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.
Tag Archives: South Georgia Women’s History
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.
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
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
The Tennille Woman’s Club began as a sewing circle in 1914 but suspended activities during World War I to assist with the war effort on the home front. After branching out to civic involvement the club was incorporated in 1920. They were accepted into the state and national federations in 1921 after certifying that they had no political or sectarian entanglements. Women’s clubs became very active in the last decade of the 19th century and continued well into the 20th. The club is still active today and has shared the clubhouse with various groups over the last century.
Upon its dedication, the facility was christened the Washington County Memorial Clubhouse, in honor of local men who served in World War I.
National Register of Historic Places