About, Q&A, and Purpose

About:

I first began noticing our disappearing landscape in high school. A barn that I passed by every day in Patmos had fallen in, and I was sad to see it go. Somehow I wished that I could have saved it, so that it existed somewhere other than my memory. It didn’t dawn on me until my third year in college that I had the power to save and document these relics through a camera’s lens. For three years now I’ve been driving across Southwest Georgia in search of landmarks, abandoned buildings, and urban legends, and taking thousands of photographs. Many of said photographs have ended up here, to share them with you, lest the features they represent be forgotten.

Purpose:

Quite simply my purpose is to document the past (and perhaps present) in Southwest Georgia. Time wears on so many things and in the course of 50 years the landscape can change dramatically. Just in my lifetime I’ve seen buildings crumble, lakes dry, and areas flooded. It is my hope that these photos will be passed on to others in the future who didn’t have the chance to see these striking features themselves.

IMPORTANT SITE RULES:

I DO NOT answer comments that are accusatory or spiteful. Sometimes the facts I post are wrong, it is NOT because I have a personal vendetta against anyone, it is simply how I have heard them myself. If you wish to correct me, do so in a manner that is conducive of what an adult would do, not a teenager or child; then I will be responsive. I have spent years compiling this information to make it available, so insulting me will most likely get you ignored. If you persist you will be banned from commenting on the website.

Do not accuse me of a crime, if you see your property and wish to have it removed please say so on this page, and it will be removed. I do not break and enter nor do I step foot on property with ‘no trespassing’ or ‘keep out’ signs posted. I am very up to date on Georgia law regarding abandonments and trespass law, I know what’s legal and what’s not. Accusing me of criminal activity will get you banned from posting comments, as legally this is slander.

I welcome open discussion, but this is not a place for ‘trolling’ or ‘cyberbulling’. We are adults, we should act as such. If an argument is started by a commenter (directed at me or any other user) said commenter will no longer be allowed to post. (This does not include general disagreements about history, as long as they stay within the limits of respectability.) Petty arguments are not welcome, this is a place to remember and respect our shared past.

I am personally more than happy helping others with genealogy and local events, but please understand that I am a full-time student in college and have very little time at my disposal. Sometimes a search might come up dry, please don’t hold that against me (I really did look). I also can not promise dates for local events, as I live in Newton and and spend most of my day at school, the ‘goings on’ in other towns usually fly under my radar. Please note that I can not look up any genealogy resources for CALHOUN COUNTY, as they have neither a history book nor cemetery registry.

Q & A:

What to you take photos of?

I photograph physical features like lakes, ponds, cliffs, and forests; as well as cultural features like cemeteries, houses, and churches.

Does what you’re doing have a name?

Yes, many call it Rural Exploration or RUREX for short. It is an offshoot of Urban Exploration (URBEX) and is the documentation and exploration of abandoned buildings, farms, and generally places where you’re not supposed to go.

So what you’re doing is illegal…

Yes and no. Ask anyone involved in this hobby and they’ll admit to trespassing at one time or another. That doesn’t mean that we’re vandals! The URBEX/RUREX motto is “Take only photos, leave only footprints”. I follow that religiously and do not steal or vandalize any of the things I see, that would be disrespecting the location. Generally speaking however, I always ask for permission before entering a building or scouting a field. I also never ‘break and enter’, I only go places with unlocked doors and easy access.

Is it dangerous?

Yes, very; there are many hazards that come with old buildings…namely asbestos. Flyable asbestos and bird droppings when inhaled can cause considerable problems (pigeon lung, cancer, ect.), so I usually wear a face mask to filter out the particles. One must also be aware of the structural damage to the building, falling through floors or having a roof cave in could be deadly. Animals love abandoned places as well. I have come across many snakes, wasps, bees, and other unsightly animals…not to mention owls, hawks, racoons, and deer. Believe it or not HUMANS also pose a threat. Squatters can be an issue, thankfully I’ve never met one, but the risk is still there. Being a woman I am also subject to lots of harassment from men when I’m in low income areas, this is never fun. Proper precautions ALWAYS have to be taken, these risks should be taken very seriously.

