LEWIS FREEMAN This is Mike Moncus. Today‟s date is September 11, 2003. I‟m interviewing Mr. LEWIS FREEMAN in Gabbettville. Mr. Freeman would you tell us a little bit about your background and some of your life here in Gabbettville. LEWIS FREEMAN: Well, I was born and raised here. I was born the 7th month, 11th day, 1919. My father [Roy Freeman] was not originally from here; he came out of Tennessee. He was a horse and mule man, had mule barns in West Point where he sold and traded mules. My mother‟s name was Sadie Clem, maiden name. She was born and raised in Harris County. My three sisters, Margie Tillery now and Sara Ann Johnson and Mary, (who) married (Henry) Spinks and worked for Mr. Callaway about 40 years in his office and retired from there I started out on a farm and when I was growing up, five or six years old, everything was agriculture, mostly in Troup County. There were cotton mills in LaGrange and down in the Valley and they planted cotton just about everywhere except under the house -- I think if they‟d been able to grow it, they would have planted it under there. But my father had a store at the intersection of Gabbettville Road and 29, in an old barn across the road and it was primarily depended on the farming industry. You could buy a pair of mules, go over to the store and buy a plow stock, harness, and a wagon, groceries and you‟re in the farming business. It was that simple back then. Anyway, Gabbettville was named after Mr. (Cecil) Gabbett; he was superintendent with the A & W P Railroad at the time they were building it. He stopped at Gabbettville and was going to put a side track in and someone asked him if it would be alright to name it Gabbettville, he said it would be perfectly alright if they‟d add a “ville” to it. Subsequently, there were two cotton gins, a gristmill, a wheat mill and warehouses built along the railroad site. My father had a sawmill there and operated one of the cotton gins for several years and use to ship lumber and logs. Of course, they shipped cotton out and cottonseed to the old oil mill in LaGrange and fertilizers. In fact, the first groceries use to come in by freight. Mr. Joe Traylor had a store in Gabbettville, which evolved into the Post Office later on. They‟d ship a carload of groceries and they‟d have them separated in one car, his on one end and my father‟s on the other. I remember them using a wagon to unload and haul to put them in the stores. So it was just about horse and buggy days. There was a lot of people still using buggies, saddle horses for transportation and later on I went to, course my sisters and me, went to Center High School and I went to school the first year that they consolidated the schools down on this end. I think it was Reed‟s Chapel, Long Cane and Loyd‟s, that was at Loyd‟s Church, consolidated and formed Center School. I finished high school there and all my sisters, and that was in 1936. At that time, going to college was a big problem. Money was scarce, the Depression was still going and I opted for an apprenticeship with West Point Foundry and Machine Company in the machine shop, tool making. I left there and went to work for the Navy in Washington Naval Gallery. I went there in 1940 and I went in the Air Corp, the old Army Air Corp, in 1945, spent two years and I came back. I was with the Civil Service. I had a job but I didn‟t particularly like the big city life so I came back and went in the sawmill business and the sawmill burned and I rebuilt it on steel, ran it four or five years and sold it to J.D. Gladney and Charlie Will Gardner. They ran it up to what is known as The Sawmill Place now out on West Vernon. They ran it for 30 years I guess, but I designed and built it. Back to Gabbettvillle, it was somewhat like [the] Wild West back [then]; this was a little bit before I was born. We had some gunfights and several people were killed and the Metz‟s had a son named Bill Metz and he was quite a tough character. He killed one man in the old rock store in Gabbettville; killed another one in the depot, named Charlie Ridgeway. Finally wound up killing Mr. Metz. The Bradys, we moved from what we called the old place to the Brady place, Mr. Hal Brady was elected sheriff out at Gabbettville and Long Cane and moved to LaGrange. We moved into their home and we lived there. Dad built a home up at the intersection of 29 and Gabbettville Road and we lived there until it burned. I remember people in the depression days they‟d bring eggs to the store and swap it for coffee or whatever, sugar and food and meat, so my daddy would take in cattle. They‟d bring a cow or several cows and he would buy the cows and give them credit for groceries or whatever they needed in farm materials and he would get a load, he‟d have them hauled through, at that time they didn‟t have a cattle barn here like they have now in Troup County, ship them to Atlanta and sell them. Depression days, it was tough. I may get sad when I think about it now, the people who‟d be walking up highway 29 and would go into the homes of some of their people, out of jobs, and the man would be carrying two suitcases