Ken Cochran painstakingly helped dismantle log-by-log the historic Roberts-Orr house at Roberts Crossroads in south Hall County.
The building, at the time the oldest standing home in Hall County, remains languishing in a warehouse in Gainesville, pending a permanent location. Pieces of it are numbered and photographed so that it can be put back together when a place is found.
Cochran, president of Hall County Historical Society, would like for that place to be in a county park yet to be developed off Blackjack Road. “It would be an ideal place for it,” he said.
The original log house was the home of Col. James Roberts, who also built a store and post office nearby at what became known as Roberts Crossroads. The house was at the intersection of Hog Mountain Road and Friendship Road. Plans to widen the intersection threatened to demolish it, but the historical society had the state’s historic preservation section intervene, and the house survived, although it’s in hundreds of pieces.
Velma and William Orr were the last occupants of the property.
Col. Roberts is said to have moved the log home from Flowery Branch to a 1,000-acre homestead at the crossroads in 1822. When he established the post office and store, people would walk for miles to trade and pick up their mail. Wagons brought merchandise from Augusta and Savannah.
That whole area of south Hall County is rich in history. A rock outcropping in the proposed park area was used as shelter by early settlers until they built permanent houses.
At the other end of Hog Mountain Road was Young’s Tavern, operated by Robert Young, a Revolutionary War veteran. It was a major stop on the Old Federal Road that connected Chattanooga, Tenn., to Georgia’s coast. Gen. Andrew Jackson stayed in the 12-room log cabin on two occasions.
Jackson met with an Indian chief later called Major Ridge to get his help in fighting in the Seminole War of 1818. On another occasion, when Jackson tried to pay for his lodging, Young refused. Instead, the general gave him a silver snuff box, which remains in the family. The family cemetery is on Atlanta Highway.
Ridge helped three Indian braves build a two-story cabin on Friendship Road, trying to encourage them to take up the white man’s ways. Ridge gave the home to settlers when the federal government forced the Cherokee Indians out of Georgia. The house became known as the Bowman-Pirkle House, was on the National Register of Historical Places and moved to Gwinnett County to preserve it from development.
Young’s Tavern is important to the history of the area in that it connected to Fort Daniel, an early 1800s Georgia militia fort on Hog Mountain Road in Gwinnett County. Gen. Allen Daniel ordered the fort built to protect settlers from Indians. Gwinnett County recently bought 4 acres on which the fort sat and is developing a history park there with the Fort Daniel Foundation and the Gwinnett Archaeological Society. Archaeologists have located the walls of the fort and are sifting the soil for artifacts.
Another piece of South Hall history: A fort was built at Standing Peachtree in what is now Buckhead in Atlanta. A road built to connect the two forts was named Peachtree Road. Robert Young was among those who marked the route.
Old Federal Park on Lake Lanier is the site of Old Federal Road, where it crossed the Chattahoochee River at Vann’s Ferry.
All of this history and more could be incorporated into the park off Blackjack Road, said South Hall history buff Teresa Owens. “This whole area is a historical district,” she said.
If the historical society can pull it off, it would have pleased the late Dr. Martin Smith and others involved in south Hall County history. Dr. Smith labored long to prevent the Roberts-Orr House from being torn down, have it preserved and search for a permanent location. His great-grandfather, Robert Smith Jr., married Elmina Roberts, and the house became their home. Dr. Smith’s grandfather, Martin Isaac Smith, was born and reared in the house.
W.L. Norton Jr. and others in the Hall County Historical Society also campaigned for years to save the house and find it a permanent home.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.