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A Litte History

In the sixteenth century, the area that would become White Plains was home to the Creek who were farmers, hunters, and fierce warriors. The area was filled with wildlife including buffalo, elk, beaver, fox, turkey, and quail. During this time traders and hunters would pass through and establish trade agreements with the Creeks but rarely settled in this backwoods place far from the more heavily settled areas in Georgia along the coast. Greene County historian, Thaddeus Brockett Rice, wrote that until the 1800's Greene County was the “edge of civilization” in GA.


During the early 1700's, a few settlers began to carve out home-places, but it wasn't until after the American Revolution that large numbers of people received head-right land grants for services rendered during the war and began to move in from North Carolina and Virginia to settle and stay. This caused conflict between the settlers, who wanted land and lots of it, and the Creek who lost much of their land with the treaties of 1773 and 1783. In 1786, the treaty of Shoulderbone Creek, which ceded more land to the settlers, was taken to the very young United States by the Creek who said that they had only been represented by minor chiefs without the agreement of the Creek people during the signing of this treaty. When Congress voided the treaty to avoid war with the Creek, the settlers became angry and largely ignored the wishes of both the Creek and Congress. Over the next few years until the 1790's raids, death, and violence would be a part of life for both the Creek and the colonists. Settlers carried muskets to church and posted guards outside of meeting houses to watch for danger. Early settlers, Isaac Jackson and John Mapp, received land grants in 1787 and 1794. Many of their descendants still live in or around White Plains today.


White Plains was first called Fort Neil which was located about two miles away from the present town in the direction of the Bennett Eley house. It may have been called Wall's Old Fort at one time because 1827 newspapers listed Wall's Old Fort as a post office. The 12/28/1828 Hancock Advertiser of Mt. Zion GA states...“During the month of November last four new post offices were established in this state....the name of one already established at Wall's Old Fort, Greene County was changed to “White Plains.” It also stated that the name of this post office was changed to White Plains due to the white sandy soil of the area. The earliest new article about White Plains can be found in the GA Reporter and Christian Gazette Vol 1 No. 14, Monday July 10, 1826. It tells about the White Plains independence Day Program and the thirteen toasts were made and the Declaration of Independence was read by Benjamin Colquitt. White Plains was incorporated either in 1834, 1856, or 1867 (have found references to all dates) and until the depression of the 1920's saw lots of growth particularly for Southern planters and merchants. Due to the planter culture, cotton, and the invention of Eli Whitney's cotton gin, there was a proliferation of slavery during these years. By 1840, according to Inheritage website, there were over 7000 slaves living in Greene County. The 1840 and 1850 Slave Schedules list the names of slave owners and the ages and gender of slaves but not their names. According to Rice's “History of Greene County” the business men in 1897 were: “Randolph Tappan, Jr. and T.C. Holden, Z. T. Walker, Rev. J.H. Kilpatrick, Rev. B. E. L. Timmons, W. T. Rodgers, J. R. Marchman, A. S. Smith, J. D. Anderson, Hillsman, and Gorham. There were two physicians; Dr. I. D. Moore and Dr. C. C. King. There was the W. M. Tappan and son in the mercantile business.”


During the next few decades business flourished in White Plains. There was a brick making business and Grant's buggy and wagon shop, which turned out wagons for use all over Greene County. Furniture makers, Cunningham and Son's, made tables, chairs, and other furniture. By the 1850's White Plains had a Methodist Church, a First and Second Baptist Church, three stores, two grog shops, three wood and blacksmith shops, a tailor, a weaver, a shoe shop, a Chinese laundry, three banks, and a doctor and dentist. In later years there were a photography shop and a telephone exchange. Mr John Hilsman sold coffins and operated a horse drawn hearse. Taylor Brothers operated a planing mill. There were sawmills and two hotels. Clark Hotel, which stood until 1991 was constructed from brick made in White Plains. The house was owned by Mrs. Mary Louise Coleman, a former post master of White Plains, had also been a hotel at one time. The 6/15/1876 Greensboro Herald states, “White Plains, in this county, has more public spirit and enterprise than any place of its size in the State. With a population of about 350, it has two extensive carriage (businesses), a very flourishing school, and two handsome new churches (Methodist and Baptist) erected within a few years at a cost of not less than $6,000 each.” According to Inheritage website, the White Plains Manufacturing Co, a “blacksmith shop, wheelwright shop, grist mill, and cotton mill all in one establishment,” was an important business not only for White Plains but for all of Greene County. The 1837 Gazetteer of the State of Georgia states, “White Plains is a village in the lower corner of Greene; contains an Academy, Post Office, Meeting-Houses for Baptists, taverns and a store or two. Whiskey has occasioned mischief at this spot; several persons have come to untimely deaths in this neighborhood.”


