Grayson History

Historic Grayson, Georgia
by Beth Johansen 
Compliments of Home Front Publications

Evidence of the rich history of Grayson can be found in the names of our schools and on the signs marking our roads, buildings and churches. The names; McConnell, Bennett, Brand, Chandler, Ethridge, Jacobs, Tribble, Cooper, Britt and more, reach out from the past and on into our future. The great grandchildren of our founding fathers remain among us and play vital roles in our current business, worship, politics and social events.

Although it took the foresight of men like James Patterson McConnell, town founder, and John E. Jacobs, Grayson’s first mayor to actually establish what has become known as Grayson, our history does not begin there. It was the foresight of others that brought these men to this area where the land upon which we stand became available for settlement.

The rich lands of Gwinnett County, Georgia were home to the Lower Creek and Cherokee Indians many thousands of years before the first European settlers set foot on them. In February 1784 Franklin County, which is now part of Gwinnett, was opened for settlement. A State Legislation Act that fixed the price of land at 3 shillings an acre and limited settlers to 1000 acres maximum opened the area. Land Lotteries and other legislation later governed the distribution. Lands east of the Appalachee River became Gwinnett County in December of 1818. Gwinnett and Walton Counties were surveyed from the natural “Rockbridge” on the Hightower Trail in 1819.

Our Southern part of Gwinnett County, which would later become the city of Grayson, was formed on either end of what is now considered Grayson. The New Hope or Tribble’s Mill area and the Haynes Creek or Midway Area were thriving settlements in the early to middle nineteenth century.

The McElvaney family operated Bay Creek post office in their mill. In 1877 Georgia Militia District was created and the Grayson area was named Bay Creek District. There is no doubt it was named for the creek that runs through the district which is lined with native Bay trees. New Hope Methodist Episcopal Church (now New Hope United Methodist) was organized around 1829. Its cemetery is a testament to the nameless pioneers of our area, some graves being marked and some not. The Billue’s, Brands, Chandlers, Robinson’s, Jacobs, McConnell’s, Pratt’s, and others are among some of the church’s first members.

Haynes Creek Primitive Baptist Church was constituted in April of 1826. The area around the church was settled by the Ford, Cooper, Rawlins, Jackson, Webb, Jacobs, Brand, Williams, Rutledge, Baggett, Kilgore, Knight, Smith, Summerlin,Langley, Baugh, Head, Petty, Oliver, Palmer, and Hawthorn families. Nearer the present day Summit Chase Golf Course was a school named Midway and one farther named Campground. School and church offered a great respite from isolated farm life in the nineteenth century.

The Billue and McConnell families settled the area that we all know as the city of Grayson. About 1836 these families came from Tennessee to Gwinnett County. Stephen Billue was the first to settle here, followed by his parents Thomas and Margaret Beattie Billue. About 1837 Tilford McConnell and Nancy Billue McConnell followed her brother and her parents to this area in southern Gwinnett County.

Tilford McConnell and Nancy Billue were married in Blount County, Tennessee in 1829. Tilford McConnell was the son of Moses and Elizabeth Draper McConnell. Both Tilford and Nancy McConnell are descendents of Revolutionary War veterans. After the death of Nancy Billue McConnell in 1867, Tilford married Mary E. Harris. There were no children from this second marriage.

The 10 children of Tilford and Nancy Billue McConnell were; William Thomas, Moses, Andrew C., Elizabeth S. (Mrs. Howell C. Head), Mary E., Philo W., Sarah C. (Mrs. John E. Kennerly), Robert T., John Calvin, and James Patterson. Moses and James Patterson both left lasting legacies on the City of Grayson.

In the early 1880’s Reverend James Patterson McConnell and his wife, Susan Arendell McConnell, bought 80 acres of land from his Uncle Stephen Billue. He built his own home and a frame store building near the intersection that is now the center of Grayson. In his store he was able to get a Post Office established, with himself as first Postmaster. The first Post Office was established on April 5, 1881, it was given the name “Trip” at the suggestions of J.D. Spence, a leading merchant and public figure at Lawrenceville.

