regiment, Georgia Cavalry on 20 January 1863 and was promoted to Colonel in 1864. He commanded the 5th Battalion until surrendering at Greensboro, North Carolina on 26 April 1865. After the war, Colonel Bird resumed his business and remained a prominent citizen of Guyton until his death.

Guyton Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

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Filed under --EFFINGHAM COUNTY GA--, Guyton GA

Dr. W. C. Paschal House, Circa 1875, Dawson

One of the grandest in Dawson, this home was built in a much simpler style for Dr. W. C. Paschal, a Confederate veteran. Dr. Paschal commissioned F. A. Ruggles to re-imagine it as an elaborate Queen Anne in the 1890s. It was sold by the Paschal family to the Edwards family in 1936. It was subdivided into apartments in the following years. Thankfully, Gail and Paul Rakel purchased it in 1988 and spent years restoring it to its original condition.

Dawson Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

 

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Filed under --TERRELL COUNTY GA--, Dawson GA

Wilkins House, Circa 1900, Waynesboro

This home is as difficult to photograph as its architectural style is to define. It has Queen Anne influences but is much more Eclectic than Victorian. Built for William Archibald Wilkins, who was a Confederate major and  mayor of Waynesboro, it hosted President William Howard Taft during a visit to the city in 1910. It is also known as the Wilkins-Hagood House.

Waynesboro Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --BURKE COUNTY GA--, Waynesboro GA

Woodland, 1877, Wheeler County

Passing through rural Wheeler County from Lumber City (Telfair) to Alamo, one cannot miss this Eclectic Victorian with Carpenter Gothic details. An exquisite two-story arcade (not visible in this photograph) connects the main section of the house to a rear addition. More than one friend has commented over the years that the sight of the house stopped them in their tracks. It is a standout in South Georgia, out of place in a landscape most characterized by simple vernacular dwellings.

The McArthur family owned portions of the land around the house beginning in 1827. From the shambles of the cotton economy Walter T. McArthur (1837-1894) developed his father’s farmland into a thriving timber plantation and completed Woodland in 1877, the year of his father’s death. A Captain Renwick and Johnus Thormaholon are listed as the architects/builders. Walter was a Confederate veteran and served in the Georgia legislature from 1868-1871. His son Douglas later maintained and managed the property. It was sold in 1917 to Emory Winship (1872-1932). Winship was a career naval officer from a prominent Macon family and primarily used the house as a hunting lodge during his ownership.

The property is currently on the market.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --WHEELER COUNTY GA--

Mitchell J. Green Plantation, 1878, Evans County

Intact historic farms survive only through the care of generations of families; the Mitchell J. Green plantation in Evans County is an excellent example. In 1868, after service in the Confederacy, Mr. Green built a log cabin  on the property and commenced farming. The thriving operation became the center of a small community known as Green and had its own post office from 1882-1904. Mr. Green served as postmaster. A Plantation Plain farmhouse with Victorian accents, built in 1878, anchors the property. Numerous dependencies remain.

Commissaries are iconic components of Georgia’s plantations and many remained in use on larger farms until World War II. The Green Commissary appears to be in excellent condition; the shed protrusion is likely a later addition.

The stock/hay barn is the largest outbuilding on the property.

National Register of Historic Places

 

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Filed under --EVANS COUNTY GA--

General Clement Evans Boyhood Home, Circa 1835, Lumpkin

One of Georgia’s best-known citizens during his lifetime, General Clement Anselm Evans (1833-1911) was born near Lumpkin to Anselm  & Sarah Evans and grew up in this house. He was admitted to the bar at the age of 18 and married Mary Allen “Allie” Walton in 1854 . He was soon thereafter elected to a Stewart County judgeship and five years later was elected a state senator on the Know-Nothing ticket.

In April 1861, Evans resigned his legislative post and joined the Confederate army as a private. He became commander of the Bartow Guards (Thirty-first Georgia Infantry) in 1862, fought at Shenandoah and was present at nearly every battle of the Army of Northern Virginia. Evans was promoted to brigadier general in 1864.

After the war, General Evans was ordained a Methodist minister. He served at least six congregations in North Georgia over the course of 26 years. Upon the death of his wife in 1884, he married Sarah Ann Avary Howard. After retiring from the ministry, he edited the 13-volume Confederate Military History and coedited the influential Cyclopedia of Georgia. He was a co-founder and Georgia Division commander of the United Confederate Veterans and served the organization as commander-in-chief  from 1909-1911. His body lay in state in the state capitol and his funeral was heavily attended. Evans County was named in his honor in 1914.

Pigtail Alley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --STEWART COUNTY GA--, Lumpkin GA

Cobb House, 1850s, Americus

The central portion of this house, thought to date to around 1850, was originally located in the nearby town of Oglethorpe. A terrible epidemic there in 1862 left as many as 100 dwellings uninhabited and the house was purchased by Colonel Charles J. Malone and moved to Americus. Captain John A. Cobb, a Georgia legislator, bought it in 1883 and it remained in his family for well over a century.

Americus Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --SUMTER COUNTY GA--, Americus GA