Jones County Commissioners have a plan to purchase a historic property in Clinton with the goal of its preservation with the bonus of economic development.
Board members started the process rolling with a unanimous vote at the July 6 meeting to apply for the grants that will hopefully fund the purchase. The vote gave the Middle Georgia Regional Commission the green light to start the application process for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program grant.
County Administrator Jason Rizner explained that the purchase of the property could be accomplished with the help of The Conservation Fund. He said that began with a letter of intent from the county requesting The Conservation Fund purchase and hold the property to allow the county time to receive the grant funds.
The letter states that the property is a high priority for the county due to the need for greenspace and its desire to protect a significant historical and cultural resource.
Rizner said The Conservation Fund acquires parcels and holds them for counties until grant funding is secured.
He said the GOSP grant application is due in October. He added that the grant application would cover both the acquisition of the property and improvements, such as parking and trails, that will be needed for the development of recreational tourism at the site.
The administrator said The Conservation Fund and the property owner have agreed to a six-month option.
The property that is receiving all the attention is known locally as Jake’s Woods. It consists of two parcels, approximately 14 acres each located off Randolph Street in Clinton.
The property was owned by Jacob Hutchings, who was the stone mason who cut many of the granite stones seen in Clinton and Gray that were taken from Jake’s Woods. The most prominent of the stones make up the walls around the Jones County Courthouse.
Hutchings was a former slave who was freed and became a Republican member of the Georgia Legislature in 1866. He is the only black representative in the history of Jones County.
Hutchings did all the rockwork for the Clinton jail as well as the much of the entire town of Clinton. When the jail was torn down, the rocks were taken to Gray and used as a retaining wall for the Jones County Courthouse, built in 1905.
A marker in honor of Hutchings was placed at the Courthouse during the county’s 2006 Bicentennial Celebration.
The two parcels that make up the historic property have remained in the Hutchings family. Commissioners held a work session at the property May 22 to walk the woods, view and climb the large granite stones that have drawn the interest of groups like the Southeastern Climbers Coalition and Roberta Moore with The Conservation Fund.