There is a lot of history and other information about the farm located here. Pineola Farms has a rich history from Growing and Ginning of Cotton by a Stephen Elisha Bassett, a southern preacher to stories of British Cadets who spent some of their last days enjoying the hospitality of Henriette Bassett before flying and fighting in WWII to the present time as a pecan farm and wedding venue. We look forward to continuing the rich history and southern hospitality at Pineola Farms.
Below is the letter we found the day we closed on the house. We already new the house had a lot of spirit...then this letter. We were crying so much, it took 5 family members to read it. We called information and got Simone's phone number and called her that night! It has been exciting ever since.
May 7, 1994
Dear Mr. Snipe:
Although we haven’t met, I think we may have something in common — the love of an old house. I believe you met my elder sister, Marguerite Bassett Harrison, about a year ago when she was being shown through your house. The third of the girls in my family, I came to Indiana as a bride in 1950. My husband, Dr. J. Albert Robbins, was a professor of English and American Literature at Indiana University until his death in 1992. There were five of us Bassett girls, all old ladies now, of course. One, my sister Beulah, died in 1976, and until recently, that date - when I attended her funeral - was my last visit to Fort Valley.
However, in late April I returned for my 51st High School Reunion, and was in Fort Valley for six days. It was a rather momentous occasion for me, since not only was it the first reunion I had attended, but it was also the first time I had seen my husband’s grave, having sent his body down two years ago for burial in the Bassett family plot. I found many changes in the town and the surrounding countryside, with new roads and buildings, etc. My friend, Sara Middlebrooks, arranged with your manager, Roy Henson, for me to have a tour of the interior of the house which we used to call Pineola and which I understand you now call Barnby Manors. I was very grateful to Roy and Sara for this opportunity.
By now, you must be wondering why this garrulous old lady is writing to you and what is the purpose of this letter. Let me say first of all that I am sorry you were not in residence at the time of my visit, for I would surely have sought you out for a good long talk about Pineola’s past. I think there may be something there of interest to you as a Britisher. Before I explain, may I express my appreciation of the care you have given to the house. I know you have spent quite a bit on it, I liked your changes although I had no way of knowing which were yours and which were those of earlier residents since my sister sold the house. I do believe that you have saved the house from falling into disrepair and decay, especially by installing central air and heat. My mother would be pleased.
And it is because of my mother that I am writing to you. Nothing would please her more than to know that an Englishman now owns the house. You see, she came to Georgia from Paris, France, in 1919, having married a Georgia man, Captain Ralph Bassett. She had gone to boarding school in England as a young girl and then returned to teach French in an English school. Having been brought up very strictly in Paris, Henriette Bourdier felt that England represented freedom and fun, and she often spoke of playing tennis, punting on the Thames, and how happy she was in Leicester.
When World War II arrived, even before the United States entered the war, there were young Britishers in America, particularly in the South, Royal Air Force cadets, being trained mostly as fighter pilots. What is now the Macon Airport was then called Cochran Field, which was a basic training school. My mother was beside herself to know they were there, and immediately began organizing dances at the American Legion, and arranging for many families in Fort Valley to open their homes to the young men from across the seas. She called on church groups to take them home for Sunday dinner after church and many families “adopted” boys from each of the successive training classes.
As for Pineola, it was open house for the RAF for the remainder of the war. I really cannot tell you how many young men we entertained, but it was a period I will never forget. The house was well set up for hosting the cadets, as we could put them in the two-room wing added by my father in 1930. Here they had their own bath and complete privacy from the rest of the house. I believe this is the part of the house you presently use as your living—quarters.
I remember once when we had eight men, who came from three different bases, having all received graduation leave at the same time. I have a photo taken on the lawn at Pineola of my mother, two younger sisters and the eight. They were mostly there for a week, and what a time we had. My father left for a fishing trip in Florida, telling Guy Halifax, one of the older of the group, that he expected a full written report of what happened while he was gone, to be placed in his cigar box. When he checked the cigar box on his return, the cigars were gone, and Guy had left a note saying that too much had happened, he couldn’t possibly write it up. Of the eight, at least four died in the war. I am in correspondence with three of the survivors: Norman Bate, Ken Lewis, and Desmond Macey.
