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Our History: Mr. Geer and the Granite

With the exception of the Cultural Arts Center our older Douglas County homes are all privately owned and have no historic designation. The homes that remain are treasures.

Mr. Geer and the Granite

I know it’s easy to fuss about the downtown business district in Douglasville. Some of the buildings are crumbling away and many remain empty, but the buildings are protected. The buildings aren’t going to disappear from one day to the next unless some act of nature occurs or without many people knowing about it first.

It’s a different story regarding our late 19th century to turn-of-the-century homes. With the exception of the Cultural Arts Center our older homes are all privately owned and have no historic designation. It’s a personal choice regarding National Register status, and many owners don’t want to follow the criteria to keep it. I certainly understand this, but so many our earliest homes are gone. They were taken down for one reason or another over the years and replaced with other buildings or blankets of asphalt.

The homes that remain are treasures. Many of the people I meet who live in Douglasville’s  oldest homes realize the importance their residence holds within our collective history, but so many other citizens don’t realize, know or even care.

My hope is by educating more and more people regarding these structures – who lived in them and their contribution to Douglasville history – we can make more people begin to realize the importance of preserving and saving some of our older structures.

One important home sits at the corner of Colquitt and Strickland.

It’s easy to drive right past it without much notice mainly because a business has taken over the former home. There are no flowers or furniture on the porch or toys to signal someone lives there, but for over half a century the structure was a home.

This home was built by M.E. Geer during the first decade of the 20th century though today it is home to Douglas County Resource Alliance – an organization that advocates for and provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

Mr. Geer’s grandson, Richard Geer Morgan, has been in touch with me and has advised his grandfather was never called by his legal first name – Major.  If anything besides “Mr. Geer”, it was “M.E. Geer” or “Ernest Geer”.

Mr. Geer was born in Belton, South Carolina which is in the Anderson area. On April 23, 1902 an issue of the Anderson Intelligencer stated…There was a reunion of the Geer family at the residence of Mrs. Mary Geer in this town, Sunday, April 20th, at which were present her children and their families as follows:  President John M. Geer of the Easley Cotton Mills and family, D. Aaron Geer, merchant of this place,….. M. Earnest Geer merchant of this place and Professor Ben E. Geer, Furman.

Mary Geer had repeatedly told her sons they needed to move out of Anderson since they could not make anything of themselves raising cotton.  Well, they didn’t exactly raise cotton, but at one time or another all four were cotton mill presidents.

By 1907, Earnest Geer was no longer a merchant in Anderson.  Textile World Record (volume 34) advises he had taken a position as vice president and manager of the Lois Cotton Mill in Douglasville under a section titled “New Mill Construction”.   By taking the position in Douglasville Geer had followed his mother’s advice and joined what would become the family business, of sorts.

John Mattison Geer was president of Easley Cotton Mills in Easley, South Carolina – a 68 acre complex that today is protected by National Register status. His brother Ben took over for John in 1911 when he became ill and passed away. Later, in 1933 Ben E. Geer returned to Furman University where he had been a professor and took over as president of the college.

Getting back to the house on Strickland Street – it seems that while the cotton mill was being built and during the process of digging a well on the property a vein of granite was discovered. The granite was extracted and cut into blocks. Ernest Geer was in the process of building his home on Strickland Street and needed a foundation.

You guessed it – the granite from the mill site became the foundation for the Geer home. As soon as I read Mr. Geer’s grandson’s e-mail advising me of this I couldn’t wait to head over there to the house and see it for myself.

I began snapping pictures as soon as I got out of the car noticing that the home did indeed have a foundation of granite as well as granite front steps.

And then I remembered I was on private property.

I walked into the office, and handed the folks my business card and asked, “Did you know the foundation of this home came from the cotton mill property?”

I’m sure they thought I was crazy, but they were very gracious, and I was happy to discover there were employees who did realize they worked in a home with some history behind it.

They allowed me to walk around on the first floor and take pictures.

Yes, it seems Ernest Geer didn’t really have a choice regarding his profession and found himself in Douglasville where he would manage our cotton mill into the 1930s, but unfortunately, the Depression was too much and eventually the mill was sold to what would become a string of owners through the 1970s.

Mr. Geer’s grandson tells me the people of Douglasville had confidence in his grandfather, however. He stayed on in town raising his family, and served as mayor of Douglasville and even served as a Justice of the Peace.

I'm going to keep M. Ernest Geer's name on my mind as I continue to research Douglas County history including Sentinel and county records research. I'm sure I'll be writing about him again real soon!

Later this week I’ll post more pictures from the inside of the Geer home on my Facebook page “Every Now and Then”.  You can find and “like” the page here.

anonymous May 14, 2013 at 06:55 PM
There is at least one home on Price Ave that has a historic property designation and possible one on Bowden as well. The one on Price was owned by the long-time librarian and her attorney husband. Fannie Mae Davis wrote a book of Douglas County history to which you occasionally refer, and the home was purchased after her death by the twin brother of Dot Padgett, another local historian. He obtained the historic designation on Ms. Davis's house and possibly on one other he bought on Bowden Street before his death. I believe both are now rental homes.
G June 26, 2013 at 06:47 PM
A couple comments. First, most of the historic homes in downtown are contained within the City of Douglasville's Historic District. Local designation is the only way to protect historic structures. Many people think that listing on the National Register of Historic Places protects historic assets, but it does not. NRHP designation is only recognition of the site's significance. The only way to prevent demolition or inappropriate change is through local listing. Something about a Supreme Court case (see Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York). Second, to address anonymous - the little plaques that you see on some of the houses downtown mean nothing in particular except that the local Historic Preservation Commission has given them a plaque. These houses are significant, but not necessarily any more so that the house next door or across the street. They are given out by the City from time to time.


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