and the wife would have a little baby on her arm and leading another one or two. We‟d stop them and we‟d go with them and Daddy would feed them with can goods. The farming business started going out in the 30‟s and gradually in this part of Troup County, well just about all of Troup County, turned to cattle and timber and where you see the pine trees growing now, all that use to be in the row crops, cotton, corn or whatever. Thinking about how cheap things were, that farm was built about 1931 or ‟32. Mr. Dan Collins went into sawmill business as Liberty Lumber. I remember it real well; I‟ve heard it repeated so much, what we call six dollars and half delivered and put on the job. Saw timber was selling for 50 cents on a stump, but then you couldn‟t find any one to buy it then, cause they didn‟t have a market. But anyway we evolved from that on into some success. World War II started as the depression started coming out of it. People were getting the best jobs, were making some money and got some money back into circulation. It helped things considerably. I hated, I hated to think about World War II and we lost schoolmates and good friends in it, but we had to do something about it, it was justified. Uh, do you want to ask some questions? MIKE MONCUS: Alright, I want to go back, you gave us a good outline about growing up here in Gabbettville, etc. but will you kinda give us a better idea about the houses that you lived in here, course we know now you live right here at what is 336 and you mentioned the Brady place and you mentioned another house that you lived in, from here, give us some idea about where they were. LEWIS FREEMAN: All right, the Brady place was on the west side of Highway 29, between Potts crossroads and Gabbettville Road. The Gabbettville Road ran into the lower, well we call it the Earl Cook Park Road now, we use to call it the Lower Glass Bridge Road, until they built West Point Dam. It was a nice home it was semi-colonial, it had columns, not to the excess that you see some of them, it was Victorian I guess, I don‟t know what they called it, it‟s hard to tell, but we lived there for a good many years until my father built a home up there at the intersection of Gabbettville Road and 29 and we lived there until it burned and then we bought a place south of that, on the west side of 29, about a quarter of or half a mile south of where our home burned. We lived there until, well,‟til I got married. MIKE MONCUS: Are any of those houses still? LEWIS FREEMAN: Yes, it, we call it Mother‟s House, it would be the second house going south down here where “Ribitz” up here is, the fish bait place. The other house is gone; the Brady home is gone. MIKE MONCUS: Was it torn down or? LEWIS FREEMAN: I think it finally burned. Tom Brady is still living in LaGrange. He was just a kid and I was a little old boy 5 or 6 years old when they moved there. Tom worked with the Highway Department for many years; he was a Furman engineer too, a fine person. He could give you some tips on that; the Bradys go way back. They were the early settlers. The Ridgeways were related to them. MIKE MONCUS: You mentioned your daddy ran a store, now is… LEWIS FREEMAN: Well they farmed too. At one time, well I have a note that my sister found in some old papers where he had signed at the bank, and to borrow, I believe it was $4000. I‟ll get you the thing out and you can make a copy of it if you want to. (laugh) $4000 and he put up 600 acres, 300 acres was cotton, 100 acres of corn, 15 mules and I forgot how many head of cattle, as security for a $4000 note, but that was back in the early 20‟s and somewhere back before that, I don‟t remember the date, but people didn‟t have any money but they grew their food, they lived off the land mostly. MIKE MONCUS: Now where was his store? LEWIS FREEMAN: The store was Freeman‟s Store, between the Gabbettville Road and Highway 29, well at the crossroads where the Lower Glass Bridge Road was and Gabbettville Road was back then. It was in a V, kinda between 29, the east side of 29 and the west side of Gabbettville Road. If it wont bother you, I just thought about something. When Greyhound started running buses, they wanted him to sell tickets, bus tickets. I think it cost a dime to go to West Point or LaGrange you know, and (laugh) he just didn‟t want to fool with it. The people he had hired there didn‟t want to keep up with it, so anyway it was a bus stop or a trading store. You could buy a ticket from where ever, Atlanta or anywhere at the trading store, it was a bus stop, but you couldn‟t buy a ticket there cause people didn‟t approve of it. MIKE MONCUS: Let‟s talk about some of the locations, buildings, you mentioned here in Gabbettville. First of all tell us a little bit about the Rock Store down here on the corner of Robert Taylor Road. LEWIS FREEMAN: The Rock Store was built by the Potts. They go way back and they operated it for many years. As I mentioned, Bill Metz, he was in bad trouble, he killed a boy over in South Carolina. Then one of the agreements was to get him out…of jail for many years with Leeds, South Carolina. They