Archive for the ‘Summerville Georgia 1800s’ Category

The Courthouse   Leave a comment

Above:  John Dodson Taylor, Jr., and Nell Barrett Taylor, My Grandparents, In Front of McGinnis Drugs and the Chattooga County Courthouse, in Winter 1960

Image Source = Gene McGinnis, Summerville, Georgia



I found an image of the 1909 Chattooga County Courthouse at the county’s website here:

I found another image (with more background) here:  I learned there that the model was the Appling County Courthouse.  This interests me because I used to live in Appling County.

And here ( I found some more relevant images, including one of the previous courthouse.

Here is a link to an old postcard image of the 1909 courthouse:

Here is a link to a close-up image of the clock:

“Papa” is John Dodson Taylor, Sr.

“Mama” is Harriet “Hattie” Stoddard Taylor.



History records that for fifty years Summerville was twenty-five miles from a railroad.  Its happy, contented populace never allowed their fondest ambitions or dreams to picture it as anything more pretentious than a village.  The woodlands hung like green drapery around the town, the fringe rolling down within the very corporate limits.

In the center of this village there was a courthouse, necessitated by the fact that not all the inhabitants were as law-abiding as they should have been.  In addition to this judicial institution, there were a few stores where general merchandise was sold:  there were four saloons which were called “groceries,” a blacksmith and wagon-repair shop, and a cobbler shop.  There was one doctor.  Drug stores and dentists were unheard of.

In those days a community had to earn the right to be called a town.  One of the main requirements seemed to have been that a hanging take place.  Summerville could boast of two such sporting events, so a town we were!

Papa told me how Pigg Van shot North White one cold day in the spring of 1888.  It seems that the two had been very close friends, but this time they each had taken one sniffer too many as they sat by the fire in the rear of one of the hardware stores.  Their tongues became oiled, their tempers rose, and one word led to another.  Finally, North White left he store for a drink from the well which occupied the center of the square which is not intersection of Washington and Commerce Streets.  Tradition has it that Pigg Van followed him to the door and drew his bead just as White reached the well.  Justice took its course, and Pigg paid the penalty up in the hollow just west of what is now called Jakeville.  The second event took place were the Georgia Rug Mill is now located.  Details of this event have been lost in the past, however.

The courthouse, where justice was meted out to all and sundry, was a drab two-story affair of brick construction.  I cannot remember many of the details because I was at the tender age of four when it was removed.  At the front of the courthouse, a balcony opened into the courtroom upstairs.  It seems that one time they borrowed Mama’s piano to “live it up” for a beauty contest which was held in the courtroom, but there was some trouble.  It was necessary to hoist the piano by way of the balcony, which was, you will agree, rather rough treatment for such an instrument.  I always thought the piano was a little off; perhaps that move explains it.

The cast-iron stairways to the courtroom were suspended on the outside of the building.  (Stairways on the outside of the building always did puzzle me and make me wonder if the genius who conceived such an idea didn’t need to have his head examined!)  These monstrosities were fine in pretty weather, but ascending and descending them in bad weather posed read problems.

Our present edifice succeeded the older one in 1909, and at that time it was the last word in architectural perfection.  It is of concrete construction with four entrances.  The crowning glory–at the time of its erection–was the big, four-faced clock on top; but things, like people, can fall from grace.  Certainly that blessed clock is no exception!  Its downfall came many years ago, and no time-piece could have been more unreliable.  (I distinctly remember hearing it strike thirteen times for three o’clock in the afternoon.  No doubt it believed in good measure.)  It has been a long time since I have seen its four faces together on the correct time of day.  This discrepancy was caused by any one of a number of reasons, the main one being that pigeons used the clock hands as their ferris wheel.

The courthouse had rooms and more rooms, and I have seen them filled with everything from exhibits on fair days t dead bodies which had been brought in for examination.  The courthouse was actually a community center in those days.  There have been rummage sales, cake walks, crap games, school programs, debates, beauty contests, revival meetings, chautauquas, and singings held within it.  All were part-and-parcel of life in this county.


Leaves in the Wind, pages 11-12


Big Spring   Leave a comment

Above:  Northeast Georgia and Northwest Alabama in 1823


From Leaves in the Wind, pages 10-11


At the left of the highway north of town has been a remarkable, crystal-clear spring at the foot of a majestic tree.  (The tragedy has been that in the name of progress and business, this spring has been covered and the tree cut town.  Over the years this spring supplied many travelers with a refreshing drink, slaking their thirst with its cold, pure water.  Numerous stories have been told about this spring, but there is one that I remember vividly.

My father often told the story told to his father of the early settlers’ seeing Indians driving into this spring at the foot of the tree and of their later being seen at Fort Payne, Ala.  Many believed there was an underground passage through limestone caves to the Alabama side of the mountain.

The limestone cave theory for this northwest area of the state was proved years ago with the white man’s discovery of numerous caves in this section.  A more modern proof came when a large portion of the highway caved in just in front of what is now Jackson Chevrolet place.  As long as this hole remained open, Big Spring, several hundred yards down the highway toward down, was muddy.  When the hole was finally covered and the highway repaired, the Spring cleared.  Limestone, we know, is abundant in this area, as is evidenced by the large number of cedar trees throughout the country.

