The demise of the tranquil settlement southwest of Augusta was rapid and complete – and began almost 72 years ago, when the U.S. War Department arrived to create what is known today as Fort Gordon.
“It wasn’t just a single place,” said archivist Ed Brown of the history office at Fort Gordon, where some of Pinetucky’s scattered mementos are stored. “It was a series of small settlements, farms, mills, businesses.”
In all, 432 individual landowners surrendered their land through sale or condemnation to accommodate the encampment assembled in 1941 to train troops destined for wars overseas.
William T. Morton, a civilian lawyer from Jefferson County, Ga., was hired to negotiate the acquisition of 55,000 acres – and given formal go-ahead to begin the morning of Aug. 2, 1941.
According to historical accounts, he began his task near today’s Fort Gordon Gate 2. The first landowner he encontered was Alice Stafford.
“We had no difficulty with this lady as she willingly granted the United States the option to buy, with the right of immediate entry,” Morton later wrote. “Almost within minutes after she signed the option, and I reported it, construction crews with machinery moved in and the erection of Camp Gordon commenced.”
Barely a week later, he said, demolition was in full swing and new buildings sprouted “like mushrooms on your lawn after a rainy night.”
Within the vast new military base, the bulldozers also erased almost every trace of Pinetucky, leaving behind only a few chimneys and about 45 Pinetucky-related cemeteries with graves dating back to 1827.
Under an agreement with the former landowners, 646 graves are still maintained by the Army. Some of the markers help remember the families who once lived in the area: Blackstones, Whitleys, Inglets, Whitakers and others remain in Pinetucky.
Aside from fading tombstones and memories kept alive by descendents of displaced residents, other remnants of Pinetucky include the books, photographs, taped oral histories and other items preserved in acid-free folders and archival boxes at the post’s history office.
There are black-and-white views of the Leitner Lake grist mill, looking southwest – and unnamed, smiling children peering from a porch on an old home. One image, dated 1924, shows students from the Hood Chapel School. The post also stores books and essays, all pertaining to the community that was lost for the greater good.
Farris King Hendrix, author of a book titled Pinetucky – Lost Trail Echo, even included a short poem:
“I’m out in Pinetucky,
Looking for my home.
Mama and Dad are not around.
Can’t find the house – the road is gone.
I’m somewhere near Hood’s Chapel-
Let me pause and meditate,
The beauty of the nature trails
He took time to create.”