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History of Barnesville, Georgia

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Town History

Founding Period 1825-1830

The area upon which Barnesville was formed was open for white settlement by the Land Lottery of 1821. The land had become available subsequent to the removal of the Creek Indians. Barnesville began as a small clearing in the wilderness by an Indian fighter named Jenks in 1825. The first white man in the area was not suited to be settled in one place. Therefore, Jenks sold out to Gideon Barnes in 1826. Barnes, a native of Southampton, Virginia, quickly went to work clearing virgin timber from the land in order to establish the area's first commercial district. He built a double log cabin on a hill where Summers cotton warehouse would later be built. This warehouse is used today as the City of Barnesville Electrical Department. In addition to the cabin, he built an inn and a tavern for travelers. People came to the village by wagon or horseback. Barnes decided to establish a passenger and a freight line between Macon and Barnes' Store and between Columbus and Barnes' Store. He also opened a post office on June 28, 1827, which was known as Barnes' Store. The post office name was changed to Barnesville in June of 1831. Barnes was the village's first postmaster.

Drivers and horses had to be secured to run the stage lines. Housing for the new families brought to town had to be provided. Stores providing clothing, hardware, food and livestock began operating and business was brisk.

The stage lines passed through Barnesville daily traveling on the Towns Road, which connected with the Alabama Road west of the village. The stage that traveled the Alabama Road connected Augusta, Georgia with Montgomery, Alabama. The stages carried freight, mail and passengers. The stage would stop at Barnes' tavern and inn to hitch fresh horses and to allow the passengers to refresh themselves with food and drink.

With the exception of the town plan/street layout, no resources survive from this early period (1825-1830).  

Iron Horse Development 1830-1860

Barnesville was part of Pike County from its beginning until 1921. During its early stages of development it was not connected to any of the surrounding county seats until 1833. Forsyth, the county seat of Monroe County, was about 15 miles to the east. Zebulon, the Pike County seat, was about 12 miles west. Thomaston, the county seat of Upson County, was about fourteen miles to the southwest. In 1833, the Upson County Commissioners decided to fund the cutting of a road through the wilderness to Barnesville from the courthouse square in Thomaston.  

Advent of the Railroad

With the advent of the railroad, Barnesville continued to prosper. One of Barnesville's first citizens, Benjamin Mosley Milner, helped build one of the first three railroads in Georgia. The Monroe Railroad and Banking Company was chartered Dec. 23, 1833 by the Georgia Legislature to establish a line between Macon and Forsyth. Its name was changed to the Macon and Western Railroad Company in 1845 and became the first railroad to come to Barnesville. It reached Atlanta in 1846. The Central of Georgia Railroad (also chartered in 1833) was to provide rail service between Savannah and Macon. This line connected with the Macon and Western Railroad to serve Barnesville and Thomaston. The line to Barnesville was completed in 1841, connecting the village to the main line at Forsyth. The spur line between Barnesville and Thomaston was laid in 1847. The train to Thomaston was known as "the Tom Cat" or the "Dummy" and a dummy line to Zebulon, was established. In later years, the branch to Thomaston was operated by the Central of Georgia Railroad. The Central, when completed in 1843, was the longest line built and owned by one corporation in Georgia. Other trains which were associated with service through Barnesville were the "Nancy Hanks I and II" providing service between Atlanta and Savannah; the "Goober" providing service to Griffin and on to Atlanta beginning in the late 1880s and the "Dixie Flyer" providing service between Atlanta and Miami, Florida.

Both the Atlanta to Macon and the spur lines running through Barnesville are still being used today for freight shipping. The freight trains make several stops daily at various manufacturing plants to deliver supplies and transport finished goods to distributors. Both of these lines are located on their original beds.

As the iron horse became more popular, the stagecoach became used less and less. The train was quicker, more convenient and certainly more comfortable than the stagecoach. The railroad brought new sources of growth: new merchants, new residents and new ideas. The population of Barnesville had grown to approximately 400 by the end of 1849 with 45 families. The center of the community was the depot. Everyone came to town or left town from the place, which was the heart of the community. People came to town to see the trains arrive or greet passengers. The business district grew up around the depot. As the village grew, a freight depot in addition to a passenger depot was built. The freight depot operations were later moved into the building that was later used by the old Georgia Knitting Mills which fronts the railroad tracks just east of the passenger depot. Today this building is used as a fertilizer warehouse by Akin Feed and Seed.

The stockyards were adjacent to the depot as were several cotton warehouses. The planing mill was erected along the tracks in order to receive goods and ship out finished products. The second post office building was located in a building facing the depot. This building, known as the Swatts Building, is still standing today.

The Village of Barnesville

The village of Barnesville was established by a charter granted from the Georgia Legislature in 1852. The form of government was a Mayor-Council. This form of government is still in use today. City limits were a circle with a radius of one-half mile from Stafford's Store at Main and Market Streets.

In 1859, the Barnesville Masonic Female Seminary was established by the Pinta Lodge #88. This school evolved into the current Gordon College.

During this period there were three main streets leading into and out of Barnesville: Forsyth Street, Zebulon Street, and Thomaston Street. All lead to the adjoining county seats which were within 15 miles in any direction.

Sectionalism 1860-1865

McDowell votes for secession

During the period just prior to the Civil War, Barnesville gained notoriety when its own, beloved Dr. George Montgomery McDowell represented Pike County at the secession convention in Milledgeville in January 1861. Being an ardent supporter of secession, he voted in favor of Georgia casting her lot with South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida in leaving the Union. Upon his return to Barnesville, he was elected the first Captain of the newly formed militia unit, the "Barnesville Blues." This unit was active in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

The Civil War brought colorful action to the area. In 1864 a supply "up train" from Macon collided with a "down troop train', from Atlanta about four miles out from Barnesville at Lavender's Crossing. About thirty people lost their lives and many more were seriously injured when the two trains, the "Governor" and the "Dispatcher", wrecked.

War Hits Home

The town also saw action from Wilson's Raiders and the Dixie Rangers in a skirmish on the outskirts of town on April 19, 1865. In addition, one of Sherman's flanks, 10,000 strong, camped on the edge of town on May 15, 1865 while pursuing President Jefferson Davis.

Field hospitals were set up at the depot, in the Methodist and Baptist churches, in the schoolhouses and in tents along Zebulon and Forsyth Streets. The sick and wounded troops that were evacuated from Atlanta were sent by rail to field hospitals. These field hospitals were set up along the railroad in each little community where the train stopped. Most of the troops sent to Barnesville were casualties from the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and the Battle of Atlanta. Those who died here are buried in marked graves in the Confederate section of Greenwood cemetery.

Slow Economic Times

As many of the grown men left for "the fight" to defend their economic and social life, the village of Barnesville moved into slow economic times. Manufacturing turned toward support industries and little growth took place. By the end of the Civil War (1865), Barnesville's population was about 800 people.

Rebuilding through Reconstruction 1865-1880

The men return

Shortly after the War ended and the men returned to town, several of the former businesses and trades began to flourish again and to grow. The main mode of travel by individuals was still the horse and buggy or horse and wagon. Jackson G. Smith, a blacksmith, and George L. Summers had been working together before the War at Dumas and Sullivan. This repair shop worked with harnesses, horse shoeing, and blacksmithing. Smith and Summers bought out Dumas and Sullivan and began manufacturing buggies under the firm name of Smith and Summers Buggy Company in 1866. Smith had come to Barnesville before the War from Buffalo, New York and Summers had come from Virginia.