Certainly, this northwest section of Georgia was Indian territory.  Names bear out this fact:  Chattooga, Chickamauga, Catoosa, Armuchee, Oosstenaula, Etowah, and many others.


Mama   1 comment

Above:  The John Dodson Taylor, Sr., Home Circa 1908, When It Was New

Photograph Courtesy of Sharon Foster Jones, on June 14, 2012


“Mama” was Harriett “Hattie” Stoddard Taylor (died 1932), my great-grandmother and wife of John Dodson Taylor, Sr.

The following text comes from Leaves in the Wind, page 21.



Papa wore the britches in the family, and that exactly suited Mama.  Opposites attract, I have always heard; and that is probably the reason they got along so well.  His swashbuckling and, at times, domineering personality was a balance for her easy-going, quiet, and retiring nature.

She was the most beautiful mother any little boy ever had, and she was a model homemaker.  By her very nature she was not the business type.  Being very religious, she kept the Bible with her constantly.  In her hey-day she was an accomplished pianist.  Calm, even-tempered, and happy, she seldom lost her temper.  When she did, it was generally only a mild flare; but I remember the time she really

blew a gasket.

One year at the fair, there had been a declamation contest for children in the lower grades, and I had won.  She was proud!  Buttons and hooks were pulled from their moorings on her clothes.  (Zippers would have suited her better anyhow.)  Mama rushed home to tell Mary, the cook, all about it.  Mary listened dutifully and gleefully to Mama’s praise of my

exceptional talents.

Then, while Mama was taking on a fresh supply of air, Mary said,

Yes, Mis’ Hat.  I know zactly how you feels.  This time last year we was happy too.  Our little bull had just won the red ribbon.

With all her good intentions, Mary never made a greater mistake.  Instantly, the whole area around Mama became radioactive.  It was the only time I have seen her when she could not talk.  She trotted out to the yard, threw a rock at our astonished dog, threw another at some of the chickens, and then trotted back onto the porch.  Mary, paralyzed at this transformation in her usually quiet Mis’ Hat, was unable to talk.  Mama looked at her very hard for a moment, then smiled and said,

Hi, Mary.

No further mention was ever made of my ability to declaim, or of the little bull that had won the red ribbon.

Mama saw to it that her children had opportunities to have friends in our home, and privileges to go as guest to other homes; but chiefly she made us love our home and family because of her own loving, unselfish nature.



John Dodson Taylor, Jr., on the lap of his mother, Harriet “Hattie” Stoddard, Circa 1908, with his sisters, Sarah Faye and Helen, on the left, and his grandmother, Arcissa Dodson Taylor, wearing black on the right; I do not know who is standing to Arcissa’s right


Papa   Leave a comment

Above:  The John Dodson Taylor, Sr., Home Circa 1908, When It Was New

Photograph Courtesy of Sharon Foster Jones, on June 14, 2012


This, of course, is not a poem; it is obviously prose.  It does, however, shed light on John Dodson Taylor, Sr. (December 23, 1860-July 2, 1936).  The source is his son, John Dodson Taylor, Jr. (January 19, 1905-September 27, 1976), my grandfather, from pages 20 and 21 of Leaves in the Wind, a small volume (28 pages) he published.  I find no date in it, but the photograph of my grandfather dates to 1940.  And he died in 1976, having spent years in a nursing home.  I estimate that he published the slim volume in 1960s.




No little boy ever enjoyed his family more than I did mine.  To me my family was tops–every member of it–and that is as it should be.

Papa was the head of the family, in more ways than one.  To him right was right, and there was no alternative.  I had to learn the hard way that when he said “Scat,” he wasn’t kidding.  He ruled the family with an iron hand; and for me, he threw in the razor “strop.”  I learned to shave with a safety razor because I did not care to have any further association with that particular instrument.

Papa was Presbyterianism at this best; however, he wasn’t narrow-minded about it.  He saw the need for other denominations and endorsed them.  In his own mind, nevertheless, he was convinced that when the inevitable time arrives for the Angel Gabriel to give his long-awaited

toot on the tooter,


when the roll is called up yonder,

the Presbyterians will constitute the majority party.  He was very religious and was a number-one student of the Bible, which he read constantly.  On Sunday afternoon, he frequently deviated from his regular Testament, and just for the fun of it, would pour over the pages of his Greek New Testament.

He made us children realize that Sunday was really Sunday.  It was an extra special day which began with a special breakfast.  As long as I can remember, Sunday breakfast consisted of salt mackerel–some fried, some boiled–hot grits, butter, biscuits, and coffee.  Then we had to polish ours shoes and get ready for Sunday School.  I have many things to thank him for, but one especially is a love for Sunday School.  In the years since he has gone, that love for and loyalty to Sunday School has helped me over many rough spots.  Of course, our family always stayed for church.  After dinner, we had to read and memorize portions of the Bible and then rest until about four o’clock when the up-train brought us the papers.  Then, if we had been good and had caused no trouble, we were allowed to read the “funny papers.”  The training that he and Mama put us through seemed rough and unreasonable at the time, but it has paid off in later years.

