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Monday, December 14, 2015

140 Christmases . . . and Counting!

Photo by permission of Georgia Archives--Vanishing Georgia Collection 
Christmas began with the greatest miracle of all, Immanuel, "God with us," and everything those words signify. Since that long ago time, unexpected and unmerited wonders happen regularly. Some miracles are certainly more important than others, but don't discount the less obvious but awe-inspiring elements scattered throughout the background of your world.

One quiet marvel is practically in your backyard--the Dean house--which has been a part of Woodstock for 140 Christmases. Built in 1875, the brick home on Main Street across from City Chambers is often overlooked as hundreds of vehicles drive by it every day. The Dean house is the oldest remaining home in Woodstock and, maybe, for a half dozen miles around. The charming abode has withstood Reconstruction-era taxation, nearby fires, the fall of the cotton market, the Great Depression, area windstorms, the 2009 flood, and modern-day development.

For this article, I've digitally retouched the photo, formerly scratched and spotted. The Vanishing Georgia website enables you to study their collection through a digital feature designed to enlarge an image. I uncovered a few aspects not easily seen in the 5 by 7 tintype. I'm guessing this post-Civil War photo was taken in autumn. Mature leaves hold onto the trees, but the man in the foreground, grasping a sapling, is dressed for cool weather. He wears a nice hat and frock coat. He is dark skinned, and so are the two little girls on the front porch who hold what appear to be dolls. The highlighted fellow must have been important to the family to be so prominently situated. At the time, Woodstock was beginning a period of prosperity as a cotton trade center. A white woman sits in a rocker, and a young boy in overalls, perhaps her son, gazes from his chair beside her. An older lad is perched on the porch rail. Two horsemen, to the right, pose on their horses--the taller male is possibly the homeowner and the other rider, perhaps another son. Oh how I wish we knew the circumstances of this photo reflecting a time when Main Street offered only dirt to travel on.

A view of the Dean house December 2015
The first owner of this home, G.A. Merritt, a retired doctor-turned-farmer, sold the home to Dr. W.L. Dean who moved in with his bride in 1884. The beloved physician tended the sick and the dying within the Woodstock locale and farther, traveling to those who needed him. In 1906, illness claimed the doctor's life. His wife was left with six children to support. The oldest son, Linton, took up the responsibility. He turned the family's new but suddenly-defunct drugstore into a successful general store that sold necessary household items and patent medicines. Disaster averted. Another wonder to ponder happily.

Woodstock is a wonderful place at Christmastime. Area churches go all out, putting on nativity plays and creating inspiring music. This year, Thrive Chapel provided a temporary rink for ice skating, Shops and eateries decorate befitting the season.

I can't leave you and this post without sharing views of Woodstock waiting for another Christmas to arrive. Wishing you all things merry and bright!
Our trees may have lost their leaves but we have decorations to distract us.

Christine's Creations is always available to help us get ready for the season.

Ivy Manor adds cheer to Main Street.

Now that's a wreath!!

Believe it or not, this year Woodstock is ornamented with December roses. God's grace is never-ending.

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock.
She is author of the contemporary Woodstock novel series: The Heart of a Child 
                                                                                                   The Power of Her Smile

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Carrying On a Tradition

The organization Preservation Woodstock has a mission to preserve the past and, an equally important goal, to retain the traditions of our city. One favorite tradition of Preservation Woodstock is the annual Christmas parade with Santa in attendance. Another cherished custom is the yearly visit by Woodstock Elementary students to the oldest store in town--1906 Dean's Store--still intact, and now functioning as the Visitors Center.

Woodstock Christmas Parade

Preservation Woodstock member, Juanita Hughes, talks with school children visiting 1906 Dean's Store

Recently, Preservation Woodstock has re-engaged in another tradition--our city mural. Hopefully, you, too, will participate. Explanation regarding that will come later. The first such mural, highlighting Woodstock history, will pass away with road expansion. Exactly when isn't certain, however, Woodstock is already preparing. With the help of the Downtown Development Authority, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Katie Coulborn, Long-range Planner for our city, we will have a new, outdoor painting installed because Woodstock isn't Woodstock without a beloved mural.
Katie Coulborn Long-range Planner for the city and Brian Stockton of DDA discussing plans for the new mural.
Some of the stakeholders at the initial committee meeting in November.
Christopher Brazelton, Melissa Casteel, and Jason Scheidt

How many times have you traveled in your car from somewhere and arrived in Woodstock, your home, tired and hungry-grumpy, and you were stopped near the mural? As you waited for the red light to change, did your sight drift to that colorful pictorial on the wall? Were you transported to the past by those old-timey scenes? I bet your fatigue and hunger faded. Perhaps, you wondered at the struggles and triumphs portrayed. Maybe the former townsfolk up there, painted from photos, left you inspired by their achievements. Could be, your imagination took over and you began to spin a little story in your head. . . . Oops!! Green light. Get your car moving.
On a recent rainy afternoon, stopped at the traffic light, drivers are captivated by our Woodstock tradition, a mural.

