The Abandoned “Paupers Cemetery” Bartow County Poor Farm and Paupers Cemetery

By:  Sanford Chandler, Ed.D.

I received a note from Mr. Ronnie Yancey asking for my assistance.  Mr. Yancey was attempting to visit the burial site of one of his relatives in an abandoned cemetery behind Toyo Tire Manufacturing, Company.   He asked if I could assist him in gaining access to the site. 

            Making a few calls and emails to friends, I finally gained approval to visit the site.  It was through one of these calls I discovered that Carl Etheridge had completed the original Cemetery Survey in 2003.1   My next call was to Carl.   We arranged to meet and visit the Cemetery together. 

Carl and I met in the parking lot of the Hickory Log Personal Care Home.  A modern brick facility that in many ways carries on the tradition of assisting those less fortunate in our community.  

Forest Floor

Carl had not been back to the Cemetery since 2003, when the survey was completed.  By the time we arrived on the site most of the original land marks, roads into the area, and surrounding forest had changed.  It was evident that Mother Nature was taking back that which was hers.  

 I found myself pushing through brambles and briars, ducking under low hanging limbs, jumping over drainage ditches, and stepping over fallen tree trunks as we searched for the cemetery on a beautiful crisp fall day.  The sky was splattered with Cumulous clouds and the sun forced its rays through the trees and onto the forest floor. 

 Maneuvering along the lower slopes of Little Pine Log Mountain, I couldn’t help but think how this Mountain, in the not too distant past, was teeming with mining activity.  Today these industrious activities have given way to Mother Nature’s reclamation.

 The once prominent light-rail track moved load after load of mined materials from the mountain to White.   The numerous community buildings, connective roadways, and mining camps all in support of the substantial mining industry were all gone, reclaimed by nature.

 After a few minutes of orienting ourselves, Carl called out, “it’s over here!”  The pioneer era cemetery came into view.  It was located along one of the lower slopes of the mountain in a somewhat flattened slope.  It was bordered by and abandoned roadway and a pasture.  To the North was a chain link fence separating the cemetery and the mountain from a large manufacturing company.  When the cemetery came into focus I could see the depressions and fieldstone markers—they were too numerous to get a quick count.  

Unable to make a complete count of the graves, Carl pulls out his 2’ x 3’ map and said, “I found 483 graves here in 2003!”  I was shocked.  The original survey revealed the location of 166 grave sites identified by depressions and fieldstone markers and another 317 by remote sensing and probing.  This was the largest abandoned cemetery I have ever seen.   This was what was and still is called “The Paupers Cemetery.”  Individuals have referred, incorrectly, as the Poor House Cemetery, Hickory Log Cemetery, Bartow County Farm Cemetery, among other identifiers.

 The records from the Bartow County Farm or Pauper House were transcribed by Jane B. Thompson and Laurel Baty.  It is from this transcription that I began uncovering the personal stories of some of those living, dying, and laid to rest on the Farm.2                           

The Cemetery is a two acre set-aside of the original 330 acre Bartow County Farm (Farm)— the Paupers or Poor Farm by most all references and I will use the term Farm to describe the institution herein. 

 The Farm itself is a pre-welfare institution.  These institutions were literally spread across the nation and were the conduit whereby the communities, cities, and counties assisted those unable to care for themselves.   Bartow was no exception.  The Farm provided support and assistance to widows, orphans, single mothers and children, the aged, those who were mentally ill, and those with highly contagious diseases. It was not until the early 1930s that the nation, as a whole, began to discover the substantial need for a national system to care for these individuals.  Senator Paul Douglas, seemingly convinced of the need stated, “The impact of all these forces increasingly convinced the majority of the American people that individuals could not by themselves provide adequately for their old age(d) and that some form of greater security should be provided by Society.”

Disease was prominent in these institutions during the19th and early 20th Centuries.  The Farm records reveal numerous payments to physicians and others for the care of individuals housed there.

Small Pox had a dramatic effect on the individuals, the economy, and families of the area.7  An article written by Matthew Gramling gives a precursor of what Bartow County would face in just a few short years dealing with Small Pox.

Those contracting the deadly Small Pox among other diseases were sent to the Farm or to the Pest House2,3 at Stilesboro.  Records reveal that in order to treat, house, and care for these individuals it became a substantial expense.  It is thought that many of the unidentified souls interred in the Paupers Cemetery were victims of Small Pox or other contagious infections.              

The Farm itself was established in the1860s and originally consisted of “a number of stark wooden frame row houses that were built side by side.”  “A nearby open cut ore mine was also named the Pauper Mine.  Mineral rights…were reserved by several ore companies.” 4 The Farm also included a building serving as a church.

The connection between the Farm and the Pest House or Pest Hospital in Stilesboro— some 17 miles distant—is omnipresence in the Farm records.  Small Pox was prevalent between 1866 and 1871 and, in fact, the Farm recorded on “October 3, 1870, a receipt to the RRd for $18.00 for tent for use of Small Pox Hospital.”   It may be assumed that the tent was some temporary measure to assist with the overflow of patients. 

The Farm records help to measure the severity Bartow County faced with this horrible disease.  The Farm provided medical services, courier, supplies, guards, and nursing to the Pest House and the records indicate that the Farm took the financial lead.  Although the Farm was not immune to having cases within its own confines, most seem to have been transferred to the Pest House from the Farm.  Several cases were found in Farm records and medical services that were required to treat the disease.

 Those individuals unfortunate enough require the assistance of the Farm ranged in age from 7 months to 91 years.  These individuals were called inmates on the Farm and throughout the records are referred to as such.  The Farm itself is recorded as being called the Pauper or  Poor Farm.  The inmates’ average age was 46.6 years and in 1872 it cost approximately $92.00 per year to care for each inmate.   Whites, blacks, women, men, and children, at some point, occupied space on the Farm.  Those who could work did so on the farm. Being destitute played no favorites and individuals from all ages and backgrounds came to the Farm for assistance. 

Death came in many forms on the Farm.  Pneumonia is recorded on at least one death certificates and Robert Campbell died from a snake bite. His obituary reads:

 “We are informed by Mr. W.J. Collins, keeper of the pauper farm, that Robert Campbell, an aged inmate of the Bartow poor house, was bitten by a rattlesnake Monday afternoon about four o’clock.  After lingering in the greatest agony he died at 12 o’clock on the same night.”  The snake was about four feet long and had eleven rattles.”Robert was interred in the Paupers Cemetery.6

 At least one baby was delivered on the Farm and quite possibly more but the records simply don’t record but one such incident.  The baby was delivered during the month of February 1872.  The receipt reads.  “To Mrs. M. Ford for 1 case of midwifery—5.00.”  There is no evidence that the child was conceived on the Farm but it is possible as some families were housed there as well as individuals.  Or, she may have come to the Farm for assistance in delivery which in all probability was the case. 

