Georgia Genealogy Trails

"Where your Journey Begins"

African American History of Gordon County, Georgia

Chapter XIII
Source: "History of Gordon County, Georgia"
Calhoun, Ga.: Press of the Calhoun Times, 1934

Submitted to Genealogy Trails by K. Torp

When Gordon County was created in 1850, between 14% and 15% of the inhabitants belonged to the colored race, and the percentage has shown little variation until within the last decades when a considerable exodus has been noted.
As a rule, the colored people are law abiding and industrious and have preserved amicable relations with the whites. In Calhoun alone, fifty-two colored families occupy their own homes and landholders are scattered over the county.
Business activities include carpentering, plumbing, dry cleaning and pressing, laundering, cooking, nursing, gardening, brick making, and many others. Colored chauffeurs, garage attendants, and janitors give satisfactory service.

In the old days, colored men had a monopoly of the barber trade, and the white dandies of that period submitted their hirsute attachments to these skilled trimmers and shavers with a confidence that none of their own race could inspire.

Mt. Carmel Lodge, No. 11, a Masonic brotherhood, was organized at Calhoun in 1898 with the following officers:
Worshipful Master ..... J. R. Wilson
Senior Warden ..... J. C. Campbell
Junior Warden ..... Arthur H. Hunt
Treasurer ..... I. K. Smith
Secretary ..... Joe Jackson
Chaplain ..... J. Welchum
Deacons ..... J. W. Wilmart, H. Woodliff
Masters of Ceremony ..... Moses Zuber, J. Wyley
Tyler ..... W. M. Campbell

This organization with an Eastern Star auxiliary is still active.
Colored people of the county conducted a fair in 1908, presenting fine exhibits of home and field products.

In 1909, Mrs. Nellie Peters Black, Richard Peters, and Edward Peters, owners of the Peters farm, two and a half miles south of Calhoun, deeded two acres of their estate to the colored people of Calhoun for a burial ground. The gift was made as a memorial to the faithful servants of the Peters family, and as an expression of interest in the welfare of the colored people of the town.
The plat received the name of Calvary Cemetery and was put under the care of a board of trustees with Arthur Hunt, president.

Thriving churches are maintained at Calhoun, Fairmount, Curryville, Red Bud, Sugar Valley, and Plainville, and a school at each of these places is liberally patronized.
In 1929, the Rosenwald Foundation for colored school extension, aided by the white and colored people of Calhoun, erected a four-room brick schoolhouse of modern type on a three-acre site in west Calhoun at a cost of four thousand dollars. Colored students of Calhoun have received nine months of free tuition yearly since the adoption of the public school system in 1902.

During the World War, the colored people of Gordon County raised $8,684.00 among themselves for war expenses and their service as soldiers was granted freely.

Youth and Old Age Society, founded in 1902 by Arthur H. Hunt, of Calhoun, with sixteen members, has chapters all over the United States connected with the home office in Calhoun.

In 1903, by petition of Arthur H. Hunt, T. M. Frix, E. W. Wylie, and J. H. Frix, all of Calhoun, the organization was chartered for twenty years, and, in 1927, the charter was renewed by A. H. Hunt, Frank Tinsley, Lemor Russell, Will Anderson, Wick White, R. A. Dozier, Dick Jones, A. Burt, and C. L. Smith, officers and members.
The objects of the society, as stated in the Constitution, are to aid worthy members in every pursuit of life, to contribute to their wants when they are unable on account of accident or disease to provide for themselves, and to give decent, Christian burial to the dead.
Money is secured by membership dues and assessments. Since the organization was founded, a sum of $4,000.00 or more has been expended in aid of Gordon County members.

Roland Hayes, descendant of slaves, was born in 1887, on a Georgia plantation near Curryville, in the southwestern part of Gordon County, nine miles from Calhoun.
As a boy, he helped his parents with the field work and did odd jobs around the neighborhood.
He crooned negro melodies and folk songs from babyhood, but, although his voice, a ringing tenor, was widely known in the rural section which he called home, none thought of a career for him as a singer of world renown.
At the age of fourteen, he moved with his mother to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and secured work in a foundry. After a while he drifted northward and found employment in a business men's club in New York. There the attention of people of wealth was attracted by his singing, and he was given the opportunity of studying under noted instructors of music.
He attended Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee, for four years, pursuing both literary and musical courses. To secure money for further music study, he became a waiter at the Pendennis club, Louisville, Kentucky, and was featured on the program of its annual banquet. For a time he was a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Later, he became a pupil of Mr. Arthur Hubbard, since which time success and consequent fame have been assured. A voice teacher in Boston, sensing the possibilities of the young singer's talents, obtained for him a concert engagement in Symphony Hall, of that city, and he became famous almost over-night.
Fannie Hayes, mother of Roland, never lost confidence in the ability of her son to excel as a singer despite the trying years of voice development and the difficulties of getting started in a career, and her faith was his inspiration.
His European tours, which he makes frequently, having sung in practically every country of Europe, have proved as successful as those at home. Within the last eleven years his concert engagements have taken him across the Atlantic ocean forty-four times, four trips annually.
He sings in five languages: English, German, French, Russian, and Italian. Perhaps the most popular of his songs are negro spirituals, which he includes in every program.
The singer is of frail physique but his voice, a pure, lyric tenor, is powerful. One of the greatest musical critics in Europe said: "Roland Hayes's voice is indescribable; its timbre, its flexibility, its tenderness, its richness and shades, all these are found rarely in singers. His tone production is well nigh perfect. His modesty is impressive."

