Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Ephraim Stiles Hopping

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ephraim Stiles Hopping

For the last several months it seems one of my major research topics has been various mills along the creeks and rivers of early Georgia along with the men who built them.  I didn’t begin the research due to some sort of passion I have for early mills, but in the process of my newest project researching and writing about Douglas County history at Every Now and Then……it just happened.

What is most amazing to me… in the early 1800s when these men first came to Georgia they seemed to get around north Georgia quite easily moving back and forth from one side of the state to the other, and they are all connected in some way.   Then again it could just be the folks I’m researching, but it is a great motivator to keep me researching what can be a boring little topic if you aren’t interested in the mills themselves.

Take the case of Ephraim Stiles Hopping.   He was born in the 1799 on August 20th or 26th depending on the source you use.  After graduating from Princeton in 1824 he headed south and the next year he was a professor at Franklin College which today is the University of Georgia in Athens.  Hopping was a language professor. He married Pamela Ann (Wray) Stewart….the daughter of Judge Philip Wray….on December 12, 1827 in Oglethorpe, Georgia.  Some sources list her name as Permelia.  No matter her name….she came from a prominent family.  Her father was Judge Philip Wray and he owned Wrayswood Plantation.
Over the years nine children were born to Ephraim and Pamela.

The same year Hopping married some sources state he bought Scull Shoals factory on the Oconee River.   Now when you visit the history of Scull Shoals online Hopping’s name is never used.   But what is interesting is Judge Wray’s daughter....Harriett……Hopping’s sister-in-law…. married Thomas N. Poullan – the man that the history link for Scull Shoals states figured so prominently in the history of the mill there.   So… original source could be mistaken or…..perhaps Hopping had a business interest or investment with Scull Shoals since my source also stated once he made a little money at Scull Shoals he went on to purchase land at High Shoals.   At any rate….he was related by marriage to Poullan.

Here’s one of the twists and makes all of this interesting for me….a name figuring prominently in Douglas County history is Ephraim Pray.   Before arriving in Douglas County he spent two years in Greene County where he used his engineering skills to build two of the mills for Poullan.  

Getting back to Hopping…..we know he was in High Shoals in 1839 because records indicate he was  the postmaster there.  The area was a well known landmark and had been since the 1790s.  High Shoals shows up on a 1794 map of the area and various treaties between the State of Georgia and the Cherokee and Creek Nations use High Shoals as a landmark regarding discussed boundary lines.  Later, during the early 19th century a road from Washington D.C. to New Orleans crossed the Apalachee River at High Shoals.  

On March 8, 1850 along with several listed business partners Hopping placed an ad in the Athens Southern Banner  He and several associates formed High Shoals Manufacturing Company – a business making cotton and woolen goods, but the application for National Register status for the High Shoals area states that the mill was founded in 1846.

Another Douglas County connection to the Hopping story is……William Ely Green.   He happened to be Hopping’s cousin and when he arrived in Georgia during the 1830s his first stop was to visit with Hopping.  The 1840 census shows Green living in Morgan County close to Hopping.   Apparently Green learned the ins and outs of owning a mill because once he moved to Douglas County he built his own mill there on Anneewakee Creek.

Hopping’s complex at the High Shoals mill was located on the south side of the Apalachee River in Morgan County and eventually contained a 3-story brick mill, machine shop, cotton warehouse, carpenter’s shop, lumber storehouse and mill company store.   Later, land would be provided for two churches – a Baptist church in 1869 and a Methodist church in 1879.

One of the most interesting and unique things about the mill was the two dams that were built along the Apalachee River.    The upper dam was masonry and 11-feet tall.   It formed a large storage pond that covered approximately 20 acres.   The pond was used to regulate the water flow during periods of drought.    The lower dam was concrete and 8-feet tall.  It formed a three acre pond and diverted water to a mill race that supplied the upper turbine of the mill. 

The dams are significant because there are very few of their type that survived.   Most were submerged or destroyed through the years.

Soon after establishing the mill Hopping built a large residence on the north side of the Apalchee River – it overlooked the river and mill operations on the opposite bank.   The home was a three-story Georgian with four principal rooms, divided by a central hall.   The property also included a formal garden, fountains and a deer park.   Other sources describe the home as large…having columns and granite fixtures brought by oxcart from Stone Mountain.     Sadly the home collapsed in the mid-1900s and no longer exists.

Today….all that remains of the mill are some foundation stones since it was destroyed by fire in 1928….along with a few mill houses…approximately one dozen that were built around the turn of the century along State Route 186 remain of the original fifty or so.

Ephraim Stiles Hopping died June 22, 1853 during a typhoid epidemic that swept through High Shoals.   One of his daughters also died.   He was buried in the gardens at his home.   The epidemic may have taken at least half of the residents of High Shoals. Sources state Hopping’s widow sold his interest in the mill and the home and moved away.

The mill continued with new ownership.   During the Civil War Union soldiers captured the mill and several people were taken prisoner.  Later a man from Virginia by the name James Frazier purchased the Hopping mansion and around 860 acres for $26,000.  He renamed the house “Hotel Ben Lomand” – after the Frazier ancestral home in Scotland.    
The hotel came to be known as a stage coach stop where passengers were offered meals and lodging.

Finally, here is one last quirk in the story of Scull Shoals and its mill.   Urban Baboon…one of our wonderful Georgia bloggers has an excellent article about the ruins at Scull Shoals with several pictures.   Urban Baboon advises….and on a more modern note, the post-Emancipation Scull Shoals (circa 1880) was home to a young laborer named Adam Williams, who went on to become THE Rev. Adam D. Williams, pastor of the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and grandfather to the legendary Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don’t you just love how one history nugget leads to another?

1 comment:

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