Meet Carl Lewis, Part 3

Carl Lewis makes sure everything works when he built the grist mill at Stockmar Park.

Meet Carl Lewis, Part 1

Meet Carl Lewis, Part 2

Meet Carl Lewis, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a newspaper article from 2008, partially quoted, about the history of Carl Lewis at Stockmar Park.  

Notice if you will, the following words of praise are from Jeff Reese who in 2008 was the Parks and Recreation Director. Mr. Reese is presently (2019) the Mayor Of Villa Rica Georgia.

CONTINUED FROM PART 2. Villa Rica Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Reese (now the Mayor of Villa Rica) gives all of the credit for saving the historic property for poster­ity to Lewis.

“Carl pretty much single-handedly saved that 28 acres from being developed into subdi­visions,” Reese said in 2008. “That’s his forever and always. No matter where we go with that project, he’s the one who kept it from being gone. Because of his love for that, he brings a lot to the table that I couldn’t get out of any other employee. That’s not a job for him, it’s his passion.”

It can be argued that Lewis is the foremost expert on the area and its past mining operations and he has used his expertise and construction background to build many of the attractions there for the city, including the gold-panning shed, the grist mill pond, the vintage stamp mill and portions of the museum itself.

“He really is an invaluable asset to me trying to get the museum up and going,” Reese said. “I can build the infra­structure, but having somebody with a passion for the prop­erty, the history of the site and Villa Rica, and gold mining in general, is something you nor­mally wouldn’t have. I really do think Carl is in his own world up there and sometimes in his mind, he goes 100 years back and becomes what we call ‘Uncle Abe.’ I think he goes into costume and loves that other life.”

I have the entire article in PDF form for anyone wishing to read it in its entirety. Thanks for following along with this story and please comment and share!!!

Meet Carl Lewis, Part 2

Carl Lewis Panning Gold

Meet Carl Lewis, Part 1

Meet Carl Lewis, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a newspaper article from 2008, partially quoted, about the history of Carl Lewis at Stockmar Park. You will find the PART 1 link above.

CONTINUED FROM PART 1. Stockmar and Lewis spent two years cleaning up the property (at Stockmar Park), building panning troughs, cutting roads and laying out more than 200 campsites before they opened the area to the public. “We opened it up in 1993 and it was open until a little after Dodgie was killed in a plane crash in 1999,” Lewis said.

Lewis ran the gold mines for nearly three years, but he was having trouble keeping the signs he purchased to market the property from being torn down every weekend by the city’s com­munity service workers. So, in 1995 he decided he needed to work from the inside.

“I went to the city in 1995 to get a job because I thought, ‘I’ve got to get in there and know those people because that’s who I’ve got to deal with,’” he said. “They told me they had a job as a meter reader and I said, ‘I don’t care what the job is just so I can be around City Hall to stick my nose where it needs to be stuck.’ I’ve been with the city ever since.”

The late Don Cranford took over the recreational prospect­ing operation when Lewis left and ran it even after Stockmar died in 1999, but Lewis continued to be involved in the commer­cial venture. Even after Lewis became employed by the city, he kept working with Stockmar to acquire more of the historic por­tions of the gold-mining opera­tions along Stockmar Road that were owned by someone else at the time.

The property in question changed hands several times, but Lewis was never able to acquire it because the owners wouldn’t break up the acreage that fronted the road. However, in 2001 the 28 most historic acres were acquired by the city because the owners finally decided its rocky features would be too expensive to develop and they had reservations about possible contamination related to cyanide use in the early gold-mining operations. The city’s property fronts Stockmar Road and is connected to the 32 acres Lewis and Stockmar oper­ated on the backside of Pine Mountain that is now part of the Stockmar Airport property.

“Dodgie never knew that we saved his homeplace,” Lewis said.


Meet Carl Lewis, Part 1

If you’re “from around here” (meaning Villa Rica, Georgia) you know Carl Lewis. If not, please allow me the pleasure of introducing you to him.

My introduction will be, in part, quoted from a 2008 newspaper article written when the Pine Mountain Gold Museum was first opened and Carl was 64 years old. Carl retired as the Historical Preservation Coordinator of the museum in 2019.

