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It must have been around 1823 when the family moved from the log cabin to the "big house" on the hill above the spring.
The widow Sarah Gregory Beall opened her home as The Beall Springs Hotel in August of 1825. By then her daughter Frances, 22, had already married, moved to Texas, and borne the first of her eleven O'Neal children.
Augustus, my grandfather, was 21, unmarried, which made him the man of the house.
I must dwell on that for a while. From a very early age I knew that my paternal grandfather had been born 104 years before I showed up. Not until a few years ago did it occur to me to wonder how long ago that was, how far back in history you have to go to get to December 23, 1804.
Thomas Jefferson was in his first term as our third president. He had just made the Louisiana Purchase and dispatched Lewis & Clark on an Expedition to find out what it was we had bought. And my grandfather had just been born!
It didn't make sense. It may not excite or even interest anyone else, and is not likely to belong in the Guiness Book of Records, but I can't get over the fact that I am still walking around and tapping away at this keyboard one hundred and ninety years after the birth of my paternal grandfather.
I knew my other grandfather, Sam Snyder, of Ada, Ohio, quite well. I was named for him. I knew my grandmother; I even knew both of my great-grandmothers. Grandpa and I made cement blocks together, killed chickens, slaughtered calves, cranked ice-cream. The ice came from the ice-house, which was inside the barn behind Grandma's truck garden. I envied his Indian motorcyle, learned some farming and a few cuss words from him. He worked three farms; I supervised and tried to stay out of the way. We baled hay together, picked and ate sweet corn dripping with butter I had churned. As we reached our teens my cousin Harold and I managed to get Grandpa's Allen Touring Car all the way up to 32 miles per hour, although we didn't dare tell anyone. I spent twelve full summers getting acquainted with Grandpa Sam and his world.
It seems silly to refer to my paternal grandfather as "Grandpa". He died 36 years before I was born, a year before Cous Bell invented the telephone. I've never even seen a picture of him. Nevertheless, that's who he was: "Grandpa Gus". He was not a distant ancestor; he was just as much my Grandpa as was Sam Snyder. I find it frustrating to consider the span of Early American History my never-met Grandpa's life encompassed. End of digression; excuse me. I was telling about Sarah Beall's children at the time she opened the Beall Springs hotel in 1825.
After Augustus, age 21, came Elias, 19. He married a girl named Mary Jones a year later and moved to Mississippi.
Harriet, 17, was also due to be married the next year, but would stay in the vicinity to become the matriarch of a considerable line (two, in fact: the Brinkley and Baker families).
Arianna, 15, would also soon marry. His name was Seaborn Jones and they moved to Mississippi1.
Martha, 13, would marry four years later, remain in the area, and become the matriarch of several Bradshaw families.
It would be six more years before Sally, 11, married Richmond Baker and started another Baker family. They stayed in the area, too.
Little Emillia (Emily) was only seven, but would grow up to marry Bill Parham and become the mother of three.
The youngest resident of the big new house was Susan Bostick Beall, only 4. Nineteen years later she would become Mrs. Thomas Land, move to Alabama, and become the mother of many Lands: two boys and five girls.
I know nothing about my grandfather's boyhood or his schooling. Along with seven sisters he had only one brother, two years younger, and most of his cousins were girls. He may have had a lot of black boys to play with as a child. I don't know how much schooling he had, but he may have gone to Franklin College, which became the University of Georgia. Somewhere, at least, he acquired an interest in politics and the law.
Primarily, my father told me, his father was a farmer, "and a good one". He introduced profitable new strains of cotton to the area in time to save it from disaster. He was also an enthusiastic trader of farmlands; the Warren County records are filled with accounts of his sales, purchases and swaps. And he turned out to be a successful political candidate, many times over.
When the widow Sarah Beall, my great-grandmother, opened The Beall Springs Hotel in 1825 she ended countless hundreds of years of open access to what became known as Beall Springs. From then on the waters were proclaimed by the proprietress to be free and open to all members of the family and their slaves, all guests of the hotel, and no one else.
Replying to a question of mine in one of his letters, Dad wrote, "God made Beall Springs. If, as I suspect, you meant to ask who arranged it as a perpetual pump, I can only guess. You would be safe in saying that it was done at the direction of Sarah Gregory Beall".
What Dad called a "perpetual pump" was a wooden standpipe with a foot-long, knee-high wooden pipe protruding from it. That did away with the Artesian effect of the tiny spouting stream, but made it much easier for anyone with a tin cup, glass, jug, or bucket to get water.
