The following was written in November 1969 by Harvey J. Powell and was used as a hand-out by the Monticello-Jasper County Chamber of Commerce. Transcribed by Suzanne Forte, March 2001. Reprinted Herein Courtesy of Suzanne Forte.
Jasper County was originally a part of Baldwin County. By an Act of the Legislature of Georgia, dated 10th of December 1807, the counties of Jones, Putnam, Morgan and Randolph (now Jasper) were created, being cut out of Baldwin. Before Baldwin County was organized in 1803, all of this area was Indian land and no white man could own land therein.
This area was surveyed and laid out in land lots, each lot being forty-five chains square, containing 202 V2 acres. The lots were disposed of by lottery.
Monticello was laid out and made the county seat by an act of the Legislature dated the 10th of December 1808.
John Randolph, of Virginia, for whom the county had been named, fell into disfavor due to his opposition to the War of 1812 with Great Britain. The Georgia Legislature on the 10th of December 1812 passed the Act: “The County of Randolph shall be called and known by the name of Jasper”.
The free land obtained by lottery, after clearing, was found to be well adapted to the growth of cotton and com and the rural development of Jasper County was rapid. By the year 1810, the population had grown to be 7,573 and in 1820 it had increased to 14, 614. Representation, then as now, was based upon population. In the decade following 1820, Jasper County was entitled to one senator and four representatives in the state legislature. No county in the State, at that time, had more.
MEN OF DISTINCTION
Jasper County has been the residence or birth place of many men who have achieved distinction in political and judicial fields.
David Adams served Jasper County as a representative in the Georgia Legislature for eleven terms, beginning with the year 1811, and was Shaker of the House 1819-1821. He was a man of military rank of Major General in the State Militia as did General John W. Burney.
Alfred Cuthbert, born in Savannah, Georgia, graduate of Princeton College, came to Jasper County about 1809 and after serving in the Georgia Legislature as a representative, was elected a member of the United States House (1813-1816) and then to the United States Senate (1821-1827), (1835-1843).
Dr. David A. Reese came to Monticello, Georgia about the year 1820 and practiced medicine. He served five terms in the Georgia Senate (1829-1836) and was elected to the United States Congress and represented the then 7th Congressional District of Georgia in the 33rd Congress (1853-1855).
John Gill Shorter, son of Dr. Reuben C. Shorter, was born in Monticello and lived there until he graduated from the University of Georgia after which he moved with his father in 1837 to Eufaula, Alabama, and began to practice of law. He rose in his profession to become a solicitor, judge and war time Governor of Alabama.
Eli S. Shorter, brother of John Gill. Shorter and named for his uncle, Judge Shorter, of Columbus, Georgia, was born and reared in Monticello, Georgia. A graduate of Yale University, he served Alabama as a representative in the 34th and 35th United States Congress (1855-1859). During the Civil War he was Colonel of the 18th Regiment, Alabama Infantry, C.S.A.
Martin Crawford, born in Jasper County, Georgia, March 17, 1820, a graduate of Mercer University, was admitted to the bar in 1839 and practiced law in Columbus, Georgia. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives for three terms (1855-1861).
Robert P. Trippe, a Representative from Georgia in the 34th and 35th United States Congresses (1855-1859), was born near Monticello, Georgia on December 21, 1819 and moved with his father to Monroe County, Georgia. After graduating from the University of Georgia, he was admitted to the Bar in 1840 and practiced in Forsyth, Georgia. He became a member of the First Confederate Congress and Benjamin Harvey Hill was born in Hillsboro, Jasper County, Georgia, September 14, 1823, and moved at an early age with his father to Troup County, Georgia. He was a graduate of the University of Georgia and after serving in the Georgia House of Representatives he became a Senator in the Confederate Congress (1861-1865). After Georgia was re-admitted to the Union, he served as a United States Representative in Congress (1875-1877) and United States Senator 1877 until his death in Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1882.
