Brief History of the City of Fayetteville

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Faye Gil

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City of Fayetteville History

Brief History of the City of Fayetteville

by: John W. Lynch

Fayetteville, Georgia was established on March 28, 1823. This site was decided upon when the first grand jury chose land lot 123 of the 5th district. This designated property then became the county seat of Fayette County, which had been created in 1821. Later that year the state legislature enacted a law that incorporated Fayetteville as a town. Both Fayetteville and Fayette County are named for the Marquis De Lafayette, a French nobleman who aided Washington during the Revolutionary War. [1]The land for the town was purchased from Mr. James M. Post for $800. Mr. Larkin Bell laid out the town lots, and lot #20 was the first to be sold. It is now a parking lot across from the northeast corner of the courthouse. [2]It sold for $20 in 1823. A jail was built in 1824 and construction on the courthouse began in 1825 and finished in 1831. Soon after, several residences and businesses sprang up around the courthouse square. Lots were also set aside for churches and a cemetery.

The courthouse square looked quite different during that time. [3]There were only five roads accessing the courthouse: the Zebulon Road (now Lee Street), McDonough Road (South Jeff Davis), Decatur Road (Hwy 54 east), Carrollton Road (Hwy 85/92 north), and Newnan Road (Stonewall Ave.). The courthouse building did not have a clock tower and faced south toward Milledgeville, the state capital. There was a zigzag rail fence around the grounds that was utilized to secure horses and horse drawn buggies and wagons. Watering troughs were found on all four sides. One of the town wells was located on the south lawn, just to the left of the dirt path that led up to the front steps. There was another well and spring across the street (Glynn Street) from the courthouse. The muster grounds for the local militia company were a block northeast of the courthouse.

[4]In 1831 there was a terrible fire in Fayetteville that originated in the workshop of Mr. Matlen. It is not known how many structures the fire destroyed, but the incident was written up in the Macon papers with a heading that began “poor little Fayetteville” hit with a devastating fire. The town soon recovered from the disaster.

In 1849 the town of Fayetteville was described as a [5]“pretty town” with a [6]“neat” two-story brick courthouse (George White, 244-245). The town was marked with other structures including a wooden jail, two schools, three stores, five groceries, and several mechanic shops. There was a Masonic Lodge, one printing shop, and a division of the Sons of Temperance, which most likely used one of the churches for its meetings. Samuel Wright Minor is believed to have been the operator of the print shop. These structures, along with several residences dotted the town at widely spaced intervals allowing ground for gardens, outbuildings, and a few servants’ quarters.

Fayetteville grew considerably from the time it became incorporated up until 1860. Across from the front of the courthouse were the homes and businesses of the Blalock family (The census of 1860 listed a business called “Blalock and Hewell”). Just behind these buildings stood the Blalock mule barn, which sat where the Historical Society is currently located. The Fayetteville Academy or Seminary, built in 1857, was just south of that on the ground now occupied by City Hall. The Masonic Lodge (Mt. Moriah #57) sat just opposite the southwest corner of the courthouse. Town Square Jewelers currently occupies that site.

The street opposite the west side of the courthouse was allegedly occupied by a couple of businesses owned by the Holliday’s and Bennett’s. [7]The business of Holliday and Ware was the largest mercantile establishment in town in 1860. The post office and a tavern were believed to have sat on this block also. The wooden jail sat north across from the courthouse, and just a block east of here was the impressive two-story home of Mial M. Tidwell, who was a well-known attorney in town. This home later became the Burks Hotel. The striking two-story Greek revival home of the Holliday family established in 1855, sat west of the courthouse. There were several other homes of prominence that faced on either side of Newnan Street (Stonewall). [8]Fayetteville did not have a bank at this time – those who had money traveled to Macon and Milledgeville to open accounts.

Just two blocks east of the front side of the courthouse sat the Methodist Church. The Baptist Church was just across the street (circa 1859). A wheelwright shop owned by Richmond Dorman, Justice of the Peace, sat nearby. W.W. Bosworth owned a saloon in town and Almond Stratton owned a hotel. Other merchants were J.J. Atkinson, J.L. Blalock, A.J. Hayes, A.J. Henderson, and Lewis Luck. Family names of some of hte citizens in town during the 1850s and ’60s were Holliday, Avery, Bennett, Huie, Dorman, Clark, Fitzgerald, Looney, Bosworth, Camp, Braswell, Graham, Graves, McBride, Nash, Pool, Wooten, Tidwell, Stanfield, Guice, Cabin and Tarpley.

One of the most tumultuous events to happen in Fayetteville took place in the early morning hours of July 29, 1864. On this date a large force of Union cavalry under the command of General Edward M. McCook occupied the town and proceeded to loot homes, harass civiliams, steal valuables, and vandalize private property. Several Confederate prisoners were taken from homes in the town and forced to ride with the invaders. The courthouse was taken over by the cavalry and chests of money were taken from within and strewn on the road as a joke. Four barrels of whiskey, twenty boxes of tobacco, three thousand sacks of unknown contents, and the mail from the post office were also destroyed. Lawyer Tidwell, who devised a tactic to divert the troops’ attention from the structure, by all accounts, saved the courthouse from the torch.

After recovering from the war and reconstruction, Fayetteville again began to grow and prosper. 1888 was a significant time in Fayetteville’s history. That was the year that the railroad, which ran from Atlanta to Fort Valley via Fayetteville began operation. [9]Fayetteville was also incorporated as a city by the state legislature and the city limits were extended in a one-half mile radius from the courthouse. A clock tower was added to the courthouse in 1888 as well. [10]The first mayor elected in 1889 was Captain William P. Redwine (former Confederate officer) with S. D. Dorsey, J. W. Graham, T. F. Garrison, S. A. Burks, and M. E. Hill serving as the first councilmen.