The only comments I have ever read or heard about Sarah Gregory Beall were from Dad and Aunt Anna. Aunt Anna talked about her grandmother being part Cherokee; Dad said he hid under the bed whenever she was around because she frightened him so, and that he danced with joy when she died in 1860. He was not quite seven at the time; Anna was 4.
Sarah classified as "guests of the hotel" people who attended authorized special events at the spring, such as her son Gus Beall's November 30, 1834 political picnic to honor his lifelong friends Robert Toombs of Washington, Georgia and Alexander Stephens of Crawfordsville. Both had been admitted to the bar a couple of years previously and had recently been elected to the Georgia legislature. Quoting Cousin Beulah Waller, who wrote about it in Second Sunday:
"All around this mineral spring was a grove of ash, bay, maple, pine, sweetgum, and big red oaks. Seats had been made by nailing pieces of hewn planks to two trees opposite each other, then crossing them with shorter ones. Tables were built in the same way, and were long enough to accommodate a hundred people. Many spread their cloths on the ground and scattered the food on them. Those who partook had to stoop over for the choice bits. Many a pig, lamb, yearling, and hundreds of chickens were to be found on these tables.
"Everybody howdyed and swapped jokes all day and had a glorious time....A dancing stand or platform was also provided for those who wished to dance. The old Virginia reel, fancy jigs and cotillions, and some could dance a minuet. Many people enjoyed these dances immensely.
"All went well on this particular day till about two o'clock. The sky began to get dark which seemed to be cloudy but as time passed it grew darker and darker. Finally good dark came at two o'clock. The horses neighed to go home. Chickens in the neighborhood went to roost. People began to cry. The negroes began to sing and pray, for they were sure that judgment was at hand. It was pitiful to hear the cries of the folks. Some of them wanted to go home but were afraid to go."
"A lady who lived near the spring heard the cries of the people and came over with an almanac that predicted an eclipse of the sun, visible in the Southern states. Only about half of the people remained to see the eclipse go off. The other half hitched up and went home as fast as they could go. Many believed the world was coming to an end. Many a joke went the rounds about what happened that day. Many became converted because of the dark day."2
Two years later my grandfather officially became "Colonel Beall". During the Creek war, as a member of Captain Butts Company, 2nd (Williamson's) Georgia Volunteers, he was mustered into the United States Army with the rank of Lt. Colonel.
On April 6, 1838, he and Minerva Massey, of Huegonot descent were married at Beall Springs. Then he had a house of their own built across the spring grove from his mother's hotel, but only "a shout away"--and began filling it with children. My father was one of them--the seventh of eight.
While they were having those children (I'll get around to them in another couple of pages) a number of other things were going on. Martin Van Buren was president, followed by Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, and Pierce. Buchanan was inaugurated the year after my Aunt Anna, the last of their brood, was born. It wasn't like the FDR years in those days; we went through all those presidents in only twenty years!
In addition to his intermittent years as Warren County's Sheriff, the Colonel was also elected to the State Legislature in 1849, and to the State Senate in 1853.
He dealt voluminously in parcels of farmland, ran a multi-thousand acre plantation, ran successfully over and over again for various public offices, and was known wherever he showed up on his big cream horse with black mane and tail. Dad said the Colonel was very popular and had many friends in Warren and surrounding counties. He was instrumental in the formation of some of them.
From what I've been told I gather that my grandfather was wealthy, but not as wealthy as some in the area. He was said to have more than a hundred slaves: at least two other planters in the vicinity had two hundred or more. (Incidentally, only about 25% of the people of Georgia were slave-owners.)
To own a large number of slaves may have been an indication of wealth, power, and prestige to people who didn't have many slaves, if any at all, but the owners of large cotton plantations didn't own all the slaves they could afford just to see how many they could accumulate. They were interested in having no more workers than it took to run their labor-intensive plantations. Unlike today's CEOs, they couldn't decide to lay off large numbers of their employees just to protect their investments when times were tough, because their slaves were their investments. To protect their investments they had to go on feeding and clothing and caring for them even if the bottom fell out of the market or drought or disease diminished their crops.
There were stupid, therefore cruel slave owners. There were also wise and humane slave owners who regarded them more like indentured employees than pieces of property. Dad and Aunt Anna told me that my grandfather, who hired teachers from Vermont and Maine to teach his own children also had them teach his slaves to read and write at a time when, in Georgia, he could have been legally executed for that offense. He also made it a practice to buy and reunite the members of black families who had been sold separately to different owners by Yankee slave traders seeking the high dollar per person. Such reunited families stayed with him, understandably, more for reasons of loyalty than of legality. I also understand that he gave freedom to his slaves at the start of the War, but that most of them stayed around as long as they could.