Older than the town, White Plains Baptist Church was formed in 1806. The present building is the fourth building to house this church. The first building was mentioned in the original deed as a “town meeting house.” This 12/11/1807 deed from Thomas Sparks to William Richards and Jonathan Shockley as trustees of the White Plains Baptist Church mentions the “Lott of land whereon the White Plains Meeting House now stands.” The first building was sold to Mrs. McKinney Howell and moved to her place in the country, once owned by Scott Mapp where it was used as a kitchen and maybe a weaving room. She used the pulpit as a pantry.


The second building was sold to the black community for $1000 in 1872. It was used up until 1992 when it was destroyed by a tornado. It was rolled to it's present site on logs. The church was organized in 1867 and called Colored Baptist Church until 1873, when the name was changed to Second Baptist Church.


The third building was finished in 1871 and burned 3/7/1886. The fourth and present building was dedicated on the 3rd Sunday of November 1886. According to church minutes the third building of the First Baptist Church burned in 1886 “because it was not dedicated to God.” During this fire, A. S. Parker saved the chandeliers which are hanging in the fourth and present building. The church bell was also saved and remains in service today. While the fourth church building was being built, the Baptists met for services in the new Methodist Church which was finished in 1870. The pulpit furniture was purchased in 1872 and the communion service was donated by in 1874.

The early First Baptist Church was integrated : the first African-American member was accepted in 1812. Slaves of some of the members attended this church until 1867/69, when nine black members asked to start a church of their own. Both First and Second Baptist churches shared the same pastor until 1878. His name was Rev James Hines Kilpatrick. During his years as pastor, he was moderator of the GA Baptist Association for 23 years and president of the state convention for six. He was also a trustee of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Seminary. It is said that he liked to walk to his churches to preach and did not like buggies with tops. It was not unusual to see him on rainy days, riding in a topless buggy holding an umbrella over his head. Some of his sermons were published and approximately five thousand of them were distributed. Rev Kilpatrick died in 1908 and is buried in White Plains Cemetery. His monument faces the church he loved. Many of his descendent's still live in White Plains. Rev Gad S. Johnson, a black minister, became the second pastor of Second Baptist Church. He served there until 1894. He later established an orphanage in Augusta Ga.


The Methodist Church of White Plains has been active since 1817. It's membership grew rapidly during the Civil War when the Methodist Church ground at Liberty, GA was used to train soldiers. The first Methodist church building stood where Helaens Store was later built and used by the Grant family as a workshop. It burned in the 1893 fire. Jesse C. Ware was the first clerk of the Methodist Church and also owned a store known as Moss's old store. This church was among the first in GA to establish a Women's Missionary Society in 1888. The present building is the second church building. In 1868 an agreement was reached that black methodists could use the church building on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month. At present the church is no longer in operation and is owned by the Coleman family of White Plains.


Pierce Chapel AME is the newest church in White Plains. It was founded 1886 by Richard Allen who was dissatisfied with the segretation laws of that time. The present building was built in 1912. The land it is on was purchased for $50.


