Former 1,000 acre Cotton and Corn Plantation in GA

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia
Date added: May 31, 2024 Categories:
Front (1983)

The history of the John S. Jackson Plantation (Jackson Place) begins with the purchase of the property and the building of the existing house around 1856. This is the date of the marriage of John Swinney Jackson and his first wife, Artemesia Hall.

John Swinney Jackson was born around 1827 to William Jackson and his wife Nancy Swinney. His parents had married in 1826 in Hancock County. He was living with his parents in 1850 in adjoining Greene County. Thus, he had deep roots in the area. The land on which the plantation was developed belonged to neither his parents, nor his wife's family. It is thus a good example of a farmer seeking to build his own future by securing land and building his own home and farm.

In 1860, the agricultural census shows that the plantation consisted of 1,000 acres of land, 600 improved and 400 unimproved. Cotton was the main staple crop with fifty bushels being produced during the previous year; 1,250 bushels of corn were also produced. The size and production level place the plantation at about average for the surrounding Greene-Hancock County area. There were six slave houses and thirty-eight slaves on the place in 1860.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Mr. Jackson was about thirty-four, and despite his management of the plantation and his growing family, he had to serve the Confederate cause. In September 1865, like most Southerners, he took the Amnesty Oath and received a pardon.

The war had depleted his finances and, as did many Southerners, he was forced to sell his plantation. Eventually, he moved with his second wife, Alice G. Jones Jackson, and his children to Greene County, where they lived on his mother's property. When Jackson sold the plantation on February 23rd, 1870, he did so for $8,000 to Robert M. Grimes, a neighbor, who had married into the nearby Jernigan family. The land was described as being 1,500 acres, lying in the counties of Greene and Hancock on Little Shoulderbone Creek.

Jackson's arrival in Greensboro was noted in the local newspaper in February, 1871: "Mr. J. Swinney Jackson has moved to the city." He paid taxes for his mother's 1,000-acre farm near Greensboro until 1877. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Texas, where he continued farming. He, his family and his mother appeared on the 1880 Census of Harrison County, Texas. It was to this same county that his sister, Henrietta Harris, and her husband, Captain John A. Harris, also moved. Thus, like many Georgians, the Jacksons went West, seeking a better future.

Robert M. Grimes (born 1848), who bought the Jackson Place in 1870, owned it only briefly, selling it in December 1874, to James M. Harris (born 1819), another neighbor. This time, the 1,415 acres and other lands sold for $4,866. In November 1880, the land once again returned to Grimes, and after a lawsuit over debts, was sold again to Harris in late 1881.

Harris owned the Jackson Place until 1900, when he sold 1,100 acres to Henry Thomas Lewis, a member of a prominent Greene County family. It appeared to contain just that part of the Jackson Place that was in Hancock County.

In 1913, Mrs. Harriette Poullain Lewis, widow of Henry T. Lewis, deeded the plantation, then consisting of 661 acres, to Jeff W. N. Lanier, for $3,500. Other members of the Lanier family lived nearby. Mr. Lanier was a cotton farmer. It remained in the ownership of Lanier, great-grandfather of the present owner, until 1926, when he sold it to D.B. Taylor for $6,000. It was owned by Dorsey L. Campbell from 1936 to 1981. He sold 500 acres for timber and did light farming on the remaining acres. Campbell divided his lands among his children. He deeded the house tract to his daughter, Alice Hartley. She deeded the house tract back to the Lanier family in 1982, when she sold it to the present owner. The Campbell family still owns some of the surrounding land.

James M. Harris, who owned the Jackson Place off and on for over twenty years, was also a native of the area. His parents settled on Shoulderbone Creek before his birth. In 1895, during the time he owned this house, Harris was described as a planter, and as a "representative of an old and aristocratic family, which has for long years wielded a powerful influence for good in Hancock County." His family was said to have "unsurpassed technical knowledge of farming, a clever business judgment," which kept them ahead of other farming families. It was estimated that Harris' holdings totaled 5,000 acres, one of the largest in the county. Harris was forced by 1895 to leave the management of his vast acreage to his adopted son, Moses Wiley Harris. The elder Harris was said to have never cared for politics or public life "in any form" and even turned down honorary positions. It was said that he "has simply done his duty as a private in the ranks of democracy."

Henry T. Lewis (1847-1903) was a lawyer who served as an associate justice of the Georgia Supreme Court from 1897-1902, part of which time he owned this farm. He and his family were always associated with Greensboro and it was there that he lived. It is doubtful that he personally did any farming here.

House and Site Description

The John S. Jackson Plantation House and Outbuildings consists of a frame weatherboarded house, ten outbuildings, and associated agricultural acreage.

The main house is built on the four-over-four-with-central-hall plan. It sits atop a fully exposed, above-ground masonry basement. It has Greek Revival details in its front colonnade and other exterior trim. Italianate brackets detail the cornice. There are green shutters on the upper two floors. The lower floor is rock and plaster. The interior rooms on the main and third levels contain their original doors, plasterwork, mantels, stairway, and ceiling medallion. Large, paneled pocket doors separate the front two parlors from the central hall. Several doors contain Greek Cross-styled panels. The front door is framed by pilasters, pierced dentil molding, and sidelights and transom with frosted glass. The third floor supports a balcony overlooking the front entrance.

