Sanford-Wade Heritage House (SWHH) and dawn of the 20th century

Sanford-Wade Heritage House (SWHH)
and dawn of the 20th century

The Sanford-Wade Heritage House (SWHH) is a building at the crossroads of the village of Buchanan, Georgia, formerly the home of a prominent local citizen, the late Evelyn Shepard Sanford Wade (1907-2004), whose birth centennial was celebrated in 2007. The House itself was constructed in the year 1909.

Miss Evelyn Shepard was unusual for a young woman coming up in rural Georgia. Always interested in technological advances, she was an amateur radio operator and shortly after her 31st birthday, then the wife of Dr. Sanford, a local physician, was recognized with the signal honor of election to the A-1 Operator Club of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The club continues in operation; nomination can only come through the initiative of two existing members, and a mere 3% of the total ARRL body is honored by such membership. As a female amateur radio operator practicing before 1945, Evelyn is honored by the Vienna-based international Radio Documentation Archive (DokuFunk) in a registry of such pioneering women, with an entry documenting her radio career located here.

Evelyn married Levi Wade after the demise of Dr. Sanford, and had a 43-year career in education as a teacher and school principal. Undeterred by middle age, she earned a degree as a member of the Oglethorpe University class of 1952. In 1980 the University awarded her its annual School Bell Award, given to those "recognized by the Alumni Association�s Board of Directors as having made a lasting contribution to the field of education".

Then Mrs. Wade made a second career in civic leadership, serving twenty consecutive years as the mayor of Buchanan. She may have been the first woman in Georgia to serve as a city mayor.

Mrs. Wade was recognized within her lifetime by the State of Georgia via things named in appreciation for her labors. These include the 120-acre Evelyn S. Wade Park and a section of Georgia Highway 120 called the Evelyn S. Wade Highway

The SWHH is an opportunity to study the changes in Buchanan and America over the last century. It is under the government of an independent board of directors organized as Sanford-Wade Heritage House, LLC. This board may soon receive title to the property from the Haralson County Historical Society.

Much more online material documenting the history of Buchanan per se is available at its sesquicentennial anniversary portal.

Mayor Wade with Governor Jimmy Carter and other Georgia dignitaries. Carter went on to serve a term as US President and win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mayor Wade and West Georgia College Professor Newt Gingrich, who later served as Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Great Britain's monarch Edward VII (1841-1910), during whose brief reign (the "Edwardian Age") the SWHH was built. The son of Queen Victoria, Edward made a good-will tour of North America in 1860, and was entertained by President James Buchanan, former US Minister to Great Britain. Buchanan and the Queen had earlier exchanged greetings during the brief lifespan of the first Trans-Atlantic cable. The seat of Haralson County, the City of Buchanan, founded at the dawn of the Buchanan presidency, was named after him.

First known bird's-eye-view photo of Buchanan, circa 1910

The original building which housed Buchanan High School, circa 1907
Youthful Mrs. Evelyn (n�e Shepard) Sanford using her amateur radio rig. At the time she earned her A-1 Operator Club certificate, she used the station call letters W4DAI. Mrs. Evelyn Wade in her latter years, as mayor of the City of Buchanan.

Music of a Century Ago

The Sanford-Wade Heritage House was originally to have been dedicated in a ceremony on 15 September 2007 at the annual fall Fair on the Square in Buchanan. Logistical issues led to a cancellation of the dedication.
Buchanan Mayor (Jan. 1906 - Jan. 1907) Joel Phillips (left) and two others in front of the phonograph shop on the eastern side of the Buchanan town square, in which Mr. Philllips probably had part ownership; the business later went bankrupt.