Over the years, we gradually lost touch with the “Bassett Boys” but in 1985 I was contacted by Dr. Gilbert Guinn, a History professor in Greenwood, SC, who was trying to write a voluminous history of the training of the RAF in the States, and in particular of those who were under the Arnold Scheme of training (named for the American general, “Hap” Arnold.) He asked for any and all information I might be able to supply him on the boys we had entertained, saying that the name of the Bassett family kept coming up again and again. Also that Norman Bate was asking for our addresses. Thereafter Norman and I began a correspondence which has endured to this day. Norman also began publication of the Arnold Register, which was an attempt, largely successful, to re—establish contact among those who had trained in the States. This Spring Norman was decorated by the queen for his efforts, as was another Bassett boy, Johnny Johnson (for his activities in working with underprivileged boys). Norman says that he made a solemn promise to Mama Bassett that he would try to keep the boys in touch with each other, and thinks he has fulfilled that promise.
A group of these RAF veterans has already come on tour to the States. They were given the keys to the city of Macon, Ga. and feted for several days in Albany, GA, home of one of the advanced bases. Unfortunately when they came to Fort Valley, they were unannounced and couldn’t even find the route to Pineola Farm. I am telling you this because Norman tells me that a small group is coming over again in September of this year. They are definitely going to be in Macon again, and I assume that at least certain ones would be very interested in seeing Fort Valley again, as well as the old house where they spent so many days. I have permission from Sara Middlebrooks to give Norman her name, address and tel. no., and would like your permission to do the same for you. Norman called me from Leicester the moment he got my letter telling him I was finally going back to Fort Valley again. Will you by any chance be in residence in Fort Valley in September? I still must write him to give an account of my trip.
I find it a very daunting project to try to explain in a letter about those war years, Henriette Bassett, the unabashed Anglophile, and how beloved your house is to your countrymen. Norman simply gasped when I told him the place was now owned by an Englishman. Somewhere I have copies of the photo of the eight on the lawn that day, but so far have not been able to put my hands on them. If I find them, will send you one.
So thank you, Sir, for taking such good care of our former home. If I can give you any more information, please let me know. The spirits of those eager young men must still sometimes find their way about the place. Not that they would haunt it, for they were happy times, as happy as possible in war time. So think of them as good spirits, wishing you well in your endeavors.
F. Norman Bate
51 Henley Rd.
Leicester LE3 9RD England tel. 0533-519454
7 Whistlefield Cottages
Northampton, Gt. Britain NN6-OAP tel. 0604-49-4645
Newspaper Article About the Bassett Reunion in 2000
How many people do you know a couple who will open their house to complete strangers for a huge family reunion? That’s exactly what Paul and Delise Knight of Taylor’s Mill Road in Fort Valley did Memorial Day weekend when they invited all the descendants of Stephen Elisha Bassett (oldtimers will remember the late brothers Ralph and Noble Bassett and sister Lucy) to meet at the old Bassett homeplace, Pineola Farm.
The Knights estimate that more than 100 Bassetts and community friends attended the event that Paul Knight called “a big success”
It’s the most memorable thing we’ve ever done. It was great!” agreed Delise Knight, who together with a number of friends provided a variety of mouth-watering dishes in abundance for Saturday’s noon meal. Folks brought pot-luck items; if they brought no food, they were given an opportunity to make a financial contribution. to help pay for the food.
Mrs. Marie Anderson, whose mother was French (as was Ralph Bassett’s wife Henriette), made 150 rolls for the occasion, Mrs. Evelyn Webb, who attended her first garden club meeting with Henriette, contributed two pecan pies. Edgar and Lena Belle Duke churned a massive amount of peach ice cream Friday afternoon for the Saturday crowd. Deli se’s friends, Terri and Marty Greathouse, assumed command of the kitchen so that everything would run smoothly.
“We could not have done it without all of them.’’ insisted Delise. “I have never seen such a kind, caring community.’
Simone Bassett Robbins of .Bloomington . Indiana, was in charge of contacting all the relatives, She and some others came down Wed., May 24, and stayed through Tues., May 30.
Thursday the Bassetts who were in Peach County had lunch in Fort Valley, viewed the Bassett bricks in the Fincher Park gazebo and toured Lane Packing Co. Friday they visited the Shiloh and Oaklawn cemeteries in Centerville and Fort Valley, respectively. That night all gathered at the New Perry Hotel for supper.
And, of course, “the Big Day” was Saturday. Visiting Pineola Farm was a trip into the past as everyone hugged and kissed, caught up on all the family news, shared precious memories of family members no longer present, renewed old friendships and met newer family members. Photos, letters and other family documents were on display for all to see and help in preserving the history of the house. That magnificent house furnished with handsome antiques in every room was the perfect spot for a family reunion-- and the house and porches are so commodious that there was room for all to enjoy a seated meal. (Maybe a few did have to eat in shifts.)
