by Dr


by Dr. Carole E. Scott

Carroll County Master Gardener

The following description of how people lived in the past is designed to be of interest to young people. Although other times and places are mentioned, its focus is on Carroll County, Georgia and the early 20th Century.

Even before the Great Depression of the 1930s significantly reduced the standard of living of the average family, it was well below today's. The old photographs used in this article were taken during the Great Depression and World War Two: the 1930s and early 1940s. The photographers employed by the federal government as part of its program to create jobs who took these pictures did not photograph the homes of the well to do.  All the old pictures used in this article are in black and white because, although color film had existed since early in the 20th Century, only a very few professional photographers used it.

Below are photographs taken on the Carroll County farm of  the Lemuel Smith family.  Note that the walls of their home are made of wood planks. This isn't because the Smith's were wealthy. Back then wood was cheap. At that time, families that were better off than the Smiths lived in houses whose walls were constructed of very narrow boards covered with plaster.

The cord hanging down in the picture showing Lemuel Smith and his wife Susan through a doorway indicates that they had electricity, because at that time all the  electric lights in many people's homes were ceiling fixtures, many of which were turned off and on by pulling on a cord. The absence of any lamps filled with kerosene in any of the photographs taken inside of the Smith's home also suggests they had electricity. (This kind of lamp is described later in this article.) One good thing that happened during the Great Depression was that federal-government promoted electric cooperatives were formed that brought electricity into many farm homes that up until that time did not have electric lights. ( electric cooperative is an electric utility owned by its customer.)

Before Carroll County, Georgia  was founded in 1827, it was occupied by a people called Creek Indians by white settlers because they lived near creeks. Prominent among them was the half-white Chief William McIntosh, whose plantation overlooked the Chattahoochee River near Whitesburg in Carroll County. His 72 slaves cultivated the rich bottom land alongside the River and tended his cattle, hogs, sheep, and horses. A member of what was called the Lower Creek tribe, he was murdered and his home burned down by Upper Creeks because in a treaty he signed in Indian Springs in which he had agreed to give up Creek land to the State of Georgia. Below is a picture of two young men at Indian Springs in the early 1900s.  Today Indian Springs is a State Park in Butts County.

The first settlers from Europe arrived in the Eastern part of the United States in the 17th century (1600s). Carroll County was settled by people whose ancestors came from Europe and Africa, displacing in the process its original inhabitants, the Creeks. Coweta is the Creek Indian's name for themselves. They were called Indians because Christopher Columbus thought that, because the Earth is round, by sailing West from Europe, he had sailed to India. He didn't know the Americas existed and lay between Europe and the Far East (East of Europe).

The typical early settler in Carroll County was poor and uneducated, however, schools were soon organized. Early settlers' cattle roamed an open range. Their food came from hunting and small fields of grain they grew. They bartered animal skins and deer meat for the things they needed which they did not provide for themselves. According to historian James C. Bonner, "All cooking was done without stove on an open fire. Shoes were sewn together from homemade leather, the uppers being buckskin and coon hide. There was little variation in size and there were no 'rights' and 'lefts.'  [It was not until after 1850 that shoes were often designed specifically for the left and right foot.] Sugar, coffee, salt, and iron were the principal commodities supplied by the frontier merchants. An occasional sack of Irish potatoes appeared as their only stock of groceries. These were brought from New England, since none was grown in Georgia at this time."

In early America few homes had glass in their windows because it was so expensive. When it was cold windows with no glass in them were covered by closing shutters over them. (Window shutters on homes today are simply decorations that cannot be shut over a window.) Window screens to keep out flies and mosquitoes did not become common until well into the 20th century.

In 1830,gold was discovered in what became the City of Villa Rica. Later gold was found on Oak Mountain near Carrollton. Gold continued to be mined until early in the 20th century (1900s) in relatively small quantities. In 1850, Carrollton was the only incorporated city in Carroll County. In 1860, there were only 11,991 people in Carroll County, 1,875 of whom were slaves. By then cotton was a major crop in Carroll County, and it remained  so into the early 20th century. Carroll County was a very a very rural society until well after World War Two. It is still less urbanized than other counties sharing a border with Fulton County. (Most of Atlanta is in Fulton County.)

As a result of the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States in 1860, eleven southern states, including Georgia, left the Union in 1861 and formed the Confederate States of America. Lincoln was the first Republican elected president, and the South feared this party because it opposed slavery and favored high tariffs (a kind of tax) on imported goods--things bought from foreigners and shipped to this country. The creation of the Confederacy led to a war between the Confederate States and the United States, which insisted that a state could not secede from the Union.

When this war began, all paper money in the U.S. was issued by banks. During the war, both the Confederate and United States governments also issued paper money to finance the war. An example of Confederate paper money is shown below. Both sides experienced a lot of inflation (rise in the price level) as a result of issuing so much money, none of which, as had formerly been the case for paper money, was redeemable in gold coins. Inflation in the Confederacy was far worse than in the United States. In part, this was due to a shortage of goods resulting from the destruction of  farms and factories in the Confederate states. The war was mainly fought within the Confederacy, and after the Union decided to wage total war, there was a policy of seeking out factories in order to destroy them. During the Great Depression of the 1930s,  the nation experienced deflation (a  in the price level).

This war began in 1861 and ended when the Confederates surrendered in  April1865. It is almost always called the Civil War, even though, like the Revolutionary War between the Great Britain and its American colonies that gained them their independence, it was a war of secession. That is why Confederates called it the War Between the States. The most important result of this war was the elimination of slavery, which in 1861 existed in the eleven states that left the Union and some other Southern states that did not leave the Union. It also resulted in black men gaining the right to vote. Women did not get this right until 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

Despite the fact that the nation’s population was vastly smaller then than it is today, and weapons were far less advanced, more men lost their lives in this war than in all our other wars put together. Property loss in the South was enormous. Pictured below is what was left of the water-powered cotton mill at New Manchester. These ruins are located in Sweetwater Creek State Park in Douglas County. The entire mill village was destroyed, and its women and children were transported to the Midwest and left there to figure out how to survive. Nobody came back to New Manchester.