Have you ever been caught?

Yes, by both landowners and police. Usually they are ok with my photo taking once I’ve explained myself.

What are your feelings about abandoned places?

When I go into an abandoned building I get a rush, it’s an adventure! I also see that most abandoned places hold pieces of people’s lives. When a house is abandoned it is usually first looted and vandalized, leaving only personal items. These items, more than their valuable counterparts, tell the story of someone’s life. I find myself wondering who the person was and what their life was like. The same goes for scouting cemeteries. Its sobering and emotional for me.

Why don’t you have any pictures of Albany? Isn’t it SOWGA’s district capital?

Yes it is, and I have none on this page because Albany is a metropolitan city, therefore falling into the URBEX category. This blog focuses on RUREX. I do, however plan on creating a blog focusing on Albany and Thomasville.

Do you go alone?

Most of the time yes, I do however take partners who are willing. And when I say willing I mean willing to spend the day getting filthy and crawling into scary holes.

What’s you’re favorite place?

I don’t have one.

Can I go to the places you have photographed?

Sure if they are in a public area. No if they are on private property. Do as I say and not as I do, never go on private property without permission. Remember this blog is not a tour guide.

Do you ever check out urban legends/U. F. O. sightings/haunted places?

Yes I do. I write them up as I visit.

Do you have other photography webpages?

Yes:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/125005972@N07/

I see some features, like cemeteries and churches are tagged as ‘Black’ or ‘White’, what does that mean?

It simply means that the church/cemetery served either the Black/African American or White/Caucasian communities. Self segregation in the deep South is not uncommon, and the races seem to stay apart in matters of church and burial. This is not always the case, but it is generally the norm in rural areas.

Have you ever found a dead body?

I get this one a lot, not not yet…but again, the risk is there. EDIT 2014:  Yes, it was unpleasant. Open grave, potential vandalism I’d guess.

Do you ever tag to say that you’ve been there?

NO! That is disrespecting the landowner and property. This should NEVER be done. I do see it often, however, usually in the form of ‘Profane Poets’ (people who tag all sorts of profane things on the walls.)

What if the feature you wish to photograph is gone?

I simply photograph the location for posterity.

A Note on Private Property:

Please keep in mind that this blog is not meant to advertise for any private property. All of these photos are posted here for educational purposes and I have gone to many lengths to express this. I have been very fortunate to have gotten permission from either landowners or managers to take these photographs and I am very thankful. Out of respect for the landowners I will not provide addresses or telephone numbers for any of the land you see here. I will not give any tips on how to sneak in on any land or reveal potential access points. I keep this project alive through trust, and I intend to keep it that way. If you want to explore these places you’ll have to do the leg work like I did, sorry! Keep in mind that plantations are very private and do not tolerate trespassers, most get caught and get sent to jail. It’s just not worth the risk.

If you have any other questions, or would like to go with me as a group please feel free to leave a commit on this page. If you would like to go on an outing with me I will let you know the location and what you’ll need. (i.e. boots, flashlight, facemask) Don’t forget the camera! These scouts usually last all day and have to be worked around school and the like. Keep that in mind.

-Jessi

Soft Smile

Thanks, Jessica

34 responses to “About, Q&A, and Purpose

  1. This page is so impressive! There is so much here that I have only been able to imagine what the areas look like and now can see. I came across your page looking up Red Bluff Cliff so to find all of this extra stuff is just ALOT of icing on the cake! I am a local historian, born and raised in Albany, so very much appreciate the work you have put into this. I do alot of scouting myself and know of some places in Dougherty and surrounding counties you would probably be interested in visiting. I’d be glad to go on an outing with you sometime. Usually if I take people with me they only go once because like you said alot of people don’t want to get dirty or go in thick woods or as you said “crawl in scary holes”. I absolutely love it though so it would be great to have some company that actually appreciates it like I do. I’m currently in the process of trying to get permission to go on a few of the plantations in Baker county, particularly Pinebloom, Red Bluff and Blue Springs. Shoot me an email and lets have a chat!

