Tucker History According to Mama

Mama - Annie Helen Voyles-Story

Mama – Annie Helen Voyles-Story

“I want to know my purpose in life. Yes, I know, I’m a daughter, mother and all that,” I said to my friend, Carol. “Everybody talks about their purpose in life. Everybody wants to know why we are here on earth.”

“Well, that’s an easy one. Why do you love your mother?” asked Carol.

“What? What does that have to do with purpose in life?”

“I’m the therapist, remember?” Carol laughed, “Just answer the question, Diane.”

“Because she is a great mother.”

Carol was unimpressed.

“Okay, because she’s a good cook,” realizing that was another lame answer, “uh, because she took care of me when I was sick, and did without when…”

“My mother took good care of me – but that’s not why I love her,” explained Carol.

“Well, she was always there for me.”

“If she hadn’t been there for you, would you still love her?”

“Yes, of course I would.”

“Why then? There’s a reason you love your mother. And when you can pin point it, you unlock your heart’s desire. And when you find your heart’s desire, you will know your purpose. That’s how it works.”

Browning Courthouse 1860

Browning Courthouse 1860

I left the Hickory House in Tucker feeling somewhat perplexed. It’s interesting  having a therapist as a friend – especially one who loves good barbeque – and Carol had really given me something to think about. I could not answer Carol today, but I would keep her question close to my heart.

I wished I could talk about this with my mother, but Helen Story was put off by the “what’s my purpose” thing. She believed “folks too interested in self these days.” The answer to Carol’s question would come to me, and it did, one fall day.

Mama opened her front door smiling as I walked up the front porch steps, “Get in here! I saw you coming! Get in here now girl! I have pumpkin pie in the oven and fresh tea made. Mama laughed her deep mischievous laugh as she hugged me. “I knew it was about time for you to drop by – been looking for you all day.”

We enjoyed our pie and tea as we caught up on what’s happening with the “children” and her Friday night Rook card games with Nancy, Frances and Clarence. And then it happened, I got my answer as Mama sat back in her chair and relaxed.

“Well now, did you know they’re going to move the old Browning Courthouse?” asked Mama.

“No, do they still use it?”

“Nooooo! That’s just a little one room old house. Courts not been held in that thing in years,” Mama chuckled, “They’re moving it to the front lawn of the Tucker Recreation Center.”

“Oh really, that’s right next to you, well almost. I can’t get used to calling Tucker Elementary the Tucker Recreation Center.”

“Lots of changes in Tucker,” Mama mused with a faraway look, “They say the land where the old courthouse sets in too valuable. You know, they think we need another strip mall around here.”

“Why do they call it the Browning Courthouse? You’d think it would have been named the Tucker Courthouse.”

Mama’s eyes perked up as she began to think it over, “More tea Di?” Before I could answer, she poured tea and began talking, “Oh now, let’s see, the Browning Courthouse – that happened way back in the old days of Tucker, back in the rough and tumble days – before Tucker was Tucker.”

“Before Tucker was Tucker?”

“Yes, my dear, back when Tucker was known as the Browning District. And before it was Browning District, it was a part of the Creek Nation. From the way I understand it, President James Monroe made a deal with the Creek Indians to settle their land, oh somewhere along…about 1821 or 22. The Creeks moved on and the lottery started. The land was divided up into parcels, and then gambled off – you might say. Yes, the Creeks were the first Tuckerites!”

“Gambled off?”

“With a lottery. Each person who wanted a homestead in the district, signed on with nineteen dollars. Each entry had to be twenty-one years old, and a resident of Georgia for at least three years. They pulled a name out of some hat and that piece a land was yours.”

“I wonder who was the first one pulled?”

“Don’t know. But, it was probably Andrew Browning. Don’t ya think? Since they named the district – Browning?”

“Probably. How could you find out?”

“Don’t know that either, since there was a fire and the records burnt up.”
“Oh, what a shame.”

“Hearsay is, it was Andrew Browning. Back then land around here was worth about ten cents an acre. The Brownings married into families now known in Tucker.”

“Do you know who the families are, Mama?”

