Tag Archives: South Georgia Women’s History

Monuments of Andersonville National Historic Site

With its notorious reputation as one of the worst Confederate prison stockades, the site of Camp Sumter inevitably became hallowed ground to the survivors and families of those who died here, including Confederate guards. Between 1899 and 1916, a series of monuments were placed by various states at the stockade site and within the cemetery, and their dedications were huge events, with survivors and regular citizens making the long journey to Andersonville by train. The Georgia Monument (above) was placed on Memorial Day 1976 at the entrance to the cemetery.

State Monuments of the Cemetery Site

The Illinois Monument, a collaboration by sculptor Charles Mulligan and state architect Carbys Zimmerman, is one of the nicest of all the memorials in the cemetery.

Dedicated in 1912, it features a bronze sculpture of Columbia pointing to fallen heroes, flanked by Youth and Maiden.

Statues of anonymous Illinois veterans leaning on the words of Lincoln and saddened by the human loss of war, flank each wing of the monument.

The Iowa Monument, dedicated in 1906, features a weeping woman atop a red base. The front of the base features a relief of an Iowa infantryman and the words: Iowa honors the turf that wraps their clay. The Unknown. Their names are recorded in the archives of their country. 

Though it was placed in 1911, the New York Monument wasn’t dedicated until 1914. It features bronze reliefs on the front and back of a tapered granite marker.

The back relief features a young and old soldier sitting inside the stockade with an angel hovering above them. It’s one of the most moving sculptures at the site.

The New Jersey Monument was among the first of the state monuments placed at Andersonville.

It features a soldier at parade rest, surveying the dead.

The Connecticut Monument commission chose a design by Boston sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt. It was dedicated in 1907.

It depicts a typical young Connecticut soldier.

The Minnesota Monument is one of three monuments of the same design that Minnesota dedicated in 1916, the other two being located at the National Cemeteries in Little Rock and Memphis.

It depicts a young Union soldier in a winter coat.

The impressive Pennsylvania Monument features a mournful soldier atop an arch.

It was installed by Miller & Clark Granite and Monumental Works of Americus and dedicated in 1901.

The Maine Monument was erected in 1903. It was dedicated not only in memory of those who died here but to all who served. It was designed and cut by C. E. Tayntor & Company of Hollowell, Maine.

The Indiana Monument was dedicated in 1908.

State Monuments of the Prison Site

The Massachusetts Monument was dedicated in 1901, honoring the state’s 767 known dead at the site.

A favorite of many visitors, the Michigan Monument features a life-size weeping maiden.

It was created by the Lloyd Brothers Monument Company of Toledo, Ohio, and dedicated in 1904. Among those present at the dedication were ten carloads of former veterans from Fitzgerald, Georgia, the Union soldiers colony about an hour east of Andersonville.

At 40 feet, the Ohio Monument is the tallest at Andersonville. Dedicated in 1901, it is the second oldest monument in the park.

Like many of the others in the park, it features the motto “Death Before Dishonor”.

The Wisconsin Monument, accomplished in Georgia granite and topped by a bronze eagle, was dedicated in 1907. This view is from the rear of the monument.

The Rhode Island Monument was dedicated in 1903. As it’s the smallest state, its monument is also the smallest state monument at Andersonville. The 74 Rhode Island soldiers who are buried in the cemetery are all named on the monument. Among the is Charles F. Curtis, 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery, who was one of the leaders of the despised Andersonville Raiders. These men were hanged by the other prisoners for terrorizing, stealing from, and even murdering some of  their fellow captives.

The so-called 8-State Monument was placed by the Woman’s Relief Corps (auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic) in 1934 to memorialize the states that didn’t have a monument. It was dedicated in 1936. States listed are: Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia.

Other Monuments at Andersonville

Lizabeth Ann Turner was a prominent member of the Woman’s Relief Corps (WRC) who were instrumental in securing and beautifying the grounds at Andersonville. She had been a volunteer nurse in Boston during the Civil War and in 1895 became the National President of the WRC. Mrs. Turner died while visiting the prison site on 27 April 1907 and this memorial was dedicated to honor her in 1908.

Clara Barton was a leader in the effort to identify the dead at Andersonville and to establish the site as a National Cemetery. This monument, commissioned by the WRC, was dedicated on Memorial Day 1915.

On Memorial Day 1929, this monument commissioned by the Woman’s Relief Corps and authorized by President Hoover, was dedicated. It features two bronze tablets containing the words of the Gettysburg Address and General Logan’s Memorial Day Order of 1868.

There is also a monumental sundial, which isn’t pictured, and a wellhouse at Providence Spring, which will be covered elsewhere.

On 3 May 1989, the anniversary of the liberation of the German prison camp Stalag XVII-B, this monument was dedicated to honor all prisoners of German camps throughout the European theater of World War II. It is the last monument dedicated at Andersonville and is located within the cemetery, unlike the preceding monuments which are located at the prison site.

Southern State Monuments of the Cemetery Site

The Tennessee Monument is unusual in that it honors Southern natives who died at Camp Sumter in service to the Union. It was funded by contributions of Tennessee members of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was dedicated in 1915, within the prison site.

The Georgia Monument, dedicated on Memorial Day 1976, was the last state monument placed at Andersonville. Governor Jimmy Carter, who had worked to have Andersonville included in the National Park System, was instrumental in the monument being placed. It was created by Athens sculptor William J. Thompson. It commemorates lost prisoners of all American wars.

