Jessica Daves: Bartow’s Historic Fashionista

Editor-in-Chief, Vogue Magazine, 1952-62.

By Debbie Head, March 2021

(The inspiration for this article came while looking through the EVHS website for Women’s History Month ideas. There was a one-sentence description containing the name Jessica Daves indicating her position as editor of Vogue. I wanted to know more. In April 1997 EVHS, Professor DeDe Yow from Kennesaw State University presented a program on Miss Daves to the EVHS Membership. The focus here is to provide a deeper, more intimate look at the Cartersville roots of Miss Jessica Daves.)

Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine from 1952-1962. (The World of Vogue, 1963)

Jessica Hopkins Daves (1894-1974) ventured from Cartersville, GA to New York City and thrived through some of the most difficult times in US history.  Her intellect, her skill, her strength, and determinedness must have made her career possible. 

Jessica Daves grew up in Cartersville, taught school, and ultimately chased her dream. She spent her well-respected career and life in New York City where she socialized with the rich and famous of the times. She still has family in Cartersville who remember visiting her in New York.

Her Background

Having spent her childhood in Cartersville, Georgia, living on Market Street (now Cherokee Ave) and Erwin Street among her educated family with 6 siblings, Jessica was an exceptional student and perhaps a popular socialite in town. 

She was most definitely an accelerated student, graduating from the West School in Cartersville (sometimes known as Westside School in the old Sam Jones Female Academy) at age 16. 

With graduation exercises at the Sam Jones Tabernacle on May 25, 1910, Jessica graduated, along with her older sister Emily, in a class of only 11 students. The graduating class consisted of 9 young women and 2 young men. Quoting from a local paper, “Miss Jessie Daves, the First Honor of her class, delivered the valedictory bidding her class and school mates a fond and impressive farewell adieu.  Miss Daves is one of the youngest members of her class and deserved much credit for taking the highest honor of her class.”  (Cartersville News, “Graduating Exercises Were Interesting,” June 2, 1910.)

After high school graduation, she enrolled at Agnes Scott College in Dekalb County, GA on a one-year Federation scholarship for the academic year 1910-11. In a short personal interest article from a news clipping the author stated that she was “one of Cartersville’s brightest young ladies and we predict for her future honors.” (Cartersville News, Sept. 15, 1910). 

Her Career Start

After her Agnes Scott studies, Miss Daves returned to Cartersville in 1911 where she taught briefly at the West School, but primarily she taught the lower grades at the East school during her teaching career (1911-1920).  Resources indicate she taught first, second and third grades during her teaching profession. 

In the summer of 1913, Jessica attended the Summer Normal School in Euharlee.  Euharlee provided the classrooms as well as dormitories for the students at forty cents per day.  To help teachers get to the school, Euharlee school administrators arranged for pick up from the train depot in Stilesboro. Even back then, the Cartersville and Bartow education systems were focused on making better teachers.  The Normal School lasted for 4 weeks and instructors were brought in to help teachers learn to teach better and become current with the newest curriculum.  Miss Daves may have taken courses that included domestic classes taught by representatives from the State College of Agriculture. Ms. Daves was commended in the Cartersville News for attending. (By definition: Normal Schools are classes provided to improve teacher and prospective teacher skills.) (Cartersville News, “Summer Normal School at Euharlee,” May 8, 1913; May 28, 1913)

It appears that continuing education was an expectation in Jessica’s profession. Once again, she and another teacher traveled to Knoxville, TN to attend a summer training institute in 1915. Perhaps her aptitude for learning served her well in her career as a copywriter and editor.

She also served as an assistant at the Emerson school and even taught in Hawkinsville, GA for just a couple of months in 1918 until their schools were suspended. (perhaps due to the Spanish Flu?) (Bartow Tribune, October 17, 1918) Newspaper articles suggest that she must have returned to Hawkinsville to finish the school year. (Bartow Tribune, June 26, 1919)

From the newspaper articles that list the faculty for each school year, it appears she continued to teach until 1920, giving her a total of 9 years as a teacher in Cartersville.  In 1921, as an active member of the Ladies Auxiliary, Jessie Daves is recognized as one of the members “coming to the rescue of the High School and securing the necessary books for its library to keep the school on the accredited list.” (Bartow Tribune,“Supt. Evans Very Grateful for Response,” January 13, 1921)

But teaching was not her professional goal.  In July 1920, Jessica made a 3-month visit to Detroit where she stayed with her uncle J.P. Daves.  According to one news report, she accepted a position in Detroit, Michigan as a copywriter for a short time, but then in February 1921 she visited her Aunt Jessie in NYC and while there she found her niche.  (Pou, 1970)

In February 1921 (just after World War I and at age 27), she moved to New York where she enrolled in an advertising/copywriting course. After completing her course, she began work at the Best & Company where she remained for 3 years.  She continued to develop her skill and joined the Kurzman Shop as an advertising writer and director of fashion. In her next career move she was a fashion promoter at Saks Fifth Avenue.  She was beginning to receive recognition as something of a fashion expert in the very competitive and close group of fashion reporters and designers.(Tuite, 2019.)

Introduction to Vogue

In 1928, Edna Woolman Chase, a widely celebrated Vogue editor-in- chief, convened a group of well-known women inviting Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Arden, Edith Head, Helena Rubinstein and others including Jessica for a tea. And in 1930 that group of powerful women would eventually evolve into the Fashion Group International that served to keep current on trends and generate ideas for upcoming fashion shows, publications, writing and art. (

Even as her career was moving quickly, Miss Daves married Robert Allerton Parker on December 20, 1930 and they lived on Park Avenue in New York.  Mr. Parker was also an accomplished writer and authored 3 books, along with being secretary of the Pulitzer Prize board. (

Jessica’s move to Vogue came when Ms. Chase requested her to join the magazine as a shoe merchandise editor in 1933. Within 3 years, she was promoted to managing editor where she served for 10 years before once again being tapped as editor in 1943. (

Her accomplishments as Editor-in-Chief

Even though Mrs. Chase officially remained editor-in-chief of Vogue US, France and Italy, Jessica was the managing editor of Vogue U.S. on a daily basis.  In 1952 (at age 58) Jessica was appointed as Editor-in-chief, making her only the second female editor in the history of the magazine. (Tuite) Jessica continued her conservative and business-minded leadership of the popular magazine.  One example of her conservatism is she continued the Vogue campaigns started under editor Chase condemning open-toe shoes for women in the 1950s, even if the Queen of England was wearing them. (Pou, 1970.)