“Well, yes I do. The Paul Thomas family, and the Fruit family, and the Little family, and more I’m sure. But it was Andrew Browning’s son, Tom, who stood out as a real character,” laughed Mama. “Yes, ma’am, he probably owned the first real business in the area,” Mama laughed as she rolled her eyes, “saloon and horse track owner! And into politics! I understand he was something else. Most other folks were just hard working farmers. Of course, all folks like to socialize and let their hair down some. And there was plenty of that going on at the horse track – down on Fellowship Road – near what’s now the Primitive Baptist Church. If only cemeteries could talk!”

“I thought the Henderson family was the first ones to settle in Tucker – excuse me, I mean Browning District.”
“Greenville Henderson lived in Georgia. When he got here? I don’t know. But he was born in 1792. He’s buried over near Henderson Mill. Greenville Henderson was a tall Scottish man who fought in the Indian Wars. He did well as a soldier, so well that the Governor of Georgia gave him three thousand acres of land, now known as Tucker, Georgia.”

“Wow! What did he do with all that land back then?”

“Made whiskey!”

“What? A moonshiner?”

“Noooo,” laughed Mama, “he had corn fields, apple and peach orchards. He built a grist mill. He made whiskey and the like! Then sold it, some went to the local folks, but a lot went on to Savannah, Georgia.”

“Really? By train?”

“By wagon trains pulled by horses or mules – not locomotives! Then he exchanged his whiskey for building supplies, salt, sugar, coffee and the like.”

“I thought Henderson was here during the Civil War Era.”
“He was! He sent seven of his sons to fight on the Confederate side. Five made it home, two didn’t. Major General John Logan – a Yankee – came with the Union Army to the  Browning’s Courthouse. They camped out about the courthouse, and found a place to rest and water their horses. Then went on to Stone Mountain to destroy a two mile section of railroad.”

“But that’s Browning Courthouse, we were talking about Greenville Henderson.”
“That’s right, and I gettin’ there. After the Stone Mountain railroad was torned up, the Union soldiers left Browning’s Courthouse and relocated to Henderson Mill to rest and water their horses. There the Union army was joined by Blair’s troops, and they together, left the Mill and went to Decatur. From Decatur, they marched on Atlanta and about burnt it to the ground! I believe Greenville Henderson died in 1869, after the Civil War. And, the courthouse has a sign on it – Browning District 1860. That all came together about the same time, I guess.”

“Well, Mama, why did they name Browning District – Tucker?”
“Oh, now I’ve heard two different stories about that. The train used to come through what’s now Mainstreet – Tucker, and the engineer of the train was Captain Tucker. And folks would hear the train and say, ‘here comes Tucker.’ And then I heard that a man by the name of Henry Holcombe Tucker was a Baptist preacher, and was president of Mercer University. Later he served in some capacity at University of Georgia. Anyway – he held up education. And in his honor, Tucker was named for him. But which is the truth, I just don’t know. Maybe a little of both.”

Mama took a big sip of tea.

“When did the Cofer family come to Tucker, Mama?”

Dr.Olin Cofer

Dr.Olin Cofer – Courtesy of Elizabeth Graves-Dickens

“About 1907, they – Reid and Kelley – were just kids then, still wet behind the ears. Their father, William Cofer, was a doctor back in those days. Dr. William Cofer had another son, Olin Cofer – who also became a doctor.”

“Oh, I didn’t know about him.”

“Yes, all those Cofer boys were successful. When Reid and Kelley got about grown, they sold eggs and such off the back of a wagon – pulled by a mule some say- while others say it was the back of a old truck. I’ve heard it told both ways. Di, you know I wasn’t born until 1931, so I don’t have this first hand,” Mama laughed, “Ya Mama is not that old!”

“So, Reid and Kelley sold eggs in what is now Tucker?”

“No, I believe they took their wares to Atlanta, down on Ponce de Leon. And some where along the line, they decided to open a store in Tucker. We were called Tucker by then. Yes, that ‘s right. Browning District became Tucker in 1907. That’s about the time the Cofer’s arrived. Their store was first rented from the England’s. And of course, we know they were successful! Cofer Brothers used to be the only place we shopped! They had everything, groceries, clothes, and building supplies.”

