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Historic site was family home for 140 years

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POSTED: June 19, 2012 4:00 p.m.
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Park-goers walk up to John Jarrell’s 1847 home at the Jarrell Plantation Historic Site near Macon. The site was home for the Jarrell family for more than 140 years.

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A cotton plantation that was home for one Georgia family for more than 140 years is preserved as an historic site by Georgia State Parks.

Jarrell Plantation Historic Site goes back to 1847 when John Fitz Jarrell built a small heart-pine home about 20 miles northwest of Macon, not far from the plantation of his parents Blake and Zilpha Jarrell, who came to the area in 1820 from North Carolina.

Despite Hollywood images of fictional plantation homes like “Tara,” typical plantation homes were more like Jarrell’s. Rather than spiraling staircases or fancy imported furniture, the Jarrells made many of the furnishings visitors see today.

John Jarrell’s little house was home for Jarrell, his wife Elizabeth and their seven children. By 1860, Jarrell, his children and 39 slaves farmed cotton, wheat and produce, and raised livestock on 600 acres.

But in 1864, Elizabeth, several slaves and family members died from typhoid fever.

Later that year, his house was one of only a few structures that survived Gen. William T. Sherman’s “march to the sea.” Sherman’s troops burned Jarrell’s cotton gin, however, and stole livestock, wagons and food.

John soon married Nancy Ann James, a Confederate widow with two children. They later had eight children together.

After the war, he enlarged his plantation to 1,000 acres. Most of his farm hands were former slaves, but as he and his workers grew older, the younger workers left the plantation. When John died, his son Dick gave up his teaching job and returned to the plantation.

In 1895, Dick Jarrell built a small home for himself and his wife Mamie. As the size of his family grew, Dick rebuilt the cotton gin and added a saw mill, gristmill, shingle mill, planer, sugar cane press, syrup evaporator, workshop barn and outbuildings.

In 1920, he built a larger home. He and Mamie had 12 children. The new home was inherited by their son Willie, who left it to his nephew when he died in 1984.

The home is now a bed and breakfast.

The 1920 house is separated from the rest of the property, a portion of which was donated to the state as an historic site in 1974 by the Jarrell family.

The plantation had survived Sherman, typhoid, emancipation, reconstruction, the cotton boll weevil, the advent of steam power and a transition to forestry, and it was now preserved for future generations to learn about Georgia’s heritage.

Visitors to the historic site can get information from Park Ranger Bretti Perkins, who’ll explain artifacts in the museum and show a movie detailing the history of the Jarrell family.

Admission is $4-$6.50.

Nearby attractions include the Griswoldville Battlefield and the railroad junction town of Juliette with its Whistle Stop Café, made famous by the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.”

— Information provided by georgiastateparks.org

 

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