Google+ Georgia On My Mind: July 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Atlanta Pioneer: Er Lawshe

Some months ago my husband and I took a little field trip over to the Atlanta Zoo. While there we visited the Cyclorama, too. Walking through the exhibits I noticed a picture of this house.

The Lawshe House.

I came home, downloaded the pictures and meant to refresh my memory regarding the Lawshe family and their home, but forgot....until now.

The home, built in 1859, sat on the west side of Peachtree one lot north of Cain Street. It's a classic for the time period with porches on both levels.

Er Lawshe (yes, that's his real name) came South from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with two of his brothers in 1848. Lawshe had apprenticed as a cabinetmaker in Philadelphia. When arrived in Atlanta he had $7.25 in his pocket.

The picture below shows Mr. Lawshe with his bride, Sarah.

Originally, Lawshe partnered with Riley Baker in a jewelry business selling watches and other items. Later he struck out on his own and was very successful to the point he was able to build the fine two-story home at 224 Peachtree Street which adjoined property owned by his in-laws.

During the Civil War Er Lawshe fought for Confederacy meaning that he was actually fighting against many of his family members. The Lawshe family left Atlanta in February, 1865 and headed to Augusta leaving their home basically abandoned as so many others. This made many of Atlanta's fine Peachtree Street mansions readily available for Union officers once they entered the city, and the Lawshe home was no different.

Brigadier General Felix Salm-Salm and his wife Agnes arrived in Atlanta on July 7, 1865 and chose the Lawshe home to live while he was in command of the Atlanta post. Salm-Salm was a  rather colorful fellow. He was from Westphalia, Prussia and was actually a prince of royal blood. He had served in the Prussian cavalry and once the Civil War broke out he joined the Union where he was commissioned in the 8th New York regiment. His wife was an American - the former Agnes Clerq of Baltimore. She was so in love with her husband she never wanted to be apart from him. Agnes would actually join him on the battlefield. She shocked Atlantans by riding through town astride her horse rather than sidesaddle as ladies of good breeding did at the time, but it is said she showed sympathy and compassion for the folks of Atlanta while she was here. They entertained at the Lawshe home by giving simple dinners and teas before leaving the city in October, 1865. 

When the Lawshe family returned following the end of the war Atlanta was of course in ruins, but their home was one of just a few still standing. Lawshe would not replace the boards that clearly showed shell damage.

Er Lawshe set about rebuilding his business at 47 Whitehall, but since there were no materials he resorted to using some of items Union soldiers had used to construct huts with while the city was occupied. In some cases the materials were just debris. Later when he was able he built a three-story brick building on the site of the store.

Er Lawshe also wrote various stories for The Atlanta Constitution later in his life. He was very well thought of in Atlanta and many claimed this was due to his integrity so much so he earned the nickname "Old Reliable".

After Lawshe passed away his home was sold for $18,000 to the Gate City Guards where they would eventually build their armory.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Surprising History in Washington County

If you check basic records spanning across the 237 year history of the United States you discover time after time counties, cities, buildings, bodies of water, people, and even a state have been named for our first president, George Washington including our own Washington County located in the eastern central part of the state.

Taking a closer look, however, you discover that Washington County, Georgia was named for General George Washington in 1784 - five years before he became president.

Georgia's Washington County is the only county in the United States that solely honors Washington's service as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

It does make sense when it is realized that the county, per the Washington County Historical Society, was formed for the express purpose of issuing bounty land grants to Revolutionary War soldiers such as Jared Irwin who not only reached the rank of colonel  during the American Revolution but was also elected governor of Georgia in 1796 and 1806.

Bounty land grants were given to soldiers for services rendered - basically free land for military service.

In 1784, Washington County covered a much larger area than it does today. It was created from Creek Indian Land cessions of November 1, 1783 and was the 10th county formed in the state. The counties of Greene, Hancock, Johnson, Treutlen, Montgomery, Toombs, Tattnall, Evans and portions of Long, Liberty, Candler, Emmanuel, Jefferson, Baldwin, Taliaferro, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties.

The first county seat was at Warthen where today you can find the restored jail seen in an older picture below. It is considered to be the oldest log jail in the state today.

Per Georgia's DNR website for Georgia's State Parks, the jail's most famous occupant was Aaron Burr, third Vice-President of the United States. In 1807, he had been arrested in Mississippi for treason against the United States and was being carried to Richmond, Virginia to stand trial. They reached Warthen at dusk, so Burr spent the night in the little jail while the officers in charge were entertained in the home of Richard Warthen, one of the original recipients of the bounty land grants mentioned above.

By 1796, the county seat had been moved to Sandersville. A courthouse was built, but it was lost in a fire that took most of the town in 1855. A new brick courthouse was constructed a year later.

It is said during the Civil War that Washington County sent more soldiers to serve the Confederate cause than any other. Fifteen different companies were organized there.

Towards the end of the Civil War the 1856 courthouse was burned by the Union. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the Confederates had fired upon advancing  Union troops from the upper floors of the building.

Yet another courthouse was built in 1869 and still stands today. Additions to this courthouse seen below were added in 1899 and 1939. Renovations and rehabilitations were done in the early 1970s and in 1987.

Photo of the old jail via Virtual Vault of Georgia
Photo of the 1896 courthouse via Georgia Info

Monday, July 1, 2013

Banishment in the Twenty-First Century - Georgia Style

In 1974, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld a criminal sentence for a woman who was banished from seven different counties for a year.

Immediately two questions pop into my head.

Seven counties!?!


While I do have a list of folks....a very short list...running through my mind that would make great candidates for banishment from my county, I have to wonder what do you have to do in order to be banished.

After some checking it seems that habitual bad check or drug charges are at the top of list, but seriously...

How can banishment happen in the 21st century?

For the answer we have to go back to the 19th century when Georgia' s Reconstruction-era constitution was written (1877).

It clearly states Georgia citizens can be whipped or banished "beyond the limits of the state" meaning we can't banish someone to the wilds of Alabama...though some deserve it.

Georgia prosecutors and judges interpret the language to mean as long as the banishment is within Georgia's 159 counties it's allowable.

DeKalb County seems to use banishment more than most counties often telling drug offenders they are banished from 158 of Georgia's 159 counties leaving tiny Echols County as the number one travel destination for folks who are banished.

Now before your vision becomes clouded with thousands of U-Haul trucks heading south for Echols County I need to advise those who are banished are rarely checked on due to manpower and funds. However, it does seem like it might be a good use for some of those forfeited assets that some DA's like to spend willy nilly.

Echols County, as far as I know isn't the hotbed of crime it could be due to all the banishments. It IS known for two small towns and one traffic light. The county seat, Statenville is so small it's not even incorporated. Echols is one of three counties in the state that has a county seat that isn't incorporated.

In the beginning Statenville was actually known as Troublesome. I don't know the reason, but it seems to me that if they changed the name back to Troublesome it WOULD be the perfect place to banish troublesome folks.

Thinking a little bit more about the provision in the Georgia Constitution that mentions also provides for whipping.

I have some names for that list, too.
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