By: Scott Weir, May 2009

Ellard has been designed to recreate and even improve on the classic neighborhoods of yesterday.  The homes at Ellard are inspired with the historic character of traditional American building types found in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States between 1750 and 1930.  But it addition to recreating history, the Ellard area has its own share of actual history.

The historic Chattahoochee River has shaped the character of this area for centuries past, and local archeological surveys have found evidence of human habitation and use of the local river crossings for the past 8,000 to 10,000 years.  “Chattahoochee” is an Indian word of uncertain origin and meaning, but two interpretations are derived from the Creek language.  The first: “Cha-te,” meaning “stone,” “Ho-che” meaning “marked;” thus, “Cha-te-ho-che” means “marked stone.”  The second: “Chahta,” the Creek name for the Choctaw tribe; “Hucha,” a Choctaw word meaning “river,” or a Creek word meaning “branch” or “creek,” would be interpreted as “Chahta-hucha” or “Choctaw River.”

The area was once occupied by the Creek Indians.  However, they were forced to relinquish their lands north of the Chattahoochee River to the Cherokees after losing a decisive battle around 1755.  In 1819 and 1821 the Creeks ceded their lands to the State of Georgia.  With Georgia’s northern border at the Chattahoochee, non-Cherokee people were illegally entering the Cherokee nation.  In 1820, American General, and later President, Andrew Jackson was sent by John C. Calhoun, president Monroe’s Secretary of war, to serve notice to these intruders.  Traveling down the Chattahoochee, General Jackson stopped at the south shore of the Shallow Ford (just West of GA 400) and posted notice that any white men found trespassing on Indian land will be arrested and handed over to the civil authority of the United States.   Ironically, when Andrew Jackson was later President, he elected to ignore a mandate by the Supreme Court, and approved removal of the Cherokee.

In 1831, following the discovery of gold in NW Georgia, the State Legislature commissioned  a map of the territories still owned by the Cherokees in order to survey the land and divide it for subsequent lottery.   It would take another seven years before the Cherokee were entirely removed, but this map marks the beginning of the long and painful process that removed the last of the native tribes from the state of Georgia. Between 1805 and 1832 the state of Georgia held lotteries to distribute land seized from the Cherokees and Creeks. Nearly three quarters of the land in Georgia was allocated by the lottery system. Finally, the U.S. Army drove the Cherokees northwestward to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma during the bitterly cold winter of 1838-39. Deprived of proper food and clothing, at least 4,000—one-fifth of the entire Cherokee population—died on the journey. The forced migration became known as the Trail of Tears.

Map of Cherokee Lands Commissioned in 1831 - The site of the current Ellard neighborhood is located just to the left of the word "Cherokee" along the green shaded boundary

In addition to gold, the Alabama territory was also a major draw.  The territory was organized in 1817 and settlers were seeking roads that would take them to this new frontier.  This migration generated demand for creation of additional crossings on the Chattahoochee.  In 1827, the Georgia General Assembly approved an act to “establish and make permanent a ferry across the Chattahoochee River in the county of Gwinnett at a place known by the name of “Gates’ Ferry.”  The owner of the ferry was Charles Gates, who lived on the hilltop overlooking the ferry crossing.  The ferry was located about 200 feet downstream of the current Holcomb Bridge Road crossing.  The old ferry road, on both sides of the river is still visible.  This road was formerly known as the Alabama Highway because it was a major thoroughfare into the Alabama territory. 

Danny Weir walks the remains of the Old Alabama Road, possibly in the footsteps of his Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Thomas Weir, who migrated from The Carolinas to Alabama in the early 1800s

According to the February 13, 1833 edition of the Southern Recorder, it appears Charles Gates was no longer operating the ferry and had sold it to Robert McAfee.  McAfee was then granted permission on December 22, 1834 to build a covered bridge at the location.  The bridge was 220 feet in length and stood 30 feet downstream of the current road crossing.  One of the stone piers that supported the bridge still stands in the river and is clearly visible as you drive across the river.  

Remains of McAfee's Bridge Support

Robert MacAfee came from North Carolina and was the father of eight children.  In 1834, McAfee built a house on the hill for his daughter after her marriage to Jackson Gregory.  The house still stands and is used as a private home today.  McAfee died on May 5, 1848 and is buried in a cemetery just east of the bridge on the North side of Holcomb Bridge Road.  It is located just after the Station Mill Drive intersection.