Sunday those who were still in middle Georgia attended the Fort Valley Presbyterian Church to end a memorable weekend.
In honor of the “once-In-alifetime” event Patsy Bassett Hilliard’s husband read this poem before Saturday dinner was served.
I Love You, Pineola!
by Russell B. Hilliard, Sr.
Pineola, I love you for the Bassetts who first gave life
to you and renewed
it from generation to generation: for Stephen Elishawho framed you in hisheart and formed you in the field from tall Georgia pines.Pineola, I love you for your hall so wide and long,with your inner depthsfor memories and your outer doors for welcomes.Pineola. I love you for
your ceilings, built high for coolness in yourantebellum summers, butwell lighted with crystal chandeliers to call all eyes upwards in recent years.Pineola, I love you for your porches that, breathing honeysuckle’s sweetness,
not only opened out to your birds, your flowers, your peaches, and your pines,but also to the lovely neighbors of Fort Valley and to the largercommunity of the world.Pineola, I love you foryour children, amongAmerica’s sturdy stock.You protected them to play in the softness of your cottonand to grow with yourfields of grain.I love you for one of your girls who has meant more than life to me.Pineola, I love you for Paul and Delise Knight, not
only for having brought you back to life again, but also, with Simone,for having brought us back to you, simply to tell you:
“Pineola. we love you!”
From The Byron Gazzette
The Bassett Family of Houston County by Sue Bassett Folawn
The Bassett Family owned Pineola From 1865 until 1972
Stephen Bassett, son of William Bassett and his wife Mary Phillips, was born
in Cumberland Co. NC in 1788, and grew up
in that area. He married Jane
Morris, daughter of Elijah and Rachel Morris, in Barnwell, SC in 1815. Along
with many thousands of others, especially settlers from the Carolinas, they
arrived in Georgia with the hopes of the land and a new life, offered by the
Georgia Land Lotteries.
Family tradition says that the young family settled first near old Ft.
Hawkins, close to Macon, when that part of the state was still on the frontier and
the Cherokee Indians were still inhabiting the area. By the 1820 Census, they
had moved to Jones Co., near Clinton.
In 1828, Stephen purchased 202 1/2 acres from Alexander B. Kennedy for Lot
33, District 5 of Houston Co. for $250.(1) This was land originally drawn by
Mr. Kennedy in the 1821 Georgia Land Lottery. The property was approximately a
mile and a half southeast of Byron, Ga. This is where the Bassetts settled
There would be years of hard work ahead, but people who managed to obtain
the land offered in the Lotteries, considered themselves fortunate, indeed. The
land in Houston County was rich. It was also forested and needed to be cleared
and fenced in order to plant crops and orchards. At this point, roads were
few and primitive. Railroads would not arrive in the area until the 1840's.
Their church, believed to have been the Shiloh Methodist Church, near their
farm, was undoubtedly the mainstay of both their spiritual and social lives.
Notations in the Bassett Bible list the dates that each of the Bassett sons and
daughters joined the Church, indicating its great importance to them. Stephen
and Jane farmed, raised their family of 5 children and lived long and
productive lives, accumulating a considerable amount of land in the process.
The Civil War brought great personal tragedy to the family with the loss of 3
grandsons in service; Stephen and Will Clark (sons of daughter Mary) and
Walter Pattishall, (daughter Harriet's son) as well as the death of a son-in-law,
Wiley Clark, (Mary's husband). Two of their young Melvin grandchildren
(children of daughter, Georgia) also died of illness during this time. (1863)
Stephen Bassett died in 1867 (age 78) and Jane in 1870 (age 71). Family
tradition says that they are buried in the Shiloh Methodist Churchyard near Byron,
GA. While there are no markers for them in evidence, there are estimated to
be as many as 150 unmarked graves within the cemetery. They were married for
The will of Stephen Bassett;
Book B, Pages 201 & 202, Minute Book pg. 415
Houston Co. GA.
"In the name of God, Amen.
I, Stephen Bassett, of the State of Georgia and County of Houston, being
of sound mind and perfect memory, taking into consideration the frailty of
human nature and knowing it is appointed unto man once to die & and being of
advanced age and knowing by the course of nature I must soon depart this life
I wish to dispose of by will of what earthly property it has pleased God
to bless me within this world to make, ordain, promulgate and establish this
my will and testament.
1st My soul I commit to God who gave it and my body to the earth, hoping my
friends will give it a decent burial.
2nd My debts I wish paid with the least possible delay by my executors as I
do not wish that my condition should be kept from their dues when there is no
occasion for delay.
