Watson’s Cotton Gin Factory

So the other day I was doing some research on Uncle Jerry’s spring, seeing if I could find any kind of information on it when I came across a picture of the historical marker in Palmyra. I knew where this marker was an I had read it once before but this time through something stood out.

Near here, at the “square” spring, is the site of Watson’s Cotton Gin Factory, where “articles manufactured are said to be unrivaled in their performance and durability.”

You know where this is headed… Lowry and I set out to find it. We went back to Uncle Jerry’s spring and began to look around. While digging through the brush Lowry recalled a trek in which her and a few friends had found a square spring once before while exploring the edges of the creek. A hundred feet of so through the woods, dodging thorn vines and kicking can, we came near a clearing. “If there was a factory, maybe they had to clear the woods for construction”, I thought to myself…

After we checked out the square spring, we spoke to the property owner and it turns out the previous owner cleared the land so so-much for my hunch but it all worked out anyway. The owner had heard that during the civil war confederate soldiers, in fear of Sherman bringing his men through the area, dismantled the mill and threw boulders into the spring to keep Union soldiers from being able to use it. It was a wonderful venture and we will continue to dig for information.

Some History:
In 1843 Jesse H. Watson moved to Palmyra, Ga. In 1849 he was appointed Postmaster(1). The machinery for the mill was propelled by water taken from an underground spring originating from the near-by Indian Springs to the Kinchafoonee creek some 300 yards north. The limestone was cut back and the head of water raised high enough to run the machinery. In May of 1850 he placed an ad in the Albany Patriot looking for workmen for his Cotton Gin Factory. By 1852, testimonials began rolling in about the gins made at Watson’s factory. Most were boasting about the new rounded saw tooth Watson had patented, and it was even mentioned in the January edition of Augusta’s Southern Cultivator in 1854.

Unfortunately in April of 1857, an ad was placed in The Albany Patriot for the selling of Watson’s 10 acres west of the Kinchafoonee (to include his home, factory, and mill), 125 acres east of the Kinchafoonee, as well as 6 slaves, a road wagon, a lot of house furniture, and “other articles too tedious to mention” in order to pay back his creditors. The last I could see of Jesse H. Watson was a call to mail in the February 24, 1900 copy of The Albany Weekly Herald where he had mail that was undeliverable.

(1) Source: http://files.usgwarchives.net/ga/lee/history/postoffice.txt
Source: http://files.usgwarchives.net/
Newspaper Clippings:


Palmyra’s Indian Springs

I don’t have a lot of information on this spring yet. But I promise I am researching it.

The only reference I can find to this actual spring is the attached photo from 1918.


The Albany Theatre

One day last week Lowry asked me if I followed Jonathan on Instagram. He had posted a picture of a pair of old, weathered doors, but unlike most, these particular doors were a good bit off of the ground. Not too many buildings, in this town at least, have doors five feet off the ground. Lowry thought they were the ones at the old horse and carriage warehouse downtown. We had just been downtown looking at the building and looking for a way in. One of the doors in the photo Jonathan had posted was wide open. Lowry was so excited. She thought that they (Jonathan and his girl) had found a way in and Lowry wanted to go back and look. After I looked at the photo I could tell that these doors were not the ones belonging to the horse & carriage shop but to a building behind the downtown library. I had been down that alley a few years back and snapped a picture of these exact doors for my Facebook cover photo. Naturally come Saturday we headed downtown. We rode down the alley and we could tell on our approach that the door was still open. As we rode by I got a glimpse inside. From the little I could see it was more that I had ever expected. The few buildings I have been able to peek into prior seem to be nothing more than a shell and dirt floor. Their ceilings largely intact, keeping most of the sun out. Their interior walls already torn out or never present to begin with. This building was different. The first thing I noticed were the abundant gaping holes in the roof. [tbc]

The Albany Theatre was built in 1927 on land owned by Samuel Farkas, a Jewish immigrant who became a prominent Albany citizen after the Civil War. This theatre was built on land that had previously been the site of Farkas’ livery stable and farm implement business. Adolph Gortakowsky, a land tenant of Farkas, had developed the theatre concept and given the plan to the Farkas estate. Architect Roy A. Benjamin, founder of Kemp, Bunch and Jackson, designed the theatre and built it in Classical Revival style. Historic Albany Theatre then became Albany, Georgia’s first building constructed with steel beams. $300,000 later it opened as “Southwest Georgia’s Magnificent Theatre” on September 12, 1927. Dedicated to “the pleasure loving public of South Georgia”, the Albany Theatre’s premiere program featured H. L. Tallman at the console of the three-manual Robert Morton pipe organ (Opus 2304), Ralph Barnes and his Albany Theatre Orchestra and, on the screen, Ronald Colman and Vilma Banky in “The Magic Flame”. The first director of this Adam-inspired theatre was Homer W. McCallon.

The theatre made a successful adaptation to sound films and remained Albany’s first-run theatre a few years prior to its closing in the 1970’s.

The theatre was purchased from the Farkas Estate by Oglethorpe Development Group, a minority enterprise which began underwriting a restoration of the theatre as a performing arts center.

Here are some older pictures of the Theater that I have been able to find.