Charles L. Bartlett, born in Monticello, Georgia, January 31, 1853, was a graduate of the University of Georgia 1871 and of the University of Virginia 1872. In 1875 he moved to Macon, Georqia and practiced law. He served in both Houses of the Georgia Legislature from Bibb County. He became a member of the United States House of Representatives and served nine consecutive terms (1895-1915).
Jasper County, even from the time of its creation, has been included in the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. Residents who became Judges of the Ocmulgee Circuit were: Owen Holmes Kenan (1825-1828), Edward Young Hill (1838-1841), George T Bartlett (1873-1878).
Kenan moved his residence to North Georgia and became Judge of the Cherokee Circuit (1835-1838). Edward Young Hill moved to LaGrange, Georgia and became Judge of the Coweta Circuit (1844-1853), and was also an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Georgia in 1849, being defeated by George W. Towns. Charles L. Bartlett, son of Judge George T Bartlett, after moving from Monticello to Macon in 1875, became Solicitor General (1877-1881) and Judge of the Macon Circuit (1892-1894).
Residents of Jasper County who have served as Solicitor General of the Ocmulgee Circuit were: Edward Young Hill (1831-1834), George T. Bartlett (1847-1851), William A. Lofton (1855-1868), Fleming Jordan, Jr. (1868-1873), Doyle Campbell (1916-1925).
In 1836, Georgia experienced an exciting but brief war with a large force of Creek Indians from Alabama, who forced their way into southwest Georgia, killing numerous settlers and burning their homes. A company of fifty militia, under Captain Zachariah Roe, were drafted from Jasper County and on May 25, 1836 “took up the line of march to rendezvous at Columbus.” Enthusiasm was so great that Eli Glover, a merchant of Monticello, had little difficulty in recruiting an additional company of fifty mounted volunteers, which he led to Columbus and reported for duty to General Sanford. Captain Glover and his volunteers fought so well in a skirmish in Stewart County that their conduct was commended in a letter from General Sanford to Governor Schley.
Jasper County, as did other counties in Georgia, furnished its quota of men and material to the Confederate States Army during the disastrous Civil War.
The first company of volunteers was organized in 1861 by George T. Bartlett and named the “Glover Guard” in honor of the company recruited by Eli Glover during the Creek War. This company became officially Company “G” of the 4th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia C.S.A. and participated in the heavy fighting of that celebrated Army.
Another company, organized in March, 1862, named the “Jasper Volunteers” became Company “B” of the 44th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia S.A. and John C. Key, Captain (later elected Major). This company also experienced much heavy fighting and suffered many casualties.
Portions of General Sherman’s Army passed through Jasper County on its “March to the Sea”. Foraging parties of the Federal Army took what they wished, or could find, of food, cattle, hogs, grain. They destroyed by fire, or otherwise, property such as cotton, for which they had no need.
After the Civil War the Confederate veteran, many still suffering from his wounds and with health impaired, returned to his farm with nothing to begin anew, but his land and a determination to overcome all obstacles and fortunately with the seemingly insatiable demand for cotton from the hungry textile mills of Great Britain, the farmer was able to regain a livelihood.
When the freed former slave finally realized that he had to work for a living, agriculture increased greatly. The demand for cotton persisted and the growth of the staple was the economic mainstay of the county. By 1910, Jasper County was producing as much as 35,000 bales of cotton per annum.
The population of the County grew with the increased production of cotton. The zenith in population was reached in the year 1910 when the census recorded 16,552 inhabitants. The arrival of the boll weevil put a stop to the one crop agriculture and caused a rapid migration of farm labor from the County. The population of Jasper County decreased from 16,362 in 1920 to 8,594 in 1930 and continued to decline; the 1960 census being 6,135.
THE COMING OF THE RAILROAD
Macon, Georgia was laid out in the year 1823. Being located at the head of navigation of the Ocmulgee River it grew rapidly in importance as a trade center and cotton marker.