3rd I give my whole estate, real and personal, to my beloved wife Jane
Bassett during her natural life or widowhood and until her death or marriage the
property that I herein give my said wife is to be used by her and kept together
for her support and maintenance, and at her death or marriage I give devise
and bequeath to my two sons, William F. Bassett and Stephen E. Bassett, one
half of my whole estate, real and personal, to be equally divided between them,
and to my three daughters, Mary A. A. Clark, Harriet J. A. Pattishall and
Georgia A. Melvin, I give, devise and bequeath the other half of my whole estate,
real and personal, to be equally divided between them.
4th And it is my further will and desire that the property herein given to my
daughters above named shall vest in each of them as a separate estate, free
from the debts, contracts and liabilities of any husband or husbands that
either of them may ever marry.
5th I herein nominate and appoint my two sons, William F. Bassett and Stephen
E. Bassett, Executors of this, my last will and testament, in witness
whereof, I have herein set my hand and seal February 7th, 1867.
D. F. Gunn
F. M. Trell (Probated Sept. 1867)
M. H. Thomson
Mary Bassett Clark was the firstborn child of Stephen and Jane Bassett. Born in North
Carolina, she would have been an infant when they arrived in Georgia in 1820 and
was 11 when her parents settled in Houston Co., near Byron. She grew up with
her 4 siblings (William, Harriet, Stephen Elisha and Georgia) and married Wiley
Clark in 1836. They were the parents of 9 children.
More than most, we can look at the old records of Mary's life and marvel at
the story they tell and the history this family lived through. Following the
death of her husband of over 25 years during the Civil War, she homesteaded the
Clark farm near Powersville and raised her 3 remaining children there
(Victoria, Sarah and Drew), with 2 of her older boys living nearby. She did not
remarry.. She outlived all but one of her siblings and died in Monroe Co. in 1905
at age 85.
Mary's obituary reads;
"Mrs. Mary A. Clark, daughter of the late Stephen and Jane Bassett was born
Oct. 15, 1819 and died in Monroe Co. Ga. on June 23, 1905. She was buried at
Shiloh Methodist Churchyard, Houston Co. Ga. She married Mr. Wiley Clark. She
had 2 sons to die in the War (1). Her husband joined the State Troups and
was taken sick and sent home. When he reached Powersville, Ga. his daughter (2)
had died that day. In a few days, he passed away also. She leaves 2 sons
and 1 daughter, Mrs. V.A. (3) Maynard of Forsyth, Ga., Rev. J.F. Clark of
Texas, and Mr. D.E. Clark of Monroe Co. Ga."
From "Monroe Co. GA. Published Obituaries"
Washington Library, Macon, GA
(1) Will and Stephen
(3) Mrs. Elisha Thomas Maynard
William F. Bassett was born near Macon, the first born son of Stephen and
Jane Bassett, but came to the Byron area as a small child. He married Sarah Ann
Walker in July of 1847.
William served with the Georgia 20th Infantry, Co. A, during the Civil War.
This family lived in the Powersville area throughout their lives and were
large landowners. He was a County Officer in 1866 (Tax Receiver)
Will of William F. Bassett
Will Book B-280-281
Mar. 12, 1875
Filed: July 24, 1875
To wife Sarah A. Bassett, my entire estate....
Following her death;
2 daughters: Angelina H. Bassett and Mary Ann Bassett, my homeplace
consisting of about 700 acres formed by lots: 5/33 (original Stephen Bassett lot in
Houston Co.), 5/34, 5/19, half of 5/20
2 sons: Stephen M. Bassett and William F. Bassett, Jr., my Everett Lands,
about 600 acres consisting of 9/240, portion of 9/239, 6/226, 6/255, portion of
Executors: Wife Sarah A. Bassett and brother Stephen E. Bassett
William and his wife Sarah are both buried in Shiloh Churchyard. Byron, GA.
as are all four of their children
Harriet Bassett Pattishall was the 3rd child of Stephen and Jane Bassett, born in 1830 near
She married Jackson C. Pattishall of Houston Co. in 1844. Harriet and her
husband Jack, had 13 children, 7 surviving to adulthood.
Below is the text of a letter, written by Harriet to her sister Mary Bassett
Clark during the Civil War;
(There are early Houston County records referring to the Buzzard's Roost
Ferry on the Ocmulgee River in the 11th land district of the county. It was near
the present day town of Kathleen, Ga.)
Harriet and Jackson Pattishall are buried at Shiloh Churchyard in Byron.