Politically, socially, and economically this war very significantly affected the South until after World War II. After he was elected president of the United States in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had a vacation home in Warm Springs, Georgia, declared the South to be the nation's number one economic problem. After this war, which white Southerners also sometimes called the War of Northern Aggression, what were called Jim Crow laws were passed in the South that enforced the segregation of the races. There were separate schools for whites and blacks. On buses and on trains and in railroad stations the races were kept separate. There were white and "colored" drinking fountains and rest rooms. "White" department stores did not let blacks try on clothes. "White" restaurants and hotels were barred to blacks. "White" stores would not hire black clerks. "White" taxi companies would not transport blacks, so they had to organize their own cab companies. Cities would not hire blacks as policemen. (The police force in Atlanta first hired blacks in 1948, but they could only arrest blacks.) Not until after World War Two did major league baseball teams employ black players. As had been true even of the Union Army whose victory freed enslaved blacks, until President Harry Truman desegregated all the armed forces in 1948, black soldiers served in all-black units with white officers.

The photos below are of two Greene County families.

Once occupying U.S. Army troops were removed from the former Confederate States, the South became a one party region. It was not until well after World War Two that Georgia elected any Republicans to Congress or as governor. Who would be elected to these offices was decided in the primary election held before the general election by the Democrats. In primary contests the winners were determined, not on the basis of how many votes they received, but on the basis of how many county unit votes they received. If a candidate carried one of the counties with the largest populations, such as Chatham, Bibb, Muscogee, and Fulton, the candidate got 6 county unit votes. These counties were called urban counties. A candidate got 4 unit votes for carrying one of the next group of counties, the town counties. For carrying any of the others, the rural counties, which accounted for the vast majority of the State's 159 counties and over one half the county unit votes, the candidate got 2 county unit votes. Carroll County had 2 county unit votes. Fulton County, whose population was the largest, had 100 times as many people as the smallest county, but it only had three times as many county unit votes. To win the governorship, a candidate did not have to carry any of the urban or town counties. A 1962 court decision eliminated this system and brought about dramatic political change.

A blacksmith, one of whom from Centerville, Alabama is shown above, was a man who manufactured metal objects by hand, such as wrought iron gates, grills, railings, furniture, sculpture, weapons, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils, and tools. Until automobiles and trucks drove vehicles from the road pulled by horses, mules, and oxen, they were very important, and there were a lot of them. The automobile tire rims shown in this photograph as well as equipment he is using reveal that this picture was taken long after gasoline-powered vehicles came to dominate the roads. When the U.S. entered World War One in 1918, it still had cavalry troops mounted on horses, and even in the largest cities you saw animal-powered vehicles. While early automobiles had solid rubber tires, by the time this picture was taken, tires were hollow inside, and that space was occupied by an inner tube that you filled with air at a filling station. Instead of the soft drink machines you see at filling stations today, they had insulated boxes filled with ice that contained soft drinks in glass bottles.

Blacksmiths originally worked by heating pieces of metal (usually steel or iron) with a forge until the metal became soft enough to be shaped with a hammer, punch, or other tool while lying on an anvil. Originally, heating the metal was done by burning coal, charcoal, or coke. Propane or natural gas can also be used. Blacksmiths make horseshoes, but someone who puts them on a horse is called a farrier. One person may do both. Although today they are not used to power vehicles or plows, thousands of horses reside in Carroll County today, but you will not find many mules, who were once plentiful.

At one time Carroll County grew more cotton than did any other county in Georgia. Cotton is a very soft fiber that grows around a cotton plant’s seeds. A lot of a cotton  farmer's time was spent hoeing (chopping down weeds). Until well into the 20th Century was no other way to get rid of them. Eventually herbicides (chemicals) were developed that could be sprayed on weeds to kill them.

Cotton is native to tropical and subtropical (warm climates) parts of both the Old and New (America) worlds. It is usually spun into a thread which is used to make a soft, breathable cloth. Until the middle of the 20th Century it was the South’s major crop. In 1860,this crop accounted for over half the nation’s exports. (Exports are things grown or manufactured here that are sold to foreigners and shipped to them.) The photo below shows farmers waiting to have their cotton ginned in Hale County, Alabama.

When America gained its independence, clothing was made of cotton, wool, linen, and, rarely, imported silk (shipped here from abroad). Linen is made from the flax plant. Although there were cotton mills in Georgia before the War Between the States, the cotton textile industry was concentrated in New England until after this war, when the industry began shifting to the South. Since then most textile production has shifted to foreign countries.

Cotton is a natural fiber. Nylon is not. Nylon was developed by an American chemical firm in 1935 as a synthetic replacement for silk. Women, who had formerly worn silk stockings that were not very durable, flocked to buy nylon hose. The military's demand for nylon for such things as parachutes during World War Two created a shortage of nylon for such civilian goods as stockings; so, a very prized gift from a woman's soldier boy friend was nylon stockings. Since 1935, several other synthetic fibers have been developed. Sometimes they are blended with cotton. Cotton cloth today is treated so that it is vastly harder to wrinkle than it used to be, and it is pre shrunk. As a result, a lot of ironing is eliminated, as well as buying cotton clothes in a too large size to deal with the shrinkage after it is washed. 

A lot of jobs were lost in Carroll County as a result of a dramatic decline of its textile industry.  Shown in the picture below is a woman working in a cotton mill in Greensboro.

