Presidential Connections at the Pebble Hill Plantation

pebble hill plantation horse

Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia, is a great place visit.  You can take tours of the beautiful home and grounds. This historic home that was bought by an Ohio family after the Civil War has some very cool Presidential connections.

The story of Pebble Hill Plantation begins with Thomas Jefferson Johnson purchasing ground in 1825 after land became available through the 1820 Georgia Land Lottery. Thomas Jefferson Johnson was a typical southern planter. He first began raising first cotton then later introduced rice farming to the area.  

After he passed on in 1847, the plantation passed to his daughter Julia Anne who managed the plantation along with her husband John Mitchell. In 1850, they built a plantation home designed by English architect John Wind. This is when the name “Pebble Hill” first came into play. Julia Anne owned the property until her death in 1881. 

pebble hill plantation horse

Thomasville: A Resort Town

Wealthy northerners flocked to the south after the Civil War. Thomasville became a resort and sportsman town with its pleasant climate and new resort hotels and abundant wildlife. The city of Thomasville shares a bit of this resort history, “As the terminus for the railroad, Thomasville was accessible from the north and, during the late 1800s, became known as the Winter Resort of the South.” In the beginning of this era, northerners and other visitors came to Thomasville for their health, breathing the pine-scented air as a curative for pulmonary ailments.

Soon many northerners discovered it cost less to purchase land than rent hotel rooms. Wealthy families bought property and built mansions or expanded the plantation homes, many of which were turned into “shooting plantations”. 

Today at Pebble Hill Plantation, the house tour concentrates on the Hanna family.  

pebble hill plantation thomasville ga

The Hanna Family: Howard & Kate

Howard Melville Hanna, an Ohio businessman, purchased Pebble Hill in 1896 and the property went to his daughter (Kate Hanna Ireland) when he passed. An heiress to the M.A Hanna Company when she inherited, Kate was married to Robert Livingston Ireland and had two children, Elisabeth “Pansy” and Livingston “Liv”. When her first husband passed away she later married Perry Williams Harvey.

Kate Ireland Harvey carried on her father’s interest in building up a prize-winning herd of Jersey cow eventually selling milk, cream and butter at Pebble Hill Dairy.

gardens pebble hill

The President Garfield Connection

President James Abram Garfield served as President from November 19, 1831 – September 19, 1881.  He was the 20th US President, serving only 6 1/2 months before he was assassinated. His son James Abram Garfield, was an architect from Cleveland, Ohio, and the youngest son of President Garfield.

Abram Garfield was the architect that Kate Ireland Harvey chose to work with. Kate built up the Pebble Hill Plantation property with Abram Garfield’s assistance. They built several out buildings, then after a fire destroyed a big part of the home in 1934, they rebuilt it. 

The amazing plantation house was completed in 1936, shortly before her death.

pebble hill plantation flowers

“Pansy’s” Time

Pebble Hill Plantation passed on to Elisabeth “Pansy” Hanna, who later in life married Parker Barrington Poe.  Pansy’s time was all about sportsmanship and her beloved horses, hounds and the events that revolved around them. 

Pansy was a famous sportsman in her own right and placed first in the 1929 Grand National when she rode her hunter/jumper, Showmaid. She was also one of the first women to play polo and participated as a member of both women’s and men’s teams. Pansy is responsible for the many beautiful carriages in the carriage museum. 

The President Eisenhower Connection

Perhaps most memorable carriage is the Eisenhower Wagon, used when President Eisenhower came to hunt on the Pebble Hill Plantation property with his Secretary of the Treasury, George M. Humphrey. We learned that Mr. Humphrey had been president of the M.A. Hanna Company, and his son married Pansy’s niece.

Eisenhower is said to have visited the Thomasville area to hunt and play golf many times. His photo is in the house on display.

frog fountain pebble hill

Visitor’s Center Conversion

Tack is on display along with some horse history in the Visitors Center as well. The center is the former Dairy building and includes some historical information.  This area was built in 1928 when Abram Garfield designed this brick complex as a home for Kate’s Jersey herd. History shares, “The part of the complex used today as the Visitor Center was originally a working dairy. Milk was pasteurized here, cheese made and butter churned. Other areas of the complex included a cow barn, bull pen, maternity barn, calf barn, and milking area. Two three-bedroom homes were built as part of the complex; one was for the manager and the other for the dairy boys”.

They are offices today, but from 1928 to 1936, dairy shows and auctions were held in the center courtyard. Pansy remodeled about half of the stables complex to accommodate her horses.  

The President Carter Connection

President James Earl Carter, Jr. served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. While serving as then Governor, Carter made a visit to Pebble Hill Plantation during Pansy’s time.  On my tour of the Plantation, a picture of President Carter is displayed and they mention that he is almost a neighbor, living not far from the Plantation.

Pebble House Museum

It is thanks to Pansy that today Pebble Hill is a museum. Both Kate and Pansy (along with Pansy’s husband Parker Barrington Poe) had amazing art collections that are on display today.

visiting pebble hill plantation thomasville

During house tours, you can also see antique furniture, china, equestrian paraphernalia, and turn-of-the-century carriages.

Pebble Hill Plantation today is comprised of 3,000 acres, much of which is in pole pine forest. The heart of the plantation consists of roughly 75 manicured acres that contain all of the major buildings. This is the portion open to the public.

It is amazing to not only see this beautiful plantation, but also learn of the amazing presidential connections!

This article was a guest post from Cindy Ladage,  All photos are owned and were taken by Cindy, as well. 

About Cindy Ladage

Cindy is a freelance writer and blogger (Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl) from Central Illinois. She is married to a farmer and has three grown children and two grandchildren. Cindy loves to cover out-of-the-way places and hope you will join along on her journey.

Cindy Ladage guest author

Read more about Georgia: 

St. Simons Island: Where to Eat, Drink, Sleep, and Play

A Weekend Exploring Macon

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