  2. Enjoyed your site. I happened upon it trying to find out who maintained the city cemetery where my grandparents are buried (maybe “were” might be appropriate now!) I have fond memories of visiting my grandmother in the 1950’s-60’s in Newton and did not realize much had been destroyed by the flood.

  3. do you have any information on mormoms living in Bakers County Georgia circa 1960. There was one family that lived on the Blackett plantation but I believe some were killed in a plane crash in late 50s or early 60s. interested in burial sites and where they worshiped. Believe their names were Gardner or Gardiner; supposedly there was a fairly large group of them, some of them equestrians

    • I don’t know any off of the top of my head, but I can ask some folks next door on Wallington and see if they remember anyone who went by that name. I live on Darlington Plantation, and I can’t remember any ever being here, or when Darlington and Wallington were both Elmwood. To my knoledge there has never been a Mormon church in Baker County, but it’s possible that they used an existing church to hold services when it wasn’t in use. Let me have a few days to do some research and I’ll be glad to share anything I find.

      • thanks.  i think one Mormon family lived on the Blackett plantation, perhaps their name was Gardner or Garner – believe several family members perished in an airline disaster (small or large I do not know) around 1962.  One in particular was a 15 year old Jaqueline gardner an accomplished equestrian; but I am not sure about other Mormons in the area.  interested in how many located to baker county Georgia in that time.   our family was friends with theirs, we are in northwest n.c. in the mountains but remember visiting them.  was the blackett plantation near newton Georgia?

      • There was an active Mormon Church in Albany, only a few miles north of Baker County. I don’t know that it was a large congregation. One of its members worked with me several years. His brother was a keyboard player for the Osmond Brothers during that time.

    • Hi Susan,
      Yes, the Blackett plantation is roughly four miles from Newton. It used to be one large plantation owned by the Slappy family, it was called Elmwood. The Slappys sold the plantation and it was split into two seperate tracts. One was called Darlington and was bought by an English couple; my family owns it now. The other part of the plantation was sold to the Blacketts and they named it Wallington.

      I found some info on a family in Baker County by the name of Gardner. The last name has been floating around the county since at least the 1700s. The earliest record I can find is of Miss Nancy Bonner Gardner (b. 1808 d. 1877) who married a Hamill. I have two families listed in the 1850 census with the name, M. L. Gardner 31 of Alabama. M. L. had a wife named Sarah and three children: John, Ellen, and Jane. The other was Thomas Gardner 47 of South Carolina. Thomas’s wife was Sarah and they had eight children: Mary Ann, James Lewis, Sarah E., Elizabeth F., Hannah, Eveline, William T., and Martah C. There was a pastor by the name of Gerald Gardner, but he was a pastor of Baker County Assemby of God Church in Pondtown. I’m unsure if he is any relation to the Gardners you knew. There was an atorney named Gardner who worked in the county doing errands for the school board in the 1960s as well.

      I’ll check the cemetery records next.

  4. If the larger family was in then I would bet on the attorney in the 60s. I believe that Jackie (as she was known to me) was Jaqueline but had many siblings. I think a couple or several of the members of the family were killed in an airline tragedy in the early 60s as Jackie was about 16 at the time. I so appreciate your doing this for me as my computer has had a virus and I am scared silly to get on it to do anything other than check mail. Wallington I remember. Your family bought the great part of the plantation. I was just unsure as to where they worshiped because though we rode together several times, I don’t know of any other Mormon families in the area at the time. they rather kept to themselves though Jackie was quite outgoing with the locals. I could not find her on cemetery records – not sure if they went back to Alaska or Utah for burial – but I do know she died in her teens in an airline tragedy while on a mission for the church. thank you; love your site

      • Jackie and her father have never been found since the wreckage of the aircraft have not been discovered, according to a reply i was given recently when I asked a friend who remained in the county after we graduated from high school in 1967. Jackie and her father reportedly died in the crash in the summer of 1966. There were an older brother and older sister who had graduated in 1965 and I never saw either since.