Albany Theatre – CinemaTreasures.org
Historic Albany Theatre – AmericanTowns.com
Magesty of Albany Theatre endures – AlbanyHerald.com – May 19, 2013

Hobo Depot

A couple Saturdays ago, bored and looking for something to do, Lowry and I head down to the Thronateeska. I wanted to catch a new Planetarium show and she wanted to look at the history museum. So we poke around inside the science museum, playing with some of the exhibits and find ourselves outside looking how to get into the history museum. We can’t get in so we stroll through the model train exhibit and check out some of the other old trains they have out back. Unfortunately they have moved the administration staff into the museum until they finish construction on their new building so we couldn’t go into the old depot. As we were leaving Lowry suggested we look at what’s left of the old building across the street (a popular spot for local “photographers”) Behind this old wall was quite a few interesting things. We found the back off what appears to be an old delivery truck, the supports for old awnings, and even some old railroad tracks. As we walked along looking at all of the debris that had been abandoned over the years Lowry points out something between the trees, an old passenger train car. We approached with caution, because honestly in this town you never know what you could find in old stuff; hobos, ruffians, bob cats; who knows what. Inside the car it is apparent that someone has made this gem their home.

I always have a lot of questions but we can start at the beginning; how long the train had been back there? First, I looked to the old insurance maps of downtown.

Note: I haven’t yet developed my story telling skills with included pictures so bare with me.

This looks good… 1885.. but we were on Roosevelt (North St.) Could that alleyway be Flint?

Nope. There’s Flint, there there’es even another avenue in between Flint and Roosevelt which cuts the block down the middle, Booker Ave.map2
Let’s take a closer look. So here we have the end of Roosevelt (North St.) and we have a clearly visible train car and Booker Ave. If we take a closer look at both of these areas, now and 1885, the track the car is on isn’t even there. Tift’s Warehouse is covering the north half of the block. Onto the next map.


Here we are in 1895, just 10 years later and things are looking more promising. We now have a railway right next to Roosevelt (North St.) But still this isn’t right. It appears the the Tift Warehouse was purchased by The Albany Cotton Compress Company and they laid a track to bring trains up next to it. We need a track that is close to the road but far away enough for a building.

We finally found it! In just 5 more years, bringing us into 1920. The warehouse was demolished and a strip of shops erected, and a new rail line laid behind the buildings. (I took a lot of time creating the image below from a lot of screen shots of the Stanborn Insurance Maps so make sure to check it out full sized.)

The Covered Footings

So back in October I was helping a local makerSpace group set up for a 5k race down by the river. After I was through, I took the opportunity to take a few closer pictures of the remains of the base for the covered bridge that was mentioned in a previous post. (Here)

Keep in mind these braces are over 150 years old, under water most of the year.

Camera: Samsung Galaxy S2

Chehaw & Tift Park

Driving home the other day from work I passed by Tift Park and was reminded of some older pictures I had come across on the internet of it.
I then remembered a story my dad used to tell me about how Chehaw used to be there and how there was a monkey named Joe that used to throw poop at people. He also told me about how all of the animals that were too large to be moved by truck had to be walked from Tift Park to Chehaw’s current location on Phelima. So, here’s what I’ve been able to find….

Chehaw was first opened State Park in 1937 at a size of 586 acres in it’s current location on Phelima as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal plan.

The word “Chehaw” comes from a tribe of Creek Native Americans that were local to the area. In 1974 Albany and the Chehaw Wildlife Society commissioned Jim Fowler, an Albany native, to design the new wildlife area. Between 1975 and 1977, animals were moved from Tift Park Zoo in downtown Albany to Chehaw. When Chehaw opened, Laska, an asian elephant that was given to Tift Park Zoo after Don Robinson Circus’s 1952 season, was walked across town to Chehaw

“The elephant was walked across town by her beloved trainer W.T. Hill. She did not die shortly thereafter. She was able to live her last years in a larger, more peaceful environment than ever in her long life. Mr. Hill was instrumental in getting Chehaw Park started as he was the Director of the Tift Zoo and later Chehaw Park.” [info c/o Michelle Kelley]

In addition to Laska, there was also a “spitting, poop-throwing, cigarette-smoking” chimp at the Tift zoo named Joe, along with manates, Willie the spider monkey, another elephant named Daisy, and a toothless lion. In October of 1977, Chehaw Wild Animal Park officially opened to the public and Tift Zoo was closed.

The Covered Bridge

Check it out. I’m pretty excited about piecing this together… So after I posted about the Broad Ave. Bridge, I jumped on eBay and searched ‘albany georgia’ looking for god knows what. One item listed was a printing of an 1885 map of Albany.

1885 View of the Artesian City
1885 View of the Artesian City

Now, one thing that stands out, especially since I just wrote about the Broad Ave Bridge being built in 1920, are the 3 bridges… I recognize the one that curves in the middle, its still there and runs up behind the RiverQuarium to the Thronateska… but whats the deal with the one that looks like the Broad Avenue bridge? This calls for a closer look…

Closer view of the covered bridge
Closer view of the covered bridge

Wow… So it appears to be the covered bridge build by Horace King. It leads right to the back of the Bridge House that is still downtown. History lesson time! In 1858 Nelson Tift commissioned Horace King to build this bridge in Albany across the Flint River. Actually, the bridge was first built for a project in Mississippi but they ran out of money so Tift had King bring it to Albany. Originally, the covered bridge was tolled (hince the bridge house), but due to the high volume of complaints from the citizens, in 1887 Tift sold the bridge to Dougherty County. The bridge was destroyed in 1897 when the Flint overflowed its banks during a flood. The photo below was taken in 1892.

1892 photo of the covered bridge
1892 photo of the covered bridge

Ok, so that explains that. Now, it was at that moment that I recalled another photo I ran across on the internet, and as luck would have it, saved because I wanted to give it a look in person…

Photo of the bridge's footings that can still be seen
Photo of the bridge’s footings that can still be seen

And there you have it, whats left of the covered bridge. I believe I might be a bit obsessed with this town’s history at the moment, but it’s just too cool being able to piece things together and, unfortunately, possess knowledge most care too little about. I’m definitely going to check this out in person and also look into the farthest bridge in the map.