A LOOK AT MONROE IN 1873

 

 

        The interest and appreciation I have for my hometown dates back to the early fifties when I first came in contact with old issues of The Walton Tribune at the Monroe Library where my Great Aunt Ruby was librarian. On the days when I would stay with Ruby after school, if there were patrons in the library or if there was gossip being shared, I was relegated to the back room where old issues of the Tribune along with other newspapers and magazines resided.

 On one particular instance when my mother was involved in some serious gossip with Ruby in the main room, I came through the door from the back dragging a chocolate-smeared issue of the Tribune behind me, asking where various houses were located along with inquiring as to some of the old Monroe names I was not familiar with.

My mother took a “Bette Davis” puff of her cigarette and, adding to the smoke already in the room, laughed as she said, “Honey, you were just born forty years too late!”

It seems I was not alone in wanting to know how our early forebear’s lived in the early years of our community’s beginnings. In 1873 when he was 14 years old, W. Stokes Walker began penning observations about daily life in our fledgling town compiling a journal which chronicled the

“who, what, when and where” detailing life as it was known 145 years ago.

Back in 1935 Mr. Walker, who by then was a Baptist minister, passed along to his good friend Ernest Camp, the recollections from his childhood which Mr. Camp shared with the Tribune readers.

Those journal entries turned into six columns which will be presented in their entirety over the next few months and the declarations and observations will surprise, amuse and delight the readers today showing how small yet strong our town was back then and the determination the citizens had in continuing to create a city which has endured now for almost 200 years.

Rev. Walker stated: “Sixty-two years ago when I was 14 years of age, Monroe had six hundred inhabitants, living mostly in plain homes on Broad Street.

The court house has been moved from Cowpens by a vote of four majority, and the one erected was a small two

Beginning at East Alley along Church Street and along the Social Circle road there were only three or four houses for several miles in each direction.  A big event was the setting up of a sawmill back of the stores.  The whistle at noon called all the weary laborers to their dinner.

In those early days meat sold for five and six cents, flour for three or four dollars a barrel for two hundred pounds, cotton for seven cents and land for eight dollars an acre.

People trusted each other.  Every man tried to be a good neighbor and to win the respect of others. Women spun thread, weaved their cloth and made their own garments.

Brogan shoes, properly greased, were good enough for Sunday.  Much of the cooking was done in the big open fireplaces. There were no organs in the churches. Mothers made candles of tallow to light up their homes.  People traveled by walking, riding horseback, in wagons, or in open buggies, sheltered by a big stationary umbrella.

There was a public well on Broad Street in front of the court house. Thomas Giles, ordinary, fifty-two years ago, built the court house we now have for $30,000 cash, nobody knowing he had that much money.

Merchants sold largely on credit from January until fall on reasonable security.

Funeral processions usually walked through town, the pallbearers bearing the casket in their hands.  Coffins were made here and graves were dug by groups of friends.

Buggies, wagons, wheat cradles, chairs, beds, tables, harnesses and many other useful things were made in town by Sorney Snow, Jack Snow, Captain Pendergrass, Rufus Hughes, John Wayne, Billie Wayne, Lawrence Mitchell, Jasper Turner and others.

A brick tannery was built and used by my grandfather near the spring west of town. The brick for our first stores were made near our cotton mills by two brothers, Joe and Jim Baker.

Where Broad and Alcovy Streets come together one of our schools was located, a one-room frame building in a grove of large chestnut trees, where the writer of these lines, at six years of age, learned his first lessons in the Blueback Speller, and carried in his arms flint rocks for the play house the girls were making in the shade of the trees.

Those were happy days. The boy next to me as we stood before our lady teacher, was Frank Nowell, a desk-mate and golden-hearted friend through life.  The Johnston Institute was a much larger frame building, located in the grove east of the present Tichenor home for for over twenty years a famous school was taught by Professor Andrew Burruss, assisted by his brother and others who drew patronage from Walton, Morgan and Oconee counties.

The Methodist church was where the railroad reaches its highest grade before leaving town towards the north, and the Baptist church stood where it stands now.  Both houses were one-room buildings.  Both the churches were well patronized and nearly everybody attended each church.  Hymns were given out by the pastor, two lines at a time.

Uncle Sorney Snow would raise a tune without an organ, followed by a volume of harmony such as the angels and the redeemed saints made when ‘they played their harps of gold and sang the song of Moses and the lamb beside the sea of glass’ as recorded in Revelation.

It will be fine to hear those voices again and someday some of us will hear them.  Tears of joy often flowed down the face of the preacher and the faces of those who heard him and penitent sinners would kneel for prayer at the front seat.”

Another chapter from Rev. Walker’s journal will continue next month.

A bit of background history on Rev. Walker: William Stokes Walker was born March 29, 1859, the fourth son of Dickerson H. and Mary Neel Walker.  He attended the Monroe schools and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1877.  He entered Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he studied for three years.  On his  23rd birthday he requested to serve as a Baptist missionary to China and landed there on February 24, 1882.  On

A bit of background history on Rev. Walker: William Stokes Walker was born March 29, 1859, the fourth son of Dickerson H. and Mary Neel Walker.  He attended the Monroe schools and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1877.  He entered Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he studied for three years.  On his  23rd birthday he requested to serve as a Baptist missionary to China and landed there on February 24, 1882.  On September 19, 1883, he married Lillian Mateer, a young Presbyterian missionary in China.  After two years he became ill and returned to Monroe where he served as pastor at the Baptist Church and other country churches in northeast Georgia. After the death of his wife, Rev. Walker married two more times and his third wife was Maggie Carswell.  In 1923 Rev. & Mrs. Walker moved to Largo, Florida where he continued to serve as pastor for several years.  He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from the University of Georgia in 1927.  He died on May 5, 1949 and is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery.