Early History of Madison’s Canaan Neighborhood

Patrick Yost Community

By Patsy Harris

The Morgan County Landmarks Society

and The Morgan County African-American Museum

Special to the Citizen

Using recent census and voter data, an estimated 607 people (88% African American) now live on the 202.5 acres of Land Lot 42 (LL42). 70 (15 percent African-American) live in the approximately 46.5-acre portion south of the railroad tracks. 537 people (100 percent African-American) live in the 156-acre portion of LL42 on the north side of the railroad tracks.

The story begins with land and people, bought and sold.

From Indian Land to Plantations

In the year 1802, hundreds of thousands of acres of frontier Georgia were taken by treaty from the Creek Indians. The state of Georgia then surveyed and divided this land into mostly square lots of 202½ acres. To entice farmers, white men, widows, and orphans were given the right to a draw to win and then purchase cheaply the hundreds of land lots in what would become Morgan County a few years later.

The Creek Indian land that eventually became Madison’s Canaan neighborhood was Land Lot 42, drawn in 1805 by Dudley Stinson, probably the man of the same name who died in Wilkes County in 1824.

In 1816 William Gilbert of Wilkes County owned LL42 and sold the 202½ acres for $600 to Roderick Leonard of Morgan County.

One month later Leonard sold it to Peter Hughes for $2,000, the much higher price indicating there may have been a house added. Leonard had represented Morgan County in the State House and Senate for a number of years in the 1820s, moving with his brothers to Talbot County, where he died in 1842.

Seven months later, in March 1817, Hughes, who had served on the Morgan County Grand Jury in 1819, sold the land to lawyer and judge Adam G. Saffold for $2,250.

In 1822 the Georgia General Assembly extended Madison’s town limits from its initial (1809) 100 acres to a radius of ½ mile centering on the courthouse square. Much of LL42 would have been taken inside the town limits but for mention in the legislation that Saffold’s lands were excepted. In 1850, however, with new legislation that extended the city limits to a one-mile radius, his lands were then included.

Saffold (1784-1850) and his wife, Ann Porter Saffold (1793-1875), whom he married in 1813, resided there. He was the head of an affluent and aristocratic family – a large landholder who owned thousands of acres and dozens of slaves in Morgan County, southwest Georgia, and southeast Alabama.

In the late 1830s Adam Saffold donated a straight slice of land running through LL42 to the Georgia Railroad and Banking Company for its new track and right of way which was in place and in use by 1842. The track divided LL42 into two consequential and distinct parts – about 46.5 acres in the southeast town-side portion, which included the Saffold house, and about 156 acres of probable farmland in the northwest portion. Saffold also sold several smaller portions of the 46.5 acres.

In the census of 1850, the entry for Adam Saffold, his wife and daughter, and several others living with him was written just previous to that of his son William, his wife, and four children. William owned and lived on the 202.5 acres of LL55, which bordered on the northeast the full length of Saffold’s LL42. That year Adam’s Morgan County real estate was valued at $75,000, showing he owned much more than LL42, and the federal slave schedule recorded he owned 69 slaves. Daughter Anna owned seven slaves – a woman and six children ages three months to nine years. Son William had $2,000 in real property and owned probably 13 slaves.

That same year, and the year his property was brought within the city limits, Saffold died. His will gave to his wife all the land on which he resided, except for “a small portion of the lot which my son William O Saffold has enclosed in front of his House,” also, “sufficiency of lands to employ the hands left to her, with the following (25) named negroes…” and “the following (seven) old negroes I leave in her charge to be taken care of and supported…”

To his son he gave the 23 slaves already in his possession and the 1,500 to 2,000-acre southeastern Alabama plantation, “also the tract of land and improvements on which he (William) resides near Madison containing two hundred two and one-half acres together with a small slip off the tract on which I reside in front of his House.”

Saffold willed his 2,700-acre plantation in Early County in southwestern Georgia and the slaves (at least 23) who worked it, to his daughter Anna and one slave child each to four grandchildren. Also, after his wife’s death, Anna was to be given “his present residence.” Wife Ann Saffold, son William O. Saffold (1813-1875), and Ann’s brother John W. Porter were named executors of the will. In all, his will named 36 slaves in Morgan County and at least 23 in Early County.

In 1860 Ann Saffold resided in the family home with a woman, probably white, whom she was charged in her husband’s will to house and care for. Each was 70 years old. The federal slave schedule that year recorded Ann owned 16 slaves aged from one to 60 years. Son William owned $60,000 in real estate and 11 girls and women from six months to 40 years old and 10 boys and men from five to 70 years old.