While the man who served as Grayson’s first mayor, John E. Jacobs, was Postmaster, he wrote to the Post Department requesting that our town name be changed to Berkeley. An Act by the General Assembly of Georgia approved and Berkeley was incorporated December 16, 1901. Mr. Jacobs was then informed that another town named Berkeley was incorporated in Georgia, so he suggested Graymont, because of the clear view of Stone Mountain from the center of town. The Post Office Department already had a Post Office named Graymont. Faced with trying again, John E. Jacobs was inspired by a letter, which came from Mrs. Ada McConnell Jacobs (his wife) who was visiting McConnell relatives in Grayson County, Texas. The name “Grayson” interested Mr. Jacobs, so he tried again. “Grayson, Town of, Incorporated. An Act No. 182, by the General Assembly of the State of Georgia, Approved December 17, 1902” changed our name to Grayson. The first Aldermen to serve the newly established city were J.P. McConnell, W.P. Williams, J.S. Pate, A. Bennett and W.J. Tribble.

Grayson grew quickly and attracted merchants, a railway, settlers, educators and religious leaders. With the increase in settlement, schools and churches began to establish themselves in order to serve the community.

“Trip” Academy served as the first school in Grayson. Prior to 1881 and from the War of the 1860’s or earlier, the only education provided for the children of Grayson area was in a log cabin with “stick and mud” chimney, which stood near the south edge of Chestnut Grove Cemetery. Soon after 1900, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows joined with others to erect a two-story frame structure on the same lot where Grayson Elementary School now stands. The lot for Grayson School was given by Mr. Moses McConnell, grandfather of the children of Mr. and Mrs. John Elery Jacobs “for so long as the land is used for school purposes.”

In 1913 a Bond Issue by the citizens of Grayson provided funds for a two-story brick veneered building. It was later extended and expanded when our school became a Consolidated School, Grayson High School. Grayson High School would have faced closing down for lack of funds, except for love of the school and the generosity of Mr. John Elery Jacobs, a member of the Local Board of Trustees for over twenty years. Mr. Jacobs paid all expenses for operation of Grayson High School for one year. He was repaid when funds became available. Education quality has never faltered in Grayson. Mr. Herring, Albert Henderson,and Mr. Dyer all helped Grayson School florish through the twentieth Century. In 1956 Grayson High School was consolidated into South Gwinnett High School. The two-story brick veneered building was replaced with the present Grayson Elementary School structure. The Grayson High School bell was a 1913 gift to Grayson High School by 9th District Congressman, Thomas M. Bell. Twenty-five Grayson citizens paid for ownership of the bell and placed it in front of Grayson Elementary School where it can still be seen today. A lasting testament to the Old Grayson High that so many love and cherish.

The L & L Railroad came to Grayson December 1, 1898 and carried passengers, mail and freight on two round trips daily through Grayson from Lawrenceville to Loganville. When the trains were running, from 1898 to January 1932, they were a big part of life for Grayson citizens. The old depot area can still be seen between Britt and Gym Streets. Seaboard Air Line Railroad bought up all the stock in the L & L’s parent company according to records in the Seaboard Railroad Jacksonville Office. Jennings Dunnagan remembers ladies lining the tracks, with tears in their eyes, on the last run through Grayson.

Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, organized 1850 and has served Grayson faithfully since. Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church South (later named Grayson United Methodist Church) organized under a brush arbor in 1884. Grayson Baptist Church (later named First Baptist Church of Grayson) organized April 4, 1913. Churches, now as then, are a big part of daily life in Grayson.

As if naming the city was not difficult enough, establishing and keeping a post office proved to be just as demanding. Grayson citizen, Tom Moore (husband of Ponnie McConnell), learned that the Postal Authorities intended to close Grayson’s post office. He lobbied to spare the city’s postal service and provided a building to house it. The new post office was dedicated and an Open House held on July 12, 1964. Former Grayson Postmasters: James P. McConnell, John E. Jacobs, John W. Ethridge, Mrs. G.L. Webb, Walter T. Britt, John C. Wayne and Nancy Beck. Rural Carriers: George Wesley Gouge, Sam Rawlins, and Lamar Cooper. Barbara Britt Williams, Martha Britt Wayne, Jeanette Burton, Lucille Williams, Ruth Ethridge Gaffney and many others have all had a helpful hand in the U. S. Post Office in our town.