In early America clothes were made by women at home. A spinning wheel was used to make thread out of cotton or wool. A loom was used to convert the thread to cloth. Thread was also used to sew the cloth into clothes. Later mills powered by falling water were used to make cloth that was sold in stores that women bought and made into clothes at home. Even later, clothes were made in mills, which eventually relied upon electricity to power their looms. Cotton mills powered by falling water were built below a point where a creek or river began to descend rapidly. Above this point a dam was built. Water from the mill pond that backed up behind the dam was diverted to the mill's water wheel, whose elevation was a good bit lower than the level of the water in the mill pond. By the use of gears the turning of the water wheel's axel was used to power a cotton mill's looms via belts strung around rotating shafts. Periodically the water level would be too low to operate the mill. Most cotton mill "operatives" were white women. White men managed them and maintained the equipment. Until electricity eliminated the need for a flame to provide light, cotton mills could only operate during the day because they had to depend on the sun to light their facilities because allowing a flame in a building whose air was filled with cotton lint was too dangerous. Below a Tennessee woman is shown using a spinning wheel.

In early America water-powered grist mills were used to grind grains such as corn, wheat, and rye into meal to be used to bake bread. While some of them were major operations, most were small, neighborhood mills serving nearby farmers. A farmer paid the miller a toll in the form of part of the grain he brought to the mill. The miller would place the grain in a funnel-like hopper above a pair of millstones. He would then open a sluice gate that would let water flow onto and turn a water wheel which would turn the millstones. The grain would be ground into meal between the millstones. Water collected and released from behind a dam upstream from a mill turned the water wheel. All kinds of mills were built where stream beds declined sharply, creating rapids. There were a number of water-powered mills in Carroll County

Up until the mid-20th Century century gristmills were common throughout the South. Farmers would take their corn to a nearby grist mill to be ground. The miller would keep part of the ground corn to pay himself for his work. Very common in cotton-growing states like Georgia were cotton gins. Both mills and gins were located in Carroll County. In Carrollton, a road, Hay's Mill, is named after a local mill located on Buffalo Creek. The photo below is the interior of a cotton gin in Irvinville.

In early American guns were used to fight wars, but they were much more often used for personal protection and for hunting. Before the raising of livestock became widespread, hunting and fishing was the only way many people could get meat to eat. Meat was also obtained by using traps. Below are some hunting photos from Butts County.

For a farmer to earn much money, he needed a way to transport his crops to people living far away from his farm, and it needed not to cost a lot of money. People living near him provided only a very small market. Early in American history one reason farmers converted their corn into whiskey was that a given dollar value of whiskey weighed far less than the corn that it was made from. Where there were no roads, it would pay to carry it to market on the backs horses, mules, or donkeys. The building of roads was of great importance. Trains put the whole country in reach of farmers. After refrigerated railroad cars were developed, farmers in California could ship fruits as far as New England.

A train consists of one or more locomotives connected to passenger and freight cars for transporting people and freight. (Locomotives are often just called engines.) Passenger trains are very rare today, but they were very common until after World War Two. Trains run on a set of parallel steel rails attached to wooden ties anchored by rocks called ballast. In railroads' early days different companies spaced their rails different distances apart. This meant that if to get a shipment from one place to another it might have to be unloaded from one company's freight cars to those of another company. Once a standard gauge (distance apart) was accepted by all companies, the cars could simply be unhooked from one company's locomotive and attached to another company's. There were no railroad lines in Carroll County until after the War Between the States. Atlanta, on the other hand, came into existence because several railroad lines were joined together there, and it became an important center for the distribution throughout the Southeast of all kinds of things.

Originally, locomotives were powered by steam engines. The wood burned to turn water into the steam that powered the pistons that turned the locomotive's wheels was carried in the tender. Later coal was burned to create the steam. A fireman threw pieces of wood or shovels full of coal into the engine's boiler. An engineer ran the train. Conductors dealt with passengers. The last car in the train was a red-painted caboose. A portion of its roof was raised and had windows. A watchful eye was kept on the train from the caboose. Trainmen could walk the length of a moving freight train on planks attached to the roofs of the cars, moving from car to car via ladders at the end of each car.

The invention of the telegraph was extremely beneficial for the railroad industry. It meant that employees at each station could report on a train's location. This meant that one set of tracks could safely be used for trains going in both directions because a station master could tell or signal an engineer to pull  his train off on a side track to let a train going in the opposite direction go by. Automatic couplers to attach the cars to each other were also extremely beneficial because they eliminated the need for a worker to connect and disconnect cars from each other--a very dangerous job.

Steam engines were retired from use in the 1950s. Today most trains are powered by diesel engines. A few trains--none in Georgia--are powered by electricity .electric lines strung above the tracks. Georgia's largest cities once had streetcars powered by electricity provided to them by overhead lines. They ran on rails embed in the pavement of streets. Atlanta and Rome were the cities nearest Carroll County that had streetcars. Rubber-tired trolleys powered by electricity that were not confined to the middle of the street replaced streetcars in Atlanta. Diesel- engine powered buses replaced them.

Below is a wood-burning locomotive that belonged to a railroad, the Western & Atlantic, owned by the State of Georgia. Locomotives were named back then. Its name is the General. It was used by Confederate railroad men during the War Between the States to pursue a train stolen by Union spies at the railroad station in what is now named Kennesaw.

Before the introduction of trains, the great majority of long distance travel was by boat on rivers, canals, and the ocean. It was not until after World War Two that trains began to be replaced by trucks and automobiles. Trains are still the cheapest method of moving heavy, low value materials and products by land. It was not until the 20th century that paved roads existed outside cities and towns. Until that happened, trains could not be largely replaced by land-based methods of transport like tractor-trailers (18 wheelers).

The family in the photo below in their automobile is a Greene County family. The parked automobiles are in Greensboro.Notice the "coon tail" hanging from the hood ornament of the nearest parked car.  Below these photos is one of a later model (1940) Chevrolet parked in Savannah.

In early America the typical school below the college level consisted of one room. While students in other grades worked on their lessons, the teacher taught students in one of the grades. One-room schools for grammar school students continued to exist in rural areas until into the 20th century. Teaching, nursing, and librarianship were the only occupations you can reasonably call professions that welcomed women. Only at the elementary level could a woman hope to become a principal. With very rare exceptions outside the South, medical schools did not accept women. The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) did not accept women until 1955.--and then only to majors not available elsewhere in the State.

