A New Beginning

Do you know where Shewmake, Georgia is?  Most of you would not unless you live near there.  Here's a hint.  It is on the Macon, Dublin and  Savannah Railroad.  Do you know now?  Here's another hint.  Nearly twenty thousand cars pass through it on a daily basis.  Give up?  Shewmake, a tiny village with an ephemeric life, is located at the most southern  end of Walke Dairy Road as it approaches Interstate 16.  It is named for the family who owned thousands of acres of land in the area.  Shewmake, the plantation, was one of the county's ten largest post bellum plantations, containing nearly seven thousand acres, stretching from the Turkey Creek Bridge on Hwy. 257 nearly to the city limits of Dudley.

In 1848, Henry P. Jones, one of the wealthiest men in Burke County and in the state of Georgia for that matter, purchased 950 acres from Josiah Horne.  The land is located along the western side of the present Georgia Highway 257 south of the Interstate and north of Turkey Creek.  The following year he paid James D. Hampton $2500.00 for 3100 acres.  Jones acquired 2500 acres from William Hampton and various other tracts to form one of the county's largest plantations, which he called "the Sumpterville Plantation."   He derived the name from the traditionally accepted first county seat of Laurens County.  Jones called  the lands he purchased from Horne "the Telfair Place."

Jones, from time to time, lived in a home on the place he called the Sumpertville Plantation, which in 1850 was tended to by seventy slaves.   Henry Jones, born in 1809, was an orphan.  Described as "the architect of his own fortunes," Jones was a member of the wealthy, prominent and powerful Jones family of Burke County, Georgia.  It was in October of 1853 when the forty-three-year old Jones was suddenly struck with severe inflammation of his intestines, possibly a ruptured appendix.  He died on October 2nd.  His massive estate passed to his wife Elizabeth and his children, who continued to manage it for more than a quarter of a century, before dividing it among all of the heirs.  Jones was eulogized as "bland and modest in his manners and in his heart benevolent and kind."

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Penelope Jones, a beautiful daughter of Henry Jones, married a rising young lawyer from Burke County by the name of John Troup Shewmake.  Shewmake was born on January 22, 1826.  Educated at home, Shewmake enrolled in Princeton University at the age of eighteen.  After one year of intense studies, Shewmake returned home and enrolled in William Gould's Law School in Augusta.  He was admitted to the bar in 1846 and entered the practice of law, briefly in Waynesboro and then in Augusta, where he practiced until his retirement.

In the same year he married, John T. Shewmake was named the Attorney General of Georgia during the administrations of Governors Howell Cobb and Herschel V. Johnson, who would become eminently involved in the secession of Georgia from the Union.  As Attorney General, Shewmake, who was only twenty-five years old, was responsible for representing the State of Georgia during one of it's most critical eras, as well as being in overall supervision of the prosecution of criminal cases.

Shewmake was elected to represent Burke County in the Georgia Senate in 1861.  In his two years in the capital in Milledgeville, Burke and his fellow senators debated the issues of secession and how to manage its  tumultuous consequences.  In November 1863,  John T. Shewmake was elected as one of ten men to represent Georgia in the Second Confederate Congress.      The first session of the Congress began on May 2, 1864 in Richmond, Virginia.  Just some fifty crow-fly miles to the north, newly installed Union commander Ulysses S. Grant was poised to launch his final throat-strangling advance on the Confederate capital.

When the fighting around Petersburg and Richmond intensified in June, the congress adjourned and returned in November when the dueling armies went into bivouac for the winter.  On March 18, 1865, when the fall of Richmond was eminent, the Congress adjourned forever and Congressman Shewmake returned to Augusta, where he resumed his law practice.

The beneficiary of a fine education, John Shewmake paid it forward by accepting the presidency of the Augusta Board of Education in 1874.  After a four year term, Shewmake returned to the Georgia Senate, once again to represent Burke County.

Nearly forty years after the death of Henry P. Jones, his heirs agreed to a division of the lands.  John and Lizzie Shewmake and their children Annie Whitehead, Lena Johnson, Burke Shewmake, William J. Shewmake, Hal P. Shewmake, Marshall A. Shewmake and Claud Shewmake agreed to accept the Sumpterville Plantation as their share of the Jones estate.

John T. Shewmake, his son Burke, and his son-in-law James Whitehead joined together in incorporating "The Sumpertville Factory" in 1881.   The factory was formed to conduct a manufacturing, merchandising and milling business at Shewmake's Mill on Turkey Creek near New Bethel Baptist Church.   Primarily the business was established to make cotton and wool cloth, mill grains and saw lumber into timber.  After his retirement from politics, John T. Shewmake was a frequent visitor to Laurens County overseeing the farming operations here and frequently attending sessions of the Superior Court.

In the mid 1880s, John M. Stubbs, of Dublin, Joshua Walker, of Laurens Hill, and Dudley M. Hughes, of Twiggs County, began their plans to construct a railroad from Dublin to Macon.  In 1891 their dreams became a reality when the Macon, Dublin and Savannah Railroad ran its first train into Dublin.  Along the way at the point where the railroad intersects Walke Dairy Road, the railroad established a small railroad depot and stop, which was named "Shewmake" in honor of Congressman Shewmake.   George A. McKay was appointed the first postmaster of Shewmake, Georgia on April 27, 1900.  The post office was closed on February 15, 1903 with all mail ordered to be sent to Dublin.

John Troup Shewmake's wonderful life ended on December 1, 1898 at his home in Augusta.    He was buried in Magnolia Cemetery.  His son Burke had just died an untimely death.     The old man's surviving sons formed the Orchard Canning Company in an attempt to profit from the rapidly thriving orchard business centered at Kewanee a few miles to the west and around Montrose, several miles to the northwest.  In 1907, the Shewmake Brothers changed their corporate name to simply "the  Shewmake Brothers Co."    The company continued to do business well into the 1920s.

Marshall A. Shewmake moved to Dublin in 1907 and lived on Bellevue Avenue.  About 1910, Shewmake went into business with S.T. Hall to form the Shewmake Hall Company.  Marshall and his brother Hal, along with Hall, O.H.P. Rawls and G.M. Fomby formed the Southern Buggy Whip Company in 1911.    Shewmake, a long time director of the Commercial Bank, and his partner S.T. Hall enlisted C.D. Hilbun and B.D.  Kent in reorganizing the business into the Laurens Hardware Company, which continued to do business into the 1970s.

Today, Shewmake is home to hundreds of families.  Nearly a century after it's hey day, the community you might not have attached the name to, is one of county's most desirable residential areas.