There are four interior arcaded chimneys with corbeled caps.

The west or front facade is a two-story temple front with a full entablature and three fluted Doric columns to either side of the main entrance. The bracketed frieze is continuous on all four sides of the house. The main door, entered from the front porch, is framed by a pilaster to each side, pierced dentil moulding and transom lights (six panes) and sidelights (four panes). These panes are a pattern of clear and frosted glass. The door is Cross-and-Bible style but has a small block placed in each corner of the panels to create a more ornate design. This same technique is used in the front two parlors inside the house. On each side of the main doorway are two full-length windows which could be opened onto the porch. Above the main entrance is balcony which can be accessed by a door flanked by sidelights (four panes) and two over-sized windows (six-over-six panes). Currently, the rear facade of the house is framed by a two-story porch reaching from the ground floor upward. The entablature with dentil moulding is supported by four fluted Doric columns. This porch was probably added in the 1940s. The east facade is similar to the west with a center door on the lower two floors and two windows to each side. The top floor has five windows instead of a center door.

Each of the three floors has the same basic plan: four rooms with a central hallway. The ground floor may have originally had only three rooms; the wooden wall that divides the southwest and southeast rooms may have been added. All the other walls on the ground floor are rock and plaster and twenty inches thick.

The interior of the ground floor is the simplest of the three floors with plaster walls and approximately twelve- to thirteen-inch baseboards. Only the three rooms had fireplaces. One of those rooms serves as a kitchen. A wood stove has been installed in front of the fireplace. The other room is used as a family room, and the fireplace is framed by a very simple Neoclassical-type mantel. Oral tradition states that this floor was originally used for horses. Uhl Lanier remembers one of the front rooms being used as a meat-curing room.

The elevated main floor is the most ornate. It was used for entertaining, dances, etc. The ornate design used on the front doors is repeated on the sliding double doors which separate the front two rooms from the hallway. There are twelve- to thirteen-inch baseboards throughout the main floor, and the more elegant Neoclassical mantels are painted with a method known as graining. The graining on the mantels in the front two rooms is done in a manner that resembles marble. Graining can also be found on the doors and the risers of the main staircase leading to the third story. Most of the doors appear to be original and are joined by pegs. All walls are painted plaster. The back two rooms also contain fireplaces but have plain mantels and simpler woodwork framing the door leading into the hallway. The front two rooms contained shouldered architrave trim. Two other special features to be mentioned are as follows: the strip of wood in the hallway for coat and hat hooks when company came, and the molding surrounding the hook to hold the chandelier in the main-floor hallway.

A straight, wooden interior staircase with marbelized risers leads to the third floor. At the top of the stairs, one passes through a door which was added along with a wall to block drafts between the third and main floors. Each of the four third-story rooms contains a fireplace and mantel similar in style to the ones on the ground floor and wide baseboards. A small staircase extends into the attic and provides access to the roof, where one could view the countryside. There are no closets. Most of the windows throughout the house have the original glass.

The ground-floor walls are field-rock and plaster. The upper two floors are plaster-and-wood lathing. Exposed beams covered with a faint coat of white-wash are found in the ground-floor kitchen. All the floors are heart pine. This house was built with a natural ventilation system of high ceilings and wide hallways to catch cooling breezes. The ground floor with its thick rock walls would remain even cooler than the upper floors in the summer months. All sills are handhewn.

The siting of the house is one of its most important features. The Jackson House rises dramatically from the surrounding pasture and farmland. It is parallel to the Greensboro-Sparta Road. The house is framed by a variety of large hardwoods, including pecan trees, hickories, various oaks, apple, fig, pear and others. Large boxwoods frame the front facade of the house. According to Uhl Lanier, the house had fewer trees and shrubs than it currently does. There are currently ten wooden clapboard outbuildings surrounding the house, five of which are historic. The five historic ones include a wellhouse and privy directly behind the house. Between these two buildings, traces of the foundation of the old kitchen can be found. It was used as a tool shed before it was torn down. The three other original buildings are a buggy shed, referred to in oral tradition as a commissary for the slaves, a storage barn, and a corn crib.

Few changes appear to have been made to the house. The current rear porch was probably added after 1936. The porch may have been through other transformations between 1850 and 1936. The columns of the back porch were originally on the front of the house and the current columns on the front porch were taken from another house in the area. This swap was made due to deterioration. The ground floor, as mentioned earlier, may have been only three rooms. A modern bathroom has been added totally within one room. Until recently, the front exterior staircase of the house was stone with steps descending to each side.

The owners have removed those steps and plan to replace them with a straight wooden staircase as shown in earlier photographs.

The house is situated in a very rural area along the Greensboro-Sparta Road. From the front and rear porches, all one can see is farmland and one nearby house.

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Site Map (1983)
Site Map (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Front (1983)
Front (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Front (1983)
Front (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Front (1983)
Front (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Front (1983)
Front (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Rear (1983)
Rear (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia North side (1983)
North side (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Lower-floor (basement) hall (1983)
Lower-floor (basement) hall (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Lower floor (basement), southeast corner room (1983)
Lower floor (basement), southeast corner room (1983)

John S. Jackson Plantation, White Plains Georgia Lower floor (basement), southwest corner room (1983)
Lower floor (basement), southwest corner room (1983)