Historic Sites

Historic Sites  and Notes of Interest
Prepared by: Steven P. Starling
City of Grayson Historian.

Chestnut Grove Baptist Church
Grayson United Methodist Church
Grayson First Baptist Church
Grayson Elementary School
Grayson Elementary School’s Rock Building
Chestnut Grove Baptist Church Cemetery
Kennerly - Cox House
Farmers Barber Shop
Yancey-Greene Home

The Cofer Home

516 Grayson Pkwy. John J. Cofer and his wife Effie Brooks Cofer bought this home in 1928. The home was probably built by J. P. McConnell in the late 1880s or 1890s. In 1922 Mr. Cofer was elected Justice of the Peace. The Cofer’s home has been the site of 100’s of marriages. Mr. Cofer joined the Masonic Lodge in 1913. He went for 27 years without missing a meeting. John J. Cofer served Grayson in most civic capacities. After the Cofer’s passed away, the house was rented for a couple of years then it became a Tea Room. After the Tea Room closed, Grayson House Restaurant opened as Grayson’s first “fine dining” restaurant with a wonderful reputation.They have made many eclectic changes to the home.

The H. T. Williams Home

512 Grayson Pkwy.. Henry Thomas and Annie Biffle Williams lived in this home. Mr. Williams was the brother of William Pittman Williams and Reubin Williams who were also local Grayson residents, civic leaders, and civic leaders. Also, these three Williams brothers were members of the large Pittman Williams family of Snellville. The home was probably built in the late 1880s or 1890s, most likely by J. P. McConnell. Many structural changes have been made to this home over the years. In the 1970s, the Carr family lived in this home and had the first swimming pool in Grayson.

Nix-Mason-Payne Home

660 Rock Springs Rd. It was the Henry A. Nix “home place”. Henry A. Nix was born in 1849 and died in 1924 This home dates among the earliest in Grayson, it was probably built around the 1870s. One of the children of Henry Nix was a prominent Gwinnett citizen, Col. O. A. Nix, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives and as a State Senator. The Wideman Mason family later purchased the home. Wideman Mason was a WWI veteran, civic leader, and farmer. He was still plowing his fields with his mule “Queen” until the early 1970’s. Wideman Mason’s wife, Maude Tanner Mason was known for her graham biscuits. The Payne family lovingly restored the home.

The Etheridge Home

480 Grayson Pkwy. The Calvin and Beuna Brooks Etheridge lived in this home. Mr. Calvin Etheridge owned a mercantile store on Main Street. The Etheridges were very generous to Chestnut Grove Baptist Church, donating land and other gifts The home was built around the 1900s. The Gwinnett County Board of Education now owns it. J.P. McConnell most likely built this home.

McConnell-Webb-Allen Home

2057 Grayson-Lawrenceville Hwy. It was built by J. P McConnell for his son Andrew “Uncle Buddy” McConnell in the mid to late 1890s. It is the foremost example of Victorian architecture left in Grayson today. The Andrew McConnell family moved from Grayson to the Stone Mountain area around 1909. Alexander and Cora Cooper Webb bought the property around 1910. After the death of Alexander Webb in 1941 and the death of Cora Cooper Webb in 1972 the home was rented several times. It was then purchased Steve and Patty Allen and family. They then sold the property around 2001. The home then housed as Noble Hall Gift Shop and now the Gwinnett School of Music. Most of the original doors, mouldings, mantels, and mill work are still intact. Unfortunately workman replaced the gazebo windows which used to be taller like the windows in the rest of the house. Alexander Webb was the son of Rev. Andrew J. Webb. Webb Ginn House Road is named that because it was the way farmers went to Rev. Webb’s cotton gin. Currently the home to Gwinnett School of Music.