 At least three (3) mothers were left with the difficult decision as to what they were to do with their babies and small children.  Some of the more fortunate were able to turn to their relatives while others found the Farm as a respite.  At least three are documented as giving away their children.2 

 One mother gave up her daughter to J.D. Enlow.  The farm records state, “Mother, who is inmate at Pauper Farm consents that her daughter, Martha Brown, should be bound to J.D. Enlow until she is 21.”  There is no record of the age of Martha Brown. 

Another mother, Jane Barnes, “authorizes me to say that she is willing for her child to be bound to Martha Jones.” 

 The Cofer family which consisted of a husband, wife, and two children gives notice to “Eveline Cofer, next of kin” but fell short of revealing what might have befell the family.  However, by July 1, 1878, the records show that “Lindsey Johnson has applied to have Matthew Cofer a minor in the Pauper farm of said county and about eight years of age bound to him in terms of the statue.”

 The hardships of the inmates prior to, during, or following their tenure on the Farm was taken with them to their graves.  Life stories, diaries, or other written documents have escaped recording.  We will forever wonder about their fates, suffering, and the feelings they must have held as inmates.  In many cases these individuals were branded as morally unfit by the communities, outcasts if you will.  This is not to say that many didn’t overcome their situations but we simply do not have a record of this.

 The Cemetery Records6 of the Pauper’s Cemetery and actual Death Certificates reveal short stories of how some of the inmates lived and died.  All were interred in the Paupers Cemetery.

  1.  May Brinkley, a single white female, age 18.  She was attended by H.B. Bradford, M.D. from June 22, 1921 through July 22, 1921.  The official death certificate stated that she died at 1:00 PM July 22, 1921 from “Syphilis and Pellagra.”  Pellagra was a Niacin deficiency which leads to horrible, debating skin symptoms.  The cause of the disease was most evident when the diet consisted of Corn Meal, Molasses, and lesser desirable cuts of meat.  Ms. Brinkley has no record of a birth date or other family members, nor why she was on the Farm.
  2.  Albert Absolan Nation, a single white male, age 63 was attended by H.B. Bradford, M.D.  He was born in 1856 to Jesse and Lucretia Johnson Nation who were living in Murray County, Georgia.  He was under the care of Dr. Bradford from January 5, 1920-January 18, 1920.  He died on January 21, 1920 of “Broncho-Pneumonia, Pleurisy Right Side.”
  3.  Pamelia W Crosson (Crossen), a single white female, age 72.  She was attended by H.B. Bradford, M.D. on March 25, 1921.  She passed away at 1:00 AM on March 26, 1921.  The cause of death as reported by Dr. Bradford was,  “Burn of anterior and posterior of arms, legs & body of 2nd degree.”  Ms. Crosson’s brother, William, was interred in the Paupers Cemetery in September 14, 1920.  He was 77 years old.  Several of Ms. Crosson’s family members were interred in cemeteries in Coffee County.  Little more is known as to why she and her brother were on the Farm.

The Paupers Cemetery is home to some 483 graves.  We simply do not know the actual number of individuals that passed through the Farm or gained some type of short term assistance.  Some went on to be successful in their own right while others are interred on the slope of Little Pine Log Mountain. 

Their stark graves marked by fieldstone or a simple depression in the ground is all the record we have of them. Hopefully, someday someone will uncover more information regarding these individuals so they can be named and recognized as our ancestors with the humanity and dignity they deserve. 

Appendix A – Deaths and Burials

Find-a-Grave list five (5) memorials in the Paupers Cemetery, and two (2) in the Pest House Cemetery.6 The individuals listed on this site are:

Paupers Cemetery (AKA Bartow Poor Farm Cemetery)

Name Birth DateDeath DateBurial
Brinkley, May Unknown 22 July 1921   Paupers
Campbell, RobertUnknown17 August 1878 Paupers
Crossen, Pamelia W1848 26 March 1921Paupers
Crossen, William Thoma16 February 184314 September 1920 Paupers
Nation, Albert Absolam185621 January 1920 Paupers

Pest House Cemetery

Name        Birth Date     Death Date  Burial
Ash, Maring An Stroup15 August 1829 7 July 1863 Pest House
Knight, Joshua179410 May 1849 Pest House

Paupers Cemetery (AKA Bartow Poor Farm Cemetery)

Note:  These individuals were obtained from the Bartow County Farm Records by the Author.  Corroborating evidence is not presented.  The two sources of the following information was taken from the Farm records or from obituaries found in newspapers. 

18 January 1872 Name11 December 1872 NameBirth DateDeath DateBurial
Emerson,   Unknown5 November 1867   Paupers
Hammond,  UnknownDecember 1868   Paupers
Mitchell, Ben    Unknown    8 June 1870 Paupers
Howell,Unknown    22 July 1871   Paupers
Freedman, Unknown      29 October 1872Paupers
Gibson, L.      Unknown21(29) October 1872 Paupers
Goodson, MathewUnknown11 December 1872 Paupers
Hazel, WmUnknown 18 January 1872 Paupers
Wilson, Baby       Unknown30 September 1872Paupers
Hill, M.T.     Unknown 2 September 1873       Paupers
Campbell, Robert    Unknown22 August 1878    Paupers
Felton, LucyUnknown16 (14) September 1880Paupers
Donald, JohnnieUnknown  6 September 1888Paupers
Doyle,  Unknown    7 November 1889  Paupers

Appendix B – Transcribed Farm Records

 Graves were dug, coffins made, bodies shrouded, and burials were recorded in the Farm Records.  The records do not always coincide with the death of individual on the Farm but all these records were paid through Bartow County Farm resources and all are assumed to be for individuals residing at the Farm.  The full extent of the deaths and burials may never be known. 

