E.L. Sartor: A link between Cherokee and Pickens counties

AYCR Sartor-Lawson Family 2
The Lawson family reunion includes Lee, top left corner under the tree. Photo courtesy of Linda Moore Kelly

By Anita Rosen

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Along the west side of Yellow Creek Road on property that has a prominent place in local history is a chain-link fence with a clever billboard advertising the Rockin’ Robin truck service.

The land, more than 400 acres, is leased to utilities, including Georgia Power, for lines and rights-of-way. The property belongs to three siblings in the Moore family – Tim, Joe and Linda – who allow their friend, Rockin’ Robin, to use the fence to advertise his business.

James. J. Sartor
Linda Moore Kelly traces possession of this land to her great-grandfather, James J. Sartor. James married Cynthia Lawson, forbear of Jim Lawson, who we met in this series last fall. Jim Lawson remembered his Aunt Coon quite well but could not recall why she had such a peculiar nickname.

AYCR Sartor
The Sartor family portrait includes, from left: Lee; brother-in-law Gartrel and sister Guste Fletcher; mother and father; brother Webb and sister-in-law Lonie Sartor. Photo courtesy of Linda Moore Kelly 

“That land has been in the family since the lottery in the 1800s,” Linda recounted. “Great-granddaddy had an apple orchard there. He gradually transitioned into timber, but his son, Elbert Lee, wasn’t much for physical labor. So he taught himself to run a store.”

James divided the land into three sections, one for each of his children. In time, Lee bought out his siblings.

E.L. Sartor
Lee Sartor was born in 1889 in Cherokee County’s Ophir Community. In the 1920s he met Mattie Pauline Beard, a teacher at Conns Creek School. They married in 1926 with the Rev. J.A. Honea officiating.
Just before the marriage, Lee purchased property in Pickens County on Dug Road, now Pea Ridge Road. An important intersection, this crossroads became the site of E.L. Sartor Merchandise. Local elections, held under the trees there in the mid-1800s, transitioned into the store in the 1930s and 1940s.

After 20 years and with the addition of two more acres, Lee built a new store which he operated until his death. The brick building, which lately bore a sign for a carpet business, remains on the site next to the original clapboard store. In all, Lee owned 18 acres between Pea Ridge and Four Mile roads.

  AYCR Sartor Store 3  4- Lee  Mattie and Store
  Lee and Mattie Sartor standing in front of their general store on present-day Highway 53. Photo courtesy of Linda Moore Kelly 

Lee often sold goods on credit. Linda related that “when hard times hit, a preacher came in to give Lee a piece of land for what he owed.” Lee offered to cut some timber from the preacher’s land in settlement of the debt. But, Linda said, “the preacher insisted he take the land as Lee had waited long enough for payment of the bill.”

To say Lee liked land is an understatement. At one time, he owned 5,000 acres in this area including the property where the Huber and Imreys marble quarries are located on Highway 53.  There he operated a grist mill, its grindstone now a feature of the fireplace in Linda’s home.

Lee lived at a time when Steve Tate was amassing his fortune, much of which came from land holdings. Charlene Terrell reports in Wolfscratch Wilderness (1994), that after Tate’s death, “various residents were quite surprised to see that some land claimed by Steve Tate’s estate was their own . . . a twenty-five acre tract was owned by E.L. Sartor who produced deeds to the property dating back to 1917. Steve Tate apparently stretched some of the legal descriptions in deeds he had drawn to include his neighbor’s property.”

As Lee transitioned into buying and selling timber and land, Mattie ran the store. Lee opened a saw mill and, in the 1940s, Linda recalled, “Lee placed chickens with local farmers and provided their feed, possibly the first in Pickens County to do this.”

Linda remembers her grandfather as a formidable figure. Lee served on many boards, including the Building Committee for the Pickens County Courthouse. He died on April 1, 1973, in Marietta of complications from leukemia. Mattie died of a stroke in 1979 at her home in the Dug Road Community. They are buried at the Mica Baptist Church in Ball Ground.

The Moores
Lee and Mattie, already in their 30s when they married, wasted no time starting a family. Just over a year later, their daughter Dell was born. From early childhood, Dell worked beside her mother in the store.
Lee offered to pay Dell in land or in money. Her father’s daughter, Dell chose land. Around that time, Linda related, “a fellow came in and Lee bought 160 acres from him for $2,000. That land became Dell’s payment.”  

Lee was very protective of his daughter. Although Dell and Gus Griffin Moore were engaged for six months, Lee did not want her to marry. Linda recalled, “Grandma Beard saw the suitcase Dell had packed for her elopement but she didn’t give her away.” Dell and Gus were married by the same Rev. Honea who officiated at Lee and Mattie’s wedding, although, as Linda said, “The reverend was worried about how granddaddy would react to the news.”  After the newlyweds returned home, however, Lee proved a generous and loving father.  

Times past
Although born and buried in Cherokee County, Lee and Mattie Sartor were important figures in Pickens County’s history, providing a connection to times past as we travel along Yellow Creek Road.



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