At home August 9th, 1863
Mrs. Mary A. A. Clark
My dear sister,
I received your kind letter this morning. I was more than
glad to hear from you all. This leaves me with a sick family. Jack and Lish
and Eugenia all have the fever and has been down a week today. Jack is very
weak for he liked to of died. I have been sick myself. It was caused from
fatigue and wanting to sleep. I hope this may reach you all well and doing well.
Dear sister, trouble is common over here, more so among the common people
than the rich. The rich is as high minded as ever and is dodging the war and the
troubles of it. Dear, it seems like everything in the way of trouble is come
on me at once. It seems insupportable and no friend near to relate my
troubles to nor to sympathize with me. It seems like I had rather die than live if
it was not for my helpless little children that would suffer for my attention.
I have not heard from my husband and my son in nearly 3 weeks. I can't tell
why they don't write to me I am in a distressed condition with my sick family
and not well myself. This is a very sickly place. I want to get away from
here bad. Tell Daniel (Mary's son) to get off at buzzard roost station. We
live two miles from the station. Inquire for the widow Bryans place or for
where we live either. Rebecca Bryans. Jack will meet him if he knew what day he
would come. Tell him to come soon. I want you to come with him if you can.
If you can Mary. The children all want to see Aunt Mary. I dreamed of you
last night. I must close so nothing more from your loving and affectionate
sister this time.
Harriet J Pattishall *
Stephen Elisha Bassett was born near Byron, GA. in 1833 and grew up as the
second from the youngest child of Stephen and Jane Bassett. According to the
old Bassett Bible pages, he joined the church as a young man of 18, and was a
practicing Christian for the rest of his life, devoting much of it to spreading
He married Frances Hicks (daughter of Elijah H. Hicks and Martha Fudge), on
Feb. 18, 1855 in her father's home in Crawford County. (3) He was 22. She was
20. Early in their marriage, the couple settled near Fort Valley on the
Hardison Place, north of town on Taylor's Mill Road. In 1865, he purchased the
property and built the "Bassett homeplace" (also on Taylor's Mill Road), known
for many years now as Pineola. Here they raised their family and spent many
years. The Bassett homeplace remained in the family for over 100 years,
occupied by sons and grandsons and their families.
Stephen Elisha and Frances were married for nearly 35 years and were the
parents of 9 children, 7 of whom lived to adulthood, Gus, Walter, Stephen, Elisha
"Lish", Charlie, Sidney and Fannie. His pet name for her was "Puss" (1)
In his early years, the Rev. S. E. Bassett (as Stephen Elisha was listed in
later records) was a Methodist minister and Circuit Rider, traveling and
preaching, performing marriages and burying the departed, around the surrounding
counties. These ministers were known as "Saddlebag Saints" for their efforts at
carrying the Word on horseback. (2) Stephen Elisha also farmed and was a
highly successful businessman. He ginned the cotton of his neighbors, sold cotton
gins, and acquired extensive property in both Georgia and Alabama. He was
also one of the incorporators of the Dow Land Bank of Fort Valley as well as
one of the founders of the Fort Valley College, the first college for blacks in
In a disagreement with the Methodist church in 1882, he was granted a letter
of removal (a form of resignation). He thereafter donated the land for and
built and established his own church, the Congregational Methodist Church on
Persons Street in Fort Valley. He preached there for 12 years.(2) He also
organized the Crawford County Wesleyan Congregational Church. At the time of his
death in 1897, he was superintendent of the Congregational churches of
Alabama for the Congregational Home Missionary Society.
In 1884, the Bassett homeplace was being managed by a Mr. Lonie Taylor (3),
which sounds as if Stephen Elisha and Frances may have moved to town when he
built the new church. This is also the year that his son, Stephen Hicks
Bassett, purchased the homeplace from his father and his own family moved there.
He would seem to have been a many faceted man; a farmer with very large
holdings, a successful businessman, and a man dedicated to his religious calling
for all of his adult life, paradoxical, but much admired.
Following the death of Frances in 1889, he married "Miss Tommie" Young, who
had been the governess for his daughter Fannie.
When he died, in 1897, his funeral service was preached by the Rev. S.E.
McDaniel on the words;
"I have fought a good fight,
I have kept the faith,
I have finished the course.
Servant of God well done,
Rest in thy loved employ." (4)
Stephen Elisha is buried in Oaklawn Cemetery, Ft. Valley, with a wife on
(1)Diary/ledger of S.E, Bassett 1868 and 1872 (found at Pinelola-2000)
(2) Information from "Methodist Church 1847-1905". Thomas Public Library,
(3) "Near-by Orchards, farms and farmers. Business Directory of Fort Valley
and Many Other Items", page 17, printed in 1884, speaks of the farm's
(Found in the Fort Valley Library, reported by Paul and Delise Knight)
(4) Bassett Bible (Pineola)
GEORGIA ANN BASSETT MELVIN (1835-1915)
Below is a letter written by Georgia Bassett to her cousin in South Carolina.