Jessica focused not only on publishing the latest fashion trends, but also in bringing intellectual information to her readers.  She continued displays of fashion that were deemed high designer fashion and priced as such, but she provided the “low” end so her readers could find similar looks at much more affordable prices.  (Pou, 1970.)

She sought to open the western USA market with the California sportswear style and expanded the fashion arena for a more casual look. In a way, her attention and promotion (as well as that of others, of course) of the ready-to-wear market facilitated the use of sewing machines across the country creating new jobs and accessible clothes.  Fabric was ordered in huge quantities creating another economic impact. For example, Jessica stated “one company would buy ‘as a starter’, 20,000 yards of one fabric – eleven and one-third miles, or about a quarter of a mile shorter than Manhattan Island.” (Pou, 1970.)

Her creation of a store guide educated readers on the available sources for the clothes presented in the magazine.  Eventually she answered the readers’ desire for home and interior fashion along with the “ready-to-wear” accessibility.  

Jessica exemplified a keen sense for recognizing photographers, writers and artists.  Her Vogue tenure ventured into a myriad of topics including celebrity photos (including Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe).  She was professionally recognized by being awarded The French Legion of Honor in 1959, the Italian Order of Merit, Who’s Who in America and was the only woman in Esquire’s Decisive Dozen in 1960. (Pou, 1970.)

Her career gave her access to highly influential designers such as Coco Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and Christian Dior with whom she was friends and colleagues. (Pou, 1970.) 

“Chanel says she loves Jessica Daves. “I put off my vacation to have lunch with her, because that was the only day she was free.” Mark Shaw, Fashion Photography, on Liz O’Brien site.

Not so retiring

After almost 30 years at Vouge, she did not walk away from her love of fashion and writing.  In her retirement years, she worked at Conde Nest, authored “Ready-Made Miracle: The Story of American Fashion for the ‘Millions” as well as co-authoring 2 additional books: “The Vogue Book of Menus and Recipes”, and “The World in Vogue.”

Additionally, she started and co-authored with Candance A. VanAlen a newspaper column called “The Sophisticated Slant,” in the Chicago Tribune. She continued her work and speaking at the Fashion Group International. She served as president of the fashion-focused organization from 1964-65. (

Influential Through the Times

So, from Cartersville to New York City, Jessica Daves influenced national, even international, fashion lovers, readers and associates with her leadership, decision making, style and taste in fashion and publications.  The background for her illustrious career included World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression, World War l l, the Korean War, the free-styling 60s and the Vietnam War  It may be noted that the 1950s are especially exemplary and enviable for style and these were the years that Jessica was at the helm of the very popular and respected Vogue magazine. Many of her accomplishments and creations are still in use in the fashion iconic magazine.

Cartersville is Proud

The Cartersville local papers reflected in many articles just how proud the citizens were of Jessica.  In The Bartow Tribune on February 1921, a brief paragraph relays the fact the she was bound for New York to stay with her aunt Jessie Hopkins, a librarian, as she prepared to learn advertising copy. Then in April of 1921, another article in The Bartow Tribune expresses how pleased all of Jessica’s friends are to learn that she was a member of the Best & Co advertising department.  In December 1921, Miss Jessie Daves’ promotion was touted in The Bartow Tribune.  One of her advertising copies was printed in The New York Times according to the Bartow Tribune “occupying six full columns, this space costing not less than one thousand dollars for the one insertion. The type is hand-lettered, while the drawings are exceptionally attractive, all of it being the work of this Cartersville girl, who has made good with a rush.” (The Bartow Tribune, December 1, 1921) And in 1923, while employed with Best & Company, Jessica sailed to Paris and other European cities to learn more about her fashion passion The Bartow Tribune reported.

There are articles too numerous to include that relayed the social and professional activities and energy of Miss Daves.

Her Family and Cartersville Connections

If family environment is influential in the outcomes of children, then Jessica came from an outstanding family, and she did not disappoint them in her achievements.  Her maternal grandfather, Isaac Stiles Hopkins (1841-1914), was not only a Methodist minister and physics professor, but served as president of Emory University from which he graduated and then, as first president of Georgia Tech (1888-1896).  The entrance gate at Emory University still honors Rev. Hopkins with one of the pillars named in his honor.

Her father Walter Weaks Daves (1864-1945) was an educator originally from Louisiana who was recruited from his teaching position in Texas to be the professor at East Cartersville Institute in 1886.  A short time later, he was enticed to become Superintendent of the Cartersville Schools from 1891 to 1906. He also patented in 1903 a type of door or gate latch that was superior to spring latches.(

An interesting occurrence in local newspapers of the day was the reporting of who was moving where within the city.  There are several mentions of the Daves family moving from one location to another due to their home being sold by its owner or someone else was moving so they moved to another location.  (Courant American, “Moving Time, November 12, 1896; Cartersville News, March 11, 1915)

Her grandmother Mary Hinton Hopkins (1881) and mother Annie Hopkins Daves (1868) both graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga. (A side note: it seems Annie Hopkins met her future husband- Jessica’s father- while Dr. Hopkins was president of Emory at Oxford and where Mr. Daves graduated with First Honor.) 

