Monday, September 30, 2013

Augustus Walter Wheat- the One-eyed Merchant of Marthasville-Atlanta

Augustus Walter Wheat was born about 1821 in Georgia. He was the son of Wesley and Frances Walton Wheat. The oldest record I have found for him would be in the 895th District, 1840 Census for Cobb, Georgia. In 1845 he married Mary Gray Danforth, daughter of William and Mary Egerton Danforth.



Per an article in the Atlanta Constitution Sunday,March 17,1912, Atlanta,Georgia: Wheat street, which was changed to Auburn Avenue (in 1893), was named for Gus Wheat, who was known as the "one-eyed merchant of Marthasville." I haven't found any other references to "one-eye", but still looking. Wheat Street (now Auburn Avenue) is the historic district for Martin Luther King, Jr., and the location of Wheat Street Baptist Church. Atlanta was known as Marthasville until 1845.

Augustus owned a large grocery, warehouse, and livery business in downtown Atlanta/Marthasville. From an advertisement in Atlanta and Environs Vol 1:

December 4, 1847
A. W. Wheat
Grocer, Warehouse and Commission Merchant, Atlanta, Georgia

Has on hand, and is receiving, a large assortment of Groceries, consisting of Bagging, Rope and Twine, Coffe, Sugar, Salt, Molasses, Rice, Iron &c., which he will sell LOW FOR CASH, or exchange for country produce.

His large and commodius WAREHOUSE is ready for the reception of 2000 bales of cotton, at charges 20 per cent less than the usual warehouse rates of Augusta and Macon; he has also plenty of room in his Storehouses for Bacon, Flour &c., on consignment.

Gus is mentioned in the book Pioneer Citizens' History of Atlanta, 1833-1902 (free Google Book):

The first building erected as a house of worship in early times was Wesley Chapel, on what is now North Pryor and the junction of Peachtree street. But previous to that a small log house was built by private subscription, which was used for union services. This was in 1843, A day school was taught there also. Before this event, however, services were occasionally held in the roundhouse of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, situated on Loyd.street, about the southwest corner of the present union passenger depot. Following this services were held in the Wheat warehouse, which was situated on the southeast corner of what is now North Pryor street and Auburn avenue. 
The store address is square in the middle of Underground Atlanta....now there is a Subway and Footlocker  shoe store along with a host of junk tourist shops...my cousin Doug Justice checked with one of the curators of  Underground and they confirmed the original location as underground as the top is now a viaduct overpass. The location of the cotton warehouse would be about where the SunTrust HQ is located, North Pryor and Auburn Avenue.
By Atlantajpegs (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the section by John C. Hendrix: My first visit to Atlanta was in 1847. I was a boy twelve years old. My father and brothers had a wagon each, loaded with things from our farm in Lumpkin county. We sold some corn to Jonathan Norcross, at the old Norcross corner, at 50 cents a bushel. We sold some potatoes to a man named Prater, who had a little planked up store on Loyd street near the Southwest corner of Alabama street. There was a branch running across (now) Alabama street, near Pryor. So we could not go that way, owing to the mud and water. Norcross had a big, plain plank store house fronting on Marietta, the street being paved with pine slabs put down the round side up. About where the First Methodist Church now stands (Peachtree and Pryor streets) they were cutting cord wood. A little school house stood about the junction of Peachtree and Houston streets (which were then old country roads).
A man named Gus Wheat, from my old county, (Lumpkin County, Georgia) had a store somewhere, as I remember going there to see him. It did not look to me then that Atlanta would ever be a city. I came here several times each year until 1859, when I moved here.

The Atlanta Masonic Lodge Number 59 was chartered in 1847. A. W. Wheat was listed as an Entered Apprentice.
The first library in Atlanta founded 1848, at the intersection of Peachtree, Pryor, and Houston streets. A W Wheat was among the subscribers.