Mock theatrical stage player crafted by Ron Feigenblatt
Part of the ceremony might have featured the performance of 25 minutes of recorded music from a century ago, the collection of musical pieces annotated and linked below, digitized from original Edison-technology audio-recording cylinders by the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project, courtesy of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

This musical program amalgamates two themes. First is the cotton-based economy which still characterized the rural South in these days. Second is the transportation revolution in the industrialized world, which was finally allowing people to travel to places and at speeds never before possible, enabled by recent vehicle advances like the light-rail "car" (streetcar/trolley), the automobile and most dramatically, the airplane.

Harvesting cotton in the county circa 1904 or earler

Of course, as related in the 1901 book A Preliminary Report on the Roads and Road-building Materials of Georgia, transportation in Haralson County at the turn of the century was far from the cutting edge:


Area, 269 square miles; total road-mileage, 200; number of miles of graded road, 0; number of miles of macadamized road, 0; amount of money annually raised for public-road purposes, 0. The roads are constructed and maintained by statute labor.

...little interest seems to have been manifested in the country, so far, in the betterment of highways. The county has in the last few years constructed four iron bridges at a total cost of $12,000; but, otherwise, there has been little or no money expended upon the roadways. The roads are kept up solely by statute labor. Each person, subject to road-duty, is said to work on the public roads, on an average of six days per annum.

Haralson County, 1904

Nonetheless, as early as 1905 the automobile arrived in the county, as detailed in the article here.

A street car from Tallapoosa's late Victorian boom times

Historic photos like the one above are collected in the wonderful book, To Be Continued... A Pictorial History of Tallapoosa, Georgia (1999) available from the Tallapoosa Historical Society for only $20 plus postage.

Even before the century turned, Buchanan's neighbor town of Tallapoosa could boast streetcar lines during its boom years: The Dummy Line ran from the Georgia Pacific Railroad depot along Atlanta Street to Head Avenue, then to Mill Street, then Alewine, reaching the Lithia Springs Hotel before arriving at the industrial section on the eastern side of town. It then looped back to the depot, taking Atlanta Street, then Michigan Avenue and finally High Street. Another local rail-line ran between between town and a gunpowder mill near the Adderhold Bridge on the Tallapoosa River, using a steam locomotive to pull several cars, while in town mules provided traction.

The music of a century ago reflects not only the technologies of its time, but also its social attitudes, including race relations very different from those common now. One might, as a matter of taste, elect to evade the issue; but one cannot deny that the recordings themselves were made. The musical pieces below are hardly the most provocative one might have chosen to include, but archaic (and potentially insulting) words like coon and darkie can be found in the lyrics.

But even in those times, things were starting to change. Years earlier, the advisors of the future King Edward remarked on his unusual habit of treating all people the same, regardless of their social station or color. Edward wrote, complaining of the treatment of the native (Asian) Indians by British officials: "Because a man has a black face and a different religion from our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute." And he specifically deprecated use of the word nigger as "disgraceful."

In this country, President Theodore Roosevelt, the son of a Lincoln-supporting New York father and a mother raised in a Georgia family owning slaves, broke the "color line" by inviting African-American leader Booker T. Washington to be his guest at the White House. And Roosevelt's hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, running for office at this time, took note of his party's support for the ideal of color-blind justice, as exemplified in this 1908 voice recording. Notably, unlike Georgia as a whole, the majority in Haralson County voted to elect both Roosevelt and Taft in those days.

But the road to the type of society which typical Americans support today would not be a direct one. Taft's immediate successor would "redeem" not only the White House - but the entire national capital district - from black-white racial integration.

Also at this time, the United States as a whole was experiencing its second great wave of European immigration - and dealing with the challenges that it imposed. While Haralson County received Central European ethnics during the Tallapoosa boom years, Georgia scarcely saw this influx, except through the prism of the media, such as this ironic song of 1911.

The sound recordings below - made in an age before broadcast radio or talking cinema - gladly supplement the singing voice and musical instrument with a variety of audio special effects, delighted in the ability to do so affordably through the cost amortization offered by the mass production of audio cylinders.

Maple Leaf Rag (1908)

This Scott Joplin classic is rendered instrumentally with a banjo solo.

