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Life on a Shooting Plantation
A Gilded Age Adventure for the Powerful and Prominent

Mel Hanna Purchases Pebble Hill in 1896 - Part 2

Many wealthy, well-known leaders of the day visited Thomasville during the Hotel Era (c.1880 to c.1910) - Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Mrs. B. F. Goodrich, Alexander Graham Bell, Governor - later president - McKinley--just to drop a few names.

Thomasville visitors

Additionally, a plethora of Whitney’s came—Harry, Payne, Jock and their families. Notables named Hanna, Haskell, Chapin, Archbold, Payne, Ireland and others came as well. The significance of this group is that they came to visit and they stayed. They purchase large tracts of land, the old cotton plantations, and transformed them into magnificent winter residences. They would flock to the temperate climes of South Georgia as soon as the snow began piling up in the great cities of America’s Northeast and Midwest.


1899, Col. Oliver Hazard Payne bought Greenwood Plantation for a Shooting Plantation. 

Thomasville and the surrounding area became “a place apart.”

    • The property purchased from planters still struggling after reconstruction was restored and revitalized.
    • The influx of capital allowed the area to enter the twentieth century on a firm financial footing.
    • Northern upper-class society mixed well with plantation society and Hotel Era elegance became the standard in South Georgia plantation houses.
    • The newcomers treasured their winter homes and became very influential in developing Thomasville as an urban area with amenities similar to those found in the great cities of the North.

 Piney Woods Hotel

Above is 1890 photo of Piney Woods Hotel—note the power pole, front left.

Among the wealthy well-connected families establishing winter residences in and near Thomasville was the Hanna family of Cleveland. And most important of the Hannas to Pebble Hill Plantation was the family of Howard Melville Hanna. Howard Melville (known as Mel to family and friends) purchased in 1896 the heart of what is known as Pebble Hill Plantation.

The Hannas who owned Pebble Hill are the following:

the Hannas

Hard times during the Civil War and afterwards during Reconstruction created rundown, disheveled property all across the South. Pebble Hill was no exception. The beautiful Main House, designed by architect John Wind in 1851, was in desperate need of repair when Mel purchased the property in 1896.

The Wind House in disrepair

Mel also purchased Winnstead and Melrose plantations. He gave Winnstead to his daughter Mary Gertrude, Melrose to his son Howard Melville Hanna, Jr., and Pebble Hill to his daughter Kate. The three properties were in a state of disrepair when Mel purchased them, but he improved them all before making gifts of them to his children.

Hanna plantation houses

Mel and his wife Kate Smith Hanna came often to Thomasville enjoying all of amenities of the stylish southern retreat, as well as the elegant lifestyle provided in the winter homes of their children.

Mel was an accomplished sportsman. Below he displays a wild turkey he bagged at Melrose.

Mel with turkey

Mel was also a fan of harness racing. He owned trotters that trained at Thomasville’s Pastime Stables and ran on the Thomasville track.

Mel and racing fans

In picture above is shown Mel, third from left, visiting with friends at Pastime Stables.

Perry Harvey harness racing

Pictured above is Perry Harvey, Mel's friend, racing at the Thomasville track.

Kate Smith Hanna enjoyed doing what all grandmothers like to do best. In the photo below is Kate Smith Hanna playing with her grandchildren, Pansy and Liv Ireland.

Kate, Liv and Pansy


This is the second part of a three-part series. Please check the website for the conclusion of this series...coming soon.


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