Tag Archives: –JEFFERSON COUNTY GA–

Smith Grove Cemetery, Jefferson County

This well-maintained African-American cemetery contains a collection of vernacular headstones of statewide importance, both as artifacts of ingenuity in the face of adversity and as sacred ground to the loved ones of those interred here. Thanks to Cynthia Jennings for making me aware of the site. Smith Grove [Smiths or Smith’s in some references] members made the best of what was available to them, which was typical of rural congregations. Many of the memorials are nearly unreadable*, but consider that at the time they were made, most rural African-American schools were grossly underfunded and were barely able to provide the basics of an education, and the makers of these were likely “drawing” the letters as opposed to writing them. I believe Smith Grove Cemetery should be on the National Register of Historic Places.

*-All names and dates that follow are presumed to be correct but the nature of the script makes it difficult to be completely accurate

Triangular Headstones

There are four triangular memorials, likely all accomplished by the same maker. Dates on Findagrave for these stones are not completely accurate. The way the numbers are positioned makes it nearly impossible to determine an actual date, in most cases.

Alex Stone (10 August 1862-22 November 1930). The date of Mr. Stone’s birth would indicate he was likely born into slavery.
Ed Way (1873-?)
Billie Lee Way (1865-1902).
Reverend B. T. Smith (1900-?). It is possible that Reverend Smith was the first pastor here and of the family for whom the church was named. [The name is listed as B. C. Smith on Findagrave, but I believe that may be an error in translation].

Unique Headstones

Inell Belle (2 December 1932-1944). This unique memorial is perhaps the most interesting of all the vernacular headstones at Smith Grove. I believe it represents a crown and/or the trinity.

This is the back side of the Inell Bell monument.

Unknown Memorial. It appears at first to resemble a keystone, but I don’t know if that was intentional. The rectangle in the middle likely once served as a frame for a piece of glass that held something of importance. The grave of PFC Robert W. Lockhart (not pictured), while a simple form, also has such a space and retains the original glass.
This side of the memorial has an even more complicated appearance, including incised areas that seem to be purposeful.
Tora Hymes (18 February 1864-?). This is a small wedge-shaped stone. I am not sure if the name I have given is correct.
Unknown. Stacked stones were once a common way to mark burials in African-American and white cemeteries, especially in rural locations.

Round Headstones

Sanie Brown (2 December 1932-1944)
Jessie Campbell (1931-1953)
Willie J. Hymes (1895-1945)

Traditional (Rectangular/Square) Headstones

Mell Berrie (1890?-February 1930). This is identified as Nell Berrie on Findagrave but I believe it to be Mell.
Unknown Avera (1850-1936). The first name is unreadable but contains an “o”, and an “r”. The surname is misidentified on Findagrave as Iveya. Avera was a common name in the area at one time.
Elex Tyler (14 November 1933-14 July? 1934)
Tom Hymes (February 1886-January 1920)
Professor L. W. Seabrook (January 1864-October 1956). Many of the later headstones in the cemetery use a form slab and stenciled letters.
The beautiful churchyard at Smith Grove.

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J. S. Cato House, Jefferson County

Nancy Shore contacted me several years ago about photographing this house, which belonged to her great-grandfather, and I’m glad I finally got to do so. Nancy notes that it has been unoccupied for over 30 years.

The view from the front porch isn’t bad.

The main entryway, with sidelights and transom, is typical of houses built in the late 19th century.

Inverted saw-tooth pyramids adorn the eaves and are the most impressive ornamental feature of this otherwise typical gabled-ell farmhouse.

The house also features an enclosed rear addition, itself a winged-gable form, which possibly originated as a separate kitchen. This is a common modificaton with this form.

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Old Mt. Olive Baptist Church & School, Circa 1909, Jefferson County

This historic African-American congregation is still active and this structure is adjacent to the associated cemetery. I am unaware of the history of the church, but it is possible that itwas established by former slaves of the Old Town plantation, located nearby.

This structure is located near the old church, and may have been a schoolhouse. Near the newer church is also a structure which appears to have been a school. I hope to learn more.

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Smith Brothers Livestock, Bartow

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Queen Anne House, Louisville

This house, with steep pitched roof and vents, appears to be a transition between late Gothic Revival and Queen Anne.