One of Jessica’s brothers, Francis Daves, graduated from Georgia Tech as an architect and designed the Atlanta Westminster schools as well as the current (1953) Cartersville High School. The design by Francis Daves is now covered by the additions made to the high school, but his work is still there.  (Dede Yow presentation, EVHS Members Meeting, 1997.)  

Woman at the Well Stained Glass Jessica and her siblings donated $100 each to Sam Jones Church to purchase a stained-glass window in memory of Walter and Annie Hopkins Daves. The window is the Woman at the Well. The windows were purchased around 1945.

Her sister Emily Daves Pittman has family who continue to thrive in Cartersville and are members of Sam Jones Church. 

A Bartow Favorite Daughter

While the Jessica Daves name may not yet be familiar, she is a product of Bartow County of whom Bartow can and should be proud.  She carried her religious upbringing, her intellect, her education and her skills of leadership, business and writing that she learned as a young lady in Cartersville with her to New York and beyond. 

One of her great, great nieces, Ryann Ferguson, in her blogpost sums up her aunt quite well with “In fact, I feel certain Annee never hid behind anything in her life. She was the one who always said, “Don’t worry about what the dress code for an event is. If you wear a hat, a hat is the dress code. If you are casual, the dress code is casual. What you’re wearing is what everyone else should be wearing.”

Another family story from Ms. Burgess is that Miss Daves wore hats day and night because her hair was unruly.  Hats were normally only worn during the day.

Jessica passed away in 1974 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Cartersville along with her husband who died in 1970.  Her funeral was at Methodist Christ Church, Park Avenue and 60th Street in New York.  (Gravesites may be found in Oak Hill Cemetery, Section 12, Row 5, 188)

Jessica Daves Parker Gravestone Robert Allerton Parker Gravestone

For further reading, there is a newly published book (2019) by Rebecca C. Tuite that provides detailed information about the Jessica Daves Years at Vogue: 1950s in Vogue: The Jessica Daves Years, 1952-62.


In any situation, it takes a team to make something happen.  As with this paper, many helped research, edit, correct, find photos, make copies among other activities. Thank you to each one of you.

  • A very special thank you to Mr. Sam Graham for his research in locating and providing the newspaper articles used.
  • A gracious thank you and hug to Margaret Mathison, an accomplice, researcher and collaborator on sleuthing out many family connections, historic pieces and walking the city in search of homesites for this article.
  • Joe Head, not only VP of EVHS, is a premier researcher/writer and encourager who helped ferret out details on Jessica Daves that had not been found before.
  • Thank you to Patty Worley, genealogical researcher, who dug out census records, death records and grave sites along with some family history. 

Works Cited

Bartow Tribune, “School Teachers Assigned to Duty,” August 27, 1914

Bartow Tribune, “Children Respond to call to “Books.”, September 7, 1916.

Bartow Tribune, Personals, August 22, 1918.

Bartow Tribune, Locals and Personals, October 17, 1918.

Bartow Tribune, “Teachers Chosen for Next Year,” June 6, 1919.

Bartow Tribune, Personals, June 26, 1919.

Bartow Tribune, “City Schools Open Monday Morning at 8:30,” September 4, 1919.

Bartow Tribune, “Supt. Evans is Very Grateful for Response,” January 13, 1921.

Bartow Tribune, Untitled, February 17, 1921.

Bartow Tribune, “Miss Daves Making Good in New York,” April 14, 1921.

Bartow Tribune, “Miss Jessie Daves Wins Promotion,” December 1, 1921.

Bartow Tribune, “Miss Daves Goes to Paris,” May 10, 1923.

Cartersville News, “West School Building” photo. October 28, 1909

Cartersville News, “Closing Exercises of the Public Schools’, May 26, 1910.

Cartersville News, “Graduating Exercises were Interesting,” June 2, 1910.

Cartersville News, “Woman and Society,” June 29, 1911.

Cartersville News, Personals, January 4, 1912.

Cartersville News, “Teachers for Public Schools for Ensuing Years are Elected,” June 12, 1913.

Cartersville News, “Summer Normal School at Euharlee”, May 8, 1913.

Cartersville News, untitled, May 29, 1913.

Cartersville News, “Teachers for the City’s Public Schools,” July 10, 1913.

Cartersville News, Personals, March 11, 1915.

Cartersville News, untitled, June 24, 1915.

Courant American, “Moving Time,” November 12, 1896

Daves, Jessica, Ready-Made Miracle: The Story of American Fashion for the ‘Millions, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1967.

Daves, Jessica, et al, The Word In Vogue, The Viking Press, 1963.

Daves, Jessica et al, The Vogue Book of Menus and Recipes for Entertaining at Home. Conde Nest Publications, 1964.

Daves, Walter Weaks. “Latch” Patent 745,042, November 24, 1903.

“Dressed: The History of Fashion”. Podcast. Interview with Rebecca C. Tuite, July 21,2020

Etowah Valley Historical Society, Newsletter, Volume 25, 1997, pg. 6 “Dede Yow Presentation”’t-even-get-free-subscription.html?m=1

Felner, Jeffrey, “1950s in Vogue: The Jessica Daves Years, 1952-62”  (a book review)

Hedge, Laurel, “Before Anna “,, Anonymous reply June 1, 2010.

Herald Tribune Obituary, “Parker,” September 26, 1974.

Pou, Genevieve, “Her World of Fashion,” Atlanta Constitution, September 13, 1970.

Tuite, Rebecca C., The Jessica Daves Years, 1952-62 (London: Thames & Hudson, 2019)

U.S. Census, 1900, 1910, 1920. 

Whitman, Alden, “Jessica Daves of Vogue is Dead; Favored Ready to Wear Trend” The New York Times. September 24, 1974


Please enjoy these family stories as shared by nieces of Miss Jessica Hopkins Daves Parker.

Phone Interview/Conversation with Mrs. Lelia Pittman Crowe Johnson. March 7, 2021

She knew her Aunt Jessica as Annee at Jessica’s request.

