What’s In a Name


Simpson Bartley
Simpson Bartley

Bartlett’s Ferry Dam got its name from the Bartley family of Harris County. Simpson Wilson Bartley, a physician and a minister was born February 20, 1827, and during his life he owned the land at the site of the present-day dam and ran a farm near the Chattahoochee River and also operated a ferry to the Alabama side. He and his wife, Susan A. J. Whitehead married on June 14, 1849 and had several children.

Walter Bartley
Walter Bartley

Their children included Katie (Mrs. Sam Williams), Jennie (Mrs. Ramson), Joe, Jim, and Walter. Walter was born February 15, 1860, and like his father, became a Baptist minister and also ran the ferry. He married Beulah Brawner who was born August 4, 1861. Their marriage on February 29, 1880, united two families from the Antioch area who both ran ferries across the Chattahoochee River. Walter ran Bartley’s Ferry before his death on October 10, 1911.
The dam was to be named ‘Bartley’s Ferry Dam’ in honor of the family who had operated the ferry at the selected location of the dam. However, because of a spelling error it was to become known as ‘Bartlett’s Ferry’.

Simpson Wilson Bartley and his son Walter were both ministers at Antioch Baptist Church in Fortson, Georgia. Simpson died from, what was thought to be, heart disease on November 30, 1884. Walter and his wife, Beulah, who died on October 12, 1910, are both buried in the church yard of Antioch Baptist Church, along with Walter’s father, Rev. Simpson Wilson Bartley. Beulah’s father, James Henry Brawner, who Old Brawner’s Ferry Road is named for died on October 29, 1903, and is buried nearby.

One of Katie’s sons, Jamie Williams, Sr., who was born in 1903, was the first operator of the Oliver Dam, south of Bartlett’s Ferry Dam. Jamie, Sr. is buried in Park Hill Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia.

Interview with Jamie Williams, Jr., great-grandson of Simpson Bartley and grandson of Katie Bartley Williams, April 2010, by Susan Webster Tompkins


reynold monroe harding
The Bartlett’s Ferry Reservoir was named “Lake Harding” in honor of Reynold Monroe Harding. After graduating from MIT in 1905, Mr. Harding, a native of Roxbury, MA, came to Columbus to work as general superintendent for the Columbus Power, Columbus Railroad and the Gas Light companies on July 3, 1912. In 1922, when these companies were merged into the Columbus Electric and Power Company (CE&PC), he was made vice-president, director and manager. In June, 1926, the CE&PC combined with the South Georgia Power Company. In July, 1930, the CE&PC was absorbed by the Georgia Power Company, and he was made division manager of the Columbus area, a position he held until he retired August 1, 1937. Mr. Harding died, after a long illness, on October 25, 1939.
Georgia Power Snap Shots, dated Aug, 1937, and Nov, 1939


Tom HustonHuston’s Island, also referred to as Kudzu, or Chimney Island, is located north of Bartlett’s Ferry Dam, and gets its name from its previous owner, John Thomas ‘Tom’ Huston. Tom was born in Wilsonville, Alabama (Shelby County) to Robert Ernest Huston and Martha Elizabeth Stinson on September 24, 1889, the eldest of ten children. Even as a child he was known for building ‘contraptions’. The Huston family moved to Henderson, Texas circa 1903.

By 1925, at 36 years of age, Tom was living in Columbus, Georgia where he founded the Tom Huston Peanut Company in Columbus, Georgia. He patented a toasting process and packaging that could be sold for “on-the-spot” consumption.

Huston first saw the four+ acre island while boating shortly after the Bartlett’s Ferry Dam created the Lake Harding Reservoir in 1926. Huston fell in love with the beautiful wooded property and decided to build a summer home there. Not wanting to disturb the natural landscape, he had the wood for the home cut on the mainland and rafted over to the island.

Documentation shows Huston named the house ‘Halawaka’ for the creek which flows into the lake from the Alabama side. Although maps show the spelling of the creek as ‘Halawakee’. In the 30s the house burned to the ground. His wife, the former Minnie Floyd Bullock, never understood why anyone would want a house on that “muddy lake” and did not like going there. Therefore, it ended up being more of a place for ‘the guys’ to hang out.
Huston House After the Depression hit and losing his fortune in Columbus, Huston eventually moved to Miami, Florida, where he used his genius to pursue several more ventures including horticulture, photography, and founding a successful pet manufacturing company.

He and Minnie had one son, Tom Huston, Jr. Tom Jr. and his wife, Mary, had two daughters, Catherine Lorie and Lucille Fogh.

Tom returned to Columbus one final time, after his death in Miami, on July 20, 1972, just two months shy of his 83rd birthday for his burial in Linwood Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia. Minnie would later join him after her death on March 12, 1996, about a month before her 90th birthday.