Jasper County farmers marketed their cotton in Macon. Wagons loaded with four or six bales, pulled by a team of four mules, were required to transport the cotton to market. A typical trip, if the roads were good, required three days. The distance traveled the first day usually was to Sand Creek, in Jones County, where camp was established for the night. The second day was consumed making the remainder of the distance to Macon, where the cotton was marketed and supplies such as hardware, sugar, coffee and sometimes articles of furniture, were purchased and return to the camp site on Sand Creek. The third day, if everything had gone well, they made the distance home. A better way of transportation would fulfill a great need but it was a long time in arriving in the form of a railroad.
E.C. Machen, of New York, was a railroad promoter. He came to Macon in 1885 and actively engaged in the promotion of a railroad to be built northward through Jones, Jasper and Newton Counties to Covington, Georgia. Mrs. Hannah S. Gould, also of New York, became interested in the project and provided some financial support. In June 1885 a charter was obtained for the road which was named the Covington and Macon Railroad Company. The officers were: E. C. Machen, president; B. W. Frobel, Vice President and general manager L. W. Robert, Chief Engineer.
The laying of the rail reached Jasper County in May 1887, and the arrival of the first passenger train into Monticello on June 2, 1887 was the occasion of a joyful celebration.
The original object of the promoters was to build the railroad to Social Circle, Georgia to form a junction with the Georgia Railroad and to obtain trackage rights for operation of C & M trains into Covington. Plans were changed and the railroad was built to Madison, Georgia. The Georgia Railroad refused to grant trackage rights and this caused the Covington and Macon Railroad to extend their line northward from Madison to Athens, Georgia. Construction was completed in December 1888. The total length of the railroad from Macon to Athens was 106 miles.
The C & M Railroad got into financial difficulties even before it was completed. In 1887, it went into receivership and early in 1891, the bond-holders took control and re-organized the capital structure under the name of the Macon & Northern Railroad with both the Central of Georgia Railroad and the Richmond and Danville Railroad having an interest. In 1896, the Macon & Northern became a division of the Central of Georgia Railroad.
A railroad known as the Middle Georgia & Atlantic, which traversed the northern part of Jasper County, was constructed from Eatonton, Georgia to Covington in 1890. This railroad was also promoted by Col E. C. Machen.
The need for educational facilities received the attention of the early settlers and before 1820, a male and a female academy were established in Monticello, each being under the direction of a board of trustees composed of some of the most prominent citizens of the county. Academies were established in Hillsboro, Georgia and elsewhere as the 1850 census records that there were six in Jasper County.
There is no evidence that a newspaper was published in Jasper County prior to the year 1881 when the weekly Jasper County News made its appearance. Under the editorship of Mrs. A.P. Penn and later her two sons, Fitzhugh and Thomas, this paper provided excellent local news coverage and exerted much influence for progress in the community. In 1903, its name was changed to The Monticello News and has survived even to this day.
Other weekly newspapers published in Monticello which have come and gone were:
- The Southern Star, name changed to The Monticello Star in 1892. Frank B. Webb, editor, was a graduate of Emory University (at Oxford, Georgia) class of 1891. This was a very good weekly.
- The Jasper County Plain Dealer, a paper published by Negroes, made a brief appearance in 1897.
- The Monticello Advocate, L. H. Reid, published suspended publication in February 1901 after a brief existence.
- In August 1910, Messrs. Eugene Baynes, Nevin Tolleson and Hollis Pope commenced publication of a weekly called The Monticello Journal. It ceased publication with the May 4, 1911 issue.
The first telephone system in Jasper County was completed in November, 1894. It connected a store in the community of Maxwell to the Planters Warehouse which stood on the now vacant lot in front of the Monticello Post Office. The system was for the convenience of cotton buyers.
The first public telephone system was installed in Monticello during 1899 and was promoted by Dr. Shannon, of Cabiness and Mr. Kinard of Jackson, Georgia. In 1900, it was sold to Messrs. Wiley Phillips and J.E. Hecht, of Monticello, who operated it until June 1903 when Mr. Charles Ballard of Eatonton, Georgia bought the system. By 1910, the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company was the owner and had completely rebuilt the system with connections to its long distance lines. Mr. C. H. Pope was made local manager.
