History of Henry County


History of Locust Grove
and the
Locust Grove Institute

This brief historical record of Locust Grove which is followed by a written history of the Locust Grove Institute was printed in 1921. Taking her part in the celebration of Henry County's 100th birthday, the author gives special attention to the origin, participants, and developmental accomplishments of the day. This account offers a unique historical look into Locust Grove and the Locust Grove Institute.

Written by Miss Emily Griffin


History of Locust Grove

By Miss. Emily Griffin

From the best available information it appears that Locust Grove derived its name from a beautiful grove of flowering locust trees around the home of William Carroll, which later became the old home place of Rev. R. F. Smith. It was in Carroll's store that the first postoffice at Locust Grove was kept.  

About 1846 Carroll sold out to William Kimbell. Kimbell kept the postoffice in his home, which -was also operated as a tavern and a place for the accommodation of mule and hog drovers who were numerous in those days. In 1864 Kimbell moved to Louisiana, selling to George P. Combs, Sr., who, with Alexander Cleveland, operated the first blacksmith shop in the place.  

About 1847 Math Tidwell built what is known as the Hamp Dickens home. One room of his dwelling was used as a store. About 1852 he sold to Harrison Speer, who built rather a large house which was used as store, postoffice, and shoe shop.  

Prior to this time Mount Gilead was a prosperous Methodist Church located on the site of the present campus of Locust Grove Institute, but which has now gone down. Speer being a devout Methodist gave a site for a new church on the lot where is now the home of Tom Barnett. He, Dick Stillwell, and Charles Barker erected a building and re-organized the church. In 1907 the church was moved to its present location and a handsome concrete building was erected:  

In 1869 Harrison Speer sold out to H. B. Dickson, who kept a store in his residence the old Tidwell home. He was the first to operate a public gin in the town, which was an old-fashioned horse-power affair. The first steam gin was operated by Bill Colvin and R. F. Smith in 1874.  

The Indian Creek Baptist Church was founded in 1826. It was then located about two and one-half miles south of Locust Grove on the A. W. Walker place. In 1862 during the pastorate of J. G. Kimbell, it was moved to the present site of the Locust Grove Baptist Church. The present church house was erected in 1916-17. From the devotion of the cause of education of one of its pastors. Rev. B. J. W. Graham, and the money and sacrifice of its members came the Locust Grove Institute, which has meant so much to the community and which has blessed the lives of more than 3,000 boys and girls all over the South.  

The first school was taught in 1850 by James Crowley in old Mount Gilead Church, which stood just west of the present site of the boys' dormitory. He was followed for several terms by Robert Sandifer. In 1858, on the home place of Arch Brown, just east of the present town, there was erected a pretentious building for those times which went by the name of Locust Grove Academy, and which, for several years, enjoyed considerable local fame as an educational institution. In 1866 the Locust Grove members of the Ringgold Masonic Lodge, of Spalding County, were granted a dispensation to form a new lodge. This new lodge room was built above the old academy.  

A few years later a small one-room house was built on the spot where the present cottage now stands and school was held in this for several years. After the coming of the Southern Railroad the Masons moved the old academy and lodge building and added it to this one-room building. In a very few years it became necessary to add another and larger room to the front of this lodge and school room. In 1894 the first building of Locust Grove Institute was erected on an adjacent lot just north of the cemetery and the old school building was used as a dormitory for boys. It is interesting to note that the educational interest of Locust Grove through all the years has centered in and revolved around the very spot now occupied by Locust 'Grove Institute.  

Just east of the present town site in 1870, Arch Brown ran a store, a blacksmith shop a wood shop, and a shoe shop.  

With the coming of the railroad J. B. Dickson built the first store on what is now Main Street. The first cotton warehouse was built by George Schaeffer in 1882 on the spot now occupied by the Planters' Warehouse. In 1883 Arch Brown built a concrete store house on the main street with a blacksmith shop on the rear of the lot. He also put an up-to-date public gin, using a new 10-horse power steam engine. The store has been twice burned but the walls are still standing and the place is occupied by the Leslie-George Pharmacy. A year or two later, 1885, Arch Brown moved his dwelling house from its old site, about a half mile east of town, living in it during the process of moving. The old house is still standing. It has been remodeled and is now the handsome home of Dr. E. G. Colvin.  

