Tag Archives: –GREENE COUNTY GA–

Old Greene County Jail, 1895, Greensboro

Within the same block in Greensboro are two historic jails, this being the ‘newer’ of the two. This Folk Victorian/Queen Anne example is typical of Georgia jails of the era, in which the sheriff kept a residence and everything was self-contained. It is now known as the L. L. Wyatt Museum, named in honor of the longtime Greene County Sheriff.

The historic marker on this site notes: This 1895 jail is named for the legendary Sheriff, Loy Lee Wyatt, who enforced the laws in Greene County for fifty-two years until his death in 1977. Sheriff L.L. Wyatt was born on January 2, 1904, in Paulding County. He was recruited to serve the citizens of Greene County due to his fast legs and honest reputation. In 1925, L.L. Wyatt began his law enforcement career as a Greene County policeman who waged a “one-man war” against the making of illegal corn whiskey. Prior to his arrival, moonshine production was considered the leading industry in Greene County and its produce was enjoyed in all of the finest hotels of Atlanta. After having rid the County of its moonshiners, Wyatt ran for the Office of Sheriff in 1940 defeating the incumbent. He served as Sheriff until he died in 1977. At the time of his death he was the longest standing Sheriff in the State, with thirty-seven years of service.

During his 37 years as Sheriff, Wyatt became a legend in his own time. Few men become legends and even fewer achieve the status of a “living legend” as did Sheriff Wyatt. He was a religious man who believed that God blessed him with protection during all of his fights, gun battles, and dangerous encounters. His law enforcement exploits exposed him to at least five gunshot wounds in the line of duty, in part due to the fact that he seldom carried a gun on his person, requiring him to retrieve it from his car at the sight of danger. In the early days of his career, when moonshiners resisted arrest, Wyatt regularly shot it out with them. He killed over a half dozen men, all of whom shot at him first.

The most famous gunfight of Sheriff Wyatt’s career occurred in 1974. He was 70 years old at the time. Bank robbers eluded a 100-car police chase that started in Wrens, Georgia, and ended in Greene County. The bank robbers had killed a teller at the bank in Wrens and had taken two women hostage. Sheriff Wyatt set up a road block midway between Union Point and Greensboro. Wyatt stood in the middle of the road as the speeding car approached. The robbers attempted to shoot him, but the gun misfired. One bank robber was killed in the ensuing battle, but both women were unharmed. Sheriff Wyatt subsequently received the award of the Peace Officer of he Year for his bravery in this incident.

Sheriff Wyatt was a family man, devoted to his wife, son, and grandchildren. He was a businessman, lending his experience to the operation and affairs of the Citizens Union Bank as a director. He was a community leader who had concern for all citizens – rich and poor, black and white. Out of a concern for these people, legend has it that Sheriff Wyatt confronted a notorious member of the Dixie Mafia and proclaimed, “These are my people and I want you to leave them alone!”

Sheriff Wyatt, also known as Mr. Sheriff, was the epitome of a community oriented police officer long before such an idea was born and served as an example for every officer to follow.

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Greensboro Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

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Bellheart, Circa 1810, Greensboro

Tax records (which aren’t always reliable) indicate this was constructed circa 1810, though later surveys by preservationists have dated it circa 1850 and 1860. There do seem to be hints of Federal origins, supporting the earlier date, but I will have to do more research.

North Street-East Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Shade Tree Bait Shop, Greensboro

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Central Hallway Farmhouse, Circa 1840s, Greene County

 

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South Fork Little River, Greene County

 

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Bethesda Baptist Church, 1818, Greene County

Bethesda Baptist is one of the iconic rural churches of Georgia and one of the greatest extant examples of vernacular Federal architecture in the state. The congregation traces its origins to 1785, when it was organized as Whatley’s Mill. The first structure was of wooden frame construction. Notably, Bethesda is among the oldest Baptist congregations in the state and the present structure one of the oldest surviving church buildings. The most influential Baptist of early 19th-century Georgia, Jesse Mercer, performed the dedication on 20 December 1818. In what would seem progressive by today’s standards, they licensed an African-American called Brother Sam to minister to members of his race in 1834 in a separate monthly service but revoked the right in 1836 over claims of “disorder”. Enslaved people of the community were required to attend church with their owners and the remains of the gallery are still visible in the church.

Bethesda is located in a rural area of Greene County near the South Fork of Little River on land given by Samuel Whatley. The original name of the congregation, Whatley’s Mill, honored his parents, who were killed by Native Americans trying to protect their lands from the white men. Silas Mercer was the first pastor and his son Jesse Mercer became pastor in 1796, serving for thirty years. The name was changed from Whatley’s Mill to Bethesda just before the dedication of the present church building in 1818. It remains a thriving congregation to this day.

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Mercer Institute Science Building, 1853, Penfield

Photo Courtesy of Lamar Sanders

I’m excited to be able to share this historic photograph of the Science Building of the Mercer Institute, predecessor of Mercer University in Macon. It was graciously shared by Lamar Sanders, who took it in 1970. Almost certainly the work of builder/architect David Demarest, the Greek Revival structure served as the Penfield Village School after Mercer moved to Macon, but was badly damaged by a fire in 1977 and eventually demolished.

 

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Filed under --GREENE COUNTY GA--, Penfield GA