Buggy Industry Prosperity

This period of growth brought prosperity to Barnesville as a result of the buggy industry and its related businesses. Some of these were harness manufacturing, livestock breeding and sales, feed and seed stores, livery stables and buggy body manufacturing. Nearly everyone in the community was employed in an industry that was in some way connected with the manufacturing and shipping of the buggies, wagons, carts, hearses, and coffins. At the height of the buggy business in 1900, nearly 9,000 buggies were produced annually in Barnesville.

Some of the other smaller buggy companies were Brazier and Dumas, Trio Buggy Company, and Franklin Buggy Company. The firm of Smith and Summers split in 1878 and Smith formed his own firm. Summers went into business with Murphey. This firm was known as Summers and Murphey until the fire of 1884. After Summers rebuilt, the firm was known as Summers' Buggy Company.

The various buggy firms employed hundreds of people. Barnesville became known as "the Buggy Capital of the South" because it produced more buggies than any other location south of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Buggy Capital of the South

Some of the other smaller buggy companies were Brazier and Dumas, Trio Buggy Company, and Franklin Buggy Company. The firm of Smith and Summers split in 1878 and Smith formed his own firm. Summers went into business with Murphey. This firm was known as Summers and Murphey until the fire of 1884. After Summers rebuilt, the firm was known as Summers' Buggy Company.

The various buggy firms employed hundreds of people. Barnesville became known as "the Buggy Capital of the South" because it produced more buggies than any other location south of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hundreds of buggies, carts, wagons, hearses, and coffins were shipped from the railroad sidings to the market place. In addition to rail shipping, the buggies were sold throughout the countryside by Smith. He hitched up five buggies to one team and traveled through the countryside with one team of horses pulling his string of buggies. After he sold the last buggy, he would return to Barnesville by train to ready another "string of buggies." This type of marketing made the buggy accessible to the rural areas where the train did not run.


This period saw a surge in local recreational facilities; as many as five saloons were operating at one time. Billiard parlors were filled with tobacco chewing patrons and an opera house was built on Market Street. This building, first known as Granite Hall, was built by Stafford and Blalock. Local musicians gave public programs there along with recitals and plays. Although Barnesville had a reputation of "not being a show town," various traveling companies stopped overnight in Barnesville and put on variety shows, magic shows, and theatrical performances. The advertisements in the local paper quoted the price of admission at twenty-five cents for general admission and thirty-five cents for the "better seats." The opera house was located on the north side of Market Street, just behind the corner building facing Main Street. The second story was utilized as the performing hall. After traveling companies went out of vogue, the upstairs portion of the building was used as apartments. This portion was torn away due to structural problems in the early 1960s.

Educational and Cultural Center

Barnesville's first newspaper was formed in 1867 by Lambdin and Pound. This brought the world to Barnesville. Businesses began to advertise specials and a sense of regionalism began to take hold.

Under the guidance of Charles E. Lambdin and Azmon A. Murphey, Gordon Institute was formed. This evolved out of the old Barnesville Masonic Female Seminary. As the enrollment grew, the reputation of Barnesville as an educational and cultural center also grew. Gordon became the center of all cultural and educational activity with new debating societies, literary societies, philosophical societies, and a concert band, the Silver Coronet Band. These groups were all part of the activities at Gordon. A bandstand was built in the center of the business district for the Silver Coronet Band to give Sunday afternoon concerts.

Drawing New Families

Barnesville's population had doubled since 1850 from 400 to 800 by the beginning of Reconstruction in 1865. Businesses had grown, new economic growth in local manufacturing had continued and Gordon Institute was drawing families and boarding students from all over the southeast.

These new residents arrived mostly by train. This brought revenue to the depot through fares and freight charges. New dwelling construction and boarding houses met housing demands. Some of the boarding houses of the day were the Five Oaks, The Young Ladies' Home, and the J.T. Murphey boarding house. The hotels of the day were the Matthews Hotel, the Lyon House, the Blalock House, and the Magnolia Inn.

During Gordon's commencement exercises and during the height of the summer resort season, boarding houses and hotels were filled to capacity. Visitors came from Florida to spend the summers in Barnesville because of its business, educational and cultural advantages.

Buggy Industry Flourishes

During Reconstruction (1865-1877), the buggy industry began to expand and flourish. Three of the smaller size buggy manufacturers were Trio Buggy Company, Brazier and Dumas Buggy Company, and Franklin Buggy Company. The two largest were Summers' Buggy Company and the J.G. Smith & Sons Buggy Company.

The office and the commissary of J.G. Smith & Sons Company still stand today on the northeast side of the main railroad line. The building that housed the Franklin Buggy Company is totally intact on the site adjacent to the main line of the railroad. This building was the last location of the Franklin Buggy Company. The first was a warehouse at the intersection of Zebulon and Greenwood Streets, which burned in the 1920s. The Trio Buggy Company was in that location after Franklin had moved to the larger building that stands today on the rail line. That building was built in 1897 for the Gem Knitting Mills. After they went out of business Franklin occupied it, and then an infant casket company used it as a manufacturing site.

There are three walls of the original blacksmith shop of Summers Buggy Company still standing today. Many years ago it had a fire and was rebuilt by replacing only the burned portions. It is utilized today as a storage shed for a building supply company that is owned and operated by a direct descendant of the Smith and Summers families who were engaged in the manufacturing of buggies and wagons.

The Barnesville Savings Bank was organized on October 26, 1870. The bank's first and second locations are occupied by businesses in the downtown historic district. The first site, the current location of Antiques on Main, is at the corner of Main and Zebulon Streets. After the Barnesville Savings Bank erected a new marble front building in 1897 on East Main Street, the original building was occupied by a number of retail businesses.

Rebirth after the War

The 1879 population figure for Barnesville was 2,000. The town had begun its rebirth after the War and was prospering. By 1880, Barnesville was a thriving shipping point. Many locally made products were being shipped to other areas of the state and the southern region of the United States. In addition to the buggies, wagons, carts, hearses, and coffins, many local people were involved in the fruit production business. These fruits, including peaches, melons, grapes, and pecans, were shipped from the depot by the carload.

Cotton...A Cash Crop

Another local crop was cotton. The cotton was grown, harvested, ginned, and baled locally. Some of the cash crop was shipped out by train and some was used by several local cotton mills to manufacture goods to be shipped out. One of the cotton mills was the Eagle Knitting Mill, later known as the Oxford Knitting Mill and today known as the William Carter Company. This mill employed hundreds of people when it began operation in the 1880s.  It still operates the distribution center at the original site of the mill. [This mill is not in the nominated district.] Another of the cotton mills was the Barnesville Manufacturing Company. It started in the historic district in the 1800s. After a depression at the turn of the century, it moved its operations to the western edge of town. It is Barnesville's other large employer today and is known as the General Tire Company. For many years, it was known as Aldora Mills. [The current site is not within the historic district.]

The Gee-Hanson Knitting Mill, the Hanson-Crawley Knitting Mill, and the Georgia Underwear Knitting Mill were other cotton mills that operated in Barnesville during the 1850s. Several of these merged with one another. Not only did cotton bring jobs to the farmers, the cotton gins, the cotton warehouses, the shipping department, and Southern Railway Express, but it caused the erection of "operative cottages" along Brown Avenue (now Atlanta Street) and Forsyth Street. The cotton mills needed housing for the machine operators and decided to build mill houses. Aldora Village, which was built soon after the turn of the century, was provided by the Hightower family for Aldora Mill workers to live in. Each mill had its own commissary. The "Company Store" was designed to meet the needs of the company employees. Not only did the cotton mills have these conveniences, so did the buggy manufacturers. [These resources are outside the district.]

