Elm City Park, Garden Club
Old Elm City Park
Milledgeville, Ga.

1907 Postcard

Location of forgotten park uncovered by local man
By Laura Lindenberger - The Union-Recorder
A local mystery has been solved.

Through the process of elimination, the Rev. Harold Lawrence thinks he has discovered where the elusive Elm City Park used to be. His curiosity was sparked after seeing a postcard donated to the Old Capitol Museum by Rose Bacon. The postcard, dated 1907, shows a pond surrounded by tall trees and benches and reads, "Elm City Park, Milledgeville, Ga."

Armed with a hunch and a knack for digging through old newspapers, maps and land deeds, Lawrence found the park. His resulting article places the pond where the Centennial Center parking lot now sits:

"One of the forgotten places in Milledgeville is the old Elm City Park, so named by the Elm City Garden Club, an entity that was active in the city in the late 19th century," Lawrence wrote. "Milledgeville's association with elm trees, or with the name, 'Elm City,' is a mystery. While there is a story of Judge Iverson Harris planting elm trees from his home on Montgomery Street to the Courthouse so that he would have a shaded walk to work, the association of such trees with the city defies explanation.

"The Elm City Garden Club came to prominence in the 1890s," the article continues. "It appears that the club was formed initially for feminine social interaction. ... Boasting more than 75 members, the club gained the endorsement of the Mayor and City Council due to its resolutions to comply with ordinance #27, which stressed the swift removal of rotting vegetation from town property that 'tended to corrupt the air' and spread noxious odors up and down the streets."

The club established what was the first trash collection policies in Milledgeville and, after gaining the city's support, decided to tackle a larger project.

"As the Elm City Garden Club grew in membership, its cordial relationship with city government gave it enough bargaining power to launch a grandiose project," Lawrence wrote. "Gravitating from a social need to 'tear one's self away from one's accustomed seat at the fireside and the babies,' to civic responsibility in cooperation with elected officials to keep the town 'tidy and sanitary' paved the way for the establishment of a park."

In an 1898 edition of The Union-Recorder, the Elm City Garden Club announced it had secured the use of a large pine grove in the "western part of the city near the Central Rail Road depot, for the purpose of establishing a park there."

"As far back as the 1870s, (Walker's fish pond) was owned by individuals, the pond taking its name for owners like Samuel Walker or Dr. W.F. Robinson," Lawrence wrote. "Located immediately south of West Franklin street and immediately west of South Columbia Street, this property, by the 1920s and 1930s was known as Cox's swimming pool. Currently, this property lies between the Bobcat Apartments and the mobile units known as Colonial Village. ... The spring, the pond and the pool have all disappeared with time.

"In the 1920s, people would go to Cox's Swimming Hole through Nesbit's woods," he continued. "There was a low, swampy place there ... That is likely the site of a drained pond; specifically, the pond that appears on the 1907 postcard of Elm City Park." 

One Milledgeville resident who remembers the pond fondly is Bonner Jones.

"When I was a child all of us used to go down there swimming all the time when you could get enough money to go," he said. "It was a commercial little venture down there. It had bathhouses and a little stand to buy Cokes and things like that. It was always full of people every time you went too, because there wasn't anything else to do in Milledgeville."

The cost for Bonner and his friends to enjoy the pond? One whole dime.

Lawrence, who has also been collaborating with Jan Hardy on a series of books chronicling the Methodist Church in Milledgeville, said digging through Milledgeville's history always yields new stories.

"I've been doing some research for those books, but we found a world of other data and I've gone ahead and started making notes," he said. "(For example), everybody wants to know where all the wrought iron fences came from in the cemetery and at one time we had a foundry in Milledgeville. ... I think there's enough lost places and things like that in Milledgeville to do a whole series. ... I just have a curiosity and I like to find things."

Laura Lindenberger covers Hancock and Putnam counties for The Union-Recorder. She can be reached at (478) 453-1451 or by e-mail at [email protected]. Matt Tanner contributed to this article.

Copyright The Union-Recorder, July 28, 2003

Reprinted with written permission of Debbie Williams, Publisher, The Union-Recorder, July 5, 2006
 Map is a 1909 topo map, published in 1912

Note: The March 15, 1898 edition of The Union Recorder mentions that The Elm City Garden Club secured the park. "located south-western part of this city, and includes the old O'Brien Spring near Walker's fish pond. "

Eileen Babb McAdams website copyright 2002