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Column: Corn maze walkers wander historic South Hall land
Johnny_Vardeman
Johnny Vardeman

If you’re making your way through the Buford Corn Maze or taking part in the attraction’s other activities this fall, you’re walking on historic ground.

The farm, located at the intersection of Friendship and Hog Mountain roads in South Hall, is one that has lived through generations, most notably the Roberts family, namesake of Roberts Crossroads, the landmark intersection dating to the 1800s.

The Roberts name comes from Hardin Roberts, a War of 1812 veteran, who moved his family to Hall County from South Carolina, bought some land and began farming. He acquired property in the 1832 land lottery and added more before he died in 1850.

His son, James, a Hall militia colonel, moved a cabin built by a Cherokee chief to the intersection of Hog Mountain Road and Bennett Road around 1840. Besides farming, Roberts operated a post office and trading post at the site. Supplies would be hauled to the store from Augusta or Savannah, and settlers would travel from miles around to Roberts Crossroads to buy provisions.

Roberts and his wife, Sarah, had eight children before she died, and Roberts and his second wife, Serena Wayne, had nine children.

One of their sons, Starling, married Celia “Lou” Orr. One of their three daughters, Winnie Lee, married Clarence Newton Tutton, and they worked on the Roberts farm. Winnie eventually acquired 47 acres of the farm, but lived with one of her daughters, Julia Anita Watford, in Roswell the last 10 years of her life.

When Winnie, or Mother T, as she was called, died in 1992, she was just three months shy of being 100 years old. She handed down stories about neighbors coming to a “log-raising” and a dance to celebrate the “setting” of the house, which she grew up in.

Her daughter, Julia, inherited the main part of the farm, and she and her husband, Cal Watford, continued to maintain it. Julia died in 2004, and Cal inherited the historic acreage. Julia had told him, “Please take care of the farm; it means a lot to me.” And that’s what he’s been doing.

Cal put together the history of the farm by listening to families connected to it down through the years, and he did some research on an online genealogical site. He believes Julia and her mother, Winnie Tutton, would be pleased with the use of part of the farm today, as they enjoyed making people happy, especially children.

When Cal was approached by Jerome and Tina Beggs, and Rodney and Karen Miller, about the agri-business corn maze, he considered it a good idea and use for the farm. 

“A lot of people come here all the time,” Cal said.

Friendship Elementary School is on a part of the original farm, and the Roberts cabin was dismantled by Ken Cochran and others from the Hall County Historical Society. It was reassembled in Cherokee Bluff Park on Blackjack Road near Flowery Branch and not far from its original location.

That would make the late Dr. Martin Smith of Gainesville happy. His great-grandfather was Robert Smith Jr., who married Elmina Roberts, and the cabin became their home. Dr. Smith’s grandfather, Martin Isaac Smith, was born and raised in the house. Dr. Smith worked for years to preserve and restore the house, which is believed to be one of the oldest — if not the oldest house — in Hall County.

The house had stood vacant and almost falling in before Velma and William Orr renovated it in the 1970s. It was later donated to the historical society and restored as much as possible to its original state.

Levina Levoiney Roberts, wife of Hardin Roberts, is buried in Mount Salem Baptist Church cemetery on Friendship Road. Her grave is marked by a primitive stone. Other burial places of Roberts kin are in cemeteries around South Hall, but many other family members’ locations are unknown.

The Buford Corn Maze is located at 4470 Bennett Road, off Hog Mountain Road and its intersection with Friendship Road.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326; email, vardeman1956@att.net or johnny.peggy1956@gmail.com. His column publishes weekly.

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