November 5, 1867 – Funeral Expenses, $10.00. Last name unclear.  This Emerson.
March 2, 1869 – Receipt to I.O. McDaniel & T.C. Moore Furnishing Hammond & Family paupers House, wood, provisions and attendance—$6.00; ?? & other burial expenses Hammond—$3.00; Coffin-3.00; December 1868.
June 8, 1870 –  Pay to J.C. Roper for expenses of burying Ben Mitchell, Pauper.
July 1870 – To J.C. Roper.  Digging grave for Ben Mitchell Pauper, $2.50; Shrouding for the same, $5.00; making coffin for the same, $5.00; burying, $2.50.
December 3, 1870 – Receipt To J.L. Dysart” for making one coffin.
January 4, 1871 – Pay to Samuel Pitts for expenses burying Pauper Child of Lucy Rodgers.
July 22, 1871 – Receipt to W.C. Grasham to nursing Howell a Pauper from Saturday until Wednesday, 5 days a 2$ pr day—$10.00; to furnishing coffin for same $6.00; to digging grave and burrying-2.50; killed near Stilesboro on 29th April 1871.
January 18, 1872 – Order to pay Cartersville Car Factory a& B.A. $10.00 for “one coffin & box for Wm Hazel, Pauper.
September 30, 1872 – Pay to Anthony Smith for materials and making coffin for body of  child of Mary Wilson.
November 8, 1872 – Receipt to J.B Britton for making a coffin (Pine Log).
Oct 29, 1872 – Pay to Wm. Goldsmith for one coffin for Freedman Pauper on Sept 10, 1872.
October 29, 1872 – Pay to Wm. Gouldsmith for one orrin for L. Gibson, Pauper on Oct 21, 1872.
December 11, 1872 – Pay to Joseph Davis to defray funeral expense for Mathew Goodson, Pauper.
May 6, 1873 – Pay to McDonald & Branton for burial of Pauper.
May 6, 1873 – Pay to Gilbert & Baxter, agts. for graves for Pauper farm.
May 6, 1873 – Pay to Wm. Goldsmith for coffins for Paupers.
September 2, 1873 – Pay to A. Robin for coffin and to Wyley Harbin for burial  expenses for M.T. Hill, Pauper.
October 7, 1873 – Pay to Wn. Goldsmith for coffins for Paupers.
September 16, 1880, p2, Cartersville Express Newspaper, transcribed by Laurel Baty. Mr. W.J. Collins,                                     superintendent of the pauper farm informs us that one of the paupers, Lucy Felton (col) died Tuesday morning.  He also says the general health of the paupers is good and reports the farm in good condition.  There are now sixteen paupers at the farm.”

NOTE:  The Farm records reveal that 116 individuals had some type of documentation during the tenure of the Bartow County Farm.  We simple do not know the full extent of those who lived, were housed there, or died there.

For more information about the former Bartow County Poor Farm and Hickory Log School click here.


  1. Carlton G. Etheridge, Investigative Survey Report, County Farm Cemetery, 9Br1048, Circa 1868-1945, October 2003.
  2. Transcribed and Compiled by Jane B. Thompson & Laurel Baty, Bartow County USGenWeb Project, Pauper Farm Records, 2007. https//
  3. Donna Coffee, Etowah Valley Pilgrimage, Blogging in a time of Pestilence, April 2, 2020. 
  4. Joe F. Head, EVHS VP & Dr. Michelle Haney (Berry College), Etowah Valley Historical Society, Hickory Log School (Former County Poor Farm Property Legacy. Research Courtesy of the Etowah Valley Historical Society.
  5. Transcribed by Laurel Baty, The Free Press, Cartersville, Georgia, August 22, 1878, p 3.
  6., Paupers Cemetery, Bartow County, Georgia.
  7. Matthew Gramling, A Public Health Crisis in Antebellum Bartow County, Etowah Valley Historical Society, 2020.       

The Dark Era of Bartow’s Chain Gang Camps

By: Joe F. Head

Georgia’s chain gang system operated for almost 100 years and in certain instances concealed ghastly conditions that eventually earned it an infamous reputation for hotspots of dark brutality. Unfortunately, Bartow County equally caught high profile attention regarding cruel convict treatment. Periodically, Bartow camps became the epicenter of several state investigations that were featured in a national magazine, courts and major newspapers.

Following the Civil War southern states were faced with widespread destruction including the collapse of the penal system. Georgia was in shambles in the wake of war and particularly the loss of penal facilities, jails and prisons at local and state levels.

Bartow Chain Gang building Old Dixie Highway, 293

As southern states began to dig out of ruin there was little infrastructure left to manage incarcerations. In the Journal of the Georgia Senate Minutes on November 1866 page 24 – 27 a lengthy description appears describing the poor condition of the war ridden state penitentiary and great frustration in how to deal with prisoners. As a solution the penal system turned to a convict chain gang model that did not require brick and mortar facilities. This system operated on a field-based camp method and offered immediate advantages on several levels. It reduced the need to maintain prisoners and delayed the need to fund and build penitentiaries. Further it farmed out prisoners to supervised hard labor camp sites that provided imprisonment, discipline, food and shelter. Furthermore, it served as a divisive replacement for lost slave labor under the “colors of state law.” Typically, discipline was conducted with a strap and more severe methods were used for greater offenses.  Each camp had an appointed “whipping boss” who carried out punishments. One report listed 112 registered whipping bosses statewide. The state maintained an annual whipping roster by name of prisoner that was filed with the state.

Joseph Brown, Georgia’s former Civil War Governor was one of the first to take advantage of the Convict Lease System. He contracted for 300 convicts and struck a deal with the state to rebuild the war damaged railroad system and, in doing so, made a fortune.

In 2006 the author of this research received correspondence from William A. Crump, Ph.D, Georgia State University Criminal Justice Instructor and former Assistant Commissioner of Operations, Georgia Department of Corrections. He addressed the origin of the convict lease system and the convict camp north of White in a topic entitled, Who Changed the Landscape of Bartow County Around White, Georgia.

His brief mentions that the convict lease system began in 1868 when the Georgia Military Provisional Governor, General H. Ruger implemented a law which permitted the farming out of the Georgia Penitentiary. On May 11, 1868 he leased 100 Negroes to William A. Fort of Rome to work in railroad construction, thus beginning the institution.

Soon following the launch of the convict lease system conditions became ill managed, notorious and corrupted. It was designed to relieve the state from shouldering the expense of convict upkeep with a deliberate revenue intent. The state invited bids from private interests to lease chain gangs for hard labor in mines, logging, railroad construction, sawmills, turpentine and other industries. As a side bar, many leases were let to third party private contractors who then managed the gangs for a client such as a mining company. These arrangements became breeding grounds for neglect, mismanagement, inhumane treatment, exploitation, disease and brutality. The chain gang lease system became a convenient revenue for the state, means to “legally press the underprivileged into bondage as well as a discreet tool to continue racial bias and a method to fuel cheap labor.” Records indicated that in most camps black convicts were largely the greater percentage of the population. However, some camps were more segregated.

The chain gang model approved camps at the state or county level for public works and private lease. However, as an unexpected outcome a third level of camps surfaced called “Wild Cat Camps.” These were largely unauthorized chain gangs that were assembled in counties from inappropriate conscriptions drawn from local jails. Unfortunate victims were shanghaied by various landowners or industries. Fines, bails and bribes would be paid by discreet individuals who removed jailed prisoners in chains to work for the period of their confinement. However, it was rare for the prisoners to be released on time or they fell to worse fates.  These gangs were unregulated, ruthless and became dark operations that were outside the color of law. State officials struggled with these camps and attempted on many occasions to disband their existence.