came and they bought the Rock Store and the home coming up the Gabbettville Road going west from the store. They operated it for many years. At one time the Post Office was there and diagonally across the railroad and Gabbettville Road, they had a bank in Gabbettville. Lot of people don‟t believe that or remember, but I remember when the old concrete vault was still there until it burned, dynamited it, blew it up where they could get it out of the way. The Post Office was there and then the Post Office went over, the Gabbettville Post Office, went over to Mr. Joe Traylor. The Traylors were prominent people here, the Traylors in LaGrange. Frank Traylor and all of his children, they came out of Gabbettville. Mr. Tom Traylor‟s, another colonial home down, it still stands, its on the left of 29 just below the Potts Road, or Gabbettville Circle as they call it now on this side. He was the Clerk of Court for many years. There was one Traylor home, just about 300 feet from my house, was originally an old two story, an old home house type. MIKE MONCUS: You don‟t remember who originally built that Rock Store, that building do you? LEWIS FREEMAN: That person that laid the rock, no. They quarried the rock right out back of the store, there was a hole out there where they drilled and chunked rock out for it. MIKE MONCUS: Do you remember when it ceased to exist as a store? LEWIS FREEMAN: Uh, Yes, it was back, I think the Metzs were the last ones that used it as a store, it must have been about „29 or „30, somewhere along there, but Bill Metz was killed. It was closed; then it was used mostly for storage and warehouse. In fact I really didn‟t use it for a good many years. MIKE MONCUS: Down where Gabbettville, what‟s called now Gabbettville Circle, turns off of this Gabbettville Road, there‟s an old store building setting right there on the right, after you turn the corner. LEWIS FREEMAN: That‟s the old Joe Traylor store and Gabbettville Post Office, and if you continue on around and on the left was a cotton gin, where my daddy had a sawmill. MIKE MONCUS: All right. Let‟s go back and talk about the railroad a little bit, now you remember when you were telling me about how the railroad got it‟s, how the Gabbettville area got it‟s name, do you remember approximately what year it was when A & W.P. was building that line through here? LEWIS FREEMAN: No, I don‟t. MIKE MONCUS: We are trying to figure out about what year Gabbettville actually got its name. LEWIS FREEMAN: I know. There‟s some records on that, I think, wait a minute. MIKE MONCUS: I just thought you might have heard the story from LEWIS FREEMAN: There was a question in here about Hogansville in the LaGrange paper. We had a telephone system in Gabbettville. Had a telephone line from LaGrange and then locally, it was a pole with two little wires on it. MIKE MONCUS: You had an operator? LEWIS FREEMAN: We had an exchange; it was upstairs in the Traylor store down there. MIKE MONCUS: Where did the train depot stand? LEWIS FREEMAN: It was on this side, the west side of the railroad track and south of the road that goes across it. Mr. Black, as I remember, was the agent there for many years. They had an agent where they‟d ship stuff in and out. They sold tickets and you could catch a train down there as long as they had the agent there, but of course he would put up a signal and they would stop and after that they had a steel rod with a slide window, sign window, with just a green hanger. He‟d stick it up out there and they could really see it and he‟d stop, get on and go to West Point or wherever. MIKE MONCUS: Do you remember about what it cost to ride the train, say from here to Atlanta, back in your early days? LEWIS FREEMAN: It wasn‟t very much. I rode the Greyhound bus from West Point to Washington, D.C. I think it was 12 or 15 dollars. MIKE MONCUS: I know you mentioned it cost about a dime to go to West Point on a bus. LEWIS FREEMAN: I was looking for something here about Hogansville; I think it was about 1857, somewhere along there. MIKE MONCUS: When they built that line through here? LEWIS FREEMAN: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: In the mid 1800‟s. LEWIS FREEMAN: According to this, lead to the development of Hogansville, that‟s, let‟s see what it says, the arrival of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad in 1851. MIKE MONCUS: So it would have been about another year? LEWIS FREEMAN: Yeah ‟51 or 52. MIKE MONCUS: About another year before they got this far south? LEWIS FREEMAN: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: Tell us a little bit about this barn up here. Now you mentioned the barn and how much it cost to build it and where the lumber came from, not only to build it, but it‟s a landmark as you go down 29, you know that barn is and I see now there‟s somebody in there whose selling stuff out of there. Talk about the history of that barn and what it‟s been used for through the years that you could recollect. LEWIS FREEMAN: My dad was a big farmer and had a lot of mules and operated out of the barn and also he sold mules and horses out of that