That year, however, Saffold’s daughter resided in Early County with her husband of seven years and their two little children, Sallie and Adam. He was listed as a planter with real estate, probably the Saffold acreage, valued at $50,000 and owning 86 slaves. David S. Johnston had been born in North Carolina in 1827, and in 1856 had been appointed post master in an Early County town interestingly called Saffold.

In 1870 Ann Saffold, Anna and David Johnston (recorded in the census as a lawyer), and two children lived in Madison in the family home on LL42. Anna had $3,000 in real estate in the county and her husband and mother none. Her brother William was 56 and an invalid with $6,000 in Morgan County land. He died in 1875 leaving a wife and several children. His mother Ann also died in 1875 “in the same room she had occupied over 60 years.” David died in the 1880s and Anna died in 1912 at the home of her daughter in Virginia.

Free Men and Women

During Adam G. Saffold’s life, the rural 202.5 acres of LL42 (and thousands of acres surrounding the city) were probably developed in agriculture, with planting and livestock for marketing and maintaining family and slaves, and even various plantation shops for blacksmithing, carpentry, weaving, and such. While Saffold/Johnston family lived in the comfort of the c1815 main house, slaves would have been housed in shacks throughout the area that would later be called Canaan.

It can be assumed that after the Civil War, some of the former slaves left the plantation or Madison altogether, and some remained to continue their work with the Saffold/Johnston families as employees or tenant farmers.

Anna was given authority by her mother in August 1868 to sell “so much + such parts of said land (willed to Ann by her husband), or lot of land, as she may deem necessary + proper for the support, maintenance and education of her two children.” Beginning in 1869, for 30 years Anna sold numerous plots in LL42. That year she sold 37 acres of LL42 bordering the railroad track to her aunt Ann Porter.

Through the end of the century, she sold to freedmen and freedwomen dozens of small plots of LL42 and of other acreage in the Saffold estate. Many in LL42 fronted Richter Street at the rear of the property. This street began at Wellington Street in LL36 and entered LL42 on the southwest. It was probably named for the John C. Richter family who owned several acres on the street close to Wellington Street. Anna sold numerous small plots on Richter Street, later renamed Pearl Street.

Before 1875 she sold many of the LL42 plots to her black employees, including to George Anthony, Henry Lockett (a domestic servant born c1840), and shoemaker Harrison Harris (born c1832) who eventually owned many acres there. Many black women purchased land from Anna Johnston before 1875, including Sarah Parks (a laundress born c1840), Ann Lucas (a laundress born c1815), and Malissa Starling (born c1848).

Anna Johnston’s first deed as such recorded was for three acres on Richter Street adjoining the land of John C. Richter sold in 1869 to her employee Whitfield Jones, a black shoemaker. Jones was born about 1843 and married Emma Anderson in 1870 in Taliaferro County, GA. She was seven years his junior. In 1880 they had three children under 10 years old.

A defining moment for the growing community of former slaves came in 1871 when Ann sold for $75 to trustees of the local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church 1½ acres on the rail road adjoining Ann Porter’s lot. They “shall erect or cause to be built on said lot a house or place of worship…” stated the deed. These trustees were John McG(h)ee, Pinckney Cash, Kellis McCoy, George Flemister, Turner Wright, Cornelius Wilson, and Porter Freeman.

Two months later Anna Johnston sold a lot to Andrew Brown, one of the founders of the Georgia AME Church. Brown had been ordained in 1866 and held high offices in several church districts in the state.

On the first Sunday of 1878 the bishop of the AME Church arrived in Madison. In an ongoing letter to the church’s Christian Recorder, Henry Turner McNeal said:

I last wrote you from Madison, Ga, where I arrived on the afternoon of the 1st Sabbath in 1878, after travelling there from (E)atonton, a distance of 22 miles, on the coldest day that ever visited that section of the State without doubt.
Nevertheless I made my entrance into our church just as Rev. Andrew Brown, P.E., had knelt down to consecrate the elements of the Lord’s Supper, and witnessed a very lively time indeed. The most prominent of which was a large, well built, and finely arranged church and a congregation that would ornament a palace, if we are to judge by appearance.
Madison is the home of Presiding Elder Brown, and as he was fortunately holding his first quarter here, it gave me the much coveted opportunity of spending a few days in his over agreeable company. With him and Rev. Richard Graham, the pastor of the said church, I would have had a grand time, had it not for being sick part of the time and falling on the ice and severely spraining my leg, which very much disabled me; I nevertheless endeavored to preach, lecture and represent the Department as best I could. I found Elder Graham to be very popular, and much beloved by all, colored, white, Baptist, Methodist, &c. He is one of our coming lights and if he keeps his promise to me, will be remembered when dead. Mrs. Wes(l)ey a lady of rare qualities, Mrs. Mary Turner of commendable status, and Mrs. Russell the distinguished mother of Rev. I. N. Fitzpatrick, respectively entertained the Manager with sumptuous collations not in consideration of his merits, but of his position.
I had the pleasure of an acquaintance with Col. Johnson of this place, who has supplied the colored people with more homes than possibly any five white men in Georgia. Once the owner of hundreds of slaves, but now the benefactor of hundreds, if not thousands. Had one white man in a hundred in Georgia done as Col. Johnson, the State would have been millions of dollars better off. But blessings rebound while Col. Johnson has provided an immense number of homes for our people, and made hundreds happy by his wise and generous policy, they in return have made him rich again and have more than counterbalanced all of his war losses…
From Madison I went to Marietta…

Being buried in Madison was “his dying request.” When he died in 1887 he was buried in the “colored section” of New Cemetery in Madison’s Historic Cemeteries. new brick church was built in 1884 and it still stands as St. Paul’s AME Church.

Community

As black religious leaders buttressed their wide-spread congregations, black citizens in Madison, as in all over the South, for the first time in history were building cohesive neighborhoods. In Whitfield Jones’ growing neighborhood in LL42 in 1880, most black men were day laborers, most women were laundresses, cooks, or “keeping house,” and most children were at home or in school. Jones remained a shoemaker, and his skilled neighbors included carpenter and farmer Oliver Hollis, blacksmith William Starling, brickyard worker Kit Chelsy, and knitter and quilter 70-year-old Caroline Moore. John McG(h)ee, the AME Church trustee, was also a shoemaker, and his two daughters were teachers. Interestingly, that year the census also listed chronic ailments in Canaan; Jeff Stamp was a club-footed shoemaker, midwife Minerva Bell’s uterus was prolapsed, and Penny Thomas, a day-laborer, suffered from hysteria.

LL42 lots were rented, sold to others, passed to family members, sold on the courthouse steps, and some eventually fell into the hands of land speculators, with whom they were split or combined. In 1886 Harmon Martin (white) owned Ann Porter’s many acres in LL42 along the Georgia Rail Road. That year he surveyed and divided it into 37 lots of various sizes. Through the center of this survey drawing was a road with a track crossing which would become Burney Street. The border on the northern edge would become Mapp Street in the 1960s.

Probably the oldest house still intact and a residence in Canaan is on one of lots of Harmon Martin – the George Harris estate at 542 Burney Street. Built c1900, it was the home of the beloved black physician James F. Smith, who purchased the tract of land known as “the Rachel Lester place” for $550 in 1917. The deed from J.P. Spivey to Smith states Spivey built the four-room house on the lot. Dr. Smith is still remembered by older residents of Canaan. One former resident said he was the only black doctor she had ever heard of at the time, and he delivered all seven of her mother-in-law’s children. Another resident remembers the bad-tasting green medicine he gave children for intestinal worms. Smith was known as a community doctor who treated his patients in their homes and was one of the charter owners of the Star Drug Company (1919). His office was in the building (now 150 W. Washington Street), which still stands, and his wife Eva worked at the drugstore.

Two blocks north of Smith’s home, another historic Canaan house is located at 953 Whitehall Street. Anna Johnston sold this lot to Malissa Starling in 1875. Her husband William was a blacksmith. His second wife Amelia lost the property in 1902 for failure to pay taxes. Paul M. Atkinson (white) bought it and in 1909 sold it to John Henry Moreland for $350.

Moreland was the much-loved black janitor of Madison’s first graded school (white) most of the 62 years it was in operation. He is still remembered walking to and from the school to the Canaan neighborhood and, from a child’s eyes, his most important job was keeping the coal-fired heaters going in the classrooms.

That massive brick school, which still stands as the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, was built for white students in 1885, long before integration. That same year the City Board of Education erected a wood school building for black students. It was located in Canaan on Burney Street at its intersection with Railroad Street (now Fifth Street), the one acre purchased that year from Harmon Martin for $300. The pastor of the “colored Baptist Church” (Calvary) was elected principal. Rev. E.P. Johnson was “one of the best educated men of his race in the state,” said a newspaper article. Grades one through 11 were taught there, and children walked to the school from all over town.