Now that our first mural is slated to be gone, what should happily fall into our lap, making a new mural possible? Funding, guidance and support, thanks to the Atlanta Regional Commission. The group sponsored a grant competition. . . . Can you believe it? Our city is one of only four winners, among many worthy entrants!

So what will the new mural be like? It will not be a copy of the current one, but a new rendition, something that speaks to us now. As Woodstock population grows, so does her vision and her future. Yes, because of you! And how relevant. The ARC theme for the mural is about the ample opportunities available for each of us to participate in our community and make history. . . . People are the greatest asset of any place. So be watching and listening. A public gathering is on the calendar for January 26, 2016. We want your input on this mural. Your opinions will be valued. Naturally. Woodstock citizen involvement is another great tradition worth keeping alive.
A blank canvas--the south wall of Woodstock Pharmacy and site of the new Woodstock mural.

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock, and she is author of the contemporary, inspirational Woodstock novels:  The Heart of a Child and The Power of Her Smile

Monday, October 26, 2015

Woodstock Cotton and a Bad Bug

October makes me think of cotton harvest time. If there were a beauty pageant for botanical specimens, the cotton plant would win without a doubt. Cotton, the agricultural resource responsible for many of the clothes on our backs is the end product of lovely, pink-tinged, white blossoms. These flowers transform into spherical, luminous, green pods called bolls, which mature and open. The comely result is fluff--soft, white clouds that can rest in your hand.

Muddy Main Street in Woodstock and farmers bringing their cotton to town.
After slave emancipation, cotton cultivation actually increased in Woodstock, which became a trade center for the crop. Cotton grew well and proved profitable.  Once the railroad cut through in 1879, giant bales weighing around 500 pounds could be transported easily over greater distances. So in early Woodstock, cotton was the talk of the town. Imagine farmers and businessmen milling about Dean's Store, chewing tobacco and discussing cotton prices.
J.H. Johnston, cotton merchant, inspects cotton before determining a value.
The cotton gin was situated where Serenade subdivision stands today. Farmers with wagon loads of cotton paused in one long line down Main Street, waiting their turn. Local cotton merchants evaluated the cotton, and the bales were stored in warehouses before shipment to textile factories. Meanwhile, at the Rope Mill on Little River, savvy Woodstock business men turned low-grade cotton into strong plow lines and well rope. 

With the 1920s, several problems occurred: the effects of poor crop rotation, foreign competition, and a strange bug known as the boll weevil. The insect entered the U.S. through Mexico. From Texas, the devastation spread swiftly. Workers scrambled to pluck boll weevils at a penny per weevil. Although the boll weevil can fly, I like to imagine that the shrewd little insects hitched rides in boxcars traveling throughout the South but that is giving a mere exoskeleton with a trivial brain way too much credit.

The boll weevil is one ugly bug. dull-colored and round-bodied, the insect has a long, skinny snout like a blunt hypodermic needle with chewing mouth parts at the end Two weird little antennae and six hinged legs complete the picture. That pointy snout gnaws a small opening into the cotton boll where eggs are laid. Hatching larvae, safely protected within, feast on the cotton fibers. Emerging pupae become gorging adults. The resulting mess is anything but attractive. With the advent of the boll weevil science began a long battle, and the livelihood of many in and around Woodstock tumbled.

Blessed with innovative minds, Woodstock has economically reinvented itself several times over the decades, and the city continues to have a strong and prosperous future.

Visit the newly-installed kiosk put up by Woodstock Downtown Development Authority. Preservation Woodstock, Inc., contributed a poster about the historic cotton period in our town.
Main Street in Woodstock Georgia
Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock and she is author of the contemporary Woodstock fiction series: The Heart of a Child and The Power of Her Smile

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Back When School Was Different

An early, one-room schoolhouse similar to the type that housed Woodstock children in the 1800s.

