Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Scott Holtzclaw, president of the Gwinnett Historical Society, holds a copy of the oldest known photo of the Elisha Winn House in front of the restored home on Thursday afternoon. The house was built in 1812 by Winn. Restorations were completed by the Gwinnett Historical Society in 1986.
Staff Photo: Jason Braverman A room on display at the Elisha Winn House in Dacula.
Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Artifacts have been donated to the Gwinnett Historical Society to represent different time periods in the 1800s.
Staff Photo: Jason Braverman The parlor and sitting room at the Elisha Winn House is decorated to represent the Thomas family ownership period from about 1850-1880. The first court sessions and the first voting for Gwinnett County were held in this room in early 1819. The court hearings were eventually moved to the barn. The sofa was donated by Alice Winn Peeples Strickland, the great-great granddaughter of Elisha Winn.
DACULA — Although he is arguably the most important founding father of Gwinnett County, Elisha Winn is mostly still a mysterious figure. What is known comes mostly from what was left behind: historical records and local government files.
Not one photo remains to detail his face or account for his persona, yet a strong legacy survives.
Winn was one of the first settlers in the area in 1809. In 1812, he built his family’s house on what is now Dacula Road. Owning more than 1,000 acres and overlooking tenants’ families, Winn held great respect in the community, members of the Gwinnett Historical Society say.
Now, Winn’s home is surrounded by a bustling suburbia, but it stands as a rural reflection of the agricultural, plantation lifestyle of Gwinnett’s residents in the 1800s. There, Winn and his 15-member family harvested cotton, had a blacksmith shop, a barn that held livestock and a water well. (The 1875 schoolhouse currently located on-site came after Elisha Winn and is the original Walnut Grove School.)
In 1818, Gwinnett County was officially formed when land was obtained from Hall and Jackson County. Winn was appointed judge and the first county courthouse met in his barn, known as Inferior Court. Prisoners were kept in the jail in his yard, which is still standing. Plus, the first Gwinnett County elections were held in his parlor room.
Winn and wife Judith Cochran Winn’s only son, Richard D. Winn, was born in the house on Jan. 14. Following his father’s footsteps, Richard eventually became a judge. His portrait now hangs as a reminder of his father’s influence in the Elisha Winn House parlor.
Besides that, Elisha Winn’s detailed history remains a mystery. But perhaps visitors can begin to imagine what his life was like this weekend at the fair named in his honor.
The 33rd annual Elisha Winn Fair pulls upon the rich history of his homestead and county. There will be numerous food vendors, craft retailers, family activities, Winn House tours, a quilt show and raffle and blacksmith demonstrations. A fair favorite is the Civil War re-enactors from Loganville known as the King’s Battery Mountaineers.
“The Civil War re-enactors will usually have two cannons. About every 30 minutes they will fire off and kids love it,” said Scott Holtzclaw, president of the Gwinnett Historical Society.
Live music will be provided by the Skillet Lickers, a Georgia old-time band with a sound that some describe as a fusion between bluegrass, country, story-telling and gospel.
The first Elisha Winn fair began with the desire to teach children and local residents “the historical significance of the house and why it should be saved and maintained,” Holtzclaw said. Now it has become a tradition that allows families to enjoy the onset of fall, revel in the almost 200-year history of the property and appreciate the preservation of the county’s beginning stages.
“There is something for everyone,” Holtzclaw said. “With the blacksmith, kids’ games, schoolhouse and house, they can see this is where Gwinnett was started.”
The fair is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, and free for children 12 and under.