Elisha Winn House

This Old House, Hog Mountain Map
From Elisha Winn House
Built 6 years before the formation of Gwinnett County, the oldest building in all of Gwinnett sits on Dacula Road, near where Hurricane Shoals ends. It is the Elisha Winn House , named for the county pioneer of the same name.

I thought it might be a nice time to write about it because next weekend, October 4th and 5th, 2008, they are open to the public for the once a year Elisha Winn Fair (photos of previous festivals here ), a festival and fundraiser to support the preservation of this architectural piece of Georgia History. The fair is a typical piece of Americana , with tours of the house, people dressed in old Gwinnett fashion (including some Confederate Army gear), children’s pageants, and the like. If your looking for a nearby piece of our shared history, this one is moments away from the downtown of Gwinnett’s County seat of Lawrenceville.

Elisha Winn bought the property from John Breedlove in 1819 (original construction in 1812). Mr. Winn was one of the original Inferior Court Justices, and the property served as one of the first election offices, the first jail, and the first county courtroom (held inside the barn). Many of Winn’s descendents were important in the early development of Gwinnett County, including William Maltbie (the man who gave Lawrenceville its name ), C. H. Brand (a President of Brand Bank ), and his namesake Thomas Elisha Winn ( a United States Representative). The barn served as a temporary courthouse from 1818 to 1820, until a better one could be built. Mr. Elisha Winn passed away in 1826.

The area was originally known as Hog Mountain , named for a mountain nearby which was home to Fort Daniel, which I believe is the oldest city in the area (I’m not sure - I’ve read that Lawrenceville is the second oldest city in the Atlanta Area, but I’ve never been able to nail down whose first, and my guess in Hog Mountain, please correct me if I am wrong). And the road running between Fort Daniel and Fort Standing Peachtree became our first of a ridiculous many Peachtree Roads.

The structures on the property include the home, the barn, a jail replica, and a cotton house. There is also a short nature trail behind the homestead, built a short time ago as part of an Eagle Scout project.

As a citizen of Gwinnett County, and a person who earns a living primarily in Lawrenceville, I think its important to know, understand, and preserve the history that surrounds us. The good folks at the Gwinnett Historical Society do a bang up job in aiding this endeavor. So, I believe they deserve our support. If you go, you can tell them the Urban Baboon sent you, it won’t get you anything, but it’ll make me feel kind of important.

Cave Spring, GA

Authentic Small Town Life map

From Cave Spring, GA

Growing up in the second largest city in the USA, I used to watch reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and wonder if anyone actually lived like that. At the times when the pace in Chicago was too frenetic or overwhelming, I would daydream about living in a town like Mayberry: Simple Life, genuine people, simple pleasures. Atlanta, as interesting as it is nowhere near this idyllic picture, but about an hour and a half Northwest of town, I found a place that claims this lifestyle, and better yet achieves it. I truly enjoyed my short stay in Cave Spring, GA.

Now, if you don’t read any further and just look at the pictures, remember this one thing, bring some empty water containers (I’ll explain later).

Cave Spring is a town of a little under 1000 people. It’s the embodiment of Georgia small town life and is proud that it only needs one stoplight. But unlike many little villages that dot the highway here and there, this town about 15 miles outside of Rome has two very distinct advantages: First, the people and businesses are open and welcoming, and, secondly, it has a unique geographical feature that makes it worth the trip.

We started the day, with a fine breakfast at the Cave Spring Café . Too often I get to a little town and the place looks quaint and charming, but the shops and restaurant are shuttered and locked. But the folks at this café were happy to see us even though we arrived shortly before closing (they close at 4pm on Saturday and Sunday). I enjoyed a genuine country breakfast with eggs, hand cut potatoes, and homemade sausage gravy. They had lunch and dinner on the menu also, along with some fine looking desserts. Another location, the Tumlin House Bed & Breakfast, does a fine dining feature only on Saturday nights, but we weren’t there on Saturday (If you go, drop me a note or add a comment).

We then walked around the downtown square. We were able to enter 6 different establishments and the specialty of the town must be antiques. Different locations were varied from high end to low end, but all the proprietors were smiling, friendly and willing to converse. I bought a couple of old fashioned rocks glasses that were marked a buck a piece, but the lady gave me them both for a dollar.

I asked one gentlemen when Rolater Park closed, and he said. “doesn’t really close, it’s a park?” This made we wonder how we devolved to a place where our parks always close. How do you lock up a tree? Why should we need to close off a nice field of grass or a stream? This is one clear way the people of Cave Springs are better than us: they trust each other and other people.

The park contains the fascinating geographical attribute that makes the trip worthwhile. Since the town is called Cave Spring, that’s exactly what’s there, a cave and a spring. The Cave does close, normally around 6 pm on weekends and 5 pm weekdays, but they say they stay later if people demand it. It costs a whopping $1 a head to enter the cave, and the rock formations are beautiful and the temperature is cool for those hot Georgia days. It is very easy to navigate and virtually anyone, even those with wheelchairs could traverse the first ¾ of the trip. The last portion has some large steep rock stairs with a heavy chain fence to assist your climb, but even if you don’t get that far its clearly worth the dollar.

Outside the cave there is public access to the Spring. At the entrance to the cave they will provide you will a small cup so that you can taste the naturally clean, cold water. But you probably will want to bring along some jugs to carry some of this free, natural water back to your life wherever it may be. I was a little taken aback at first at the thought of drinking water from a spring, but I saw a steady stream of townies, driving up to load up their clean water for the week. The water tasted pure and refreshing. I asked the one gentleman if it was safe, he said that the Spring starts somewhere deep in the mountain and “No one can get to it to mess with it.” He also explained that the same water is delivered to all locations in town and also to the Alabama town of Fort Payne. But the purists like it straight from the spring because they don’t add that “touch of fluoride” they are required to because of city requirements. I thought that this was another way the people of Cave Springs were superior to me: I was afraid to drink water from a natural stream, the way people have for thousands of years, and they knew how this was supposed to be.

The spring then feeds a small pond that’s just chock full of trout, easy to see with such crystal clear water. No, you can’t fish there (except kids on one day a year), but for a quarter you can buy some fish food, feed the trout, and watch them scramble for it. The pond also has a fine contingency of ducks to watch and feed too (maybe bring some bread?). The pond then feeds a shallow wading stream that you can dip your feet into to sense it cool refreshing waters (at about 60 degrees anytime of year). And yes it was cold. The stream then becomes a place where fishing is allowed, but is also diverted to a swimming pool (open during the summer), where kids can have a fine time on a hot summer day.

Inside the park, are also a handful of historic buildings (info on the buildings ), including Cave Spring Baptist Church (built before the Civil War), the Hearn Academy (originally a learning academy called the Manual Labor School), and the Hearn Inn (a currently functioning bed and breakfast in the heart of the park). They are open for certain functions, but weren’t the day we were there.

As I was leaving the park, I saw the one law officer (who looked nothing like Andy Griffith) sitting in the gazebo, 20 feet from his car, reading the paper. This place wasn’t Mayberry, but did a fine approximation. Cave Springs is the town that claims to be life the way it was, and maybe the way it is supposed to be. Many other places claim this, but this place does it. I have seen it with my own eyes, take a short drive and you can see for your self.


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