Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Theodore Roosevelt's Southern Roots....The Bullochs of Roswell

Monday, May 17, 2010

Theodore Roosevelt's Southern Roots....The Bullochs of Roswell

My parents were like many young people that come from a small town where everyone knows each other and more than likely has some sort of family connection to every face they see. Once they married they moved away, and in the case of my parents they exchanged small town Canton, Georgia for the big city of Atlanta.

As a little girl living in the southern suburbs of Atlanta I made the trek to Canton with my parents often and loved the trip. Over the years our route would change depending on which new roads had opened in an ever growing city. One of our routes utilized I-285, or the Perimeter, that totally encircles Atlanta. We would follow Roswell Road through Sandy Springs, Roswell, and enter Cherokee County via state route 140.

This was my favorite route to visit the grandparents. I loved to look out the window at all of the businesses, apartments, and restaurants that lined Roswell Road. I loved going across the Chattahoochee River and would get excited as we turned this way and that up the long hill towards the oldest part of Roswell. Funny.... today the hill doesn't seem to be as long, as curvy, or as steep as I remember it.

Even before the city fathers promoted their historical past, old Roswell had a historic atmosphere. Once we got to the top of the hill and passed by quaint shops and restaurants such as Panos and Pauls I would beg my mom to turn down the side streets so I could see the old homes such as Mimosa Hall, Barrington Hall, and Bulloch Hall.

Bulloch Hall had such a mysterious look to it. It looked worn and tired and was quite scary looking especially on a rainy day. It was to say the least intriguing to me especially once I read and watched Gone with the Wind in middle school. I knew the Greek revival mansion had to have great stories to tell. I’d pepper my mother with questions. Who lived there a long time ago? Did anyone live there now? Was the land once part of a plantation? Do you think any of your people or Dad’s people might have known the folks who lived there?

Mother wasn’t sure, but she did know it had been a fine home in its day. I would have loved to see the inside, but in those d ays tours weren’t given, and my parents didn’t normally take up time with things of that sort.

Since my childhood I’ve learned a few things about the family that lived in Bulloch Hall, and if you have ever learned anything about President Theodore Roosevelt then you have inadvertently learned a bit about Bulloch Hall as well.

Major James Stephen Bulloch and Martha Stewart Elliot were similar to my mother and father in that they married and left their own childhood home of Savannah. Many have surmised that the Bulloch’s move north was the discovery of gold in North Georgia, but it was actually due to a bit of a scandal as as this particular site attests:.

Mittie's father, the "impetuous" Major James Bulloch, after his fighting days were over, married his stepmother-in-law, Martha Stewart Elliott, and in a flurry of scandal over the marriage left Savannah behind, packed up his wife, their children from previous marriages, and slaves, and moved to Roswell, Georgia. In Roswell the Bullochs settled on land which the Cherokees had recently held, before gold was discovered and President Andrew Jackson forced the native people to walk to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears.

Major Bulloch was well known because he had been a highly decorated soldier during the Texas War for Independence, and Georgia’s esteemed citizen, Archibald Bulloch, was a direct decendant. Archibald Bulloch had been the Speaker of the Royal Assembly, the President of the Provincial Congress, and was instrumental in Georgia signing the Declaration of Independence. Martha was well connected in her own right as she was the descendant of General Daniel Stewart of Revolutionary War fame. Both had been married before so their family was an early example of the Brady Bunch with his, hers, and ours offspring.

Another draw to Roswell was Bulloch’s friendship with Roswell King, the former overseer for the Butler Plantation in Savannah. He encouraged the Bullochs, as well as a few other Savannah families, to move north for economic opportunities. Roswell was a prime location for various types of mills due to the rushing waters of Vickery Creek that flowed into the Chattahoochee River.

So while the Bullochs of Roswell did own slaves they did not necessarily have a plantation. In 1851, records indicate there were 29 slaves at Bulloch Hall, and today the slave quarters have been restored. A plaque rests there that name all 29 slaves though there may have been as many as 31, but the names have not been verified. The slaves were mainly house servants or assigned outside duties to keep the property in order as Major Bulloch earned a large majority of his income through the mills of Roswell and other concerns.

After the Major’s death in 1849, Martha Bulloch continued his work, but it didn’t take long for some of her fortune to wane. The family was not destitute, however, by the time her daughter, Mittie, was married she had to sell four slaves just to pay for the wedding festivities.

It’s with the wedding that the story of Bulloch Hall becomes entwined with the Roosevelt family. Apparently
Mittie was very beautiful and there is a story that when Martha Mitchell was writing Gone With the Wind she interviewed one of Mittie’s bridesmaids. It is said Mitchell used her research to model the character Scarlett after Mittie. Many years later Mittie’s second son, Elliott, would grow up to father Eleanor Roosevelt who eventually married her fifth cousin once removed, Frankin Delano Roosevelt. Elliott described his mother as “a sweet Dresden monument”, and her daughter Corinne remembered her mother as someone who wore white all the time no matter the season and commented on the beautiful skin her mother had.

So, it is no wonder that Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., the father of Theodore Roosevelt, the President, would fall under the Southern Belle’s charm. Mittie and “Thee” were married in the parlor at Bulloch Hall in 1853 in what has been described as the social event for many years to come in Roswell, Georgia.

From a web article by Lu Hickey:

The young Mrs. Roosevelt, who had written her fiancé just weeks earlier [before their marriage] that he was the "only person who could so suit me and I put every confidence in you," now gamely set out with her new husband for the trip north. During the journey--partly in a carriage and partly by ship, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt had plenty of time to think about what she was leaving behind. She may have had some doubts about the family she was marrying into, but not because of any feelings of inadequacy about her own family tree. Quite the contrary, she had reason to sense a slight edge on her part, especially if she ignored money and counted up the many achievements of her ancestors. An unbiased observer might have backed her up. Seven generations of Roosevelts had lived in America without achieving much fame, but their star rose quickly after she married into the clan.
This post first appeared here at Georgia on My Mind in August, 2007 .

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