This year marks 150 years for the historic Donaldson-Bannister Farm. Over the next few months, Past Tense will periodically share the story of the six families who lived on the farm. The first family is the one that built the house, raised a family and for whom farming was a way of life. This was the Donaldson family; however, the story really begins with a family named Adams.
Salathiel and Sarah Adams were early landowners in the area along Ashford Dunwoody Road and Murphey Candler Park. One of their children was Jesse Harris Adams, who in the 1860s owned the land where Donaldson-Bannister Farm is today.
When the war ended, Jesse Adams’ daughter Martha (Millie) married William J. Donaldson. Donaldson was part of Company F, 36th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. He was captured at Vicksburg in 1863, paroled and released. Later, he repaired shoes for the Confederacy. Donaldson had been married two times before, to Nettie Lucretia Reeves and Sarah Ann Powers.
William J. and Millie Donaldson purchased acreage from Millie’s father and built a home on the land. The home was originally built as a two-story modified, Plantation Plain farmhouse with a central hall. (National Registry of Historic Places nomination, Lynne Byrd, 2009)
The original barn for the farm was located on the eastern side of the property. Donaldson dug a well, built a well house and a smokehouse. In addition to farming, he worked as a blacksmith in a small toolshed he constructed.
In 1900, William J. Donaldson died, but his wife Millie continued to run the farm. One of their children, Will Donaldson, and his wife Nellie Collette Donaldson lived on the farm with Millie along with their own children. The youngest of those children was Fred Donaldson, who has shared his memories of living on the farm as a young boy.
Fred Donaldson was born in the front right room of the old home, as were his siblings and his father’s siblings. Donaldson remembers playing a game called Annie Over, where children would try to throw a ball over the house. He also recalls being pulled in a small wagon by a goat. In additional to the goat, the family kept chickens, pigs, mules and a cow on the farm.
After Millie Donaldson died in 1931, it became necessary to break up the property accumulated by the family. An auction was held in 1932. The home and 26 acres sold to Lois Pattillo. The remaining lots were sold to various people, but Will and Nellie Donaldson were able to buy some acreage along today’s Vermack Drive. They built a new home there and raised their seven children, including Fred, in that house.
In 2009, Lynne Byrd was successful in getting Donaldson-Bannister Farm on the National Register of Historic Places. The committee that approved the nomination cited the women’s history behind the farm. That included Millie Donaldson continuing to run the farm for many years after her husband’s death. It also included history from the next owner, Lois Pattillo, who was a widow when she purchased the home and 26 acres in 1932. She originally purchased it as a summer home. A woman purchasing a summer home on her own was quite unusual in those days. Past Tense will feature more on Lois Pattillo (later Bannister) in a few weeks.
Dunwoody Preservation Trust will be holding events throughout the year to commemorate the sesquicentennial. On January 26, a Champagne Concert will be held at the farm. Limited tickets are available and can be purchased at dunwoodypreservationtrust.org/sesquicentennial. Dates and information about future sesquicentennial events can also be found at this site.