McConnell-Webb Rock Barn

Located behind the McConnell-Webb Home. This barn sat is located near where the L&L Railroad tracks were. The barn was a livery stable for livestock, chickens, and other animals. Mr. Webb would house the animals in the barn if the owners were not there to receive them. It is very close to where J. P. McConnell’s store and home was, it could predate the building of the McConnell-Webb home.

Chupp-Britt Home

2047 Grayson-Lawrenceville Hwy. This home was renovated to the Bungalow Style before most homes in Grayson. It has a beautiful stained glass window in front, to the left of the front door. The Langley family and others have lived in this home. Mrs. Alice Cooper Chupp lived in the home until she got older and had to go to a care home. She died in 1964. She was the sister of Cora Cooper Webb. The Baily sisters lived there until they were older then the house was rented several times again. The home is now houses the Law Office of Pamela Britt and other offices.

Batchelor-Bennet Home

520 Grayson Pkwy. Sam Batchelor and his wife lived in this home in the early part of the 20th Century. The John and Floy Bennett family then lived in the home. The Troy Holcombe family, and the Omar Segers family also lived there in later years.

Fertilizer and Cotton Warehouse and Warehouse for the Railroad

2014 Britt Street. This building was built in the 1890’s and used as a fertilizer warehouse by Mr. W. V. Brownlee and also stored cotton. Thru the years it has housed many different uses, at one time a home improvement business and a coffin company. It is near where the passenger depot for the railroad was. It is the last building left in a once vital business section of Grayson. Grayson Cotton Gin was located across present intersection towards Grayson-Lawrenceville Hwy.

The Potato House Building

426 Grayson Pkwy. Originally the location of the Braselton Home. In the 1890’s or 1900’s this building once housed the Williams Brothers Store. In the 1940’s it was used as a curing and storing house for the Irish and sweet potatoes by local citizens. Mr. Lloyd Williams who was the Grayson High School agriculture teacher was in charge of this. Mr. Williams helped develop many projects for the young students of Grayson. This building is built of “Grayson Granite”.

John J. Cofer’s Store

424 Grayson Pkwy. John J. Cofer and wife Effie operated a store here opened in 1913. The store had an ice cream fountain in it when he bought it. He had bottled Coca-Colas delivered by wagon from Lawrenceville. He mixed cokes, root beer, and cherry drinks which sold for .05 cents, vanilla ice cream was a favorite and you could get 2 scoops for 10 cents. Before WWI Mr. Cofer’s brother, Robert operated a barber shop in the rear of the store. Mr. Cofer performed his first marriage as Justice of the Peace in front of the store in 1923. The couple w ere in a great hurry because they had run away to get married, so he sat on the edge of the car seat and they were married in the car. Mr. Cofer’s store stocked anything a small town mercantile store possibly could.

City Hall was housed in this building for many years then several other businesses have occupied the old store. It is also constructed of “Grayson Granite.”

Hoke Cown’s Store

422 Grayson Pkwy. This brick building, built by Jack Britt in 1947 was once Rance Martin’s service station. Byron Michell then operated a pool hall there. In later years, it was Hoke Cown’s junk store.

Old Grayson Post Office

420 Grayson Pkwy. The brick building was built in the 1960s by civic leader Mr. Tom Moore to be leased as the Grayson Post Office. This was the third Post Office. In recent years it has housed several cafes. The first Post Office was located across the street from Cofer’s Store. The second Post Office was in the old bank building located between Tom Down’s Barber Shop and McEtheridge’s Store. It is currently home to Berens Frozen Custard.

Bankston-Loveless Home

2172 Rosebud Rd. This home was the Bankston family house on a very nice farm. It was also lived in by the Jim Loveless family. The Cannon family lived there at one time also. The home dates to around the 1890s.

Gower-Swanson-Briscoe Home

579 Rock Springs Rd. The S. M. Gower family, then by Cordele and Josephine Swanson. In recent years it was the home of Rachael Briscoe. This home was most likely built in the 1880s or 1890s.