School starts soon in Woodstock. The children will enter modern, spacious, air-conditioned structures, hardly realizing how different school was in olden times when crude schoolhouses, short on comfort, once dotted this area.

An example of a typical interior in an 1800s schoolroom. Educational tools were rare.

A BRIEF FICTION - I like to imagine life in old Woodstock:  It's early September. Picture circa 1900 scenery and a twelve-year-old school boy, a good kid who hopes for a future that will not include the family plow. In a rough-siding schoolhouse, he sits at a worn desk. A wasp flies in the open window and departs again. The sawing undercurrent of cicadas, outside, make it hard to do figuring on a piece of slate. Midday heat filling the drab room puts a damp sheen on his skin, and he longs for his summer swimming hole. 

He looks up from his work, intrigued once again, by his classmate and her two long braids: their complex weaving, a clean, soapy smell coming from them and their perfection--not one hair is out of place. The braids of his sisters have never drawn the least of his attention. Using odd logic, he carefully lifts one soft braid and dips the point into the black slurry of the inkwell assigned to him. Infatuation has caused him to seek attention from her of any kind. How do I know? He is willing to suffer the unavoidable retribution coming his way--from the teacher, his mother and father, the girl's parents, and his pastor, too. Worse yet, he might be launched from the schoolhouse doorstep to land on his rump in the yard. Once in the cover of the woods, the banished boy would shed copious tears, afraid of a future without knowledge. Students of the past comprehended the worth of an education.

Woodstock's first brick schoolhouse. In 1908 it served as a public school. The structure burned in 1939. The previous school, Woodstock Academy (est. 1880), probably a simple, frame building, was situated behind old Woodstock Baptist. The hill in the photo became the site of Woodstock Elementary in 1940.

OBSTACLES TO AN EDUCATION - Before public education came about, parents sacrificed to save the required tuition that could lead to a future with options beside the few available in an agricultural town like Woodstock. Even after public education began, learning was out of reach for some.  In families where misfortune dominated, the children gave up schooling and hunted for menial employment. The 1910 census for our area reveals that an eight-year-old girl and older children worked at the rope mill, a practice similar to many mills of the time. 

Upper-level students at Woodstock School.

SCHOOL APPRECIATION - It's likely that most area students were fond of their schools: Bascomb School established about 1830, Hickory Flat Academy in 1838, Little River Institute before the Civil War and Woodstock Academy in 1880. After the war, schools for black children opened in the county. 

In the minds of children, school attendance had additional benefits beyond learning. The schoolhouse brought friends together daily, an advantage because farm acreage put distance between them. Even better, classroom study provided a rest from chores in an era when leisure time did not exist for many farm kids. Family survival held greatest priority. Agricultural cycles determined the seasons when school was in session. During early times in the Woodstock area, the instructional period spanned three months only, according to the late Glenn Hubbard. He never forgot Bascomb School, a one-room log construction.

Woodstock photo courtesy of Richard Johnston

CLASSROOM DUTIES - The reference book, Woodstock Georgia's : A Centennial Tribute, conveys interesting details about Woodstock School. Built around 1908, it later burned in 1939. A new school, Woodstock Elementary (now Chattahoochee Tech) rose from the same ground a year after the fire. 

Students at the older school brought in wood for the pot-bellied stove and helped light the fire that kept them warm. They also lugged buckets of drinking water from the well across the road. Children did their part to support the school and community. The photo, above, (circa 1920) shows school children assembled at the railroad in town. Building was underway for Woodstock Presbyterian Church (presently Seventh-day Adventist). The train had delivered stacks of bricks. I can picture the principal of Woodstock School (a Baptist minister) leading the entire student body outside, after morning chapel, to haul bricks to the site on Rope Mill Road. In the photo each student, even the smallest, holds a brick.

Woodstock is a wonderful place, a result of area schools past and present. 

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock, Inc., and she is author of the contemporaryWoodstock series:  The Heart of a Child and The Power of Her Smile

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Part Two: 1897 Reeves House--Saving Yesteryear

Even the few farm animals still around here are shouting the news:  A major fund-raiser to transform the Reeves 1897 in-town farmhouse into a cultural arts center has begun!! A few people have said a new structure in its place might be more efficiently constructed for less cost. I say, sometimes it's beneficial to go with the speculative, costly and difficult rather than the feasible, economical, and easy. Once in a while, extravagance of vision and wallet are required. Such times are rare but important. Without that direction our country would be without the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Rushmore. Georgia would be missing Amicalola State Park and Jekyll Island. What would Atlanta be, minus the amazing Fox Theater or the grand and evocative Swan House?

