Close your eyes and think about a wagon wheel. Picture it in your mind. Notice the hub in the middle. Let’s say the hub of the wheel is our starting point – or a topic I felt needed a bit of research this week.
Notice radiating from the wheel’s hub is several spokes – all heading off in various directions.
The wheel is a great visual regarding my history research. I just never know where my focus or hub of research will take me, but one thing is certain, my research usually develops several spokes carrying me off in several different directions all at once, and then I get to decide how to put it all together.
The process is interesting, intriguing, frustrating and delightful all at the same time.
My most recent research involves the house in the picture I have placed here. Fannie Mae Davis’ book From Indian Trail to Interstate 20 indicates the house was known as the McElreath House and notes around 1900 the house was used as a boarding house and was located on Campbellton Street directly behind the Precedence Building. A vacant lot sits there today.
The house was most certainly a boarding house and might have been known as the McElreath house in later years, but according to local genealogist Elaine Steere, the 1880 census indicates the house belonged to John Morris, and two important citizens of Douglasville reported living there in 1880. S.A. or Samuel McElreath and Robert Alexander Massey both reported living in the Morris “hotel”.
During the 1870s and 1880s McElreath served as a city councilman. He was a partner with David W. Price in one of Douglasville’s first businesses. In 1878, a business license was issued to Price and McElreath Drygoods and Groceries. The next year the business changed its name by adding the words “cotton warehouse” to the title.
The store was located where the Precedence building is today at the corner of Campbellton and Broad. The building is one of the oldest brick buildings in the commercial district, and I commend Greg Peeples and Allen Bearden for making the location a viable part of our downtown business district.
Samuel N. Dorsett was later brought in as a partner with Price and McElreath. Samuel McElreath was also involved with Mr. Dorsett in another business venture involving the Weekly Star newspaper.
Sadly Samuel McElreath died in 1886 still a relatively young man of 35. His widow, Sara Emma McElreath was given the job of postal attendant by her husband’s former hotel-mate, Robert Massey.
My research indicates he had been a good friend of McElreath’s. Massey had been appointed as postmaster in 1888 following a scandal involving the position that I’m still researching. Apparently Massey was too busy to oversee all of the duties, so he appointed his friend’s widow to the position.
Within the year Sara had a new husband and father for her son, Glen. Yes, you guessed it – she married Robert Massey, and later they had a daughter named Louise. The couple settled on Price Street.
Per the City of Douglasville’s well researched brochure titled “Founding Fathers” Robert Massey “was a local lawyer, devout Democrat, and was the first editor of The Weekly Star.
Are you beginning to pick up on the fact like I have that almost every mover and shaker in the City of Douglasville at one time or another was connected to The Weekly Star?
Robert Massey was also Mayor of Douglasville from 1880-1881 and was a county court judge from 1884-1886.
Sadly Massey passed away in 1890 leaving Sara alone again except she now had two small children.
Within five years she had given birth to three children. One had died and she had had a child with each of two husbands plus she had buried both of the husbands.
I can’t even imagine the stress, and apparently Sara couldn’t handle it. Joe Baggett’s research on file at the Douglas County Public Library indicates Sara became emotionally unbalanced and disappeared in 1891.Baggett states his source was the County Ordinary’s minutes.
The Ordinary’s minutes also indicate that a member of the McElreath family – John McLarty Morris – was awarded the guardianship of Glen McElreath in 1891 while a member of the Massey family took Judge Massey’s daughter, Louise.
I’ll be writing the rest of the story involving Sara Emma McElreath Massey at a later date.
Getting back to my original focus – the house in the picture – it was torn down in the 1950s. At one point the property was home to Smith Motors, a used car lot owned by R.L. Smith.
For as long as I remember the space has been an empty gravel lot. Today we see a little more action there since it’s the endpoint for the new Plaza East. Last year a Sentinel article advised, “Plaza East is the final phase in a three-pronged project spanning 20 years and three mayors...The City of Douglasville’s downtown area is intended to create a community identity and have a greater livability, mobility, and development alternatives, such as mixed use and walkability…When the plaza is complete, there will be connectivity to the main plaza [O’Neal Plaza] and Plaza West….“ [per City Planning Director Michelle Wright.]
While people come and go and while progress marches on as it should, just remember, a gravel lot is never JUST a gravel lot just as a picture is never JUST a picture.