Tag Archives: Slavery in South Georgia

Jesse Bibb Key House, Circa 1842, Cuthbert

Originally known as Bedford Hall, for the Virginia home county of Jesse Bibb Key, this well-maintained Greek Revival is also known for its gazebo-greenhouse, both built by Key’s slaves. Key came to Cuthbert between 1835-1838 and was a successful merchant for over three decades.

Cuthbert Historic District, National Register of Historic Places


Filed under --RANDOLPH COUNTY GA--, Cuthbert GA

West Hill, Circa 1836, Stewart County

The land which today comprises West Hill was first acquired by William Cunningham of Pulaski County in the Land Lottery of 1827. Cunningham never occupied the property and sold it to David Harrell about 1836, when the Greek Revival main house* is thought to have been constructed. He sold the property to William West (1799-1873) in 1853. By 1860, West had 3500 acres in cultivation and 2000 acres in timberland, making him one of the largest plantation owners in Georgia. He was also a leading cotton producer, with a record of 430 bales produced around 1860. Slave labor was integral to the operation.

West deeded the property to his daughter, Annie Crooks West, in 1867. She later married James Nelson McMichael and they lived in the main house the rest of their lives. After Mrs. McMichael’s death in 1915, estate administrators operated the farm until it was purchased by her nephew, L. M. Moye, Sr., in 1929. His descendants continue to own the property. I’m most grateful to Mac Moye for a generous tour of the grounds. The property is inhabited and private.

*-Mac Moye notes the similarity of the main house to the Bedingfield Inn in Lumpkin, suggesting they were likely designed by the same builder. This must be considered more than coincidental, considering the rural nature of Stewart County in the 1830s.

West Hill Dependencies

The historical importance of West Hill is most evident in the surviving dependencies that were the hallmark of self-sustaining plantation life. That the West descendants have maintained these structures in such authentic condition for more than a century-and-a-half seems nothing short of miraculous. Other than the absence of the original wooden shingles, the outbuildings are true to their original condition.

Schoolhouse, Circa 1853

Perhaps the most significant of the remaining dependencies at West Hill is the plantation schoolhouse. One of the first schools ever built in Stewart County, its use by neighboring children was strongly encouraged by William West, who even brought a tutor from New York to teach his children here.

Schoolhouse- Foundation Stones

Schoolhouse- Dovetail Joinery

Commissary/Meat Storage House


Cook’s House

Blacksmith Shop


Privy- Interior, showing the unusual five-seat design.

West Hill Dependencies- Slave Dwellings of “The Grove”

Few properties in Georgia retain the dwelling places of enslaved persons, so the survival of these three at West Hill is extraordinary. Though they have been maintained by the family for their historical value, they are the most endangered, and arguably the most important structures on the property. About a quarter mile from the main house in an area referred to as “The Grove”, these single-pen houses were used as tenant homes long after emancipation. As a result of their later use, two were slightly modified. One has an extra room and shed room, while another has a shed room. Like the dependencies at the periphery of the main house, these structures were of log construction with siding and would also have originally featured wooden shingles.

Slave Dwelling No. 1

All of the slave dwellings are believed to be contemporary to the construction of the main house, dating them to circa 1836.

Slave Dwelling No. 1- Interior Detail

Slave Dwelling No. 2

Slave Dwelling No. 2- Interior Detail

Slave Dwelling No. 2- Hearth

Slave Dwelling No. 2- Rear Perspective

Slave Dwelling No. 3

Slave Dwelling No. 3- Rear view showing shed room

National Register of Historic Places









Filed under --STEWART COUNTY GA--

Brewton-Hendrix House House, Circa 1858, Evans County

Oral tradition suggests that this Plantation Plain farmhouse was built for Jonathan Bacon Brewton (1827-1897) by Amos Hearn, the builder of the nearby A. D. Eason House. Brewton was the son of one of the area’s earliest settlers, Benjamin Brewton, who came to Tattnall County (now Evans) in 1794 from Warren County. He married Margaret Everett in 1848 and one of their sons, John Carter Brewton, was a co-founder and the first president of Brewton-Parker College.

