The Beautiful Forgotten Lady of Plantation Days and the Years That Came Afterward

Jeannette Holland Austin
4 min readNov 20, 2023

Lizzie Smith Chambliss 1850–1905

Lizzie, born on a plantation in Forsyth County, Georgia, like so many others during that era, was destined to suffer the effects of the Civil War. When General Sherman burned Atlanta and headed south with his Army to Savannah, the patrols visited the Smith plantation, an unpainted two-story wooden structure divided by a narrow central hall. It was the home of her grandfather.

Sherman’s patrols were instructed to destroy all sources of food and forage. Although they were under orders not to pillage and rob families, they did so anyway, leaving behind hungry and demoralized people.

Although Sherman did not level any towns, he destroyed buildings in areas where there was resistance.

After the war ended, the surrounding region of the old plantation in Monroe County was all but abandoned. Lizzie’s parents tried and failed to revive its farm economy. The option to hire farmhands fell on its premise. Not only were the families in the region devasted and too poor, but few people were willing to work.

Ultimately, about 1900, like so many farmers, the family moved to Atlanta, where Lizzie’s husband searched for work. Her six children and grandparents snuggled in a small house on Sidney Street in Grand Park.

The after-effects of war would last well into the 20th century. Families left the farms in droves, relocating to cities for work.

The concept of a metropolitan area began about 1900 in Atlanta, with eleven railroad lines converging in the city. Unlike today, where everyday items are disposables, the early 1900s was a carryover of earlier days, where every item was saved for future use. For example, the planks and nails from old structures were gathered and preserved for future use. One of my grandmothers kept cotton balls from medicine bottles used for stuffing pillars, while another grandmother turned the collars of her husband’s shirts to hide the wear and tear.

German measles and other childhood diseases took the lives of small children. In 1905, there was a rabid…