Manufacturing Plants begin to thrive

Other manufacturing plants during the 1880s began to thrive. The Stafford-Huguley Hosiery Company was started. This factory was housed in the new Murphey Building on Zebulon Street after the fire of October 17, 1884. The fire was responsible for many economic and structural changes in the downtown business district. A passing train created sparks on the tracks. The sparks caught a bale of cotton on fire. The cotton was stacked along the track behind Corley Tire Company and the Summers' cotton warehouse. The fire raged out of control because the fire pumper could not hold pressure. The fire department was quick to respond to the alarm from its shed on Market Street, but the hoses had become rotten and could not hold pressure. Thirty-three businesses and several downtown residences were destroyed by the fire.

Another of the locally manufactured products was Stafford & Sons shoes. At their height, the Stafford Shoe Company made and shipped 5,000 pairs of shoes out of Barnesville via rail freight. The shoes were manufactured in the rear of the building that today houses Rose Nails and other merchants.

The site of the ribbed underwear manufacturing plant was later used as the freight depot and today is used as a fertilizer warehouse for Akins Feed and Seed. It is standing today just behind Summers, warehouse along the railroad tracks. The Summers' cotton warehouse stands today and is used by the City of Barnesville Electrical Department.

The site of another underwear mill stands today along the railroad tracks at the northern edge of the district, across from the depot. The building was the former site of the Franklin Buggy Company and B Lloyd's Candy.

As a result of the 1884 fire, the town's configuration was changed. Originally, the town was essentially a triangle that had as its wide base the stock yards around the depot. The point of the triangle was in front of the present day Carter's Drug Store. The city fathers decided to re-design the "Square" into a rectangular pattern. The focal point of the business district would still be the depot, but access into and out of the depot area would be greater. The three main roads would still radiate from the center point.

All of Main Street, most of Forsyth Street, all of Zebulon Street is post-October 1884 due to the fire. The only portion of the old section left was on the south side of Forsyth and Market Streets. The business district was totally rebuilt in the months just after the fire. The first building to be rebuilt was the William R. Murphey building. It was stated in the local News-Gazette that the building was begun on the "glowing embers of the fire." The building was completed in twenty-one days. It was the most desirable parcel of commercial property in the business district because it fronted the depot. The building housed law offices, restaurants, meat markets, grocery stores, harness repair shops, the first "reading room" (library), the "Blues" drill room, live stock stables, and the New South Savings Bank which would open in 1890. Today it is known as the Armory Building, it remains well used today.

Boom to Bust 1880-1900

First Building Codes

The growth in the business district brought the need for some guidelines for growth. The fire had demonstrated the lack of construction control. The city council wrote the first building codes; all storerooms, storehouses and dwellings had to be made of brick. The city limits would be a circle with a radius of one-and-one half miles extending from a point in the middle of the intersection in front of Stafford's Store. Stafford's Store stands today at the corner of Market and Main Streets.

New Growth

The fire brought new growth in terms of buildings, labors and businesses. A brick factory worked night and day to supply the bricks for rebuilding. In spite of their efforts, hundreds of carloads of Chattahoochee brick were brought into town by rail. Many hired hands moved to town to work for contractors who had arrived by train. Building supplies firms were started up and temporary housing for the hired hands was in demand.

Another result of the fire was the erection of a firehouse. This new building would house the city council upstairs, the firehouse on the ground floor and a calaboose (jail) in the rear of the building on Jackson Street. This building faced the old hotel and was located near the center of town at the corner of Forsyth and Jackson Streets. Today this same building houses City Hall. The fire department is now located in new facilities built in 1992 next door. The city clock that kept the business district on time was moved from atop the old hotel in 1932 to the bell tower of city hall.

The city built a water works and a new reservoir and erected an electrical plant. A new fire engine was purchased and the town swelled with pride.

The Presbyterian Church erected a beautiful house of worship at the corner of Main and Taylor Streets in 1897.

The New South Savings Bank was chartered in 1890 and business was booming until 1901. There was a "general economic depression". The entire southern region was in economic turmoil. Not only did most local businesses collapse; the local banks closed their doors. The banks were reopened under government orders that put them under receiverships. The banks re-opened under the names of Barnesville Bank and the First National Bank in 1902. The New South Savings Bank re-opened under the firm of Citizen's Bank in 1902. The Citizen's Bank first merged with the Barnesville Bank, and later with First National Bank at the time of the "Great Depression', in 1929.

During this period the streets downtown were maintained by a street crew. The sidewalks were made with diagonal boards and underlaid with charcoal for sanitary conditions. The area around the depot was made into a park to beautify the arrival area of the train.

The Barnesville Blues re-organized during this period and became an active militia unit again. They trained for the Spanish-American War (1898) in drills at the armory that was part of Gordon Institute's campus. This campus at that time was on the original site between Thomaston Street and Greenwood Streets.  

Rapid Construction

Most of the town's dwellings were erected during this time period. After the 1884 fire, residential construction was as rapid as was commercial construction. Most of the homes on Thomaston, Greenwood, Holmes, Elm and Forsyth Streets and Brown Avenue were built during this period.

Many of the business proprietors were rebuilding downtown and at the same time building residences. A great demand for building supplies was created by the fire. Also construction hands, contractors and a planing mill were in demand. The number of jobs created by the fire brought new residents to town to fill those jobs. Many of those new workers stayed on.

Local bricks were manufactured at the Parker place at the end of Elm Street, but the demand was too great. Hundreds of loads were brought in on rail from the Chattahoochee Brick Company of Atlanta.  

Status Quo 1900-1920

General Depression

After the bank failures and "general depression" of 1901, the local economy struggled to survive. In 1902, the banks reopened and found few opportunities to invest their assets.

Many of the local businesses, including the cotton mills, closed, never to reopen. Some did re-organize and slowly began to recover. The most successful of these was the Barnesville Manufacturing Co. and the Oxford Knitting Mills.

City gets Library and paved streets

By 1900, the population of Barnesville was 3,000. This figure remained the same throughout the 1920's.

In 1909, the city aldermen were successful in obtaining a grant from the Carnegie Foundation for the erection of a public library. This facility operated at the site until a new library was opened across the street (at Thomaston and Holmes) in 1987. The Carnegie Library Building is currently the studio/residence of a local artist - Carol Wubbena.

In 1918 the downtown streets were paved and a new post office was built on Forsyth Street. This building is still being used today as the post office.

A & M School

Barnesville's population in the years after the turn of the century was about 3,200. This was a factor in the decision of the state legislature to grant the new Sixth Congressional District A and M School to Barnesville. Several of the towns in the district lobbied the legislature for the granting of a school, but Barnesville offered a central location, a great deal of free land, and a main line of the railroad. This district served Bibb, Butts, Clayton, Crawford, Fayette, Henry, Monroe, Pike, Spalding, and Upson counties. The Sixth District A and M School was part of a statewide school system introduced to teach mechanical and agricultural skills to high school students in rural areas. The main building was completed in Barnesville in 1906. The cornerstone was laid by the Pinta Lodge #88. The main building, although renovated, is used today as the administration building of Gordon College. The A and M campus became the Georgia Industrial College in 1929. In the later 1930s, when the industrial school was closed by the legislature, Gordon Institute moved from its original campus between Thomaston and Greenwood Streets to the A & M campus. This campus of nearly 400 acres was sold to the State of Georgia in 1972. At that point, Gordon became part of the University System of Georgia. Today, it boasts an enrollment of nearly 3,500 students annually.

World War 1

World War I (1917-1918) brought a sense of unity through the Barnesville Blues. Once again the unit was called into service. Hardly a family in town was untouched by the demand for troops. At this time many long established businesses closed and few new firms were started. Times were changing and so was transportation. The auto was gaining favor with the public and the horse and buggy along with the train was going out of vogue. The local economy had been largely dependent on the buggy industry and its related businesses. The two largest buggy manufacturers decided that it was no longer profitable to make buggies, wagons, and carriages. Summers Buggy Company dissolved due to the advanced age of Mr. Summers. The Smith Buggy Company decided to convert to furniture manufacturing. The new firm would be known as Smith Incorporated.