Jonathan served as Clerk of the Superior Court of Tattnall County and two terms in the Georgia House of Representatives . From late 1862 until early 1864 he was active in the 5th Georgia Cavalry but returned before war’s end upon his  election as clerk of the court. In 1865 a foraging party of Union troops passed through the area and ransacked the house. After the war, Brewton continued his enterprises and also operated a general store and post office.  The community around the house and store was known as Haw Pond at the time. Brewton also owned a gristmill, lumber mill and cotton gin. Brewton’s heirs sold the house to one of their former sharecroppers, James A. Hendrix, in 1936. The Willcox family has owned it since 1990.

Source: Pharris DeLoach Johnson,  Houses of Heart Pine: A Survey of the Antebellum Architecture of Evans County, Georgia.




Filed under --EVANS COUNTY GA--

A. D. Eason House, 1857, Undine

Abraham Darlington Eason (1816-1887) was the youngest son of William Eason, who founded the first Methodist church (Mt. Carmel) in Tattnall County after migrating from Colleton County, South Carolina. Abraham married Susan Tillman (1827-1907) in 1843. The young coupled settled near the Tillman ferry operation on the Canoochee River, in what is now the community of Undine. They first built a log house. Abraham was very industrious and deeply involved in the community, serving in the state house, as justice of the Inferior Court and tax collector and receiver. In just a few years he had acquired over 5500 acres, which he doubled with the purchase of his father-in-law’s estate in 1851. (This historical background comes from the excellent work of Pharris DeLoach Johnson, Houses of Heart Pine: A Survey of the Antebellum Architecture of Evans County, Georgia).

In 1854, Eason began acquiring materials for the construction of a permanent home to replace the log cabin and in 1856 hired Amos Hearn, a local carpenter, to complete the project. As with nearly all large Southern houses of the era, slaves were likely integral to the construction process. The family still owns many of the detailed ledgers A. D. kept during construction of the house.

Meticulous attention is being afforded the restoration of the house. I spoke at great length with the present owner’s (Paul Eason) son, Joey McCullough, about the process and the family is very committed to maintaining the integrity of this important landmark.

A tobacco barn built in the 1930s remains on the property.

A log corn crib is present, as well, but the only thing holding it up are the trees that have grown up beside it.

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Filed under --EVANS COUNTY GA--, Undine GA

George H. Slappey House, 1850s, Marshallville

historic marshallville ga slappey camp house photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

One of Marshallville’s most imposing structures, this home, like so many others of its era, began on a much smaller scale. Originally a four-room frame house, it was built by E. S. Crocker, likely in the mid-1850s. George Hiley Slappey purchased it about 1860 and used slave labor to expand it to its present appearance. It was included in the Historic American Buildings Survey in the 1930s, confirming its architectural significance. It was later owned by the Camp family. Debbie Dunning Liipfert notes that it’s been known as the Camp-Liipfert House since 1980… Wonderful home and happily raised our children and welcome family. It’s also been referred to as the Camp-Slappey House. The image below, in the public domain, dates to the mid-1930s. HABS GA-174. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Slappey House, Marshallville, Macon County, GA Photos from Survey HABS GA-147 public domain courtesy library of congress

West Main Street Residential District, National Register of Historic Places




Filed under --MACON COUNTY GA--, Marshallville GA

Silas Coleman’s Grave, Irwin County

Silas Coleman Headstone Ex Slave Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

I’ve known of this “one-man cemetery” most of my life, and just photographed it last June. I initially thought it was perhaps an eccentric member of the Coleman family, who were large landowners in this part of Irwin County in the late 19th century. I had heard from a commenter that Mr. Coleman might have been a slave but I got busy and didn’t follow up.  When I was in the area last week, my friend Jackie Fussell Golden confirmed the site’s importance, sharing this information from a family history: Silas Coleman was born a slave in Tennessee on 2 January 1837, died 22 April 1921. He was the beloved slave and house servant of Elisha Coleman. One thing very evident about this black gentleman is that the  Coleman, Mann and McDaniel families had very warm feelings of love and affection for him.

The following history of Silas Coleman passed down to Mona McDaniel by her father, T. B. McDaniel, son of Fort Jasper McDaniel and Elmina Mann, and other family members, as well: After the Civil War it appears Coleman was in or had emigrated to Alabama. Since travel was so difficult for blacks during that time, Silas decided to stay and work with Elisha Coleman. When Elisha died, James Mann and Elisha’s daughter Mary lived with her mother. James died soon after 1880 and Silas helped his widow Mary Ann Coleman Mann with the rearing of her five young daughters: Sarah Elmina (McDaniel); Matilda Jane (Hogan); Idella (Luke); Lindsey Columbus (Mann); and Anna Bell (Mann). It is to be noted that their love and respect was such that Silas was allowed to chastise and even spank the girls if necessary.