    • Hi Susan,
      I checked the cemetery records and only found two Gardners. A Mary D. Gardner who lived only a year in the mid 70s and a L. W. Gardner who was born in the 1910s and died in the 1950s. They were both buried in Black cemeteries, however. I assume that the family you knew was White. Thats all I could find in the cemetery records, and unless they were buried in unmarked graves they would be listed. Perhaps they were buried back in the place the emigrated from…? I could get you in contact with someone who grew up on Wallington though if you like, they might no more than I do.

  5. is Leary, GA nearby – could they have been from there. It is so frustrating not to find rest of family. I know they lived on the Blackett plantation and had horses. Jackie had a favorite one she rode all the time…remember like it was yesterday. now I feel like I am losing my mind.

    • Hi Susan, sorry for such a LONG delay in response. Somehow I overlooked this comment. Yes, Leary is nearby…perhaps 10 mins. away. Sadly Calhoun County does not have any sort of Cemetery record.

  6. Jess, happened upon this site by searching for Adams Cemetery in Baker Co. My great-great grandparents are John & Mary Griffin. I am putting together a family tree for our personal use/info & would love to include some of the history you have gathered from Patmos. Also searching for info verifying that my Grandfather, Manassah David Adams’ father was Horrie Adams. How can I access the cemetery records? Seems like many of my relatives are buried there. Thanks so much for your help.
    Shirley Adams Roddenberry

    • Hello Shirley, you are welcome to use any of the historical tidbits here! Also if you would like to buy a copy of the Baker County History Book or the Baker County Cemetery Records you can call my grandma, Jackie Heard at 1(229)734-4689 or 1(229)224-6805. I believe that the last time the cemetery was surveyed was in the late 1990s, but I’ll check the records and let you know if I find any further info.

      • Jess, your grandmother is the sweetest lady! It was so nice to talk with her. She referred me to Jackie Harrell (who I discovered is my 2nd cousin) & have ordered the history book & cemetery book. Seems as if there’s lot of info on both the Adams & the Griffin families. So glad I found your website.
        Shirley

  7. HI Jessica
    I have to tell you about Iveys Mill in Baker County, Georgia.
    You misspelled was Ivys Correct is Iveys Mill. Not Ivy is IVEY (4 letters)
    They are my relatives from Robert and Elizabeth Ivey in Milledgeville, Ga. his son is Robert Dorsey Ivey and his wife, Nancy Anne Miller. his brother is Barna Ivey is my ggg grandfather.
    any questions
    let me know
    Thanks
    Joseph Ivey

  8. HI Jessica
    I forget to tell you. Where is Ivey Cemetery (Gravesite) in Iveys Mills in Baker County, Georgia. I could not find in online findagrave com ?
    let me know
    Thanks
    Joseph Ivey

    • The Ivey Family Cemetery is in a small Baker County town called Jones Spur near the Calhoun County line. It’s the same town that the old Ivey’s mansion is in. I have looked very hard for the cemetery myself, but I believe that it has been removed (the headstones that is). I DO have a listing of the people buried there, and also the number of slaves who were buried in a cemetery not too far from the family cemetery (also gone). I’d be glad to share it with you if you like!

  9. These pictures are great! I visited Newton in Baker County, once, in trying to tract down some of my Swilley relatives, who lived there generations ago.

    Do you know whom I could contact to ask about a Sarah Swilley, who married Jeremiah Wilson on 8 March 1840 in Thomas County and who were living in Baker County in 1850? They had 7 children: Cynthia Wilson, born 1838; Eliza Wilson, b. 1840; Margaret Wilson, b. 1842; Mary Susan Wilson, b. 1844; Lucinda Wilson, b. 1846; George William Wilson, b. 1848; and Harriett Wilson, b. 1854. Sarah “Sallie” Swilley Wilson died in Mitchell County between 1854 and 1860.

