Tales of Esom Hill The following article arrived at my home today sent to me by Molly Stowe.  The article was written by Gordon Sargent in 1994 and published in the North Georgia Journal.  I have reproduced part of his article as written so that others can enjoy it as well.  I just wish I had a scanner 8-)....(any notes I have will be added in red type in parenthesis - emphasis mine).

Tales of
Esom Hill
Article & Contemporary Photography
by Gordon Sargent

As long as most people can remember,
this northwest Georgia community has enjoyed a
rich reputation for high crimes and high times.

    A neatly-dressed stranger from an out-of-town company was examining a lot upon which his firm had contracted to build a home for a local resident.  Suddenly, a man with a shotgun walked up.  "Get out of Esom Hill," he rasped at the builder.  "You ain't got no bizness here."  After a glance at the barrel of the deadly weapon, the builder had to agree, and quickly departed.
    Such has been the reputation for the little state line community in northwest Georgia's Polk County for decades, an image fostered by a long record of illicit activities such as moonshining, gambling, and even darker crimes like murder.  And surprisingly, it seemed the stronger the criminal element became in the township, the less visible was law enforcement.
    Despite its infamy, Esom Hill, according to many residents, is a friendly community with caring neighbors and a bad name circulated by "out-siders".  Just like many situations, the truth lies somewhere in
    Settlers in this western-most edge of what once was Cherokee Indian Territory were among the last to arrive in Paulding County, Georgia (later reorganized as a part of Polk County in 1851).  The beginnings of Esom Hill occurred with the founding of SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH in 18481and the first post office in 1850.2
    Partly as a result of its close proximity to the Georgia-Alabama state line and partly due to its generally remote location, Esom Hill has long been frequented by lawlessness and controversy.  Local tales describe - tongue- in-cheek - how bootleggers could escape law enforcement officers by moving their liquor from one room in a building (in Georgia) to another room in the same building (in Alabama).
    Another claim even maintains the first Esom Hill post office was actually established in Alabama (1847) and then later moved to Georgia (1849).3
This possibly could be explained by the fact that the first postmaster - Benjamin WHEELER - lived in Alabama and actually operated the post office there from his home or store.  Today, no one really knows for certain.
    Local folklore maintains the name of the little community sprang from an old trading post once operated by an Indian named "Esom" or "Easom", possibly prior to the removal of the Cherokees from the territory.  The "Hill" apparently was added later.
    Another version of the origin of the town name claims it came from an early settler now buried in Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery beneath an unmarked fieldstone.  Whatever the origin, the name of the tiny township has spread far and wide over the years, always accompanied by its dark reputation.
    A book entitled the GEORGIA STATE GAZETTER4,published in 1881, lists Esom Hill as a community of 169 people with five general stores, three churches, a school and a saloon.  The village also boasted a steam gin, a water-powered gin, and a saw mill.  Four years earlier when Amos WEST founded his Cherokee Iron Company in Cedartown, Esom Hill must have shared the prosperity as mining operations grew (supported by plentiful iron ore deposits in the area).  Farming, of course, undoubtedly also figured prominently as a professional pursuit, as did a number of small businesses listed in the book, all of which suggest a self-sufficient little community:

W.P. WEST, postmaster
J.P.S. BREWSTER, general store (Molly Stowe's ancestor)
    (Joseph Proctor Screven Brewster, 1856-1913, was a member
    of the original pioneer families in Esom Hill.  The original
    Brewster General Store in town burned and a new structure,
    built in 1901, stands today.)
Rev. V.A. BREWSTER, Baptist pastor (Molly Stowe's ancestor)
A.A. and J.W. CAMP, saw mill
DUKES and PEARSON, blacksmith
H.A. EDMONSON, notary and justice of the peace
Jerry ISBELL (Molly Stowe's ancestor)
    (Jeremiah Marion Isbell, 1829-1913, operated a country store
    out of the front room of the family home, and was among the
    original families to settle Esom Hill.)
M.E. McCORMACK, country tax collector and teacher
J.S. MERCER, general store
NOBLES and ADKINS, blacksmith
T.J. WEST, general store
W.P. WEST, general store
WEST and HACKNEY, grist and saw mill
C.M. WHEELER and son, saloon
    Today, many of these original residents of Esom Hill rest in Shiloh Cemetery, and their descendants still live in the same community.
    The general stores of Brewster and Isbell are still remembered - one in the village center and the other three miles east at Akes Station.  The original building reportedly burned, and Brewster built a new store across the street in 1901, a structure which functions today as the Esom Hill Trading Post.5
    Jeremiah Isbell's country store operated out of the front room of his home6and stood until a few years ago when it was demolished.
    The Brewsters and Isbells were among the original families to settle in Esom Hill.  In 1860, the Rev. Vann Allen Brewster left Haralson County and moved to Esom Hill with his family.7 Jeremiah Isbell returned to Floyd County from the war in 1865 and found that his family had "refugeed" to Polk County.8
    The Brewster and Isbell children grew up together as next-door neighbors.  The families were formally linked in 1879 when a son and daughter married - Joseph Proctor Screven BREWSTER to Laura Jane ISBELL.  From this union came twelve children, contributing to the family of the proud grandfather.  Jerre Isbell boasted in his eighty-first year: "There are now living, and physically and mentally strong, not an idiot nor invalid nor a deformed one, in whose total reaches 198."9
    The Brewster Mercantile Company became one of the first in the county to have electric power when Brewster installed a "Delco System" to generate power for lights in his store and in his home across the road.10  The store carried everything from toothpicks to two-horse wagons to serve the farmers in the surrounding area.
    A counter and post office boxes were located behind swinging doors at the back of the store.11  The enterprising Joseph P.S. Brewster also served as postmaster.  (Later his son, Fred, would become postmaster when he and brother Gordon succeeded their father in the operation of the store.12)
    Mail deliveries were carried over two mail routes out of Esom Hill.  In 1928, Jack PHILLIPS took over Route 1, Esom Hill, and until he retired in 1971, he daily covered the many dusty miles of his rural mail route through four counties in Georgia and Alabama.
    In the beginning, Phillips drove a horse-and-buggy postal van.  When his first horse, Maude, grew too old and slow, he bought another faster horse which he named "Dammit".  The frisky beast would often trot too fast, necessitating a "Whoa, Dammit," much to the amusement of any bystanders.13
    As a rural mail carrier, Jack Phillips provided some services totally unavailable today.  As he made his rounds, he could be persuaded to carry eggs from one farm to another, or a basket of fruit to a shut-in.  This courier might even delay teh swift completion of his appointed rounds by stopping to read or even write a letter for someone needing assistance.  Phillips reportedly even helped one elderly lady to order a corset and some batteries for her radio from the Sears Roebuck catalogue - even installing them when they were delivered (the batteries of course, not the corset).14
    It was from this bucolic setting that the illicit activities of Esom Hill eventually evolved, and the community, in many instances, did nothing to diminish its reputation either - often even reveling in it.  At one point many years ago, alongside the approach road and next to the railroad crossing, the town name and population were proudly and boldly inscribed across the face of a decommissioned moonshine still.15
    The production of untaxed whiskey eventually grew into big business in the hills and hollows between Esom Hill and Borden Springs, five miles to the west in Alabama.  Brokers lined up orders for moonshine, distributing the spirits in a wholesale operation.  During Prohibition (1920-1933), huge trailer trucks reportedly transported thousands of gallons of illegal whiskey from these hills northward to thirsty markets such as Chicago.  Cars and small trucks could be fitted to handle loads of 100 to 150 gallons.
    When law enforcement officials stepped up arrests and crack-downs on the production of untaxed whiskey in northwest Georgia in the 1950s, they began at Esom Hill.  One group drove out to the Treat Mountain area south of Esom Hill, parking their car alongside the road.  While they were off searching for distilleries ("stills"), the car mysteriously caught fire and burned to the axles.  The insult so stung the officials that they opened a local office and dedicated it to the eradication of Polk County moon-
    ...Today, Esom Hill is like any other rural northwest Georgia crossroads community.  Most folks are friendly and accommodating, and you'd be hard pressed to find any visible sign of criminal activity....


    The North Georgia Journal and this author gratefully acknowledge the valuable services provided by Mr. Dennis HOLLAND, postmaster of Esom Hill, without whose assistance this article would not have been possible.  Grateful appreciation is also extended to the LOTT family, the BREWSTER family, the BAILEY family, Mr. Charlie COLLINS, and Mrs. Sue Isbell STONE.


1/ Johnson, Larry G., A HISTORY OF POLK COUNTY (GA) MISSIONARY BAPTIST ASSOCIATION, Curley, Nashville, 1977, p. 7.
2/ U.S. Post Offices, Polk (and Paulding) County, U.S. Records, Microfilm Drawer 281, Box 32, Surveyor General Dept., Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, GA.
3/ Stewart, Mrs. Frank Ross, "Alabama's Cleburne County," Centre, AL, 1982, p. 68.
4/ Georgia State Gazeteer (sic) & Business Directory, 1881-82, Atlanta.
5/The date of construction was once inscribed in the concrete on the front step, but is no longer legible today.
6/ Hoyt Dingler interview, August 17, 1994
7/ "A Pioneer Dead," THE CEDARTOWN STANDARD, October 28, 1897.
8/ Jeremiah Isbell served in the U.S. Civil War with his eldest son.  His father, Pendleton Isbell (1806-1873), served also, as did eight of his sons and three of his grandson.  All returned home safely, except one son and one grandson, who were killed.
9/ NW Georgia Document Preservation Project. 1993 Microfilm SHC-156, Brewster/Isbell Papers.
10/ Brewster, Phi. Sr., Cedartown, Georgia, video interview, August 7, 1988.
11/Hoea. Cora Belle, Cedartown, Georgia, letter to Dennis HOLLAND, August 31, 1992.
12/NW Georgia Document Preservation Project. Op. Cit.
13/ "Vacancy at Esom," THE CEDARTOWN STANDARD. c. June 29, 1971.
14/ IBID
15/ Hoyt Dingler interview, August 17, 1994
16/ Hoyt Dingler interview, August 17, 1994....

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