A few weeks ago a group of people took a walk through the property on Henderson Road that will be developed into a new Cobb County park in Mableton.
The group included Terri Lynn Miles LaCoste and her father, Aaron Miles. Miles lived on the property from his birth in 1951, and LaCoste also grew up on the site.
Also on the tour were Roberta Cook, the president of the River Line Historic Area (RLHA), Kevin Hill, program coordinator for Cobb PARKS, and FaithAnn Fletcher, a volunteer who is nominating the property for the Cobb County Register of Historic Places (the site is already on the National Register of Historic Places).
The property is adjacent to the Publix supermarket, just to the east of the supermarket along Veterans Memorial Highway. The Publix and the park are separated by a detention pond.
The Henderson Road park property includes clearly visible remnants of Federal earthworks from the Civil War, including trenches and cannon emplacements. Although Sherman’s main body of troops crossed the river to the north in Vinings prior to the Battle of Atlanta, both the United States Army and the Confederates built extensive fortifications near the Chattahoochee River in South Cobb.
The houses on the property have been demolished, but LaCoste and Miles pointed out the locations of the houses that their extended family lived in over the decades.
They also pointed to the location of a former cabinet shop, which they described as a long concrete building.
Later the cabinet shop was converted into a residence.
“We had a two bedroom here which my grandparents actually started living in, and then there was a middle apartment,”
Miles also pointed out the location of a concrete well, and a bed of land where fishing worms were raised for sale by the previous owner of the property.
One interesting detail is that a millstone from the mill that was located on the creek during the 19th century was used in the construction of a stone wall on the property.
While the group looked over the Civil War earthworks, Kevin Hill, a program coordinator for Cobb PARKS, described the usual layout for fortifications.
“It didn’t always go exactly by the textbook, but the Federals typically had a four-gun battery, and the Confederates a six-gun battery,” Hill said.
LaCoste, who grew up on the property, wrote in an article about her family’s life on what was called “the Hill,”:
“We may no longer consider Cobb County our home, but Henderson Road will forever be a part of our lives. 5 generations of Miles’ have lived on the property. It was my great grandparents, James & Emma Miles, who originally purchased the property with the help of my grandparents, Alwyn (pawpaw) & Elizabeth (Nanny) Miles. Their oldest son Harold was a young child when they moved to Henderson Rd. from Atlanta. But they would welcome a daughter, Gwen and another boy Aaron (my father) who would spend their entire childhood and beyond on the hill.”
LaCoste described how the property got the name “the Hill.” She wrote that before Bankhead Highway (now Veterans Memorial) was widened into four lanes, there was a fruit stand that was used as a landmark in giving directions.
Anyone who asked directions was told to take Bankhead toward Atlanta. Before you hit the little bridge at Nickajack Creek, (before Bankhead Hwy. was 4 lanes, there was a fruit stand we could use as a landmark) hang a left and follow the road up “to the top of the hill”. “
Aaron Miles said that the area across the creek adjacent to the present location of Publix was owned by a man named Matt Griffin, who lived on the property long before the Miles family moved onto Henderson Road.
Griffin’s property included a pasture and a lake.
Aaron Miles described Griffins’ death, when Miles was about eight or nine years old in the 1950s.
“He was coming down Bankhead and right before you get to us, he had a heart attack, drove off the side of the road and off down the hill,” Miles said. “He always carried a gallon of gas in the inside of his truck, too, for people running out of gas.”
“He always wanted to help,” he said. “The gas blew up and burnt him up.”
Miles said it was not known whether Griffin had died from the heart attack before his vehicle crashed.
The Courier asked Miles what Bankhead Highway (Veterans Memorial) was like when he lived there.
“There was a little shopping center up at the top of the hill, but Bankhead Highway was just a little two-lane then,” he said.
During the walk the Courier asked LaCoste what Cobb schools she attended.
“Harmony-Leland, then Lindley (Middle School). My sister went to Pebblebrook (High) but I ended up graduating from South Cobb,” she said.
Miles said that he went to Floyd Middle School before cutting his education short.
LaCoste lived on the property until she married in 1993, then moved back to the property.
She described her return to the property, and the ultimate sale of the land, in the draft of a family history she is writing:
I found out real fast the rest of the world was nothing like what I was accustomed to living on the hill. I wanted my children to have the same upbringing that I was given.
I wanted my children to really know their family, not just what was seen on holiday get togethers. By early 1995 we had moved back to the end apartment.
That fall Elizabeth had a stroke, and life as we knew it would never be the same. Elizabeth passed away less than a year later in August 1996, leaving her property to her son Harold, daughter Gwen, myself and my sister Trish.
But she took the very heart of the family with her. Harold’s son Kenny moved into the rock house with his wife Angie and their son Christopher. I remained in the end apartment with my 2 children but Elizabeth’s absence was felt everywhere.
Her own children couldn’t bring themselves to revisit the house after her death. I moved away in 2002 and shortly after Angie passed away from a heart attack. That is when the 2 siblings decided to sell the property.
The Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved the Cobb parks master plan in a meeting in January of 2020.
At that meeting then-Cobb PARKS Director Jimmy Gisi (since retired) displayed the plan to the commissioners on an easel.
Gisi’s presentation was quoted in an earlier article in the Cobb County Courier.
“This property was acquired in phases,” he said to the commissioners. ” We were able to acquire some of the property through the governor’s greenspace program years ago, but we were able to finish out the purchase of this property with the 2008 parks bond program.”
“When we started this public input process we had two very distinct groups of people in the crowd,” said Gisi. “We have Civil War earthworks so of course we had the preservationists, but we also had community-minded folks that said ‘We want a place to be able to take our kids’.”
“So balance was the key word for this piece of property,” he said.
Roberta Cook is the founder and president of the River Line Historic Area.
The RLHA was instrumental in advocating for the preservation of the site and gathering history of the property.
Cook said that a Civil War-era map identified the mill on the site as Howell’s Mill. The map was reprinted in The First Hundred Years: A Short History of Cobb County in Georgia by Sarah Blackwell Gober Temple, published in 1935.
Cook described the purchase of the initial seven acres of land during the administration of Governor Roy Barnes.
“When Governor Barnes was in office, he had a program, I call it Governor Barnes green space program, but I’m sure it had a much more sophisticated name,” she said. “That’s the funds we use to pay for that.”
“The second acquisition was 16 acres that we bought with the 2006 Park bond money,” she said. “Terri and her dad Aaron lived on part of that 16 acres.”
She said the final purchase was five acres nearly visible from Veterans Memorial Highway with a still-standing red brick ranch house, purchased with funds from the 2008 park bond.
This Sunday, April 11, at 2 P.M. you can meet Terri LaCoste at the Henderson Road Trash/Tour event organized by The River Line Historic Area and Keep Cobb Beautiful. After some volunteer trash collection in the park, Roberta Cook and Terri will give a tour of the park and its historic sites. To register send a RSVP to RiverLineGA@gmail.com . More info on Facebook: https://fb.me/e/4PRG6Pmln