For Woodstock, our town, there must be one point of focus, one symbol that unites the former, struggling agricultural city (pop.300) and the current vibrant community (pop. 26,890). The vintage churches are the lingering spirit of this town, and the Reeves House should be its heart.

The 1897 Reeves farmhouse

When my husband and I moved to Woodstock in 1980, the city was a sleepy, quiet town. Commerce, culture and places of learning were limited to a handful of turn-of-the-20th-century storefronts, a charming red-brick elementary school, a minuscule but busy library and a very few modern-day establishments like the Burger Inn and several gas stations toward two-lane, easy-paced Highway 92. What I noticed most were the interesting old homes spread along Main Street and the immediate area. Until my relocation here, my life had been spent on the periphery of major metropolitan cities in modern suburban developments. So when I drove past those Woodstock abodes of yesteryear I wondered, who had lived there? How did their daily existence unfold? Now, most of those windows into the past are gone, like the sprawling Fowler farmhouse, the cute-as-a-button cottage known as the Hendrix home and the butter-yellow Dobbs house with its gingerbread-style front porch that displayed antique buggies near a small cannon in the yard.

In 1980, townsfolk could still drive by the Fowler farmhouse, sitting on South Main Street near Hwy 92. Shortly after, THE STRUCTURE WAS DEMOLISHED for modern-day commerce. A Sam's Club on the same spot is opening soon.

A picturesque cottage, the Hendrix home sat snuggled under the trees on South Main Street near the railroad. This little bit of hydrangea heaven is NO LONGER HERE.

Spring daffodils in the yard almost went unnoticed in comparison to the sunny-yellow place called the Dobbs house. The first buggy of an antique collection sits on the porch. The lovely house is GONE WITH THE WIND, so to speak.

Woodstock was a community of hardworking men and women tilling the land, plying their trades, raising families and trying to make their way in a hardscrabble world. Let's remember them and their struggle, with a generous outpouring of effort. Who knows? Someday all our farmhouses may be gone. Let's be sure we saved one! Your gift will bring the Reeves house new life as it supports the arts and inspires creative minds, while holding onto the ephemeral past. Put aside some dollars, maybe many, and go to the website link: REVIVETHEREEVES to honor your town.

Knowing yesteryear helps us preserve the past.
Preserving the past leads us to value where we live.
Valuing where we live makes our days rich and inspired.

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock Inc., and she is author of the contemporary Woodstock novel series: The Heart of a Child and The Power of Her Smile

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Enon Cemetery in Spring

You may hear whispers on the wind if you visit Woodstock's 1838 cemetery. You may feel the pull of time. After northwest Georgia opened for settlement, stouthearted people pioneered our locale. They met rugged challenges daily. Uniting in faith, 12 men and women established Enon Baptist Church in 1837. That same year, Andrew Jackson ended his term as president and 18 year-old Victoria became queen of England.

The little church group assembled on donated land, the upper section of the larger site. Today, most of what we know came to light through research done by local historian, Juanita Hughes. The information is compiled in her book, Set Apart--The Baptist Church At Woodstock. It can be assumed that the homesteader's initial meetinghouses were basic and crude, maybe constructed of logs. Later, when a newer structure replaced one of the earliest versions, the old building components sold for $47.23 and the seats for $47.10. How we wish church minutes specified more details! From the outset of the church, graves appeared in the churchyard. Three persons with birth dates that go back to the late 1700s are buried at Enon. Passing years have eroded many markers. The earliest, discernable burial date (1845) is for a 14-year-old boy. How did young George Hughes die? My wild imagination leads me to dreadful possibilities such as cowpox, scarlet fever or, perhaps, a terrible wound caused by the sharp horn of an ox that may have pulled the Hughes wagon many miles to their new home in northwest Georgia.

The settlement of Woodstock grew. In 1871, the multiplying congregation built a sturdy, white clapboard building at the Enon site. In 1879, the railroad came to town. The church building was relocated to an in-town spot and became First Baptist Woodstock. Back up the road, the burial ground expanded thanks to land gifts from Jacob Haney, a Methodist man. Hymns no longer floated above the graves, but those memorials retained an aura of anticipation of rising again.

Amanda Edwards with baby daughter and one of her sons.

