THE HOUSE ON

THE HILL

         

 

          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.