Carl Lewis is a fixture around the Pine Mountain Gold Museum, but his time on the property goes far beyond the city’s involvement with what is now known as Stockmar Park.

Lewis, 64, a Villa Rica Recreation Department employ­ee, is the last living person to commercially operate the gold mines on Pine Mountain. He and the late Dodgie Stockmar, whose family owned 32 acres behind the 28 acres now owned by the City of Villa Rica along Stockmar Road, worked for two years cleaning up the property and opened it in 1993 for what they called “recreational prospect­ing.”

Recreational prospecting allowed amateur gold min­ers the opportunity to try their hand at panning, sluic­ing (using a box with ripples), dredging, high banking (using an apparatus that sits above ground with ore material that is separated by spraying water), and shakers. They also allowed people to canvas the mountain with metal detectors to find mining artifacts and other items.

“We had thousands and thou­sands and thousands of people come out,” Lewis said. “We had every type of person come out here, including preachers, doctors, and other profession­als. It was recreation, just like playing golf. They’d really get into it. We had one doctor from Marietta who would come out here every chance he got. Some people didn’t even look for gold, they just came out to hang around, meet people, talk and relax. It’s a good way for recreation; but, don’t quit your day job to become a gold miner, because you’ll starve to death.”

Gold was, and still is, found on the property on occasion, but Villa Rica gold is mainly in powder form instead of the more traditional nugget form, so it is hard to separate from the soil unless you know what you’re doing, and it takes a lot of powder to amount to anything. “We had one fellow one time that had a high banker and I took a backhoe and piled him up a bunch of dirt from the swamp in the lower end of the property,” Lewis said. “He worked down there all weekend, and I mean he worked hard because he ran through that whole pile of dirt, and he claims he got over an ounce of gold that one weekend and that’s the most I ever heard about. I don’t doubt it, because that was some pretty rich material.”

The recreational mining operation also included a small museum. In fact, the artifacts on display at Villa Rica City Hall came out of Carl Lewis’ museum and other artifacts are on display at the Wendy’s restaurant on Highway 61.  Before Stockmar and Lewis opened their mining operation, it had not operated commercially since Stockmar’s father, Buddy Stockmar, walked away from it in the early 1930s when his rock crusher broke three hours into his first day of mining. This after working three years preparing the operation, including opening what is known as the Stubblefield gold vein that is reportedly one of the richest gold veins in the region. In fact, the ore he hauled up into one of the ore tanks the day his rock crusher broke is still in the tank. “Buddy was famous for starting something and then not finishing it,” Lewis said. Some of the equipment Buddy Stockmar purchased to mine the area was bought in the 1970s by Villa Rica’s Bicentennial Committee. That mining equipment now resides on the property as displays for the city’s Pine Mountain Gold Museum at Stockmar Park.

Lewis grew up in Lithia Springs but moved near Villa Rica in the 1970s. It was an interest in the history of the area that led Lewis to Dodgie Stockmar, who related to him the history of the gold-mining operations on the mountain that began in 1826. “One thing just led to another, so me and him went in as partners and opened up 32 acres he owned along the airstrip,” Lewis said. “There had been several attempts before to open it up. I didn’t have anything to do so I said, ‘Yeah, we’ll have a go at it.’”

Stockmar and Lewis spent two years cleaning up the property, building panning troughs, cutting roads and laying out more than 200 campsites before they opened the area to the public. “We opened it up in 1993 and it was open until a little after Dodgie was killed (in a plane crash) in 1999,” Lewis said.


Villa Rica Mining Heritage Park, “The Dream of Gold.”

In 1999, the graduate students of history, under the direction of Dr. Ann McCleary, Professor of History and Co-Director of the Center for Public History at University of West Georgia, pursued a project called Villa Rica Mining Heritage Park, “The Dream of Gold.” There was a massive amount of time and research undertaken by many people to produce this document. This document assisted the City of Villa Rica in understanding the significance of the rich history of the parcel of historic land the city had received from Mirror Lake Development. At the beginning of this 70+ page report, special thanks are given to 3 people: Carl Lewis, Monroe Spake (Mayor of Villa Rica), and Paul Saudi (City Manager). I was told the original timeline of Pine Mountain Gold Museum was based on Dr. McCleary’s research project.

