Hickory Hill had the novelty of running water by the early 20th century. Water pipes, aided by gas-powered pumps, ran from the cistern below the house to water towers at the mansion and the Jeffersonian Publishing Company building, where it gravity fed into the bathrooms. The well would have been maintained to supply water to the kitchen and in the event the engines powering the pumps failed.
The Dining Room
At Hickory Hill, meals were served family style. Ella Rochelle, the cook, served a mid-morning breakfast for Mrs. Watson and the granddaughters, Georgia Watson and Georgia Lee. Dinner, the main meal of the day, was served about noon and often included Mr. Watson’s favorite dishes of squab or roast beef. Supper, the lighter evening meal, was often prepared by Mrs. Watson and might be a chicken pie or Campbell’s Tomato Soup, another Watson favorite.
In 1920, a young man came to Hickory Hill to film a newsreel – he predicted a storm brewing in Georgia. Tom Watson was about to launch his run for a final political office – the U.S. Senate. The young man was Myron Selznick, the brother of David O. Selznick who would go on to direct Gone with the Wind.
Mrs. Watson's room
Tom Watson met Georgia Durham in 1876. She was the adopted daughter of Dr. George Washington Durham, one of the noted “Durham Doctors” of Scull Shoals, GA. Some mystery surrounds Miss Georgia’s childhood. According to Durham family lore, Dr. Durham was traveling with the Confederate army through Savannah and found a lovely little girl with golden curls living in the cottage of an elderly slave couple. The couple told him the child’s mother, a Lewis, had died and the father, a Parker, was a Yankee. At the outbreak of the War, Parker was turned out by the Lewis family because he was a Yankee. Lewis left the girl with the slave family, promising to return for her. The family heard alter Parker was killed trying to cross Confederate lines around Savannah. Dr. Durham adopted the little girl and took her back to Scull Shoals.
The Music Room
Music often filled the halls of Hickory Hill. The Watson’s daughter, Agnes, was a fine pianist and her father was a renowned fiddle player. Several songs were written about Tom Watson including the Tom Watson Special by Fiddlin’ John Carson.
The restoration of Hickory Hill was guided by many primary sources – photographs, oral histories, and the historic fabric of the home itself. Most of the furniture in the house was purchased by Tom and Georgia Watson and kept in the family after the Watson’s died. Restoration of the wallpapers was guided by recollections from Georgia Watson Craven, photographs, and pieces of the wallpapers that were found beneath woodwork. It has all been painstakingly chemically analyzed and recreated to be as accurate as possible.
Tom Watson was one of the foremost defense attorneys in Georgia. The 1890 case of Jim Cody and C.E. MacGregor, began with a love triangle between the two men and a wealthy Warrenton widow. Cody shot MacGregor and then disappeared for several months. MacGregor survived, but went about town armed. When Cody came back to town he encountered MacGregor on the street in front of the widow’s residence. MacGregor shot Cody, and then sent a telegram summoning Tom Watson before turning himself in to police. Watson successfully represented MacGregor, his best friend, with an argument of premeditated self-defense.
Mr. Watson's Room
Thomas Watson died on September 26th, 1922, in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It was estimated that 10,000 people came to McDuffie County for the funeral, which was held at Hickory Hill. Reverend E.J. Forester, formerly of the First Baptist Church of Thomson and Reverend J.T. Eakes of the Thomson Methodist Episcopal Church officiated. Mrs. Watson passed away on May 14, 1923.
Alice Lytle Room
In 1908, Tom Watson hired Alice Louise Lytle to be the managing editor for the Tom Watson Magazine. A northern by birth, Mrs. Lytle had been both a businesswoman and a newspaper reporter prior to joining Watson’s staff. She believed firmly that women should be well-versed in political topics in order to school their sons on events of the day. However, Mrs. Lytle was an anti-suffragist.
In the 1890s, Tom Watson left the Democratic Party and formed the People’s Party of Georgia, the populists. Among the platform planks espoused by American populists were: a graduated income tax, the Australian or secret ballot voting system, the direct election of senators, and elimination of trading in agricultural futures.
From the 1930s through the mid-1940s, this bedroom was used by the Watson’s granddaughter, Georgia Watson Craven, known to family and friends as Cuzzy. The meticulous restoration of Hickory Hill was due, in no small part to Miss Cuzzy’s highly accurate memories of growing up in the house, where furniture was placed, and people who passed through its doors.