Tag Archives: Georgia Centennial Farms

Bachelors’ Academy, 1909, Jackson County

This schoolhouse is part of the Shields-Etheridge Heritage Farm and is just down the road from the main house and sharecropper’s village. Alex and Emory Shields, grandsons of James Shields, donated two acres for the construction of the school and it was named the Bachelors’ Academy in their honor. Ira had been a teacher himself in his younger days and believed strongly in education. In 1938, when Jackson County consolidated its rural schools, the Bachelors’ Academy became a school for African-American children, and Ira provided the teacher housing in the sharecroppers’ village. The school was in used until 1950 and was restored in 1996.

Shields-Etheridge Farm, National Register of Historic Places

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Shields-Ethridge Heritage Farm, Jackson County

This property was originally settled by Joseph Shields and sons James and Patrick in 1802. With two slaves, they cleared and cultivated the land. The farm began producing “upland” cotton in 1810. When Joseph died in 1818, he willed the land to his son, James and by 1860, 20 enslaved people worked the land. James died in 1863 and in 1865 his widow, Charity, signed a contract with three of her former slaves, providing them housing and food in exchange for their work on the farm. When James and Charity’s son, Joseph Robert Shields, returned home from the Civil War in 1866, he built the main house and soon applied the sharecropping system to the entire farm, managing many of his former slaves alongside poor white farmers.

By 1890, the farm had grown to 1000 acres. In 1897, Joseph Robert’s daughter Susan Ella returned to the farm with her husband Ira Washington Eldridge. Joseph Robert Shields died in 1910 and Susan Ella and Ira inherited the house and surrounding property. To hedge his bets against increasingly unstable cotton prices, Ira Eldridge built a self-sustaining sharecropper’s “village” near the main house. In 1914, “Mr. Ira” transformed the main house from its historical Plantation Plain appearance to it present Neoclassical appearance by adding columns and raising the porch. The structures seen today were built between 1900-1930. Most of the sharecropper housing is gone today, but a few scattered examples survive.

Date Plate from Restoration of Main House [1914]

When Ira died in 1945, his son Lanis understood that the farm would soon be changed by mechanization. He diversified and in the early 1950s began breeding cattle and slowly expanding pastureland on his acreage. At his death in 1970, the sharecropper’s village was long abandoned. His widow, Joyce Ethridge, began documenting the history of the farm and in 1994 she and daughters Susan E. Chaisson and Ann E. Lacey gave 150 acres of the farm to the Shields-Etheridge Farm Foundation to preserve the site as an agricultural museum. Joyce’s research also led to the listing of the property on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Shields-Etheridge Heritage Farm is the most intact collection of historic farm structures in their original location in Georgia, and is an amazing place to visit.

Log Cabin
Commissary [1900]
Blacksmith’s Shop & Carpenter’s Shop [1900]
Tractor Barn
Warehouse
Cotton Gin [1910]
Gin Office [1930]
Gin Office Interior
Gristmill
Seed House
Teacher’s House
Well House [Reconstruction]
Water Tower [1913]
Corn Crib
Shields-Ethridge Family Cemetery
Milking Barn
Mule Barn [1913]

Garage
Wheat Barn [1910]
Tenant House

National Register of Historic Places

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William S. Simmons Plantation, 1840s, Cave Spring

The vernacular Greek Revival main house of the William S. Simmons Plantation, along with the adjacent Vann cookhouse, are two of the oldest extant brick structures in Floyd County. I was invited to photograph them earlier this year by owner Kristi Reed and am so glad I finally got to experience the charms of this important property, which continues to be a working farm. Kristi is very passionate about the Simmons Plantation and much of the following history is taken from her research. [PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY AND IT IS CLOSELY MONITORED FOR TRESPASSING]

Hidden in plain sight at the edge of downtown Cave Spring, the circa 1845-1847 landmark is built of handmade brick [18″ exterior walls/14″interior walls] and contains nine rooms, some of which retain hand-painted frescoes original to the house. It has also been known as the Montgomery Farm or Montgomery House, for subsequent owners.

As historically important as the main house, the double-pen brick cookhouse behind it was likely built no later than the mid-1820s by David Vann. Its initial use is not known, but considering that Vann was a wealthy planter who owned as many as 13 slaves, it is possible that it served as a slave dwelling before being relegated to use as a kitchen upon construction of the Simmons House. Vann, who was born at Cave Spring [Vann’s Valley] in 1800, was a member of one of the most prominent families of the Cherokee Nation and had a plantation house here preceding the Simmons house. [An interesting aside: Vann was the great-uncle of American humorist Will Rogers].

David Vann was a Cherokee sub-chief and after emigrating to the Indian Terriotry [present-day Oklahoma] in the mid-1830s, later served as Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation. He was murdered by a group of “Pin Indians” at Salina, Indian Territory, on 23 December 1863 and was buried at Haner Cemetery in Murphy. According to the Encylopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, the derogatory term “Pin Indians” was applied by Treaty Party Cherokees to hostile, pro-Union Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole during the Civil War. The Pins were identified by cross pins worn on their coat lapels or calico shirts. They were disproportionately full bloods, wore turbans, adhered to the long-house culture, and were politically opposed to the frock-coated mixed-bloods who adhered to Southern white cultural norms and belonged to the Knights of the Golden Circle.

National Register of Historic Places

 

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Filed under --FLOYD COUNTY GA--, Cave Spring GA