Memories of Mingo
Mary Holland Duke
Once a thriving community of several hundred people Mingo has long since been depopulated of all but a few “die-hards” who refuse to leave. Uchee Indians once hunted deer, bear, and turkey up and down Big Sandy Creek Swamp, which is the southern boundary of Mingo.
Many hand-me-down tales exist as to how and when Mingo got its name. Some say it was the name of an old Indian Chief, others say it was the name of a runaway slave; still others attribute it to a medicine show traveling through these parts many years ago. But, no matter when or how the name was given to this area in the southern part of Lord’s District, many people have been proud to call it home.
A main thoroughfare called the Uchee Trail bisects the territory from Balls Ferry, crossing the eastern boundary of Mingo to Lightwood Knot Bridge (we natives spell it Lighterd Knot). This bridge, the western boundary of Mingo is, according to records, so named because the Indians built this first crossing of Big Sandy creek here by piling large heart pine stumps and logs across the stream. The northern boundary of Mingo is where Poplar Head School once stood in the fork of Old Balls Ferry Road and Little Sandy Creek Road. Old Balls Ferry Road is the approximate eastern boundary.
This land was first divided by the land lottery. Some of the lucky winners were Thomas Ridgeway, John Hennisty, George W. Shurman, Edward Hopson, and James Matthews. Since these names do not appear in local cemeteries, it is possible that their lots were sold. Records of the 19th and 20th centuries showed names such as Lord, Thompson, Kittles, Wynn, Miller, Orr, Colson, Connell, Warren, Davis, Ellington, Fordham, Lewis, NeSmith, Thigpen, Freeman, and Watkins as being land owners.
History abounds in Mingo. William Lord from whom Lord District got its name, served in the American Revolution. William Issac Thigpen was wounded at Chancellorsville in 1861, was discharged on disability in 1864 and returned to Wilkinson County to build a home on the Old Balls Ferry to Lightwood Knot Bridge Road. As late at the 1930’s he would tell of his experiences in the war at Chapel exercises in the Toomsboro High School and then ask all students to rise and join him in the “Rebel Yell.” Uncle Billy Thigpen died in 1935 and is buried in Salem Church cemetery beside his wife, Benita Davis Thigpen.
Zenus Fordham was wounded at New Hope, Ga. in 1864. He lived to be 101 and is buried in the Fordham Cemetery, as was his sister, Elizabeth, whose husband was Confedrate veteran James R. Billue. Aunt Betsey died at age 102.
Mingo citizens served not only in the American Revolution, the War Between the States, but also World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and most recently, Billy South a great grandson of Jay Holland will be going to Bosnia this spring. Grover Lewis,who lives in Dublin, served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Berends Lord, son of R. Clinton and Alma Brown Lord was killed on the coast of France in World War II. Lord-Hatfield Post of American Legion bears his name.
Much blood from Union and Confederate soldiers was spilled on Mingo soil during Sherman’s March to the Sea. Union soldiers camped and ate Thanksgiving dinner at the farm of James R. Thompson, great, great grandfather of Paul Thompson, Jr. in November 1864. Mr. Thompson sent the following Petition to the United States Court of Claims. (Paul Jr. has the original petition. Due to its age, it was not possible to get a clear picture to print in the paper.) The petition sent by Mr. Thompson states that he “was, during the late war a resident of the state of Georgia and did not give aid or comfort to the rebellion, but throughout that war was loyal to the Government of the United States. That the following property was taken from him by the United States Army and used by the said Army in Wilkinson Co., Ga. on or about the 17th day of November 1864 by the forces of the United Sates, namely Sherman’s Army.
1. 500 bushels of corn @ $2.00 $1000.00
2. 5000 pounds of fodder @ $2.00 per ____ 100.00
3. 150 bu. of potatoes @ 50 cents per bushel 75.00
4. 20 head of hogs @ $3.00 per head 60.00
5. 35 meat hogs 5250 lbs. 735.00
6. 8 beef cattle @ $20.00 per head 160.00
7. 8 head of sheep 43.00
8. Horses 120.00
9. 1000 lbs Bacon @ 20 cents per lb. 120.00
The Federal Government paid the bill.
Mr. Thompson was given the job to distribute food to the poor after the war. Mr. Thompson operated a brickyard in a spot now called “Old Brick Yard Field” near Tobe Lake.
Mingo is centered around Salem Church, the oldest Methodist Church in the county. Early Methodists held their meetings in private homes with Circuit Riding Ministers officiating. Many homes were built with two rooms one on either side of the front porch, one for the circuit riding Minister and one for the traveling stranger.
Later services were held on campgrounds in the open or in crudely built brush arbors. The first church building at Salem was constructed in 1818 and was probably of log construction. Later a larger church was built with an upper story for slaves to worship. Around the turn of the century a school was added with an enrollment of 29. In 1913 a large wooden frame building was built. This one burned in 1940 and the present building was built in 1941.
Services are still being held here every 2nd and 4th Sunday afternoon, with homecoming and dinner on the ground the 2nd Sunday in July.
Another Methodist Church, Union Church was located in the eastern end of the county on Uchee Creek Road just off Highway 57. The building is gone, but Jack Thompson remembers when the building was standing. Records show there was a school at that location also. Most of Mingo’s children attended Salem School and the Poplar Head School. Each of these schools had five month terms with one teacher in each school and an approximate total enrollment of 85. Each school had a canning club of which young ladies of the community were members. Jack Thompson’s mother, Miss Reba Griffin; Carolyn Smalley’s mother, Miss Cleo Shirley, and Tom Wynn’s mother, Miss Nannie Elliott came from other counties to teach in Mingo. All three married Mingo men and stayed in Mingo to raise their families. Miss Hortense Wynn, daughter of Braswell and Asenith Kittles Wynn was principal of Shady Grove School in 1918.
