Tag Archives: National Register of Historic Places

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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Gainesville, Jefferson, & Southern Railroad Depot, Circa 1900, Talmo

The Gainesville, Jefferson & Southern Railroad line reached Talmo circa 1883 and was integral for the shipment of the highly prized short-staple cotton being grown in the area. It was an important catalyst for the growth of the community and is well-preserved today.

Talmo Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --JACKSON COUNTY GA--, Talmo 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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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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Filed under --OGLETHORPE COUNTY GA--, Lexington GA

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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Filed under --OGLETHORPE COUNTY GA--, Lexington GA, Uncategorized

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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Amis-Elder House, Circa 1805, Oglethorpe County

This Federal/Plantation Plain-style house is an important early example of the form which came to dominate the architecture of the planter class in 19th century Georgia. Significantly, over two centuries, its owners have maintained the house with very few changes to its original state.

This property, near Big Creek, originated as a grant to John Peek which was sold to Joseph Crockett in 1797. In 1810, Crockett sold the property, including the house, to Thomas Amis. Tax evaluations indicate that the house was built between 1797 and 1810. Thomas Amis, Jr., inherited the property upon his father’s death and in 1867 sold it to S. R. Aycock. In 1884, it passed to Aycock’s daughter, Martha Elder, and in 1930, to his grandson, Courtney B. Elder. Mr. Elder, who bought out his siblings’ share of the property, lived here until his death in 1975. Dr. Forest Kellogg was a later owner.

National Register of Historic Places

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Bank of Jersey, 1904, Walton County

Built in 1904, this structure was home to Jersey’s only bank until the Great Depression brought on its failure in 1931. It was organized by Josiah Blasingame, Sr., a prominent landowner and merchant who served as the first postmaster and first mayor of Jersey. It was used for storage until the early 1980s and was later used as a dental office.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --WALTON COUNTY GA--, Jersey GA