When Lelia was a young married woman, she visited Jessica in New York. Jessica introduced her to the Vogue staff, gave her tours around New York City and of course Lelia stayed in the Park Avenue apartment.  Lelia recalls that Jessica sent a beautiful red velvet dress for Christmas one year, but it was about “4 sizes too small.”  Mrs. Johnson thinks Jessica’s secretary picked it out with no idea of what size would fit!

Mrs. Johnson remembers her as a strong woman. 

Phone Conversation with Emily Ferguson Burgess (great niece of Jessica).  March 7, 2021

  • Emily recalls many visits to New York to visit with her Annee.  Jessica took Emily to the Cosmopolitan Club for dinner with Ann Ford (Ford Modeling Agency). Although Emily knew her manners, she had not experienced a fork and a spoon at the top of her place setting until that time.  
  • There is a family story that Miss Daves was born Jessie Hopkins Daves, but later changed her name to Jessica after her niece Mary Jessica Pittman was born in 1926.
  • During the World Fair 1960-61, Jessica let Emily’s family stay in the 1040 Park Avenue Apartment while she went to the Country (The Hamptons.)
  • Emily recalls a gallon size of Channel #5 on Jessica’s dresser, a gift from Coco Chanel.

From a brief meeting (March 10, 2021) with Ms Emily Burgess where she graciously shared the books, letters and stories of her aunt Annee.

  • In a cute story shared by great niece Emily Burgess, Jessica sent a car to meet her at the airport with a driver who took her to the apartment building. The driver asked Emily if she were there to visit the Roosevelts.
  • A beautiful picture frame on Jessica’s wall had a piece missing and Emily’s father Jim Ferguson offered to fix it for Jessica. With a little glue, he was able to restore the frame. It turns out it was a gift from Helena Rubinstein to Jessica.

See photo below of the inside cover of Jessica’s book, The World In Vogue, that she autographed and sent to her niece Mary Jessica Pittman Ferguson (mother of Emily Burgess) in 1963.

Partial Copy of patent awarded W.W. Daves in 1903. W.W.Daves Patent

The Dress – Lisa M. Russell

The Dress
Lisa M. Russell

Rebecca Latimer Felton was sworn in as the first female U.S. Senator on November 21, 1922, only twenty-seven months after the19th Amendment, which gave her the right to vote, was passed. Felton, appointed by a politically motivated governor, served only two days in the Senate. However, her political career began 40 years earlier. Mrs. William H. Felton was her husband’s congressional assistant, drafting bills and writing his speeches. She gave speeches for the women’s vote, prison reform and temperance.  Since she often made trips to Atlanta from her Northwest Georgia home, Rebecca felt she needed a new dress. So she made one.[i]

Today, many of Senator Felton’s belongings, including “The Dress,” are housed at Roselawn Museum in her hometown of Cartersville, Georgia.  Roselawn Museum Director Jane Drew says that we may never know the real reason Rebecca Felton made her dress, “But I am so glad she did!” [ii]The actual dress made by Rebecca around the turn of the century is glass-protected. A sign posted above its case best tells the story of the dress:

In desperation of what to wear (still typical of women today) and not having time for a trip to Atlanta, she took her curtains from the window and dyed them black. She then made the dress, added the lace ribbons and fringed tassels, turning it into this lovely creation. It is all handmade, which she wore over a full black taffeta petticoat.

Writers often find inspiration in the of lives family, friends and even strangers to create unforgettable characters. In Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell had Scarlett O’Hara turn green velvet curtains into a dress to impress Rhett Butler. The sign above Felton’s curtain creation concludes:

This dress was the inspiration for one of her best friends, Margaret Mitchell, when writing Gone with the Wind. It has been told that Scarlet O’Hara was patterned after Rebecca Felton.

Mitchell’s characters are her own creations, but the similarities between O’Hara and Felton are undeniable. Mitchell, a young reporter for The Atlanta Journal, would have known Rebecca Felton, since Mitchell was 22 years old when Felton was sworn in as the first female senator. Rebecca was certainly a role model for Mitchell, and possibly a friend.

In her book Scarlett Rules: When Life Gives You Green Velvet Curtains, Make a Green Velvet Dress, Lisa Bertagnoli asks, “What is it about curtains and strong women?”[iii] In More than Petticoats: Remarkable Georgia Women, Sara Hines Martin says that Rebecca was warned to “avoid collisions…. She went for it headlong and full force…[and] ruffled many feathers with her aggressive behavior.”  I can almost hear Mammy warning Scarlett, “It just ain’t right Ms. Scarlett!” as she forced her way into the business world and into the hearts of taken men.

When a young Margaret Mitchell wanted to quit school, her mother dragged her to crumbling plantations and said, “It’s happened before and it will happen again. And when it does happen, everyone loses everything and everyone is equal. They all start again with nothing at all except the cunning of their brain and the strength of their hands.”[iv]

Later, when asked about the theme of Gone with the Wind, Mitchell said, “What makes some people able to come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong and brave, go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality ‘gumption.’  So I wrote about the people who had gumption and the people who did not.”  When Rebecca Felton returned to her war-ravaged home in 1865, sick, hungry and poor, she declared, “I will never be poor again!” Sounds like movie dialogue.[v]

Today, Scarlett O’Hara is better known than Rebecca Felton. History somehow overlooked Felton and her significant role in Georgia’s History. A. Louise Staman, award-winning author of Loosening Corsets: The Heroic Life of Georgia’s Feisty Mrs. Felton, First Woman Senator of the United States (Tiger Iron Press, 2006), relates how she met Mrs. Felton:

I was working in the archives of the University of Georgia when I found an old picture of an ancient woman, dressed to the nines, staring straight at me – almost as if to say, ‘I dare you to discover my story.’ All I had was a name, Rebecca Latimer Felton. What I discovered was one of the most remarkable women in American history, and a story so turbulent and filled with drama, it seemed like fiction.[vi]

The story of Rebecca Felton is kept alive by historians and authors who celebrate her incredible memory. Like so many of the influential women in history, her story is seldom told. However, her influence in great works of art is alive and well, and her tale continues to be told by a most unusual medium: her beautiful curtain dress.