Many Mingo residents of past years have been successful in their chosen occupation. Of course many were tillers of the soil, which was a tough way to eke out a living in the sand beds of eastern Wilkinson County. Others, after receiving the education offered in Mingo schools went on to seek higher skills and served in many ways. Chattie Lee Miller Brundage, oldest daughter of John G. and Diona Fordham Miller became a teacher and helped her younger brothers and sisters get a high school or college education. Teachers from later years were Marlene Lord Tompkins, who later served as County School Superintendent. Her son Steve Tompkins was an instructor at a law enforcement academy in Middle Ga. Ruby Holland Jernigan and Mary Holland Duke, daughters of Jay and Lizzie Miller Holland were also teachers. Mary, after teaching in several Georgia counties, returned to Mingo in 1965 to serve as the last principal of the old Toomsboro High School. Sandra Duke Sallee, daughter of C.W. and Mary Holland Duke is a teacher and librarian in south Georgia. John Miller, grandson of J.G. and Diona Fordham Miller served as County School Superintendent for many years. Gene Waddell, the great grandson of Laura Miller Nesbitt, sister of J.G. Miller, is a current resident of Mingo and a teacher in the mid-state area. Gene is the son of Lillie Montgomery Waddell.
J.E. (Ennis) Miller carried good news and bad over the mail route of Mingo for many years. Dr. J.D. Thompson, husband of Mrs. Emma Lord is said to have died during an epidemic of malaria in the community and is buried in Salem Cemetery.
Joel Miller, son of J.G. and Diona F. Miller became a Chiropractor and moved to Elbert County where he practiced and later became State Representative from that County. James Zenus, another son of J.G. and Diona, became a county agent in the state of Maryland.
Mingo has furnished at least 2 ministers, Griffin Thompson (Methodist), son of Clarence and Reba Thompson; James William Fordham (Baptist), son of B.I. and Willie Lou Lord Fordham. Mingo acquired another minister when Ray Tompkins married Mingo native Marlene Lord. Ray is a Baptist minister.
Cecil Lord served as Wilkinson County Commissioner for many years.
The following are only some of the memories which today’s citizens have heard from their ancestors from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Mr. Jarred Thomas Orr was the grandfather of Mary Lord Kimball. He owned a store near the now defunct Messers Bridge over Big Sandy Creek, about 2 miles from Salem Church. The bridge is no longer in use due to a fire built by some inebriated individuals several years ago. Mr. Orr also had a sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop and variety shop. In his variety shop he built furniture and coffins. The present pulpits in Salem Church, as well as Marie Baptist in Laurens Co. are his creations. A very versatile person, Mr. Orr also owned an early telephone exchange in Mingo. Mary Lord Kimball is also the granddaughter of Firnie Ivey and Mary Ann Davis Lord.
Mr. Frank Colson had a store on what is now Sandy Creek Road. Here he sold necessities such as kerosene and tobacco. Grover Lewis remembers trips to Mr. Colson’s store carrying one egg, called Hen Fruit or Cackleberries, to buy candy.
Remains of dams mark the locations of two other gristmills (owners unknown). One of these on Goose Creek, back of the Gideon Miller property and the other on Long Branch on property owned by Jay Holland. Mr. Braswell Wynn operated a cotton gin on Goose Creek Road near Salem Church.
Frank Shastorick and Joe Zbasnik, from Austria, bought white oak timber and from a lumber camp near Tobe Lake the timbers were cut and floated down the Oconee and Altamaha Rivers to Darien where they were made into staves for whiskey barrels to be shipped back to Austria. These people were called “The Germans” while they were here. Mr Shastorick married a Mingo girl, Miss Nina Ussery, sister of Mrs. Nettie Mae Thompson Lewis. They later moved to Dublin to be near a Catholic Church.
Mr. Wavy Lewis built furniture in his shop off Goose Creek Road. His wife, Mrs. Mamie Thompson Lewis, wrote “Mingo News” for the Wilkinson County News during the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.
David Miller, youngest son of J.G. and Diona Miller, also had a woodworking shop and produced many fine pieces of furniture as well as bowls and other items.
Many houses existed in Mingo “way back when” but most are gone now. The “Rachel House”, where Mrs. Rachel Davis Warren lived in the 30’s and 40’s and the Charlie Davis house, both located on Little Sandy Creek Road are the two oldest still standing. They were built in the late 1800’s
Many cherished memories, some badly faded, are all that remain of the original Mingo community. It is hoped that Mingo’s demise will serve as a warning to all readers. Memories fade, but documentation doesn’t. Write down for posterity what’s happening today. e.g. “Grandma’s cow kicked over the milk bucket this morning.” These moments in time will be treasured by your descendents for ages to come.
This article was put together from memories and documents provided by a group of people, most living elsewhere, but whose ancestors lived in and loved this community down through the years. This group met at Salem Church after services on Jan. 8, 2001 and shared precious memories and stories of olden times in Mingo. All were reluctant to leave at dusk to return to their homes. Some of these memories are documented, while others are only memories. We welcome any and all corrections, additions, etc. We would love to receive any information concerning former residents of Mingo as we have only scratched the surface.
The group consisted of Mary Lord Kimball, Dorothy Lord Branch, Jack Thompson, Paul Thompson Jr. and wife Murlene, Carolyn Wynn and Frairie Smalley, Thomas and Mary Wynn, Lillie Montgomery Waddell, Marlene Tompkins, Grover and Mary Lewis, C.W. and Mary Holland Duke (owners of “Rachel House”), Alan Duke and Larry Findley, present owner of Charlie W. Davis house.