The history of Haralson County

  Buchanan: A city twice revitalized

September 2004
(revised July 2009, June 2011)
 


by Peggy Kimball
Web integration, photo edits, and
Appendices courtesy Ron Feigenblatt


Shortly after Haralson County was founded and named for General Hugh Haralson, a noted statesman from LaGrange, a county seat was needed. The citizens needed a place to vote and carry on the new county’s business. On May 20, 1857, the place was chosen. The new town was named Pierceville in honor of President Franklin Pierce, but it soon turned up that another town in Georgia beat them to the name. The name was changed to Buchanan to honor President Buchanan.

The City’s charter was December 22, 1857. The location of Buchanan and the county's size were based on the same standard as other counties in Georgia: People needed to make it to the county seat and back home in the same day. Horses were the common mode of transportation, so this limited the sizes of Georgia’s counties.

There was a factory in what is now called the county building. It originally made horse collars and later made mattresses. After World War II, soldiers came home to few jobs and people leaving town because there were no jobs available. Buchanan was almost a forgotten little town. Two veterans recently returned from the war desired to see the town productive again. David Eaves and Hardy McCalman began a revitalization and in two years, the town turned around. It was said that "folks come from all around the United States to visit us - and lots of them are staying for good." The story of this rebirth began on a spring day in 1946. It was the day that Dave and Hardy, buddies before the war, came home. Little had changed - if anything, the town seemed more ramshackle than ever.

The two felt it was not a great home­coming to find the town had nothing to offer. They began a search to find something better for the town. They talked to Senator Claude Moore and began to put their plan into action. They decided to build a factory. What kind of factory? Who would operate it? There were two grocery stores, a bank and two dry goods stores on the square, and a hardware store in town. What they lacked in finesse, they made up for in enthusiasm. Ordinary citizens found themselves chipping in what money they could afford. After a few weeks, they had $35,000 which was enough money to begin building the factory. Many folks told them they weren’t interested in Buchanan. But, the two continued on their search and were finally successful in getting Henry Bell, of Arrow Shirts in Bremen, interested. He told the two he would need 200 workers, which they immediately promised. Thus, Buchanan got a shirt factory. Many citizens of Buchanan and Haralson County worked there until it closed in the early 1990s.


The Buchanan workforce of Cluett, Peabody and Company photographed in 1959

During this time, the high school sat on the hill where the elementary school is now located. It later moved to where the primary school is today. A comprehensive high school, combining three other schools in the county, was built near Tallapoosa. There was a police station located on the corner of the courthouse. The building, not much larger than a phone booth, was staffed by one policeman and three members of the sheriffs department. The jail was located behind the stores on the square across from Piggly Wiggly. There were two barber shops, and a garage on the street where the Piggly Wiggly now stands. There were also two dry goods stores where a person could purchase anything from shoes to clothes. A drug store with a soda fountain on the square also. Most activities centered around the courthouse square with the courthouse being the focal point in town.


The Historic Courthouse in Buchanan

The historic courthouse was built in 1891 after the one that was used for over 30 years burned. The building was used until the early 70s when the present one was built. The historic courthouse has undergone extensive rehabilitation and was recently presented an award from the Georgia Trust, which was received by only two courthouses in the State of Georgia. An elevator was installed, and a library operates in the bottom floor of the courthouse. Over 500 library cards have been issued. With the opening of the library, other businesses opened once again helping the people to return to Buchanan. Two groups now strive to get tourists into the town: The Downtown Revitalization and the Buchanan Development Authority. The Historical Society and Downtown Buchanan Revitalization also sponsor various activities during the year including two festivals, The Great Pumpkin Caper and a Festival of Trees.


Appendix 1: Additional Buchanan materials online

The sesquicentennial anniversary of the founding of Buchanan was celebrated in December 2007 and an archive of this event and the materials generated for it are online here.

Buchanan has hosted an annual fall event sponsored by the Haralson County Historical Society called Fair on the Square since the 1990s. The video below is an infomercial for this fair released in September 2009.


Appendix 2: 21st century cinematic controvery and celebrity

Naggin' (2003)

The award-winning restored Historic Courthouse in Buchanan is popular for location shooting of film and video because of its beautiful architecture, cooperative management and convenient access from metro Atlanta.

One such use which led to sub rosa community controversy after the fact was its lease shortly following the turn of the century to shoot footage for the music video of what became a hit for the now-famous Atlanta-based crunk rap duo, the Ying Yang Twins (YYT), helping to facilitate their meteoric rise.

As early as 2000 the pair peaked at #16 on the US R&B/Hip-Hop chart and by 2003 they had achieved mainstream popularity within their musical genre. The YYT album Me & My Brother was certified platinum on April 12, 2005 and included the hit Naggin', whose courtroom scenes were shot at the Historic Courthouse. That same year the Twins appeared on pop diva Britney Spears' album In the Zone and her TV special of the same name.

Although not as extreme as some of the other YYT work, the original lyrics of Naggin' must be called very rough by the traditional public standards of rural Georgia, and it is this which especially disturbed older people in the community. Also recorded was another version of the song, using many alternative euphemistic phrases in its lyrics, thereby augmenting the venues through which the song could be presented without compromising the plaintively hard-edged integrity of the original.

For years the video has been easy to locate online, and has been played over three million times from one source alone as we write this. The lyrics are easily found online as well. Below we feature some low-detail stills from the video shot at the courthouse.

The theme in Naggin' is surprisingly timeless, despite changes in taste and expression. A half century ago, on Jan. 31, 1959, another decidedly ethnic song titled Blah, Blah, Blah by the late beloved "Italian Bing Crosby," Nicola Paone, became number one in the nation. At the left, enjoy a recording very well known in this writer's childhood home (far from Buchanan), as well as most likely to many of the Cluett and Peabody factory workers appearing in the 1959 photo above.



Dixie Times (2009+)

During 2008, the Historic Courthouse in Buchanan was the site of substantial location shooting for the new feature film Dixie Times. Earlier press coverage of the movie project appears online at these locations: (2007) (2008). As of July 2009, this feature is in post-production. Find the movie's Web sites and here and here. The producer offers the tag line: Coming soon to a redneck like you, and the following plot tease:

A small town newspaper reporter has some major events to write about; as a sleepy little Alabama farming community begins to make big news. All of it funny, except to the reporter, Alice Bentley and the local district attorney.