He is far more than the greatest of negro singers in the opinion of musical experts who assign him a place in the front ranks of concert tenors irrespective of race, for he is not only the possessor of a marvellous, God given voice, but is an artist of high attainments.
The singer is a very devout Christian, a Baptist in creed, and uses his voice for the glory of God, as well as for human entertainment and uplift.
From a child he has been taught humility. It is related that when he sang at the English Royal Palace by command of the king and queen, he cabled his mother of his success. She replied by cable, "Remember who you are."
Amidst the acclaim of royalty and the plaudits of admiring multitudes, Roland Hayes has never forgotten the home friends. He has given two benefit concerts in his home county of Gordon, and, some years ago, purchased the farm where he was born, also, the adjacent plantation which he has improved and beautified. Here, among his pedigreed dogs, his fruits and flowers, he and his secretary-accompanist (he has never married) spend restful vacations close to nature and to nature's God, the source of all true harmonies.

Tom Strickland ("Uncle Tom," everybody called him) was once a familiar figure in Calhoun where he served faithfully as porter in the Western and Atlantic railroad depot for twenty-eight years, retiring at the age of sixty-four. He was born in South Carolina in 1832.
"Uncle" Tom boasted proudly that he had never been sued for indebtedness, had never been in a courtroom, nor in any kind of brawl with his fellows. He owned a good home in South Calhoun, where he and Myra, his wife, and their three children lived in contentment. He died in 1897 at the age of sixty-five, retaining to the end the friendship and confidence of the best white citizens of the town.

Melinda Scott, familiarly known as "Aunt Linn" served in the Hunt and Freeman families, of Calhoun, Georgia, for fifty years. She was honest, loyal to her employers, and faithful to every duty. Her noble qualities commanded the respect and admiration of all who knew her, and her death in 1896 at the age of sixty-five years, was universally regretted.
The esteem in which she was held by her white friends was shown by their permission for her body to be laid to rest in Chandler cemetery, at that time the principal burial ground of Calhoun.

Bob Butler was a slave in the family of Mrs. Ann Skelly, well known former resident of Calhoun, Georgia, when the War Between the States began.
When the Union army approached Mrs. Skelly's home, which was, at that time, in the vicinity of Resaca, Georgia, ,she sent Bob with two mules and a wagon, two gold watches, and a quantity of silverware to the South Carolina coast. After the federals had gained possession of this section, Mrs. Skelly and her children went north and nothing was heard from Bob until hostilities were ended.
It was some time after Mrs. Skelly returned to her home that Bob came in to give an account of his stewardship: He had sold the wagon and team and buried the money, watches, and silverware in South Carolina until it was safe to bring them home. Nothing was missing from the treasures intrusted to his care. As a reward, he was given half of the money. Bob's devotion to the Skellys lasted a lifetime, and he was always ready to serve them.
He died at Calhoun in 1891, at the age of sixty-five years.

Five generations of the Hunt family (colored) have lived in Calhoun, Georgia.
Charles, the first one to take up residence here, was born in Virginia, the slave of David Hunt, father of G. M. and H. C. Hunt, pioneer citizens of Gordon County.
When a young man, he was driver of a stagecoach. Later, he became an overseer on the plantation. Charles came to this section with his master long before the War Between the States.
He died in 1906 at the age of 114, leaving an enviable record of industry, faithfulness, and honest dealing through a well-spent life.
George Hunt is a son of Charles. He is a master farmer although handicapped by lameness.
His hair is white with the snows of fourscore and seven winters, the infirmities of age are bearing heavily upon his bent shoulders, but he is still "carrying on," wresting from the land his due.
Stephen Hunt, another son of Charles, was about the age of his young master, H. C. Hunt, and accompanied him to the battle front in the sixties, acting as his attendant during the bloody years that followed.
The giant water oaks on Wall street in Calhoun were planted by Steve Hunt. For a half century or more they have formed a beauty line on this popular thoroughfare, whether weighted by winter snows or springtime foliage, whether foiling the garish heat of noonday or a-twitter with sleepy birdsong at nightfall. The ex-slave has passed on, no headstone marks his resting place, but the trees that he planted are living memorials sculptured by the Master's hand, for "only God can make a tree."
Arthur Hunt, son of Steve, represents the third generation of Calhoun Hunts. He owns a nice little home in town and a farm on the outskirts, is prominent in church and school affairs and in all the civic and fraternal activities of his race.
His mother, Violet Hunt, a splendid specimen of the ante bellum type, was known and esteemed by all of the townspeople. She belonged to the Burch family, well known citizens of Gordon County, and joined Harmony church with her white folks in pre-war times, retaining this membership until her death in 1924.
Arthur helped plant the grove of trees that transformed Railroad park from a sun baked plat to a shady retreat, and he served the county as janitor of the courthouse for twenty years.
Q, son of Arthur, is maintaining the character standard of his ancestors. He is an expert chauffeur, steering his cars through city traffic and crowded highways with the same unerring skill that was shown by Great-grandfather Charles in the guidance of his stagecoach steeds along the turnpike roads of "old Virginny."

Lummus was "little" in name only, for his was the spirit of heroes. By occupation, he was a ditcher and well digger. It is estimated that if his wells had been placed end to end, they would have formed a pipe line to China, and his ditches were hundreds of miles in extent.
In 1914, he risked death in the effort to save three white men from asphyxiation in a gas filled well at Fairview. He received from the Carnegie hero fund one thousand dollars and a medal in recognition of his bravery, but Lummus jeopardized life for his fellowman with no thought of compensation. He had never heard of Carnegie nor his benefactions, but was inspired only by human kindness which brings its own reward.
He died in 1932 at the age of eighty-one years.

CLARK SMITH, colored janitor of the courthouse for the past eleven years, has the record of never having missed a day from his duties.

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