The removal of the Cherokee in Georgia also opened up land for new settlement.  One of the persons to take advantage of this was Roswell King.  Years earlier, when gold had been discovered in North Georgia, Roswell King’s business travels as a bank agent would take him over Gates’ Ferry and later McAfee’s Bridge along the Alabama Road.  In May 1838, Mr. King bought land which later became the town of Roswell Georgia.  In 1838, he began work on the first cotton mill and in 1839 it was incorporated as The Roswell Manufacturing Company.  The company was extremely successful and expanded.  Even a 'flouring' mill was constructed. Orders for cloth, tenting, rope, flannels, and yarn poured in.  Mr. King offered home sites and investment opportunities to his friends and associates from coastal Georgia and a community was built. They constructed magnificent homes for themselves, cottages and apartments for mill workers, a general store near the mill, a church, and an academy to attend to the educational needs of the children.

Numerous Mills were built along Vickery Creek in Roswell

One of the people King invited to join him was Major James Stephens Bulloch of Savannah.  By 1839 the Bullochs had settled in a farm house four miles east of where they would build their permanent home, Bulloch Hall.  This farm house was made of logs and had been vacated by the time the Cherokee Indians were removed from the area.  Most if not all of the first settlers to the area were living in structures that they found already upon the land.  The Bullochs first home was in the present day Martin’s Landing subdivision off Holcomb Bridge Road.  While their house was under construction, the Bullochs continued their social life style in the back woods of Georgia.  According to Henry Merrill who arrived in May 1839, “A wedding party was given by Major Bulloch at his farm house.  A grand time we had to be sure!  Everybody was there and the ladies as fine as could be….”  Sometime by the end of 1839 or the beginning of 1840, Bulloch Hall was completed.  It still stands in all its glory and is owned by the City of Roswell.  It is open to the public and operated by the Roswell Historic Preservation Committee and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Bulloch Hall is best known as the childhood home of Mittie Bulloch, who married Theodore Roosevelt Sr. in the house in December 1853.  She later gave birth to four children, one of whom was Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States.  Her other son, Elliott was the father of Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady to Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States.


President Teddy Roosevelt visits Bulloch Hall in 1905       

       Bulloch Hall is open to the public 7 days a week

By 1863 the Civil War was in its second year.  The threat to Atlanta’s security was great after Union forces captured Vicksburg, Mississippi.  On July 4, 1864, 3000 Union cavalry with artillery were ordered to capture the Roswell Bridge.  This was the 2nd Cavalry Division under the command of Brigadier General Kenner Garrard.  Before the Union soldiers could seize the bridge, the Confederates torched cotton bales previously placed inside it.  Within minutes the structure was too consumed by fire to be saved.  Union cavalry patrols were sent out to locate another crossing.  They discovered none of the ferry crossings were in operation, McAfee’s Bridge was still in the hands of the Confederate Calvary and Island Ford could not be used by wheeled vehicles or horses.  So on July 9, Garrard sent two brigades across the river at Shallow Ford where they attacked the 53rd Alabama Cavalry.  At the same time, the 4th Ohio Cavalry attacked the 24th Alabama Cavalry guarding McAfee’s Bridge.  The fighting lasted all day, with only one soldier on the Union side being wounded.  By evening, the Alabama men fell back and the bridge was captured intact, despite also having been stuffed with cotton bales for burning.

Union General William T. Sherman then moved the Army of Tennessee, under Major General James B McPherson, and the 16th Army Corps under Major General Grenville M. Dodge to Roswell where they rebuilt the Roswell Bridge in 3 days.  Garrard’s Cavalry Division was moved from Roswell to the area at and near McAfee’s Bridge.  After the Union troops advanced toward Atlanta, the 3rd and 4th Ohio Cavalry remained to guard McAfee’s Bridge.  As the fighting moved closer to Atlanta, General Sherman felt his men in the Roswell area were now too exposed.  So he ordered the bridges destroyed.  McAfee’s bridge was burned on August 2nd and the Roswell Bridge on August 6th.