Understanding the Chain Gang history in Bartow County is rather elusive and sketchy as camp identities were confusing. Basically, camps came and went over the years and were operated under nicknames or simply assigned a number. It was often difficult to determine if they were county, state, leased or wildcat operations. Camps were either mobile or stationary depending on the work and often their identity was determined by their duty.

Bartow County entrepreneurs were quick to take advantage of the lease system establishing a long history of operating a variety of chain gangs throughout the county. Primarily these early chain gangs replaced former slave labor in the construction of laying track, building roads, mining, timber and agriculture toil. Prior to the Civil War it was not unusual for local slave owners to lease their slaves to businesses in return for contract fees.  Records found in this research reflect the presence of penal or incarcerated chain gangs operating from the early 1870’s through the early 1940’s. 

Accounts discovered in this study reveal that Bartow had at least fifteen or more known residential chain gang camps and many other temporary or mobile camps that existed over seven decades. According to census reports most camp populations ranged from about 15 convicts to over 100 in each location. Camps were classified as either private lease for business or state/county operations for public projects. It was not determined in this study if Bartow had unauthorized wild cat camps.  After the state lease system for private business interests was abolished in 1908, camps continued, but only as county and state operations. It was not unusual to see county or state chain gang road crews through the 1960’s.

The camps identified in this research were primarily stationary or residential camps as found in the US Census records, Grand Jury reports and newspaper articles.

Hall Station Road Camp                         (1870’s, Between Kingston and Adairsville on Hall Station Road)
Cartersville & Van Wert RR Camp          (1870’s, West of Cartersville adjacent to Hwy 113 to Taylorsville)
Rogers Station Camp       (1870’s, Proximity of Iron Belt Road and Cassville Road, 100+ convicts)
Bartow Iron Works  Camp                   (1875, Lake Point Station area 50 to 150 prisoners)
Sugar Hill Camp(s)          (1880 -1908, NE Bartow County east of 411 north of White – 50 to 124 prisoners)*
Camp Bartow                                 (1900, Misdemeanor at Sugar Hill)*
Chumler Hill Mining Camp     (1901, 24 prisoners off highway 20)
Pine Log Camp   (1900, Area camps and possibly including Sugar Hill Camps 119 prisoners)*
Numbered County Camps   (1900, Area camps and possibly including Sugar Hill Camps 119 prisoners)*
Cartersville City Camp #2   (1910, Lee Street and West Cherokee/Market Street proximity, 20 convicts)
Taylorsville  (1910, Taylorsville, 8 convicts)
Kingston Camp          (1906, Quartered in old school)
Pauper Farm (1912, North of White on Hwy 411, 9 inmates)
Wolf Pen(1912, 35 inmates)
Cross Roads Camp/ “Whites” GA   (1918, Camps 1 & 2 were merged and located to Adairsville, 27 inmates)
Chain Gang Hill Camp(1940’s West of Ingles on Hwy 113 past ACE Hardware at top of hill, 34 – 96 convicts)
*Sugar Hill was simultaneously the home to several misdemeanor and felony convict camps over 3 decades.

According to the 1900 US Census the largest number of convicts was consistently centered in the Bartow convict camp around Pine Log District with 119 prisoners which may have included the Sugar Hill Mining Camp. Other camps recorded in the 1900 census ranged between 10 and 50 prisoners. Camps were both fixed locations with long term quarters and rolling camps using tents, wagons and camping equipment to move as the job progressed such as building roads or laying rails. Camps were appointed a warden, a “Boss or Captain and Whipping Boss”. Census records prior to 1910 most often list convict duties as cutting cord wood or mining. Great quantities of wood were necessary for making charcoal and firing the iron furnaces in the area.

As the lease system grew and chain gangs sprang up, so too did complaints and protests around the state emerge to abolish the practice. Bartow took a leading role in protesting the chain gang system. Among local leading voices were Bartow’s own Rebecca Felton, former Confederate General William Wofford, former Sam Jones Methodist Church Pastor General C. A. Evans and Judge Claude Pittman all wishing to extinguish the horrible institution called “Georgia’s Peculiar System”. General Evans became the state Prison Commissioner and testified at the 1908 Sugar Hill hearing that the lease system is radically wrong and needed reform.

On balance, the newspapers found in this research carried both sensational stories of mismanagement, filth and cruelty as well as positive reports on how well camps were conducted. The local papers often featured articles on road repairs and were complimentary of the quality of work. Frequently Grand Jury site visits determined acceptable conditions and satisfied prisoners, but also would cite areas for needed improvements. Chain gangs operated in a variety of capacities throughout the county in known and little-known locations. They were classified as County Misdemeanor camps or State Felony camps. Generally, reports included the number of prisoners, health, diet, sanitation, tools, number of sick or injured, escapes, budget, number of caged transport wagons (metal or wood), work wagons, livestock, road scrapers, negros vs white, male and female convicts and occasionally what work was being accomplished.  Jury reports too often omitted camp identity regarding names, number or location which made it very difficult to understand sites.  On several occasions reports would lean toward the abolishment of the chain gangs. However, the frequency and litany of reported abuses, hearings, deaths, whippings and investigations was painfully obvious.

During the February 1897 Grand Jury session, a full report was made of the Bartow Chain Gang Camp inspection. Matters were found to be in good order. However, the jury requested that a number of other bridge and road repairs be made and then asked the county to abolish the chain gang. In 1911 the Bartow Board of Commissioners voted to consolidate all the county chain gangs and to put them under one warden. Mr. H. K. Land was nominated and approved. However, no details were listed regarding the number or identity of camps.

The earliest documentation of chain gangs operating in Bartow County was in 1870 on the Cartersville Van Wert Railroad construction west of Cartersville and on the Hall Station Road. Newspaper articles referenced that smallpox had broken out in the Hall Station camp and doctors were dispatched to treat the prisoners.

The Cartersville and Van Wert (C&VW) Railroad was chartered in 1866 and 14 miles of track was completed by 1871, between Cartersville and Taylorsville using 100 convicts that had been leased from the state. (It is not certain if this was a rolling or fixed camp.) The railroad was plagued by shady management, unmet payrolls and reorganizations. As work progressed westward chain gang records appeared more in the Cedartown vicinity. As a result of corruption, by 1882 the road name had been changed to the Cherokee RR, followed by the East – West RR and now the remaining railroad bed is used to supply Plant Bowen (Georgia Power) with coal.

