Roswell Historical Society, Inc.

 

Preserving & Sharing the Heritage of Roswell, GA

Current Preservation Focus Projects

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Hembree Farm, circa 1835
Preserving the History and Heritage
 of a Pioneer Roswell Family

The Hembree house, with its detached kitchen building, is one of the oldest settler’s farmsteads still existing in north Fulton County.  Amariah Hembree, along with his son Elihu, purchased 40 gold lots or 640 acres of land near present-day Roswell during the 1830s and settled on the land most recently occupied by Cherokee farmers.  The Hembrees may have lived in an abandoned Cherokee cabin upon their arrival in the area.  The Gold Lottery drawings of 1832 occurred between October 22, 1832 and May 1, 1833 and applied to land once occupied by the Cherokee Indians. Those successful in the lottery paid a grant fee of $10.00 per lot. Many lottery winners sold their lot immediately to ambitious farmers like the Hembrees.

The Hembree farm grew cotton for the Roswell Manufacturing Company along with other crops including vegetables and sorghum. The Hembree family and other local settlers established the Lebanon Baptist Church at the Hembree home in July 1836. The home has remained in the Hembree family for at least eight generations. The Hembree family’s influence on the Roswell community is evident in the naming of two major thoroughfares, an elementary school, and two subdivisions for the family.  

In April 2007, determined to preserve her pioneer family’s 8-generation history and heritage, heir and owner Carmen Ford offered the Society an opportunity to preserve a portion of the original farm. The Roswell Historical Society accepted the generous gift of the historic circa 1835 Hembree farmhouse, detached kitchen, two hand-hewn log corn cribs, and one acre of land. Today, a portion of the original farmstead and some of the buildings are now owned and being restored by the Society while Ms. Ford remains very involved in this restoration process.

Because the frontage of the property was slated for development, the Society moved the four historic buildings to the reserved 1-acre plot at the rear of the property near Elihu Hembree’s grave. Work has begun to restore the structures and preserve them for future generations.  In February of 2009, the Society received a National Trust for Historic Preservation Preservation Services grant.  This grant, matched by the Society, funded an historic preservation consultant to conduct a conditions assessment study of the structures.  The consultant’s report will guide future work and make it possible to apply for additional grants to fund the restoration project.

By accepting the Hembree Farm, the Society hopes to demonstrate the power historic preservation can have in a community by providing a sense of our past, our culture, and our heritage. Guided by historic preservation consultant Connie Huddleston, a dedicated committee has been formed to direct all restoration work and to guide the Society’s decisions on how the structures are to be used. Initial suggestions include a museum, a nineteenth-century educational center, and/or a meeting space for the Society and other groups.

Already, Roswell residents have noticed changes at the property, which lies near the intersection of Hembree and Upper Hembree roads, as the chimneys were dismantled and the structures were moved to their new site. In early 2008, Society members and volunteers conducted archaeological excavations at the site of the kitchen.  The house and kitchen have been placed on permanent foundations, and a shelter roof was built over the corn cribs to protect them from weather until they can be restored.

In the summer of 2010, advisors and students from the Crossroads Second Chance School in Roswell installed and maintained a vegetable and flower garden on the Hembree Farm property.  Produce from the garden is offered for sale at a local farmers market, with proceeds split between the school and the Society. 

Plans for the near future are to reconstruct the four chimneys, begin landscaping the property, and to begin restoration of the interiors of the house and kitchen.  All work depends on funding and volunteers.  We welcome you to become involved either as a volunteer or by making a contribution.  The Society has established a fund for the restoration of the structures. Your tax-deductible donations, earmarked for the Hembree Farm Fund, may be sent to:

Roswell Historical Society

P.O. Box 1636

Roswell, Georgia 30077

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The Great Flea Fling at Hembree Farm is held on the property.  Proceeds benefit the Society's preservation and restoration projects on the site.  Click on the Flea Fling button at the bottom of this page for information on the 2011 event.

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Preserve America Historic Cemetery Project

Roswell is one of only thirteen communities in Georgia designated as a Preserve America community. Preserve America is a White House initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy our priceless cultural and natural heritage.

In 2006 the City of Roswell, with the support of the Roswell Historical Society, applied for and received a Preserve America Grant for Cemetery Preservation. Available only to Georgia's Preserve America communities, this one-time-only grant program provides funds for activities related to the historic cemeteries in their communities.

One of only six communities to receive the grant, Roswell’s grant proposal included a monetary donation in matching funds from the Roswell Historical Society, along with a commitment of volunteer hours for research. Out of this project, the City planned to produce a walking tour brochure about the three historic cemeteries that lie within Roswell’s Historic District, place interpretive signs at each of the three cemeteries, and elicit a professionally prepared assessment and conditions report.  The conditions assessment report is now complete.  The City is seeking additional funding for the walking tour brochure and the interpretive signs.

Our Society volunteers worked to document all graves, marked or unmarked, in the three historic cemeteries within the Historic District, and gathered research for the brochures and signs. Working with standardized forms, we recorded the information on each grave. In addition, we probed for unmarked graves, under the supervision of a professional archaeologist, and recorded other cemetery features as they were discovered. We have already completed more than 300 hours of volunteer research and have compiled all of the data for Founders, Presbyterian, and the Old Roswell (Methodist) cemeteries.  These data are currently being compiled in a database that will allow researchers to search for family names and locate graves.  Within the next two years, we are planning to publish much of the research about each of the three cemeteries, along with research about Roswell’s other historic cemeteries outside the District.  We are also planning to expand our recording process to additional historic cemeteries in the Roswell area.

If you would like to work on this project, please contact:

itpllc@bellsouth.net