I spoke with Dr. McCleary today to ask her permission to use her copyrighted document as the Friends of Stockmar Park pursue the journey of maintaining the history of Villa Rica’s most important asset. Dr. McCleary was very gracious in allowing me to share it with you and asked only to be credited for her works.

I am not a historian, just a humble storyteller. The following is a very simplified version of the past to give you an idea of what an amazing little piece of Heaven the citizens of Villa Rica and Douglas County have in Stockmar Park. I maintain Carl Lewis’s journals going back 30 years and my own journals going back 10 years. Our documents and artifacts go back to the original era of the Native American inhabitants. Although this short summary is told in my own words, most of the history you read here is taken from Dr. McCleary’s work.

The history of this area begins with a timeline of 10,000 years ago and describes the various Native American inhabitants. Many of these artifacts can be found in the first display case as you exit the theater of the Pine Mountain Gold Museum through the mine tunnel created by Douglas County artists Laura Wren and Ann Cockerill.

Fast forward to 1826 and the discovery of gold on Pine Mountain. These are the old stone mining ruins you see on top of the mountain in Stockmar Park. Early mining came and went through the years. The Stockmar family was involved in the mining through the years but after the 1930s, mining was largely ended in the area.

Fast forward to the 1940s. H.A. (Buddy) Stockmar decided to turn the property into a dude ranch and personal flyer’s paradise. He called it “The Flying S Ranch.” There were wagon trains, trail rides, a landing strip, a hotel, and the dam was built to provide a lake (currently Mirror Lake) for seaplane landings and guests.

In the 1990s Dodgie Stockmar reopened, “a portion of the land and allowed visitors to try their luck at striking it rich.” Dodgie and his friend Carl Lewis built a small museum on the property to display mining tools, gemstones, memorabilia of the Stockmar family and toured groups around the small museum and the property. Any gold found belonged to the visitors to keep and any artifacts were donated to the small museum for others to enjoy. At this time, Carl Lewis and Dodgie Stockmar met Danny Wilson. Danny Wilson spent years combing the Stockmar property with a metal detector to add to his already extensive collection of Native American, Civil War, and other historical artifacts that had been on loan to different museums. When the Villa Rica museum was built in 2008, Danny Wilson moved his Stockmar Collection from the West Georgia Museum in Tallapoosa, GA to the Pine Mountain Gold Museum.

In 1999, Dodgie Stockmar sadly passed away due to an airplane crash. He left all of the Stockmar family’s artifacts, gold, memorabilia to his friend, Carl Lewis. In 1999 the area known as Stockmar Park was donated by the Mirror Lake developers as a passive park to the City of Villa Rica in exchange for “in-kind services and considerations.” Carl Lewis, an entrepreneur in his own right, applied for a job as a meter reader with the city to be close to the property which had become so close to his heart.

The city did nothing with the property and the park stayed overgrown, periodically cleared by Carl Lewis and others who cared about the history. In 2008, due to the efforts of our current Mayor Jeff Reese (then Director of Parks and Recreation), a building was erected to display the many items (most of which belong to Carl Lewis and Danny Wilson) that told the story of the property. Due in part to Dr. McCleary’s research, Mayor Reese applied for and was awarded, a place on the National Register of Historic Places. Pine Mountain Gold Mine and Stockmar Gold Mine are the names on the Register. The Areas of Significance which allowed the property to be included in the Register are “Engineering, Industry, and Settlement/Exploration.”

Stockmar Flying S Ranch Fishing Camp Ruins

Carla took these pictures of the old fishing camp ruins on March 4, 2009.  The ruins are still in the woods around Mirror Lake. You can see the signature “T-blocks” which were fabricated at the Stockmar Gold Mine.  The “T-blocks” are on exhibit in the Pine Mountain Gold Museum.