A second camp of 27 prisoners was established in 1919 on the Hall Station Road. The Grand Jury reported it was an ideal location and its operation was found in fine order. Surprisingly, the Jury stated it was too well equipped, over staffed, over stocked with farm animals, did not need motor trucks and recommended implements and some men be reallocated to other camps.

A Grand Jury report was made in August 1898 of the Bartow Chain Gang accounting for inventory and men. Items included 10 mules, 5 wagons, 3 road scrapers, harnesses and tools.

The force of men were 10 Negros and 8 white who were interviewed and found to be in good health and felt they were well treated. However, the tents were worn out and badly leaking.

Perhaps the three most notorious camps that operated in Bartow were the Bartow Iron Works Convict Camp near Emerson, Sugar Hill Camp near Pine Log Mountain followed closely by the 1942 Chain Gang Hill Camp west of Cartersville.

Generic photo

Sugar Hill Convict Camp

The Sugar Hill Convict Camp(s) were likely the most notorious operation in Bartow County. Located in north Bartow County northeast of White off East Valley Road in the upper Stamp Creek area at the base of Pine Log Mountain. It served an iron ore mining community and railroad operation that depended heavily on convict labor. This camp(s) operated from 1878 through 1909 when the Convict Lease System was abolished.

According to Dr. Crump’s correspondence, mentioned prior, there were eighteen different camps in Georgia in 1893. Four of these camps were in Dade County under one supervision and one camp of 51 convicts at camp Bartow (Sugar Hill). He refers to this location as nine miles north of Cartersville on the Rogers Railroad. These convicts were under Penitentiary #1, and lease control of the Dade Coal Company engaged in mining iron ore. Over time, as reports were submitted the number of convicts varied and companies in charge changed from Dade Coal to Georgia Mining and Manufacturing Company. An additional mention cites that I. B. RR. (Iron Belt RR Company) also had 23 convicts in 1899. His conclusion points to the convict lease labor system and mining companies as being key elements in who changed the Sugar Hill landscape around White, Georgia.

If by no other measure Sugar Hill was easily the most reported county camp in local and state newspapers regarding abuse and deaths. The August 1900 Grand Jury reported a list of mis-handlings at both the felony and misdemeanor camps that included self-inflicted wounds, severed toes, broken limbs, deaths, assaults, illnesses and crippling. They uncovered evidence of ill treatment, verbal abuse and a violation of no posted signage regarding rules and regulations for convict treatment. A scandal surfaced about paying wardens and guards under the table additional pay, supplements or bonuses beyond approved salaries.

According to newspaper articles and reported Grand Jury inspections Sugar Hill had both State and County camps in operation at this site. An inspection conducted July 24, 1902 found there were 84 state convicts and 53 county convicts working there. The same report included 48 convicts were at the Chumley Hill Mine. One prisoner was so badly injured that the attending physician recommended he be pardoned as he was paralyzed. On February 6, 1908 another inspection reported there were 76 state prisoners and 27 county prisoners at Sugar Hill. These reports validate that multiple camps operated simultaneously at Sugar Hill over a 30-year period.

The camp was hard labor, dangerous and a brutal private lease enterprise. Convicts were often poorly treated and inhumanely punished. Prisoners were frequently injured or killed in mining and rail accidents. Oral history supports a local legend of “Hangman’s Mountain” that was used as a sentence for violent or disobedient convicts who rebelled or committed aggression against guards or other prisoners. It was rumored that convicts would be taken to the mountain to either climb the steep cliff as punishment or simply to never return.

Prisoners complained of being ordered to perform work under hazardous conditions that put their lives at risk. Examples included being forced to work under heavy loading equipment, explosion zones, unstable mining cuts and overloaded train cars.

Cruel and lethal whippings would occur that often resulted in convict deaths. A charge of manslaughter was filed in 1900 against a Mr. Tomlinson for the whipping death of Mr. George Bankston. According to the investigation Bankston refused to work. A physician declared he was fit to work and following his refusal Mr. Tomlinson struck him with the strap 7 times. The next day he continued to refuse to work, and Tomlinson gave him 30 lashes and then 60 lashes on the third day.  Mr. Tomlinson ceased lashing him, however the convict was found dead on the fourth day. The incident escalated into a full investigation resulting in an involuntary manslaughter charge. The commission eventually exonerated Tomlinson.  

According to the August 13, 1905 Augusta Chronicle Deputy Warden J. W. Tierce at the Sugar Hill Camp was charged with the whipping death of a convict (Virgil Lidelle). The County Commissioner investigated the matter and heard statements from Joel Hurt owner, J. W. Tierce defendant and attorney Paul Akin, but to no satisfaction. The hearing resulted in the dismissal of Tierce and appointment of Mr. J. A. Carson as the new Warden.  A Grand Jury investigation was ordered and eventually Tierce was acquitted.

It was not uncommon at Sugar Hill to witness fights among convicts and guards or guards provoking altercations. In some cases, guards would order convicts to assault or allegedly kill another convict. On one occasion an unusually large negro convict sentenced for five murders refused to come out of a mining cut and declared he would kill anyone who came in after him. A smaller convict volunteered to bring him out. Both were armed with picks. The larger convict swung his pick and missed, but the smaller convict’s pick swing caught his opponent in the cheek penetrating through the jaw and neck proving a fatal blow. The large convict was made to stand up where he was further beaten and chained to a tree where he died shortly after.

Generic photo

Frequent escapes and accidents were typical at this camp. A fourteen year-old boy was killed in a rock crusher accident, another convict was crushed under the wheels of a locomotive, another convict had his legs severed by a train car and a trestle collapsed injuring several men when the ore cars tumbled down the bank. In February of 1900 five negros overpowered two guards and gained freedom with only one being recovered. An August 9, 1900 Grand Jury report printed in the American Courant cited numerous incidents regarding accidents and negligence. It was noted that tram ore cars had crushed feet and severed toes to an alarming rate, diet was absent from meat, guards were found to be abusive, profane and relied on the whip too often. In 1906, the Grand Jury inspected the work areas and cited unsafe conditions regarding loose rocks, unstable dirt banks and rest areas too close to dangerous cuts.

In 1905 a controversy surfaced around Bartow County Commissioner Henderson as he was questioned about the legality of holding both the post of Whipping Boss at Sugar Hill and that of County Commissioner. While no one seemed to question his honesty or good faith many doubted his propriety or good taste of holding both positions posing a conflict of interest. As a result, he resigned as Whipping Boss and all parties were satisfied.

