Growing up in south Mississippi, a favorite childhood memory is spending lazy Sunday afternoons going for a drive with my family. We would come home from church , pack a picnic lunch and head out for what seemed like a wonderful adventure. Sometimes we would end up at Lake Bounds, an ice cold lake complete with an old mill, country store and a sandy white beach. There was always a wonderful summer scent from the kudzu that always made me think of grape soda.
To this day I still love to travel the back roads and explore out of the way places wherever I go. That’s why Abby and I decided to take an indirect route home after spending last week with Mark while he worked in Savannah. As we drove along the rural roads we saw old hotels and country stores that had been forced to close down after the interstate lured traffic to faster and more direct routes. Sharing a box of fresh pecan pralines from River Street and singing along with Jimmy Buffett, we set out to see what we would discover. Before too long we saw a sign that pointed to the community of Boneville. Not being able to pass up a town named Boneville, we turned down a narrow road covered in pot holes and overgrown with early spring vegetation. Soon we caught a glimpse of a small lake through the thick vegetation. Evidence of a public swimming hole that had seen better days made me think of my favorite Lake Bounds. Opposite the lake was a crumbling stone wall. As we drove a little further a huge white house came into view. It sat abandoned, crowded by dense vines and trees. Pulling into a rutted driveway we saw that the wrap around porch was sagging and the back door was wide open, allowing us to look straight through to the grand front porch entrance. After a minutes hesitation I grabbed my camera to make a few pictures. Inside, the house was covered in graffiti, and yet I could tell that this was once a beautiful, even elegant, place. Most rooms had a fireplace and wide plank walls or tongue and groove bead board. A landing halfway up the stairs to the second floor led to an incredible balcony flanked by huge white columns. Long ago, guests would have been able to see to the lake, but today the verdant greenery encroached to the balcony edge. A central bath with a deep tub served all of the upstairs rooms . As I got lost in taking photos and wondering just what this lonely place was, I heard a car pull up in the drive. I looked out to see that the local deputy sheriff had arrived to investigate my out of state vehicle.
As I talked to the deputy he told me that this enchanting place was once a thriving resort known as the Dixie Inn. It seems that Boneville had once been a bustling mill town. John (or Jones) Bones had built a mill before the civil war and was a card factory for cotton and wool later evolving into a cotton gin. There was a train depot within walking distance; in the early 1900′s wealthy folks from Augusta would arrive there to picnic, swim and spend a few days at the inn. Just when it seemed that Bonesville was set to become one of Georgia’s premier resort towns, Georgia Railroad discontinued service to the Boneville Depot. By 1922, access to the tiny town was nearly impossible. Later a bus line would run into the town so that residents could commute to work in larger towns. The final straw for Bonesville occurred when the bus stop was also discontinued in the 1960′s. Even the Bonesville Post Office has sat empty since 2007. The local grocery store closed several years ago when the owners died. No one has bothered to reopen the local gathering places. According to the Augusta Chronicle, the local church membership is fewer than 10 members.*
I felt a certain kinship with the little town of Bonesville. Maybe it was the memory of long abandoned Lake Bounds, but I could easily imagine what it would be like to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon picnicking on the bank of the idyllic little lake. I wanted to stay and explore longer, but it was getting late and the kind deputy told me about a place I should stop by on my way out of town.
Taking the deputy’s advice Abby and I drove down a dusty red clay road for several miles looking for the old rock house. It was getting dark and we were about to give up when we finally came upon the isolated home. Once again, this house was left open but was in much better condition than the old Dixie Inn. There was evidence of a squatter in the cellar, and most of the windows had been broken, but none of this could take away from the beauty of this historic structure. This house was built in the 1730′s and is the oldest rock house in Georgia. Researchers believe that it was built by an Irish immigrant and was used as a trading post. If so, it is one of the few surviving trading post in the South. Abby and I explored the house and imagined what this beautiful place was like as people lived and worked here over 250 years ago. As it got dark I reluctantly packed up my camera to head back to Asheville. It had been a wonderful day. As we drove down the dusty road in search of the interstate we were already planning our next back road adventure.
Lost to the Interstate
Just before sunset we found the old Rock House on a lonely red clay back road