The first and only public library in White Plains was formed in 1897 with an inventory of forty books. On 6/10/1899, Andrew Carnegie, on request, paid off the $42.50 building note. Helen Kilpatrick's History of White Plains, written 1934, states that paying off this library was a community endeavor, “...Besides subscriptions, we raised money in every way imaginable, hot suppers, oyster suppers, more plays, concerts, ice cream suppers, sock parties, and Halloween suppers, but still we lacked a good deal of having enough to pay for the lumber and work to finish the house. So we gave a mortage on the house and borrowed money from Tappan & Merritt to pay the balance...” When this building was sold and moved during the 1960's it had an inventory of seven hundred books.


The Civil War took it's toll on the town of White Plains and the people who lived there. Many men lost their lives and the southern planter culture ended and was replaced largely by sharecropping. Many people who had been slaves left to seek work elsewhere. Those who stayed worked as sharecroppers for their previous owners and on the very land where they had once been slaves. Even thought times were hard, the farming of cotton, corn , wheat, oats, potatoes, peaches, pears, apples and grapes in and around White Plains kept the townspeople with enough to eat and sell/trade. Years after the Civil War, Uncle Frank “Skip” Turner, a former slave, owned a shoe shop in the early 1900's. The “History of White Plains GA” as told to Miss Helen F. Kilpatrick by Mrs. Willah (Henry) Mapp, states that the Ku Klux Klan rode around at night scaring people during the reconstruction years and into the early 1900's. It is said that this group met at the White Plains Cemetery where they kept their paraphernalia in a certain tombstone. Once Mr. Randolph Tappan was threatened by the Klan because he had purchased seed cotton from African Americans which the Klan said was stolen.


In the late 1800's, Harry Hill, Georgia Railroad conductor, introduced the idea of a railroad to the town's merchants. By this time, White Plains was one of the fastest growing towns in GA. In 1889, UP & WP between Union Point and White Plains was opened. It was a branch of the Georgia Railroad. John B. Gordon, Governor of Georgia at that time, attended the celebration. One of the stops on the railroad route was at “Jarrells” or Sunnyside which was a house owned by the Jarrell family who were influential enough to have the railroad, coming from Siloam, take a detour by their house. They needed a stop for their house guests. In the early 1900's it cost about sixty-eight cents to travel from White Plains to Union Point GA. This railroad spur remained in operation until 1927.


The Dawson Institute of White Plains was named in honor of Judge William C. Dawson of Greensboro GA. Judge Dawson was a compiler of Georgia laws and a brigade commander in the 1836 Creek Indian War. He also served in both houses of the state legislature and in Congress before the Civil War. His historical marker is located at the Greene County courthouse. Land for the Dawson Institute of White Plains was given by Mr. Richard Baugh who was a grandfather of Mrs. Georgia Moore who has descendants still living in White Plains. Mr. Baugh said that if the land was ever used for anything other than a school it would revert back to his heirs. There have been three school buildings. The first two-story building was opened in the fall of 1832 and it was called the White Plains Academy. The second building was finished in not earlier than 1835 and not later than 1840. It was heated by fireplaces located on each floor. The second building is famous, for here the first woman was killed during the Civil War. Miss Laura Alfriend, a fourteen year old daughter of a local planter, was participating in a pro-secessionist fund play in the fall of 1861 and burned to death when her clothes caught on fire from the candles lighting the stage. A monument to this woman is located in the White Plains cemetery. The book “How Curious a Land” by Jonathan M. Bryant, states that she “...costumed and holding a confederate flag, stood perfectly still in the center of the stage. Somehow as she stood there her dress caught fire, and horrified onlookers watched as flames enveloped her and the confederate flag burned in her outstretched hands.”