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Stockmar Family Life in 1946

Relaxing with the Stockmars
From a newspaper article in 1948, AJC

Buddy and Vera Stockmar relax with three young boys on the porch of their home near Villa Rica, Georgia, August 11, 1946.

“Mr. and Mrs. Stockmar on the porch of their home atop a gold mountain near Villa Rica. The boys are Cammy Candler, Dodger Stockmar and Sonny Counts”–Newspaper caption attached to verso of print. “Photo C page 5 aug. 11 Atl. Jour.” (Inscribed with pencil on verso of print)

Lake Valdomar

How easy to imagine a day in the life of the Stockmar family.  They were sitting on the patio (atop the carport) playing with Dodgie and the neighborhood kids and looking out over 1,500 acres of their farm.  You can still sit there, but what you see is the Mirror Lake subdivision and what is still referred to as “Lake Valdomar” on the gold maps.

Take a Moonlight Ride with Mr. Mac and the Flying S Saddle Club in 1952

This is the story of the Flying S Saddle Club at its beginning in the Spring of 1952, as written for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 7, 1952, by Olive Ann Burns, famous author, who at the time was a staff writer.

On a horse hike, the Flying S Saddle Club looks like the original sheriff’s posse out for a shoot’m up.

Though not a posse, the club IS headed by a sheriff-big Mac Abercrombie of Douglas County, Georgia. He rides a giant gray named Prince, a horse so tall that anybody shorter than Mr. Abercrombie needs an elevator to mount. Prince can close a car door with his nose and will chase anything that runs-cow or man.

The sheriff rounds up his Saddle Club members every month on the Wednesday nearest the full moon. Those who live too far away for hoofing bring their horses in trucks. If the meeting place is the Flying S Ranch near Villa Rica, riders come before sundown for competitive games and racing, then take off down the trail behind a covered wagon that is loaded with supper.

Sometimes the club stages a town meeting, which is like a circus parade. Anybody who ever knew a horse is lured to the streets by clip-clops, loud on the pavement. Automobile drivers stare at the close-riding column with envious, hungry eyes. A 5-year-old says, “Look, Mama, at the horses smoking!” (Their breath hits the frosty air in round white jets of steam.) Excited dogs bark impudently, dodging about between hoofs. There is the mixed sound of leather and jingling reins, shouts of riders calming frisky, snorting mounts, and cheers from the crowd at the sight of a dignified fellow townsman playing cowboy.

For the children, the Saturday matinee has come to life. They dash about shooting imaginary guns and yelling, “Hi-yo, Sil-ver-r-r! Awa-a-ay!” There were 101 horses when the club paraded in Bremen, Ga., and it was a sight to see.

This is a society of rough riders who stick to a saddle in the Western style, without fancy posting. On ranch outings there’s a whoop-and-holler atmosphere. A rambunctious fellow charges his horse straight toward the campfire and stops the thundering hoofs on a dime-just short of denting another horse’s fender. Hot rod boys on hot rod horses go thrill racing, and it’s hard to say whether the boys or the animals enjoy it most.

Horseback riding by moonlight is a kind of thrill that trolley and car riders never know. The night sky is very big in open country, and the eerie beauty of moonlight has a special unreality when your head is nine feet up. You look for ghost riders, but the only soundless moving shape is the long, four-legged, two-headed shadow that follows you down the trail.

Membership in the Saddle Club is open to anybody over 16 who lives within meeting distance and either owns a horse or craves to own one. You can apply to Mrs. Vera Stockmar, care of Flying S Ranch, Villa Rica, Ga.

The 125 riders who now belong are from Villa Rica, Carrollton, Douglasville, Bremen, Atlanta and rural routes between. They are of all ages and occupations-teen-agers, housewives, business girls, farmers, lawyers, cashiers, grocerymen, carpenters; there’s a doctor, a pharmacist and a veterinarian.

Several members are nonriding wives-Mrs. Hoyt Easterwood, for example, who prefers a chair to a saddle because saddles are so high up. She comes with her husband and 9-year-old Larry. The boy is too young for membership, but he’s always at the roundups. He has to keep to the rear of the posse because his pony kicks.