Note: Did you know that while other states have elected women senators to congress, there has never been another woman to be elected in Georgia to the US Senate?


Bertagnoli, Lisa. “Scarlett.” In Scarlett Rules: When Life Gives You Green Velvet Curtains, Make a Green Velvet Dress. New York: Villard Books, 2013.

Drew, Jane. Personal interview. Roselawn, Cartersville, GAApril 2008.

Martin, Sara Hines. Georgia’s Remarkable Women: Daughters, Wives, Sisters, and Mothers Who Shaped History. Globe Pequot Press, 2002.

Russell, Lisa M. “Epilogue.” In Lost Towns of North Georgia. The History Press, 2016. Kindle.

Staman, A. Louise. Loosening Corsets: The Heroic Life of Georgia’s Feisty Mrs. Felton, First Woman Senator of the United States. Macon: Tiger Iron Press, 2006.

[i]  Lisa M Russell, “Epilogue,” in Lost Towns of North Georgia (The History Press, 2016).

[ii] Jane Drew, Personal interview, Roselawn, Cartersville, GA, April 2008.

[iii] Lisa Bertagnoli, “Scarlett,” in Scarlett Rules: When Life Gives You Green Velvet Curtains, Make a Green Velvet Dress (New York: Villard Books, 2013), 44.

[iv] Sara Hines Martin, Georgia’s Remarkable Women: Daughters, Wives, Sisters, and Mothers Who Shaped History (Globe Pequot Press, 2002).

[v] Martin, Georgia’s Remarkable Women.

[vi]  A. Louise Staman, Loosening Corsets: The Heroic Life of Georgia’s Feisty Mrs. Felton, First Woman Senator of the United States (Macon: Tiger Iron Press, 2006).

General Pierce Manning Butler Young (1836 – 1896) – Joe F. Head

General Pierce Manning Butler Young  (1836 – 1896)

Pierce Manning Butler Young was the son of Carolina parents, Dr. Robert Maxwell Young and Caroline Jones both descendants of Revolutionary War patriot families. Pierce was born in South Carolina, but raised in Cass County, Georgia.   Dr. Young inherited his father’s South Carolina estate, but it was burdened with heavy debt. He found a difficult task to run the estate, collect debts owed to the estate and service debts due against the estate.

Dr. Young saw the western frontier (north Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi) and related Indian lands as a means to make a new start. After several unsuccessful speculation trips, beginning in 1833, he decided to settle his family in Cass County, Georgia during the summer of 1838.

Pierce was the youngest of four siblings (George, Robert, Louisa). From his birth Pierce was a sickly child and never remembered living in South Carolina. His father purchased 500 acres along the west bank of the Etowah River and hired a contractor from Rome to build a two story brick home with portico and two large white columns in the walnut grove knoll behind Pettit Creek.  Hence, this location inspired the name “Walnut Grove” given to the home. While Pierce Manning Butler Young never married, his sister Louisa did preserve the family lineage and the home remains in the extended family now owned by Ann Cummings.

His early education was provided by private tutors until he convinced his parents of  ambitions to become a soldier. In July 1852, he enrolled at the Georgia Military Institute (GMI) in Marietta. He found life as a cadet to be lonely, highly disciplined and full of homesickness. However, these burdens shaped his character to become an outstanding military officer, leader, politician and Southern Gentleman. His performance soon gained him rank and respect becoming captain of a company. His congenial nature attracted cadets to him and this attribute would later endear soldiers to follow him.

While at GMI he was persuaded to apply for admission at West Point, but his petition to enroll was an up hill battle. He wrote numerous letters for consideration including Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens. His family joined the letter writing campaign and on December 17, 1857, Pierce was notified by Congressman John H. Lumpkin that he had nominated him.

As an entering cadet at West Point, Pierce experienced the status of a lowly plebe and endured many insults and humiliation from upperclassmen and “Yankees.” He soon developed friends, one of which was future General, George Armstrong Custer and was reported to have roomed with him for some time.

Soon talk of war emerged and Governor Joseph Brown issued a message to the state legislature that the people of Georgia had a right of secession. Pierce began to question if he should remain at the Point. He felt much pressure as a Southerner while at the Academy and endured personal scorn and insults about the Southern way of life. Much discussion ensued about Southern cadets resigning or when to resign. Although the family was torn, Pierce made his decision to resign just three months from receiving his diploma and sacrificing his commission in the world’s greatest military. He accepted a disappointing appointment in the Confederacy as a second lieutenant. He and Custer continued to exchange letters of friendship and recognized each other through field glasses during the course of battles.

Pierce sought to enter the war in Virginia as the ole mother state would be the initial battleground. Colonel T. R. R. Cobb (Cobb’s Legion) asked him to be his adjutant. He accepted. Once the war began he rose rapidly in rank reaching major and commander of four cavalry companies. Soon he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Legion, brigadier general and eventually reaching the station of the youngest major general on either side.

He was known to sport a plumed feather hat and cheered his command during battle. His daring, fearlessness and leadership won him the esteem of the foot soldier as well as officers. He was awarded his 3rd star and was revered as the “Beau Brummel” of the cavalry for he was considered handsome in his uniform. He had a flare for making the most of his good looks and youth at social gatherings with the ladies.

On one occasion, General Young and General Jeb Stuart were having breakfast served by two attractive young ladies at a Brookland Mills home following the Battle of Gettysburg. A cannon shot exploded over the house causing the Confederates to abandon their breakfast. In a few moments Custer’s command arrived and asked who had been there. The young ladies said Young and Stuart.  Custer said, “Very well ladies, Young and I are friends. I will take his breakfast.” After the war, both reminisced over the matter and laughed over the incident.