barn and of course he stored feed, hay and corn and whatever, that‟s what it was built for and over the years, well we had a storm, that hurricane came through, I‟ve forgotten. MIKE MONCUS: Which one and what year was it? LEWIS FREEMAN: Ah, it‟s been 20 years ago, it was the worst one that blew, tore stuff down here that MIKE MONCUS: Opal? [Which happened in October 1995] LEWIS FREEMAN: Opal, that year, anyway it done a good bit of damage and we got concerned about it and people were going in there, crowding, and that somebody was going to get hurt. So we decided that we would burst it, we were just going to burn it, let the fire department get some practice. Well it was so close to the timberline that we couldn‟t do that and it was going to cost them $8000 to tear it down and haul it off. So I said well, I think we can fix it up for that kind of money, but it didn‟t, it cost about 14 or 15 thousand dollars to get it fixed up. Then some people started wanting to rent it so it‟s been rented since that time. And well it turned into a pretty good investment. MIKE MONCUS: Oh yeah, as long as you keep it rented. Go back and tell us a little bit about your wife, how you met her and your marriage and your family and maybe what‟s going on with them. LEWIS FREEMAN: I was 35 years old when I married my wife, Margie, and we had gone together for a couple of years or three years. MRS. FREEMAN: He said he got married too young, at 35. LEWIS FREEMAN: I tell everybody I got married too young (laugh) but anyway her father was a contractor, a building contractor in LaGrange, Sanford Dutton. He built homes. He done most of Batson Cook‟s brickwork and he was an artist of stonework. MRS. FREEMAN: Marble. LEWIS FREEMAN: Marble and that sort of stuff. Anyway, unfortunately, we didn‟t have any children, we have a lot of adopted nephews and nieces and they‟d call us before they‟d call their parents, course they‟re grown now, the children. We‟ve been married 49 years since last March. And I got out of the sawmill business and got into the grading business, heavy equipment, and I‟ve done highway work for oh, 10 or 12 years, grading rural roads and that sort of thing. It was sort of a dead end thing. I was working for [meaning he was supporting] Caterpillar Tractor Company and Standard Oil [by buying their products]. I made a pretty good living at it [grading roads]. Then the interstate started and I got into the landscaping of, well before the erosion control business. That developed into a good business and I retired from that in 1983. I‟ve been retired since then. I had a machine shop that I used to, I designed and built some equipment, a fertilizer, hydraulic fertilizer spreader that you put on the front of a Farmall tractor...seeders and harrows. MIKE MONCUS: So you retired in 1983 and tell us something about what you‟ve done and what you‟ve been doing since you retired. LEWIS FREEMAN: Well, mostly trying to keep this place (laugh) presentable. I had a machine shop that I used to repair heavy equipment and design and built equipment that I used in the erosion control business, fertilizer spreaders, seeders, rollers and harrows and when I sold the business I kept the shop. I like, I‟m a steam nut, I like anything that runs on steam. I‟m modeling an engine on the old Crescent Limited that I use to ride back from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta and I have a picture of it, I‟ll show you if you want to see. Anyway, it‟s up there in the shop, and the engine is all finished and I‟m working on the boiler now. Hopefully I can finish it in time to get it on steam where kids that have never, well people 35 or 40 years old have never seen the old steam locomotives. Did you ever see one running? MIKE MONCUS: I grew up on the railroad track, in a mill village in town and I can of course, I was born LEWIS FREEMAN: In Manchester? MIKE MONCUS: In LaGrange. I remember the trains, the steam engines coming behind the house up til I was probably, first diesel I saw I was probably about six years old, or seven, I remember those steam engines. What scale is that gonna be that you‟re… LEWIS FREEMAN: It‟s a one inch scale, 4 ¾ gauge, theoretically on a hundred and twenty five pounds of steam and it‟ll pull about 21 or 22 hundred pounds on a straight level tract, take off some for friction and then I want to build a track, I don‟t know what I‟m gonna do with it, I guess donate to the Museum if they ever build it up there (laugh). MIKE MONCUS: So in everyday walk of life folks‟ terms, in footage, about what size is that going to be? LEWIS FREEMAN: It‟ll be 80 foot footage, engine and tender that carries the water and coal overall length will be 84 inches farther, it‟ll be about 18 inches high. It‟ll be a right powerful little engine and it‟ll weigh better than 300 pounds. MIKE MONCUS: And it‟ll run on, you gonna have it to run on a track or run on flat land? LEWIS FREEMAN: It‟ll be running on a track, and I‟m gonna fire it with coal, blow the whistle, just like the prototype. You can make some movies of it I believe, right up there. It‟s running on air now, setting up on