The first female principal of a school in Greene County was Emma Berrien Heard who married Dr. John Howell in 1861. She taught at the Dawson Institute and in 1863 became principal when the last male teacher left to fight in the Civil War. Dr. John Howell, after serving in the confederate army, was elected principal of Dawson Institute for one year. He was again elected principal in 1871 until 1880 when he became County School Commissioner. According to the Howell Family website, “In 1887, the school observed the first GA Arbor Day, and the large oaks in front of the school building were planted. A number of trees were set out but only those of Dr. Howell, Will M. Grant, J. Howell Mapp, William Heard Kilpatrick, Charles Sterling Jernigan, and John Pardee lived. It seems fitting that Dr. howell's tree should have out grown the others and it stands today as a memorial to him who spent so many of his best years in the service of the school. During the twenty years of Dr. Howell's connection with the school and for many years after, Mrs. Howell served as music teacher, and while it would be impossible to mention all the music teachers who taught during the hundred years of the school's existence, Mrs. Howell's music and her school entertainments held so large a part in the life of the school and its pupils, that this history would be incomplete without some mention of her as a music teachers.” Emma Berrien Heard died during the flue epidemic of 1918 in Cuthbert, GA.


The 1881 Greensboro Herold states, “The public exercises of Dawson Institute closed on Friday evening last. They were in some respects by common consent, the most brilliant for years. Friday's exercises were introduced by the examination of an excellent class in Physical Geography...The exercises of Wednesday and Thursday nights – declamation and elocutionary reading, were interesting in a high degree.”


According to the History of Greene County by E. B. Rice, the Dawson Institute in 1897 was under “Prof. J. W. Glen and assisted by Misses Orr, Helen Kilpatrick, and Mrs. E. B. Howard.”

By 1917 Dawson Institutes's name was changed to White Plains District School. The second school building, used until 1880, was torn down and it's lumber was used to build the third and present building in 1918. The school bell inscribed with “E Force N. York 1835” has been used in all three buildings. During the schools existence, there have been about forty-two principals. The first principal was J. L. Thomas 1832-1833. During reconstruction years, it is said a “Negro” academy was opened by a white teacher in White Plains. Black children in the community, attended school on the church grounds of the Second Baptist Church. Both White Plains School and the Second Baptist school closed in 1957 and children were bused to more modern, consolidated schools in Greene County. At the present time this school building serves as the White Plains City Hall. The building was damaged during the 1992 tornado and federal monies were used to repair and restore the building.


Around 1917 the boll weevil hit and White Plains was changed forever. The cotton crops failed. It was said that in 1917 one gin processed over 5200 bales of cotton and another gin ran about an equal amount. The next year there was hardly enough cotton to run the gins. Businesses closed and families packed up and left. By 1930 almost one third of Greene County's population had left. Businesses in the 1930's include Alex Tappan's store and blacksmith shop, Skip's Shop where Mr. Hickey was a tailer, Mr. Parker's photography gallery, and Paullaine Pullen, who said he had driven a nail in every house in White Plains. Mr. Bill Grants store was used as a school as well as a place to store finished buggies and wagons. Simeon Caire owned a store in White Plains and his father owned one in Sparta GA. Mr. Edwards had a dram shop and Mr. Ingram had a grog shop. People who lived in White Plains during the 1930's include Willie Howell, Cull Grant, Seaborn Jernigan, Enoch Jackson, James Jackson, John Howell, John Bonner, Dr. Arnestley, John Stevens, Mrs. Sahaffer, Mrs. Danley and her son Lawrence, W. M. Tappan, the Seals Family, McKinney Howell, Mrs. Sallie Reid, Scott Mapp, Henry Mapp, William Christopher, Jasper Mapp, Mrs. George W. Tappan, Bill Grant, and Judge Hilsman.


Homes were abandoned, the railroad closed and one by one the three banks shut down. Growth was over. Soon there were few reminders of the growth of the 1800's. Through the 40's and the 50's the town hung on. Many people ran small dairies, raised cattle, or ran the stores that were left. Taylor Bros. Lumber company provided many jobs. Some families farmed or became sharecroppers.


White Plains has been home to many well known people. William C. King was an officer in the Confederate army and in the banking/cotton business. The King's are related to the Barrington family, which is descended from Col Josiah Barrington of the English army who came to GA with General Oglethorpe.