After the end of the war in April 1865, the site of McAfee’s bridge was purchased by Addison Holcomb.  It was important to open up the Alabama Road that crossed the river at this point, but money was in short supply.  Instead of rebuilding the bridge, the old Gates Ferry site was put back into service and called Holcombe’s Ferry.  Addison Waren Holcombe was born in South Carolina in 1817.  Addison had lived in Georgia as a child, but returned to South Carolina where he married Mary Catherine Benson. They then returned to Georgia before the Civil War and by the end of the war had moved to the McAfee property in then Milton County.  It was here he farmed and ran his ferry.  In 1868, Mr. Holcombe was elected a delegate of the Georgia Constitutional Convention and later elected twice to the Georgia Senate.  His home, the former McAfee house, still stands and is used as a private residence.  When Mr. Holcombe died he was also buried in the McAfee Cemetery where Robert McAfee is interred.  He left no children, but his wife Mary continued to live on the property until her death in 1901.  Some of her family lived with her and it is believed these Bensons continued to operate the ferry after her husband’s death.

Sometime after 1907, a new steel truss bridge was built where McAfee’s Bridge once stood.  It was 16 feet wide and permitted only one vehicle at a time to pass.  With this new bridge, Holcomb’s Ferry was no longer needed.  According to a 1924 survey map, the steel span was labeled “McAfee’s Bridge” after the former bridge that occupied the same site.  At some unknown later date, the structure was renamed after the ferry it had replaced and was called Holcomb Bridge, with the letter “E’ being dropped from the old spelling of Holcombe.  In 1960, the old steel truss Holcomb Bridge was dismantled and replaced with a two-lane cement bridge.  As traffic continued to grow, the Holcomb Bridge was widened to four lanes in 1982.

Single Lane Steel Truss Bridge

Around 1910, Thomas Horace Ellard purchased some 1284 acres of land including the Holcombe property and home.  According to the new plaque at Garrard’s Landing,;

“….he died a few years later and his wife Mary Pearl Ellard kept approximately 400 acres and farmed it with the help of Mr. Laurence C. Garrard.  Mr. Garrard married Mrs. Ellard’s daughter, Leila Belle, and with mule and plow, cultivated the land.  ………. Mr. and Mrs. Garrard lived until 1991 and 1992 respectively, when they both died exactly six months apart from each other.  During all this time, Mr. and Mrs. Garrard never accepted an offer to sell the farm.  Real estate broker and real estate broker would try, but they always said, “No, this is our home, I will not have it paved and developed; It is too precious to cover up with concrete and asphalt.”   

In another ironic twist, it is believed that Laurence Garrard was a relative of Brigadier General Kenner Garrard, who led the Union attack on Roswell during the Civil War.  Also, Mrs. Garrard was the person who fought to save the remaining support column from McAfee’s Bridge after the county had torn down the other support on the East side of the river.

Unfortunately, the death of Mrs. Garrard created an estate tax situation that required the family to sell off some of their precious land.  Thus, the Ellard Village was established in 1998.  In 2006, the government again forced a change in the Garrard’s holdings when Fulton County forced sale of 43 acres of their land just west of the Chattahoochee and South of Holcomb Bridge Road for construction of the new John’s Creek Environmental Campus.  Around this same time, the City of Roswell also created the new Garrard Landing Park, from which visitors can view and enjoy the Chattahoochee River, and site of the former Gates Ferry, McAfee’s Bridge and Holcomb Ferry. 

Needless to say, the history of this area goes far beyond the scope of this short summary.  If you are interested in more information, you might start with some of the following sources:

The published works of Michael D. Hitt www.michaelhitt.com

The Roswell Historical Society Click here to visit the Roswell Historical Society's website

[Author’s Note: This history was largely created from the works of Michael D. Hitt and much of it is excerpted from several of his publications including:

“The Chattahoochee River Crossings of Roswell Georgia”

“Bulloch Hall”

“Charged With Treason”


Michael has been an officer with the Roswell Police Department since 1982, and has written numerous publications on Roswell area history.  He currently serves as historian for the Roswell Preservation Commission and as an advisor for Georgia Civil Heritage Trails. He also lectures regularly as an invited speaker on various historical subjects.  I would like to personally thank Michael for the time and effort he spent in helping me create this document.  All the hard work is his alone!  If you are interested in more details on the history of the area, please visit his web site at www.michaelhitt.com.

I would also like to thank Peggy Garrard Hatch.  First for graciously welcoming my family to Ellard as its first residents in December 1999, and also for the information she has provided on the history of her family and the area.  I would also ask that anyone interested in the area respect Mrs. Hatch’s privacy and private property.