In 1905 a Grand Jury visit was made to the Sugar Hill Camp and it was reported there were 49 negro prisoners, 20 whites, two negro women and one white woman. It was found the convicts were well fed, well clothed and well housed. It was observed that officers treated the convicts humanely along with the sick and feeble. Convict ages ranged from 14 to 52 years old.

Bartow Iron Works Convict Camp

The Bartow Convict Camp was a privately leased unit under the joint authority of Mr. Harris and Mr. Stegall. They contracted with the Tennessee Coal and Mining Company in 1875 to provide labor at the Bartow Iron Works.

Among Dr. Crump’s correspondence cited earlier he mentions that a lease was granted to J. T. and W. D. on April 1, 1874 for Bartow Iron Ore for 180 convicts at $11.00 per capita per annum. Later the force was expanded to 235. Shortly after they subdivided the camp among several counties to make brick, raising iron ore and working on the Elberton Air-Line Railroad.

The Bartow Iron Works was primarily an iron ore mining community about one mile south of Emerson that is now the Lake Point Sports campus. It was a treacherous place as a result of frequent train accidents, assaults and mining mishaps, but also became a hotbed of convict injuries, escapes, mistreatment, health issues and deaths.

An early incident was a conflict between William Moore the Convict Manager of the Iron Works when he reprimanded a white one-legged convict. The convict cursed Moore for the action and Moore slapped the convict resulting in the convict landing a fatal stab to Moore’s side.

Under the Harris and Stegall 1875 lease the Bartow Iron Works camp consisted of about 50 prisoners who were shackled, chained and housed in a group of wooden shanties. Atrocities there reached extreme levels regarding inhumane treatment, hygiene and sickness. Complaints forced the Governor to investigate the camp.

Governor J. M. Smith sent Dr. V. A. Taliaferro to the camp on two occasions to inspect the conditions. On his first visit he arrived late in the day to observe dinner and saw a disgusting meal service that was void of proper cleanliness. He was shocked to see the quantity and quality of food served. Convicts were seated in a circle around a pit and not permitted to wash.

Trustees carried a wooden bucket filled with fatty fried meat. Each convict held out their shovel to receive a scoop from the bucket followed by a trustee distributing bread and water. He found the meat to be poorly cooked and was informed the diet rarely changed. He learned the diet typically consisted of poor cuts of fatty pork, bacon, beef, molasses, bread, seasonal vegetables and water.

Dr. Taliaferro declared the camp cook, Sarah, to be the filthiest woman he had ever seen in his life. He inspected her and found her body unwashed and clothes to be infested with vermin.

His further inspection of the camp found frequent evidence of inhumane treatment, deaths, tales of harsh punishments, escapes, no fresh clothes and illness. Dr. Taliaferro found poor sleeping quarters filled with old straw and lice. He discovered diseases including scurvy, rheumatism, consumption, syphilis, diarrhea, frost bite, dropsy and old age disorders. His inspection uncovered little to no medical quarters nor supplies on site.

He examined their work schedule and found it to be comparable to regular mining employees and determined prisoners work no more or no less than paid laborers. However, he was not pleased with how restricted they were to water and instructed water to not be rationed nor out of reach.

At the conclusion of his second visit, Dr. Taliaferro recommended to the governor that the camp is bordering on a case of morality and should be closed. At his recommendation Governor Smith annulled the lease contract and asked Dr. Taliaferro to transfer the convicts to a location for treatment and preparation to be bid out to another leasee.

However, additional research discovered that subsequent chain gangs operated at the Bartow Iron Works. Following the disbanding of a camp in Cole City in 1896 by order of the Governor, 400 convicts were moved to new locations.  Governor Atkinson granted permission to establish a new camp in Emerson and named J. A. Bennet as whipping boss. An article on the health of state convicts in the Macon Telegraph reported that in 1901 there were 149 convicts working at the Bartow Mines. In 1908 seven convicts escaped and boarded a fast bound express train. Bloodhounds were used in tracking one convict who was apprehended in Rome, Georgia.

Roger’s Station Convict Camp

Rogers Station was a stop on the Western and Atlantic Railroad located in the vicinity of Iron Belt Road and Cassville Road north of Cartersville. This location also was the site of an iron furnace and mining operation.

In 1880 a committee was appointed by Judge McCutshen to visit the Roger’s Camp. The committee reported that there were 40 men mostly negros working along the railroad.

The men were housed in log buildings but slept in filthy bunks. Six men who claimed to be ill were chained to their bunks. Food rations were deemed sufficient allowing each man ¾ pound of meat daily, cornbread and vegetables as available. They began work at day light, took an hour and half lunch break and worked till sunset.

In July of 1880 The Macon Telegraph reported a dispute at the Roger’s Camp between two guards resulting in the shooting and killing of one of the guards. No charges were filed as the shooting was viewed as justifiable.

The Savannah Morning News reported on November 9, 1900 two convicts were killed on the Iron Belt Railroad while running from Rogers Station to the Sugar Hill mines. An officer also broke his shoulder in the accident.

Sundries (Reports,Services, Appreciations, Accidents)

In 1897 State Convict Camp Inspector Phill Byrd submitted a shocking report to the Governor regarding the state’s county misdemeanor camps (public and private). Byrd states he visited 51 chain gang camps containing 1,792 convicts. As a practice he made a rule to take each camp completely by surprise in order to discover the reality of conditions and treatment. His findings were graphic, horrific and quantitative regarding gender, personnel, race, ages, death rates, diet, methods of punishment and brutality. He reports briefly of visiting the Bartow camp and found all prisoners housed in floored tents year-round with good stoves and ample bedding.

Overall, his final report revealed harsh treatment, poor housing, poor hygiene, poor sanitation, illness and sickening smells across most camps.  He noted that county camps were more often operated slightly better than private. In most instances 90% of the convicts were black and about 1% female. Byrd concludes his report by comparing convict bondage was worse than slavery in many camps. He encourages the governor to systematize and regulate the institution and move it toward reform including finding milder punishments for lesser grades of crime.

Some news accounts reported that local ministers such as Rev. Dunbar would preach monthly to the Bartow County Camps, while other news reported that citizens would hold Sunday picnics with a wide spread of food expressing appreciation for the good work the convicts had done in their neighborhoods. In December of 1920, Rev. Dutton of the First Baptist Church held a Christmas service for the convict camp off of the Dixie Highway near Jones Mill. A sermon, meal and a present were given to each prisoner.

In 1922 the state reported it had 7,667 in the penal population. The report included prisoner illnesses, deaths and comparisons of previous prison populations.

It was not uncommon for newspapers to report varied accidents among the convict road projects. In particular there are several reports of train and dynamite injuries. One explosion was covered in detail that occurred at the Douthit Ferry Mountain near the iron bridge.

