Dr. John Luther McLean House | Tattnall County, GA | c. 1890s
Although today it’s a sad relic of what it once was, there was a time when this home and the office on the property were at the center of a small farming community in south Georgia.
South Georgia in the late 1800s
In the days after the Civil War, families and farms in this area struggled to find a new foothold in a very different social and economic landscape.
Luckily, the 1890s would usher in a welcomed surge when the Savannah and Montgomery Railroad built lines through Tattnall County, and by 1900, the county population had nearly doubled. There were only a handful of towns organized across the county with smaller communities dotting the maps where farming families gathered.
One such community was Birdford, along Beard’s Creek, a tributary of the Altamaha River. Here would settle the McLean Family who would become important members of their small but active farming community.
The John Luther McLean Family
John Luther (J.L.) McLean was born in Bulloch County, Georgia in November of 1856 but had lost his father, Thomas McLean, at a young age when he died from the effects of a wound he received in battle during the Civil War. But John and his brother Logan found success for themselves as both attended prestigious medical schools. J.L., who attended Emory, settled in this area in the 1880s.
In 1884, he had his first son, Logan, and another, M.E., in 1887. His first wife, whose name I couldn’t track down, passed away sometime before 1895 and he remarried to Minnie Stubbs on May 26, 1895.
Naturally, he would need a beautiful home deserving of his new bride so he built this Folk-Victorian style farmhouse for her.
A Medical Practice for Rural Families
As early as 1891, J.L. was practicing medicine here, listed in county records as an ‘Allopath.’ Next to his home, he built this medical office, where he could practice medicine, helping the people of this small community who would’ve otherwise had to travel many miles by wagon to town for medical services.
He and Minnie would have two more children here, although one died in infancy. When J.L. passed away here in 1912, Minnie and her son Raleigh Hugh McLean would continue to live in the home until the 1930s when Raleigh left to serve in the Air Corps. He would go on to fight bravely fight in World War II but Minnie struggled to keep up the farm on her own, and during the Great Depression, lost the home.
1940s-Today: A Local Landmark
Since then, the home has been owned by members of the Kirkland Family who at times, also rented it to other families. It has been a local landmark for years and eventually, the area once called Birdford, became known as Oak Hill after the impressive live oaks in the area, like those on this property.
As I researched the home, I came across some interesting stories that locals shared about their memories of the house. One commenter said that she remembered well when the last folks lived here. She explained that the yard never had any grass and that she often remembered seeing the family sweeping the yard with broom straw brooms to clean up after the live oaks.
In the days after it was empty, locals would visit the property to admire the trees and one commenter even shared that “this is where Daddy took Mama for their first date.”