Enon Cemetery contains tales of optimism and perseverance. Dr. W.H. Dean, born in 1824, graduated from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta. He arrived in Cherokee County where he served as a Woodstock area doctor and, sometimes, as Enon's pastor. A  non-commissioned surgeon in the Civil War, he returned and gave thanks that his home remained intact. Amanda Edwards, known for her grit, rests at Enon. She lost her young husband to disease and then almost lost her little son who fell down a well, but her life did a turnaround. She married a well-respected man from Woodstock, John Edwards. John had lost his right arm in the battle for Atlanta but learned to write with his left hand to gain employment. He is beside Amanda at Enon. African-American Magnolia Thomas, a Spelman graduate, earned the admiration of everyone as she worked diligently to educate the black children in the community of the 1920s. The sun shines brightly on her grave. These are just a few of the interesting people buried at Enon.

In early spring, morning sun rays wash Enon hill with light and warmth. The air smells clean. Pine needles on loblollies glisten. Although cars travel Main Street, and the nearby manufacturing plant wakes, quiet reigns. That is, until robins and thrashers perch on monuments and let loose with songs of resurrection promise. Tiny purple blooms on wild violets verify winter is over. Moss has spread, making playful green rugs in the shaded sections. Balls of mistletoe sit in a few trees like celebratory ornaments. Airy cedars point to the sky. One spring, visitors noticed a young sassafras tree with early, mitten-shaped leaves emerging. Not far from a headstone, this fledgling hardwood seemed determined to soar in height one day, in glory. As so it is with all things at Enon Cemetery.

A view to the east, where the sun rises. The hill descends to the railroad track, North Main Street and the Health / Recreation Center.
Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock, Inc. and she is author of the contemporary Woodstock novels:  The Heart of a Child and The Power of Her Smile

Friday, March 27, 2015

Part One: 1897 Reeves House--Sprucing Up an Aging Lady

The historic Reeves house jars your brain and cranes your neck as you pass by unable to stop staring. She's a long-ago beauty, shaky and worn, in the middle of modern, revitalized downtown Woodstock. But her look is changing. On a recent day, she had some work done in time for spring. Just think of the house as your favorite, aging lady enjoying a much-needed makeover.  

By the way, a community-wide capital campaign begins soon!

The growing interest in the Reeves house restoration has prompted this post. You can see my September 2014 entry if you want to be apprised of the topic. If you are feeling clueless, your present state must mean only that you are new to town or you have been temporarily blind and deaf! It is an exciting time for the city with the motto: "Her Heritage, Her Vision." How succinct. How true.

Watch for future blog posts that will provide you with the goings on at the Reeves house, and of course, I'll never close without giving you a tidbit of history concerning life during Carrie and Luther Reeves's heyday.

A Day at the Reeves house in March 2015:

Brad McColl of Vizual Methods Media Production sets up to videotape the action at the Reeves house. 

At eight a.m., photographer, Jennifer Carter of Jen Wanders Photography captures scenes with her camera as Ann Litrel gives a rundown of plans for the day.

A Few Cosmetics Go a Long Way:  Figuratively, a touch of lipstick has brightened our treasured, turn-of-the-century dame. Let me explain. Woodstock High School student, Madison McColl, surprised everyone with her heart-felt interest in the Reeves house. Non-profit, Elm Street Cultural Arts Village continues its plans to turn the Reeves house into a cultural arts center. Madison made that organization's goal the focus of her senior project by sponsoring a fund-raising event. The public was invited to an outdoor happening where attendees released their inner artist and painted wooden panels. Each brush loaded up with vibrant color. Intriguing and amusing designs resulted. These panels, sized to cover the Reeves house windows, will prohibit rain, gnawing varmints and other such problems from further damaging the old gal while major funds are raised.

Two examples of  color-rich designs, installed.

Like a little make-up on a woman, the striking art will bring more notice to this preservation effort as people drive and stroll by a vintage structure that still glows with potential. The panel painting event contributed to the Reeves house restoration fund, thanks to a delightful, high school student. . . . We are grateful for your effort and the outcome, Madison McColl.

The first panel is carefully installed.

Contractor, Lane Wilson (right) and one of his crew proceed. Two panels up and about two dozen to go. . . . . .

                                                    A happier front facade!

                                               More art on the back.

Plastic Surgery:  After deliberation with architects and other interested parties, one of the first changes to the exterior is being made: removal of the rear porch. With expertise, Lane Wilson and his crew are doing the delicate surgery that will eventually allow for construction of an L-shaped addition, a classroom wing. No lumps or sags will mar our white clapboard matron. Despite the ouch factor, she'll be pleased.