ELECTRIC LIGHT SYSTEM
Credit for the installation of the first electric light system in Jasper County must go to Mr. Bonner Jordan of Monticello, a man of much mechanical ingenuity and enterprise. The system consisted of a small generating plant located on the corner of Mill and South Streets having a wood burning, stationary steam boiler, steam engine, a belt driven dynamo, switchboard and a small distribution line which connected a few subscribers in the vicinity.
The Jasper County News proudly announced on January 10, 1901 that: “The dynamo for the electric plant arrived and last Saturday night the electric lights were turned on. So far the patrons are all highly pleased. Mr. Bonner Jordan owns the plant, and if it proves successful, he will increase the capacity and furnish as many lights as needed.”
The plant was not a financial success. Even after several increases, the rates were inadequate. A “larger dynamo” and more wires were always needed; money for improvement and expansion was difficult to obtain and breakdowns caused deterioration in service. When it became apparent that the electric plant would fail, the City of Monticello, unwilling to be without the service, made an offer to purchase the plant, which Mr. B. Jordan and his financial backers were glad to accept. On May 30, 1905 the City voted a $30,000 bond issue, $23,000 to be used for the improvement of the electric system. When, in 1911, the Central Georgia Power Company, who had just finished a hydro-electric plant on the Ocmulgee River (Jackson Lake), offered to supply the power needs of Monticello, the City accepted, glad to get out of the generation of electricity, but retaining (even to the present day) its distribution system.
Mr. J. B. McCrary, a civil engineer of Senoia, Georgia (he became the most prominent municipal engineer of his age) met with the Council of Monticello on several occasions during the Spring of 1905 and convinced the city fathers upon the city’s need for a system of water works. The authorization of the $30,000 municipal bond issue was the result.
The construction of the system began in January 1906 under the supervision of Mr. Henry Taylor and was completed the middle of August of the same year. The system was well designed and well built as the original stand pipe and mains are still in use today. A completely new filer plant was built in 1946 and a quarter million gallon, elevated, water tank was erected in 1954 which is located on the corner of Frobel and Julia Streets.
The first public sewerage system for Monticello was installed in 1935-1936 with the aid of the Federal Public Works Administration. The system was enlarged and modernized during 1967 again with Federal financial aid.
NATURAL GAS SYSTEM
Robert P. Grey, an engineer, promoted the installation of a natural gas distribution system for the City of Monticello during the years 1962-1963. The nearest location of supply was the pipe line of the Southern Natural Gas Company in Jones County, a distance of 27 miles. The City had to provide the pipe line to connect with the source of supply: This increased the first cost of the system considerably. Monticello voted a bond issue of 30 years 5 percent revenue certificates to the amount of $525,000 to defray the cost of the installation. The system was completed and placed in service by the Fall of 1963.
The first bank in Jasper County was organized on the 2nd day of April, 1892 and was named he Bank of Monticello. The directors were W.S. (Uncle Billy) Witham, of Atlanta, L.O. Benton, J.H. Kelly, A.H. Jordan, L. Benton, of Monticello, and R.S. Franklin and E.B. Smith of Jasper County. The Directors met and elected W.S. Witham, President; J.H. Kelly, Vice-President; and M.S. Benton, Cashier. The bank was first located on the north side of the public square, now a barber shop, until 1910 when the Stone Building located at the corner of Washington and Warren Streets was purchased and converted to house its banking offices.
The Bank of Monticello gave up its State charter in 1908 and became the First National Bank of Monticello. The national charter was surrendered in 1964, and the bank reverted back to a state charter and having the original name of Bank of Monticello. It now occupies its handsome new building, styled after Jefferson’s home, built in 1966.