In rural schools as late as the early 20th Century, teachers wrote with pieces of chalk on what were called blackboards, which were either boards painted black or pieces of slate. Students, too, might have pieces of slate that they wrote on with pieces of chalk. Slate is a type of very dark gray rock which was used in place of painted blackboard, which they were very superior to. Slate blackboards ultimately replaced wooden ones. Chalk's is a mineral. It is soft and white. Color can be added to it. Below is a first grade classroom in a school located near the Flint River.

Before there were public schools, some parents would get together and hire a teacher and obtain a building for the school. Wealthy families would hire a tutor for their children who lived in their home. It was not until well into the 20th Century that graduating from high school became common. Up until recently, boys were much more likely to receive higher education than were girls. Today, however, more women than men enroll in college, and more than half the students in medical, dental, and veterinary schools are women. In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, traditionally girls were taught homemaking skills, while boys were taught mechanical and, in rural areas, farming skills. As they grew up, girls and their mothers accumulated in what was called a hope chest things they would need as house wives. The hope was that she would catch a man. In earlier times a bride's family might provide a dowry, which consisted of money, goods, or real estate that came along with her to the man she married.

In the past the average family had many more children than they do today. Below is shown a son of Carroll County farmer Lemuel Smith holding the Smith's baby.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who were married in 1922, had eight children. They lived on Old Factory Road on a 40-acre farm purchased for $500 in 1928. He paid for it over time. Supporting eight children was not easy, and the Great Depression made it much harder. Mr. Smith was one of 600 Carroll County farmers loaned money by the Farm Security Administration to buy horses and farming equipment. He was also taught good agricultural practices, such as erosion control, soil replenishment, and crop diversification. As is explained in "At Home in Carrollton" by Dr. Ben Griffith, in April 1941 a Farm Security Administration photographer took the pictures of the Smith family shown on this page. To prevent erosion, Mr. Smith was taught contour plowing, rather than plowing straight furrows. We have a plan to prevent erosion for the kudzu that engulfs a lot of Georgia and is very difficult to get rid of because it was imported from Japan, where it "behaves" better to prevent soil from being washed away.

Although having eight or even more children had not previously been at all unusual, the birthrate fell during the Great Depression, reaching a then all time low in 1937. As a result of this, fewer babies were born in the 1930s than in the 1920s.  Even during the Baby Boom years of 1946 to 1964, a family the size of the Smith's was rare.

It wasn't until well into the 20th century that most homes ceased to be heated by fireplaces.  In the 18th century (1700s) a better method was invented. It was a round, cast iron container called a potbelly stove into which wood or coal was put into it through a door and burned. It could be placed several feet into a room from a wall. Smoke from it was vented to the outside by a large diameter metal pipe called a flue. It would heat a much larger area than a fireplace would. A fireplace that warmed you enough--or too much--on one side would leave the other side cold. The potbelly stove spread the heat around.

Similar in nature was the wood stove people cooked on. Its name is due to the fact it burned wood. It was rectangular in shape, and you cooked on its heated top. Some of what was cooked was kept until it was needed in a cellar, which, because it was a place dug out under a house, it was cooler than in the house.

A potbelly stove in North Carolina and a stove in Louisiana for cooking are shown in the photos below. Coal could also be used in these. An advantage of coal is that it produces more heat per pound, and you do not have the problems you have with wood that has not been dried out. Before electric irons, an iron was heated on the top of a stove. Before there were electric and gas water heaters, water for a hot bath was heated on top of them. (People didn't take as many baths back then as they do now!)

Early in the 20th Century, homes and businesses in cities, where the delivery of coal was relatively cheap, began to switch to being heated by furnaces that burned coal. These provided central heat via vents spaced throughout the building. This worked better after fans were added.

Natural gas began to be used for lighting in cities in the 19th Century and became widely used to heat homes in cities in the 20th Century. Natural gas is obtained just like oil is by drilling a deep shaft into the ground. Neither of these is produced in Georgia.

In the State's major cities, office buildings and schools were often heated by steam. This was accomplished by heating water in boilers and circulating the resulting steam throughout a building and perhaps from building to building via pipes ultimately ending at radiators located on the outside wall of a room.

America's first settlers from Europe had no way to remove tree stumps, so they planted their crops between the stumps while waiting for them to rot. Because there was so much to do and so few people to do it, instead of chopping trees down with axes (They had no saws.), they sometimes just chopped a ring around them and waited for them to die and fall down. Later they used animals to pull stumps up, or they dynamited them.

A saw mill is where logs are cut into boards. Before there were saw mills, two men would cut boards from a log with a cross-cut saw. One man would pull this very long saw, and the other one would push it. Then the man who pulled would switch to pushing, and the other man would pull. This was very hard and slow work. Early saw mills were, like the grist mills described above, powered by a water wheel. The straight saw was eventually replaced by a circular saw powered by a steam engine, which was the same kind of engine used to propel a railroad locomotive. The picture below is of a saw mill.

The first thing to be used to join boards to each other were pegs made of wood. The first nails, which are made of metal, used to join boards to each other were hand made and squared off, rather then being round. Later machines were developed to make them out of wire, which meant they were round. Because cutting boards required labor and equipment they didn't have, in early America many buildings were made of logs that were attached to each other by notches cut into their ends. Sometimes the logs were roughly squared off with an axe. Mud and straw was put between the logs. (Recreations of log buildings may have cement between the logs, which have had a preservative applied to them as it today done with utility poles.)

Below are pictures from sawmills in Heard and Irwin Counties.


 Knitting is one of several ways to turn thread or yarn into cloth. Unlike woven fabric composed of threads such as the denim used to make blue jeans, knitted cloth is composed of much more widely spaced, parallel rows of yarn, which is thicker than thread. Rows are joined to each other by interlocking loops. Knitting can be done either by hand or by machine. When done by hand two knitting needles are used. .

