When Bygone “Treasures and Timeless Beauties, Barns of Old Milton County” was first published in late 2011, the reaction was immediate. The first printing sold out in 30 days.
What was it that affected people so powerfully? I believe it is because barns evoke emotions and memories. Why else would some people look at the book with tears in their eyes, saying “This book brings back so many memories of my childhood visits to my grandparents’ farm in Iowa,” or California or somewhere in Georgia. To this day, eight years after its publication, people still come up to me to say how much the book has meant to them.
Fifty barns are profiled in the book–each a snapshot in time. But, as the adage tells us, time changes all things. Several of the barns no longer exist, generally victims of urban development. At least one was greatly modified. The Walker barn on the book’s cover has been carefully converted into a beautiful dressage facility, but the original footprint remains, and a discerning eye can still detect the bones of the old barn.
The Lewis-Manning house in downtown Alpharetta, built in 1895, is also undergoing change as most of its property is being developed with single-family homes. Gone is its barn and other out buildings, but fortunately the house will be restored and preserved.
A large red barn stands at the entrance to the Windward community in Alpharetta. It is special to me because of its charm and because my Uncle Monroe Ellis built it in the 1930s. Surrounded by new development, the barn is a reminder of days gone by. Joel Shirley, the barn’s owner, uses the barn to store two vintage tractors. He is committed to the barn’s preservation because, he says, “It is part of my family heritage and is part of me.”
Another notable barn is on Medlock Bridge where it crosses the Chattahoochee River. Built circa 1883 by William Medlock, a cotton and wheat farmer, the barn was an ideal location for the ferry service he launched in 1886 to link hill farmers with markets in Atlanta. Soon he built the first metal bridge across the river and charged 25 cents a wagon or buggy to cross. His bridge was replaced by a concrete span in 1958 by Milton and Gwinnett Counties. Current owner Millie Moore (William Medlock’s granddaughter) plans to preserve the barn because she considers it part of the family.
We owe a debt of gratitude to our neighbors who are committed to the preservation of these precious relics of our past. We should also be grateful for those who build today’s beautiful new horse facilities. They are carrying on a valued tradition, and their efforts are producing the historic barns of the future. As a member of the board of directors of the Milton Historical Society, I appreciate the efforts of all local historical societies who work to educate and preserve our wonderful agrarian tradition. We have so much to be proud of. Let’s work together to enrich the lives of generations to come.
Signed copies of “Barns of Old Milton County” are available at Scottsdale Farms, 15639 Birmingham Highway, Milton and Atlanta Saddlery, 1600 S. Main St, Alpharetta, or from the author, firstname.lastname@example.org.