Silas was said to be a very stern man and did not put up with foolishness. He could not read or write but controlled his money by having someone wrap it up in colored cloth by different denominations. Silas seems to have been a very caring and loving individual as he stayed with these families and helped them for over 60 years, from the time of the Civil War until he died in 1921.

Silas did live alone at one time but as he advanced in years, he moved into the house and lived with Morris and Maurine Mann. When he passed away he was “laid out” in their living room and the funeral was in the woods near the house, in the place that he had stated he wished to be. Lola McDaniel Harper, her mother Elmina, and sister Ruby attended his funeral. This love for him is evidenced by the beautiful monument erected and placed on his grave by Vianna Mann Fletcher.

Data provided by Mona McDaniel Temples and Joy Wilson McDaniel (Joy Wilson McDaniel is also the author of Irwinville Farms Project: The Making of a Community).


Filed under --IRWIN COUNTY GA--

Evergreen Baptist Church, 1844, Bleckley County

Evergreen Baptist Church Bleckley County GA Antbellum Landmark Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

A historic marker placed in 1955 is located at the entrance to this vernacular Greek Revival church off U.S. Highway 23 north of Cochran. It reads: Evergreen Baptist Church, built in 1844, was split off from old Mt. Horeb Baptist Church, constituted October 15, 1809, which stood at or near the site of the Centenary Methodist Church. On February 14, 1844, the congregation and pastor found themselves locked out of the church by a Brother Burkhalter. Most of the congregation, considered “Mission-minded,” formed a new church, called it Evergreen and constructed this building in 1844. In slavery days Negroes walked for miles to attend its services. In 1864 Negro members outnumbered White, 130 to 86.

The slave gallery is still intact, evidence of a large planter class in the area. Hopefully, the congregation will work to have the church listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the future.

Evergreen Baptist Church Bleckley County GA Antbellum Landmark Slave Gallery Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

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Filed under --BLECKLEY COUNTY GA--

Market House, 1790s, Louisville

Louisville GA Old Market Formerly Thought to be Slave Market Downtown Landmark Symbol Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Long known as the “Old Slave Market” this structure is the oldest and best known in Louisville. For years it was said to have been built in 1758 at the intersection of Native American trading roads but recent research suggests it was built during the 1790s as a general market for the newly-founded city. Restored in the 1990s, it still includes some of its original timbers.

While I’m generally suspicious of revisionist history when it leans toward political correctness,  I believe it’s justified here. Perhaps, at the height of Reconstruction and the ensuing Jim Crow era, calling it a “slave market” was just a way to symbolize segregation in a physical space. I will assert, however, that since slaves were sold here it may have carried that designation after a fashion; it obviously served a more general purpose.

Louisville GA Old Market Formerly Thought to be Slave Market Downtown Landmark Symbol Historic Marker Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

This historic marker, placed by the City of Louisville, reads: This Market House was built between 1795-1798 as a publicly owned multi-purpose trading house. Louisville newspapers record sales of large tracts, household goods, town lots and slaves by sheriffs, tax collectors, marshals and people of the community at the Market House. The square became the hub of transportation routes that centered on Louisville when the State Capital was located here (1794-1807). Although portions of the structure have been replaced, the Market House has never lost its distinctive style. Inside the Market House hangs a bell that was cast in France for a New Orleans Convent in 1772. The ship carrying the bell was sacked by pirates and the bell was sold in Savannah. It was given to the State Capitol but was used in the Market House as a community warning signal.

Louisville Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --JEFFERSON COUNTY GA--, Louisville GA

Birdsville Plantation, Circa 1789, Jenkins County

Birdsville Plantation Jenkins County GA Antebellum Landmark Royal Land Grant Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Birdsville Plantation has been owned by the Jones family since the mid-1700s and is one of just a few well-documented 18th-century residential structures still standing in the interior of Georgia. Modifications giving the house its present appearance  were made circa 1847. Somehow, it was miraculously spared by Sherman on his March to the Sea. Mary F. Andrew clarifies the history: For the record*, this was not the home of Francis Jones. F Jones settled south of Rocky Ford. His son, Philip, most likely built the older part. He acquired the land in 1785 for his services in the Revolutionary War. He died in 1789. His son, Henry Philip Jones, is responsible for the front addition seen in the picture. See Bell-Parker above. I have researched it as thoroughly as I can and know this to be accurate. HPJones’ youngest son, Wm B Jones, lived there during the Civil War. The twins were his. Gen. Sherman stayed briefly at the magnificent home of his brother, Jos. Bertram Jones, near Herndon. Unfortunately, JBJones’ home, which was visited by many important people of the day (latter half of the 19th century) and the site of much social activity, burned in the early 1900’s.