Rev Dr. James Hines Kilpatrick moved to White Plains in 1853 after graduating from mercer University. He taught school for one year then became pastor of White Plains Baptist Church until his death in 1908. He was an important figure in the political, civic, and legal activities of White Plains. It is said that he also “pulled teeth for anyone who came to his home” - a skill he learned as the owner of a 1600 acre plantation that included at least thirty slaves.


Dr. William Heard Kilpatrick (b.11/20/1871 d.2/13/1965) was the oldest son of Rev James Hines Kilpatrick. He was emeritus professor of education at Columbia University New York, NY. An Atlanta Journal, Georgia Notebook article states that Dr. Kilpatrick, along with John Dewey, was a progressive educator, “didn't think report cards told very much” about students and was in favor of abolishing punishment in schools. He believed if school was an interesting and exciting place to learn then children would not “cut up” much. He was a professor of mathematics at Mercer University and once stood as acting president. He was not an orthodox Baptist and was once called on the carpet for heresy. He left White Plains in 1909 for New York and world fame. “At his ninety-third birthday convocation, it was said that he had a greater influence in American education than any other one individual.


W. S. Howell (b.1/11/1859) attended school at Dawson Institute and Mercer University. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1889. He became a distinguished attorney in Meriwether Co GA.


Sarah Howell Hall was one of the women who participated in the WPA's writing of Slave Narratives. According to Heather Thayer who wrote about Sarah in 2004, she was born 12/19/1888 in White Plains. She lived in Ohio after her marriage to Fred Hall. When he died in 1918, Sarah, with her three children, moved back to White Plains to live with her parents. She worked as a mail carrier for the White Plains post office By 1930 she was out of a job at the post office. She went to work with the Federal Writer's Project which was created by President FDR to help put people back to work during the depression. Her job was to collect and document former slaves about their life as slaves. During the 1930's roughly 2% of the slaves still alive were interviewed. Sarah interviewed people between 1937 and 1938. She might have become interested in this job because her grandfather, Judge William Watson Moore, owned a plantation with slaves in Greene County. Sarah interviewed one of his former slaves by the name of Emmaline Kilpatrick. She also conducted an interview with Anna Parkes who lived in Athens as did Sarah while she worked for the WPA. After this job, Sarah worked for the University of Georgia as a librarian in 1940. She then helped T. B. Rice research information for his History of Greene County. Sarah died in Plantation, Florida and is buried in White Plains Cemetery. Heather says this about Sarah Howell, “She was a strong-willed, independent woman who made a statement to society that when one can look beyond racial boundaries and gender roles, one can truly experience life.”


In 1982, a book was published by the UGA Press called, “Hush, Child, Can't You Hear the Music?” It is a collection of stories about black people in Middle GA. These stories were written down by Rose Thompson, a Greene County native who attended school at the Dawson Institute and lived in White Plains. The book was edited by Charles Beaumont of the UGA.

White Plains in 1978 was the first GA town to pay off money borrowed from the Farmer's Home Administration with the town's own resources. The $62,000 loan was the town' water system and was paid off in less than 8 years.


In 1980, the first two women and first black man were elected to serve on the White Plains City Council. Over three fourths of the registered voters went to the polls to help install these people into office.


Early in 1990, White Plains established a Volunteer Fire Department. This department is not only successful in putting out fires, but is a source of pride for the whole community. On 7/26/1990, a new first truck was delivered to the town all the way from Florida. In 1991 construction got underway for a new fire department building. On 11/22/1992 this new fire department building was destroyed by a category five tornado with 250 mile an hour winds traveling at fifty miles per hour. Within months, a second fire department building was raised.


Today, the growth of White Plains is a shadow of what it once was. Many thriving stores are now closed and gone. The oldest house in town, is in ruins. Many landmarks are closed or torn down. Many colorful personalities are but memories. And yet, there is still life in this old town. Business today include, Price's, Holcombs Bar-B-Q, Coleman's, Parrot's store, Sam's Place, and various logging companies.