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The Blackwells: A North Georgia pioneer family

Blackwells
Young William Coleman Blackwell, Sr., stands between his parents, Joseph and Sallie Jennings Satterfield Blackwell. Standing, left to right, are John Benjamin and Roxy Lee Blackwell and William Edward Satterfield. (Photo courtesy of Michael Blackwell).

By Anita Rosen
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Along the 10 miles of Yellow Creek Road there sits but one house of worship. The Yellow Creek Baptist Church was constructed by North Carolinian Joel Blackwell and his family who moved to the area in the 1830s. The Reverend Thomas Blackwell lived in a house across the street. (See Pickens County Georgia Heritage 1853-1998, page 19.)

Blackwells
Young Benton Blackwell’s gravestone, found in the Yellow Creek Baptist Church cemetery, attests to the high mortality rate among the early pioneer families. (Photo by Daniel Rosen).

Tracing his genealogy back to these pioneers, fourth-generation Georgia-born William Blackwell, Jr., aka Junior, now lives on the west side of Jasper. He is one of ten children born to William Blackwell, Sr. and Callie Mae Poole. His original home was on a farm along Cove Road in Marble Hill close to the Corinth Church. Junior attended classes at nearby Weaver School, a two-room building serving kindergarten through seventh grade.

Tales of not so long ago
Life at the beginning of the last century had its challenges. Junior recalled an outbreak of rabies among raccoons when he was about 14 years old. “I remember lots a mad dogs runnin’ around bit by the ‘coons. One day my mother tol’ me to get in ‘cause a mad dog was comin’.” But first, she told Junior to bring in some wood for the fire. “I reached into that wood pile, but here was the dog. I shot it with a gun that had but one shell in it and heard that dog yelpin’. I got in the house but there was no wood that night. Next day that dog had to be put down.”

Liquor stills were frequently built along creeks and members of Junior’s family used their riparian locations to advantage. On a trip to visit his grandparents when Junior was “real small,” he “snuck some proof whiskey from a still. I could hardly walk home but somehow I wasn’t caught. My granddaddy would always end a season with 15-gallons of brandy . . . for purely medicinal purposes, of course.”

Fishing along Blackwell Creek with his granddaddy was a source of enjoyment for Junior. The creek was named for his Uncle Ed (Davey) Blackwell who owned a sizable holding in the Wolfscratch area. Uncle Ed built a home “near a big spring and between two creeks.” (See PCGH, page 329.) This area, then known as Blackwell Hills, is today the Big Canoe golf course. Back then it was the bottoms - prime farm land. The creek, however, was not always an idyllic spot. In 1913 a tornado hit Uncle Ed’s farmhouse, leaving him and his wife crippled and temporarily homeless.

Blackwell Hills Road was used to access the area. Steve Tate, serving as state highway commissioner in the 1940s, had the road re-routed and improved “replacing the narrow, rutted Blackwell Hills Road. The new road became Steve Tate Highway.” (See PCGH, page 596.)

Junior recollected that during World War II convicts were used to work on the roads. One day local farmer Texas Heath brought some water to her husband, Perry, who was supervising this work. One of the convicts got loose and hid in the Heath’s loft. When Texas returned home, the prisoner jumped down on her, “like to kill her.” But Texas, more spunk than size, managed to fight off the convict who was later recaptured.

Blackwell Creek
Blackwell Creek was one of the streams that bounded the area where the Blackwells lived in the early 1900s. (Photo by Randy Lewis).

Granny Lee
In an era of strong women, Roxie Lee Blackwell Hendrix, known later as Granny Lee, set a high standard. In 1938, typhoid ravaged the community, claiming the life of her husband and her newborn twelfth child.

Junior recalled an outing with some of his extended family to a pond off Yellow Creek Road. “We brought a small boat and put on a motor.” All day they took turns, three at a time, going “’round the lake with Granny Lee watching from the shore.” On the last trip around, with five in the boat, “someone stood up and that boat overturned. Not one of ‘em could swim.” Of the four who drowned that day, three were among Granny Lee’s grown children. Junior and one of his brothers helped save a pregnant cousin who was also in the boat.

Granny Lee lived to be 96 years old. She spent her life in the service of family and community. Something stirred in Granny Lee in her early 90s and she moved out of her daughter’s home. In her own place, she entertained friends and family and was never still for a moment. Granny Lee died in 1991, much-loved by all who knew her.

Transitions
On Yellow Creek Road, a cemetery now sits where The Reverend Blackwell once lived. In 1974, the original Baptist church was destroyed by a tornado but the congregation soon raised a sturdy, brick building to replace the demolished wooden one.

Many of our area’s founding families trace their roots to the Yellow Creek community. They spread out to the land that now includes Big Canoe and Bent Tree, lending their names to many of our roads and landmarks. Clues to our local history are there for the reading as you travel along Yellow Creek Road.
 

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