May 6, 2004
Thomas County-- Plantations help define Thomasville. There are 71 of them, and they represent the largest cluster in the country, covering more than 300,000 acres. And each plantation has unique history and beauty.
Under a canopy of Oaks and Magnolias lie the three thousand acres known as Pebble Hill Plantation. "This was one of the first to be established and was originally owned by one of the founders of our county so the plantation pre-dates the county," says Sue White, Assistant General Manager.
Every year, 25,000 people from around the world visit this magnificent part of Thomas County. "They're awed by the beauty of the place and just the general feel that one gets when he pulls in those gates. There's a calming sensation that seems to come over you," White says.
A calming sensation rivaled only by the vastness of Pebble Hill's main house. "It has 18 bedrooms and 21 baths. It has four floors." Four floors that housed scores of 1800's Northerners, who packed their trunks and traveled by train to Thomasville.
"They enjoyed Pebble Hill as a winter home, spending about five months out of the year here." Here, where slaves once toiled on a working plantation founded by Southerners, until the Civil War. "That happening changed the plantations but it saved them. I don't think they would exist still today had it not been for that change that occurred back in the late 1800's."
The change that occurred when families like the Hanna's of Cleveland, Ohio headed South. "Anybody with any money in his pocket was going to buy the land, so that's really what happened not only to Pebble Hill but to most of the plantations in our area."
Most of the plantations, bought for three dollars an acre and converted into winter retreats. A 1906 cabin is the first building the Hanna's constructed at Pebble Hill. "It was the school house for Miss Pansy and her brother and the children of visitors when they came," White said. "They brought a tutor from Cleveland with them each winter, and the children could continue their school work right here."
Right here, five miles south of Thomasville, where the North and the South came together. "Our community is different from a lot of South Georgia communities of its size because of the impact the northerners have had on us over the years, socially, economically and culturally."
An impact still felt today on a stroll through Pebble Hill Plantation. The Hanna's daughter, "Miss Pansy", Elisabeth Ireland Poe loved Pebble Hill. She insisted upon her death that it be converted to a pubic museum.
She died in 1978 and Pebble Hill opened to the public in 1983.
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