The first brick store was built by A. H. Price and is now occupied by Hubbard & Pitts. The first bank, the bank of Locust Grove, was organized in 1902 by F. S. Etheridge, of Jackson and Atlanta. The original building burned, but was immediately rebuilt on the same spot.  

In 1889 S. B. Kimbell, with local capital, organized and erected the Farmers' Cotton Oil Company, which later was sold to the Southern Cotton Oil Company. The buildings are still standing and are operated by the Henry County Gin Co.  

The later developments in the life of Locust Grove are so modern that no record now is needed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

History of the
Locust Grove Institute

by Miss. Emily Griffin

Locust Grove Institute was founded in 1894 by the Flint River Baptist Association through the special efforts of Rev. B. J. W. Graham. The original trustees were T. R. Mills, G. W. Garner, G. W. Good, A. W. Walker, T. W. O'Kelley, I. G. Walker, J. H. Mitchell, E. Culpepper, F. S. Etheridge, R. F. Smith, D. W. Scott, W. T. Kimsey, J. R. Williams, J. W. Beck, and A. G. Combs. There are now eleven Baptist associations affiliated with the Flint River Association in sponsoring the educational work at Locust Grove. These associations are the Atlanta, Western, Columbus, Central, Kimball, Stone Mountain, South River, Centennial, Pine Mountain, Fairburn, and Morgan County Associations.  

With Prof. Y. E. Bargeron as principal and Miss Hester Mae Walker as assistant the first session opened with 13 pupils on November 1, 1894, in a brick store room of Rev. R. F. Smith. During the three years of able management of Professor Bargeron the attendance increased to 156. For the first three years the equipment consisted of a large wooden main building and a 30x50ft old school room with no partitions and in which the president and the boys had their beds side by side in one end and in the other end did their cooking. Less than $5.00 per month covered the cost of board at that time.  

Upon the resignation of Professor Bargeron in 1897, Prof. Claude Gray was elected president and has continued to the present time.  

From a two-acre lot, a wooden main building and an old school room as dormitory, the equipment has increased until now the campus contains 47 acres of land upon which are four cottages, two large brick dormitories, and a handsome brick administration building with total valuation of more than $125,000.00. The teaching force has grown from two members to a splendid faculty of eighteen. The following departments of instruction are represented: Literary, Music, Expression, Commercial, Domestic Science, Art, Bible, Military, and Athletics.  

The patronage has increased from 13 on the opening day to 289 last year, of which 243 were boarders. Georgia furnishes a majority of its students, but 15 states and 4 foreign countries have been represented in its student body. On its rolls have been 727 from Henry County. The names of more than 3,000 pupils are on its records. Among these have been 133 ministerial students; 273 teachers, and 662 who have been prepared for and have entered the colleges of this and other states. Nearly 200 pupils have been converted and have joined the church during their school days here.  

Locust Grove Institute was among the first of the Georgia preparatory schools to be placed on the accredited list of the Association of Schools and Colleges of the Southern States. Pupils who graduate here have for many years been accepted without examination by the leading colleges of America. For nearly fifteen years pupils have been successfully prepared for the Sophomore Class at college.  

In 1914 a splendid recognition was given Locust Grove Institute by the Commission of International Conciliation. Seven co-educational preparatory schools were selected to represent the leading denominations of America. Locust Institute was chosen to represent the Baptist schools of this class.  

In 1918 38 per cent of the students who entered the Georgia colleges from the high schools of Georgia failed on one or more courses. Out of thirty pupils who entered the Georgia colleges from Locust Grove Institute in 1917 and 1918 there was only one who made a failure.  

An extensive program of enlargement has begun which contemplates an expenditure of more than two hundred thousand dollars in buildings and equipment and. one hundred thousand dollars in endowment. This program of enlargement was begun last fall by the erection of a new dormitory for boys at a cost of $25,000.00. A new athletic field is now under construction and will be ready for the fall term opening. Architect drawings have already been accepted for a handsome building to be erected by the Alumni. This building will provide a large auditorium, society halls, library, and studios for music, expression and art, and quarters for the domestic science department. Other buildings will be added as needed.  

The Baptists of Georgia propose to make Locust Grove Institute the best equipped preparatory school in all the South.

Written by Miss. Emily Griffin
in 1921


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