Before dark there are usually several little children who get passed from saddle to saddle as members take turns at an equestrian baby sitting. One of the happiest is a toddler, Frankie Carlson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Carlson, of Carrollton.

The club’s most picturesque honorary member is Mrs. Fannie Turner, a spry little old pioneer lady, age 83, who lives at the Flying S Ranch and limits her riding to the front seat of the chuck wagon. She wears long skirts and a hooded bonnet and has a reputation for sagebrush platitudes like “There ain’t nothin’ so becomin’ to a fool as a shet mouth-which maybe is why I like horses.”




NOTE:  The Pine Mountain Gold Museum Community Garden Exhibit is called, “Mrs. Turner’s Garden at Stockmar Park.”

Mr. Mac Abercrombie and Ray Tyson ~ Beginnings of the Stockmar Flying S Ranch

Folks who have lived in Villa Rica, GA early on added details to this story.  They prefer to remain private, as country folk often do  Most importantly, this is a story about Mr. Mac Abercrombie and Ray Tyson.

Mr. Mac
Mr. Mac Abercrombie

Around 1952, The Villa Rica Saddle Club started out at Freddie Mae and Ray Tyson’s place in Villa Rica.  It ended up at the Stockmar’s Flying S Ranch (today the property known as the Pine Mountain Gold Museum at Stockmar Park). Mr. Mac Abercrombie and Ray Tyson started the club as something for the kids in the area to do.

Everyone loved Mr. Mac, Ray, and Freddie Mae because they were three of the kindest people ever. First of all, Freddie Mae made the best chicken stew anybody could make. Other people tried but they could never make it like her. She used to feed the whole crowd on Sundays! Ray shod horses all around the area. Those three would give you anything, the last penny in their pocket if you needed it. They were always trying to do something for the less fortunate. You’d ride along and something breaks.  You’re trying to fix it to get on to where the ride’s gonna stop and Mr. Mac and Ray were the first to help you. They would loan you a horse, loan you a saddle to get from point A to point B.  Then they would laugh and joke and go on with you.

The “forty-eleven some odd kids” they helped raise through the years and kept out of trouble went on to be some of the finest men and women in later life. We are now called “Barn Rats.” Don’t know if at the time we kids realized it, but those two men particularly kept an eye on what was going on. We were mean and rough but we never got out of line and started any fights cause we knew the two of them would frown on it. And Mr. Mac was not above taking you out back either. I don’t think he ever did take anybody out back, but we thought he would! If he looked at you and said, “Girl I won’t put up with that,” it was, “Yes, sir,” and you straightened your butt up!

Every Sunday, lots of folks would gather at their house and ride. Lord, what a good time we had! Bunch of us kids would play run around the barrel, in a flat field that would later become the ring for the Villa Rica Saddle Club. Ray Tyson said to Mr. Mac, “We might ought to have an arena and have events to keep these kids busy and they’ll enjoy doing that.” You’ve got to remember, there was no 4H or anything; just whatever we had we could compete on. Training was non-existent. It was basically just getting the horse to do what you wanted it to do. There were rodeos at the Tysons’ place. Old “Leather Pants” could be seen driving the six-horse hitch. But that’s another story.

We would all ride from the Flying S Ranch in Villa Rica to Douglasville sometimes and then sometimes from Douglasville to Villa Rica, and then have a big street dance. Doc Win Burnett’s band would play frequently and Doc would do it for next to nothing just for the saddle club and the townspeople to enjoy. He also took care of a lot of folks’ animals that couldn’t afford to pay. After a few years at Ray’s, we started doing wagon trains and the ride turned into a Chatsworth, GA week long ride and wagon train. We would ride to Chatsworth, then over the mountain from Chatsworth to Ellijay. There is a ride in Chatsworth now, but it’s really just a parade.

Yep, It was a marvelous time we lived in back then and it’s gone cause there’s not any Mr. Macs or Ray Tysons out there anymore.

Steve Lawler, John Hutchenson, and Cheryl Wright of the Mr. Mac’s Barn website
Doc Win Band website
City of Villa Rica Pine Mountain Gold Museum at Stockmar Park website