Hamilton McWhorter

"By the Mac and the O, the Irish ye’ll know," is the way the Celts put it about recognizing their countrymen. This is true of the Os, but not so of all the Macs. There are many thousand Scotchmen who have no Celtic blood in their veins whose names begin with Mac, or the abbreviated form, Mc. However, the McWhorters are of Scotch-Irish origin; who the first ancestor on this side of the waters was, is not known and for the purposes of this sketch it is not material to know. The grandfather of Hamilton McWhorter was John McWhorter, and he came from Virginia to Georgia and settled in Oglethorpe County when that county was but thinly peopled and in a primitive State of cultivation. He was not a rich man, for even in those times when land was plentiful and about the cheapest commodity in the market, he bought or "took on" only forty acres. He settled on that forty acres, located on Pott’s Branch in southeast Oglethorpe, and industriously set himself about to clear it up and prepare for his rising family a home. But this labor was ended almost as soon as it was begun. He died at the early age of twenty-eight, leaving a widow and three small boys.

These were left to pursue the plans of the father, scuffling through as best they could, or to throw themselves upon the charity of willing but needy neighbors. It is evident that the boys had but little voice in determining which they would do; they were none of them old enough to go to mill or walk between the plow-handles, and therefore had too young heads on their shoulders to make very sage counselors in such and extremity. The decision as to what should be done and how it should be done and who should do it was made by the mother, and she was not only the sole counselor and advisor in the case, but she was the one who took upon herself the execution of the plans. She was the woman to do this; few could have done it better. Although a woman she had the best qualities of a pioneer in her make-up. She had courage, physical and moral; she was self-reliant; she was full or resource; she was intelligent; she had the thrift and economy characteristic of her sex; in short she knew how to get along.

She took hold of that forty-acre patch of land lying out in the wilderness on which a clearing had just been started and she made it blossom and bloom, not "as the rose," but as any well regulated one-horse farm ought to do, with corn, oats, potatoes and other stuff which satisfies hunger and makes bone and muscle for growing, romping boys. She raised these boys to maturity, and three better specimen of manhood would have been hard to find. They were all three men of superb physiques, large, strong, compactly built. They had an abundance of gray matter in their brains, for although uneducated they could think. And they had that rare and desirable combination of qualities which their mother displayed to such good advantage; they knew how to get along. The maiden name of this woman was Mary Ligon, and she was of Irish extraction. Her three sons she named James Hamilton, William Henry and Robert Ligon. Only one of these now survives.

James Hamilton McWhorter is well remembered in Oglethorpe County. He was one of the most successful planters of the county and one of Oglethorpe’s most prominent citizens. He represented his county in both branches of the general assembly many years, and took a conspicuous part in all matters of public concern. He as a man of an uncommonly strong mind, excellent judgement and keen insight into human nature. He handled men with ease. In all things he was a success. He died in 1885.

William Henry McWhorter moved from Oglethorpe to Green County, where he passed the most of his life. He was a man of the same general nature as his eldest brother, less the strong, aggressive disposition necessary to bring the most signal traits of character into prominence. He represented his county in the State legislature, but was not very active in general politics. He was successful as a planter and accumulated considerable property. He died in 1887.

Robert Ligon McWhorter, who is the father of the subject of this sketch, was born in Oglethorpe County on the old forty-acre homestead June 29, 1819. He became a planter, and has also been a good deal in public life. He went to the State legislature in 1847, the first time, and by successive re-election was continued in that body until the breaking out of the war. When the war was in progress Mr. McWhorter’s sympathies were naturally with his section and he contributed his share to the success of the southern cause; but when that cause was lost, he and his brothers joined that party headed by Gov. Joe Brown, and urged the people to accept the results of the war in good faith, bow gracefully to the inevitable and turn their attention to restoring their wasted energies. For this position, like those with whom he sided, he became unpopular in many quarters and he heard his name hissed in scorn and derision by many men whom he had once called his friends. But the logic of events has demonstrated the wisdom of that position and Mr. McWhorter need not now apologize for assuming what was once deemed the attitude of a demagogue. He was elected to the general assembly again in 1870, and with the exception of two terms, served in one branch or other of the assembly until 1884. Of recent years he has been passing his time in the quiet pursuit of his planting interest, leaving politics and the questionable pleasures of public life to the younger men. The lady whom he took in early life to wedlock and who yet abides with him was Miss N. Polk Thurmond, daughter of a respectable and well-to-do Wilkes County farmer, who, however, died when his daughter was a child, leaving her to the guardianship of Judge Vason, of Walden, Bibb County. To this union there have been born four children, namely: J. Vason, a planter of Greene County; John A., who died at the age of twenty-five, after his admission to the bar; Hamilton and a daughter Julia A., who died at the age of seventeen, only a few months after her graduation from the Southern Female College.

Hamilton McWhorter was born in Greene County July 1, 1858. He was educated at the Mercer High School and at the State University at Athens, graduating from the latter institution in the spring of 1878. After spending a year in Greensborough he located permanently in Lexington and began the practice of law. He has confined himself to the law, eschewing all other callings and diversions. He has achieved an enviable success. Few men of his age enjoy a better practice in any of the country towns of Georgia. Mr. McWhorter was chair man of the board of county commissioners who built Oglethorpe’s splendid court house, the envy and admiration of all the people of the surrounding counties.

Mr. McWhorter married Miss Sallie Pharr, daughter of M. A. Pharr, of Washington, Ga., and has a family of three children: Julia Pope, Camilla and Marcus Hamilton.

Containing biographical sketches of the representative public
& many early settled families in these states
F.A. Battey & Company, 1889

Contributed by Jeanne Arguelles