Ramble through history
Historical Society offers tours of noteworthy sites

Rockdale County Historical Society member Harriet Gattis remembers as a child making house calls with her father, Dr. Joseph C. Brown, to the Haralson-Parrish House in northwest Rockdale. To reach the home, built in 1852, the father and daughter had to ford the creek in their car.

Though the landscape around the house has changed over the decades, the home still stands and is one of two historic homes that are featured in a series of Ramblings, or outings, the group has scheduled for 2009.

The Rockdale County Historical Society Ramblings grew out of a desire by group members to invite the public to join them in their quest to appreciate and preserve the history of the county, as well as the surrounding area.

"We have these wonderful sites in the county that are generally not open to the public that we want to go and enjoy," said Susan Vaughn, Historical Society member who organized the excursions. "We were just trying to look at a broad spectrum of things that are available and give us some social outings, too."

Vaughn hopes that the Ramblings lead to increased membership, which stands at roughly 75, with not all members being active.

"We need to open our doors to the general public and let them find out that we do have some wonderful historic sites and wonderful stories about the people who grew up in the county," said Vaughn, whose family has lived in Rockdale County for four generations.

The first Rambling, set for Saturday, is a double home tour in which the group will visit the oldest house in Rockdale County, the Aaron Parker Jr. House, built in 1822, and the Haralson-Parrish House, erected in 1852.

Little is known about the Parker home, which sits on property formerly owned by the now-defunct Southerness Golf Club and now owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as part of Panola Mountain State Park. The house, located on Flatbridge Road behind Panola Mountain, features a plantation plain style of architecture, common in the region during the early 1800s when settlers began establishing homesteads.

The tour of the home will involve discussion of the architectural features of the house and the work necessary to renovate and restore the structure. The tour group will also walk a mile along the South River Trail to view the ruins of sharecroppers' homes and a historic hay barn.

"What we would hope to do with the house is to use it as a laboratory on how to renovate in a historical manner," said Tim Banks, Panola Mountain State Park manager who will lead the tour.

Situated on the banks of the Big Haynes Creek Reservoir, the Haralson-Parrish House was built by Hugh Haralson, a native of North Carolina who settled in the area in the 1810s. Haralson also built a grist mill in the self-sufficient community, which included a sawyer (or person who earned a living sawing wood), a blacksmith, a carpenter, a manufacturer, a machinist, a miller, a gin agent (involved in the production of cotton) and a community store.

Currently owned by Rockdale County, the white-frame, two-story home features heart-of-pine floors and walls and an antebellum garden.

"Conyers was founded in 1854 and this would give people a good representation of a country house that would have been built in the period of the founding of Conyers," said Harriet Gattis, long-time Rockdale County Historical Society member.

Other local excursions on the Rambling tour include an April 5 tour of the Conyers Cemetery, which dates back to the late 1700s; a Nov. 7 tour that will takes visitors on the path of Sherman's March to the Sea as it passed through northern Rockdale County, Covington, Social Circle and Madison; and the annual Pilot Club Tour of Homes through Conyers on Dec. 6.

Atlanta-based destinations include the Oakland Cemetery on May 2; Druid Hills neighborhood on Sept. 12; and the Inman Park neighborhood on Oct. 4. On June 6, the group will visit Indian Springs Hotel, Museum and Gardens, located in Butts County.

"The idea was to excite the public and hopefully give them the opportunity to see places both locally and right here in surrounding metro Atlanta," Gattis said.

A lover of history and a member of the Rockdale County Historical Society since 1980, Vaughn said the Ramblings will educate the group and the public at large about the variety of historic locations in the area.

"Our goal is to protect history and the best way to do that is to let people know about it," Vaughn said.

Reservations for all tours must be made for each tour no later than the Monday before the tour takes place, with the exception of the June 6 trip, which requires registration by May 1. To register for the tours, call 770-922-4547.

E-mail Karen J. Rohr at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: historicalramblings

· Aaron Parker House and Haralson-Parrish House - Rockdale County

Saturday; group meets in Rockdale County Courthouse parking lot at

9:20 a.m., with Aaron Parker tour at 10 a.m. and Haralson tour at 2 p.m.

Bring a picnic lunch

Cost is $3 parking admission at Panola Mountain Park

· Conyers Cemetery - Rockdale County

April 5 at 2 p.m.

Park in Olde Town and meet at cemetery on Pine Log Road

No cost

· Oakland Cemetery - Atlanta

May 2 at 10 a.m.; group meets in the Rockdale County Courthouse parking lot at 9:20 a.m.

Bring picnic lunch

Cost is $10 for adults; $5 for seniors over 65

· Indian Springs Hotel, Museum and Gardens - Butts County

June 6; group meets in Rockdale County Courthouse parking lot at 8:30 a.m.

Lunch provided

Cost is $25 and includes lunch; $3 admission to park

· Atlanta Preservation Tour of Druid Hills - Atlanta

Sept. 12; group meets at Rockdale County Courthouse at 9:20 a.m., with tour at 10 a.m.

Cost is $10 for adults; $5 for seniors over 60

· Atlanta Preservation Tour of Inman Park - Atlanta

Oct. 4; group meets at Rockdale County Courthouse at 12 p.m., with tour at 2 p.m.

Lunch to be determined

Cost is $10 for adults; $5 for seniors over 60

· Civil War Heritage Trail: Sherman's March to the Sea - Rockdale County

Nov. 7; group meets at Conyers Depot at 8:30 a.m., with tour at 9 a.m.

Lunch to be determined

Cost estimated at $20

· Pilot Club Tour of Homes in Conyers - Rockdale County

Dec. 6 at 1 p.m.

Cost to be determined