April 9th 1863
Mrs Martha L Hatcher
My Dear Old Friend
I seat myself this evening to write you a few lines to inform you
that I am yet in the land of the living and although some years have
elapsed since I have seen you I assure you you are not forgotten by
me. This leaves me in very good health and I trust you enjoying the
like blessing. Brother Elishas wife received a letter from you last
year which was intended for us both. I recon you thought I did not
intend to reply ***obscured by scotch tape***I think you will only
wonder ***obscured by scotch tape*** with a kind loving husband who
always treated me very kind and was all to me that I could ask or
wish we live in peace and pleasure without any thing to mar our
happiness eight years to a day. I can look back upon my past life I
never knew what trouble was until the 14th of last July he joined the
Southern Rights Artillery oh what a sad day it was to me when I
looked after him perhaps for the last time. I never shall be able to
express the feelings I ***** not more than two minutes after he was
gone. I thought if the whole world was at my command I would give it
all just only to have him with me again but that pleasure was denied
me and I have never seen him since nor did my troubles end here. I
had two lovely children the oldest was nearly three years old her
name was Anna Valetta the baby was nearly 3 months old her name was
Georgia Melissa. I never saw more promising children in my life. They
both and especially Anna was a favorite with everyone that saw them.
But alas their time on earth was short the destroying Angel entered
my sweet little home and took my sweet little children from me.
Georgia died just nine days before Anna both scarlet fever in the
worst form. I never saw anything suffer like they did in my life.
Georgia was not able to make any noise at all in about ten days
before she died. She lived fourteen days after she was taken and Anna
live twenty three days after she was taken. Oh how desolate is my
once sweet little home striped of all that was lovely and pleasant in
my eyes. No one but God and myself know what trouble deep I waded
through in the past ten months. I was first taken sick in ****scotch
tape**** bed a week to both my little darlings was took sick
***scotch tape*** to get off my bed to wait on them **** a good
nights rest in thirty nights. It only seems a wonder that I was
I have now only one consolation left and that is I know the Lord does
all things well. I cannot see now why he should thus afflict me but I
know it is all right for God cannot err. I have the blessed
consolation of knowing my little darlings is in Heaven free from the
cares, troubles and snaresof this world and by the grace of God I
intend to meet them where parting will be no more.
I am blessed with a Christian husband if he should be spaired to me I
will try and be content with my lot but the dreadful thought of
losing him nearly distracts me. Dear Martha I recon you are tired of
my tale of woe. I recon you scarcely recognize the once light hearted
Georgia Bassett in these lines. I would be very glad to see you and
have a long talk with you.
Close for the present hopeing to hear from you very soon.
Your truly devoted friend
Georgia A Melvin
[Written upside down in the upper margin of the 2nd page]:
Direct your letters to Fort Valley Ga please write to me soon
Mrs Georgia A Melvin
Fort Valley Ga
(Georgia's husband, Wiley Melvin, did return from the War, and they went on
to live full lives and have 2 more children (William and Wiley). They lived in
Fort Valley throughout their lives and are both buried in Oaklawn Cemetery.)
