The Union Recorder

Local News

May 3, 2008

Family’s legacy lives in Milledgeville’s foundations

His family’s legacy lives in buildings big and small in Milledgeville and much of Middle Georgia, and Bob McMillan will tell his family’s story Saturday on the banks of the Oconee River.

McMillan Brick Company once loomed over the river that now is home to the Oconee River Greenway, whose grand opening McMillan will help celebrate Saturday. With him McMillan will bring photos and stories about his ancestors who helped re-build Georgia after the Civil War.

“My great-grandfather J.W. McMillan came over from Scotland in about 1867. He was a brick mason over there and traveled to Madison where he started a brick plant,” said the great-grandson of McMillan Brick Company’s founder.

But the Scottish brick mason ran out of clay in Madison and moved to Milledgeville for its more plentiful supply of quality clay.

To McMillan’s credit stand many historic buildings in Milledgeville. The Old Baldwin County Courthouse, 1886, was built with McMillan bricks only three years after the company moved to Georgia’s Antebellum Capital.

There also stands First Presbyterian Church on South Wayne Street, Georgia Military College’s Main Barracks on Greene Street, and the Jones Building on Central State Hospital’s campus.

The brick company, stamped famously with the McMillan brand, was a boon to Milledgeville, McMillan said.

“He had one of the largest work forces in Baldwin County at that time. It was hard work, and many of the workers were black men looking for work,” he said.

The Scotsman treated his laborers much better than did his competitor in town, said Betty Snyder who helped research much of the articles and exhibits in Old Capitol Museum.

“People who were in industry back then weren’t kind to those who worked for them, but Mr. McMillan was notoriously fair in dealing with folks who worked for him. He even remembered them in his will, which is very unusual,” Snyder said. “They kind of functioned more like family than a business. Another brick works in town treated their employees like prisoners.”

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