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Twin Houses, 1880, Louisville

These adjacent gable front houses are essentially “twins”, with a slightly different placement of the doors and windows on the front.

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Louisville’s Little House Lost to Fire

The news came yesterday that lightning had claimed the iconic Little House. The preservation community is devastated, with emotions ranging from sadness to disbelief. Cate Short summed it up: I still can’t believe that lightning missed her for 170 years and then struck her when she was finally being given the love she needed.

The J. C. Little House was perhaps the most famous in Louisville, and stood empty and neglected for many years. Known affectionately to some as “Louise”, it had recently become a symbol of perserverance in the preservation community.When it seemed all hope for its future was lost, Kevin and Laine Berry came to its rescue, determined to return it to its former glory. They regularly shared the progress on the Gothic Revival landmark on their various social media accounts. My heart goes out to them, and to all who have embraced this admirable project.

I drove up to Louisville today to see the ruins of the house myself. One of the second floor dormers was still visible.

That any of the house remains is a testament to the hard work done by the Louisville Fire Department and firefighters from all over Jefferson County.

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Old Town Plantation Tenant Houses, Circa 1900-1910, Jefferson County

Archaeologists believe this plantation was built on the site of a 17th century Yuchi Indian trading village known as Ogeechee Old Town. European ownership of the property dates to 1767 (platted in 1769), when an Irish trader named George Galphin was granted the land by the Colony of Georgia. Galphin took advantage of the property’s frontage on the Ogeechee River, building an extremely successful mill and trading post. The original Crown grant of 1400 acres is one of the few remaining in Georgia that has never been subdivided.

After a succession of various owners, the Fitzsimmons family held the property from 1809-1860. In 1862, it was purchased by William Wingfield Simpson and Linton Stephens, brother of Confederate vice-president Alexander H. Stephens. Though General Sherman did not visit Old Town, Stephens’s descendants believe many of the structures were looted or destroyed by marauding Union soldiers. Restarting the plantation after the war proved too challenging to Simpson and Stephens and it was sold to William D. Grant in 1878.

Grant, who lived in Atlanta, leased convicts from the state in an effort to revitalize the property. It essentially became a convict labor camp, known as Penetentiary Number 3. Captain Thomas Jefferson James, who oversaw the convict labor at Old Town, purchased it from Grant in 1888. He sold it in 1891 to James L. Dickey, also an Atlanta businessman. Dickey replaced the convict labor with tenants, but lacking the success of his predecessors, sold the plantation to Central of Georgia Railroad president Hugh Moss Comer of Savannah in 1896.

Hugh Comer, Jr., was soon given title to the property but with little interest in farming or country life, sold it to his brother John Drewry Comer and cousin Fletcher Comer in 1908. It was during their ownership that the present tenant structures were constructed. Fletcher bought out John D.’s part in 1910 but was unable to meet the debt. His father, Alabama governor Braxton Bragg Comer, took over the property. Fletcher remained on the property but all decisions were made by Governor Comer. Fred and his wife eventually moved away from the plantation, and upon Governor Comer’s death in 1927, the property was sold to Lewis Dye.

The Depression saw the farm shift to subsistence farming, with plots being rented to tenants. The George Crouch family purchased Old Town in 1953 and subsequently made extensive updates to the property. Their stewardship has been integral to the preservation of this amazing place.

[Source: Gillispie, Elizabeth A., “An Examination of an Ice House at Old Town Plantation” (2012). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 624. Georgia Southern University]

There are three surviving saddlebag tenant houses on the highway near Old Town Plantation. One is attached to a more modern house, so I didn’t get a photograph. All are typical examples of a style of tenant house once commonly found throughout South Georgia. There’s also a hip roof house which may have been home to an overseer. It was too obscured by vegetation to photograph.

This example features a shed room.

Remnants of magazine pages and detergent boxes can still be seen on the walls, an indication of the harsh reality of life in these spaces. They were used for insulation.

It amazes me that such utilitarian structures have survived for over a century.

 

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Eden Baptist Church, Jefferson County

This historic African-American congregation dates to 1885. Reverend Andrew Wilkerson was the first pastor.

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Dogtrot House, Jefferson County

This house is remarkably well-preserved, though the open hall is now used for storage.

 

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