Habersham County History

Habersham County History



Byron Bean - Piedmont College Student

In 1889 the present site of Demorest was known only as a sawmill camp. A sawmill operated by Mr. Henry Rossignol was located near the present dam site below the lake. The mill was run by water power from a low wooden dam. Besides the saw mill there was a small water-driven flour mill owned by Mr. Ripley near the present site of the saddle-tree factory.

In this same year a small band of people from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio and Indiana came to the present site of Demorest to establish a prohibition town, beauty spot, health resort, industrial and educational center. Among these people were: Messers. Jennings Demorest, B. M. Davenport, Frank J. Sibley, F. H. Briggs, S. A. Trowbridge, E. L. Champer, E. D. Hendrickson and George D. Stone. These men and others bound themselves together in a company known as the Demorest Home, Mining and Improvement Company, hereinafter known in this paper as the company. The company bought several hundred acres of land in Demorest. They employed J. A. Reynolds, a competent surveyor, who laid out a beautiful plat for the town. Demorest was named after one of this company, Mr. Jennings Demorest.

The town was organized with a distinct moral purpose in view. The city ordinances were very strict in regard to whisky, gambling and prostitution. In all land deeds made by the company the clause was included that forfeiture of the land was to be the penalty for practice of any of these evils on the property. Demorest was organized strictly for the white race. To the present day the town has no colored property owners.

The Company built a few scattered homes. In order to encourage others to build and establish industries they offered to give building lots and furnish water-power to anyone who would build a factory or establish an industry. One of the first industries established here was a hoop factory by Norton and Cooper at the lake dam. Mr. C. W. Stambaugh built a novelty shop and furniture factory near enough by to use the same source of power. At this latter factory many kinds of school desks, chairs and church pews were manufactured. The Stambaugh business was destroyed by fire in 1909. A similar industry was rebuilt above the depot and continues today. Some of the other industries were: Demorest Knitting Company, Demorest Bath Tub Works, Demorest Foundry and Machine Works, Saddle-Tree Factory, Wagon Factory, a spoke and handle factory and a broom factory.

The story of the growth and development of these industries is rather interesting. The knitting factory was organized in 1890 for the manufacture of hosiery, knit goods of all kinds, yarn, cloth, clothing, and textile fabrics of all kinds. Unfortunately this factory finally went into bankruptcy. The bath tub produced by the Demorest Company was known as the Goodrich, self-heating, folding bath tub. The foundry and machine works, among other things, manufactured shingles and syrup mills. In connection with this industry an old iron mine was operated across the railway from the town. This industry employed about twenty-five men. This business was washed away by a flood. The saddle-tree factory was build and operated by Mr. Edward Flor. In the beginning the factory employed 50 to 75 men. This industry is almost without competition in the entire United States. The brick and tile kiln was located near what we know today as picnic point on the east side of the lake. It was owned and operated by E. D. Hendrickson. All the brick used in the buildings of Demorest were produced by this yard. The wagon and spoke and handle factory outlived some of the industries, but they too eventually failed. The spoke and handle factory was moved to Toccoa in an effort to exist but they finally ceased to be. The broom factory continues today under the management of Mr. Wesley Ritchie. It employs about six or eight men. The first business house in Demorest is the one in which Demorest Drug Company is now located. In 1890 there was operated in this building an up-to-date printing office. A weekly, "The Demorest Times," was published every Friday with 4,000 circulation. This paper was published for only a short time. This publication was edited by W. A. Fowler and F. F. Sibley. In 1896 a paper called "The Anagraph" was published in Demorest, supposedly from the same office.

Butler Hall was about the next building to be erected. This building was constructed for a bank. The lower story was used for the bank; the second story was used for a suite of offices; and the third story for an auditorium.

The first stores in Demorest stood where Commons Hall now stands. There were three two-story structures and one single-story building in a row. These buildings included two dry goods stores and two grocery stores besides some dwelling apartments up-stairs. Mr. G. S. Hunt, a resident of Demorest at present, owned on of these stores. All of this group burned in one fire, during the early days of Demorest. The Santor Hotel was erected at a cost of $25,000 on the spot where the above buildings stood. The stock holders in this hotel were: Messers. E. D. Hendrickson, W. M. Sosebee, Edward Flor and Mrs. Lauders. All attempts to operate the hotel at a profit failed. Mrs. Lauders bought out the other interests in the enterprise. She sold her claim to a Mr. Miller, who in turn sold the building to Piedmont College for $10,000. Before the building was sold to Piedmont, all the lower story was used for stores and post office. The post office was in the portion now used as a girls' gymnasium.

The first post office was located in the building that is now used by the college as a library. The original building has been enlarged considerably since it was used as a post office. Dr. G. W. D. Patterson, who operated a Drug Store and practiced medicine, was the first postmaster of the town.

The rock dam near Stambaught's formed two large lakes. One of these, however, has filled up. A pavilion was built in the center of the larger lake. It was here that young people flocked for dances and various night entertainments. Motor boats, sail boats, bateaux and a steamer all piled the lake in the early nineties. The steam "Estes, " said to have carried sixty passengers, carried people pleasure riding upon both lakes.

The first school, church and Sunday School was in the top floor of Mr. Henry Rossingnol's home. The building came later to be known as the Mary J. Green Hall. It stood between Ford Hall and the Auditorium on the College Campus. It was owned for several years by the College and was used as a girls' dormitory. Fire destroyed the Hall in 1920. The "Ole Pink Carpenter Home" was used for church services, Sunday gatherings and general school purposes. This building stands on the west end of Georgia Street. Later this building was used for the Demorest Normal school which was incorporated in 1893. The supervisor of the school was Professor J. S. Jennings. It was the first nine months school in Habersham County. On September 10, 1897, the Demorest Normal school was chartered--J. S. Green Collegiate Institute. On September 6, 1899, the name was changed to J. S. Green College, and on March 7, 1903, the name was changed to Piedmont College.

In 1897 when the school changed names, Mr. J. S. Green donated liberally to its promotion. The first president of the J. S. Green Institute was the Rev. C. C. Spence, a Methodist Indian Missionary from Michigan. When the school was bought by the Congregationalists and the name changed to Piedmont, J. C. Campbell became president. He served until 1907 when H. C. Newell was made president. He served until 1911, when F. E. Jenkins succeeded him. Again in 1930 Dr. H. C. Newell, who recently resigned, filled the president's chair. For many years Piedmont College carried all the grades from the first through College. It early dropped the elementary grades, and in 1928 the high school portion was also dropped. Today it only has the college departments. The building now used as an Administration building by the college was the Sosebee livery stable in the early days of Demorest.

The first church built in Demorest was a northern Methodist church built in 1890 by Mr. H. Willett. The brick building still stands on the hill on Georgia Street a short distance about the Congregational church. Today it is owned and occupied by W. S. Carpenter and family. The Baptist church was built early in the nineties at its present site. The present Methodist church was built in 1901-02. Mr. J. S. Adams donated the land for the church. Mr. G. S. Hunt solicited the money and promoted its building. The Congregational church was built in 1908. Rev. G. S. Butler was one of the early ministers. There are at present several active societies connected with this church: The Woman's Benevolent Society, Woman's Guild and W. C. T. U.

For years Demorest manufactured her own electricity. The plant was owned by Mr. Edward Flor. It was located in the vicinity of the saddle-tree factory. The Georgia Power Company bought this over a few years after the World War.

In 1892 there was organized a Chautauqua in Demorest. By 1896 people from several states were in attendance. A special car from Atlanta brought visitors from Alabama and Florida. The chautaqua building was used for teacher's meetings and various purposes.

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