Past times recalled in old Milton County

Milton author Robert Meyers has given Georgians a wonderful gift this New Year season with his recently released book, "Bygone Treasures and Timeless Beauties: Barns of Old Milton County."

Old Milton County was created in 1857, Meyers writes, out of Cherokee, Forsyth and Cobb counties, with Alpharetta and parts of DeKalb and Gwinnett added later. Cotton farming was the mainstay, but boll weevils and the Depression left the area impoverished. By 1932 old Milton County merged with Fulton County. Meyer’s book recollects that older time.

I first met Meyers at the city of Milton's annual fall celebration, the Milton Roundup. He was excited about the release of his book, and had a sample available with gorgeous pictures of old roadside barns. I commented on the stunning design, done by Deeds Publishing, a family-run business in Marietta.

I caught up with Meyers last month at his book signing among the busy shops of historic Crabapple, where Alpharetta and Milton converge. He was stationed in Broadwell Cottage, between the artisan wares and fresh cheese shop. Meyers is very familiar with Crabapple. He highlights the area’s barn, general store and cotton gin in his book as “historic buildings that contribute to the charm of the unique community of Crabapple.”

The cover of "Barns of Old Milton County," conveys a gentle peace. I first turn the pages just to drink in the deeply-colored photographs of various barns in seasonal splendor. Meyers is a true artist, capturing the personalities of all his rustic subjects.

Later it is gratifying to learn each barn’s history. Meyers spent two years interviewing numerous families. In fact, Meyers' own mother, Fannie Shirley, grew up as one of 10 children on the Alpharetta farm of her father, James Wright Shirley. Meyers also covers barn construction, farming techniques and farm animal history in interesting story sidebars.

One of Meyers’ most intriguing stories tells of the landmark Alpharetta silos on Crabapple Road, where industrious business man Jake Hughes kept a large farm, among his many other pursuits. I’ll forever think of Hughes’ humorous nonchalance at losing four of his fingers grinding grain at the silos, a story Meyers recounts in a chapter he entitles "The Silos: An Amazing Legacy."

To read “Barns of Old Milton County” is to learn about people like us, making a living, raising a family, finding purpose in life. An old barn might just be a structure, but to know its history infuses it with special symbolism and meaning. Meyers successfully taps that sentiment.

“A century or more ago,” Meyers writes, “farmers were intimately connected to the land, and barns were an essential part of a farm family’s life … Barns were emblems of a society that valued individualism as well as community spirit … For many of us, barns evoke feelings of nostalgia, warmth and affection …"

Old barns might be disappearing, but their beauty and histories are now captured for future generations, thanks to Meyers’ insistence on telling their priceless stories.

Veronica Buckman has been a resident of Milton for nine years. Reach her at vrbuck01@aol.com.