Taken from Georgia Power ‘Currents’, dated Spring, 1993, the book, City of Progress: A History of Columbus, GA., Huston’s grave site, and interviews with Ronnie Jackson of Lake Harding, Georgia in 2011, by Susan Webster Tompkins.


James Henry BrawnerJames Henry Brawner

Brawner’s Ferry Road, or as it is referred today, ‘Old Brawner’s Ferry Road’ got its name from one of the previous owners of the property which was located on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, James Henry Brawner. James was born on July 3, 1825, to James Middleton Brawner and Mary ‘Emma’ Buchannan.

James ran a ferry from the Georgia side over to the Alabama side and back. It was a large, flat, wooden floating barge with fence railing around it. At the time, the distance across the river was about a mile as it was only a river back then before Lake Harding was built by backing up the water with the building of Bartlett’s Ferry Dam. The ferry was pulled from the Gerogia side across the river to the Alabama side and back by the cable that was stretched across the river and anchored securely on each side.

brawners ferry circa 1910Brawner’s Ferry circa 1910

A large pavilion on the Georgia side provided shelter for recreational outings, games, picnics, singing and dancing. A cotton gin and press were near the ferry on the Brawner’s farm for the convenience of nearby farmers of the Antioch community to bring their cotton to be ginned, pressed and baled.

The cotton press was an early type consisting of a giant screw made of wood which was drawn by a mule. As the screw turned, the cotton was pressed into bales. The farmers would then take their cotton across the river on Brawner’s Ferry to the Alabama landing known then as ‘Sharman’, then on to West Point over muddy, rugged roads. Even now, those familiar with the current Georgia Hwy 103 to West Point realize how much quicker the ferry trip would have been than to try to make it by land. And the new 103 is a dream road compared to the winding, goat’s path it was way back then. The ferry ride was a much shorter route to West Point where they could sell their cotton along with other farm commodities.

After Bartlett’s Ferry Dam blocked the river and created the Lake Harding Reservior, the original roads which had run on both sides of the river kept their original name of “Brawner’s Ferry Road” and just added ‘Old’ as part of the name.

James Henry Brawner died on October 29, 1903, and is buried in the church yard of Antioch Baptist Church in Fortson, Georgia.

Taken from the book: History of Harris County Georgia by Louise Calhoun Barfield. Also taken from interviews with descendants of James Henry Brawner, Rebecca ‘Becky’ Brawner Wynn, one of James Great granddaughters, and Meredith ‘Merry’ Semmes Gnann, one of James Great-great granddaughters; both life-long residents of Lake Harding, by Susan Tompkins, January 2013

Photo Courtesy of Becky Brawner Wynn


Merry Gnann’s Great-aunt, Annie Mae Brawner, lived in a log home on Mountain Oak Creek. It was located at the corner of Lick Skillet and Helen Lane in Hamilton, Georgia. She ran a boat landing and bait shop between her home and the Mountain Oak Creek bridge.

Original One Lane Iron Bridge on Lick Skillet Road over Mountain Oak Creek
Original One Lane Iron Bridge on Lick Skillet Road over Mountain Oak Creek – Annie Mae Brawner Burney’s Bait Shop was Located on the Right Side

Soon after the Civil War ended circa 1865, the community became known as ‘Lick Skillet’. The only means of communicating to the masses that the war had been declared “over” was to send men all over on horseback to deliver the message. When one of these messengers came upon a group of men fishing on Mountain Oak Creek, he stopped to tell them the news. Since they had a nice catch, they asked him to stay and share their fish and bottle of moonshine. No doubt, tired from his long day of horseback riding, he apparently had a few too many sips, and fell asleep on the creek bank while the fish were being cooked. When the man, whose name is not known, reportedly awoke from his nap and realized that his new buddies had eaten all of the fish, he exclaimed, “Oh, well. I’m so hungry; I’ll just lick the skillet!” He was referring to the pan which had been used to fry the fish. Obviously the group of men found his remark to be quite humorous and shared it many times for it to have made such a lasting impression.

After that the area located at Mountain Oak Creek, just west of the Chattahoochee River in Harris County, Georgia came to be known as ‘Lick Skillet’.

Bill Wynn, Sr and his wife, Becky Brawner Wynn, inside the old log home of Annie Mae Brawner Burney
Bill Wynn, Sr and his wife, Becky Brawner Wynn, inside the Old Log Home of Annie Mae Brawner Burney

Taken from the book: History of Harris County Georgia by Louise Calhoun Barfield. Also taken from interviews with descendants of James Henry Brawner, Rebecca ‘Becky’ Brawner Wynn, one of James Great granddaughters, and Meredith ‘Merry’ Semmes Gnann, one of James Great-great granddaughters; both life-long residents of Lake Harding, by Susan Tompkins, January 2013

Photos Courtesy of Becky Brawner Wynn