Monroe has always had its share of beautiful homes.
Some are quaint, some majestic and others have a plain basic charm which
has found endearments for many. Sadly,
some of the grand old homes I can remember from early childhood are long gone
and now only vaguely recalled by some of Monroe’s “old guard”.
I can remember five houses which caught my young eye and wondered how the
inside looked, what sort of furniture those big rooms contained, if there were
any “secret” rooms in the attics or basements and wondered if, nestled
behind the walls and rafters, were they any old relics of the way forgotten past
in the form of letters, newspapers or perhaps some artifacts of several
generations before. Old houses with
a history have always been of interest to me.
But one in particular has long captured my fancy.
For 183 years, this particular house has been a showplace in Monroe,
silently keeping its stately vigil of McDaniel Street and beyond from a hill
which commanded an early view of part of the vast real estate holdings the
former owners once had. Over the years it has had many names but one in
particular, “The Hill” has remained most popular. This antebellum
architecture with its lofty white columns and wide, inviting veranda, adds an
almost dreamy, story-book quality to its dignified structure. This building was
already sheltering its first family when Atlanta was founded. The house and
property were connected to some of Monroe’s earliest settlers whose relatives
still live in Monroe. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and
historic houses in town. From early age I knew it as the
“Briscoe-Selman-Pollock house” until it was sold outside the family. The
history of the house is as interesting as the families who built and lived in
this house from the earliest beginnings.
Waters Briscoe was one of Walton County’s pioneer settlers and was the
son of Truman and Catherine Dunn Briscoe. He was a first honor graduate of one
of the earliest classes of Franklin College, now the University of Georgia. Upon
his graduation, he married his sweetheart, Martha Wellborn, daughter of Elias
and Mary Marshall Wellborn. Her
grandfather was the Rev. Daniel Marshall who, in the Spring of 1772, established
the first Baptist church in the
state of Georgia at Kiokee Creek, 20 miles from Augusta.
Soon after their marriage Waters and Martha began work on what then was a
five-room, two story Federal-style house with a two story porch spanning its
width. This house was home to the Waters, Martha and their three children, Henry
Lucillus, Walter Elias and Mary Virginia. Mary Virginia was born in Monroe in
1827 and later became the wife of George Cowan Selman.
Upon the deaths of Waters and Martha Briscoe, George Selman bought his
father-in-laws interest in the house and surrounding property and the house
became known as the “Selman House”. As
George and Mary’s family grew in size over the years, so did the house until
it reached its present size of 15 rooms. The
columned front porch was one of their additions.
George C. Selman was born on July 1825 to John W. and Sara Cowan.
George’s father was one of seven brothers, all who saw service in the
Revolutionary War. Colonel &
Mrs. Selman are buried at Bethel Baptist Cemetery in Good Hope where he gave the
land on which the church was built in 1825.
George Selman became one of Monroe’s most influential and successful
businessmen after working prestigious jobs in New York and Atlanta. Upon his
return to Monroe, there were no banks in Walton County at that time so he
assisted farmers and other business friends by loaning them money.
At one point in his life George Selman owned 6,000 acres of land in
Walton County. It has been said that one could travel five miles west without
leaving the Selman property. He was
one of the founders and first president of the National Bank of Monroe among his
many civic endeavors. He was one of
two men who, by his financial backing, made possible the establishment of the
Monroe Cotton Mills which was began operation in 1896.
George Selman’s strenuous and busy life took its toll on his health and
he became ill in the summer of 1896. After many hospital stays and a continuing
decline he died at his beloved ante-bellum home on September 24, 1899.
One of George’s daughters, Eva, who, in 1895, married Dr. Pickney
Daniel Pollock, an English professor at Mercer University, who went on to become
president of the university in 1897. They
were parents to one son, Daniel Marshall Pollock.
When Dr. Pollock died in July 1905, Eva Pollock returned to the family
home place where she and her sisters lived the remainder of their lives.
When Miss Eva became frail and in poor health, Marshall Pollock and his
family moved from their home on Walton Street to “The Hill” where they cared
for his mother until her death in July of 1962.
Marshall and his wife, Florence, continued to live in the historic home
until their deaths.
Many people in Monroe, upon seeing the house high on the hill, often
speculated what the rooms looked like and what sort of treasures the house held.
In December of 1971, Florence Pollock opened the double front doors of her home
for the Christmas Tour of Homes. The beautiful old home was dressed in its
finest grandeur as friends, family and Monroe citizens got a first-hand view of
life from another era with the family portraits, antique Christmas decorations
and priceless antiques & relics from a by-gone time framed in various rooms
by fresh cedar Christmas trees.
With the death of Florence Pollock, the family home was left to her three
daughters who continued to care and look after the house and grounds until it
was sold in 1977 to Art and Angela Williams. The property included the main
house, seven acres and two buildings, one which was a smoke house and the other
which could have been either a plantation office or living quarters for servants
or family back in the late 1800’s.
Art and Angela Williams spent several years restoring the house and
grounds to what it possibly looked like in its heyday. During the month of
December, the house is resplendent with the many fresh wreaths in the windows
and on the doors adorned with red bows along with garlands of greenery draping
from the upper balcony welcoming friends and family. A manger scene on the front
lawn completes the outside decorations. Many
people drive down McDaniel Street during the season and when they look up at the
house on the hill try to imagine the home in its prime when horse & buggy
would bring family and friends to the front doors and welcomed inside as was the
custom of “Southern Hospitality”. “The
Hill” is one of Monroe’s true landmarks and its historic value, not only the
house but the families who created what we see today speaks volumes of a true
love of history, not only in architecture but history of family as well.