In September 1951, citing that the “present building is very crowded and inadequate,” the Madisonian reported that work was progressing on the new school for black students on Pearl Street. The building would be “one of the most modern in the state.” It was named Pearl School, and black teachers taught students in the first through 12th grades. The contractor was the same who had just finished the new auditorium and classroom building for the white students.

In 1959 the City of Madison sold the former Burney Street School lot to Riley Turner. His grandson, R.L. Turner, had operated a funeral home on Pearl Street since 1955, and for a while John Paul Jones had been his partner. Jones & Turner Funeral Home moved to its newly-built offices on Burney Street and is now 60 years old, the oldest black-owned business in Madison.

A resident of Canaan in the 1940s (He just celebrated his 100th birthday.) remembers a long building next to the funeral home, where men were trained there to fix televisions.

In the 20th century Burney Street also provided the adults with night life. Juke box music, dancing and drinks were enjoyed at the “Ugly Folks Club” there. And down Blue Moon Hill, which is now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, was the Blue Moon Club which operated in the 30s.

Owned by George Jefferson, the Blue Moon was called by the white-owned newspaper, “the colored resort of the city.” It opened in 1935 “in the heart of the colored section.” It had a pool, and Jefferson organized swimming parties, baseball games, and large celebrations for July 4th and other holidays. In February 1937 he confessed to shooting and killing a man at the club and was sentenced in May to five years on the chain gang. But by September that year the newspaper noted that Jefferson was preparing for Labor Day celebration at the Blue Moon. In the 1940s the club was rental property.

In addition to the previously mentioned church, which became St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, there were two other churches of note in early Canaan – the Second Presbyterian Church (aka colored Presbyterian Church), and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME, which had organized nationally from the AME Church).

Edward W. Carpenter, born in North Carolina in 1860, was called in 1889 as minister to the Second Presbyterian Church in Madison. It was actually located on the southern edge of the tracks in LL42 close to the Anna Saffold Johnston house and the Burney Street track crossing. In the 1900 census Carpenter, his wife and six children were listed as living close by, just south of the tracks next door to Adeline Rhodes (Rose). Heading the mission of the national church to improve the lot of freedmen in Madison, Carpenter was also very involved in the education of his community. In 1889 he founded the Madison Academic Institute in Madison and was principal there for 16 years. Sewing, music, carpentry, printing, masonry, and shoe work were taught. In 1897 he added his voice to the local call for the erection of a new cotton factory by penning an editorial in the Madisonian stating that “negroes need employment opportunities.” In 1902 an ad in the newspaper announced the Institute was adding a teachers’ course at night. Carpenter left Madison in 1907 for a pastorate in Charlotte, NC. When, in 1917 part of the church property was sold to the City of Madison, the president and treasurer of the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America signed the deed. (See more about this church in the Morgan County Archives / Church Files Box / Second Presbyterian Church.)

St. John’s Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in Canaan was short-lived. In 1908 R.A. Carter sold to the trustees of the church a plot of land in Canaan for $150. The trustees were L.H. Halser and R.A. Carter himself, and the lot was #3 noted on Harmon Martin’s 1886 survey. Trustees for the church had borrowed money in 1911 to build the church, but in 1913 were being foreclosed. For sale to pay the debt was the church building, the parsonage, and one acre on which they stood, on Railroad Street (now Fifth Street), just south of Burney Street. In 1923 it was sold for $300 to local land speculator H.H. Waters by “C.A. Wise, Presiding Elder of the Washington Circuit and Joe Kendrick as the sole surviving trustee of the Church.”  On the lot now is a residence, 715 Fifth Street.

In 1900 former slave Whit Jones and his family still resided in Canaan. Day-laborers, farm hands, washwomen, and children in school overwhelmingly populated the neighborhood, but other occupations also were listed – nurse, porter, teacher, farmer, and engineer. And another shoemaker, Harrison Harris, who had been sold 3.6 acres on Richter in early 1871, remained close by the Jones family.

Sadly, the three acres on Richter/Pearl Street owned for so many years by Whit Jones and his family, in 1926 were listed in the newspaper as a vacant lot being sold for unpaid city taxes.

The Canaan neighborhood continues to evolve as a vital black community since its first days in the early 19th century as a plantation, as does its families, schools, churches, businesses, and livelihoods. From the small black enclaves of plantation life widespread across the county, to a vibrant solidifying neighborhood of the 20th century, Canaan is a residential neighborhood with a rich history worthy of preservation.

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