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Mrs. Farmer's sickness saved the house
Liberty lore
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The historical house a block from the Liberty County Courthouse was built in 1839 for Mrs. Mary Jane Hazzard Bacon, the widow of Major John Bacon, who had fought in the War of 1812 and died in 1833.
In 1842, Simon Alexander Fraser married their daughter, Mary, and her mother invited the couple to live in the house with her as she was now alone since the tragic drowning of her 14-year-old son, James. Simon and Mary had seven children. Simon was one of the strong, capable and forceful men of his community, almost constantly being in public office and at one time was an inferior-court judge.
Everything went along well for the community until the Civil War began in 1861 and came to Liberty County in December 1864. Sherman’s army had its headquarters in Midway and Flemington, using the churches and schoolhouse. From there, they sent scouting parties all over the county.
While the Union troops were in Flemington, a raiding party went to Hinesville. As the Honorable W.P.L. Girardeau, ordinary of the county, was standing on the courthouse steps, he was shot and wounded seriously.
It was December 1864 that part of Sherman’s army under the command of Gen. Kilpatrick came through Hinesville. Those troops are said to have camped about where Bradwell Institute now stands. They raided the town and surrounding areas.
Simon Fraser, who was clerk of the superior court, heard that the Yankees were nearing the town, put the six books that contained Liberty County’s records into a carriage and took them into the woods, near the old Melvin swimming hole, for hiding. He took with him his son, William, who was 15 and tall for his age, fearing he would be captured if left at home.
His friend, Dr. Farmer, a member of the Georgia Legislature and a servant also went with him. (Dr. Farmer was a physician who operated a Young Ladies Seminary at Jones Creek before 1857, and after the Civil War completed medical school and established a medical practice and general store in Hinesville.) They hid in the woods until the Yankees had gone on their destructive way. Mrs. Farmer stayed at the house with Mary and the other children because she was sick.
Joseph Fraser was only 4 years old at the time, but he remembered the raid very well. The soldiers foraged throughout the town and area, taking food from the children, women and aged men, as armies often do. The troops walked through Simon’s home at will and took whatever they wanted.
One day, the faithful cook prepared dinner three times for the family before they could eat. The third time, she prepared it in her own little house behind the big house and fed the children there.
During the difficulty, one soldier walked through the kitchen and saw two roasted chickens. He picked up one in each hand and said that was all he wanted.
Finally, Mary told an officer about Mrs. Farmer, who was sick in an upstairs room, and asked if he would please do something to stop his men from coming into the house. He then courteously placed a guard at the front and back doors and forbade anyone else from entering the house. He also told Mary that she could save all the farm produce the little boys could bring into the house.
Donald, Wallace and Joe brought in all they could, including smoked hams from the smokehouse, potatoes and dripping brown sugar from the syrup house in a pillowcase. They hid this upstairs under Mrs. Farmer’s bed. The soldiers tried to find everything they could eat. They drove heavy wagons over the cane mash left after grinding cane to see if barrels of syrup had been hidden underneath. They did not find the syrup because Simon had dug holes, buried the barrels and put the cane mash over them for camouflage. Mary Fraser made the comment that there was at least one gentleman in the Northern army. A box of silver was hidden under Mary’s skirts.
Donald, not quite 10, and other boys about his age used slingshots to launch rocks at the Yankees. The Yankees got tired of it and told people they were going to burn the town down if they didn’t make the young’uns quit their slingshot activity. The parents made the boys quit.
Joe and his brother, Wallace, were playing in the yard when they saw some soldiers coming. Scared, the boys ran to the house. Joe’s new hat dropped off as he ran, but he was too scared to go after it. One of the Yankees picked it up, placed it on his head and rode off laughing. It was certainly no laughing matter for little Joe.
Across the street, Capt. Dowse Bradwell, the father of Bradwell Institute, was at home recuperating from wounds received in the Battle of Atlanta. Two Yankees thought it would be a good idea to capture him in bed. They went to his home and walked on in.
Mum Ella, the Bradwells’ cook, said later that she told the Yankees that Bradwell was upstairs with smallpox, and they left.
After the raid, all the food Simon Fraser and Mary had for the family was what the little boys brought in the house and the farm produce those working for him brought in on their heads in “fanner baskets” from the plantation at McIntosh, 5 miles away.
By the end of December, every horse was gone, and all the cattle, pigs and chickens had been consumed by the Yankee soldiers. The people had nothing left and no horses to go after anything. Many people from Liberty County had gone to Thomasville and other places. Many never returned to Liberty County.
The above description of the raid on the Bacon-Fraser House was taken from the book “Back When — A Biography of the Joseph Bacon Fraser Family,” written by Thomas Layton Fraser, great grandson of Mary Jane Hazzard Bacon. The book was published in 1976, and I am so appreciative of Layton taking time to record so much history that took place a block from the Liberty County Courthouse. Joe (1860-1920), who lost his hat to the Yankees, was appointed mayor of Hinesville by the Georgia Legislature when the town was incorporated in 1916.

Liberty Lore is a regular column that focuses on the history of this area. To comment on the column, email

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