New Directions 1920-1945

Lamar County is formed

After several attempts to secure a new county, the city fathers were successful in bringing the issue before the State Legislature. In August of 1920, the representatives of Barnesville went by train to Atlanta to await the vote. The monies had been paid and the vote was taken. It was defeated narrowly. The men came back to Barnesville that evening on the down train and held a town meeting. After "passing the hat," the men returned to Atlanta the next morning. Another meeting took place with the "Committee" and the issue was called to a vote again. This time the bill passed creating the new County of Lamar. The county seat was to be Barnesville. The eastern portion of Pike County and the western portion of Monroe County were to make up the new county. The historic vote was held locally on August 17, 1920. The new county would begin operating as a legal entity on January 1, 1921. The M. W. Smith building across from the depot housed the county offices and court was held in the third floor ballroom. The area was leased from the Pinta Lodge #88. Business was conducted here until the courthouse was completed in 1931. The courthouse was designed by Eugene C. Wachendorff of Atlanta, architect, and built by the Barnesville Planing Mill. The cornerstone was laid in 1931 by the Pinta Lodge #88.

The Pinta Masonic Lodge #88 is the oldest continuously operating organization in Barnesville. It was chartered in 1849 and has continued to be an active and positive force in promoting and supporting the community. It has had meeting space in several historic buildings within the district.

The Great Depression & The New Deal

The Great Depression (1929-1941) was difficult for all communities including Barnesville. Many people were out of work and as businessmen drew near retirement age, many firms dissolved.

The New Deal Era (1933-1943) brought many government programs to help the people and the city. One of these, the WPA brought work to many local men. A golf course was laid out, bridges were built, and streets were paved in town. The brass WPA markers can still be seen in the middle of the streets that were paved under Roosevelt's WPA program.

Roosevelt throws the switch

In August of 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to town via train to literally "throw the switch" to begin the electrification of rural America. The REA (Rural Electrification Administration) was Roosevelt's pet project and he chose Barnesville as the site to turn on the electricity. Thousands of people came to town to see and hear the President. The ceremony took place on a specially constructed, raised platform at Summers Field. The switch pulled in Barnesville sent electricity over the wires into rural homes in four counties.

World War II

World War II (1941-1945) brought the "Barnesville Blues" into action again. This local unit began at the time of secession (1861). In times of peace, it would de-activate and in times of war would become active-and begin to train again. The "Blues" always served with honor and distinction. The last commanding officer, Brigadier General Homer Sappington, had the honor of having the present National Guard unit in Barnesville named after him.

When the men came back from World War II, the land beyond Gordon College was laid off and offered to the veterans for $10.00 per lot if they would agree to build a home on the lot. After completion of the home, they would be given a deed to the lot. This provided needed housing and created local construction jobs.

In August of 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to town via train to literally "throw the switch" to begin the electrification of rural America. The REA (Rural Electrification Administration) was Roosevelt's pet project and he chose Barnesville as the site to turn on the electricity. Thousands of people came to town to see and hear the President. The ceremony took place on a specially constructed, raised platform at Summers Field. The switch pulled in Barnesville sent electricity over the wires into rural homes in four counties.

Conclusion 1945 - Present

The downtown business district has changed little in the past fifty years. There are only a few new structures, like the former Akins Feed and Seed. This was erected in 1950 to replace a burned building on Market Street. The police booth was removed and the gazebo replaced it in the 1980s.

History of Gordon College

Gordon College is a four-year state college in Barnesville, fifty-five miles south of Atlanta and thirty-five miles northwest of Macon. Part of the University System of Georgia, Gordon offers bachelor and associate degrees in specific areas, prepares students for transfer to other four-year institutions, and provides educational and cultural opportunities for the local community.

In 1852 the Barnesville Male and Female High School opened as a private school. In 1872 the name changed to Gordon Institute in honor of General John B. Gordon, and its scope was extended to the elementary grades. In 1875 Alice Wooten of Monroe County became Gordon Institute's first graduate. Students, faculty, family, and friends attended the first commencement exercises, as did General Gordon, who commented that schools shouldn't be named after living men.

Gordon has ties to both North Georgia College and State University and Woodward Academy in Atlanta through one individual—J. C. Woodward. An alumnus of North Georgia Agricultural College, Woodward was hired in 1890 to start the first military program at Gordon Institute. A few years later he started his own military school, Georgia Military Academy, now known as Woodward Academy. Gordon Institute cadets often went on to other colleges or to military academies like the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Gordon Institute's name officially changed to Gordon College in 1907. In 1916 the U.S. Department of War named Gordon College a junior military unit, and during World War I (1917-18), 450 Gordon alumni served, 160 of them as commissioned officers. Gordon suffered eighteen casualties during World War I.

In 1928 Gordon added the first two years of college to its program and five years later was named an honor military school. One advantage of this designation was that a cadet, after completing the course work of the junior college department, could enter the military with the rank of a commissioned officer. In 1933 the state of Georgia offered the former Georgia Industrial College campus to Gordon College. The high school and junior college departments moved to the new campus, while the elementary school moved into the former high school building. Gordon College was unofficially known as Gordon Military College from the mid-1930s until 1972.

World War II (1941-45) saw numerous Gordon alumni serving in Europe and in the Pacific. After World War II, Gordon Military College experienced a growth in student enrollment that required the addition of five new buildings, including two dormitories. However, with no endowments or public funds and increasing competition for student enrollment, the school began to have financial problems in the 1960s. A fund-raiser for Gordon Military College raised $70,000, but that was not enough for the college to pay its $1.8 million debt; the trustees approached the state in 1970 about making the college part of the university system. The Board of Regents was in favor, and on July 2, 1972, Gordon Military College officially became part of the University System of Georgia as Gordon Junior College. In 1986 "junior" was dropped from the school's name. Gordon became a four-year state college in 2007 with the addition of a bachelor's degree in early childhood education.

After joining the university system in 1972 with 425 students and no endowment, Gordon College grew to 3,703 students and an endowment of nearly $7 million by 2007.

Twenty-first Century Growth

The student body—more than 5,000 students were enrolled by 2011—comes primarily from Lamar County and the surrounding counties but also draws people from out of state as well as from around the world. Most students begin at Gordon immediately after high school, but a growing percentage of students are older people who have decided to return to school, thereby contributing their wide range of experiences to a diverse student body.

Two of Gordon's strengths are the nursing and prepharmacy programs. In 2002 Gordon College led the state's two-year nursing programs with a 100 percent passing rate on the national licensing exam. Gordon offers a wide variety of associate degree programs as well as several bachelor's degree programs, including biology, education, English, history, mathematics, and nursing.

Notable alumni of Gordon College include U.S. senator Richard B. Russell Jr.; Rufus C. Harris, president of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana; and Prentice Miller, dean of alumni at Emory University.

Suggested Reading

Marion Bush, Character, Culture, Scholarship: Gordon Military College, 1852-1972 (Barnesville, Ga.: Gordon Military College, 1972).

Keith Coulbourn, "Gordon Military Goes Civilian," Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine, April 8, 1973.

Faith Walton Porch, comp., Heritage of Gordon Military College in the Heart of the Deep South ([Barnesville, Ga.?]: n.p., [1965?]).


History of Gordon State College

Gordon State College was initially founded in 1852 as The Male and Female Seminary, a private school for higher education of boys and girls. Though church-sponsored, it was not a seminary in the usual sense. During the American Civil War, boys were organized into a corps of cadets. Girls continued to attend but were never included in military programs.