“And the Bank of Tucker,” I reminded Mama.

“Yes, but that came later, along with the Reid Cofer Library. And of course the Kelley Cofer Park; you know where the swimming pool is on Ball Park Drive. The Cofers did a lot for Tucker. But there were lots of folks in the Tucker area before the Cofer’s.”

“Who? Do you remember, I mean, I know you weren’t there, because you weren’t born. But do you remember hearing about the history?”

“I know some, I’m sure not all. I’m gonna get us some more tea. My throat is getting dry. Want some more pumkin’ pie?”

“No, ma’am, I just want to hear about the first Tucker people. I really thought it was the Cofer’s. Well, if not the Cofer’s, then who?”

“Well, let’s see, we covered to after the Civil War. Let me think,” said Mama as she took a sip of tea. “I believe Alf Chewning was Tucker’s first Postmaster, they came from Wales. Yes, that was a family who knew their roots! But Louise Cofer, Kelley’s wife, was the only woman Postmaster in Tucker. And the P.K. Burns family can trace their roots to the Mayflower in 1620, they were probably one of the first families to settle here. I believe that’s the family who started the Bank of Tucker and later the Cofer’s bought it. I believe that’s how it went.” And Mama took another sip of tea, “And Lord knows, you can’t forget the England family.”
“The ones the Cofer brother’s rented a store from?”

“Yes, the very ones. George England operated a general store. He was also in the timber business.”
“Sounds like Cofer Brothers – the dry good store and the building supply store,” I reminded Mama.

John and Joe Graves on Graves Road - Courtesy of Elizabeth Graves-Dickens

John and Joe Graves plowing on Graves Road – Courtesy of Elizabeth Graves-Dickens

“Yes, no doubt he was a role model to Reid and Kelley.”

Mama thought hard for a moment, and then said, “Dr. W.W. Andrews, now he was an early one in Tucker. He was a doctor who was also trained in home remedies, such as herbal usage, and he ran a drug store. The drug store that was here before Newsom Drug Store or Fountain Drugs. Yes, Mama nodded her head, “Dr. Andrews was one of the first ones.”

“Didn’t Granny know about home remedies and herbs?”

“Oh good gracious! Yes! She really knew her plants – and the Scriptures. Granny always said healing goes hand and hand with nature and the Scriptures. Even Dr. Holbrook used to come over to the house, and sit down and talk to Granny for hours. Di, do you remember Dr. Holbrook? His office was in that white house along about where Tucker Federal is now.”

“Of course, I remember him. He gave me my small pox vaccine. He pushed my sleeve way up and practically gave it to me on my shoulder. He said, ‘I don’t want a scar to ruin your pretty little arm.'”

“Yes, he did! I remember him saying that too! You have a good memory, Di!”

“Got it from you Mom!”

“Yes, Dr. Holbrook was a good man. And he loved Granny!  She taught my father about plants too. Not so much the healing aspects of the plant, but how to heal the soil to grow better crops. Lots of folks used to visit Granny to ask her advice about plants and healing. And you know, folks back in her day, they knew how to take care of themselves, ’cause a doctor sometimes just couldn’t be found – until too late. We wouldn’t think about living like that now, but the folk back then knew the old ways for survival.”

“Granny was born in 1869, so could she have been one of the first in Tucker?”

Emma Palmer-Voyles and Robert Lee Voyles her son

Emma Palmer-Voyles and Robert Lee Voyles, her son.

“Granny (Mary Emma Jane Palmer-Voyles) was born in South Carolina. She came to the Lilburn Stone Mountain area as a teenager. She’s buried down at Camp Creek Primitive Baptist Cemetery, near Tucker. Granny lived most of her life in the  Stone Mountain area – known now as Smoke Rise. She died here on Morgan Road, but didn’t start out here in Tucker. And she would have had to have been born in the 1820s or 1830s to be considered first of the settlers.”

“I’ve heard Memi say her mother was born in a log cabin on Morgan Road. Could the Jenkins family be one of the first?”