Southern patriotism ran strong in the early months. Confederate soldiers could not be persuaded to take furloughs. As the war progressed, Pierce was wounded four times once near Harper’s Ferry from a bullet to the calf, again with a shallow chest wound at Brandy Station, a head wound at the battle of Slaughter’s Hill, and finally, his most serious wound at Hanover Courthouse. While lying on a cot and thought to be mortally wounded Captain Church ordered that a prayer be said on his behalf. As the orderly knelt and prayed, his words framed a soul that was suffering, likely to die and to be merciful to a wicked man. At that moment, Pierce interrupted and said, “Why don’t you say something good in my favor? The General said that such prayers reminding the Lord of his shortcomings, were not calculated to do a man in his fix much good.” He survived, but ironically his two brothers George and Robert perished in the war.

General Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Union General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9. General Pierce surrendered April 22 to General Edward Potter at Fulton Post Office. Prior to the end of the war General Pierce was recognized for his strategic brilliance in preventing 13,000 Confederates from being cut off and captured in Savannah.

Upon returning to Walnut Grove he found his home still standing, but in sever need of repairs. It became apparent that his house had been used by the Union as a surgical hospital. He also realized he and his family was penniless and would face a hard winter with little food as no crops were in the field. People only wanted to deal in Federal green backs or gold. They survived on agricultural enterprises.

Eventually Young found he was attracted to politics and successfully used his former West Point connections to support his acceptance within the Washington establishment. He became a champion of Southern rights and was elected as a Democratic Congressman in 1870. Later he was appointed as United States Commissioner to the Paris Exposition in 1878, became Consul General at St. Petersburg, Russia, then Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Guatemala and Honduras. He died in New York, July 6, 1896 and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Cartersville.

Pierce Manning Butler Young historical and cemetery markers

Pierce Manning Butler Young historical and cemetery markers

Article by: Joe F. Head


Pierce M. B. Young: The Warwick of the South, Lynwood M. Holland
History of Bartow County, Lucy Cunyus
B. Tate, Interview September 12, 2014
Jolley, Clyde W, Pierce Manning Butler Young, A Hero and Gentleman of the Old School, Georgia Life, Autumn, 1978


The Legend of Chain Gang Hill – Joe F Head

The Legend of Chain Gang Hill
A childhood memory re-ignites interest in Bartow’s forgotten Chain Gang Camp
By: Joe F. Head


Often family stories and legends fascinate children about the “old days.” They are spellbound with stories about ghosts, myths and fairy tales.  One such family story kindled keen interest in my daughter, Meredith, about a hand made quilt and her dad when he was a 5-year old eyewitness to the day Chain Gang Hill burned. The story of the fire that destroyed the old work camp also inspired her to ask other more responsible questions about her grandparents and why Chain Gang existed.

Oral history and a few blurred clippings from community newspapers give scant evidence of a rapidly fading chapter of Bartow County. Georgia’s prison farms and Chain Gangs operated at frequently in Bartow from  the 1870’s to the  early 1940’s. Only brief local records exist which remain as a legacy to a forgotten time. However, southern folk lore and the entertainment industry have immortalized the chain gang with movies such as, “Cool Hand Luke”, starring Paul Newman, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”, starring George Clooney, and songs like, “I’ve Been Work’n on the Chain Gang” by Sam Cooke.

The origin of chain gangs can be traced to various forms of slavery in almost every culture. The slave industry thrived in North America for almost two hundred years before it was extinguished by the Civil War. Men and women were captured from native lands, chained and shipped for sale to wealthy individuals in the new world. They were put in irons and sold off slave ships in chains to a life of bondage and hard labor.

However, its use as a penal system in the US was first introduced in Philadelphia following the Revolutionary War. One end of a chain was attached to a cannon ball or wagon wheel and the other was shackled to a prisoner’s ankle. The prisoner was staked out on the town square for public viewing or stationed to a task of hard labor. In fact, early Georgia was founded as a penal colony for criminal debtors and chains were present even in those days.

Plantation masters used chains as a means to confine and transport slaves. Following the Civil War, the southern prison system was left in shambles. As order was restored, criminals were leased to work in the fields, mines, railroads and on public projects. Former Governor, Joseph Brown leased over 300 prisoners for 8 cents each a day to rebuild the W&ARR.  The convict lease system was so successful that the need for penitentiaries was almost non-existent.

Prior to 1900, the dilemma of operating tax supported state prisons was solved by transforming state prisons into leased chain gang labor for private profit. Flexible chains permitted mobility for hard labor. Lodging, meals, confinement and security rested with the lessee. This proved to be a powerful force to deal with post Civil War issues and rising labor costs.  In 1908, Georgia road “prison farms” evolved and ended the private convict lease system among businesses.

Georgia’s chain gang history was a dark past. It included a reputation of harsh treatment, investigations, ruthless guards, bureaucratic corruption and attention in the national media. A 1930’s book and movie entitled, “I am a fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang” by Robert Burns brought national attention to the Georgia penal system and eventually helped to bring reform by Governor Ellis Arnoll.  Also, Bartow’s own Rebecca L. Felton, championed this cause.

The competition to gain legislative approval and funding for a work camp was highly prized by local politicians. It meant that road improvements would be made for the community. Once a project was finished in one county, another district was wooing the legislature and State Highway Department to move the work camp to its location for a road completion project. Work camps were very often located by political persuasion. Camps were portable and designed to go where the job and labor was needed. The County Commissioner was always courting the Highway Department to gain some labor for a road improvement project.

In 1942, Bartow County once again won approval to have the work camp from Dallas, Georgia relocated just west of the city limits. (A former work camp existed in White, GA in the 1930’s.) Arthur Neal, county commissioner, announced the purpose of the camp was to complete work on several roads including the Rockmart-Taylorsville road, Dallas road, Rome and Canton roads.