rollers, just the engine part of it. Well that got me into, I had mechanical drawing probably going all the way back, I went into [the] Shop when I was about 17 years old and course in the Navy yard I was a Machinist Tool Maker and when I left there I was Machine Tools Design, making form tools to turn lathes, automatic school signals…. MIKE MONCUS: So you really didn‟t retire, you just stopped doing it for a living and started doing it for fun. LEWIS FREEMAN: Yeah, yeah. I tell people that I don‟t start anything I can‟t turn the switch off on and couldn‟t do what I want to do. I‟ve been very fortunate MIKE MONCUS: Well, now as far as our interview is concerned, is there anything that I haven‟t asked you or we haven‟t covered that you can think of that you‟d like to be on this interview? LEWIS FREEMAN: Anything I‟d like to? MIKE MONCUS: Yeah, anything else that I haven‟t asked you or that we haven‟t covered, is there anything else you can think of that you‟d like to put on this? LEWIS FREEMAN: Well, I‟ll probably think of a hundred things after you leave. You‟re gonna fool around and get 84 years old some of these days, you‟ll know what I‟m up against. Not really. I would like to mention this; I think West Georgia Tech is the best thing that ever happened in Troup County. I had some experience with it when I was designing some stuff for my engine, my locomotive. My neighbor, Greg Parmer, below here was taking a course in drafting from over there. He said, “why don‟t you go over and let them check it out on the computer with the AutoCAD program. So I did and Mr. Jerry Gray, the instructor, said, “what do you want to check?” Well one of the things was a bell crank that has three points. I saw him and he took the drawing and he picked the points and he shot it up and put the angle in and saw the points over there. Of course I had the dimensions hanging and I saw him picking the other two points. I didn‟t know what he was doing. He said, “Do you have those dimensions?” I said yeah I happen to have them calculated…. I got it out and gave it to him and 4 decimal places were missed…. He said read that down there and I read the bottom of the screen on the computer and there it was. I said man you got that in less than 10 minutes and it would take me 30 minutes to calculate it, and have to calculate it forward and backward to be sure I‟m correct, so I took the course and I was real impressed and I got into that and it really helped me with my engine I‟ve designed. I‟ll show you some of my designs out there. MIKE MONCUS: Well, my son would appreciate you plugging West Georgia Tech cause he teaches out there too, so (laugh). LEWIS FREEMAN: What‟s his name? MIKE MONCUS: Moncus, Matt Moncus. He teaches in the, he‟s in the business end. He use to be a business man and decided he‟d rather teach so he went out there, so he teaches in the business department. LEWIS FREEMAN: I tell you, all of us are not college material. We‟re smart, we work with our hands and have a good analytical mind and you go out there and take a course in something, in a trade and if they don‟t want to go to work for a contractor, get some experience, get a pickup truck and go into business. When you go to college now, unless it‟s some technical school, even with the Engineering at Georgia Tech and Auburn, it‟ll just get your foot in the door so that someone can train you and if it‟s a regular bachelor degree you can teach school if you want to. I‟m not putting it down by any means but I think a lot of these kids ought to take more advantage of that technical school out there. MIKE MONCUS: It‟s a good education. In closing this part of the interview, you‟ve lived in other places, when you worked for the Navy and you were in the service, and you came back to Gabbettville and you stayed here all your life, up to this point? Just tell us something about Gabbettville. Tell people what it‟s like to live here in Gabbettville. LEWIS FREEMAN: Well of course I‟m partial, but I‟d rather, I don‟t know of a place that compares with it. It‟s a community that‟s made up of old families that‟s been handed down. We have enough room around us. My sister and I have 45 acres just north of here. This house is on a 10 acres lot and across the road there‟s a hundred acres lot, the next door neighbors, 10 acres, all of it, there‟s plenty of room, and it‟s still neighborly. If someone needs something we respond, we help. It‟s not like most places, going into the country you don‟t even bother to meet you next-door neighbor. It‟s always been a close community; people think a lot of each other. We don‟t have any crime. W did have an incident next door here. People stole some air conditioners out of the window, went inside and stole the carpet, but those people just use it for their summerhouse. They come over and fish in the lake, but they‟re just good neighbors. Not many places left that I know of. MIKE MONCUS: A good place to live, huh? LEWIS FREEMAN: Yeah. MIKE MONCUS: Well, thank you sir. LEWIS FREEMAN: I‟ll think about a lot of stuff (laugh) after you leave.
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