When Mary Elizabeth Wilson at Ivy Manor Interiors called to talk about the historic home where her business is now located, I felt sure I could help her. The circa 1907 house, most often now called the Harry Latimer House, is just one of several sites in Woodstock with Latimer connections.
Recently, it was brought to my attention the house had a life before the Latimer family lived there, making my research somewhat more challenging. My first surprise, as I began to search, was that ownership was in Maggie’s, not Harry Latimer’s name, and spanned the years 1943-1972. That meant that the house should have been called the Spears House since Louella Spears was the owner/occupant 1907-1942.
Old-timers in Woodstock did call it that, but through the years, as the older generation passed away, folks who remembered the Latimers tended to use that name instead.
Earlier records show Louella Spears’ husband, Richard, purchased the property in 1898, and may not have built the house immediately. The 1907 date attributed to the house may simply be the date the deed was made in Louella’s name.
She became a widow when Richard died Dec. 11, 1907. Their son, Leon, was 8 years old. Census records show Louella’s mother, Selena (Lena) Dupree Dobbs, lived with her daughter for a while until her death in 1929. Louella died in 1942.
And that brings us to the Latimers. What a family. Harry’s father was Pierce Butler Latimer, who migrated from Abbeville, S.C., to Woodstock with his family in late 1865. Pierce was one of at least six children of Mary Elvira McGee and Dr. Hiram Harrison Latimer.
Born Aug. 11, 1847, he enlisted in the Confederate militia of South Carolina on Sept. 11, 1864, and was discharged after the Civil War ended in April 1865. According to pension records, he (and presumably his parents and siblings) moved to Woodstock the following December. His mother and father remained in Woodstock until their deaths.
Pierce was active in Woodstock’s business community and held political office as well, serving in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia Senate. He was a staunch Methodist. He was married to Martha Evans and their children were Thomas, Harrison (Harry), Pierce, Martha (Carpenter), Will, Grace (Dupree)and Mary Lou (McCree). Pierce is credited with building the house that is now the Woodstock Funeral Home. At some point, his daughter Martha Carpenter lived there with her husband Emmett Carpenter.
One of their sons was Lew Carpenter, a rather famous knuckleball pitcher for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern League during the 1940s. He also held down a job at Bell Bomber Plant.
The job was said to be classified as “critical,” thus making it possible for him to work and play ball. They say he would work all day, then hitch a ride to the ball park on Ponce de Leon, and then hitch a ride home.
Another son of Pierce and Martha Latimer was Will Latimer. Will was the owner of the town’s main livery stable for a time. Will had a daughter named Sara. She was married to Steve Clay and they had two children. Steve was killed in a plane crash, and Sara remarried. Ironically, Sara was one of many Georgians killed in the tragic Air France plane crash at Orly, France, in 1962.
They say nothing kills a story like a few facts, but I say this story might take on new meaning with a little more research. I was intrigued with the name of Pierce Butler Latimer, especially when I saw in his pension application that his official name was Pierce M. Butler Latimer.
‘Twas a prominent name in South Carolina — one was South Carolina’s representative to the Continental Congress and is credited with creating the Electoral College voting system, and another, Pierce Mason Butler, served one term as governor.
Pierce Mease Butler was a very wealthy plantation owner on the Georgia coast, owning 648 slaves at one time. He makes a fictional appearance as South Carolina native son Rhett Butler’s “Uncle Middleton Butler” in the sequel to GWTW, “Rhett Butler’s People.” No doubt, our Pierce Latimer’s parents wanted him to have a recognizable name.
There is a Latimer Street in the Woodstock Downtown development. It’s a fitting tribute to this family whose influence remains today.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.