THE FAYETTE COUNTY BENNETTS
By CAROLYN CARY
Courtesy of the Fayette Citizen
Our newest middle school has been named for a family that has been here since 1823, just two years after Fayette County was created. William Bennett, III was born October 15, 1791 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. His Bennett’s can trace their family back to the 1500’s in England. William left Virginia at the age of 18, met and married a woman in North Georgia, who died in childbirth and eventually settled in Jackson County, Georgia, where his father had already settled. He met and married Lavinia Brumbelow. They are the progenitors of the six generations of Bennett’ in our Fayetteville City Cemetery.
William and “Viney” had one son, Chamealous Evans Bennett, born January 6, 1817 in Jackson County. When William decided to move to Fayette County, it was a two week wagon trip by way of Jefferson, Covington, and McDonough. He purchased 76 acres of land behind where the Oddo family now lives, down Redwine Road. A wise investor in land, by 1850 William owned 2,500 acres and his son, “Cam”, owned over 700 aces. Cam had married Emily Chappelle Strickland in 1839. They were the parents of nine children.
The investment William is most remembered for is Bennett’s Mill, on Hwy. 54 not quite half way between Fayetteville and Peachtree City on Whitewater Creek. He built this facility in 1837 and it was a popular mill site for milling corn and wheat. It also served as a community center for picnics and socials, as well as a baptismal site. In 1870, the mill produced 80 bushels of wheat and corn a day, its maximum capacity. The facility was valued at $6,000, and was operated by one water wheel, equivalent to 48 horsepower. It ceased being a mill owned by the Bennetts in the 1930’s. In the past 15 years, it was expanded and made into a restaurant.
William’s father, William II, had fought in the American Revolution. Cam had been a member of J. D. Stell’s (another Fayette Countian) Company, Col. Stokes Regiment engaged in Indian Affairs under Gen. Winfield Scott. In 1838, he took part in the Cherokee Trail of Tears to what is now Oklahoma. In 1861, and his eldest son, Robert, served in the War Between The States. William built a house in Fayetteville about 1840 and moved up from the country. It is located on Stonewall Avenue, across from the Hollingsworth House. It is occupied by Sam and Susan Burch, Sam is the great-great-great-grandson of William. Their children are the seventh generation to occupy the house.
In 1850 William built a house on Beauregard Boulevard, presently occupied by Glenn and Jeanne Brewer. Jeanne is a great-granddaughter of Cam Bennett. Her home, too, has only been occupied by descendants of William Bennett. Cam moved into the home in 1853 and later willed it to his Graham granddaughters. In the late 1850’s, this house was home to several children of Philip Fitzgerald, the great-grandfather of author Margaret Mitchell. Jeanne’s home is just down the street from the present City Hall, originally built in1855 as the Fayetteville Academy. Fitzgerald lived in the southeast corner of Fayette County and would have the girls brought in by buggy on Monday to attend school, and have them picked up on Friday.
The house originally had two stories; but in January, 1892 a cyclone (we would call it a tornado today) hit the house and took off the second floor. Inside, the bricks tumbling down from the fireplace killed 11-year old Sallie Kate Graham. The house was rebuilt as a one-story.
William died in 1873, and Cam died in 1897. Descendants here, besides the Bennetts, include the Beadles, the Grahams, the Dorseys, the Cousins, the Lesters, the Brewers and the Burchs. Many of these descendants have served Fayette County in various capacities; a surveyor, a Superior Court clerk, store owners, lawyers, two were pharmacists, an Atlanta City Court judge, a vice president of Coca-Cola, and a governor of Georgia. Family members have served in the American Revolution, served in the Army in conducting the Cherokee Indians west, the War Between the States, Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II.
Most new schools take many years to acquire a “history.” Fayette County now has two schools who opened up with a rich history: Bennett’s Mill Middle School and McIntosh High School.
Sources: “Georgia Bennett’s Their History and Their Heritage”, by William Thomas Waters and Carlotta S. Tait, and interviews with Bennett descendants.