The final site selected was property belonging to Mr. Herman W. Leake, a prominent land owner and mule dealer of the time. Apparently, this was land to be leased from Mr. Leake. According to records in the county tax office, this site was within land lots 593 and 560 near Petitt’s Creek and in view of Ladd’s Lime Stone Company. Today the site can be marked west of Ingles’ Grocery between the ACE Hardware store on the south side of the road and Shaw Industry plant number 13 parking lot on the north side of highway 113, Rockmart Road.

Construction began on the prison camp in late January and was planned for completion by the end of February.  (It is important to understand that the Rockmart Road, Highway 113 as we know it today was not constructed over the hill at this time. Originally, if headed west, the road swung southwest behind the hill and crossed the old Pettit’s Creek iron bridge rejoining 113 in front of Ladd’s Farm Supply) The road was not built over the hill until after WWII.

An initial U-shaped compound was constructed on the Ladd’s side of the Rockmart Highway. It was followed by a Guards’ Barracks House across the road about 50 yards away. These were meager dwellings of drafty wood frame construction, encompassed by a gated fence, barb wire and overlooked by a guard tower which stood to the right of the main barracks. They were built with a temporary objective and equipped with bunk beds, wood burning potbelly stoves and minimal electricity for lighting.

Local folks referred to these as the convict barracks. The barracks to the south (ACE Hardware) may also have been used to isolate disorderly convicts while the main barracks on the Ladd side housed the well behaved. About 100 convicts and 20 guards were transferred from the Dallas camp. Some convicts were “trustees” and had the run of the camp because of good behavior.

chain gang barracks
Cartersville Chain Gang Barracks/Courtesy of Life Magazine

Work was long and hard, frequently ranging to 14 hours per day. Crews were transported to work sites and endured a day of breaking rocks, shoveling dirt and clearing brush. Convicts wore striped uniforms and ate a diet of boiled beans, cornbread, onions, cold fish and water. They were hobbled together by chains, often chanted while they worked and required to bow in the presence of the camp boss or captain. They removed hats and could not look a guard or camp captain in the eye when conversing.

Before the camp was constructed, it had already gained the nickname of “Little Alcatraz.”  By 1943, it was under state investigation for brutally treating inmates. Conditions and treatment became so abusive that prisoners would self-inflict wounds to avoid work details. Convicts testified of being whipped by guards with a rubber hose.  The camp was briefly closed down for inquiries after several breakouts and other abuses were disclosed.chain gang leader

A legislative committee recommended the removal of Warden Arthur Clay on charges of brutality, but he was later reinstated by Governor Arnall after the Prison Board found insufficient evidence to justify removal. In November of 1943, Life Magazine did a story on the convict camps in Georgia and showcased Bartow’s notorious Chain Gang Hill.

People in Cartersville and surrounding communities were fearful of the convicts and the impending threat of escapes. The general public had little compassion for convict suffering and asked few questions about how they were treated. The camp was in view of the Rockmart Highway and locals would drive around the compound with an uneasiness.  Citizens held a poor opinion of the convicts and would often not speak of the camp.

Mrs. Eleven Rampley Bartlett, granddaughter of O. C. Rampley, can remember, as a 12 year old, visiting her grandfather at the camp. She was instructed not to speak to the inmates. She remembers that the warden had a small one-room office at the base of the guard tower with a bed and wood-burning stove. She remembers the bloodhounds were penned inside the outer fence to the rear of the main barracks in a small shelter. On occasion, she climbed up to the watchtower and looked down on the camp. She recalls seeing the guards carrying shotguns and rifles.

By 1944 the camp had been reassigned to Mr. Oscar C. Rampley, formerly the road foreman for the State Highway Department. He became the last camp warden until it closed. As the investigations continued, Marvin Griffin, then on the review board, would often inspect the camp and stay overnight with the Rampley’s. Prison reform eventually abolished the Georgia chain gang system due to cruelty exposed by the press. Mr. Rampley was instructed to transfer the inmates to Tattnall County and close the camp.

Times were difficult and housing was not plentiful in Bartow. People rented single rooms, stayed with relatives and lived where ever they could. Bartow’s Chain Gang Hill was fully decommissioned about 1945. As time passed, the barracks became occupied with tenants who likely paid rent to the Leake family. Tenants made personal improvements and lived in the make shift apartments. Mrs. Sara Munn and the First Presbyterian Church of Cartersville established an outreach Sunday School Ministry at the barracks for children who lived there. Little attention was given to the site from the time it was abandoned until the day it was destroyed. Long time Bartow residents recall passing it on the Rockmart highway and have some knowledge of its history, but not much detail.

As a young boy of five, I can remember visiting with my grandparents who lived in the apartments at Chain Gang Hill. My grandparents, Jeff and Augustus Bell Head lived there for several years. They were a cute couple, humble, full of humor, but poor with few material possessions. Granddad was a mechanic and grandmother was a traditional wife who never learned to drive, and was heavily involved with the Methodist church.

jeff head
Jeff Head family in renovated barracks

When facing the barracks on the Ladd Mountain side, they lived to the left in the front quarters.  I can recall warm memories of sitting in Grandma Augustus’ lap, captured by her stories and eating wonderful meals at her table. My grandfather worked for the State Highway Department. On some occasions I would spend the entire day there and can recall that a passing car offered the hope of a friendly visitor to break the boredom. Perhaps one of the most memorable and frequent sensations was the sudden blasting that would rumble from Ladd’s Mountain. Another was the sound of trains passing on the Seaboard railway between the barracks and Ladd’s Mountain.

My grandparents lived in a unit that consisted of about three finished rooms. Rather than sheet rock, I can remember that the walls and ceiling were covered with corrugated card board tacked up using RC bottle caps for reinforcement. The floor was partially covered with linoleum and bare planks also shown through in places with cracks that exposed Georgia red clay below. There were few electrical outlets. Overhead lights were suspended on electrical cords and naked bulbs on a pull chain. They heated with kerosene and wood stoves. Their apartment had been partitioned to include one of the bathroom units that served the convicts. The concrete bath had two toilets and one community shower that was equipped with four shower heads. Grandmother kept a chicken coup just out her back door and down the bank. I really enjoyed meeting relatives there on Sunday afternoons. My country cousins such as Ray Thacker, Mary Jo and Harold Brock would gather there for holiday meals or just to visit.