1850 GA Dekalb Co., Atlanta, Roll M432_67, Pg 215, dwell 261, lines 5-12, Nov 11th
Wheat, Augustus, 35 (1815), Merchant, no value listed, GA
Wheat, Mary, 25, GA
Wheat, Frances M., 4, GA
Wheat, Henry C., 2, GA
Wheat, John C., 1, GA
Crayton, Garack, 40, GA
Danforth, James, 40 (1828), GA (Mary's brother)
Adduholt, Wm., 22, ?? B(aptist) Clergyman, GA (Aderhold, married Mary's sister Alzira)
1 slave a 22 year old female

Disaster struck April 15 1850. From Atlanta and Environs Vol 1:
The City of Atlanta was fortunate in that, until April 15, 1850, it experienced no serious conflagration, and while the fire of that date claimed no human lives, it did cause considerable property loss. It was also the primary reason for the removal from the city of one of it's useful pioneer citizens.
This first fire is what might be called a "planned fire", in that it was of incendiary origin, having been set by one or more robbers for the purpose of diverting attention while they cleaned out the money drawer in the office of the Georgia Railroad freight depot. Victim of the fire was Augustus W. Wheat, who lost his store, warehouse, livery stable, and several horses. These buildings were located on the south side of Alabama Street between Pryor and Loyd (Central Avenue). It is said that Mr. Wheat was insured in the Southern Mutual, at Athens, but for some reason the company refused to pay the loss until compelled by law to do so. At any rate the old familiar store sign
"GOOD AS WHEAT"
was seen in Atlanta no more, for shortly after the fire Gus Wheat moved to Old Campbell county where he devoted the remainder of his life to farming. He died late in the year 1868. His estate was appraised by John Watson, John McClure, Jackson Moates and Belford Luck, all well known citizens of old Campbell."
There was a lot more than farming going on from 1850 to 1868. I guess the insurance from the fire finally paid.

Atlanta Weekly Intelligencer, Nov. 25, 1858 lists A W Wheat, of Campbellton, as a stockholder of one share of the Bank of Fulton, valued at $100.

1860 Series: M653 Roll: 113 Page: 341 CAMPBELL CAMPBELLTON P O
Wheat, Augustus W 39 M W GA
Occupation Atty at Law Property 12000, Personal 7000
Mary G 35 F
Frances M 14 F
Henry C J 13 M
John C 11 M
Artemissa 6 F (Artemesia Elizabeth, known as Artie, married Thomas Kendrell Carter)
Harry W 2 M (Harvey, married Julia Morris)
3 slaves...a 45 year old female and two children, both 7 years old, male and female

June 17 1861, Augustus sold 15 Army tents to the CSA @$15.00 each for a total of $225.00
August 28 1861 Enlisted at Camp Walker, Campbellton by Captain Rhodes. On muster rolls for Company D, 1st Battallion Villepigue's.
February 20 1862 "furnished" 15 tents to Co A 15th GA Regiment @$15.00 each.
Aug 27 1863 sold 10 tents for $150.00.

Augustus served in 1st Confederate Infantry and 36th Regiment GA Infantry (Villepigue's)
Sherman's march to the sea came right through Campbellton in the summer of 1864. On July 27, Union cavalry commanded by General Edward McCook tried to cross the Chattahootchee river at Campbellton, but were pushed back by Confederate forces. Skirmishes broke out along the northern section of Campbellton Road between Confederate and Union cavalry as McCook went southeast to Palmetto to destroy the railroad. Union forces occupied some of the homes in Campbellton. Many of the buildings were destroyed in the fighting. Of the 200 men that formed the Campbellton Blues regiment, only 30 returned from the war.

Ordered by the court of Campbell County, GA to make whiskey for "medicine purposes"

February 7, 1865 Agreed and ordered by the court A. W. Wheat, a citizen of said county, but a refugee in Meriwether Co. Ga, make and distill 300 gallons of good proof whisky in Meriwether County to be distributed in Campbellton for medicinal purposes at $10 per gallon.
Augustus W Wheat took oath as judge of the county court of Campbell County, GA signed June 5, 1866. I've got to wonder if the whiskey had anything to do with that.
Old Campbell Courthouse from Library of Congress

The following I have mixed feelings about...is it a way to get around owning slaves? Are they his former slaves with no other recourse? Did Augustus take them in out of kindness?
For answers to these questions I turned to +Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist. She responded on her blog post The apprenticesApprenticing freed children .