Andersonville National Historic Site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under --MACON COUNTY GA--, Andersonville GA

Auburn, 1899, Long County

This was the home of Helen Williams Coxon (1899-1989), a pioneer journalist,editor, and publisher (The Ludowici News). Known statewide as the “Lady from Long”, she served in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia Senate. She was also the first woman on the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, serving the year it was created (1943). The home, known as Auburn, was built by Helen’s father, Harry Guston Williams (1864-1937), who came from Warren County, North Carolina, to Georgia, and eventually operated thirteen sawmills. It remains in the family.

Helen Reid Williams Coxon [Public Domain Photograph, via Georgia Department of Pardons and Paroles]

 

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Filed under --LONG COUNTY GA--

Hafford-Groszmann House, Circa 1910, Waycross

This eclectic Craftsman was built of cypress lumber from the Okefenokee Swamp by Dr. Wilbur Alderman Hafford (1886-1950). Hafford was a country doctor who took care of many of the old-timers who lived in the swamp and was one of the founders of the Okefenokee Swamp Park.

The home was later owned by Dr. Hafford’s daughter, Lois Hafford Groszmann (1917-2010), a well-loved biology teacher at Waycross High School from 1949-1984. According to Sheila Willis of the Okefenokee Bird Club, who brought the house to my attention: Mrs. Groszmann was a leader in the Georgia Garden Club Federation plus a charter member of the Okefenokee Bird Club. Also, add in a world traveler. A wonderful lady!

In the back, by a small greenhouse built onto the house, is a Red Buckeye which was once the largest in the state. (The tree remains but I was unable to get a good photograph).  Sheila continues: In the adjacent area “was” a yard filled with all the old type camellias, azaleas, and other plants. From these she won many ribbons at flower shows. She also had planted a variety of other beautiful plants and trees around her house and in the back. And she had trailing vines over a trellis for the hummingbirds and an old grapevine on its supports shading the driveway. 

A few years ago before she died, I contacted LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation near Riceboro & got them to come over to try to help me get some of these legacy plants to places where they might be protected. They took cuttings & after letting them grow in their greenhouse for a while, the plan was to transplant them to their recreated plantation garden.
The fate of the house is unsure at this time, but hopefully, it will be saved.

 

 

 

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Filed under --WARE COUNTY GA--, Waycross GA

Clara Varnedoe House, Claxton

Built by Aaron Strickland, this late Queen Anne cottage is the oldest house in Claxton. I’m unable to confirm a date, but it likely dates to the late 1890s or early 1900s. “Miss Clara” Varnedoe,  who served as Evans County School Superintendent from 1929-1940, lived here for many years.

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Filed under --EVANS COUNTY GA--, Claxton GA

Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, Randolph County

Lena Baker (8 June 1900-5 March 1945), the only woman ever executed in Georgia’s electric chair, sang in the choir at Mt. Vernon.

Ms. Baker, a mother of three, was forced into a sexual relationship with her elderly white employer, Ernest B. Knight. It was well-known and frowned upon throughout the county. When Knight realized that Ms. Baker was determined to end the relationship he locked her in his gristmill, as he had done many times before. When she tried to escape, they “tussled” over his pistol which fired and killed him. She immediately turned herself in and claimed the shooting was in self-defense. Not surprisingly, the all-male, all-white jury in the ensuing sham trial found Ms. Baker guilty of capital murder and sentenced her to death. She was executed at Reidsville on 5 March 1945 and buried at Mt. Vernon. That this was a tragic, if typical, miscarriage of justice was confirmed when she was granted a full and unconditional pardon by the state in 2005.

Church members placed a headstone on her unmarked grave in 1998 and family members pay tribute every year on Mother’s Day.

As to the history of the congregation, I’m unable to locate anything at this time.

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Filed under --RANDOLPH COUNTY GA--

Old Webster County Jail, Circa 1856, Preston

This wooden jail was built soon after Kinchafoonee County became Webster County and served that purpose until 1910. It’s among the only antebellum jails still standing in Georgia. Dr. Fay Stapleton Burnett writes: This is the jail in which Susan Eberhart and Enoch Spann were housed from 1872-1873, when they both were hanged for murdering Spann’s invalid wife. This is a tragic tale of justice, mercy, ignorance, poverty and mental illness. 

It was unheard of for a white woman to be executed in 19th-century Georgia, and many, though aware of Eberhart’s guilt, were opposed to it. The case was a media sensation, prompting former Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens to opine in his newspaper, the Atlanta Daily Sun: “the most interesting case of crime that ever occurred in Georgia, and which is certainly one of the strangest in history of crimes.”

Dr. Burnett has just published a book about this case and you can contact her here for information on ordering.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --WEBSTER COUNTY GA--, Preston GA

Sumter County Hospital, 1913, Americus

A group of local women established the Americus & Sumter County Hospital Association in 1908 and after raising funds and community interest in a modern medical facility, they dedicated the Sumter County Hospital in 1913.

Initially a 27-bed facility, it doubled in size after the addition of an annex in 1932. It was in use until a new hospital opened north of town in 1952.

This Prairie style landmark has been abandoned for over 60 years and is presently on the market.

Americus Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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