There must have been a great many picnics at Beall Springs up until the war, but one more was held in honor of my grandfather's two best friends, fellow State Senator Alex Stephens and United States Senator Robert Toombs. It was the Fourth of July, 1859. It was the usual kind of affair: too much food, hundreds of people. But with a difference. Quoting Beulah,
"They all listened to the political speeches and warnings of war with great interest."
Then she added,
"...about that time the musicians had tuned their fiddles and were playing for the dance. A special was to be called by a man from Wilkes County. The best dancers came to the stand. In a few minutes (the man) stood by the musicians and called a fancy dance called 'The Butterfly'. The boys and girls lined up and stood opposite each other and started off as in the Virginia Reel, and as each girl was promenaded through the center and swung by her partner, she was placed on a chalk line upon the dance floor until all the couples were swung, which formed a complete butterfly. Then they all promenaded to the outside of the butterfly and back to their former places, and the music lulled."
Senators Stephens and Toombs,
"who had been given the highest seat where they could get a good view of the scene, pronounced it in accordance with the Glorious Fourth."
A little more than a year later, on September 5, 1860, Sarah Gregory Beall died and was buried alongside her husband Francis in the Beall Family cemetery. By the time of her death she had a grand total of at least 119 grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews, most of them showing up at every picnic.
Colonel Beall bought the Beall Springs Hotel and his mother's plantation lands at the settling of the estate and moved in his family. Dad was almost seven.
Beall Springs water once more became freely available to one and all, as it has been ever since.
It's high time I had something to say about the family my grandparents had been having all these years in the house on the other hill overlooking the spring. Here they are, all officially coded. The comments in quotes are from Dad; the others are mine:
My brother Eugene knew Uncle Jule and used to tell me stories about him. Some of them seem to decry the importance of a bullet in the heart. On one occasion a stranger mistook Jule's bulk (300+ lbs) for flabbiness and got into a contest with him. The stranger lifted a keg of nails from the ground to a high wagon bed and challenged Jule to equal that. Jule got a keg locked around each armpit and hoisted both of them onto the wagon bed with one mighty heave, collected the bet, and walked away.
There was only one horse on the place who could handle Jule's weight for any length of time, which usually meant "all day", because Jule practically lived on horseback. He spent his time either managing the farm, drinking with buddies, paying visits within a 25 mile radius, or entertaining children with stories. They loved him; he could hardly pass a farmhouse without being begged by gaggles of small siblings to dismount and tell some stories, which he loved to do. He frequently didn't get home until after dark because of the demands for his society, either by children or by his drinking companions. Aunt Anna said it didn't matter because a horse doesn't need headlights or even a firm hand on the reins to make its way home.
Jule was well read and a good conversationalist with the hotel guests. He would read to his two blind sisters and in later years spent more time reading than riding, not getting around much at all. Aunt Anna used to say that liquor brought him to an untimely end, but I think that carrying a bullet in the muscle of his heart for forty years might have had something to do with it.
I knew (or still know) almost all of the Bakers and their kin who were around in 1922, from Uncle George on out the line. The Bakers and their descendants have been exceptionally loyal and active members of the Beall Springs families, have tended to remain in the vicinity, and were some of Dad's and my favorite people, so I'm extending Missouri's line to include people I knew or still know. The following gencodes stem from G.W's rather than Missouri's because that's the way F. C. Beall did it.
(Willa and I [Sam] were there and can add a bit. She had an outhouse at the back of the lot and a garden in between, and found her way outdoors by feeling a network of overhead clothesline wires put up by friends. But to get drinking water she was on her own: out the front door, across the road, 100 feet into the woods to the spigot from which the water flows. She did have the help of a cheerful half-breed Creek named "Neecie" who "looked in on her" at least once a day. Aunt Anna couldn't be pried out of there until she was past ninety.--s.b.)
While she was living with us in Florida in the early thirties, recovering from an illness, Aunt Anna kept reeling off stories about Beall Springs, including Uncle Jule, at such a rate that I just sat there slack-jawed instead of taking notes that would be invaluable today. I have and do cherish the scrapbook she kept while she managed the Beall Springs Hotel.
Of my grandmother Minerva, Dad had this to say: "I never heard of my mother weighing more than 97 pounds. We came two years apart and all survived. At one time within her lifetime we children, all of us combined, weighed over 1700 pounds." They not only survived; they lived an average of 78 years. No pre-Columbian Creek or Cherokee would have been in the least surprised; after all, they grew up drinking the water from that tiny fountain.
This genealogical rundown of a family that was begun at Beall Springs in 1839 may have ratcheted your mind all the way up into the twentieth century. Now set it back to 1860.
Next: The War Between The States