TRIBUTE TO REV STEPHEN E BASSETT
By Superintendent SC Daniels of Georgia Rev Stephen Elisha Bassett was born June 17 1833 embraced religion and joined the ME Church South in 1850 and although he was then only seventeen years old at once took up active Christian duties In 1863 he was licensed to preach and from that time until his death on July 20 1897 he was a faithful minister of Jesus Christ While he remained in the ME Church South he was ordained to both Deacon's and Elder's orders and maintained a local standing although at different times he was in the regular itinerant work by appointment and as such acceptably served different fields of labor In 1880 he united with the Congregational Methodist Church having become dissatisfied with the government of the ME Church South and in 1888 when a majority of the Congregational Methodist churches in Georgia including the local church of which he was a member affiliated with the Congregational churches he became a Congregationalist and died in the harness as a Congregational minister Mr Bassett was in an eminent degree a helpful man Possessing financial ability far beyond the average preacher he was able to help the cause he loved so well with his money as well as with his personal efforts He furnished the ground on which the neat and comfortable church house at Fort Valley stands and had the house built and furnished almost entirely out of his own private means In many other ways he used his money for God's glory and the good of his cause As a Christian he was always ready to give a reason for the hope that was in him As a church worker he was zealous and persevering always ready for duty and seldom becoming discouraged at difficulties As a preacher he was earnest spiritual and effective When he preached men listened learned and went away with a desire to listen again and learn more He began to cast his bread upon the waters nearly fifty years ago and much of it he found after many days while the fruit of his doing will ripen for many days to come Mr Bassett was often honored by his brethren with positions of trust and confidence which positions he always filled with credit and satisfaction In all the various gatherings where men of prudence piety and decision were needed from the simplest church council to the National Council he was found at his post Since he has been connected with the Congregational churches he has been a delegate to every National Council and has attended every session As a member of various conferences conventions and councils he has ever been present and useful sometimes on the floor assisting in the regular conduct of business sometimes times in the committee room aiding to solve some difficult or delicate problem and sometimes as the presiding officer of the body watching all interests and guiding the deliberations For the last six years he has been the Superintendent of Home Missions for the State of Alabama and his faithful service in that position has been attested by his success in that laborious and difficult field and the confidence and devotion of his brethren under his supervision Death came to him not unexpectedly although suddenly God kindly permitted him to be able to work almost to the last day of his life On Sunday July 18th he preached twice at his home church in Fort Valley having preached the day before at the district conference in Meansville. On Monday he was taken very ill at an early hour with acute indigestion and lingered in much suffering until noon on Tuesday when he fell asleep in Jesus His last words were addressed to his dear wife and were I am believing hoping trusting He was twice married first in 1855 to Frances E Hicks of Crawford County Ga She died in 1889 leaving six children Second to Elizabeth T Young of Lee County Ala in 1890 He has left a devoted wife and six loving children to mourn their loss while he has gone to find that to die is gain The Congregational cause in Georgia has lost one of its pillars and Christianity has seen one of its most valiant soldiers fall in the battle Mature in years rich in Christian experience ripe in Christian labors and ready for the reaper he has fallen in the good fight and laid all his trophies at the foot of the cross May the God of consolation comfort his sorrowing loved ones and give them grace to endure this great trial and to meet him in heaven.
The following excerpts are from a book titled The Arnold Scheme by Gilbert S. Guinn published by www.historypress.net Reprinted with permission of the publisher
USAAF BASIC FLYING SCHOOL: COCHRAN FIELD 371
While at Cochran Field, Frank Norman Bate of Class SE-42-F met a family from nearby Fort Valley and therefore had an extra morale boost from this close family relationship while undergoing the harsh discipline of basic flying school. Between June 1941 and December 1942, the Bassett family, which included Papa, Mama and daughters Marguerite, Simone, Maris and Patsy, regularly "adopted" members of every RAF class and entertained them in their large rambling home at Pineola Farm, a few miles northwest of Fort Valley.
Ralph Bassett, a Georgia native and graduate of the University of Georgia, served in France as a United States Army officer. While in the army of occupation just after the war, he met and married his wife, Henriette, in Paris, and since about 1920, they had made their home in Georgia.
Mrs. Bassett, who as a girl had studied in Leicester, England, was anxious to welcome and provide true Southern hospitality to the young British students who were so far from home. When she and her husband contacted the morale officer at Cochran Field, Mrs. Bassett asked him to be sure to send any cadets from Leicestershire, where she had attended school, and that was the beginning of a long and warm relationship between an American family and dozens of British cadets.
As Norman Bate, a native of Leicester, described his experience at Pineola Farm and Cochran Field, his words give evidence of increasing maturity and obvious adjustment to his new environment:
How much it meant to experience a fairly well-off family in such restful surroundings; well away from the harshness of Cochran Field and the coldness of Macon city itself. .. Evenings on the porch were spent drinking cocktails; mint juleps; whilst from inside one heard the piano and the singing of Maris. Here I was to have my first real experience of household chores, and for this I have also been grateful, for, if need be, I am fully independent of others in the running of a home, cooking representing no problem.
Papa Bassett wished his girls to take up professional careers as doctors or teachers. I think I have known as many as sixteen Britishers present at Pineola Farm on a single occasion or one group leaving as one arrived. Papa, whose health seemed ailing, listened intently in his room to every single news bulletin from around the world; he was a shrewd man, and a good judge if character.