In 1872, the school was renamed Gordon Institute to honor Georgia native and former CSA General John B. Gordon, and its scope was extended to the elementary grades. In 1890, J. C. Woodward, who later founded Georgia Military Academy was hired to start a military program. In 1907, the name changed to Gordon College. In 1916 the U.S. Department of War named Gordon College a junior military unit. In 1928, Gordon added the first two years of college to its program. In 1933 the state of Georgia offered the former Georgia Industrial College campus to Gordon College. The high school and junior college departments moved to the new campus, while the elementary school moved into the former high school building. Gordon College was known as Gordon Military College from the mid-1930s until 1972.

In the 1950s, ownership of the school passed to the city of Barnesville, which consolidated its government-funded public schools for Whites in Grades 8-12, while continuing to bus Colored students to racially segregated Lamar County schools. City girls were enrolled as regular students. City boys were permitted to opt out of military participation, but almost all were organized into a corps of cadets under military discipline. Military cadets from other places were permitted to enroll by paying tuition; many attracted by low tuition rates came from Latin America, including Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican migration to New York.

Gordan State had severe financial problems in the 1960s; in 1970 the trustees approached the state about making the college part of the university system. The secondary school was separated and the cadet corps disbanded, and on July 2, 1972, Gordon Military College officially became part of the University System of Georgia as Gordon Junior College, an associate-level college. In 1986 "junior" was dropped from the school's name as Gordon began to offer some undergraduate courses.

In 2006, Gordon State was designated a four-year state college, and currently offers six bachelor's degree programs.

On August 8, 2012, the Board of Regents approved the change of the name of Gordon College to Gordon State College. The action follows the Board's approval in 2006 of a change in status for the two-year college in Barnesville to allow it to offer limited baccalaureate programs within the University System's state college sector. The name change is effective immediately.

History: From a Humble School House to a State College

Looking at Gordon State College today, it's hard to imagine that this college, so vital to higher education in middle Georgia, began as a little school house for local children.

In 1832, Josiah Holmes built a frame school house in the center of the quiet town of Barnesville so that local children could learn the classics. Twenty years later, the Georgia General Assembly incorporated the school as the Barnesville Male and Female High School.

Another 20 years later, 1872, the school was renamed the Gordon Institute, in honor of General John B. Gordon, who served Georgia during three terms in the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor.

The Gordon Institute created a military department of study in 1890, and for the next 80 years, the school distinguished itself as a premier military institution.
Black and white photograph of cadets outside Lambdin Hall

In 1933, the school – then known as Gordon High School and Junior College - moved to its current campus and Gordon flourished. It served as the public city school system for the City of Barnesville with its president serving as school superintendent of the lower grades at Gordon Grammar School, as well as president of the College. Boarding students from across the country and Central and South America attended Gordon.

In the 1960s, a state commission established by Governor Carl Sanders saw a need for a junior college in middle Georgia. Through the efforts of many community leaders, Gordon became part of the University System of Georgia on July 1, 1972, with a new name: Gordon Junior College. That fall, 571 students enrolled at Gordon in its debut year as an institution of public higher education.

Since Gordon joined the university system, it has undergone tremendous growth and change. Designated a state college in 2006, approximately 4,000 students attend Gordon State College, with 1,000 living on campus. The college offers a number of associate degree programs as well as bachelor's degrees in Early Childhood Education, Mathematics, Biology, English, History, BSN, Health Systems and Informatics Administration and starting in fall 2013, Human Services.

The campus now encompasses slightly more than 235 acres with residence halls, a house devoted to alumni affairs, a newly renovated Student Center and dining hall and a state-of-the-art Nursing and Allied Health Science building.

The Gordon State College Foundation endowment now exceeds $6 million. Today, Gordon competes in intercollegiate sports and has an active student life program.

Despite the many changes, Gordon has held onto its roots. Though it is a larger school today, it still maintains its small-town feeling. Most important, Gordon State College is as committed to fulfilling the community's educational needs today as it was when it opened its doors more than 160 years ago.

History of Lamar County

Lamar County is located in west Lamar County at a Glance central Georgia, between Atlanta and Macon. The officials of the flourishing little city of Barnesville, settled in 1826, appealed to the state legislature four times—in 1869, 1906, 1912, and 1916—to create a new county with Barnesville as the county seat. Finally, in 1920, the session of the state transferred land from Monroe and Pike counties and created the county of Lamar, making a land area for Lamar County of 185 square miles. The name was Lucius Q. C. Lamar chosen for Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1825-93), a Putnam County native who became a U.S. Senator (elected to represent Mississippi), secretary of the interior, and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lamar County has a rolling landscape and is well drained by streams emptying into the Flint River and Ocmulgee River. Its agricultural land, with pecan and peach groves, is a little northwest of the geographic center of Georgia. Agricultural activities in the county include forestry, fishing, hunting, and mining.

After the treaty with the Lower Creek Indians was signed by Chief William McIntosh at Indian Springs in January 8, 1821, the land that comprised Monroe, Pike, and Crawford counties was ceded to the United States. English settlers came from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and older Georgia counties.

The county seat, Barnesville, was well known as the "Buggy Capital of the South" in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with several Barnesville companies producing buggies. The local Barnesville Gazette reported that Mr. Smith of the J. G. Smith and Sons Genuine Barnesville Buggies Factory anticipated "for the year 1897 he will ship at least 1,200 buggies" and "is almost sure to double this for 1898." In mid-September each year, Barnesville celebrates Buggy Days with a parade—displaying original Barnesville Buggies—and a crafts celebration bringing thousands of visitors to the town.

Population in the county grew from the 1930 census figure of 9,745 to 15,912 in the 2000 census. According to the 2010 census, the population increased again to 18,317.

Gordon College, located in Barnesville, was founded in 1872 as the Gordon Institute in honor of General John B. Gordon, Confederate soldier and statesman. Gordon Institute became Gordon Military College (1927-72) and educated and trained men who fought during World War II (1941-45), the Korean War (1950-53), and the Vietnam War (1964-73). In 1972 the college became a two-year unit of the University System of Georgia, and in 2007 it transitioned to a four-year institution.


Lamar County, Georgia was created in 1920 from the western portion of Monroe County and the eastern portion of Pike County. The county seat is Barnesville.

The town of Barnesville, named in honor of Gideon Barnes who settled in the southeastern portion of Pike County in 1826, was the largest town in Pike County. There had been the desire among the residents for a number of years to form a new county because of the distances to Zebulon, the county seat of Pike County, and to Forsyth, the county seat of Monroe County. In 1920, therefore, the residents petitioned the Georgia Legislature for a new county. Lamar was chosen for the county name in honor of one of Georgia's distinguished sons, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar.

Gideon Barnes, the founder of Barnesville, was born December 2, 1791 in Southampton County, Virginia. He initially settled in Jones County, Georgia where he married Miss Sarah Crawford Raiford. In 1826 he moved to Pike County and built a house at the intersection of two Indian trails. What began as a trading business, grew into a stage coach line to Columbus, a tavern, and eventually a hotel. Meanwhile a village grew up around his property and began to be called Barnesville. Gideon's first wife, Miss Sarah, died in 1861 and was buried in an old cemetery near the Methodist Church. Gideon died in Barnesville, May 10, 1871. He and his second wife, Huldah Ann Barnes, are buried in the Greenwood Cemetery.

Because Lamar County was organized after the 1920 census was taken, the 1930 Census was the first one conducted in Lamar County. Monroe and Pike County census reports from 1830 to 1920 should be checked for information about early residents of what would become Lamar County.

County History: On Aug. 17, 1920, the General Assembly proposed a constitutional amendment to create Lamar County from Monroe and Pike counties (Ga. Laws 1920, p. 45). In that year's general election, Georgia voters ratified the proposed amendment on Nov. 2, 1920, which marks the date of Lamar County's creation (although a state historical marker on the courthouse grounds incorrectly cites the county's creation as the day the legislative act proposing the constitutional amendment was approved).

