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Homestead Place Burns 1962

Historic “Homestead Place” Burns; Harris Landmark Over a Century

By JOE RAILEY Valley Bureau
WEST POINT, GA. One of the landmarks of Harris County, "Homestead Place", the old John Davidson Home, located about eight miles east of here, was destroyed by fire last week. Built originally by Davidson in about 1845, the original "Homestead Place" plantation consisted of several thousand acres of land in Troup and Muscogee counties, but in Harris and Troup counties after Harris County was formed from parts of Troup and Muscogee in 1827. At present, the property consists of only 300 acres, and is owned by Thomas T. and Phillip Jones of West Point. The home that burned has not been occupied for several years, the farm has been used as a cattle and chicken ranch. Davidson settled in Harris prior to 1838, as early grand jury records of the county at Hamilton indicate he served on the Harris County Grand Jury that year.
Greek Revival Style
Of Greek revival style, the house was inspired by the Fountaine house in Columbus, the home of John Fountaine, mayor of Columbus in 1836, who was a friend of Davidson. Davidson hired a trained slave carpenter from Fountaine to assist in getting measurements for the house. Trees were selected from the Davidson plantation woods, sawed at his sawmill and dried in the plantation kiln. Every piece of the house was heart pine, mortised, tenoned and pinned. Square cut-nails were used where needed, and were forged on the place. The sills and girders were hewn by hand, not sawed. Shingles were split by hand and dried in the kiln.. Bricks for the three outside chimneys, two storieds high, of a soft shade of red clay, also were made on the plantation. The house featured a center two-story porch, with two solid wood columns, hand-fluted and capped by pseudo-Ionic capitals, supporting a pediment. It has gable roofs, and under the two-story porch was a free-hanging balcony with wood balustrade over a double doorway, with a fanlight and inside lights. A matching, slightly smaller double doorway, with familiar fanlight and side light treatment, opened onto the upstairs balcony.
One-Room Deep
Of wood construction throughout, the house was one-room deep, with a center hall, from which the stairway rose and turned. The risers of the stairway were decorated with an applied classic motif, Another stairway led from the dining room to the second story, and a third, small staircase was built from the second floor to the attic. There was a paneled wainscoting of excellent workmanship throughout the interior, particularly fine in the parlor room, and the deeply paneled doors were of well-known six panel type. All the hardware in these doors was imported from England, Mantels featured free- standing miniature columns of the Doric and Roman orders. The dining room was in an ell, and there was a shed room on the back porch. Originally, the kitchen was in a building separate from the main house. Attractive and unusual features were the ornate cornices decorating the house on all sides under the second story eaves. It is not known who Davidson employed as architect for his home, but it is thought a journeyman architect, traveling through the area from job to job lived on the plantation for a year or more to supervise its construction details, with all labor being done by the Davidson slaves. "Homestead Place" was included in a national survey of historical buildings in 1936, and its description and picture of it is in the Library of Congress, under reference HABS No. GA-1144, Harold Bush-Brown, noted architect, was Georgia district officer of the HABS at the time.
Origin of Family
The Davidson family in America traces its origin to the ill-fated William Davison, who was secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth I. The secretary carried out Elizabeth’s order to execute Mary, Queen of Scots, and due to adverse opinion afterwards, Elizabeth stripped him of position and titles and imprisoned him in the Tower of London for two years. Reduced to poverty and illness, he died in 1608. From the American Revolution War period, the family has been traced from Pennsylvania to Virginia to North Carolina, with different members going to new lands in Georgia, Alabama, and Texas, as the Indians were moved further west. William Davidson, John Davidson’s father, was born in 1753. As a Revolutionary War soldier, ensign in the Sixth Virginia Regiment, he was granted land for his services, which he took up in Wilkes County, Ga. The builder of "Homestead Place" came to Harris County in the 1830s. He was born in Warren County, GA., Jan 19, 1792. He married Elizabeth Nichols or Warren County, who was born Sept. 30, 1794. They had 11 sons and three daughters, most of whom were born at "Homestead Place". The original owner of the plantation died May 28, 1862, and his wife died Sept. 7, 1970. They are buried in the family graveyard near the house site.
Many Descendants
West Point is the home of many descendants of this family. Hiram B. Davidson, whose father was Elias Davidson, the son of John Davidson, lived here until his death some years ago. His sons and daughters, most of whom still reside here, as well as many of their children and grandchildren. Judge T. Whitfield Davidson, Dallas, Tex., senior United States district judge, is a grandson of Isiah Davidson, the third son of John Davidson. Judge Davidson has done considerable research on the family lineage, and has published a book on “Our Scotch Kith and Kin.” Another family record, compiled by Miss Phyl Davidson, Mrs. Jack Davis, Mrs. Janie Lovelace Heard and William H. Davidson, was published and privately distributed in 1958. After the death of John Davidson’s widow in 1870, the estate, impoverished by the War Between the States, was sold to a son, William Davidson, in1872, and several of the sons went West during the general trek from this area during the postwar years. "Homestead Place" was owned for a number of years by the late Lorenzo D. Hutchinson, whose plantation lands adjoined the Davidson lands. Others owning the place were Mrs. Eunice Davidson Moss, A. C. Booker and W. E. Booker, who sold what remains of the plantation now to the present owners. In the burning of "Homestead Place", Harris County lost one of its most historically interesting plantation homes, a product of the antebellum cotton and slavery prosperity of the Old South. Added by Dr. James T. Miller, son of Lenora Elizabeth Davidson Miller Mills (b: 1898, Collin Co, Texas), the daughter of Wilkes Monroe Davidson(Jr) and Dona Rogers. In 1962, Mother visited us in Columbus from her home in Forney, Texas. At that time, the Davidson place burned, and, a few days later, we drove to Whitesville and located the ruins. I took a picture of the graves, the ruins, and gathered a couple of the square-cut, hand-made nails, which I have since lost. Mother said John Davidson was an uncle to her father, Wilkes Monroe Davidson (Jr), the son of Wilkes Monroe Davidson (Sr) , the son of Obediah Davidson, who migrated to western Alabama before the war. Wilkes Sr and Wilkes Jr migrated to Collin County, Texas, in the years following the War. Wilkes III, born about 1902, was my favorite uncle. Mother also said the Davidson family lost their holdings in western Alabama following the War. She also said a branch of the Davidson’s had been instrumental in founding Davidson County and also Davidson College in North Carolina. But, the Davidsons I have known have all been "poor dirt farmers". Any authentic information I may have about the Wilkes Monroe line has come from my newly found cousin, Anne Marie Davidson Woods of Seattle. Her grandfather and my grandfather were brothers.