Georgia Mansion and the Croatan Indians

Foy-Hodges House | Tattnall County, GA | c. 1890s

Washington Manassas (W.M.) Foy was born in Effingham County, GA in 1862 to Mary and George Foy. He would go on to become one of the wealthiest men in this section of Georgia, building the impressive Folk Victorian home you see pictured here.

He had been educated in a private school near his father’s home and at the age of 18 in 1880, he enrolled in Mercer College where he joined the Kappa Alpha Fraternity. He would graduate in 1883, setting the stage for a long career in multiple industries.

In November of 1889, W.M. settled in what would later become a small town along the R&G Railroad. When the trains came through this area, the town was named Manassas after W.M. On July 8, 1891, W.M. would marry Maxie Ponetta Oliff, and shortly after, he built this house for his new bride.

The size of this home is as remarkable now as it was then, due to W.M.’s involvement in the timber and turpentine industries. His access to quality wood and milling produced huge timbers that can be seen in the attic to run the entire length of the house.

Map of the R&G Railroad that came through Manassas

But Washington’s success impacted more than just his immediate family. At one point, he employed 125 people locally at his manufacturing facilities, cotton gin, and stores. And while he and his wife Maxie had been faithful members of Excelsior Baptist church nearby, they decided to commit further to building their new community when they helped found a new church in the town of Manassas where they lived.

The White Oak tree that W.M. Foy planted in the early 1900s. This photo of the tree depicts its massive size decades later- this photo is thought to have been taken in the 1970s.

He also served the community as postmaster and according to family legend, planted a White Oak on one of his large land parcels nearby that still grows today.

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Of the people 125 people employed locally by Foy, a large number of them were Croatan Indians who had been brought to this area in the 1870s. They settled on Foy’s land and worked for the Adabelle Trading Company, which Foy owned. A small but thriving community of Croatans developed here while they worked the timber farms for turpentine. Their community had its own general store, cotton gin, and a school that doubled as a church.

A naval store worker pulls gum from a pine tree into cups on the Foy property around 1900.
A Croatan Indian family is shown in the Adabelle community sometime around 1900.

The town of Manassas that grew alongside W.M.’s businesses became regarded as one of the finest towns on the railroad. In its heyday in the 1890s-1920s, the town was in the heart of the Pine Timber Belt, shipping lumber, turpentine, Naval supplies, and Sea Island Cotton.

In 1900, W.M. and his wife Maxie decided to build another massive home in nearby Statesboro. Completed in 1902, it had 18 rooms and cost $10,000 to build.

The second W.M. Foy house, located in Statesboro

But sadly, Washington wouldn’t get to enjoy his new mansion, as he contracted Typhoid Fever in 1903 and passed away, leaving Maxie behind with 4 young children. At the time of his death, he had become one of the largest landowners in the Southeast and through his farming, turpentine, and timber business, he was also one of the wealthiest.

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And just a few years after his death, the timber and turpentine industries would be greatly impacted, during the 1910s-1920s. In 1915, the regional railway was set to close and the Croatan community was hired to pull up all of the tracks in the area. As the last of the turpentine farms closed soon after, this community relocated back to Lumberton, North Carolina where they were from.

When W.M. and Maxie moved to Statesboro, the original Foy house in Manassas was sold to Eliza Ann Collins Hodges and her husband. The Hodges Family would raise 12 children in this home and their descendants still own the house today. And as you might imagine, the amount of work it requires to keep this place up is large, but the family is dedicated to keeping this special place standing. In the past decade, a new roof was put on and substantial repairs were made to the porch.

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11 thoughts on “Georgia Mansion and the Croatan Indians”

  1. Great information on Manassas that I didnt know! My great grandfather was Horace Rogers and his youngest son was Grady M Rogers. My mother is Ona – the 2nd daughter – who was named by a railroad worker who rented a room from my grandparents in the 30s. The house he grew up in still stands across the railroad from the depot.

  2. Keeich Williams

    I no of this place in manassia I grow up there my mother used to work for them as well as my grandmother

  3. I love that you bring these stories to those of us to far away to see the places themselves. Thank you for making it so easy to learn about old treasures.

  4. I loved the story of the background of this once beautiful house. It makes me so pleased that the descendants honor the memory of their family home. Thanks for your beautifully written words!

  5. I drive by this house often, as it’s on one route to and from work (Reidsville to Statesboro). I’ve often admired this place and wondered about its story. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Jay martin Wildes

    I have read in other publications Washington Manassas Foy graduated University of Georgia. His grave in Statesboro tells a story. Which I have to find again. He is buried with his wife and a 50 year old son among others. JP and Inman Foy were his two sons. I’ve often heard of his Maritime store in Undine, Ga. back when the railroad stopped there.

      I live about 300 yards from the old R&G railroad bed that ran through Undine. The only thing left is just the railroad bed and an occasional railroad spike we find. I love to read the history of Undine,Ga. when I can find it

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