Category Archives: –OGLETHORPE COUNTY GA–

Saxon, Georgia

Saxon is a crossroads settlement located just south of the Broad River. This old store/filling station is about all that remains. I believe it dates to circa 1930.

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Pass Brothers General Store & Warehouse, Circa 1930s, Vesta

Vesta was formally established in the late 19th century and had a post office from 1888-1904. According to Kenneth Krakow’s Georgia Place Names: Their History and Origins it was named for Vesta Johnson, the daughter of a local settler. Darryl James McKoon writes: [This was the] Pass Brothers General Store. The store, general merchandise, a butcher shop, and Gulf branded gasoline, was on the right, storage building on the left. It is now used for community BBQ events.There was an old multiple story wood cotton gin to the right of the store where the residence is now. Back in the day it was quite busy. Belt driven equipment by a three cylinder upright diesel engine with a two cylinder backup.Long gone, across the street to the right of the flag pole, was a large wooden structure that was also a Pass Brothers General Store. The owners were the older generation of the owners across the street.

Both structures date to the 1930s-1940s, from what I’ve been able to locate.

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Vesta Baptist Church, 1912, Oglethorpe County

This congregation was established in 1906.

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Smithonia, Oglethorpe County

Situated on some of the most idyllic land in Oglethorpe County, the historic property known as Smithonia was for a time perhaps the largest single farm in Georgia, eventually encompassing nearly thirty square miles. It was a self-contained enterprise, with its own railroad, commissary, and enough tenants to necessitate a post office, which operated from 1889-1907.

This may have been the post office. I will update when I can confirm.

James Monroe Smith (Jim) was born in 1839 near Washington, Georgia. The lifelong bachelor built an agricultural empire on the gently rolling hills around this exceptionally large house (built circa 1866), and by the turn of the century was a millionaire. The three large brick barns (the first a stable) were built circa 1888 at the height of the farm’s productivity. They remain its most significant architectural legacy.

The primary means by which Smith amassed his fortune was the use of laborers he “rented”from the state’s prison camps, and nearly all of them were African-American. Many had been Smith’s slaves on whom the irony of being back in his “employee” was surely not lost.

Smith’s wealth and desire for influence led him to politics and he served terms in both the Georgia house and senate. He made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1906.

He died on the farm in 1915 and due to his bachelor status, his estate was unsettled for many years. Numerous claims were made for his land and considerable fortune.

Numerous owners have owned parts of the property over the years, including country music legend Kenny Rogers. The most recent owners, Pam and Dink NeSmith have made improvements to various aspects of the sprawling landmark and have recently listed it for sale.

National Register of Historic Places

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Strickland Pride Produce, Lexington

On a recent trip through Lexington, I had a nice visit with Kendall (Kenny) Strickland, whose Instagram account, @kenny_fromtheblock, I’ve followed for several years.

Kenny owns Strickland Pride Produce and can be found most days just down the street from the Oglethorpe County courthouse, selling seasonal vegetables and fruit, as well as preserves and meat, from his own stock and from producers all over the region. A proud graduate of Florida A&M University, he represents the best and brightest of our young people today, keeping the tradition of truck farming fresh and relevant through social media and online updates, while also managing his own farm property nearby. He’s also an advocate for historically black colleges and universities.

The number of young farmers and African-American farmers has been on the decline for decades. The most recent agriculture census counts just over 2800 African-American farmers in Georgia, which indicates an obviously vanishing way of life. To understand this change, consider that in 1934 Liberty County alone had 834 African-American owned farms totaling 33,000 acres.

A business like Strickland Pride does more than provide local and regional produce. It fosters a sense of community in a small downtown and gives people a reason to be there.

Kenny keeps out a sign to let customers know what’s available.

Kenny’s enthusiasm for this hard work is really inspiring and he seems to never slow down He’s just finished a “melon run” to South Georgia and should have plenty of watermelons and cantaloupes available, just in time for Independence Day. Stop by and see him when in Lexington. He might even have some of that good Hughes’ Sorghum Syrup from Young Harris.

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Shaking Rock Park, Lexington

Shaking Rock Park is a fascinating natural area located within the city limits of Lexington is named for a 27-ton rock that could be shaken with one hand while remaining in place, before the elements shifted its balance [likely the 1886 Charleston earthquake]. It still maintains a precarious perch albeit aided today by some sort of mortar.
The random field of mostly egg-shaped granite boulders comes into view at the crest of a fairly low hill and defines the trail to come. It’s a fairly easy walk and other than the presence of large roots in places, has few obstacles.
Archaeological evidence suggests that before European habitation, the site was used by Cherokee and Creek peoples as a campground.

In 1968, Shaking Rock became a public park thanks to the efforts of the Lexington Women’s Club.

Judge Hamilton McWhorter was the last private owner, and three of his heirs, Mrs. Andrew Cobb Erwin, Mrs. Sallie McWhorter, and Thurmond McWhorter, made the public transfer possible.

Depending on where one stands, the namesake rock’s appearance can vary greatly. Unfortunately, there seems to be a problem with graffiti at the site.

Shaking Rock Park is an excellent natural resource and is free to explore.

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Bush-Turner House, 1840s, Lexington

Like many of Georgia’s historic 19th-century homes, the Bush-Turner House originated as a Plantation Plain. The porch and Victorian details were added circa 1890.

I’m grateful to owner Rick Berry for allowing me to photograph the house. Rick also owns Goodness Grows, a nursery adjacent to the house. If you’re a plant lover and find yourself in Lexington, stop by and check out their amazing stock.

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Lester-Callaway House, Circa 1825, Lexington

The Lester-Callaway (sometimes spelled Calloway) House originated circa 1825 as a simple double-pen I-House and was later modified with simple Victorian details. The architecture has been attributed to Dr. F. J. Robinson.

Lexington Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Lexington Presbyterian Church, 1893, Oglethorpe County

The present home of the Lexington Presbyterian Church dates to 1893, but the congregation is one of Georgia’s most historic, originating with a group of Pennsylvania missionaries who came to the area in 1785 to witness to Native Americans. The early church was formally established on 20 December 1785 about three miles south of the present location by John Newton and was named Beth-Salem.

The congregation has dwindled to just a few members today and upkeep of the church has been difficult as a result. Hopefully, this treasure will be preserved.

Lexington Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Goulding House, Circa 1817, Lexington

The Presbyterian Church had a presence in this area in 1785, before the incorporation of Lexington or the establishment of Oglethorpe County. The missionary spirit which originally brought them to the community perhaps guided Liberty County native Reverend Thomas Goulding (1786-1848) in his creation of the Theological Seminary of the Synod of South Carolina and Georgia at this site in 1828. [The structure was built as Goulding’s home circa 1817, though one source dates it to 1808]. The seminary moved to Columbia, South Carolina, in 1830, and remained under the direction of Reverend Goulding until 1834. The name of the school was changed to Columbia Theological Seminary in 1925, and though it moved to Decatur, Georgia, in 1927, it retains that name to this day. Over nearly two centuries, it has produced numerous prominent social, political, and religious leaders.

Lexington Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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