Crocheting is a similar way of creating cloth from a length of cord, yarn, or thread with a hooked tool.

Canning is a way of weaving a chair’s seat by using some kind of vine. The chairs the Smith family are sitting in appear to be this kind of chair. Baskets can also be made by weaving some kind of vine or straw.

Shown below are pictures of Mrs. Lemuel Smith using a sewing machine to make a shirt for her husband and working in her garden with some of her children. Early sewing machines were manually powered by the operator using a foot pedal. Later the pedal was replaced with an electric motor. Many of the clothes a family wore were made by the wife and mother. Cloth sacks that various products such as flour came in were sometimes made of patterned material to facilitate using them to make clothes.


Shown below are some members of the Lemuel Smith family with one of their two horses. Notice that the children in this and other photos are barefoot. This was normal back then in warm weather. City and town kids also often went barefoot. Notice, too, that men and boys in the photographs in this article are almost always wearing overalls. Few wore overalls in cities like Atlanta and Savannah. They were common in small towns because farmers and their sons simply wore their usual clothes when then went to a nearby town to make purchases. However, by the 1950s denim jeans were very popular with city boys. It was not until well after World War Two that women and girls often wore pants. A well dressed woman in the 1930s and in the 1950s too would wear a hat with a veil and gloves. A "proper" woman would not ride astride a horse.

In cities, workmen such as bricklayers, painters, plasterers, and ditch diggers might also wear overalls. Everything was painted with brushes. Black men dominated the plastering trade and accounted for the majority of ditch diggers, all of whom used picks and shovels until after World War Two. Machines to pick cotton, too, were not developed until after World War Two.

Notice in the photograph below the long ears this Greene County mule inherited from its donkey father and its size inherited from its horse mother. The other picture is of a Grady County farmer at work on a harrow. In this case it is a disc harrow. They are used to pulverize soil, uproot weeds, break up crop residues, and cover seeds with soil.

Up until well into the 20th Century Georgia farmers dug the furrows into which they would put seeds with plows that were pulled by mules. A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. The offspring of a female donkey and a male horse is called a hinny. Neither of these can have offspring. Mules are normally much larger than a hinny, which is why they were used to pull plows. A mule is said to possess the sobriety, patience, endurance, and sure-footedness of the donkey and the vigor, strength, and courage of a horse. In the case of peanuts, some of the peanuts a farmer grew would be shelled to be used as seeds the next year.

In the 20th Century tractors powered by gasoline engines were introduced that gradually replaced mules, oxen, and horses. (The first tractors were steam powered, but they were less satisfactory than were gasoline-powered tractors.) Mechanical harvesting equipment for crops like wheat was first developed in the 19th Century (1800s). Until after 1950, there were still Georgia farmers could not afford a tractor.

In the past the term rednecks referred to farmers because of what the exposure to the sun while they were working in their fields did to their necks. Farmers were also sometimes called crackers. Supposedly this was due to the sound whips made when a teamster (wagon driver) cracked his whip to get the team of horses, mules, or oxen pulling his wagon to move faster.

Below is a picture of a man in Irwin County with his plow and Lemuel Smith of Carroll plowing. His son follows behind planting seeds. Below these photos is a photo of Mr. Smith working on some of his farm implements. His son watches.

Corn, a native American plant, was  long a major crop in Georgia.  Indian corn is the term used to describe the original type of corn, whose kernels are multi-colored. Its cobs are also much smaller than the corn you find in today's grocery stores. 

One reason why the State of Georgia built a railroad line (Western & Atlantic) between what became Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee was so that corn could be brought to Georgia cheaply enough from the Midwest ,where growing costs were less, so that Georgia would not need to grow as much corn for its people and animals. The land thus freed from use to grow corn could be used to grow cotton, which was more profitable. This railroad also facilitated the development of coal mining and iron production in Northwest Georgia by providing a way to ship coal and iron from there. (The State's other railroads were privately owned. At the time the Western&Atlantic was built, potential use of this line was not viewed by private investors as being sufficient to invest money in building it.)

Like corn, animals, too, such as chickens, cows, and hogs look far different today than they did in early America. Cows today give more milk. Chickens lay more eggs and have more meat on them. Hogs, too, have more meat. This is the result of many decades of selective breeding.

Even when cotton was king, more corn was grown in Georgia than cotton. The predominance of corn in the diet of some Georgians led to a deadly dietary disease, pellagra, which was a problem as late as the early 20th Century. (People who got this disease didn’t eat enough other foods containing protein.) 

Hominy is made by soaking dried corn in water that has been mixed with lye, which is an alkali (opposite of an acid). In the past the lye was obtained from wood ash, which was plentiful back when people cooked on a wood stove and heated their homes with fireplaces. To make hominy, corn is soaked until the germ and hard outer shell are removed, leaving the bare kernels. This makes the corn more tasty, easier to digest, and easier to process.

Another corn product that has always been very popular in the South is grits. Traditionally grits were made by grinding corn with a stone in a mill. The resulting ground corn was passed through screens. This separated the finer grains from the larger ones. The finer grains are corn meal, which is used to make corn bread. The coarse grains are grits. Grits are most often eaten for breakfast. (Their name doesn't stand for girls raised in the South.) Visiting Yankees (Northerners) have often horrified Southerners by putting sugar on them like you would cream of wheat. Cream of wheat is similar in texture to grits, but it is made of ground wheat. Southerners eat grits with butter or gravy.

Butter is made by churning fresh cream. Cream is a layer of fat skimmed from the top of raw milk. If you let raw milk sit for awhile this fat will rise to the top. The milk you buy in the store today is not raw milk—milk straight from the cow. It is homogenized so that it will not separate. Homogenized milk was introduced in the 20th century.

As the milk cooled, cream rose to the top. The bottles of milk delivered to city people’s doors by the milkman had cream at the top. Before you drank the milk, you would shake the bottle to remix the cream with the rest of the milk.