    Another Sarah “Sallie” Swilley married Oliver Gibson Williford about 1844 in Baker County – she died in 1884 and is buried at Live Oak Cemetery in Baker County…she and Oliver had 9 children: Elizabeth Williford, born 1845; Grace Ella Williford, b. 1846; Stephen W. Williford, b. 1847; Susan Williford, b. 1848; Georgana Williford, b. 1850; Lavonia Williford, b. 1851; Franklin Columbus Williford, b. 1852; an Infant Williford, b.1856 & d. soon afterward; and Nancy Creasann Williford, b. 1856. I am pretty sure that I have found the parents of this Sarah “Sallie” Swilley Williford….she and Sarah “Sallie” Swilley Wilson were distant cousins.

    If anyone reading this, who knows ANYTHING about this Wilson family, would please contact me, I would be more than grateful!

    Janice Newton Thurmond, Marietta, GA
    jannt@comcast.net

    • Hi Janice, I don’t personally know anyone, but I’ll do some asking around for you. I’ll also check the archives at the Court House and the History Book/Cemetery Record and let you know what I find!

  10. Hello, we passed the McRainey home the other day and did not stop but I looked it up and found your site. Thanks for having it up; it’s nice. Is Mrs. Effie still alive or what year did you photograpgh the place. If you ever get to go inside I’d love to see that too.

    • My pleasure. Yes, she is still with us. I believe that I took that photo in ’12 or ’10, but I’m not sure exactly. The last time I went for a visit she didn’t want me to take photos on the inside because of the condition of the house, and she didn’t want me to get hurt. Many of the floors of the upper level have collapsed down into the rest of the house, making it very dangerous. If I ever do have the chance to go inside I’ll post the photos.

  11. Hey Jessi , this is a very great site you have I have several questions for you on Iveys mill cemetery and church I have some of my grand parents there and when i came to iveys mills rd its a new house there and the church is gone and my love ones are not there is there any record of where they were moved to please help….

    • Hello, Rev. Smith.
      To answer your question, sadly the Ivy’s Mill Church has been demolished and the house built over the site. As far as I know the house was built directly over the cemetery, and only the headstones were removed. That means the bodies would be directly under the house.

  12. Jessica, Was very very impressed with your photos and information posted. In researching my people I came across the town name “Fish Trap Ga.” Your information on Fish Trap mentioned my gggggrandfather Thomas Tabb. I have just begun this side of my family and was very happy that you have been inspired to do the work that you have done on our vanishing Georgia. I happen to live in SW Early Co.(Hilton) and will try to locate (electronically map/google earth) the exact location of the ghost town of Fish Trap. I believe that you said that the location is now owned by Caney Creek Plantation, do you know if people are allowed to visit that location? Who would be a contact person there? Again thank you so much for your work and I will be following your work more closely.
    Respectfully,
    Thomas (tommy) E. Wright Jr.

    • Hi Tommy! Im so glad that you like the site, thank you so very much for the kind words. Heres the Google Earth coordinates: 31°24’15.7″N 84°35’46.6″W . The quickest way from Hilton is to take GA62 to Arlington. When you get to town bear right onto Lakeside Drive, it dead ends on GA45. Take a right and then a left on GA216 at the church, this is the Patmos road and it will take you right into Baker County. When you get to Patmos (youll know when youre there, there will be a sign) take left at the Patmos Free Will Baptist church on to Iveys Mill Road. Go through Iveys Mill (you will know Iveys Mill by a bridge and a sign for Mill Creek) and Fish Trap is the next intersection (the intersection of Iveys Mill Road and Caney Creek Road). There isnt much to see, sadly, but it is a nice drive and pretty area. Ill ask around though and see if I cant get you some contacts in the area. (P. S. Please excuse my lack of punctuation, my cat knocked over a glass of Dr. Pepper on my keyboard. 🙂 )

  13. HI Jessica
    I went to Iveys Mills in Baker County, Ga. I was looking for lost gravesite is “Ivey Cemetery” with Sandra Hodges (Baker County Historical). She is an information about graves in Baker County, Georgia. I found the gravesite with Sandra and her son, there. I took some pictures and put in online – http://www.findagrave.com. They are my relatives from Robert & Elizabeth West Ivey. my email address see in online findagrave.com
    Any questions
    let me know
    Thanks
    Joseph Ivey

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