                                           Workers begin the demolition.

Artist Ann Litrel, a woman with vision and determination, she makes Woodstock proud as she leads the way with this restoration.

At the end of the day, Juanita Hughes (city historian), and Christopher Brazelton, (Director of Operations for Elm Street Cultural Arts) chat about the Reeves house. A zany, blue cat looks on.

History Minute: You go to the grocery store for a nice frying hen, don't you? Not Carrie Reeves at her 1897, in-town farmhouse. According to her last of eight offspring, Sam Reeves (born 1917), the chickens were not in pens but roamed the twelve acres. Don't you imagine they picked that yard and pasture clean of insects, helping every fruit tree, tomato bush and corn plant flourish? All those chickens must be why Sam Reeves said dropping your chewing gum and "picking it up and chewing it again was a real gamble." When Carrie wanted a roasting hen or two (for her family of ten) she chose birds that hadn't been laying eggs. Her selections would be set aside a few days and put on a special diet that cleaned out impurities. Then Carrie had to dispatch the birds herself and dress them. She probably didn't bat and eye. For me, I'm so glad we live in modern times.

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock, Inc.

She is author of the contemporary Woodstock novels:

The Heart of a Child
The Power of Her Smile

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Woodstock Fire of 1913

Turn-of-the-20th century Woodstock knew the ravages of fire. Periodically, one-of-a-kind houses and their contents turned into embers. Barns also burned to ashes. At the Haney home, Dave Haney raced to lead his wild-eyed horses from the ignited barn to safety. Crazed with confusion the horses ran back inside the inferno. Several storefronts along Main Street in downtown Woodstock faced the threat of fire once upon a time. When church bells clanged for the "bucket brigade" businessmen's hearts rattled in their chests--someone's livelihood soon might be smoldering ruins.

Why the occasional conflagration? In that bygone era, citizens interacted daily with the cruel culprit responsible for destruction. People actually depended on the fiend--an open flame--for their only source of light and warmth.

One example that blazed out of existence is the former Johnston home, shown above. A red brick replacement, also vintage, sits on the same spot, today, housing Venessa's Salon and Spa. The earlier Johnston home was the hard-earned reward of J. H. Johnston and his wife, Avis. The couple had climbed a long, hardscrabble road to prosperity.

J. H. Johnston--a determined man

Five years after the Civil War, the father of 14-year-old J. H. Johnston passed away. Work was scarce, more so for a boy. He saved enough to buy a cow and some corn for planting. At 15, he rented a small farm in Cobb County that he cleared and sowed. He labored in the Cox gold mine at night. Lonely, grueling years passed. By the age of 21, he garnered a good living from the farmland. That same year, 1877, he wasted no time making 17-year-0ld Avis Benson, a Cherokee County girl, his wife. In addition to her numerous household duties, Avis began the process of bearing children. Nine boys and one girl would live to adulthood. Four others died at birth or in early childhood. Meanwhile, J. H. cultivated his cotton fields and accumulated more acreage with his savings.

J. H. sold the farmland in Cobb County as he "had to provide a better home for his children," and they moved to a farm near Woodstock. He transitioned into general merchandise and the unpredictable cotton trade. In 1890, the family moved to downtown and into their lovely, milk-white home, shown above. Eventually, the Johnston cotton brokerage, warehouses, store and other enterprises solidified the family's success.

Then in 1913, that perilous visitor mentioned earlier crept near. In my imagination, this fictional phantom tries to disguise himself as a chimney sweep but fails. His top hat wafts a plume of smoke. The rumpled cutaway jacket he wears looks singed, and his coal-black boots give off sparks as he steps.

One quiet evening at the Johnston home, an older son accidentally knocked over a kerosene lamp. That single flame burst into a raging fire that consumed the beloved house and the wooden Baptist church next door. Only devastation remained. . . . Some mothers would have banished such an erring son to the next county, but not patient, forgiving Avis (pictured below, before the fire). Picking up the pieces, the family returned to their labors and continued strong.
Avis Johnston--a saintly mother 

 Tough times, back then, but those determined souls and the stories they left us still inspire our endeavors. As I like to say, a town can never have too much resilience and Woodstock certainly has plenty.

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock, Inc.
and author of the contemporary Woodstock novels: 
                                                                           The Heart of a Child 
                                                                            The Power of Her Smile