Grand Jury Reports

In February of 1912, the Grand Jury submitted an extensive report covering a vast number of topics. One of which was a visit to the convict camp (identity not listed) holding 48 prisoners and Pauper Farm stating only that bedding was in need of replacement. They accounted for mules, equipment, diet and budget. A rather poor report of the jail was included that requested repairs, clean out filth, improve garbage removal, increase daily funding to 0.50 cents per prisoner to provide for better meals and make exterior improvements to the facility.

A November 1912 report was made in the Cartersville News of an unusual site visit to several road projects on the same day to observe work at three locations. The first was in south Bartow on roads leading to Kennesaw to see a new method of using topsoil to build roadbeds that might be used in Bartow. This same day trip was followed by inspecting 9 inmates housed at the county Pauper Farm near White. Discussions centered around how well managed the farm is and the hope to move the farm nearer Cartersville. The jury continued on to Wolf Pen and then White where they found about 35 convicts doing satisfactory work on the dirt roads.

Honor System

In 1912, a forward-thinking Warden, Mr. Land supervising a county camp of 50 convicts introduced the Rule by Honor System. He abolished chains and shackles in return for good behavior and fair treatment. He established a set of rules and if any were broken the accused would have a fair trial among his fellow prisoners and punishment, if determined by his peers.  The prisoners were so grateful, not one escape has been attempted.

Dixie Highway Work (cover photo)

In 1913, the Bartow Chain Gang worked on the road between Cartersville and Emerson. The Georgia Peruvian Ochre Company provided fill dirt for the roadbed followed by a topping from the Bartow Iron Mine. The community and county were extremely pleased with the outcome.

Bartow County State Highway Chain Gang, Pinterest,

In 1918 two reports appeared in the Bartow and Cartersville News reporting that Camps 1 & 2 (“Whites” and Adairsville) have been consolidated and moved to Adairsville. An inventory listed: twenty-seven inmates (8 white and 21 colored), twenty-four mules, one horse, eight hogs, two Nash trucks, nine two-horse wagons, three 99 steel plows, one Oliver plow, one concrete mixer, two road scrapes, one six horse scape, three drag scrapes and one gasoline engine.  At the old crossroads camp (Wofford Crossroads) the following stock remains in shacks: 10 mules, 13 hogs, 3 pigs, 7 bunks, apparel, 3 convict mobile steel cages, 7 wheel scrapes, blacksmith tools, 1 horse wagon, concrete mixer and a gasoline engine. The committee recommends that much of the surplus be sold and other items to be stored for future use.

Chain Gang Hill

Life Magazine 1943

The last residential chain gang to operate in Bartow County was known as Chain Gang Hill or Convict Hill west of Cartersville on highway 113. This camp was transferred from Dallas, Georgia and put under state management to complete the Rockmart Road project (Hwy 113). In the March 12, 1941 Tribune News Warden Ed Goble from Dallas reported that he would move the camp from Paulding consisting of 96 Negros, twelve guards and equipment. The article indicated that the Cartersville camp is one of thirteen camps maintained by the state. It operated between 1942 and 1944. Bartow County assisted in constructing the property consisting of a fenced compound of 5 or 6 wooden buildings composing prisoner quarters, commissary, separate mess halls for guards and prisoners, office, watch tower, supply shed, guard and Captain quarters. Much of the construction labor was provided by the prisoners. It held about 100 prisoners, 20 guards and arrived with a reputation of “Little Alcatraz.” There were frequent escapes, harsh treatment, rubber hose whippings and injuries. During its operation inmate population was reported to range between 47 to 100 men.

Correspondence acquired at the Georgia Archives revealed that Governor Arnall requested the Chairman of the State Board of Prisons to increase the number of convicts at several camps in order to expedite work. Cartersville was included to add ten men in this request. Documentation was found that listed the road project routes this camp was assigned to service consisted of: Highways 3, 20, 61, 113 and 140 totaling 110.3 miles of roadwork. However, its main purpose was completion of the Cartersville to Taylorsville (113 Hwy) road construction. Once the camp was established rumors of mistreatment emerged.

Georgia’s Chain Gang reputation attracted the attention of Life Magazine followed by a visit to the state including Bartow County’s Chain Gang Hill facility. While several camps in Georgia were featured, Bartow’s Camp was the leading story. Photography and interviews were witness to a harsh system that turned public opinion to demand the abolishment of the chain gang system.

On September 23, 1943, Senator Claude Pittman from Bartow county presented to the local Lions Club on “State Prisons offer a living hell to inmates.” He lectured that the senate committee on prisons had interviewed prisoners at the state highway camps and learned of harsh conditions and treatment. He lobbied strongly for its abolishment.

At the Chain Gang Hill camp, it was not uncommon for prisoners to walk off, escape or self-inflict injuries, slice tendons or break legs to avoid hard labor. In 1943, charges were made against Warden A. W. Clay for whippings, verbal and abusive treatment of camp prisoners.

The Senate Penitentiary Committee found that Clay and a seven foot, two-inch tall guard, Big Jim Bryant had falsely testified about concealing whippings and should also be wearing stripes. Following a Life magazine feature exposing harsh treatment at the Bartow camp Governor Ellis Arnall ordered that the camp be disbanded and prisoners to be transferred.

On August 31, 1943 additional documentation in the State Archives from Governor Arnall found that the Governor requested a report on the Bartow County Highway Camp investigation alleging mistreatment by Mr. A. W. Clay. This review resulted in the reinstatement of Mr. Clay without prejudice, free of fault and guilt. However, on orders of Wiley Moore, director of prison operations the camp was closed before the end of the year and prisoners were transferred to the Tattnall County prison.


Bartow County chain gangs were not unlike others that operated in the State of Georgia. In fact, there were news articles and state reports (good, bad and ugly) of even more ruthless and violent camps in South Georgia that used more torturous methods. It was not uncommon to find reports of sweat boxes, knotted whip straps, dogs set upon prisoners, convicts staked out in the sun, neglected infections, ankle spikes, shackles, prisoners suspended from trees or bound in contorted positions and food or water were withheld.

As a result of these abuses, Bartow County was singled out by a 1943 Life Magazine story. Additionally, a book and movie entitled, “I am a fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang” by Robert Burns was published. These exposures drew attention to the mistreatment of convicts, embarrassed state officials and helped to demand change.

In light of a harsh penal system that existed for nearly a century, Bartow can boast of the many local and influential voices that championed the cause to abolish the entire state chain gang system. We pay tribute to those local heroes who advocated for the eradication of chain gangs and are saddened for those who suffered unnecessarily in a cruel, archaic system.