One of my older cousins, James Bouck from Illinois, visited our grandparents every summer from the age of seven until he was sixteen. Jim remembers the camp vividly. According to his account, there were five buildings and one guard tower. If facing the U-shaped compound, two smaller dwellings were to the right. One likely housed equipment  and the smallest was the warden’s office. Another small house also existed to the west of the U-shaped barracks, down the bank and slightly to the rear near the chicken coup. Jim recalls these structures were uninhabitable or were filled with storage.

Elizabeth, Louise & Gossie Stone (March 1948) Cartersville First Presbyterian Church’s Mission Sunday School Class which met at Chain Gang Hill apartments.

As a young boy, Mr. Roy Tierce, a former resident in the early 1950’s, recalls that all the tenants paid rent directly to Mr. Jeff Head (Granddad) and he paid the Leake sisters when they came to collect.

It was a warm Labor Day Monday afternoon on September 6, 1954 at about 3:00.  I was taking my midday nap on the bed in the front room that also served as a family living space. I was resting on a bed that was covered with a handmade quilt. A picture of some biblical scene was mounted on the wall above the bed. A radio used to listen to the Grand Ole Opry was on a large table nearby where granddad kept important papers and his time piece.

leecy and joe
Leecy & Joe Head at renovated barracks

An enormous explosion woke me from my sleep. I knew it was not a blast from Ladd’s Mountain as it was too loud and too close. I bounced off the bed and was instantly grabbed by my mother. We went outside to see smoke and fire bellowing from the apartment on the opposite side. People were screaming and running from the fire. Debris seemed to be still falling from the air. Flames began to burst through the broken glass windows and leaped to the rooftop. My mother left me with my grandmother and ran across the road to call the fire department.

There was little anyone could do. In just a few minutes my sister, Beverly, who had been competing in the Miss Aquarama Beauty Pageant at the Allatoona Dam arrived to pick us up at 3:00. She called my father and grandfather. My grandparents tried to contain the fire with a garden hose, but it was too fierce. We stood at a safe distance in the dirt parking area next to the road. Mother held my hand. I saw people crying and shouting. Emotions ran high, confusion was everywhere. Things popped and crackled, we could feel the intense heat, walls collapsed, cars were moved to safety, people ran in and out of the rooms trying to save items. Tenants were throwing things out the windows and doors.  The blaze traveled quickly around the U-shaped roof and consumed the barracks in about forty five minutes.

joe and merrideth
Joe & daughter, Meredith, with quilt

My grandparents had the most time of all, as their apartment was the last to burn. But even with those extra minutes they were not able to save but a few pieces of furniture, clothes, quilts and crockery. Precious items such as the family Bible, photos and family savings were all lost that day.

According to an account of the disaster in the Tribune News printed on September 9, 1954, the fire department arrived shortly after the call was received. Fire Chief, John Cagle said it was too far gone by the time they got there. The paper stated that the fire was caused by an oil-burning stove that had exploded. The article heading read, “Fire destroys old work camp: many homeless.”  The barracks across the road fell into complete ruins and was razed in the 1960’s.barracks-b

A half-century later, the legend of Chain Gang Hill still survives among deeply rooted Bartow families. However, the day it burned has left me with a tender legacy to share with family and friends that is very different from the dark side of Georgia’s Chain Gang history.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Meredith’s great grandparents: Jeff and Augustus Mae Head

To read a companion article on the Dark History of Bartow County Chain Gangs click here:


Interview Sources:

  1. Bartow County Tax Office: Mr. Billy Goodwin, Mr. Ralph McCary and Mr. Mike Floyd, 10/00
  2. Evelyn R. Bartlett, Granddaughter to Mr. Oscar Rampley, Warden, 11/25/00
  3. Randall Silvers, Local historian, 09/00
  4. Olin Tatum, former Bartow County Commissioner, 11/00
  5. Sara Munn, 11/6/00
  6. Arthur Lee Woody, former camp guard, 11/00
  7. Don Thurman, Bartow County Sheriff, 11/00
  8. Charles E. Head, 10/00
  9. Beverly H. Moore, 10/00
  10. Robert Harris, 10/00
  11. James Bouck, 12/3/00
  12. Ray Thacker, 12/1/00
  13. Roy Tierce, 3/2006

Printed and Video Sources:

  1. Life Magazine, November 1, 1943, pp 93-99
  2. The Bartow Herald, January 15, 1942, “Prison Camp Location Announced”, Cover page.
  3. The Bartow Herald, January 8, 1942, “Dallas Prison Camp Moves to Cartersville”, Cover page.
  4. The Bartow Herald, February 22, 1942, “Work Starts on Little Alcatraz”.
  5. The Tribune News, January 15, 1942, “Convict Camp Located West of Town; Work on New Structure Immediately”, Cover page.
  6. The Bartow Herald, June 16, 1933, “Convicts Located Here Turned Back By Highway Board”.
  7. The Bartow Herald, July 20, 1933, “Convict Camp Here Removed to Baker”.
  8. The Bartow Herald, October 28, 1943, “State Prison Camp is Closed Down Tuesday After 16 Make Get-Away”, Cover page.
  9. The Tribune News, October 21, 1943, “Moore Orders 11 Road Camps Closed Jan. 1”.
  10. The Tribune News, October 28, 1943, “Highway Work Goes Forward Despite Removal of Convicts, State Official Announced”, Cover page.
  11. The Tribune News, September 9, 1954 “Fire Destroys Old Work Camp; Many Homeless”, Cover page.
  12. History Channel, “Chain Gangs”, (1-800-708-1776).