Campbell Bond Book B p247
2 of 7
State of Georgia
Campbell County

This Indenture made and entered into this the 6th day of November 1866 between Reuben C Beavers Ordinary of said County & Augustus W Wheat of the same place of the other part witnesseth that the said R C Beavers Ordinary as aforesaid binds as apprentices unto the said A W Wheat the following minor orphan Children Freedmen having no parents living that are known & having property. Viz. Thompson Wheat boy twelve years old Mary Wheat a girl seven years old Edwin Wheat a boy five years old and Nancy Wheat – a girl three years old. All of said children to be & remain apprentices to the said A W Wheat according to the Laws of the State of Georgia until they each arrive to the age of twenty one years. And the said A. W. Wheat master as aforesaid binds himself to teach the said apprentices the businesses of house service husbandry and farming shall furnish them with sufficient wholesome food suitable clothing and necessary medicine and medical attention shall teach them habits of industry honesty & morality & shall cause them to be taught to read English & shall govern them with humanity using only the same degree of force to compel obedience as a father may use with his minor children.

Signed Sealed & Delivered
in Presents of
W. P. Strickland
J. H. Alexander J. P.

Augustus W. Wheat J. P.
R. C. Beavers (Seal) Ordy
-----.
and another:
Campbell GA Estate Bond Book B pg 256-257
256
State of Georgia
Campbell County

This Indenture made & Entered into this 15th day of April 1867 between Reuben C. Beavers Ordinary of Said county of the one part and Augustus W. Wheat of the same place of the other part. Witnesseth that the said R. C. Beavers ordinary as aforesaid binds as an apprentice unto the Said A. W. Wheat – Augustus Wheat (colored) having no parents living in the county, or state that are known & having no property (The Said Boy having Chosen and Selected the Said A. W. Wheat for his Master) The boy aged fifteen years & to be & remain apprentice unto the said A. W. Wheat according to the laws of Georgia until he is twenty one years of old. And the Said A. W. Wheat master as aforesaid
257
binds himself to teach the said apprentice the business of farming, Shall furnish him with sufficient wholesome food, suitable clothing, and necessary medicine & medical attention shall teach him habits of industry honesty and morality & shall cause him to be taught to read English & shall govern him with humanity only using the same degree of force to compel obedience as a father may use with his minor children agreeable to an act of the Legislature past March 17th 1866

Signed Sealed & Delivered into the presence of
John N?. Austin
Wm. NM. Bastlett JH

R. C. Beavers as Ord (seal)
A. W. Wheat (seal)
.

Augustus Wheat died sometime between September and December 1868. He would have been about 47.
He requested "to be buried in a common coffin & in my common or every day cloths"
Will probated Campbell Co 1868. Wife Mary Gray Wheat.

Mary still had children to raise. Here is the family in 1870:
1870 GA Campbell Co., Campbellton, PO Powder Springs, Roll M593_139, Pg 33, dwell 1101, lines 20-26, July 24th
Wheate, Mary, 56, keeping house, $1000, $200, GA, cannot read or write
Wheate, John, 21, farm labor, can read & write
Wheate, Olta?, 18, female, domestic servant, GA, cannot read or write (possibly Artie)
Wheate, Harvey?, 12, farm labor, GA
Wheate, Gilbert, 11, GA (Augustus Gilbert, actually 8, married Carzolia Lee 'Lela' Richardson)
Wheate, Anna, 8, GA (actually 11, married a Hammond, and then Joe Privett)
Wheate, Alza, 4, female, GA (married William Henry Bice)

I did find it interesting that after Augustus died, his wife Mary is listed in the 1880 census as having two black children. They appear to be the youngest two of the indentured servants:
1880 GA Douglas Co., District 1273,Roll T9_144; FHF 1254144, Pg 185.1000, ED50, dwell 127, lines 12-16, June ??
Wheate, Mary 56, widow, white, GA, GA, GA, keeping house, can read & write
Wheate, Gilbert, son, 18, white, GA, GA, GA, farm labor, can read & write
Wheate, Alzira, dau., 14, white, GA, GA, GA, at home, can read & write
Wheate, Edward, son,18, black, GA, GA, GA, farm labor, cannot read or write
Wheate, Nancy, dau., 15, black, GA, GA, GA, farm labor, cannot read or write
(The northwestern part of Campbell County became Douglas in 1870.)

I was able to "prove" Augustus Wheat's parents through DNA testing. There is some circumstantial evidence also. Wesley Wheat was in the area and had sons of Augustus' age. Augustus named one of his sons Wesley. He named a daughter Frances (his possible mother's name), and another Artemesia (who is his possible aunt). His wife Mary was in Campbell county in 1830 with her family, as was Wesley's. Wesley was in Hall county in 1820, which was one of the counties Lumpkin county was carved out of.

If you have any info on this family, I would love to hear from you.