Monday, August 11, 2014

Court House Burns - Genealogist Nightmare

Sad, sad, news today. The Hancock County, GA Courthouse burned. The Second Empire style building red brick exterior walls were still standing hours later, but the interior is burned out and the courthouse's majestic clock tower is gone.

From today's news:

What is looked like before:

Why is this sad?

  • One of the oldest standing Courthouses in GA. Built in 1883. 
  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Also, listed on the The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation's list of "Places in Peril"in 2013.

Courthouses in more rural areas still signify much more than a place where legal proceedings are held.  It is the anchor of the town, and in many ways it represents “where we are from”.

Sparta was once plantation country, a very wealthy area. Now it is all but abandoned; however, recent years have seen an exciting regeneration of Sparta. The courthouse is a testimony to the wealth that once existed.

I always loved this view when approaching Sparta to do some hunting for dead relatives. I really, really, really regret that we did not take the courthouse tour while we were there in May visiting the
You can read that post here.

But more than anything else, the courthouse held records, tons of them. Some dating back to the original Land Lotteries that began in 1805. While the births, marriages and deaths have all gone to the state, for a genealogist, wills, land purchases, court records are just as important. Those precious records, I am afraid, are now gone. I may never read Stephen Pearson's will (1774-1854 - 3rd great grandfather) and understand how his land was broken up and given to his children.

The courthouse burned -- the nightmare of any genealogist. I know it is now mine.


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