 To make butter at home, you had to skim the fatty cream off the top. What remained was called skimmed milk. The cream was poured into a churn where, by hand, it was agitated by a wooden dasher. The first result was a frothy whipped cream. Continued agitation produced butter. Kneading the butter would make it smooth.

Once the butter was formed, it was strained to remove liquid from it that was called buttermilk. Then the family could butter its biscuits with the butter, to which salt was normally added, and wash them down with buttermilk. The buttermilk you buy in the store today is not made in this way. It is created by adding a lactic acid bacteria culture to skim or non-fat milk which is then fermented.

A butter churn is a mechanical device used to agitate cream until it becomes butter by causing the gobs of fat it consists of to stick together. Churns come in many different designs. The first ones were hand powered. Below is a picture of a little girl in North Carolina churning butter.

After a family’s cow was milked, the milk was strained in order to remove any debris and left to cool; perhaps in a root cellar that stayed relatively cool because it was underground. Another possibility was to put it in a spring house that was relatively cool because it was built over water. There containers of milk were placed in the water with only a few inches of the top of the container being above water.

“Beef” cows were raised for their meat. Other cows, called milch--the German word for milk--cows provided the family with milk. Even as late as the early 20th Century many city-dwelling families kept a milk cow. Some also kept chickens and hogs. Below is a Coffee County, Alabama milking her cow.

The preservation of food usually involves preventing the growth of bacteria, fungi, and other undesirable organisms. Prevented, too, is the food becoming rancid or discolored like an apple that is allowed to sit around awhile after being peeled. Drying is one of the oldest methods and can be used for meat and fruits. Pickling and smoking are other methods used in early America that are still used today. Pickling involves placing or cooking food in something that kills bacteria. Often used is brine, vinegar, or a vegetable oil. Hams are often smoked or sugar cured. Freezing could be used  in early America only during the winter. Caning involves cooking fruits or vegetables and sealing them in sterile (germ free) jars, cans, or bottles and boiling them to kill bacteria. Canning did not begin until 19th century (1800s). Food may also be preserved by cooking it in a material that solidifies to form a gel. This is called jellying.

While back before families could refrigerate their food, fruits could be preserved by being cooked in a syrup made of sugar and water and then being stored in well sealed glass jars, for meat a different system was required.

Mrs. Lemuel Smith of Carroll County is shown preparing dinner. Note the food preserved in jars on the table by her in the picture on the right. Cooking was very time consuming for her. Everything had to be made from scratch. You could not buy boxes containing cake mixes. Chickens had to be killed; feathers removed; washed; and cut up, discarding unwanted parts. Frozen foods did not appear until after World War Two, and years passed before there were complete, frozen meals available. And there were no microwave ovens to pop food in to be cooked in minutes. Some things took hours to cook. (If Susan Smith was mentioned in a newspaper, she would be called Mrs. Lemuel Smith.Only single women went by their own names in formal situations.)


Salt was used to produce fat back, ham, and bacon. Lye was needed to make soap and hominy, and various seasonings were needed to make sausage.

The hog was hung from a pole for cleaning, dressing, and cooling before the meat was carved. Its feet were cut off to be processed into pickled pigs feet. The brains and intestines were also removed to be eaten. The ears, nose, and tail were also removed and eaten. The thick layers of fat on each side of the backbone were made into lard, which was used in baking.

The intestines were washed several times before being slid over sticks inside out. Then the insides were thoroughly washed. Once they were boiled, which was very foul smelling process, this meat, called chitlins or chitterlings, was ready to eat.

Some of the chitlins were laid aside to be used as sausage casings. The basic contents of sausage came from lean meat from the loins and shoulders mixed with fat. A hand-cranked meat grinder was used to grind this meat up. After being mixed with seasonings, this was stuffed into chitlin casings with a hand stuffer. Fat trimmed from the various cuts of meat were cubed for making soap. Salt pork used in frying and flavoring vegetables was created by soaking some of the meat in brine. (Brine is water saturated or nearly saturated with salt.)

Today you see many cattle in Carroll County fields. Seldom do you see hogs. In the past the opposite was true. Back then, when the weather turned cold, it was time to butcher hogs. This was because if butchering took place on a hot day, the meat was likely to spoil.

It has been said that the only part of a hog that was not used was the squeal. Besides providing farm families with meat, soap and candles were made from the hog's fat, and brushes were made from its hair. Some of the meat was turned into bacon and ham in a smokehouse. In addition to adding flavor, smoking the meat helped to preserve it.

Neighbors were often invited over to help with the butchering. Sharp knives were used to stab and bleed the hog, shave off its hair, dress the carcass, and carve the meat into various cuts. In order to shave the hog’s hair, the hog was first scalded with water from a container heated over a fire.

The photo below shows an Irvinville farmer with his hogs.

In order to smoke meat it was hung in a building called a smokehouse that was made as air tight as possible in order to keep the smoke used to cure the meat from escaping. Hams, shoulders, bacon slabs, and sausage were cured by smoking. The smoke was produced by a fire box on the floor of the smokehouse. Smoked meat might be kept for years without spoiling

Although today you see more sugar-cured ham than country ham, in the old days Southerners usually ate country ham with their grits. Country ham is very salty in taste because it is salt- and saltpeter-cured for about a month before being smoked and aged for several months to a year. The smoking causes it to be redder than other hams. Back before refrigeration was available, smoking was necessary to preserve the meat. A whole country ham will be too salty to eat unless it is scrubbed and soaked for many hours. This both removes mold and much of the salt used to cure it.

In the late 20th Century the raising of cattle and chickens in Carroll County largely replaced row cropping--the growing of crops like corn and cotton. Shown below in the photo is Mrs. Lemuel Smith with her daughters feeding their chickens.  Back then it was normal for chickens to be what are now called free range chickens (allowed to run around freely).

