Tag Archives: Historic Farms of Georgia

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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Filed under --JACKSON COUNTY GA--

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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Filed under --JACKSON COUNTY GA--

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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Filed under --OGLETHORPE COUNTY GA--, Smithonia GA

Talmadge Cooper House, 1866, Morgan County

The only information I can locate on this property identifies it as the Talmadge Cooper place. The house was built in 1866 and the Queen Anne/Second Empire details added circa 1870.

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Filed under --MORGAN COUNTY GA--

Lowry Farm Dependency, Euharlee

Though identified here as a general store for the purposes of the historical park adjacent to the Euharlee Creek Covered Bridge, this structure was one of the original dependencies of the Lowry Farm, perhaps a smokehouse or storage barn. It dates to the latter half of the 19th century. The window is not original to the structure.

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Filed under --BARTOW COUNTY GA--, Euharlee GA

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

Reese, Georgia

This historic farmhouse and the adjacent general store/commissary are about all that’s left of the Reese community. Since 1971, the property has been known as the Strother Farm.

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Filed under --WARREN COUNTY GA--, Reese GA

Nolan Plantation I-House, Circa 1817, Bostwick

This circa 1817 I-house was part of a much larger plantation purchased by the Nolan family in the 1850s. It was home to the Nolan family before the more substantial structure was built at the crossroads circa 1905. It is not publicly accessible but visible from the right of way in winter.

National Register of Historic Places

 

 

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Filed under --MORGAN COUNTY GA--, Bostwick GA

Nolan Plantation Smokehouse, Bostwick

Since this has no windows, I’ve ruled out identifying it as a tenant house; a tool house or corn crib wouldn’t have a chimney. Therefore, I’m presuming it’s a smokehouse.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --MORGAN COUNTY GA--, Bostwick GA

West End, 1870, & The Hardman Farm, Sautee-Nacoochee

West End, one of the finest Italianate houses in Georgia, was built by Colonel James Hall Nichols (1834-1897) upon his arrival in the Nacoochee Valley from Milledgeville in 1870. Nichols, who married Kate Latimer of Summerville, South Carolina, in 1856, served in the Confederate Army and was elected captain of the Governor’s Horse Guard in 1862, eventually attaining the rank of colonel. When he returned to Middle Georgia after the war, weak and in declining health, he learned that his wife Kate S. Latimer Nichols had been raped by two Union soldiers. This would affect her mental state for the rest of her life. While convalescing at the White Sulphur Springs Resort near Gainesville, Colonel Nichols became enamored of the Nacoochee Valley and began purchasing large tracts of land in the area. He named the property and house West End, for its location in the valley. Nichols was primarily a gentleman farmer by this time and owned several businesses, including Nora Mill. The mentally incapacitated Kate was lived out her days in an upstairs room, unwilling to face the outside world. Anna Ruby, the only child of the Nichols to live to adulthood and namesake of the nearby Anna Ruby Falls, told friends her mother was dead, as to deny her existence and her mental illness. Colonel Nichols had her committed to the State Lunatic Asylum in the early 1890s and she remained there until her death.

Original section of the Unicoi Turnpike, located near the main house

The property was sold to Atlanta entrepreneur Calvin Welborn Hunnicutt (1827-1915) in 1893. Hunnicutt, also a Confederate veteran (organized the Fulton Dragoons) and Fulton County commissioner, was a very successful businessman in postwar Atlanta, owning a plumbing business and stove works. The family never lived in West End but kept it as a retreat and vacation home. The Atlanta Constitution called him Atlanta’s oldest pioneer citizen upon his death. He had been in the city since 1847, when it was still a small village known as Marthasville.

Game lounge

The final owner of the West End property was Dr. Lamartine Griffin Hardman (1856-1937) who purchased it in 1903 and renamed it Elizabeth on the Chattahoochee, in honor of his mother. Hardman was the the son of a physician and a longtime physician himself who was also involved in numerous successful businesses. He joined his father’s practice in 1890 after study in New York, Pennsylvania, and London. He came to the Nacoochee Valley from Harmony Grove (present-day Commerce) and within a few years married the much younger Emma Griffin of Valdosta, whom he had courted for many years. He served in the Georgia House for eight years and sponsored a bill that created the State Board of Health. He also served for a year in the Georgia Senate and then made two unsuccessful runs for governor. He was finally elected to the state’s highest office in 1927 and served two terms.

Greenhouse

Spring House

Gas House

Servants’ quarters and smokehouse

Carriage House

Dairy Barn, built 1910 as the centerpiece of Dr. Hardman’s Nacoochee Dairy

Corn Crib No. 1, built in the 1870s

Corn Crib No. 2

Gear House, where riding gear was kept for convenience. A covered 8-foot-deep cistern was discovered during renovation, and was probably originally used to collect water for the farm’s horses.

General Store

Caretaker’s House (Minish Family Home)

Nacoochee Valley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under --WHITE COUNTY GA--, Helen GA, Sautee-Nacoochee GA