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:


The Elkmont Wonderland Club

With our honeymoon approaching, Lowry and I were trying to plan stuff for us to do in Gatlinburg, TN. Lowry had seen an article about an abandoned town in the Smokies called Elkmont. On our last day in Gatlinburg we set out to find it. There is quite a bit of information on the web ever since Jordan Liles’s video [here] went viral, so figuring out how to find it was a simple Google search. Quite a few other media companies picked up on his story, passed it around a bit so that others have been able to add their own information to it. Here’s my contribution.

Some History:
The first permanent settlers appeared around the 1840’s and settled along Jake’s Creek. Only 2 of those cabins remain today, Avent cabin and Levi Trentham cabin (these have been preserved). By the 1880’s John English, a logger, began his industry in the area. Due to flooding, English folded the company in 1900, but in 1901 Colonel Wilson Townsend picked up the endeavor. Elkmont began as a temporary logging camp, and resembled a depression-era shanty town. It had a transient hotel, post office, a commissary, maintenance sheds, and shacks. Thus Elkmont started as the base of operations for the Little River Lumber Company in 1908. By 1910 the company began selling plots of land to people from Knoxville who enjoyed the mountainous areas (they then started the Appalachian Club just a bit south of Elkmont). In 1911, Townsend gave Charles Carter several acres of land on a hill overlooking Elkmont with the stipulation that Carter build on it within one year. In 1912, Carter made good on the promise when he opened the Wonderland Hotel. Billed as a resort lodge, the hotel contained 50 rooms with an extensive balcony looking out over the valley and Meigs Mountain. Soon, the area evolved into a private getaway for Knoxville’s elite. By 1919, several people who had been rejected into joining the Appalachian Club and getaway bought the Wonderland Hotel and started the Wonderland Club, erecting cottages along the way. In 1920 the idea floated up about making the area into a National Park. Little River Logging Company concluded business in the Elkmont area in 1925. Fearing a lawsuit from the residents in Elkmont, Wilson Townsend, in the secret dark of night, removed the railroad tracks leading to Elkmont. The residents were outraged, but Tennessee Governor Austin Peay, who owned a cottage here as well, had a road built where the railroad was. In 1926, Colonel Wilson Townsend sold 76,000 acres of land to the state of Tennessee making the first sale towards it becoming a National Park. In 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed – the first in the United States, and most of the cottage owners at Elkmont were given lifetime leases. When the last person in the structure would pass away, the lease would transfer to the federal government. In 1952, the leases were converted into 20-year terms, renewed in 1972. But in 1992, the National Park Service refused to renew the lease, and under the park’s General Management Plan, the cottages and hotel would be demolished. In 1982, the General Management Plan called for the demolition of all the propeties, to allow nature to take over. In 1994, special status was given to the Wonderland Hotel and a few of the cottages and they were listed under the National Register of Historic Places. In 2005, the Wonderland Hotel collapsed from a structural failure. Parts of the hotel deemed to have historical value were removed and the rest cleared, leaving only the annex and a chimney fall. In its 2009 Final Environmental Impact Statement for Elkmont, the National Park Service announced plans to restore the Appalachian Clubhouse and eighteen cabins in the Appalachian Club section. The remaining structures will be carefully documented and removed

Make sure to check my source links below for older pictures of when the club was in use as well as a personal account of one of it’s visitors.


The Abandoned Cabins of The Elkmont Region of The Great Smokey Mountain – AbandonedPlaygrounds.com
Wonderland Hotel – DMarlin.com
Wonderland Hotel – OffBeatTenn.com
Beginning of Our Love Affair With Smoky – ToBeholdTheBeauty-al.BlogSpot.com

Alum Cave

The first section of the Alum Cave Trail, up to Arch Rock, traverses over a fairly gentle grade. Hikers will follow Alum Cave Creek over the course of the first mile. Just before reaching Arch Rock, however, the trail begins following the Styx Branch.

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.)