In early America there were no bathrooms, so people depended on outhouses (privies), which were small buildings covering a deep hole in the ground. People sat  in them on a wooden bench that had one or more holes in it. Multiple holes meant more than one person at a time could use it. In large cities outhouses created a serious sanitary program, inspiring them to install sewer systems.

Piped-in water did not become common even in cities until late in the 19th century and was not the rule until the 20th Century. Carroll County began providing piped-in water to its rural residents long after it was available in Carrollton, Villa Rica, and Bowdon where, because houses are closer together, it is cheaper to provide and necessary to avoid having outhouses.

If you had a well, in order to take a bath you either had to make do with cold water or heat water on a stove and pour it into a portable metal tub. People who had piped-in water  because they lived in a city who did not have a water heater also had to heat water on a stove in order to take a hot bath.

An outhouse in Irwin County and one of the daughters of Lemuel Smith of Carroll County drawing water from the family's well are shown below. Because toilet paper was too expensive for them, some people used corn cobs and pages from a Sears and Roebuck catalog were used in the outhouse. Clothing and a wide variety of hard goods (tools and equipment) were sold through the catalog of what today is just named Sears. (Now you know why some stores are called hardware stores.)



Lamps that work by lighting a wick immersed in kerosene were widely used in the19th Century and in the early 20th Century. (Kerosene is made from oil.) They were a big improvement over candles in that they were safer and provided more light. Electricity began to be used for lighting in cities in the late 19th century and became widespread early in the 20th century. However, it was not until the 1930s that it began to be available in most rural areas. In cities electric lighting replaced the (natural) gas lights used to light streets and homes. (Today you only see gas lights in the form of decorative post lanterns in people's front yards.) Children were often given the job of washing off the soot that accumulated on the lamp's glass globe and trimming off the burned portion of the wick.

Like candles in early America, soap was made at home well into the 20th Century. To wash using hot water required that it be heated over a fire or on a wood stove. The water would be drawn from a well or a stream. To get stubborn dirt out of a garment it was rubbed vigorously on a scrub or wash board. This was hard on the clothes. Clothes were dried either by spreading them over bushes or hanging them from a line strung between two poles.

Mrs. Lemuel Smith of Carroll County is shown below making soap. She would also have washed clothes outdoors, putting them in a large container filled with water that she would heat over a fire.

In early America food could be keep cool by building a spring house. This was small house built over a spring. A spring is a place where water comes up out of the ground and is, for this reason, relatively cool. Manufactured ice became widely available in cities in the early 20th century, and the first of what we now call refrigerators were ice boxes, which were refrigerator-like appliances containing a block of ice. Like coal, ice was delivered door-to-door from a truck. Originally, ice in the South was obtained from the North, where it was cut from frozen lakes and surrounded by insulating material. Inexpensive ice and the ability to keep it for long periods of time had to wait until machines that would freeze water were developed.

The photos below are of some Atlanta Boy Scouts and a son of Smiths.  For girls there were Girl Scout troops and Campfire Girls. These groups gave city children an opportunity  to appreciate nature on camping trips. The children of farmers also  had 4-H clubs available to them.

Radio broadcasting connected rural areas with the rest of the world in the 1920s. Prior to then farmers had to depend on newspapers for local, national, and international news. They learned about farming from farmers' almanacs and at agricultural and mechanical schools, one of which was begun in 1906 in Carrollton. Out of it grew the University of West Georgia. Before phonographs and radio, if people wanted music in their homes, they had to play and sing it themselves. Below are photos of Mrs. Smith and one of her children. Behind the child is a radio. Television first came to Georgia in 1948 in Atlanta.

 If children were listening to a story about cowboys, they had to imagine what the cowboys and their horses looked like. Children's programs were broadcast on Saturday mornings. Broadcast Monday through Friday in the afternoon were soap operas that were called that because manufacturers of soap often sponsored them. They were designed to appeal to housewives. Broadcast at night there were baseball games and mystery and comedy shows. Popular in the South was the country music of the Grand Ole Opry, which was broadcast from Nashville. Before television, Atlanta had a minor-league baseball team, the Crackers, who played teams in such as Birmingham Barons. Carroll County had local, amateur teams. One of the nation's first radio stations was Atlanta's WSB. Radio broadcasting began in 1922. The picture below was taken in Atlanta. The billboards advertise movies. Although a few color movies were made in the 1930s, some movies were filmed in black and white in the 1950s. In the picture below, which was taken in Atlanta there are billboards advertising movies.

Children during the Great Depression had local fairs and circuses to attend. The State's largest fair was the Southeastern Fair held every year in Atlanta at Lakewood Park. The largest circus, the Shrine Circus, was held annually at its Municipal Auditorium. In 1947, the State's first ice skating performance also took place there. Carroll County children also enjoyed shopping in Atlanta and riding escalators and elevators there. Local farmers visited Atlanta to sell things they had grown at the State Farmers Market, which was then located on Murphy Avenue in Atlanta, rather than Forest Park where it is now. Farmers visited Atlanta, too, because it was a major mule market.

During World War II the Brown sisters, Juanita and Willett, lived on their family's 125 acre farm on the Chattahoochee River near Whitesburg. Other than the absence of uncles and brothers serving in the armed forces, the war, which they heard about on a battery-operated radio, had virtually no impact on the Browns. Gasoline and tire rationing didn't interfere with their father selling stove wood he cut and fish he caught because he used a wagon to take them to Carrollton.

The Browns churned their own butter and grew the vegetables and fruits they ate.  Both Joanita and Willette point out that today you are told you should eat what they did back then because it is good for you. Because the Brown's did not buy canned goods, unlike city kids, they were not assigned to stomp tin cans flat to give to the government, They made most of their toys, so the shortage of metal toys didn't affect them. A lack of Christmas tree lights in the store didn't affect then because they did not have electricity. Their home was lighted with kerosene lamps and heated by fireplaces. They bathed in a wash tube filled with water heated in a tank attached to a wood stove.