Mama squinted her eyes as though that helped her think. “Mama’s mother, Cora Jenkins, was a Maddox before she married William Darling Jenkins. And you’re right, she was born in a log cabin just on the far side of what was the Smith-Garrett house – back up in the woods on Morgan Road. The Maddox’s could be one of the pioneer families in the Tucker area. William Darling Jenkins’ mother, Grandma Dilda (Dill-dee), more likely was one of the first settlers. She lived in Stone Mountain though.”

Mama took a bite of her pie and thought for a while. “You can find a world of history at the old Rehobeth Cemetery next to  Floral Hills Memorial Gardens.” Mama smiled as she took a sip of tea, “Di, remember when one out of every three cars in Tucker had a ‘Follow Me To Rehobeth” bumper sticker on it?”

“I sure do.”

“Yes, that’s a happening church down there across from those two cemeteries.”

“That’s on Lawrenceville Highway…”

“Yes, that area used to be called Pea Ridge. Lots of Maddoxs buried up there along with a lot of the original settlers.”

“Wonder who all’s up there?”

“Oh, let me think. I’ve been up there with my Aunt Annie. I know William Akins is buried there. That was Annie’s first husband, he was a lot older then her. I know the Taltons, Brands, Jeffersons are buried there. Some say a Talton was known to be here in late 1820’s, but I don’t know; can’t remember right now who told me that. Lots of Tucker folks up there in that old Rehobeth Cemetary, near Mary Magdalene Maddox’s old place.

“Isn’t that how you’re related to Mary Bramlett?”

“Yes, Mary was related to Mary Magdalene Maddox and my grandmother was Cora Maddox. They were related to Doc Maddox – who your Memi called  the ‘cow doctor.’ He lived on a big farm which is now in the Cardinal Woods area of Tucker – just off Henderson and Midvale.”

“Cow doctor?”

“Yes, you had to take care of your livestock. That was the same as money in the bank to a farmer, and Tucker had it’s fair share of farmers, hard working  folks. And you know, after a while, the Tucker folks must have tired of the saloon and horse betting. We became dry, and known for how well we educate our children.”

“That’s the Tucker I remember,” I said proudly to Mama.

“Oh yes, and let’s don’t forget the Clifford Carter family. Some say that their house built on Lawrenceville Highway is made of timbers cut down and used in their first home dating back to 1832. And the Cain family on Old Norcross Road, that old log house could be the oldest house in Tucker. Lots of families came here, it’s hard to know who was first.”
“Well, could you just name the ones you know of, Mama?”

“Well, let me think. There’s the John John’s home-place that has a tax bill for less than a dollar, recorded back in about 1830.”

“Where’s the house? And, how do you know that?”
“The house is on Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker, Georgia – Jack Hudson told me.”

“Who else Mama?”

“The Flower’s home-place on Lavista Road, was built by an Englishman in about 1849. That’s an old one! Roy Hutchens told me that.”
“Yes, it is an old one! You’re doing great Mama, here have another glass of tea.”

Mama took a gulp of tea and let out a sigh, “Don’t know if I can remember anymore…”
“How about the Goza’s? How many times have you said that ‘that’s an old Tucker family from way back’ when we pass Mrs. Goza’s house on Morgan Road?”

“Yes, the Goza’s a pioneer family. So were the Jeffares, Livseys, Tuckers, Johnsons, and the Chewnings – I believe them all to be the pioneer settlers who started life in the log cabins days. Oh my, how many there have been! And I’m sure I am not recalling all of them. But, they were all hard working folks who made a fine place for all of us to raise our children. Not to mention the churches; I believe the Primitive Baptist on Fellowship was the first church.”

“Birthed out of carousing and gambling at the horse track?” I laughed.

“Yes, I suppose so,” laughed Mama. “But maybe that was the only way we could start out. Maybe it took a wild and wooly sort to brave the land of the Creeks. Maybe it took just such a spirit to carve out a new town for the good folks of  Tucker, Georgia. Anyway, it’s apparent to me, that the good Lord blessed us! And maybe that was His purpose all along!”





All Roads Lead to Tucker Georgia Copyright© 2012 Helen Diane Story

For Mama – Annie Helen Voyles-Story

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