*I was initially of the impression that this was first the home of Francis Jones. I’m grateful for Mary F. Andrew’s research and for her sharing it here.

Birdsville Plantation GA Commissary Building Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

This is the old Birdsville commissary, which served the plantation for many years. I would guess that it served as a schoolhouse or chapel at one time.

The entire plantation and all structures located thereon are on private property. I’m grateful to have been given permission to photograph and greatly enjoyed my brief visit there.

Bill Hozey recently wrote: I lived in the newer house just down the lane from the main house as a child. I have spent many a day in the Franklin house and with the family. I remember vividly the human skull in the basement and was told by the Franklins about Sherman sparing the house due to the death of the twins. Mrs. Grizzard lived in the old Post Office during this time. She was the piano teacher at the private school, Buckhead Academy.
Wonderful memories of Birdsville.

National Register of Historic Places


Filed under --JENKINS COUNTY GA--, Birdsville GA

Carswell Grove Baptist Church, 1919, Jenkins County


UPDATE: This historic church burned to the ground on 16 November 2014, apparently a victim of arson.

When I found the National Register of Historic Places listing for Carswell Grove, I was drawn to its architecture. I was equally interested in its neighbor, Big Buckhead Baptist Church. I knew Carswell Grove was founded by the former slaves of Big Buckhead’s members. In researching further, I uncovered a much more complicated history. I discovered that a lynch mob had burned down its predecessor in April 1919 and began a cycle of racial violence that would come to be known as the Red Summer.

Folk Art Church Sign Carswell Grove Baptist Church Jenkins County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Wall Street Journal staff reporter Cameron McWhirter published a powerful essay about the troubling events in the Summer/Autumn 2011 issue of the Harvard Divinity Bulletin. “The Spiritual Ground of History” details the violence of a day that began as a celebration of Carswell Grove’s history and ended in its senseless destruction.

Carswell Grove Baptist Church Endangered African American Landmark Jenkins County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

McWhirter writes, in part: “One beautiful Sunday morning a few years back, I drove 180 miles southeast of my home in metro Atlanta to visit the remote site of a forgotten mass killing. The site was a church.

On April 13, 1919, the Carswell Grove Baptist Church in Jenkins County, then one of the largest black congregations in East Georgia, with about 1,000 members, held its annual gathering to celebrate its founding. When two white police officers showed up, an altercation erupted. To this day no one is exactly sure what caused the violence, but both police officers and a black man were killed. Another black man, Joe Ruffin, who tried to defuse the situation, was shot in the head and severely wounded.

A white mob quickly formed and went on a rampage. The mob burned the church down, then killed two of Ruffin’s sons—one of them a thirteen-year-old. Rioters threw the bodies in the flames, then spread out through the area, burning black lodges, churches, and cars. They killed several other people; no one knows how many. The wounded Joe Ruffin was saved from the lynch mob only because a white county commissioner drove him at high speed to the nearest big city, Augusta, and put him in the county jail there.

Ruffin was charged with the murder of the two white officers and for months was threatened with lynching. No one was ever charged with the killings of his sons, the destruction of the church, or other crimes against African Americans throughout the county.

Later he told a jury: “There is nobody as worried for what happened at Carswell Grove Church on that awful day as I am.”

“That awful day” was the start of the worst period of anti-black rioting and lynching in American history. Riots erupted across the South, in cities like Charleston and Knoxville. They spread to major northern cities as well, like Chicago and Omaha. A riot paralyzed Washington, D.C., with shooting erupting right outside the White House. The months of April to November 1919 were so bloody that NAACP leader and writer James Weldon Johnson labeled it the “Red Summer.” Despite the shocking violence, the Red Summer has been largely forgotten today.

McWhirter’s fascinating book, Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America (Henry Holt, 2011) begins with a chapter on Carswell Grove and retraces the unprecedented violence of that summer.

National Register of Historic Places


Filed under --JENKINS COUNTY GA--