Rationed during World War II were bicycles, fuel oil, kerosene, stoves, shoes, sugar, coffee, processed foods, cheese, canned milk, and typewriters. Willette says that the family got more ration stamps than it needed. The fact that no automobiles were manufactured for civilians did not affect the Browns.

In addition to a doll, for Christmas each of them got an unwrapped shoe box that would contain such things an apple, orange, peanuts, black walnuts, chocolate drops, and peppermint sticks. They also ate homemade candy made from sorghum syrup and white Karo syrup. Their Christmas tree was a cedar tree cut down on their own land. It was decorated with various kinds of decorations made from colored construction paper and sweet gum balls dipped in paint. Strung around the tree were chains made of construction paper. The mantle was decorated with green holly leaves with red berries. Both sisters say they were happy back then. They did not feel poor. They miss those days.



A few of the pictures used above were provided by the author. The rest were obtained from the Library of Congress' American Memory Collection entitled "America from the Great Depression (1930s) to World War II (1941-1945). When the state where a photograph was taken is not mentioned, the photograph was taken in Georgia.

View Carrollton Depot interior before renovation began (Adobe reader required to view):


Life in the city and the country differed much more early in the 20th century than it did at the end of that century. By the 1930s, for example, indoor electric lights and appliances, indoor bathrooms, and central heat were common in the City of Atlanta, but not on Georgia farms.

In the 1920s, Atlanta's streets were paved with cobblestones. Traffic was virtually non-existent in residential neighborhoods. Many children had never ridden in an automobile. Kids entertained themselves at night around the street lights catching lighting bugs. They got a laugh out of putting frogs in paper sacks and watching them hop. Everything they wore was made either of cotton, wool, silk, or rayon. In the newspaper they enjoyed Andy Gump  and the Katzenjammer Kids comic strips. Gumps: Katzenjammer Kids:

Most people walked nearly everywhere on brick-paved sidewalks. Sometimes they walked several miles. Men living in a residential area like West End could ride a streetcar to their job downtown, but they might walk instead. A big event was when the first family in the neighborhood bought a radio. Because speakers had not been invented, you listened to the first radios with earphones. Using a cylindrical oat meal box, boys would build primitive radios.

At school there was a lot of pressure for perfect attendance and saving at least a nickel a week. A nickel bought a lot more back then than it does today. It cost a nickel to see the serial, "Leather Stocking" at the Alpha Theater. Afterwards you could buy a reasonable amount of candy at Garrow's candy kitchen with a nickel. The big stars you saw at the Howard or Loew's Grand movie theaters were Tom Mix, an excellent shot and a former real cowboy, William S. Hart, Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Alice White, Wilma Banky, Rod LaRocque, Norma Shera, Wallace Beery, Marie Dressler, Jackie Coogan, and Joan Crawford, Scaring kids was Lon Cheney in the "Hunchback of Notre Dame." The first feature-length movie that included some sound was "The Jazz Singer" in October 1927. Piano players played during silent movies. For live action, vaudeville was popular . Jack Dempsey was the heavy weight champion.

Loew's Grand, where "Gone With The Wind" premiered in 1939, once featured Gertrude Ederly, the first woman to swim the English Channel, swim in a small tank on its stage. (An Atlanta women, Margaret Mitchell, wrote the book the GWTW movie was based on. To read a book such as the "Bobsey Twins," children had to walk downtown to the Carnegie Library. Later the Atlanta Public Library had branches in residential neighborhoods.

Every year school children observed a moment of silence on the "eleventh hour or the eleventh day of the eleventh month" to memorialize the end of World War One.

Antibiotics had not even been dreamed of back then, and castor oil and calomel were the cure alls. When children got scarlet fever, diphtheria, or whooping cough, which killed some of them, their homes were quarantined.

When you stood before an open fire in grates to get warm in the winter, your legs got red in the front and almost blue in the back. Because bathrooms were additions built on the back porch, whenever it turned cold, the pipes froze, and you had to get your water from a faucet in the front yard. Many homes in Atlanta had electric or gas lights, but some had to make do with kerosene lamps.

Because there were no window screens, flies swarmed into the house. At dinner time the oldest girl present would be assigned to swish a branch across the table to keep them off the food. To keep ants off the table and out of the sugar, small containers of kerosene were put under its legs.

Phonographs had to be wound up. People were dancing the Charleston and the Black Bottom. Dance contests were held on the stage at movie theaters. 

Food had either to be eaten soon after it was purchased or cooled with ice delivered door-to-door by a husky fellow holding it on a pad on his shoulder with a pair of tongs. The ice was delivered in a wagon pulled by a horse. It was accompanied by all the neighborhood kids eating the small chucks of ice that blew off when the iceman chipped off a block to put in a customer's refrigerator. Meat was purchased at a butcher store, where the butcher cut off what you ordered. A momentous event was Piggly Wiggly introducing self service grocery shopping.


Life on the farm:


Creek Indians:

Chief William McIntosh:

Chief McIntosh's father:

Early Carroll County history:

North Georgia before the Civil War:

Northwest Georgia's Chieftains Trail:

Georgia's Blue and Gray Trail:

Battle of Picket's Mill:

Destruction of the mill on Sweetwater Creek:

Old Carroll County buildings:

Vintage postcards of Atlanta:

The Atlanta mule market (pdf reader required):

The Tallapoosa boom:

Atlanta in 1942:

Atlanta Time Machine:

Early in the 20th Century the most popular tourist location in the Southeast was in Georgia at Tallulah Falls. That ceased to be the case after the Georgia Power Company built a dam which greatly reduced the amount of water going over the falls:

Asa Candler of Carroll County:

Tour of Carrollton:

Cowboy movie star Tom Mix:

Movie star Clara Bow:

Movie star Lon Cheney:,_Sr.

All these people sought to become president of the United States. All of them had some connection to Georgia.

The third button on the right on the bottom row has a picture of Woodrow Wilson on it. The button above it to the right is another Lester Maddox button.