The second bank to be organized in Monticello, Georgia, named the Jasper County Bank, received its charter February 5, 1898 and began business the same day in the store building of Lucian Benton. Later contractor Tom Gay built a suitable building facing the public square on the corner of Washington and Warren Streets. The first officers of the Jasper County Bank were: D.B. Benton, President; Lucian Benton, Vice-President; Lovic Benton, Cashier. The directors were: W.C. Leverette, W.V.B. Allen, J.G. Campbell, J.T. Benton and Bonner Jordan. During the year 1926, “On account of curtailment in agricultural operations and kindred lines in Jasper County”, the rank went into voluntary liquidation, paid every depositor in full, and every stockholder more than par value on each share of stock.
On August 7, 1906, the Farmers Bank (now the Farmers National Bank) was organized with Messrs. E.H. Jordan, R.L. Davis, J.D. Harvey, W.F. Jordan, C.L. Henderson, J.A. Kelly, LT. Kelly, D.N. Harvey and Sam Cohen being the petitioners for the charter. A lot on the Warren Street side of the public square in Monticello was purchased and a banking building, designed by Lockwood Brothers Architects of the Jasper County Court House, was built thereon, by a contractor W.J. Beeland, of Macon, who was also the builder of the Courthouse. The Farmers National Bank did business at this location for sixty years until it moved, In 1966, into its present facilities on the corner of Greene and Mill Streets.
The Bank of Shady Dale, Georgia was organized in July, 1907, having a capital stock of $25,000 and with C.S. (Mote) Thompson of Covington, Georgia, president; and O.O. Banks of Shady Dale, Georgia, vice-president. The bank ceased operation and liquidated in 1921.
The Bank of Hillsboro was chartered August 23, 1911 and began business August 30th in the same year with J. T. Garland, President and E. B. McCullough, cashier. This bank became a victim of the great depression and a robbery, which occurred on the night of April 17, 1934. The outlaws burned through the door of the safe with a blow torch and made off with money and bonds valued at several thousand dollars. The bank was forced to liquidate, with loss to both depositors and stockholders, In 1935.
The sixth bank to be organized in Jasper County was the Citizens Bank, of Shady Dale, Georgia. It was chartered February 6, 1920 and began business April 12, 1920 with D. N. Harvey, of Monticello, President and W. W. Perry, of Shady Dale, cashier. Later the officials were J. H. Young, President; and O. H. Banks, cashier; both of Shady Dale, Georgia. This bank is still in business, however, in 1960 its location was moved from Shady Dale to Alpharetta, Georgia after Mr. Sims Garrett purchased a controlling stock interest.
Of the six banks, which at one time existed in Jasper County, only two now remain. viz. the Bank of Monticello and the Farmers National Bank, both located in Monticello, Georgia.
In October, 1899 Mr. Bonner Jordan sold his furniture store located in Monticello to his brother and went to Augusta, Georgia where he purchased a small manufacturing plant which produced bobbins and spools for textile mills. Two of his cousins, Charles H. Jordan and C.S. (Mote) Thompson became interested in the venture. A lot near the Monticello depot was purchased and a building was erected into which the machinery from Augusta was installed. A corporation charter was obtained with the name of the Southern Spool and Bobbin Manufacturing Company having a capital stock of $10,000 divided into 100 shares of $100 par value each, and the company began business.
The first shipment of bobbins was made in February 1900 to a mill in Water Valley. Mississippi and another to Augusta, Georgia. The bobbins were made from unseasoned wood blocks and shrinkage in size of the finished product resulted in many rejects from dissatisfied customers. This was a serious manufacturing problem-and -by the end -*C41ke-Aret-A4eaf-•#tae company-faced the prospect of financial failure. Mr. Bonner Jordan and Mr. “Mote” Thompson withdrew and directed their endeavors to other interests. Of the original trio, only Mr. Charles H. Jordan remained.
Several men in Macon became interested In the possibilities of the bobbin plant and a new company was organized in the fall of 1902, with a change of name to Georgia Spool and Bobbin Company of Macon, Georgia with Charles H. Jordan as General Manager. This company also met with financial difficulties and gave up at the end of 1905.
Mr. Charles H. Jordan returned to Monticello and with family backing started anew. The February 16, 1906 issue of the Monticello News stated: “The Jordan Manufacturing Company has begun business in the building near the depot formerly occupied by the Spool and Bobbin Company and in addition to making bobbins, will carry on an extensive lumber business”.
