Prison work camp

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The area east of Fayetteville, in the vicinity of McDonough Road and Ga. Highway 54, used to house an area where poor families lived, and where the ball fields are now.

There were five “houses” on this property established for the very poor. Remember, this was before Social Security and any kind of federal benefits.

The usual type of families who were eligible were widows with children. The women were without relatives and any other way of support without a husband. They literally did not have a penny and lived in the houses free.

As always, churches would help out and sometimes farmers who found they had some vegetables to spare would also contribute to the cause.

I remember many years ago, one older woman told me she had grown up on the poor farm and married a Fayette County boy. Unfortunately, like her mother, she was now a widow, but at least she had relatives to help out, plus she could clerk at the grocery store.

Across the road was the prison work camp. On an average, perhaps it contained 20 to 30 prisoners. No, they certainly were not dangerous, per se, just an assortment of DUIs and petty thieves. And occasionally someone who got caught for the third time making moonshine. You know – just the misdemeanor type guys.

The camp was run just like an independent farm – it had chickens, hogs, cows, it grew vegetables and was, frankly, pretty much free from having to buy much in the way of groceries.

There were two lunches served each day, the first one drew county officials, maybe a sheriff’s deputy or two and once in awhile, a high-born drop in.

The second lunch served the prisoners.

There are a couple of people still around that will tell you that was always “some kind of good eatin.”

Their names shall remain a secret.

I can personally tell you two things: I know for a fact they had cows on the property. One night in the early 1970s I was driving back from Jonesboro late at night, and back then, Hwy. 54 was dark as a coal mine at night. Just as I got to passing McDonough Road, there was a cow in the middle of the road, just standing there staring at me. This was also many years before cell phones. I finally maneuvered my way around the darlin’, got to my house and called the sheriff’s department.

The county dump at this same time was beside the work camp. Monday to Friday working families could only take their trash to the dump on Saturdays. A few prisoners would be handy to help you out.

How did you tip them for their assistance?

With a can of cold beer. No names are being mentioned here, either.