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City of Villa Rica

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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Media Credits: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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

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