Papa was, to a large extent, self-educated.  I do know that he went to college at Oxford, Ala.; that there he met Mama, and that it did not take them long to middle-aisle, after which they came back to Summerville.  They started keeping house, I am told, in two rooms of what is now called the old Taylor home.  I was born in this house, and it is still my home.

In contemporary terminology, Papa would have been called a tycoon.  Not many people living today know at all that he did for Summerville and Chattooga County.  He was one of the guiding spirits in the bringing of the railroad to this county.  He pioneered the raising of peaches as a money crop; he organized, built, and for many years operated the cotton mill in Summerville; and to keep from wasting such a resource as the cotton seeds, he established the oil mill.

He brought electricity to town, as well as motivating the installation of city water.  He built and for many years operated the private school then known as Taylor Institute.  He organized the old Chattooga County Bank, which ceased to operate after his death.

Another family business, which long served the county populace, was Taylor Mercantile, a department store and grocery store.  The upstairs was a rental space for a funeral home.  Still another project was the marble quarry located on  some of his land.  For numerous years a good grade of marble was sold in surrounding areas.

All of these activities were carried on while he maintained a most active law practice.  No wonder he was admired by so many!  At the same time, he had his “enemies,” as does any man who, with so strong a personality, accomplishes so much and is so sure of his abilities.  Papa’s wide variety of achievements were based on his deep concern for the welfare of his fellow-citizens.  He was indeed one of whom could be said,

the elements (were) so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, “This was a man!”




John Dodson Taylor, Jr., on the lap of his mother, Harriet “Hattie” Stoddard, Circa 1908, with his sisters, Sarah Faye and Helen, on the left, and his grandmother, Arcissa Dodson Taylor, wearing black on the right; I do not know who is standing to Arcissa’s right


Where John Dodson Taylor, Sr., Lived in Summerville, Georgia   4 comments

Above:  The John Dodson Taylor, Sr., Home Circa 1908, When It Was New

Photograph Courtesy of Sharon Foster Jones, on June 14, 2012


This is an old photograph of my family ancestral home, a house which was, in its prime, a showplace with high ceilings and a wide corridor at the front door.  I grew up there in the 1970s (with my parents and sister) and visited it in the 1980s.  The last time I was there was in late 2000, when the house was showing its increasingly declining state.  I like old things, so the fact of the house’s recent condition is something I consider unfortunate.

I can still walk through the house in my imagination, which will last longer than the physical structure of the house, unfortunately.  But, via the wonders of blogging, my great-grandfather’s poems can continue as a monument to him.  May they do so.



Modified on June 15, 2012 Common Era


I cropped the photograph to focus on the women and children:

From left to right:  Sarah Faye and Helen (or Helen and Sarah Faye), Harriet (“Hattie”) with John D., Jr., Arcissa, and a woman whose name I have not determined

John Dodson Taylor, Jr., my grandfather, did not arrive until 1905, when, as he put it,

The twentieth century had just graduated from training pants….

Leaves in the Wind, undated, page 7

(He died on September 27, 1976, having spent years in a nursing home.  And his picture in the front is dated 1940.  So those facts help restrict the timeframe of possible publication.)

I am probably looking at images of relatives, not all of whom were part of my direct lineage.  I wonder who some of them were.  Various sources have supplied the following information:

One  of the women is probably Arcissa Wilshire Dodson Taylor (1824-1915), wife of  John Taylor (1834-1901) and mother of John Dodson Taylor, Sr. (1860-1936).  Arcissa did live in the house at the time of the 1910 U.S. Census, as did John Dodson Taylor, Sr., and John Dodson Taylor, Jr.

Another woman is probably Harriet “Hattie” Stoddard (died 1932 and aged 45 years in 1910), wife of John Dodson Taylor, Sr.  She also lived in the house in 1910, according to that year’s U.S. Census.

Eugene Dodson Taylor (born 1890) , the elder brother of John Dodson Taylor, Jr., my grandfather, did not reside in the house in 1910.  Of Gene in 1905, at the point of John D. Jr’s birth,  my grandfather wrote,

Gene was of sufficient age to travel alone, and I understand that he went to visit other relatives.  (It’s nice to have relatives, especially when another young one is bidding entrance into the world.)

The two young women were Sarah Faye and Helen, aged 17 and 13 years respectively, in 1910.  The 1988 history of the Summerville Presbyterian Church mentions the 1924 wedding of one Helen Dodson Taylor to Wilford Caulkins.  The same history lists Helen Dodson Taylor as having joined the church on November 6, 1910.  Helen and Sarah Faye were my grandfather’s older sisters, who were “at tender ages” (Leaves in the Wind, page 8) when he was born.  Helen Taylor Caulkins died on February 13, 1977, having left for Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1924.  The 1988 history of the Summerville Presbyterian Church lists one Sarah Faye Taylor, who joined the church on December 30, 1906, and eventually married John Black Whisnant.  She died in November 1980.

Who, then, was the woman on the right?  I must continue to pursue this question.