John Benjamin Akins House & Tenant Farm | Bulloch County, GA | c. early 1900s
This old home provided shelter to generations who worked the surrounding land here in south Georgia. Over the years, the crops changed, and the farmers did too, but this place stayed the same. Providing a place to eat, sleep, celebrate, and relax after a hard day of work. And that is just what they did, every day on that porch until its owner actually breathed his last breath there. But after years of being empty, the home is set to be demolished so I gathered some stories and photos to help us remember.
The Akins Family
John Benjamin Akins was born in Bulloch County, Georgia on December 19, 1869, to Elijah and Mary Akins. Elijah had just returned a few years earlier from fighting in the Civil War and he and Mary were doing their best to continue to raise a family during a difficult era. And the difficulties must’ve been many with 8 children on a modest farm, but their children grew up to grow many branches, many of whom still live locally.
John Benjamin Akins
One of their youngest sons, John Benjamin Akins, would work on his family’s farm even after his father Elijah died in 1890. But at age 30, it was time for John to start a family of his own and on July 31, 1899, he married Keturah Williams Akins. In 1908, he bought 1,200 acres from the Groover Family and moved from his childhood home nearby on ‘The Big Mud Road’ into this farmhouse that he built for his wife and family. John and Keturah would raise 10 children here, many of whom were born within these walls.
Having all those kids must’ve been helpful on the farm because John’s land eventually grew to 2,100 acres that would’ve needed a lot of tending. And after a long day on the farm, John could be found relaxing in his rocking chair on that porch. So it seemed poignant and fitting when I read a story about the end of John’s life. One afternoon, after spending his day on the farm, John sat on this porch with his feet propped on a brick pier. As his chair rocked back and forth in his rocking chair, he took his last breath, overlooking the farm he had given so many days of his life to.
The Sharecropping Days
Over the years, much of the acreage had been sold off, so when he died in 1950, only 15 acres and this farmhouse remained. What was left was split between 4 of his sons the land was rented to tenant families who continued to farm the land until the house became too run down to live in anymore.
I was able to track down someone who lived in the home with his family as a young child while they worked as tenants on the land. Although he had good memories of the home, he shared that life was very challenging here. He said:
“The kitchen had a well pump and we would bathe in a big wash tub. The well would lose its prime and Mom would have to prime it.
Back then, the yard looked different than it does in your photos and I remember deer everywhere. During hunting season, Mom wouldn’t let me outside out of fear of stray bullets. We also had a pet dog named Snoopy and each night, we had to check him for ticks before he was allowed inside.The home had big heavy doors and old plaster walls with wainscoting. We had a small electrical box with glass fuses and lights hung from the ceiling that you could pull with a cord.
The home wasn’t very well insulated so in the winter when it was time to sleep, the old metal beds would get so cold that Mom would have to cover me in so many winter blankets that I could barely move. In the summer, it was too hot to be inside the house so you had to leave the doors open to catch whatever breeze you could.
My favorite place was definitely the porch where I spent a lot of time playing with my cars. Looking at the photo now, I can envision my mom and sister on the porch in their cotton dresses drinking coffee.”
Set For Demolition
I was grateful to have had the chance to gather this brief history of the home and its families because I recently found out that the home is set to be dismantled in 2022 due to disrepair. I’m happy that at least there is a space to remember her here.