The Bassett family of Pineola Farm, some three miles northwest of Fort Valley, sought out numerous British cadets in order to welcome and entertain them during their stay in Georgia. Ralph P Bassett, a graduate of the University of Georgia, had served in France as an officer in the United States Army during 1917-19. While stationed in France, he met and married Henriette Bourdier. After the war, Ralph returned with his bride to Fort Valley, where he was an agent of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Ralph was also a partner with his brother, Noble, in the operations of Pineola Farm. Henriette had grown up near Bourges and attended schools there and in Paris. Although she considered herself a Parisienne, she had also attended the Arnold School on Regents Road in Leicester, England, where she learned English.
Other French war brides came to the United States and scattered to a number of different states, pledging to keep in touch with each other. In Georgia, Henriette and Ralph began to convert a rambling old farmhouse into a home. A part of Henriette's natural loneliness was absorbed in homemaking and in giving birth to five daughters. She also maintained contact with several of her "war bride" friends and new friends she developed in her adoptive hometown in Georgia.
Originally named Fox Valley because of the presence of so many foxes in the rolling hills and woodlands of the region, the town reportedly became Fort Valley by accident of misinterpretation of someone's handwriting. During the post-Civil War era, a post office and State Normal School and Mechanical Institute for Negroes were established in the village.
By 1900, Samuel H. Rumph had moved from his native South Carolina to establish Willow Lake Farm at nearby Marshallville where, following lots of hard work and experimentation, he began to produce excellent freestone peaches commercially. He gave the new peach strain his wife's unusual name, Elberta. Rumph's pioneering efforts encouraged others to develop large orchards and new varieties of peaches. From these efforts came the creation of Peach County, with tiny Fort Valley as its governmental seat.
However, since peaches were not selling well, peach trees were replaced by cotton. Then the boll weevil destroyed the cotton and peaches came back again. New strains of peaches, such as R.H. Hiley's Hiley Belle, were developed, and pecan groves were also planted as a supplement to fruit culture. Even though many trainloads of peaches and other crops were shipped out of the county during the 1920s and 1930s, the town and county still did not prosper. These were depression years for American farmers, and small towns dependent on farm populations could not support many businesses, so vacant stores became a standard feature of the community during the lean years extending from 1925 to 1938.
During that latter year and succeeding ones, many changes came to middle Georgia and elsewhere in the nation. The economy shifted, more peaches were being sold at better prices and new businesses moved into vacant shop buildings. The Blue Bird Bus Body Company, builder of school buses, was expanded, a huge milling operation that processed both wheat and corn was established and several new public and commercial buildings were built. In addition, the State Normal School and Mechanical Institute for Negroes was renamed Fort Valley State College. In early March of every year, that institution continued to celebrate a Ham and Egg Festival.
In June 1941, Cochran Field and Camp Wheeler military bases opened near Macon, and the gigantic USAAF air depot at Warner Robins Field followed soon thereafter. The number of aircraft flying over the area increased phenomenally and, as these defense installations expanded, many new people sought houses and apartments in Fort Valley. Between August 1941 and December 1942, Royal Air Force student pilots arrived at Cochran Field every five weeks.
Since Henriette Bassett knew loneliness and the problems of adjusting to a different culture, her heart went out to the British boys who came to the airfield some eighteen miles away. She was prominent among the group of ladies who invited the first group of RAF cadets to Fort Valley for the Labor Day weekend. And when they arrived in small groups aboard the huge army trucks, it was she who always asked to meet any young men from Leicester, where she had attended school many years before.
Pineola Farm, the Bassett family home, was an enchanting place to the RAF boys, especially to those who had grown up in an urban environment. The Bassett daughters were young and attractive flirts, and the rambling old L-shaped house was comfortable and homey. One entered from a driveway with pine trees scattered about. Porches virtually surrounded the house, at least across the front and halfway down each side. At ground level, shrubbery and flowers were cultivated in a broad band along the porch, and in one section vines climbed a trellis to ward off the direct rays of the sun.
The continuous porch was under a roof and contained a number of rocking chairs, and on one end a porch swing was supported by chains attached to the ceiling. Other contiguous screened porches completed the outside of the huge house. Pineola Farm encompassed more than one thousand acres of land and was almost completely self-sufficient. For home use, the farm produced vegetables, chickens and eggs, pork, grain for flour and cornmeal, pear and fig trees and many pecan trees. Its fields produced hay, oats, corn and other feed for farm animals.
Life was good at Pineola Farm and in the nearby small town, and the added six hundred hours of flying were not only valuable additional experience for the RAF instructors, but were fun as well. Royal Air Force student pilots and flight instructors at USAAF basic and advanced flying schools were fascinated with the beauty and the soft, lovely drawls of Southern girls, and some RAF men married American girls from Georgia and Alabama.