According to the 1920 constitutional amendment, Lamar County's boundaries were defined as:

Beginning at the northwest corner of land lot 185 adjoining Spalding and Pike County line in the 2nd District of Pike County and running along land lot lines southward to northwest corner of land lot 75 in the 8th District, Pike County, Georgia; thence west along land lot line between land lots 86 and 87 to the northwest corner of land lot 86; thence south along line between land lots 86 and 107 to northwest corner of land lot 85; thence west along lines between land lots 107 and 108 to northwest corner land lot 108; thence south along land lot line to Upson County lines at southwest corner land lot 112 in 8th District, Pike County, Georgia; thence east along land lot lines between Pike and Upson to Pike and Monroe County lines at southeast corner land lot 113 in Pike County, Georgia; thence south along line between Upson and Monroe County to southwest corner of land lot 130 in 11th land District of Monroe County; thence east along land lot line to southeast corner of land lot 28 in 11th District, Monroe County, and thence north along land lot line to northeast corner land lot 29; thence east along land lot lines to south corner of land lot 8, Monroe County, Georgia, 11th District, and thence north along lines between land districts 11 and 12, 7 and 6 and 3 and 4 to Butts County line at northeast corner of land lot 247 in 3rd District of Monroe County, Georgia; thence west to northwest corner of land lot 138, Monroe County, Georgia, said land lot being in 3rd District, Monroe County; thence southward along present county lines between counties of Monroe and Spalding to present Pike County line; thence west along county line between counties of Spalding and Pike to beginning point, on northwest corner of lot of land 185 in the 2nd District of Pike County, Georgia, the present county lines between Monroe and Butts, Monroe and Spalding, Pike and Spalding being the northern boundary line of the proposed County of Lamar.

Why was Lamar County created by constitutional amendment instead of an act of the General Assembly? In 1904, Georgia voters had approved a constitutional amendment limiting the number of counties in the state to 145. The next year, the General Assembly created eight new counties, bringing the total number to 145 -- the constitutional limit. Nevertheless, there was continuing pressure to create more counties. Beginning in 1906, lawmakers got around the 145-county limitation by creating new counties through constitutional amendments that were not subject to the limitation. By 1924, Georgia had 161 counties -- 16 of which had been created by constitutional amendment. On Jan. 1, 1932, Milton and Campbell counties merged with Fulton, leaving 159 counties. In 1945, Georgia voters ratified a new constitution -- one that provided an absolute limit of 159 counties, with an additional provision (see text) that no new country could be created except through consolidation of existing counties.

Lamar County was named for Georgia-born Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1825-1893). Lamar had served as a U.S. Representative and Senator from Mississippi, and as U.S. Secretary of Interior under Pres. Grover Cleveland. At the time of his death in Vineville, Ga., Lamar was serving as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

County Seat: The 1920 constitutional amendment creating Lamar County provided that Barnesville serve as county seat. Barnesville began in 1820 as a stagecoach stop in what was then Monroe County on the old Alabama Road running from Macon westward. It was named for Gideon Barnes, who operated a stage line and owned a tavern here. In 1822, Barnesville was included in the portion of Monroe County used to create Pike County. The legislature incorporated Barnesville by an act of Feb. 20, 1854 (Ga. Laws 1853-54, p. 211).

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, for whom Lamar County was named, was born near Eatontown, Putnam County, Georgia, on September 17, 1825, the fourth of eight children of Lucius Lamar and Sarah Bird.

He graduated from Emory College in 1845 and studied law at Macon with a cousin, Absalom Chapell. He practiced law in Macon and then moved his practice to Covington. In 1847 Lamar married Virginia Longstreet, daughter of Augustus B. Longstreet, the president of Emory College. Two years later they moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where his father-in-law had accepted the presidency of the University of Mississippi. Lamar continued practicing law and also taught mathematics at the university. Lucius and Virginia returned to Covington in 1852. He won election to the Georgia legislature the next year, but in 1855 they moved back to Mississippi.

Lamar began his national political career with an election to the House of Representatives in 1856. With the election of Abraham Lincoln, Lamar advocated the withdrawal of the South from the United States. He resigned from Congress and at a state convention in early January 1861, wrote Mississippi's ordinance of secession.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Lamar enlisted in the Confederate Army and served as a Lieutenant Colonel until he was forced to resign because of his poor health. In the final months of the war Lamar again served, as judge advocate with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. With the defeat of the Confederacy Lamar returned to the practice of law and to teaching at the University of Mississippi.

After being pardoned for his services to the Confederacy, Lamar was elected in 1872 to Congress. Following two terms in the House, he was elected to the Senate in 1876. During his second term in the Senate, President Grover Cleveland asked Lamar to become Secretary of the Interior. He served in this cabinet office until 1887 when President Cleveland appointed him to the Supreme Court to replace Associate Justice Williams Woods of Georgia, who had died the previous May. Against objections to his age and service in the Confederacy, the appointment was confirmed by the Senate in January 1888 by a vote of 32 to 28. Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar served on the Supreme Court until his death in Vineville, Georgia, January 23, 1893.

Few Americans have enjoyed as extensive and diverse a public career as Lucius Q. C. Lamar, for his nation, for Georgia and his adopted state of Mississippi, for the South, and for his family.

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II

This article is about the U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice. For his father, a Georgia lawyer and judge, see Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (I).

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
January 16, 1888[1] – January 23, 1893
Nominated by Grover Cleveland
Preceded by William Burnham Woods
Succeeded by Howell Edmunds Jackson
16th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
March 6, 1885 – January 10, 1888
President Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Henry M. Teller
Succeeded by William Freeman Vilas
Personal details
Born September 17, 1825
Eatonton, Georgia
Died January 23, 1893 (aged 67)
Vineville, Georgia
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Emory College
Occupation Professor, Lawyer, Politician
Military service
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars American Civil War

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (September 17, 1825 – January 23, 1893) was an American politician and jurist from Mississippi. A United States Representative and Senator, he also served as United States Secretary of the Interior in the first administration of President Grover Cleveland, as well as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Early life and career

Lamar was born at the family home of "Fairfield," near Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia, the son of Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar and Sarah Williamson Bird. He was a cousin of future associate justice Joseph Lamar, and nephew of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas. He graduated from Emory College (now Emory University), then located in Oxford, Georgia, in 1845, and married the daughter of Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, one of the school's early presidents. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and was among the first initiates in that fraternity's chapter at the University of Mississippi.

In 1849, Lamar's father-in-law, Professor Longstreet, moved to Oxford, Mississippi to take the position of Chancellor at the recently established University of Mississippi. Lamar followed him and took a position as a professor of mathematics for a single year. He also practiced law in Oxford, eventually taking up the role as planter, establishing a cotton plantation named Solitude in northern Lafayette County, near Abbeville.

In 1852 Lamar moved to Covington, Georgia where he practiced law, and in 1853 he was elected to the Georgia State House of Representatives.
Congressional career and Civil War

In 1855 he returned to Mississippi and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1856, beginning his service in 1857. When Mississippi seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy on January 9, 1861, Lamar said:

"Thank God, we have a country at last: to live for, to pray for, and if need be, to die for."

