Category Archives: –HANCOCK COUNTY GA–
Harrell Lawson’s History of St. Pau CME Church  describes the two-story meetinghouse adjacent to the church as a building previously used as a school for the secular education of the youth of the community and as a meeting place for Masons and a burial society founded by St. Paul members in the early 1900’s.
A resource survey conducted in 2001 dates the structure to circa 1870. It was built in the school/lodge combination common among African-American congregations in this part of Georgia in the late 19th century. These structures inevitably served as de facto community centers, as well. No matter when they were built, they are important resources.
The Sparta Female Academy was established in 1832 by Sereno Taylor of Vermont. [Various sources also refer to it as the Taylor Female Academy, Sparta Female College, and Sparta Female Seminary]. It was supported by the Baptists. This and another renovated dormitory are all that survive of the historic boarding school. A preliminary evaluation by architect Brandy Morrison suggests that the rear section of this house is the earliest, circa 1815, with the front being added circa 1831.
After many years of neglect, the structure is finally getting some much-needed attention. Amber Rhea and Stacia Smith initiated a process of preservation in early 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has halted progress but Rhea and Smith are determined to see it through, whatever that entails.
A broadside dating to 8 December 1838 heralds the school’s reorganization and an enlargement of the course of study. The seven disciplines: Language; Mathematics; Cosmics; History; Geotics; Government; and Philosophy. Sereno Taylor was superintendent and a teacher in the Literary and Musical Departments. Five assistants were on staff, as well, with the expected arrival, in early 1839, of Madame Salmon Hantute of Paris, for the teaching of the French Language, Piano Forte, and Singing.
Annual tuition varied, dependent upon the level of instruction. It ranged from $25 for primary instruction to $125 for collegiate instruction. Musical instrument training was also on order, beginning with the piano forte, advancing to guitar, harp, and finally, organ.
Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Montour Mill House, Circa 1857; photographed in 2014.
When I photographed these forlorn structures in 2014, I felt they had an important history but also realized they probably didn’t have a promising future. My fears were confirmed last week when James Woodall reported they had been torn down.
Montour Mill Store, Circa 1857; photographed in 2014.
Further conversation with Karen West and Sistie Hudson highlight their importance and the tragedy of their loss. The structures were apparently the last two survivors of the antebellum Montour Mill village. The mill, chartered in 1857, was anchored by a four-story brick factory building. It was likely devastated by the Civil War and attempted a return to production, but was finished by 1884. The property and village was large enough to have been considered as a location for Georgia Tech in 1883. In Houses of Hancock 1785-1865, John Rozier notes: Even in ruins, the big brick factory was a Sparta landmark until it was taken down in 1951.
Karen West: It was originally a mill store owned and operated by a Jewish immigrant. He wrote 15 articles for the Sparta Ishmaelite about life in Czarist Russia. He extended credit to whoever needed it, regardless of race or religion. So sad to see a piece of Sparta history so disregarded. Hopefully someone has pictures of earlier, happier times for that little store.
Sistie Hudson: I took pictures, too—have admired it since I was a little girl…Jacob Nagurya [also written as Nagiiryn] was a Polish Jew. He was a favorite of Editor Sidney Lewis, hence the articles in the Ishmaelite. He owned the first phonograph in the county and sold them as well. He also served as rabbi for the Jewish Community in Sparta. I remember when there was still a row of mill houses across the street from this store. I am so sad about this loss—I have admired it for over 60 years.
This is the first photo that Anne Chamlee shared with me from her personal archive of backroad photographs from Middle Georgia, and it’s still my favorite. It really is it, perfectly representative of the all the forgotten places I’ve spent nearly 15 years documenting.
It has been a real honor to get to know Anne and to share her passion for rural architecture and history with all of you. I hope you have enjoyed her photographs as much as I have.