To read a companion article on the history of Chain Gang Hill click here:


This article would not have reached the detail and depth of history had it not been for EVHS member, Mr. Sam Graham. His generous contributions from personal files and his additional research efforts in searching digital newspaper sources made this a much richer work.  Thank you, Sam!

Note: Some article titles were not available or have been altered for formatting andspace


Greensboro Herald, The Cartersville & Van Wert Railroad, February 2, 1870
Cartersville & Express, Story of ride on the Cherokee RR to Taylorsville, August 15, 1891
Standard & Express, Communicated (Editorial), March 28, 1872
Savannah Morning News, Penitentiary Convicts, April 11, 1874
Georgia Weekly and Telegraph, Cartersville Telegram to Rome, Bartow Iron Works, July 6, 1875
Weekly Sumter Republican Americus, A Terrible Record, May 21, 1875
The Georgia Press, Georgia Governor abrogates lease, May 18, 1875
Cartersville Express, Notice of Convicts at Cherokee Railroad & Rogers Iron Works, April 8, 1880
The Free Press, Report of the Convict Committee, July 22, 1880
Macon Telegraph, Removal of 400 Convicts, August 5, 1896
Macon Telegraph, Health of Convicts Good, August 24, 1901
Atlanta Georgian and News, Seven Convicts Escape from Gang, April 15, 1908
Augusta Chronicle, Whipped to Death, August 13, 1905
Cartersville News, Kingston, May 17, 1906
Atlanta Georgian and News, The Holder Bill Gives us Five More Years of This, July 22, 1908
Atlanta Georgian and News, A Battle With Picks, July 30, 1908
Atlanta Georgian, Seven Convicts Escape, April 15, 1908
Marietta Journal, John Neill Killed at Sugar Hill, April 16, 1903
Northeast Georgian, The Penitentiary Convicts, April 11, 1874
Macon Telegraph, Conflict Between Guards, July 30, 1880
Macon Telegraph, Bartow Abolishes Chain Gain, December 27, 1895
Macon Telegraph, Removal of 400 Convicts, August 5, 1896
Courant American, Bartow Chain Gang Abolishment Recommended, February 4. 1897
Courant American, State Convict Camp County Chain Gang, August 4, 1898
Courant American, Mr. Tomlinson, May 4, 1899
Courant American, They Over Power Guards, February 15, 1900
Courant American, From the Grand Jury, August 9, 1900
Cedartown Standard, Tomlinson All Right, August 19, 1900
Courant American, Captain Tomlinson Friends, August 23, 1900
Savannah Morning News, Convicts Killed, November 9, 1900
Courant American, Sugar Hill and Chumler Hill Inspected, January 31, 1901
Cartersville News, White Convict Killed, Loses Legs, April 4, 1901
The News Courant, Convict Camps, July 24, 1902
Marietta Journal, John Neill Killed, April 16, 1903
Cartersville News, County Chain Gang, January, 26, 1905
Augusta Chronicle, Whipped to Death, August 13, 1905
Cartersville News, Henderson Resigns, May 18, 1905
Cartersville News, Chain Gang, November 15, 1906
Cartersville News, Convict Camps, February 6, 1908
Atlanta Georgian News, Convict Charges Leg was Crushed, July 27, 1908
Athens Weekly, The Statement, Wild Cat Camps, August 7, 1908
Atlanta Georgian, A Battle with Picks, July 30, 1908
Atlanta Georgian, The Holder Bill Gives us Five Years More, July 22, 1908
Atlanta Georgian, General C. A. Evans Admits Lease System is Bad, August 7, 1908
Cartersville News, Vote to Consolidate County Convict Camps, April 13, 1911
Cartersville News, Convicts Hurt by Dynamite Blast, February 2, 1911
Clayton Tribune, Picnic Celebration Dinner, October 6, 1911
Cartersville News, Bartow Grand Jury Recommends Bonds, February 6, 1912
The True Citizen, Convicts Ruled by Honor, August 31, 1912
Cartersville News, Splendid Work on Roads by Chain Gang, March 6, 1913
Cartersville News, County Chain Gang, May 5, 1918
Bartow Tribune, Two Convict Camps Consolidated, July 25, 1918
Bartow Tribune, Grand Jury Presentments, January 30, 1919
Bartow Tribune, Convict Camp, November 4, 1920
Bartow Tribune, Christmas Service, December 23, 1920
Bartow Tribune, County Road Gangs Does Good Work, April 14, 1921
Tribune News, Convict Camp Being Occupied, March 12, 1941
Tribune News, Convict Camp Location Insures Completion, January 8, 1942
Tribune News, Prisons Offer Living Hell to Inmates, September 23, 1943
Oakland Tribune News, Georgia Reforms Prison Camps, March 26, 1944
Miami News, Georgia Reforms Hell Camps, December 12, 1944

Articles, Correspondence, Reports and Exhibits

Georgia Senate Journal Minutes, State Penitentiary and Chain Gangs, November, 1866

Letter, Dr. William Crump, Who Changed the Landscape Around White, GA, February 8, 2006
Reinhardt University, Spirits of Log Mountain Exhibit, 2021 Dr. Donna Little
Etowah Valley Historical Society, The Legend of Chain Gang Hill , Joe F. Head, December 2000
Digital Library of Georgia selected photos
Life Magazine, Georgia Prisons – State Abolishes Old Abuses, November 1, 1943, pp 93 – 99
North Georgia Journal, A Look Back at The Chain Gangs, Gordon D. Sargent, Winter 1996
Report of Special Inspector of Misdemeanor Convict Camps of Georgia, 1897, Phill G. Byrd
Letter, Ellis Arnall Governor, Clem E. Rainey, Chair of State Board of Prisons, August 12, 1943
Letter, Ellis Arnall Governor, Clem E. Rainey, Chair of State Board of Prisons, August 20, 1943
Letter, Ellis Arnall Governor, Clem E. Rainey, Chair of State Board of Prisons, September 6, 1943
Executive Order, Ellis Arnall Governor, September 10, 1943
Digital Library of Georgia, UGA

Census Records

1880, US Census, Georgia, Bartow County, 822 District, June 26, Pages 43, 70, 71, 72, 73
1900, US Census, Georgia, Bartow County, (no location) Sheets 12, 13-A, 13-B, 14, 22
1910, US Census, Georgia, Bartow County, Pine Log District, April 23-25, Sheets number 2, 5
1910, US Department of Commerce Census, page 216
1920, US Census, Georgia, Bartow County, (no location) January 3, 1920, Sheet number illegible

Jessica Daves: Bartow’s Historic Fashionista

Editor-in-Chief, Vogue Magazine, 1946-62.

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 1946-1962. (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 in 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 (1841-1814), 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