Lamar retired from the House in December 1860 to become a member in the Mississippi Secession Convention. The state's Ordinance of Secession (see also Mississippi Ordinance of Secession) was drafted by Lamar. Lamar considered a staff appointment, but abandoned that to co-operate with his former law partner, Christopher H. Mott. Lamar raised, and funded out of his own pocket, the 19th Mississippi Volunteer Infantry. Mott was made Colonel, as he had served as an officer in the war with Mexico, and Lamar elected Lieutenant Colonel. Lamar then resigned his professorship in the university and was, on May 14, in Montgomery, offering his regiment to the Confederate War Department. On May 15, 1862, Colonel Lamar, while reviewing his regiment, fell with an attack of vertigo, which had previously disabled him, and his service as a soldier was ended. After this he served as a judge advocate, and aide to his cousin, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. Later in 1862, Confederate States President Jefferson Davis appointed Lamar as Confederate minister to Russia and special envoy to England and France. When the Civil War was over, he returned to the University of Mississippi where he was a professor of metaphysics, social science and law. In 1865, 1868, 1875, 1877, and 1881, he was also a member of Mississippi's constitutional conventions. After having his civil rights restored following the war, Lamar returned to the House in 1873, the first Democrat from Mississippi to sit in the U.S. House of Representatives since the Civil War. He served there until 1877. Lamar would go on to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate from 1877 to 1885.

Later career

Lamar served as United States Secretary of the Interior under President Grover Cleveland from March 6, 1885 to January 10, 1888. As part of the first Democratic administration in 24 years, and as head of the corrupt Interior Department rife with political patronage, Lamar was besieged by visitors seeking jobs. One day a visitor came who was not seeking a job and, as The New York Times later reported:

In the outer room were several prominent Democrats, including a high judicial officer, several Senators, and any number of members of the House. Mr. Lamar waved his visitor to a chair without saying a word. . . . By and by his visitor said that he would go away and return at some other time, as he feared that he was keeping the people outside. "Pray sit still," requested Mr. Lamar. "You rest me. I can look at you, and you do not ask me for anything; and you keep those people out as long as you stay in."

As secretary, Lamar removed the Department's fleet of carriages for its officials and only used his personal one-horse rockaway.

Lamar's Supreme Court nomination

During an 1884–85 Geological Survey, Geologist Arnold Hague named the East Fork of the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park the Lamar River in his honor. The Lamar Valley, or the Secluded Valley of Trapper Osborne Russell and other park features or administrative names that contain Lamar are derived from this original naming in honor of Secretary of the Interior Lamar.

President Cleveland appointed Lamar to the Supreme Court of the United States, and he was confirmed on January 16, 1888, making him the first justice of Southern origin appointed after the Civil War (William Burnham Woods, while appointed as a resident of Alabama, was a native of Ohio and a Republican). He served on the court until his death on January 23, 1893. He is the only Mississippian to have served on the court.

Lamar was originally interred at Riverside Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, but was reinterred at St. Peter's Cemetery in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1894.

Three U.S. counties are named in his honor: Lamar County, Alabama; Lamar County, Georgia; and Lamar County, Mississippi. Lamar was also featured in John F. Kennedy's book, Profiles in Courage, both for his eulogy speech for Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in 1874, and for his unpopular vote against the Bland-Allison Act of 1878.

LAMAR, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, (1825 - 1893)
Senate Years of Service: 1877-1885
Party: Democrat

Library of Congress

LAMAR, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, (uncle of William Bailey Lamar and cousin of Absalom Harris Chappell), a Representative and a Senator from Mississippi; born near Eatonton, Putnam County, Ga., September 17, 1825; attended schools in Baldwin and Newton Counties; graduated from Emory College, Oxford, Ga., in 1845; studied law in Macon; admitted to the bar in 1847; moved to Oxford, Miss., in 1849, where he practiced law and served one year as professor of mathematics in the University of Mississippi at Oxford; moved to Covington, Ga., in 1852 and practiced law; member, Georgia State house of representatives 1853; returned to Mississippi in 1855; elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth Congresses and served from March 4, 1857, until his retirement in December 1860 to become a member of the secession convention of Mississippi; drafted the Mississippi ordinance of secession; during the Civil War served in the Confederate Army as lieutenant colonel until 1862; entered the diplomatic service of the Confederacy in 1862 and was sent on a special mission to Russia, France, and England; member of the State constitutional conventions in 1865, 1868, 1875, 1877, and 1881; professor of metaphysics, social science, and law at the University of Mississippi; elected to the Forty-third and Forty-fourth Congresses (March 4, 1873-March 3, 1877); did not seek renomination in 1876, having been elected Senator; chairman, Committee on Pacific Railroads (Forty-fourth Congress); elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1876; reelected in 1883 and served from March 4, 1877, until March 6, 1885, when he resigned to accept a Cabinet post; chairman, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs (Forty-sixth Congress), Committee on Railroads (Forty-sixth Congress); Secretary of the Interior in the Cabinet of President Grover Cleveland 1885-1888; appointed by President Cleveland to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and was confirmed January 16, 1888; served until his death in Vineville, Ga., January 23, 1893; interment in Riverside Cemetery, Macon, Ga.; reinterment in St. Peter’s Cemetery, Oxford, Miss., in 1894.


American National Biography; Dictionary of American Biography; Mayes, Edward. Lucius Q.C. Lamar: His Life, Times, and Speeches, 1825-1893. 1896. Reprint. New York: AMS Press, 1974; Murphy, James B. L.Q.C. Lamar: Pragmatic Patriot. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973.

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar

L.Q.C. Lamar is perhaps Mississippi’s most noted 19th century statesman. He was the first person, and one of only two in American history (the other was South Carolina’s James Byrnes in the 20th century), to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, as a member of the President’s Cabinet, and as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lamar is one of only eight leaders featured in John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage. He is included there along with men such as John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster.

Reconciling North and South

L.Q.C. Lamar is cited by Kennedy for his courage in healing the wounds between North and South, which had been festering since the end of the American Civil War in 1865. In 1874, Lamar was a newly elected congressman from Mississippi, and the first former Confederate official from the state allowed back in the U.S. House of Representatives. He shocked the nation by delivering a moving eulogy after the death of Charles Sumner, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts who was known as one of the South’s greatest enemies.

Senator Sumner, a major figure in the fight for the abolition of slavery, had been beaten severely with a cane on the floor of the Senate by a congressman from South Carolina prior to the Civil War. After the war, Sumner played a leading role in forming the Reconstruction policies that affected Mississippi.

The U.S. House of Representatives was packed when L.Q.C. Lamar, a Civil War veteran from Mississippi and one of the so-called “rabid fire-eaters” before the war, spoke about the need for unity between North and South in the name of the departed Sumner. Grown men were reduced to tears by the speech.

Lamar closed his speech with this sentence: “My countrymen! Know one another, and you will love one another.” Few speeches in American history have had such an immediate impact, according to John F. Kennedy. Lamar immediately became one of the most respected leaders in Congress and throughout the country, and his speech marked a turning point in relations between North and South.

Pre-Civil War years

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar was born in Georgia in 1825. His father was a lawyer, but committed suicide when Lucius was only nine years old. The man who became like a father to Lamar was Judge Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, who was a cousin of James Longstreet, one of General Robert E. Lee’s commanders in the Civil War. Judge Longstreet was the president of Emory College near Atlanta. Lamar became a lawyer and married Longstreet’s daughter, Virginia. When Judge Longstreet became president of the University of Mississippi, he hired his new son-in-law as a mathematics professor. Lamar moved to Oxford, Mississippi, in 1849 where he also practiced law. In 1857, at the age of 32, Lamar won his first race for Congress. A contemporary described him as “gifted with eloquence and of scholarly attainments, with no political or moral sins to answer for.”

In a letter to a friend, Lamar wrote that he longed for a leader capable of “rising above the passions and prejudices of the times who would speak to both sections in a spirit at once tolerant, just, generous, humane, and national.” Little did he realize that he was foreshadowing his own unifying speech twenty years later.