Another traumatic event occurred in Fayetteville on the evening of January 5, 1892 about six o’clock in the evening. A terrible tornado or “cyclone” struck the town of Fayetteville just as many had sat down for dinner. The storm killed 3 people and injured many more as its raging force destroyed numerous residences, outbuildings and structures including the academy, as well as killing abundant livestock. The event was written about as far away as Savannah.

Most of the store buildings that exist today around the courthouse square were built in the late 1890s and early 1900s. [11]The first bank in the county was Farmers and Merchants that opened in 1898 and was owned by the Blalocks. The first telephones appeared in 1900, as did the first gas lamps. The first residence to have a telephone was that of A. O. Blalock. One of the more unusual jobs at that time was a position that was known as the “lamplighter”. This was a city-funded job whose duties included traveling around town at dusk to light all of the lamps. [12]In 1911 the city limits were extended to three-fourths of a mile radius from courthouse. Electricity lit up Fayetteville in the 1920s. In 1926 the Baptist congregation built a new brick church. The first public water system was installed with a 60,000-gallon tank above the city well, which was located approximately where the Holiday Inn Express sits now. In 1934 a new brick high school was built and in 1937 a new Methodist church was erected.

Many businesses have come and gone since Fayetteville was established but one family seems to have flourished and prospered over the years. At any given time from the 1920s to the 1970s the Redwines owned the bank, a cotton gin, lumber mill, a mercantile store, funeral home, Standard Oil franchise, and a Ford dealership – all in Fayetteville.

The first paved road was formed in approximately 1938 stretching from Hwy 54 at the courthouse to Jonesboro. Around 1940/41 the paving of the highway was extended to Newnan. No other roads in either Fayetteville or Fayette County were paved until after World War II. In 1939 the railroad ceased to run through town and the tracks were lifted. In 1953 the water system was upgraded with the construction of a new water plant on Gingercake Creek just northwest of the city. Sidewalks appeared in town in the early 1950s and a new fifty million gallon reservoir was constructed in the late ‘50s. A sewer system was installed in the early 1960s.

There have been several fires of significance over the years – the Burks Hotel burned in 1907, the Fayette County High Schools (two different locations) burned in 1937 and 1954, (the latter fire resulted in the city purchasing a new fire truck in June of 1954), the courthouse fire of 1982, and the Fayette County News building in 2002. Among the more severe storms to hit Fayetteville were the blizzards of 1917 and 1993, tornado in 1891, ice storm in 1973, and the flood of 1994.

In the 1950s the business district almost completely surrounded the courthouse square, with a row of other stores on Hwy 54 (Lanier Ave.) near the intersection of Railroad Street (now Jeff Davis). A few businesses, mostly service stations, were scattered a few blocks from the downtown area. In the 1950s and early 1960s it was customary for the business section of town to close on Wednesdays. This was due to the fact that they were open on Saturdays. Among the businesses around the square were a walk-in movie theater, a jeweler, grocery stores, bank, pharmacy, clothing store, variety store, restaurant, post office, tire store, furniture store, barbershop, and hardware store. The courthouse was the hub of the town and almost all county business was conducted here.

City Hall was a small building that sat just northeast of the courthouse where the Holiday Inn Express driveway is today. Later it moved to the Clarence River’s home place on Lanier Ave. East. Today it occupies the old grammar school building on Glynn Street. The population of Fayetteville in 1950 was 1032. In the late ‘50s a number of streets were changed from “two way” to “one way”, resulting in a change of driving habits for many citizens. Around this time the city limits were extended to a radius of one mile from the courthouse. In the early ‘60s the city council renamed many of the city’s streets to honor Confederate heroes and other notable southerners. By 1960 the population had increased to approximately 1400.

In the 1970s more and more business began to appear outward from the center of town especially on North Glynn Street (Hwy 85 north). The population also increased with that growth and stood at 2,160 in 1970. In recent years, downtown business traffic has waned a bit as newer, larger and more fashionable stores and shops opened in the “new” business district. At present there is an effort underway by the Main Street program to revitalize the downtown area. The city limits have been extended far beyond the courthouse and the city business district now runs from a couple of miles south of the courthouse to almost three miles north for a total of about 5 miles of business area. There are now seven schools in Fayetteville, an outdoor shopping center (the Pavilion), the Villages Amphitheater, a new courthouse and law enforcement complex, specialty shops of all descriptions, the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, and a rapidly developing south side, all which make Fayetteville a thriving and emerging metropolis. *At present the population of Fayetteville is 13,912.

*Data recorded as of September 15, 2004.

*Document published to site November 2004.

[1] “The History of Fayette County 1821-1971,” ed. Carolyn Cary, (Fayetteville: Fayette County Historical Society, 1977), 16.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 19.

[4] Ibid.

[5] George White, “Statistics for the State of Georgia,” ed. W. Thorne Williams, (Savannah: 1849), 244-245.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “The History of Fayette County 1821-1971,” ed. Carolyn Cary, (Fayetteville: Fayette County Historical Society, 1977), 43.

[8] Frances Reeves, “Short History of Fayette County 1821-1977,” (Fayetteville: 1977). 5.

[9] “The History of Fayette County 1821-1971,” ed. Carolyn Cary, (Fayetteville: Fayette County Historical Society, 1977). 29.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Frances Reeves, “Short History of Fayette County 1821-1977,” (Fayetteville: 1977). 7.

[12] “The History of Fayette County 1821-1971,” ed. Carolyn Cary, (Fayetteville: Fayette County Historical Society, 1977).

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