The technique of making bobbins was mastered and the business became a financial success. For over forty years, Mr. Jordan remained in control and accumulated a modest fortune from the operation of the business.
In 1929, Jordan Manufacturing Company became the Jordan Division of the U.S. Bobbin and Shuttle Company of Providence, Rhode Island, with Charles H. Jordan as vice-president and director and his son, Leland K. Jordan, Southern sales manager. The great depression of the thirties had its adverse effect upon the textile industry as it did upon everything else; so the U.S. Bobbin and Shuttle Company divested itself of the Jordan Division in 1939 and the Jordan family again came into complete possession of the property. In 1940, when at the age of 69 years, Charles H. Jordan turned over the business to his two sons: Leland K. Jordan and William Homer Jordan. In 1943, the Atlanta Belting company purchased the Monticello plant and changed the name to the Monticello Bobbin Company and have continuously operated the plant ever since. The industry has the distinction of being the only one in the South and of being the oldest now existing in Jasper County. It provides employment for approximately 45 persons.
In June, 1902, the Monticello Cotton Oil Company was organized with a capital stock of $20,000. The petitioners for the charters were: E. H. Jordan, W. J. Phillips, J. H. Kelly, L. O. Benton, Lucian Benton, J. T Benton, J.D. Harvey and J.W. Cannon. A. S. Thurman was the attorney. A lot of land along side the railroad on “the Hill” was purchased, the mill was built and began operation November 1902; all in less than six months time. The original capacity was twenty tons of oil per day. This was one of the most successful enterprises of its day. Later the mill was purchased by the Southern Cotton Oil Company, who operated it for a number of years before discontinuing operation due to the decline ;n cotton production within the County. About the year 1935, the mill property was converted into a plant for the canning of pimientos. In recent years it has been used as a feed mill.
B .C.. Burgess. a mineralogist, while traveling through Jasper County about 1945, noticed that soil being used as a sub base on Highway No 83 in the Gladesville District contained a high percent of feldtspar. Investigation of the source revealwed that there was a deposit of sufficient magnitude to support a mining and processing operation. The Appalachian Minerals Company of Spruce Pine, North Carolina, constructed a plant adjacent to the Central of Georgia Railroad near Adgateville, and in 1947 commenced operations. After experiencing a fire, which severely damaged the plant, the Appalachian Minerals Company sold the property to the Feldspar Corporation in 1954, which corporation is presently operating the facility, providing employment to approximately 45 persons with a payroll of about $310,000 annually.
Monticello Manufacturing Company, a garment factory located on the site of the Broddus Family home, is the largest employer of female labor with approximately 150 on the payroll with total earnings of $525,000 per annum.
Lumber has always been of economic importance to Jasper County. The demand for lumber and later for pulpwood, during World War II and since, has created a rapid growth of the industry. At Farrar, Georgia there are the mills of the Middle Georgia Veneer Company and Williams Brothers Lumber Company. Southwest of Monticello at Minneta on Highway No. 83 and the Central of Georgia railroad are the lumber mills of Frank G. Lake Company and J.C. Suttles Lumber Company and the pulpwood yards of the Georgia Kraft Company and the Georgia Timberlands Incorporated, and greatest activity of all, the $7 million plywood plant of the Georgia Pacific Corporation, which will be completed by the end of year 1969.
A part of the Oconee National Forest occupies a considerable area of Jasper County bordering on the Ocmulgee River. The U.S. Forest Service maintains a local office in Monticello.
A new era has come to Jasper County. The economy based upon agriculture, principally the intensive cultivation of cotton, Is gone forever. The original inhabitants, if they could come back today, would be amazed to see their hard won fields being planted in pine seedlings. Fields, formerly cultivated, are now pastures for cattle or devoted to the growing of trees. Poultry houses are numerous. The decline in population has ceased. A new economy, based upon industrial activity has begun and the future looks bright.