Mississippians loved Lamar for his courtly Southern manners, his intelligence, and his devotion to duty. Congressman Lamar and Senator Jefferson Davis were the state’s most popular political leaders at the beginning of the Civil War.

Author of secession; Confederate diplomat

Like most Southern politicians of his time, Lamar was a firm supporter of states’ rights and slavery. Convinced that the South’s position was proper and constitutional, he resigned from Congress in January 1861 and returned to Mississippi where he wrote the official Mississippi Ordinance of Secession. He served as lieutenant colonel of the 19th Mississippi Regiment and was cited three times for bravery and outstanding leadership.

Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States of America, appointed Lamar in 1862 as Confederate minister to Russia and special envoy to England and France. He never made it to Russia, but his charm, his manners, and his skill as a speaker made him a hit in London. Lamar spent the rest of the war in diplomatic service to the Confederacy.

The war was costly for the Lamar family, as it was for most. Both of his brothers were killed in battle, as well as his two law partners.

National politician

During the first years of Reconstruction, Lamar believed, along with General Lee, that former Confederate leaders should stay out of the limelight. From 1865 to 1872, he watched painfully from the sidelines as Mississippi struggled under carpetbag rule and military occupation.

Believing he could make a difference and despite a ban on former Confederate officers holding federal office, he ran for and won a seat from Mississippi in the U.S. Congress. In the words of historian John K. Bettersworth, “Lamar’s intellectual brilliance, his power as a speaker, his gentlemanly conduct to friend and foe alike, won him not only the normal Democratic vote but considerable Republican support as well.” Congress passed a special bill in December 1872 permitting him to take his seat in 1873, making Lamar the first Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Mississippi since the end of the Civil War.

It was about a year later when Lamar delivered his memorable eulogy of Charles Sumner in which he called for an end to the bitterness between North and South. His intention was to promote national harmony and to hasten the end of Reconstruction in the South. He became so popular nationally that he traveled around the country on a speaking tour.

In 1875, during Mississippi’s statewide elections, Lamar planned a strategy that defeated the Radical Republicans and returned power to the Democrats. This strategy by white Democrats included economic pressure to intimidate black voters who supported the Republicans as the party of Lincoln. However, Lamar accepted the new Constitutional amendments granting rights to former slaves and asked his constituents to do likewise. Those amendments were the 13th Amendment that outlawed slavery, the 14th Amendment that allowed blacks to have the same rights as whites, and the 15th Amendment that allowed blacks to vote. Lamar opposed setting up the Democrats as a white man’s party and campaigned openly and successfully for black votes.

In 1876, the Democratic state legislature elected Lamar to the United States Senate. No former high-ranking Confederate had yet become a senator. Georgia’s Alexander Stephens, who had been vice president of the Confederate States of America, had earlier been denied his seat. Lamar had strong support in Mississippi and in Washington, from blacks as well as whites, Republicans as well as Democrats. In 1877, he became the first former Confederate leader in the U.S. Senate.
Compromise of 1877

Lamar’s talent for reconciliation and compromise played a pivotal role in the controversial presidential election of 1876. The Democrat, Samuel Tilden, lost to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes despite having more popular votes and seemingly more votes in the Electoral College. Mississippi voted overwhelmingly for the Democrat Tilden. To resolve the dispute, Congressman Lamar, who would soon be Senator Lamar, helped set up a nonpartisan Election Commission, which chose Hayes as president.

Behind the scenes, Lamar was very involved in the bargaining and won many concessions for the South in exchange for supporting the Commission’s conclusions. Many Southerners were outraged that the election had in their eyes been stolen from the Democrat Tilden. They were more outraged that Lamar was involved in the deal. He faced a storm of opposition because most voters in Mississippi thought that a Hayes election would mean four more years of hardship and reconstruction. In hindsight, Lamar’s negotiating helped bring an end to Reconstruction under President Hayes’ administration.
Free silver

Lamar’s next challenge came when the Mississippi State Legislature passed resolutions asking Senator Lamar to support “free silver.” The free silver movement advocated unlimited coinage of silver. Since this inflationary policy would help farmers by raising the price of their crops and help debtors pay their debts more easily, it was popular in an agrarian state like Mississippi where many citizens still had high debts from the Civil War and Reconstruction. But the scholarly Lamar had studied the issue, and he believed that free silver was bad economic policy.

When the time came to vote, Senator Lamar gave a dramatic speech about how difficult it was to go against the wishes of his constituents. Yet his conscience demanded that he vote against free silver. His colleagues in the Senate congratulated him for his courage to stick to his principles.

Back in Mississippi, the reaction was swift and bitter. Mississippians felt Lamar had turned his back on Mississippi and the South. They felt betrayed. Even Jefferson Davis publicly condemned Lamar’s actions. Most political observers agreed Lamar’s political career was over.

The criticism hurt Lamar deeply. He decided to go on a state speaking tour and explain his vote directly to the people. He spoke to thousands of people in large meetings, indoors and outdoors, all around the state. It was a time before television, radio, and movies, a time when political speaking was a form of entertainment and drew large crowds. Lamar was one of the best speakers in the country and used his skills to explain his position.

In his book, Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy relates the following about Lamar’s stump speech.

“At each meeting Lamar told of an incident which he swore had occurred during the war. Lamar and other high-ranking Confederates were on board a blockade-runner in Savannah harbor. Although the high ranking officers had decided it was safe to go ahead, the Captain had sent sailor Billy Summers to the top mast to look for Yankee gunboats in the harbor, and Billy said he had seen ten. The distinguished officers said that was impossible because the Yankee fleet wasn’t in Savannah. They said to go ahead. The Captain refused, insisting that while these officers knew a great deal more about military affairs, Billy Summers on the top mast with a telescope had a better opportunity to judge the immediate situation at hand.

Turned out that Billy was right and he kept them all from being captured. Lamar said that like Billy Summers, he did not pretend to be wiser than the Mississippi Legislature. But he did believe that he was in a better position as a member of the United States Senate to judge what was best for his constituents.”

His speaking tour persuaded Mississippians that Lamar did what he thought was right. The people of Mississippi continued their support for him, in spite of the fact that on three important occasions — the eulogy of Charles Sumner, the controversial election of President Hayes in 1876, and his strong stance against free silver — Lamar had stood against their immediate wishes.

Lamar was a strong supporter of federal aid to public education. His support was based primarily upon the aid it could give the white population, but Lamar observed, “this bill is a decided step toward the solution of the problem of race.” By advocating education as a solution to the race problem, Lamar was again a man ahead of his time.

Cabinet member; Supreme Court justice

President Grover Cleveland appointed Lamar Secretary of the Interior in 1885. Two years later, Cleveland nominated Lamar for the U.S. Supreme Court. He was approved by the U.S. Senate in January 1888 at the age of 63, becoming the first ex-Confederate to serve on the nation’s highest tribunal and served there until his death.

In January 1893 Lamar died of a heart attack while visiting family in Georgia. He was buried in Macon, Georgia, but his body was later moved to Oxford, Mississippi. He was buried with a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his right hand — the same copy he had carried with him for many years.

Kennedy called Lamar “the most gifted statesman given by the South to the nation from the close of the Civil War to the turn of the century.” Lamar’s life illustrates public service leadership. He loved his state, loved his country, and did his best to reconcile the differences between North and South. He influenced his age.

William “Brother” Rogers is assistant director for programs at the John C. Stennis Center for Public Service in Starkville, Mississippi.


Burger, Nash K. and John K. Bettersworth. “L.Q.C. Lamar: Artificer of Reconciliation.” In Mississippi Heroes, edited by Dean Faulkner Wells and Hunter Cole, pp. 107-142. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1980.

Kennedy, John F. Profiles in Courage. New York: Harper and Row, 1956.