Way Down In Cotton Town (1910)

A simple love song set in "Cotton Town, that near-forgotten town."

Come, Josephine, in my flying machine (1909)

A mildly romantic song celebrating conquest of the skies.

Cotton Time (1910)

A conventional period dialect song full of typical regional details.

Take A Car (1905)

A novelty song praising the economic merits of urban trolleys, set in New York City.

There's a Dixie girl who's longing for a Yankee Doodle boy (1908)

Celebration of the type of inter-regional union President Roosevelt's parents enjoyed. Similar matches took place in Haralson County in consequence of the "Yankee Boom" years during the late 19th century in Tallapoosa.

Theodore (1907)

A humorous song about a certain US President. In this song, the word "Yankee" refers to Americans as a whole, from the perspective of Great Britain and King Edward.

In dear old Georgia (1905)

A love song in the rich operatic style then popular, especially among "barbershop quartets".

Keep away from the fellow who owns an automobile (1909)

Irving Berlin's talent shines through in this humorous cautionary tune from his early career.

The concert was to have been capped with a live performance by talented songbird and Christian evangelist Helen Morgan of the most famous song written in Haralson County, her original interpretation of the enduring gospel classic Row Us Over The Tide. Penned no later than 1910 by native son Homer Franklin Morris, this touching and tragic tune was supposedly inspired by the grievous medical epidemics sadly common in early 20th century Georgia. Read more about the song and its place in county history here.

While the rest of the concert was cancelled, happily Helen Morgan's act was redirected to the main stage of the fair and came off well. The photo below shows her in costume after the performance with one of her grateful fans.

Poor health due to epidemic and endemic disease was probably both a cause and effect of persistent poverty in Georgia a century ago. But other issues had profound economic import, too.

One of the most dramatic ways in which today's Georgia differs from what it was a century ago is the enormously higher average level of material wealth. Real per capita income throughout the United States has grown markedly over the decades - more than six-fold nationwide between 1930 and 2004.

But the most dramatic gains have been amongst the federal states which were the poorest in the early twentieth century - of which Georgia was one. The differences between various states has shrunk dramatically through convergence, illustrated in the graphic immediately below.

Specifically, as the following graphic reveals, as late as 1929, Georgia (yellow bar) was the sixth poorest state in the union, but by 2003 it sat amongst the states in the middle of the pack.

The general explanation for convergence is the Solow growth model, through preferential capital intensification in lagging states, which is potentiated by the substantial essential commonalities between states, like language, currency, culture and laws. A frequently cited paper laying out the evidence is Convergence across States and Regions by Robert J. Barro and Xavier X. Sala-i-Martin (Brookings Papers on Economic Activity; n1 1991, pp. 107-58.) This paper writes:

"An important economic question is whether poor countries or regions tend to converge toward rich ones. We want to know, for example... how the American South became nearly as well off as the North... For the U.S. states, we estimate the rate of convergence of per capita personal income from 1880 to 1988 to be around 2 percent per year whether we look within or across four geographical regions.

In Tallapoosa, the late Victorian boom - or the recent establishment of a Honda transmission assembly plant - are microeconomic details of such macroeconomic phenomena.

But that's not to say that people can't work to frustrate such developments. Various sources from around the twilight of the 19th century reported 5,000 or even 13,000 acres of Haralson County were planted in grapes. Yearly harvests approaching a thousand tons made possible wine production exceeding 64 thousand gallons annually. Then alcohol prohibition began in Georgia January 1, 1908; wine-making and its allied local industries were destroyed. By 1910 not even 12 tons of grapes were harvested and this engine of Haralson County's former prosperity was quieted for a century.

Informal video audit of the building
shot November 2004

The original editorial material on this page was authored by Ron Feigenblatt, while Mary Tolleson kindly provided information on the streetcars of Tallapoosa's boom years.

Last updated January 2016